Friday, November 17, 2006


By Ron Clark
Playwright and performer of Small Miracles
Showing at Riverside Theatre December 9-10
There we were, hand in hand, walking to our favorite restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina and a young man smoking a cigarette stepped in front of us.
“I am the street corner poet and I have identified you two as the people most in love on this entire street. I have a poem for you.” He then recited a very original (if somewhat corny) love poem. His voice was low and breathy and generated a sense of urgent intimacy. I can’t remember a single word or verse, but rather only that confused but delightful feeling one gets when serenaded by a Mariachi band in a colorful Mexican cafĂ©.
He finished his sonnet and flashed a broad grin showing lots of gold and white teeth. I dug into my pants and gave him a buck. He said, “Thank you sir and I hope you continue to fall in love with this beautiful woman the rest of your life.” And he was gone down the street looking for his next set of lovers.
That’s a true story. It happened to Jody and me as we were celebrating our 22nd anniversary last April. But what value does it have to you? What is the importance of me telling it to you?
As I prepare to present Small Miracles once again, the thought occurs to me: “Why do I keep telling these stories and why do people keep coming to listen to them?” and even stranger, “Why do some people come to listen to them more than once?”
To answer: No, I don’t change the stories from one Christmas season to the next. It is a set piece of literature that has been recorded on compact disc and presented in many different locations. So, if you are considering buying a ticket as a repeat attender and expecting something new . . . sorry. But . . .
I love Jean Sheperd’s classic film A Christmas Story and apparently so do millions of other people because TBS shows it for a solid 24 hours every year. I also watch my own DVD of It’s a Wonderful Life (IN THE ORIGINAL BLACK & WHITE) every year and I cry every time at the same places; how can you resist?
And every year millions and millions of people remember their own sacred stories that range from Aunt Dorothy’s fruit cake that went round the world to Uncle Howard getting drunk and falling into the Christmas tree to the birth of Christ to the marking of Passover and Hannakah . . . the list never ends when we consider the stories we NEED to make sense of where we started, who we are now and who we aspire to be in the future.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


By Jody Hovland-Director of THE LONSOME WEST
The prop and technical requirements for THE LONESOME WEST are a bit daunting – an exploding stove, the nightly breakage of multiple plaster saints and food fights. But it was TAYTOS that kept me awake at night.

The script refers specifically to this Irish “crisp” throughout the play, so there’s some artistic obligation to use the real thing – which I found could be ordered online at! But they’re pricey. And we’re cheap – and have already spent $150 renting the plaster saint molds from Milwaukee Rep. So I lie awake nights doing Tatos calculations: how many bags does Tim Budd [playing Valene] need to bring in from the store? How many need to be destroyed each night? Can we reuse the bags, refilling them with non-Tato chips? Can John Watkins [playing Connor] crumble the bags instead of opening them and pouring out the chips?

During rehearsals we played with other brands (nope – too visible in our intimate space), altered stage business to preserve the bags (nope – it really is important to see the chips scatter), calculated and recalculated (usually when I should have been sleeping).

Arghghghghghg. Let’s just order the darned chips!!!!! So online I went, and soon 72 bags of chips were arriving by UPS (20 rehearsals and performances with the real thing, allowing 3 bags to be sacrificed every night, with some left over for backup). Pretty spendy @ $1 a bag – but seeing those goofy TATOS bags onstage just makes me happy every time. And finally I can get some sleep.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


By Marcella Lee
Freelance reviewer
The Gazette

The Lonesome West, now playing at Riverside Theatre, is the third in a trilogy of plays written by Martin McDonagh, the angry young man of Irish playwrights show has achieved phenomenal success in recent years. Dubbed by one critic as "in-yer-face theatre," it is a dark comedy at times violent and shocking, uncompromising in its exploration of human relationships.

The lonesome west of the title refers to the bleak, isolated counties of northwest Ireland. Here two brothers bicker constantly in the aftermath of the supposedly accidental shooting of their father. arguments over who should get the potato chips escalates to more serious charges of wrong-doing, resulting in all-out physical attacks on one another. Violence alternates with farce.

The brothers, played brilliantly by Tim Budd and John Watkins, have taken on the brogue and mannerisms of the Irish working class like second skins. As siblings diametrically opposed in personality, they are equally strong in their individual portrayals.

Fine support is given by the other two members of the cast, Kehry Anson Lane as Father Welsh, the feckless priest who tries in vain to bring peace between the brothers; and Leslie E. Koppenhaver as Girleeen, a young woman from the village who shows an interest in the priest and attempts to tease some life into him. If ever a girl looks like a typical Irish colleen, it has to be Koppenhaver, with her red hair and high color.

Jody Hovland directs The Lonesome West with skill and sensitivity. There are some scenes in this unique play that are hilarious-such as the second act when the brothers start apologizing to one another for the dirty little tricks they have played on each other in the past. In other scenes you fear for what on character is about to do to the other. This is the stamp of McDonagh's work. He is a great story-teller and a creator of fascinating characters. These two elements alone guarantee an absorbing evening in the theatre

The Lonesome West will continue at Riverside Theatre through Nov. 19.

Monday, October 30, 2006

PLAYING THE ROLE OF GIRLEEN: A smart-talking, foul-mouthed, moonshine-dealer who shakes up the scenes of The Lonesome West

By Leslie Koppenhaver

I studied abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, from January to May 2006. I took six classes from January to March, my parents came and we spent a week traveling around Ireland, and then I spent the month of April traveling around Europe before coming back for exams in May.
Cork is located close to the southern coast of the Republic of Ireland, about a four hour bus ride from Galway on the western coast (The Lonesome West is set near Galway) and a similiar distance from Dublin on the eastern coast. My friends and I did a lot of traveling on the weekends and we took several days in May to visit Galway and the Aran Islands. Galway was beautiful -- lots of tiny pedestrian lanes lined with shops and paths along the river. In Galway more than anywhere else, I felt the presence of music. There seemed to be someone playing the fiddle or accordion on every corner at night!

The second part of our trip west was a ferry ride to the largest of the Aran Islands. We rode bikes around the entire island and walked around the ruins of forts still left there from earlier centuries. Since the Aran Islands are the western-most part of Ireland, they were the last places to be conquered by Britain, and there are communities where people still speak Gaelic as their primary language or simply Irish, as the Irish themselves called it.

There were a lot of things about my experience in Ireland that I'm trying to draw on for my role of Girleen in The Lonesome West. I was cast in a show in Cork called Shakers, which is where I made my closest Irish friendships. There were several scenes in the show when the three other actresses spoke in incredibly thick Cork accents. I spoke in a thick Southern accent as the American counterpart. the exaggeration of those accents made it easier for me as an American to pick out defining characteristics. I would hardly have been able to tell a British accent from an Irish one before I studied there, but after an informative session with my friend Paula, who explained the finer points of Donegal vs. Dublin vs. Galway vs. Cork, I'd say I could hold my own in a name-that-dialect contest.

I also talked to Paula on the phone after being cast to ask about more specific dialect questions. Some of the most defining things about Ireland for me were the feeling of history -- the gothic architecture of institutions and close spacing of all other buildings seemed to be from another century, the presence of music -- both in language and in song, and a tremendous pride and attachment to family.

Although I'm not Catholic myself, I did attend Mass on campus a couple times. UCC had Mass once a day in the Honan Chapel right next to the student center and I heard a lot about my Irish friends experiences in all-girl Catholic secondary schools. I also saw plenty of girls around St. Patrick's Street (the main drag/downtown) in matching sweaters, skirts, and tights -- usually blue or green. I've never had a school uniform before, but my observation of those girls proved that you can be wearing the same thing as your classmate and still give it your own rumpled flair.

I am intrigued by Girleen's combination of school-smarts and street-smarts. She's intelligent and ambitious, she can handle herself around older men, and although she's selling her father's potato moonshine, she knows she's destined for bigger and better things.
Buy Tickets to The Lonesome West here!