By Maureen Hart
Honestly, if one more person tells me there is nothing to do around here, I might blow a gasket. If it’s true we are a wasteland, why can’t I find the time to fit in everything that I would like to see and do?
As a board member of the Scranton Shakespeare Festival, which wrapped up its fifth season this past July, I know how frustrating it is to hear people complain. In partnership with the University of Scranton, we offer free professional theater ranging from Shakespeare (of course) to original plays (one of which moved to an Off-Broadway theater last fall), musicals, operettas, and modern plays. In our five years you might have seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Pirates of Penzance, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Robin Hood: The Musical, and many, many more. (Look it up at http://www.scrantonshakes.com or like us on Facebook.)
You can bring your whole family without paying a penny. SSF fulfills the vision of former West Sider and University of Scranton grad, Michael Bradshaw Flynn. Now based in New York, this young man, who is still in his twenties, devotes a great deal of time to this theatrical venture every summer, when he isn’t appearing in or directing Off-Broadway shows, or working with some of the time names in the business such as Julianne Moore, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, F. Murray Abraham and Rupert Grint. He is directing an original show at this moment, and at the same time is assistant to famed Broadway director Jack O’Brien as they mount a revival of The Front Page, opening soon. Whew!
In only its second year, Scranton Fringe Festival promises a wide range of up to 50 performances in various venues from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3. Its first year was a huge hit and saw over 3,000 people racing around from one performance to another. This festival is the brainchild of Elizabeth Bohan and Conor O’Brien–who has his hands in many artistic ventures in the area, and even presented his own version of Hamlet at the Cultural Center last year. Go to http://www.scrantonfringe.org to see a long list of events planned for the four-day extravaganza, including a piece called Relationship written by Joe McGurl of Dunmore. Also look up scrantonstoryslam.com while you’re at it.
And there is also Ghostlight Productions based at South Abington Park which also offers free Shakespeare in the park every June. I have always enjoyed this troupe of players founded by the delightful and multi-talented husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Rachel Luann Strayer. They just presented an innovative version of Julius Caesar for this year’s audiences. Past shows have included Much Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Twelfth Night. Ghostlight also will present The Poe Asylum at this year’s Fringe Festival.
Every August, there is the Scranton Jazz Festival, featuring top musicians–I can’t even tell you how many acts have played the Electric City under the auspices of this dedicated organization. Plan to put it on your calendar next year.
And First Friday is a very popular event which presents art and entertainment throughout the City of Scranton — many people mark this on their monthly calendar.
In July, there is Arts on the Square, featuring over 150 vendors wrapped around Courthouse Square in Downtown Scranton, along with two stages of live music, interactive art, food, and a farmers market.
With La Festa Italiana just over, now it is time for the fall season to launch, and it’s chock full of entertaining things to do, starting with the Dearly Departed Players annual Dunmore Cemetery Tour slated this year for October 2 and 9 at 2 p.m. Thousands of people attend this informative and entertaining event each year, walking through the grounds and enjoying theatrical vignettes about some of the people interred there. Again, admission to this event is free. See a related story and photos elsewhere in this issue of The Dunmorean.
Broadway Theatre League is touting one of its best seasons ever –you can buy season tickets and see Once, Cinderella, Pippin, Jersey Boys and Rent, at a fraction of what you would pay in New York City. You can also buy individual seats for these wonderful offerings. Go to Ticketmaster to order seats.
Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces will burst on the scene on October 15 with entertainment for the entire family–everything from bagpipers to a German oompah band, pumpkin decorating, Halloween style activities, and much more. For the full line-up go to http://www.scrantonbonfire.com.
Don’t forget our wonderful Northeastern Philharmonic, which presents varied concerts throughout the year, culminating in its Fourth of July Spectacular in the summer at Scranton’s Courthouse Square and at Kirby Park in Kingston. Also planned is a focus on Beethoven, along with Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Copland, Bach, Dvorak and Mozart’s Requiem, along with a Pops series including Wicked Divas, A Night at the Oscars, and Piano Men (saluting Elton John and Billy Joel music).
Community theater has always been strong in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including Actor’s Circle ( presenting The House of Blue Leaves Sept. 15-25), Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre (doing Rock of Ages Sept. 9-25), Music Box Dinner Playhouse in Kingston (doing La Cage Aux Folles Sept. 9-25 and also No Sex Please We’re British and A Christmas Story this season), Diva Theatre at the Olde Brick Theatre, and New Vintage Ensemble. Tickets are inexpensive and the fun factor is high.
By the time winter arrives, we’ll be thinking about the free Nutcracker production by Ballet Theatre of Scranton at Marywood University and ringing in the New Year downtown.
For non-theatergoers, throughout the year there is Railriders baseball, Penguins hockey, high school football, and a multitude of racing events. Outdoor enthusiasts don’t lack for places to climb, kayak, swim, fish, hunt and enjoy nature.
Have you visited the Everhart Museum lately? Or the Anthracite Museum? Taken the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour? Poked around the Catlin House, home base of the Lackawanna Historical Society? Have you taken a train at Steamtown and visited its many exhibits on the history of railroading in Scranton? The Architectural Society often offers tours of notable sites in the the area, and the beautiful Scranton Cultural Center opens its doors for tours by the public. The Electric City Trolley Museum hosts Railfest every year (just finished on Sept. 3 and 4).
This doesn’t even count all the community events –church and fire company picnics, county fairs, university theater and music productions, church oratorios, and barbershop quartets there a Barbershop on Broadway concert in Honesdale in October if you are interested.)
Do I attend all of these things? Of course not–I can’t possibly get to everything — but I never complain that there is just nothing to do around here either.
Here is a contact list for some of the organizations mentioned above. If I have forgotten your group, let me know and I’ll give them a plug in the future!
Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre: (570) 823-1875
Music Box Dinner Playhouse: www.musicbox.org and (570) 283-2195
Actors Circle at Providence Playhouse: www.actorscircle.org and (570) 342-9707
New Vintage Ensemble: www.newvintageensemble.com
Diva Theatre: (570) 209-7766 and http://w.w.w.divatheater.com
Ballet Theatre of Scranton: (570) 347-2867 and www.balletheatre.com
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Railriders (570) 969-2255 and http://www.railriders.com
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (570) 208-7367 and ww.wbspenguins.com
Everhart Museum: www.everhart-museum.org and (570) 346-7186
Anthracite Museum: www.anthracite museum.org and (570) 963-4804
Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour: (570) 238-7245
Architectural Heritage Association: https://www.facebook.com/The-Architectural-Heritage-Association-Scranton
Lackawanna History Society: www.lackawannahistory.org and (570) 344-3841
Scranton Cultural Center: www.scrantonculturalcenter.org and (570) 346-4609
Steamtown National Historic Site: https://www.nps.gov/steamtown (570) 340-5200
Scranton Iron Furnaces: www.anthracitemuseum.org/explore/iron-furnaces and (570) 963-4804
La Festa Italiana: www.lafestaitaliana.org and (570) 348-4921
Electric City Trolley Museum: (570) 963-6590 and http://www.ectma.org