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ANN by Holland Taylor takes us back to Texas in the 90s to meet a hard-nosed feminist with a heart of gold

THE BASICS:  ANN, a play by Holland Taylor, directed by Lara D. Haberberger, presented by the Brazen Faced Varlets, starring Priscilla Young Anker as Ann Richards, opened on January 27 and runs through February 11, Fridays – Saturdays at 7:30 at the Alleyway Theatre’s Cabaret Space, 1 Curtain Up Alley (between Pearl and Main north of Shea’s). 716-852-2600 alleyway.com

Runtime: About 2 hours with intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: “Tough as nails, funny as hell” ANN is a no-holds-barred, warts-and-all portrait of Ann Richards, the legendary late Democratic Governor of Texas (1991-1995) who said, “I’m not afraid to shake up the system, and the government needs more shaking up than any other system I know.”  This one-woman show is structured as a speech to a group of students, encouraging them to get involved in life by getting involved in politics.  Then we go into Richard’s office to see her in her day-to-day life as governor.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: 

Playwright Holland Taylor is known to many for her role as Evelyn Harper (Charlie and Alan’s mother) in the TV sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”  She started working on the play (then titled MONEY, MARBLES, AND CHALK) in 2009; then, with revisions, it went to the Kennedy Center in 2011; then after more revisions on to Broadway in 2013.  

Governor Ann Richards’ daughter, Cecile Richards has written that “In ANN, Holland has mastered what many comedians, politicians, and writers have attempted for years – she found the voice of Ann Richards. Holland researched every word, speech, and interview that Ann Richards ever wrote or spoke… Books have been written, documentaries made, but nothing truly captures the life of my mother like ANN.”  And Cecile Richards should know.

Now, when I write “warts and all” it’s true.  Ann Richards was funny, more so if you were a Democrat, but she was also a hard taskmaster and would make staff members cry.  And she was an alcoholic, could be impossibly demanding, and her life was a little chaotic.  But she had that “special sauce” that could get other women elected to office and indeed herself to the highest elected office in Texas, if only for one term.

Priscilla Young Anker is superb in the title role.  She has comic timing and really looks the part, especially after donning the white hair wig.  She drops a famous Ann Richards line: “I get a lot of cracks about my hair, mostly from men who don’t have any.”  Anker’s an old pro at this acting thing so you can relax and just let the story take you.

I have to admit, I have always conflated Ann Richards the Texas politician with Molly Ivins the Texas journalist.  They were born only a year apart, both struggled with making it in a man’s world, struggled with alcoholism, both leaned left politically, and both had a wonderful way with a phrase.  Ivins coined the nickname “Shrub” for George W. Bush and it was Richards who said of the same: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

So, I learned something and I’m glad that I went to see this Brazen-Faced Varlets production.  The BFV are sometimes referred to a Buffalo’s feminist theater company.  Their Mission “is to produce consequential works with strong artistic integrity while being committed to promoting the growth of female theater artists.  We seek to break out of the traditional and stereotypical gender roles onstage and behind the scenes.  Our work is for everybody as we strive to challenge, to provoke, and to delight our audiences.”

And the Varlets are true to their mission with ANN, a 100% female production, from Writer to Director to Star, to Production Manager (Leyla Gentil), Stage Manager (Ellen C. Scherer-Flanck), Sound Designer and off-stage voice of Richard’s secretary “Nancy” (Stefanie Warnick); Costume Designer (Corey Gorski), Prop Construction (Heather Fangsrud), and Social Media/Community Outreach Coordinator (Rachel Parrino).

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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Reflections of an NFL Beer Kiosk Vendor 

You likely know that football fans have a reputation for drinking a lot of beer. Well, somebody has got to serve it. Actually, in Buffalo you’d be accurate to clarify that most of the drinking is done at tailgate parties well before kickoff. But those thirsty fans still crave beer or alcoholic seltzer or Twisted Tea or Fireballs once they are in the stadium. Anyway, attendees of NFL games are generally surprised to learn that most of the people “working” at the food and beverage stands on game day are volunteers. And that’s where I come in. It was never really a goal to sell beer at a Bills game, but that’s what I’ve been doing..

But first, let me tell you how I started selling beer at Bills games. I am a local veterinarian and have been volunteering for pet charities since graduating from vet school. The charity that I have the strongest attachment to raises money to assist people with limited resources afford care for their pets in emergency situations. It’s a brilliant idea. When you think about it, it’s not the sick pet’s fault that they belong to someone who can’t afford their medical bills. And it’s not the vet’s fault that they can’t just give away services to every pet in need. The vet clinic would eventually go out of business and, in the long run, who would that help? Anyway, a charity like this clearly needs to raise funds and a lot of those funds come from generous citizens willing to give money to help their neighbors’ pets in need. Another way to make some money is to find volunteers willing to work at community events where companies make charitable donations for the products sold. That’s where I come in. Our charity was given the opportunity to sell beer at Buffalo Bills games (and some concerts) at the massive Highmark Stadium in the Southtowns of Buffalo. 

There are some hoops to jump through to get to serve alcohol at a sporting event. First  you need to find a pool of adult volunteers and get them to do online bartender training. Some of the training was interesting, such as learning to calculate how many drinks it would take for a particular person of a certain size to get intoxicated. As you can imagine, the discussion of social skills and how to refuse an intoxicated person service is both useful and amusing. The stadium, like any responsible establishment, won’t allow you to serve someone who has already had too much to drink. Reasonable policy. Even those of us who like a drink (or three) know that you need limits on alcohol sales. **Self preservation alone reminds me that I have to drive home from the stadium with tens of thousands of fans and I’d prefer them to be mostly sober. 

Some Bills fans, as we all know, push their limits. For example, the shirtless guy with a red, white and blue buffalo painted on his chest who is screaming and dancing on a 20 degree day has likely had too much to drink. When this guy staggers up to your beer stand to buy two more 24 ounce cans with two minutes to go in the third quarter, you need to reject his request for more beer with some tact. Telling him “We don’t serve drunks here” is likely going to make him mad, and you really don’t want this guy mad at you. After all, he’s clearly not in a rational frame of mind, is he? A more tactful response to his beer request would be to say “It is stadium policy to not serve people that appear intoxicated.” This works most of the time. It’s not judgemental and puts the blame on the stadium bosses sitting in their suites counting his money. I’ve even had a few patrons smile at this answer and reply that maybe they had drunk enough for one day. The dedicated drinker, however, will likely make another plea. My standard reply is “I am really sorry. I’d personally like to serve you, but if I do they could shut down our whole stand.” 

One of the more amusing aspects of the customer service part of this stand is trying to respect the taste loyalties of the patrons. On the first day of serving, one of our younger volunteers was in the process of restocking the coolers when a customer ten years his senior asked him if their favorite fruity seltzer (QB1?) was still available as they searched the selection. He honestly (and tactlessly) replied, “Does it really matter? They all taste like crap.”  He obviously broke that rule, but I laughed anyway.

You need to be comfortable with intoxicated people if you are going to work a beer kiosk. Duh? Initially my son was not comfortable. In fact, he was kind of freaked out on the drive into the stadium by the huge twenty-five-year-old  guy we saw walking through the tailgating section who was so drunk that his girlfriend was leading him by the hand at 10 o’clock in the morning. For better or worse, I saw this as a “teachable moment” and started to point out that you don’t ever want to be that guy. I started to ask rhetorically; how many drinks does it take for a guy that size to get that drunk? When did he start drinking? Is he even going to remember this game? 

Anyway I enjoy drunk people as long as they are happy–and Buffalo Bills fans are certainly happy these days. For the last three years, the Bills have been Super Bowl contenders. Heck, with a couple breaks, they might have won it all and they’ll certainly be in the running for years to come. So on opening day, the stadium was jazzed up. Electric, in fact. Jerseys, face paint, hats, Bills tattoos? Yes. The first time I saw a Bills logo tattoo I was a little surprised. The dedication! This dude was in it for the long haul. 

I should add that I was raised by a sports fanatic, started going to San Antonio Spurs games on a weekly basis when I was six years old and spent the next 15 years of my life attending just about every kind of sporting event you can think of. My father took me to the Astrodome in Houston, Dodger Stadium in LA, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, the Humphrey Dome in Minneapolis and even took me to see Pele play in San Antonio when he was with the New York Cosmos – something I am eternally grateful for. I’ve been told that, as an infant, we listened to the Packers win the first ever Super Bowl on Armed Forces Radio while our young family was stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. At my first Bills game volunteering at Highmark Stadium, the nostalgia for the big event came flooding back to me and when the stadium erupted after the first touchdown and 80,000 celebrated to my favorite Isley Brothers song Shout I was hooked (and I honestly swear that I did not know the whole Hey-ey-ey-ey call and return thing). This spectacle was kind of cool, and I was part of it. And I was making money to help my charity help pets. Win, win, win, win!

For clarity regarding what I am about to describe, let me tell you some details about a  beverage-only stand. At modern stadiums, a lot of these are “self serve.” By that, I mean that the consumer walks through a serpentine “velvet rope” to a “wall” of coolers loaded about six cans deep with Bud, Bud Light, Blue Moon, Corona, Molson, Labatt, Labatt Light, Twisted Tea, about seven different kinds of seltzer, a few craft beers, and water. I should state these are all 24 ounce cans the buyer selects. Each adult can buy two–stadium policy. People can just hate it when they have told their three friends back in the stands that the next double round is on them. The stand has four registers and is designed for the operators to rapidly scan in the beverages and quickly process credit cards. No cash here. And man can we sell some beer. It’s a little mind blowing when you think that we are one of about one hundred stands in this enormous stadium. The sewer system in Orchard Park must be super-sized to accommodate the half-time bathroom rush.

Serving at the stadium starts slow. We typically don’t sell more than a few beers until about half an hour before kickoff. And then it builds and builds and runs steady through just past half time. It’s funny the signals you start to pick up on. Every pre-game has patterns. The grumbling and booing when the opposing team comes onto the field to warm up. And roars for the introduction of the starting line up for the Bills. The national anthem. 

My role at our kiosk has evolved to be to direct traffic and solve problems. And there are always problems. The checkout terminals are prone to crashing and need to be rebooted. Patrons seem to seek me out for finding their section or asking where they might find a beverage we don’t stock.  A significant part of practicing veterinary medicine is customer service. Sure, I’m a doctor and treat illness and do surgery but understanding people and treating pets is the job. I’m also always directing and responding to people.  I genuinely enjoy leaning over to someone staring a little confused at our wall of coolers. “What are you looking for?” People come to the stadium to have a good time and I want to be helpful–even if they are wearing a Chiefs jersey. To the stadium’s credit, we do carry a variety of locally made craft IPAs, Octoberfests and (real) Pilsners which I am pleased to direct the away visitors to. Saying “Go Bills” to a Patriots fan as I smile and hand them a beer never gets old. 

My main mission is trying to move the fans on to the next open terminal and back to their seats. The line gets a little long at times, but the patrons appreciate our efforts to acquaint them with their beer as quickly as possible. I accomplish the movement with a lot of eye contact, body language and hand signals. Body language here is important because the stadium is really loud. I’ve often wondered if I should be wearing ear plugs.  Not only does the crowd get loud but there’s also the music . “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Jump,”  “We Will Rock You,” the list goes on. But the roar of the crowd for a big play or, louder yet, a touchdown is almost deafening. 

One of my favorite parts of game day is clowning around with the opposing team’s fans. One of the last games of the 2022-23 season was against the Miami Dolphins and the stadium had about two feet of snow the night before the game.  We’re good at clearing snow in Buffalo but there is no way to get 80,000 seats cleared in a few hours. The stadium was a mess and fans cleaned the snow off their seats only to have their feet buried in snow. Maybe you were there or saw the game on TV. It was hysterical. A lot of fans (the smart ones) were even wearing their snowmobiling suits–which made finding their credit cards a challenge. At times, the stadium looked like the world’s biggest snowball fight. Most of it was good natured, but I suspect that those in Dolphin jerseys were getting more than a little pissed off after getting pelted for the twentieth time with a snowball. Anyway, near kickoff I was chatting with a fan in Dolphins gear while he waited for the next open terminal with both of us wearing about four layers of clothing. Upon learning that he’d flown up from Florida for the game, I questioned “What the hell were you thinking?” He only smiled in return.

The guy came back about 30 minutes later to get another round with the Bills already up 14-0 in the second quarter. As I smiled and greeted him, the stadium erupted in the roar I’d come to know only means a touchdown. The look on his face was priceless as he shook his head and said, “I knew this was going to happen.” “You guys had it coming,” was my reply. “Enjoy your beer. I hope you have a good weekend spending your money in my city.”

We also serve as something of a lost and found with fans bringing us a variety of things. It makes sense. I’m wearing an official-looking stadium jacket. They bring hats and gloves and credit cards and phones. I thank them and hold on to them for a while hoping that the person who lost them will come to the stand looking for it. When they don’t come, I walk the item halfway down the concourse to Guest Services where the friendly folks care for lost items. Anyway, as we were shutting down at the end of the final game of the season (that disappointing loss against the Bengals), a drunken patron brought me a set of dentures. Yes, Dentures! I did not want the dentures and instructed him to walk them down to Guest Services where they would help him connect them with the owner. He declined – and not politely. He set them on the kiosk counter and walked indignantly to the restroom. I was literally in the process of shutting down the stand, counting beers and finishing paperwork so I was happy to let the dentures lay on the counter. It was a couple minutes later when a smiling stadium employee appeared asking if we had a set of missing dentures. I was confused. Was there a Denture Alert Network that I was unaware of? I pointed to the dentures and he quickly packed them up in a french fry box and walked off. Minutes later, the denture’s owner appeared in search of his lost mouthpiece. He had just missed his dentures but they had been rescued by a responsible employee and he would be reunited eventually. The best line of the season would come from a co-worker “How drunk do you have to be to lose your dentures?” 

Shutting down the stand at the end of the third quarter is the most crucial part of the day for those of us at the beer kiosk. At this point, we’ve been at the stadium for hours, are tired from working in this small space, carrying cases of beer, working quickly to count, cleaning, restocking, and finishing paperwork. You hope for a close game to keep the fans in their seats and off the roads. If the game is tight or goes into overtime, you drive right out of the employee parking lot with no delays. Leaving the game on the Monday night when the Bills were blowing out the Titans in September (41-7!) was not easy. We were up by twenty points in the third quarter and the roads were packed with happy fans looking to get home for work the next day. It took about an hour to get out of the parking lot.

So, how do you lose your dentures?

Dr Otterson is a veterinarian in Buffalo and is the author of All Creatures Weird and Dangerous, a veterinary memoir about caring for mythical creatures published in 2022 by Guernica Editions and available at a number of local bookstores and online.

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Buffalo Mass Mob Heads South of the Border

My first visit to Lackawanna after moving to Buffalo in 2009 was to parade with Mark Poloncarz when he was running for re-election as Erie County Comptroller. One of the things that struck me about Buffalo’s southern neighbor was how many people along the parade route seemed to know Poloncarz personally. And vice-versa.

Visiting Our Lady of Bistrica Church recently in preparation for Buffalo Mass Mob XLII revived the memory of that day. Sunday’s Mass Mob comes at a critical juncture for Poloncarz’ political career, as Lackawanna’s favorite son must decide whether to seek an unprecedented fourth term or choose another path.

Another thing that struck me about Lackawanna on that first visit in 2009 was just how much this city, which I had previously thought had been built around a steel plant, was actually built around faith. Yes, the steel mills once ran hot and loud and…aromatic…and the smoke from their stacks was ever-present — until, suddenly, it wasn’t. But the ornate Our Lady of Victory Basilica and the complex surrounding it, built by the faithful, have proved far more enduring than the industrial behemoth built by, then quickly abandoned by, the capitalists.

Yet the campus built by Father Nelson Baker was never the only faith game in town. As many Lackawannans who worshiped at the enormous basilica, just as many spent holy days at smaller places tucked into neighborhoods, along with others who shared their language and ethnicity and traditions from homelands far away.

Our Lady of Bistrica Church embodies that. A Croatian congregation originally located on Ridge Road in the shadow of the steel plant, as postwar prosperity allowed parishioners to live farther away from the smoke, fumes, and noise of their livelihoods, the church sold their land to industry and moved into what was then the “suburbs” of Lackawanna. Ironically in light of later, tragic events in their homeland, they moved next door to St. Stephen’s Serbian Orthodox Church (I’ve been assured there is no animosity whatsoever between the congregations).

But instead of the usual pattern of first building a church and then other facilities as funds allowed, the church’s first step was to build a substantial new parish hall. It was named after Cardinal Stepinac, whose imprisonment by the Tito regime made him a hero to Croatian Catholics and martyr, beatified after his death under house arrest. In hindsight, some have questioned whether Stepinac did enough to oppose a pro-Nazi Croatian regime, which persecuted Jews and Orthodox Serbs alike. But another view is presented by this author, who defends Stepinac and credits his actions with saving her Jewish family.

In addition to its dedication to Cardinal Stepinac, the parish hall is full of other symbols of Croatian identity and culture. The Croation national anthem is displayed prominently, as is the poem “Ode to Freedom” by Dživo Franov Gundulić, which Croatian friend and fellow blogger Alan Bedenko translated for me:

Oh beautiful, oh dear, oh sweet freedom,

gift in which all fortune God gave us.

The true cause to all our glory,

the only adornment of these woods.

Every bit of silver, every bit of gold

all human lives,

cannot repay your pure beauty.

Five years ago, the hall was also the site for the parish’s 100th-anniversary events with Croatian culture on full display, including songs with children in traditional dress. Photos and videos of the anniversary are here. To see them you need to enter the password “go” (lowercase).

The church itself is very modernist in design, with a semi-circular layout inside, a reflection of the era in which it was built. The full history of the church is here. I was fortunate to visit during the Advent season, and got to see the Christmas decorations on full display.

On my first visit to Lackawanna in 2009, the other thing that struck me about the city is just how much nature there is, which I hadn’t expected in a place so strongly associated with industry. After our parade, to return to the starting place, we didn’t retrace the parade route. Instead, Mark Poloncarz took the literal “scenic route,” the first segment of which was a hike along Smoke’s Creek. He seemed to be in his element in his hometown, and some of the group had a hard time keeping up with him. As a long-time advocate for greenways and trails, I loved it.

Since then I have returned to Lackawanna several times to explore nature along Smoke’s Creek and several abandoned rail corridors. One of my favorite spots is behind the Lake Erie Italian Club, where I have seen deer, turkeys, and snapping turtles. Since Our Lady of Bistrica is built on the south bank of Smoke’s Creek, I decided to do some exploring afterward, proceeding upstream. It was a beautiful afternoon, spent almost entirely in nature. At dusk I wrapped up a fine day with a couple of outstanding slices of pizza.

But whether you stay in Lackawanna after to make a day of it or not, all are welcome to this Sunday’s Mass Mob at Our Lady of Bistrica Church!

Get connected:

Buffalo Mass Mob XLII at Our Lady of Bistrica Church

Our Lady of Bistrica Church website

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LET’S PLAY HOUSE, First Look Buffalo at Park School, has eight snappy shorts in 90 minutes but only a few shows left

THE BASICS:  LET’S PLAY HOUSE: EIGHT SHORT PLAYS. ONE EMPTY HOUSE, offers eight plays/skits by playwrights Drew Fornarola, Jeff Goode (2 plays), Adam Hahn, Donna Hoke, Samantha Macher, Wendy Marie-Martin, and Avery LaMar Pope, presented by First Look Buffalo. Opening on February 3, there are only 6 performances scheduled, Fridays-Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00 at The Park School of Buffalo Theatre, located on the school’s campus at 4625 Harlem Road in Amherst, NY.  Parking is free.  Visit FirstLookBuffalo.com

Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  This production features eight short world premiere plays that all take place in the same setting, an empty house, and are all written by members of First Look Buffalo’s playwright wing. The 90-minute fast-paced event features a variety of both comedies and dramas, with topics ranging from the loss of a loved one, the paranormal, ghosts, and time travel. 

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION:  The evening opens and closes with music, first “Burning Down the House” by The Talking Heads (“Ah, watch out / You might get what you’re after / Cool babies / Strange but not a stranger…”) which seemed just right in hindsight and it closes with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house…” which also resonated with me. 

LPH | Kelly Mongan, Austin Gallego, Madison Sedlor

LPH | Nick Lama, Sarah Wsechter, Kathleen Rooney

LPH | Tony Grande, Susan King

LPH | Nikita Williams, Shawnell Tillery, Steven Maiske

When I write “fast-paced” I mean partly that there are no long gaps between performances, none of the interminable set-ups which often plague short play showcases.  One play ends, they dip to black, then bang, the next play starts.  That’s thanks in part to First Look’s vision and in part to Stage Manager / Sound Designer Kayla Victoria Reumann.  Nice job, especially with the sound cues.

THE EIGHT SHORT PLAYS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

JUST SIGN by Wendy Marie-Martin, directed by Vanessa Shevat stars Susan King as a widow and a bit of a crazy cat lady (but not in the usual way) and Anthony J. Grande as an IRS agent desperate to collect back taxes.  It has a very clear set-up and a nice arc with two very much opposed people of different ages, genders, and stages in life coming to a sweet conclusion.

THE MEAN BOY ON MOVING DAY by Donna Hoke, directed by Vanessa Shevat stars Jesse Zappia, Madison Sedlor, Shanda Gardner, Nick Lama, Kari Becker, and Jacob Applegate.  It’s the first, but not the only play of the evening with a “what’s really going on here?” vibe.

RECIPES ON USED NAPKINS by Avery LaMar Pope, directed by Kayla Victoria Reumann stars Steven Maiseke, and Shawnell Tillery. Like the play JUST SIGN it’s also a very sweet two-hander, with brother and sister, about to leave their childhood home, negotiating over mom’s recipes.

THE FUTURE FORMER HOME OF THE TIME TRAVEL MUSEUM by Jeff Goode, directed by Mike Doben, stars Weston Young, Kari Becker, Shanda Gardner, and Jon Cesar.  This was a fast-paced hoot and another fine example of time travel stories but one with many twists and turns.  And it’s funny, especially as we learn how those futuristic blasters we see in Star Wars (“pew – pew – pew”) actually work.

QUIET CONNECTION written and directed by Drew Fornarola stars Kaylie Horowitz and Jacob Applegate was all physical and completely wordless.  I don’t want to say “pantomime”’ since so many of us hate mimes and it didn’t present as such.  I’ll say “modern dance” in the sense of dance companies such as Pilobolus or Mummenschanz.  It’s a boy and a girl shyly building to a moment.  Very sweet but also very funny.

DO THE SPIRITS CONVEY by Samantha Macher, directed by Drew Fornarola stars Madison Sedlor, Kelly Mornan, Austin Gallego, Jon Cesar, Sarah Waechter, Shawnell Tillery, Anthony J. Grande, and Kari Becker. As did a couple of other plays, this deals with ghosts, or did it?  The play starts with three young people “breaking in” to one of their parents’ houses to hold a séance using candles and a Ouija board.  Noises are heard but are they the ghosts of former homeowners who may have perished during some yoga sex night gone wrong?  There is some kinky sex going on, but not what the kids think.

OPEN HOUSE OF THE DAMNED by Adam Hahn, directed by Mike Doben stars Steven Maiseke, Kaylie Horowitz, and Weston Young.  This was hilarious as a realtor (Maiseke) tells prospective buyers that the house is haunted, and as the buyers keep guessing as to why that might be, they keep stumbling into all sorts of “PC? Or not PC?” discussions.  It’s a wonderful send-up of “woke” gone off the rails.  It’s also a perfect example of the use of interrupting phone calls that are not at all “stagey” by being quite organic to the plot.  

ELF SPACE by Jeff Goode, directed by Kayla Victoria Reumann stars Nick Lama, Sarah Waechter, Kathleen Rooney, Shanda Gardner, and Jesse Zappia.  Another realtor play, this time with Nick Lama casually confusing the word “elf” with “shelf” and sending the two prospective buyers over the edge.  

First Look Buffalo is a company of thirty-seven ensemble actors, seven directors and nine playwrights.  Its founders, Bob Rusch and John Patrick Patti, continue to present a series of staged productions, readings, and workshops throughout the year in the 110-seat theatre.

A note on the Buffalo rating.  Over time we’ve gone with rating each short play versus an overall rating.  This time I’ll go with an overall “Three and a Half Buffalos” because “I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater.”  Still, for some “If the genre/content are up your alley,” in other words, if you like short play festivals, if you like new plays, or if you like sci-fi or ghost stories or general goofiness, this might be a Four Buffalo event for you.  Whatever the rating, I want to congratulate everyone for a really well-run evening. 

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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Book of Collected Poems: The Covid Diaries by Robert Pomerhn

Following is an interview with Robert Pomerhn, pertaining to a new book of poetry that he is currently releasing.

How long have you been writing poetry? 

Quarter of a century.

How would you describe your style of poetry? 

While I tend not to compartmentalize my poetry into one particular style, I try to have an equal blend of the artistic and academic while maintaining a strong street sense. Growing up in the mid 80’s, rap music has a strong lyrical influence even on my more mature work.

Is there a certain subject matter that you gravitate towards? 

My poetry seems to be a depiction of actual events without clouding the judgement of those who are reading it.

How did the pandemic influence your writings? 

By far it was my most crystalized clear moment, having loads of time to hone in on my craft.

Who is your best critic? 

My wife, she is honest, doesn’t sugar coat a thing, gives me a panoramic overview and allows me to actually salvage some of the work that would end up in the trash if I had it my way. She helps me see my successes when I struggle to see them.

What time of day do you tend to write? 

Not a set time. I gain inspiration on many long runs, even when I run with friends. I am able to sort things out on my runs.

Do you carry a scratch pad with you? 

Yes, usually napkins, ripped pieces of paper or whatever I can write on when I feel the need. If I don’t write it down immediately it will be lost, forever.

You just published a book of poems, visual art and collage. Are you an artist as well as a poet? 

Yes. I’d like to see my collages as album covers some day for some of my favorite bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins, and Dinosaur Jr.

Where do you draw inspiration? 

The inspiration for this particular book is my son. I was able to include his work in this publication. You will find it towards the end of the book. He truly is the future. He is ridiculously talented, you’ll see.

Aside from the book, do you work on other visual art projects? 

Yes. Some of my pieces are hanging in homes. Those pieces I was able to create on wood slabs. Very cool to see. Sometimes my work takes on a life of its own, other times you can see a “likeness” to rock stars (ie: Dylan) or a children’s fairy tale (ie: Alice through the Looking Glass)

On the book cover, when you say spoken word, does that mean that certain poems are meant to be read out loud, or in front of people? 

I think those that have the ability to hear my work in front of them live will have a more intimate appreciation of the words that are on the page. 

Do you perform spoken word? 

Yes. Future endeavors include hosting and performing a series of live events through Villa Maria College with a floor space that is accommodating, spacious, and inviting to new listeners as well as the seasoned listeners

The image on the cover… can you tell me about it? 

Always 100% handmade, never digitally enhanced. Much of the finished work comes from the discarded materials of properly placed old magazines. The scissor-like female figure not only signifies the thousands of cuts and pastings that went on to finish this book but also the muse visiting me for bits of inspiration.

How many pages is the book? 

103

Who printed it? 

Highest Hurdle Press, Chicago, IL. The owner/operator… I would easily call him the patron saint of the Buffalo poetry scene.

Is it currently for sale? 

Yes

What does it cost and where can people purchase it? 

The book cost $25.00 plus shipping. If interested you can email me at pomerhn.robert@gmail.com. I am also working on a book release in Toronto. 

Anything else? 

I’m a kid from Buffalo. Lived on Shirley Ave in my early years then moved to Cheektowaga. I love basketball. Played on every court here. Im often called “Dirk” because of my likeness to Dirk Nowitzki. I can talk trash with the best of them on the court. To be fair, that probably set me up for spoken word.

My attempt at poetry has always been an artist’s struggle to not only mean what I say but to live out those words and honor their meaning. While all of these poems are merely a cheap approximation of what I’m feeling I’ve done my best to pass them onto the world and appreciate their merit.

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Who’s selling heart shaped pizzas in WNY for Valentine’s Day 2023?

The post Who’s selling heart shaped pizzas in WNY for Valentine’s Day 2023? appeared first on Fun 4 Kids in Buffalo.

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Opportunity Knocks: Save Kaisertown’s last backstreet bar near Houghton Park and The Woods

Have you ever dreamed about owning your own little slice of bar heaven? If so, “the last backstreet tavern” in Kaisertown is now available.

The neighborhood tavern was once known as P&K’s. Now, there are Kaisertown advocates who are hoping that someone steps in and reopens an establishment. One of those people is Nathan Miloszewski, who reached out to us to see if we could spotlight the former watering hole. Miloszewski feels that there is a real opportunity at hand, for someone to open a tavern, a café, or a lunch spot, to service a neighborhood that is in a state of transition.

“This is the old P&K’s bar, the last backstreet bar in the neighborhood,” said Miloszewski, who a fervent supporter of Kaisertown. “There used to be several of these establishments along Casimir – the backend parallel to Clinton – but they are long gone. With the Green Code I had hoped that there were going to be more opportunities in Kaisertown for small businesses, off of the the beaten path. As you know, all of these side streets had some type of business in the middle or the end of the block (you can still pick out the old storefronts). I mention the park too because this business is only a 3 minute walk to Houghton Park and 1 block away from the Houghton Conservation Area that the Buffalo Niagara Land Trust is actively working on restoring. Here is a map that lays out the walk from Houghton Park to P&K’s, to the end of Weiss Street (entrance to Houghton Woods). Here’s a Buffalo News article about the conservation efforts. Also, a Buffalo Niagara Land Trust project summary.”

Miloszewski feels that the time is right to invest in the building, which, in turn, would be a great boon for the street. The building is a stone’s throw to the Buffalo River, through the park. It’s also close to Clinton Street, which is the home of Wiechec’s Lounge, and ACME Cabinet Co. It’s also in close proximity to  The Buffalo Curling Club, and Buffalo FilmWorks. That said, there’s always room for another anchor establishment.

“This neighborhood desperately needs a coffee shop, café, or even just another bar with some decent food options,” said Miloszewski. “With the park location I’m sure you can see the possible synergy. People walk their dogs by this location everyday on their way to the park, and with the Woods being transformed, it’s possible that there will be entrances at the end of the nearby side streets. How great would it be to have some type of place to start or end your outing?”

For sale: $190,600

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Opportunity Knocks: Main and Allen Lot for Sale

A prime, vacant lot at the northwest corner of Main and Allen Street is for sale.  Recckio Real Estate has the listing for the parcel at 942 Main Street with a $199,000 asking price.  The site is begging for sensitive infill.

From the listing:

This vacant parcel of land is situated on the NW corner of Main St and Allen St. Cleared lot ready for Redevelopment. Lot size 33′ x 118′ or .09+/- Acres. Zoned commercial. Corner location with traffic signal access. Heart of Downtown Buffalo Entertainment and Theatre Districts. Walking distance to City Hall and Erie County Court house. Convenient proximity to the Medical Campus Corridor and Downtown Buffalo. The area is surrounded by restaurants, bars, offices, major headquarters, and major hotels.

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A complex of buildings on the site were demolished in 1988 after a futile attempt by preservationists to preserve the structures.

Get Connected: Recckio Real Estate, 716.998.4422

The Buffalo News, September 23, 1987

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Inaugural Sweethearts Dance

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Buffalo History Museum will be hosting the inaugural Sweethearts Dance. The dance will be a 50’s themed event, complete with retro photo opportunities, cocktails, light fare, and local sweets, pastries, and baked goods.

The Sweethearts Dance will be the perfect time to be together with your love, or your love interest. Heck, even if you don’t have a date, there might be someone at the dance that also tagged along with a friend. After all, who would want to miss this fun time? So don’t be a square – just pile in into the old Dodge Custom Royal and head on over to the Buffalo History Museum for a shindig that will surely be a gas.

The Buffalo History Museum encourages guests to dress in 50’s attire and to bring their dancing shoes to change into if the weather is wet outside for the safety of our guests on the dance floor.

This event is for 21 years and older. Admission is $100 per couple and $50 per individual. Find out more information and purchase tickets at Sweethearts Dance – The Buffalo History Museum .

When: Friday, February 10

6:30PM Doors open

7:00PM Special dance lesson with Swing Buffalo

7:30PM Live music by the Alex Rene Big Band featuring Donna Kerr on vocals

Where: The Buffalo History Museum, One Museum Ct, Buffalo, NY 14216

Lead image: Wikimedia Commons

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Barcalo Buffalo Living & Commerce announces Pace Strength and Conditioning as new tenant

Barcalo Buffalo Living & Commerce is on a roll. First it was Canandaigua-based Frequentem Brewing Co. signing up as a tenant. Now it’s a fitness business called Pace Strength and Conditioning. And what better tenant to have than a business that caters to runners, walkers, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts? Not only will this be a welcome amenity for the residential tenants at Barcalo, it will also be a wonder neighborhood resource.

PACE Strength and Conditioning’s programming is based on the science behind functional fitness.

Currently the $38 million mixed-use development project, located at 225 Louisiana Street, is under construction. As the work continues, the goal is to pre-lease the commercial components, of which there are a number. PACE Strength and Conditioning’s owner and founder, Kathleen Granchelli, realized early on that the Barcalo building was a good fit for her business model, which already has already garnered a healthy following of fitness-enthusiasts. Actually, it’s Granchelli herself who has amassed the following, by establishing the popular BFLO Run Club five years ago (a free community-based run club). Granchelli also has 12 years under her belt, as a general manager, certified personal trainer, run coach, and class instructor at various fitness centers.

The development partners for Barcalo Buffalo Living & Commerce, the Frizlen Group and BRD Construction, expect the project to be complete in mid-2023

“After more than a decade in the fitness industry, I’m opening my first run and strength studio, and Barcalo is the perfect building to launch this new fitness concept,” said Granchelli, who encourages everyone to participate, no matter their fitness level. “Pace Strength and Conditioning will offer run-focused classes along with strength programs and personal training spanning beginner, intermediate and expert levels. Our motto is you set the pace—we help you maintain it.”

PACE will be the official home of the ever growing BFLO Run Club apparel line and offer the following programming:

Run-based classes on state of the art treadmills

Functional strength and mobility classes

Open gym access

Private one-on-one person training 

The PACE deal was co-brokered by Caitlin Coder and Matt Hartrich of Schneider Real Estate. There are still commercial units available ranging from 2,000 square feet to 21,000 square feet.

“Fitness for all levels will be part of the community amenities at Barcalo, as Pace Strength and Conditioning joins Frequentem Brewing Co. as commercial tenants of this project. We’re excited to welcome Kathleen and her team as she opens her first studio space at 225 Louisiana Street,” said Karl Frizlen, president of The Frizlen Group. “With commercial space still available for offices, restaurants, businesses and retailers, we continue to welcome opportunities to add tenants that contribute to the surrounding community and Barcalo overall.”

“The project consists of numerous historic structures woven together,” said Hartrich, president of Schneider Real Estate. “Each area of the building has its own historic character and attributes, which lends itself very nicely to a vibrant mix of tenants and uses.”

Get connected: Matth@schneiderservices.com for leasing information

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