Friday, October 24, 2008

"Charlotte's Web."

Check out my sister's new play if you are in the area.

First Stage weaves 'Web'
Troupe captures essence of classic

Posted: Oct. 20, 2008

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First Stage
Charlotte's handiwork is apparent in First Stage Children's Theater's production of "Charlotte's Web."
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First Stage
Charlotte's handiwork is apparent in First Stage Children's Theater's production of "Charlotte's Web."
Close Friendship is the star of the First Stage Children's Theater production of "Charlotte's Web," which opened this weekend.

The production, directed by Xan S. Johnson and featuring Joseph Robinette's adaptation of the E.B. White classic, captures the story's warmth and simplicity through a particularly likable cast of talking creatures.

Centering on the unlikely friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte, the story finds the wise, literate Charlotte saving Wilbur's life by writing grand things about him in her web. The "miracle" of words in the web persuades Wilbur's owners to keep him as a pet.

When Charlotte's life ends, Wilbur safeguards his dear friend's eggs and makes sure they hatch in the spring.

The First Stage production features Thirza Defoe in the role of Charlotte/The Narrator. As The Narrator, Defoe takes the persona of an American Indian storyteller, with a gentle, listen-and-learn wisdom in her delivery.

As Charlotte, she moves with balletic grace in a dimension of her own, thanks to scenic designer Sarah L. Hunt-Frank's brilliant floor-to-ceiling metal web. She presides over all the action on stage, watching over her friend Wilbur and fighting to save his life. Her presence, and constancy and wisdom are the heart of the show.

Friday's opening performance featured the "terrific" cast of young actors, which put John Filmanowicz in the role of Wilbur. Filmanowicz created an adorably innocent Wilbur, maintaining that sweet character without fail throughout his long scenes on stage.

Part of the charm of this production rests in the caricature animal characters that figure so heavily in the story. A combination of Rachel Anne Healy's clever costumes, which capture a few iconic elements of each of the animals, and portrayals that also center on a few iconic elements of each animal, creates delightful characters.

Todd Denning's Templeton (a rat) is a wonderful balance of greed and selflessness, spiced with facial/physical humor. Alison Mary Forbes creates a delightfully maternal Goose, reminding us of her animal nature with waddles and honks. All of the adults play multiple roles.

Bo Johnson, Elaine Wyler and Allen Edge round out the strong adult cast of characters.

"Charlotte's Web" runs through Nov. 16 at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water St. Call (414) 273-7206 or visit

First Stage

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Now, every penny counts

Battered by the bleak news from Wall Street and Washington, many Americans are frightened about the prospect of yet another blow.
“I don't know what's going to happen to the economy,” said Barbara Foster, after doing some banking at a Washington Mutual branch near Bellis Fair mall.
“It seems like it's going to collapse. I'm horrified. I haven't even looked at my retirement account, it's so scary.”
Ms. Foster, who has held health care positions and is looking for work, is in full scrimp mode, where every expenditure, from whether to buy blueberries to even renting a movie is scrutinized. “We've been living on credit for so long, the government and the people, it's insane,” she said.
Near Bellis Fair, at the Slo Pitch pub and casino – open 24 hours a day – it's also pretty empty. “I'm cutting back on all and any extras,” said Mike Glick, a technology consultant, nursing a beer.
“Like gambling. I'd be playing pull tabs, I'm not doing that. And I took the bus here,” Mr. Glick said. He figures he's in good company. “Normally, this bar would be full. People are in conservation mode, to pay mortgages, rent, those basic bills. Just in the last six months, it's been a huge change.”
And Mr. Glick, who has closely followed the amazing implosion of Wall Street this month, has little faith the situation will turn around any time soon.
“I don't think we've seen the real depth of how far this'll go,” said Mr. Glick, in a ball cap, sweater and blue jeans, dismissing the rescue plan. “You have to be a real fool to believe that. This isn't going to be solved by Congress approving $700-billion.”

Pea-Shake Raid May Result In Charges - Indiana News Story - WRTV Indianapolis

Pea-Shake Raid May Result In Charges - Indiana News Story - WRTV Indianapolis:
"The alleged operators and patrons of a house that police said is long known to host pea-shake gambling could face charges as soon as this week.
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office plans to charge as many as a dozen people who were arrested or cited at the home in the 3700 block of North Keystone Avenue last week, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.
Police raided the home nine days ago, but it apparently reopened for business the next day.
For years, the heavily fortified home equipped with surveillance cameras was widely known as a pea-shake house, a gambling game deemed illegal in Indiana, police said.
A business at the home called M&W Distributors sells pull tabs, bingo cards and tip books, said Indianapolis police Lt. Tom Black.
'It's basically a nice sign that's fronting as a legitimate business, which in fact is an illegal gambling establishment,' Black said. 'It's the same old pea-shake that's wrapped in a different package.'"

News: Bingo: A FWB pastime (with VIDEO) | bingo, petty, pearson :
"Bingo Castle uses only paper cards, something players such as Betty Petty prefer. Electronics, they say, gives a natural advantage to those who can afford to play the most cards, because the tallying is automatic.

But not everything revolves around the little balls with the numbers on them. 'Pull tabs,' which are a little bit like instant lottery cards, are very popular. And there are progressive games involving pull tabs that can have payouts of as much as $5,000.

'This is better than a casino,' Houston said. 'It's not just a walk in and leave and ‘See you in two or three weeks.' And in the winter a lot of our snowbirds are repeat people.'"

Smoking ban turns 1: What's changed? -

Smoking ban turns 1: What's changed? -
"Yet, one indication of how many people are going to bars — charitable gambling receipts — seems to back up the claim. They've plummeted more than 13 percent since the ban went into effect, according to the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. Church groups, fraternal orders and youth sports organizations once raked in $100 million to $120 million monthly from pull tabs and other bar games; they now are out millions of dollars every month.
But with a tanking economy, it's tough to blame the smoking ban for all the ills. The Gambling Control Board is undertaking a broad study looking at ways to increase charitable gaming revenues, which could include allowing new types of gaming in bars and restaurants.
'We're working with the industry ... and trying to find ways to help them,' Executive Director Tom Barrett said.
The ban was part of an anti-public smoking wave sweeping the country. Following Minnesota's law, the state of Iowa, the city of Fargo, N.D., and, most recently, Wisconsin's Dane County passed comprehensive public workplace smoking bans. Minnesota is one of 24 states that ban smoking in all public establishments.
Even some of the ban's most ardent opponents seem resigned to the fact the law is here to stay.
'I think that many of the owners have tried to move on and undo the damage that's been done,' said Kenn Rockler, executive director of the Tavern League of Minnesota. 'Not everyone was damaged.'"