Night of Shorts
in the Capital Region have it easy. With Capital Repertory
Theatre and the New York State Theatre Institute right here
in our backyard, and the summer theater Mecca of the Berkshires
just a hop, skip and scenic drive away, the offerings are
ample. But even avid fans may miss some of the activity
taking place under the canopy of the big names, down at
ground level. There are also many innovative amateur and/or
experimental productions out there, and beginning on Friday
(June 7), Changing Spaces art gallery will host just such
Written by Craig Ryan, A Night of Shorts consists
of four one-act plays penned specifically for the gallery.
The writer collaborated with the gallery’s resident artist,
Sandra Williams, from the get-go; while he wrote the script,
she prepared the sets and backdrops, and handled the production
of tickets and promotional materials. And according to Phillip
Williams, Changing Spaces co-owner, the collaborative process
has not stopped now that the plays are ready for performance.
The gallery’s modest scale (it seats 40) allows for, even
promotes, a heightened interaction between performer and
audience, he says.
audience is exposed to everything that happens onstage,
because they’re right on top of it,” Williams says. “The
whole evening will be focused on the live feel of small
theater. We’ll be hiding less than a big theater. There’s
a lot of set changing and stage work, and the audience will
see that. It’s got a very intimate feel. The audience can
feel like they’re almost part of the production, and, really,
they are; We can’t have a show without an audience.”
Fortunately for the audience to be so involved, A Night
of Shorts is a performance that most won’t mind being
press-ganged into. Williams says, “It has a kind of Saturday
Night Live feel: comedic, with political and spiritual
satire thrown in.” Williams also cites vaudeville variety
show traditions—the show boasts original songs by Jami Johnson
and Courtney Connolly—and the Marx Brothers as influences.
And, secretly, haven’t you always wanted to be a Marx brother?
Changing Spaces (306 Hudson Ave., Albany) will present A
Night of Shorts June 7 through June 9 and June 12, 14
and 15, all at 8 PM. There is also an early show Sunday
(June 9), at 6 PM. Tickets are $12.50 in advance, $15 at
the door. On Wednesday (June 12), students may purchase
tickets for $10 advance, $12.50 door. For more information,
here, and the living’s easy. OK, that’s not exactly, precisely
true. Summer won’t be here for three more weeks, and the
living . . . well, we won’t bore you with our complaints,
but it’s no bowl of cherries. The good news is that summer’s
almost here: We can tell because, once again, the free concert
series known as Alive at Five is back, beginning today (Thursday).
And, honestly, even such cynical fussbudgets as ourselves
will admit that free music makes the living, if not easy,
at least less riddled with existential angst.
The concert season at Tricentennial Park on Broadway kicks
off this year with Irish night. Local bar staples Hair of
the Dog will team with the band about whom Time magazine
crowed, “Finally, rock & roll that means something
again”: Black 47 (pictured). Though the genre-blending group
of Irish expats came to national attention in 1993, with
their breakthrough hit “Funky Ceili,” they’re best known
as a hard-working bar band. In fact, it was a long-term
residency at Paddy Reilly’s Bar in Manhattan that brought
them to the attention of EMI, the label that gave them their
first deal. And though they’ve made appearances on all the
major network late-night shows, and been written up in all
the big music and arts mags, they’ve never stopped performing
in the taverns and saloons where they formed their Celtic-meets-reggae-meets-rap
The series continues through Aug. 1; each and every Thursday
until then you’ll get, give or take, three hours of live,
completely free music: On June 13, the Drifters and the
Sundowners are featured in an oldies’ night; June 20 is
Southern rock night, with the Dickey Betts Band and House
Project; June 27, Bill Kirchen and the Lustre Kings perform
an evening of rockabilly; an encore Irish night on July
11 boasts Gaelic Storm and the Glengarry Boys; July 18 is
soul night, with the Spinners and R&R Express; Poco
and Stony Creek will be onstage July 25 for country night,
and on the ultimate evening, Aug. 1, the legendary Southside
Johnny will host a party with Albany’s own the Refrigerators.
The Alive at Five concert series takes place at Tricentennial
Park, Broadway (Albany) each Thursday at—if you have to
ask—5 PM. In the event of rain, the shows will move to the
Corning Preserve Boat Launch under the I-787 underpass.
For more information, 434-2032.