Category Archives: Local News

Symphony orchestra announces big plans for ‘17-’18

James Blachly, conductor for the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, tells an audience at the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center about the upcoming season’s concerts on April 19. Staff photo by Cody McDevitt.

By CODY McDEVITT
codym@dailyamerican.com

The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra has announced its upcoming concert season schedule. Conductor James Blachly said an emphasis will be placed on the connection between the city and the symphony as its theme throughout its 2017-18 season.

“We will be highlighting our history, our present and our future together,” Blachly said.

It will be called “My Johnstown Symphony.” Blachly and other symphony members held an event at the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center that included food, cocktails and a presentation by their director and conductor April 19.

The season will kick off on Sept. 16 with “A Night in Venice,” which will feature Italian food and music connected to that city.
“Like Johnstown, Venice was founded because of its location near the water,” Blachly said. “We will be celebrating that unique city with a great party with costumes.”

On Oct. 20 they will have an open performance at the Cambria Iron Works, which keeps with the theme of the season, connecting Johnstown’s heritage with the symphony. It’s to be free and open to the public. They plan on inviting old steelworkers back for the performance.

On Oct. 21 they are to perform the “American Music Festival: Part I Past and Future,” which will showcase music by Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland among others.

On Nov. 11 they are to have the second part of the American music festival, and it’s to be a program commemorating Veterans Day. It is to also feature a performance of “Appalachian Spring,” by Copland.

“It’s an important composition in American history, and it tells what we think America can be,” Blachly said.

The symphony is to have its Christmas Choir Spectacular on Dec. 16. They are to have a “JSO Pops” concert Feb. 10 that includes eight decades of Broadway music, part of which will be from “West Side Story” and “South Pacific.”

The symphony is to perform the North American premiere of Ethel Smyth’s “The Prison” on April 7. On May 12 of next year they are to close out their season with “Symphonic Pictures,” which will blend various art forms to accompany the music.

Other special concerts include the traditional Mother’s Day performance in Somerset and a Fourth of July Fireworks concert at Point Stadium this summer. They also plan to have April young people’s concerts for fifth-grade students.

And perhaps the highlight of the upcoming season involves Josh Gallagher, a Cambria County native who rose to fame after his appearances on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Ebensburg art show scheduled

By OUR TOWN

Works of art by two Ebensburg-area artists are to be raffled off during the 19th annual “Art in Bloom” spring art show, to be held April 29 and April 30 at the Cambria County Courthouse, 200 S. Center St. The art show is sponsored by the Ebensburg Main Street Partnership.

Brandon Hirt, an Ebensburg photographer, has donated a framed photo of the Lemon House taken with long exposure photography, and artist S. Scott Steberger of Lilly has donated a framed watercolor called “84 Trees.”

Raffle tickets are to be sold during the art show, scheduled from 12 to 6 p.m. April 29, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30. The winning tickets are to be drawn at the conclusion of the show April 30.

Ticket holders do not have to be present at the drawing to win.

“We are so fortunate each year to have these amazing pieces donated for the show,” said Danea Koss, Ebensburg Borough’s community development director. “The generosity of our local community of artists is extraordinary, and the funds raised from the artwork raffle really help to keep this show going.”

Visit the partnership’s website at ebensburgmainstreet.com for more information about the spring art show.

Circus slated at War Memorial arena

By OUR TOWN

The Garden Bros. Circus is bringing its “all-new, fast-paced, totally exciting show” to Johnstown for two upcoming performances.

Tickets are available online at www.GardenBrosCircus.com for the 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows May 1 at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. The first 100 adult tickets purchased online are to be sold at a discounted rate.

Free admission tickets for children are being distributed at local elementary schools, preschools, day care centers, churches and select businesses in the area.

Tickets are also going to be available for purchase at the War Memorial box office on the day of the event.

The Garden Bros. Circus features motorcycle daredevils, Chinese acrobats, the Human Slingshot, aerialists, cirque artists and clowns, as well as performing elephants, camels, llamas, horses and buffalo.

The circus has performed in North America for more than 100 years, and is produced by the producers of the Ice Capades. More information on the circus and the Johnstown shows is available at the GardenBrosCircus.com website.

VOMA to host bluegrass group Mountain Ride

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

Bluegrass band Mountain Ride will perform at Venue of Merging Arts, VOMA, on April 7 as part of the venue’s folk and bluegrass series.

Mountain Ride features Eric Avey on guitar and vocals, Scott Matlock on fiddle and vocals, Corey Woodcock on banjo, Chance Hurley on mandolin and Kate Avey on bass and vocals.

Together, these five friends and musicians have toured the country. Their closest stop to Johnstown came last fall when they performed at Windber’s Bluegrass in the Park festival.

Local musician and folk and bluegrass series organizer Micah Mood said he’s excited to welcome Mountain Ride back to the area for their first performance at VOMA.

“My band had the chance to play right before Mountain Ride at last year’s Windber Bluegrass in the Park festival, and they put on a great set,” said Mood, a member of Johnstown’s own Striped Maple Hollow. “They opened with an instrumental Bill Monroe song, ‘Jerusalem Ridge,’ which is a family favorite of ours, and it was a great chance to get to see them for the first time.”

Mood said he’d describe the band’s music as “up-tempo bluegrass with a great blend of traditional and progressive influences.”

“They’ve got a great repertoire of original songs, and they have the classic bluegrass instrumentation — guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and bass. I enjoy string bands with all sorts of instrument configurations, but the classic five piece arrangement, including fiddle, is still my favorite,” he said.

Windber’s The Les Hunter Band will open the all-ages, BYOB show.

“The Les Hunter Band played on a bluegrass show last year, and I’m glad to have them back,” Mood said. “This three piece string band leans heavily into the outlaw-and-alt-country realms, and I think their songs and instrumentation will be a great counterpoint complement to Mountain Ride’s driving bluegrass.”

Mood added that this performance marks the second of three VOMA Bluegrass and Folk Series shows this spring.

“I think this spring series is a great showcase of the kind of great bluegrass coming out of Pennsylvania right now,” he said. “Mountain Ride play a ton, so I’m grateful we had the chance to get them in on our calendar for a show. And it’s not just me talking up this show — The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, who just played to a full house at VOMA on March 11, implored the audience to come back out in April to see their friends Mountain Ride put on a great show.”

Tickets for this performance are on sale and can be purchased in advance by visiting www.thevoma.com/tickets/ online. Doors are scheduled to open at 6:30 p.m. that evening, with the music scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

“A bluegrass show at VOMA is a great chance to see a good band, oftentimes playing to a single microphone, in a small room with a warm, intimate atmosphere,” Mood said. “Bands tend to be loose and at ease, and it just makes for a great night of music.”

VOMA is located at 305 Chestnut St. in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. For more information, including a list of upcoming events and performances, visit www.thevoma.com.

Glassmaking studio opens in Westmont

Submitted photo
Angela Godin, executive director of the Community Arts Center of Cambria County, poses for a check-passing photo with Community Foundation for the Alleghenies Executive Director Mike Kane.

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

Staff members at Community Arts Center of Cambria County recently unveiled the nonprofit’s Glass Fusion Studio.

“We are the only studio in this area offering something like this,” said Angela Godin, executive director of the arts center. “It is very exciting and special to us as an organization to offer a fully functional Glass Fusion Studio. The closest one is located outside of Pittsburgh.”

The arts center’s former darkroom was converted into the new Glass Fusion Studio.

“It was the perfect scenario,” Godin said. “It created a space for the new glass fusion kiln, along with all of the materials. This permitted them to be kept separate from the other divisions of our glass department, such as the stained glass and mosaic items. 

“The room is a practical and functional space that was formerly used for storage.”

The arts center has already hosted a handful of glass fusion workshops, giving people who are interested in glassmaking opportunities to make items such as tiles, trivets, ornaments, bowls and jewelry.

“Our first round of workshops was completely full and even had waiting lists,” Godin said. “Individuals have called with interest when our next workshops will be offered. 

“It is very exciting to see all our hard work to make this dream become a reality come into being. We hope to continue offering more workshops and classes to accommodate everyone interested.”

Godin added that, when it comes to glass fusion, workshop opportunities seem endless.

“There is such a large realm of diversity that can be created in glass fusion,” she said. “We are only scratching the surface of what we will eventually be able to offer. Through the process of glass fusing, you can make great tiles, trivets, bowls, light shades, jewelry, ornaments, miscellaneous 3-D works of art and more.
 
“To start, we are focusing on tiles trivets, jewelry and ornament projects. The creative process allows for new opportunities and expansion on our curriculum constantly.”

Instructors for the arts center’s education department have been offering stained glass and mosaic classes for a number of years, and the addition of the Glass Fusion Studio allows for a permanent home for these already established areas, not to mention the creation of a complete Glass Studio Division.

“I am excited beyond words to be a part of this new endeavor,” said Lida Hood, education director for the arts center. “I truly believe this will take our class offerings to a new level.”

Hood is in the process of developing a multi-level curriculum of glass fusion techniques and skill building. Glass art is to be created during workshops or six-week length classes, while specialization on projects and techniques are to be centralized in one-day workshops. Children’s classes and camps are also be offered.

Godin said the studio wouldn’t be complete without the purchase of a new glass kiln and all of the necessary “start-up” supplies the arts center needed. The kiln and supplies were provided by the Robert Waters Economic Development Fund of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies as part of a 2016 fall grant.

The Community Foundation and its donors supported 63 organizations throughout Bedford, Cambria, Indiana, and Somerset counties through that grant, and Community Arts Center received $3,200.

“The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies is proud to support the Community Arts Center of Cambria County through this grant,” said Angie Berzonski, program and communications officer for Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. “In reviewing this project, our Distribution Committee appreciated their efforts to integrate new arts technology and was excited about the opportunities that the glass kiln will provide.”

Godin said she and her staff are thrilled with the possibilities that come with the opening of the new studio.

“We are privileged to be one of the 63 organizations to have received funds,” Godin said. “Our entire staff is excited about the new opportunities for our community and are thrilled to be able to host the first Glass Studio in our region. This new chapter in the community arts center’s history is very exciting.”

For more information about the Glass Fusion Studio, call an arts center staff member at 814-255-6515 or visit www.caccc.org online.

The Community Arts Center of Cambria County is located in Westmont along Menoher Boulevard.

“Glass fusion is something that has been around for a long time, but not every organization or center can offer it,” Godin said. “We are truly blessed to have received a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. This was able to give us the jump start to offer something new to our community and expand the ways we ‘keep the Arts Alive in Cambria County.’ No matter the age or experience level, we can offer something with glass fusion.

“Because of the unique way fusion works and the different types of ways items can be fused, you never know what your item will look like when it comes out of the kiln. The surprise and joy of this mystery makes very alluring. You could fuse a million pieces of glass and make thousands of different items and not one would ever be the same.”

Arts center readies for annual auction

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

The 28th Great American Auction will take place inside Community Arts Center of Cambria County’s Goldhaber-Fend Fine Arts Center gallery April 7.

The Great American Auction gives people an opportunity to win an array of items that will be part of the evening’s live auction. Angela Godin, executive director for the arts center, said that the list of items is as impressive as ever.

Some of the items up for bid include: autographed Arnold Palmer memorabilia, autographed Steelers gear, antique fabric quilts, golf outings, a Sabika necklace, Arcadia Theater tickets, Sight and Sound Theatre tickets and four one-day park hopper passes for Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Gift baskets, gift cards, collectibles and more, which have been donated by the arts center’s members and friends, are also to be auctioned off. Cambria County businesses have pitched in to help make the event a success, too, by donating nearly 100 gift cards and certificates.

A preview of all the items is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon. At 5:30 p.m., Dale Mishler of Mishler Auction Services is to begin the bidding.

“Dale has been donating his time and services for pretty much the past 28 years,” Godin said. “He’s so generous, so thorough and so professional. We’re truly blessed to have him partner with us again this year.”

Local business Clark’s Corner Store is to offer food for purchase both before and during the auction.

As in years past, proceeds from the 28th Great American Auction will benefit the arts center.

“All the proceeds from this event go into our general operations fund so we can offer more exciting programming and events to our community,” Godin said. “The money we raise during this auction definitely helps to offset costs for many of the free events we host.”

Godin said she’s hoping that this year’s auction will be as successful as last year’s, which turned into a standing room only event.

“We actually had people backed up into the hallway of the arts center,” Godin said in regards to last year’s auction. “It was literally two and a half hours of non-stop bidding, and that was wonderful for the arts center.”

Last year, Godin said, she worked hard to make some positive changes to the auction that were well-received.

“Last year, we were able to get more high-ticket items,” she said. “Plus, we had such a variety of eclectic and antique items. I think that’s why it was so successful.

“Basically, our auction was packed with a variety of exciting merchandise. My objective is to continue offering the new attractions that prompted more individuals to attend and keep adding additional big ticket items. For example, once again this year I have four Disney passes.”

Godin said she’s proud of the variety of items that are part of this year’s auction, including those Disney passes.

A list of businesses that donated items, as well as pictures of items up for bid, is available on the community arts center’s website at www.caccc.org. The list and items will be updated regularly up until the event takes place.

The 28th Great American Auction is free to attend. For more information, call an arts staff member at 814-255-6515 or visit the organization’s official website at www.caccc.org.

The Community Arts Center of Cambria County is located in the Westmont along Menoher Boulevard.

“People are going to find some wonderful items that they could really use or just can’t live without and, at the same time, help a nonprofit that’s a staple in our community,” Godin said.

Jazz band, choir among performers scheduled at Grand Halle

Submitted photo
Members of Johnstown Christian School’s Handbell Choir, pictured above, are to soon perform at The Grand Halle.

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

This month’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series at First Lutheran Church features performances by a jazz band, a handbell choir, a St. Vincent College student and the founder of the series itself.

“We’re somewhat amazed and certainly grateful to come up with such good lineups,” said George Fattman, chairman of the Tuesday Noon Recital Task Force. “The April group has a couple dozen talented young people, plus a well-regarded veteran, Kim Rauch.”

The series commences April 4 with a performance by Greater Johnstown High School’s jazz band. The band is to perform selections from its upcoming concert, “A Night at the Movies!” This show is under the direction of Eric Pfeil.

“We had the jazz band a couple years ago, and people loved the enthusiasm of the young musicians,” Fattman said. “Their current director, Eric Pfeil, scheduled this a year ago.

“They rarely play in a venue outside the school district, so they regard this as something special. I don’t know who likes the program more, them or us.”

On April 11, another group of high school students will have the unique opportunity to perform inside the church. Johnstown Christian School’s Handbell Choir, under the direction of Kristen Lloyd, is to present a recital alongside the school’s high school choir. A vocal quartet and flutist also are also to share their talents.

“We’ve been hoping for some time to bring in youngsters from the Johnstown Christian School,” Fattman said.

“We’ve had several recommendations to bring the bell choir. Now we are getting the bell choir plus a vocal quartet plus a flutist. Their director, Kristen Lloyd, is such a devoted teacher and musician.”

And Rauch is set to entertain audiences April 18, when he plays the church’s 3,000-pipe Skinner organ.

“Kim knows the instrument well because he used to be the minister of music at First Lutheran,” Fattman said.

Rauch is also the founder of the Tuesday Noon Recital Series, and serves as program director at The Grand Halle, a church-turned-performance-venue in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. Previously, Rauch taught music at Richland School District and University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Rauch is also responsible for founding the children’s chorus of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (Inclined to Sing) and has served as organist and choir director at numerous churches within the area.

“I don’t know what Kim is playing, but he’s playing something exuberant and joyous, fitting for the week after Easter,” Fattman said. “Kim is so enthusiastic. This program will reflect that.”

Music composed by Handel and Andrew Lloyd Weber, among others, is to be performed by St. Vincent College senior Kayla Uveges on April 24.

Uveges, a biology major who is minoring in sacred music, is a member of St. Vincent College’s Camerata and Camerata Scholars choirs. She’s to be accompanied that afternoon by Harriett Miller, a longtime piano teacher and performer.

“People love Kayla and have been following her success as a singer since she was a little girl in our congregation,” Fattman said, “and everybody wants Harriett Miller as an accompanist. There will be plenty of nostalgia — but a lot of talent.”

First Lutheran Church’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series, which has been taking place for more than 25 years, is designed to give people a laid-back opportunity to enjoy music during the lunch hour.

“These programs are such a nice break in the middle of the day, and culturally important to downtown Johnstown,” Fattman said. “The programs are excellent, but they’re also short. People can grab a light lunch in just a few more minutes, or they can remain and talk with the artists and others who attend.”

A free luncheon follows each performance. The luncheons are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

“Good as the music is, it really helps to have lunch, which also is good,” Fattman said. “People ask for recipes or take-out.”

First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in downtown Johnstown. For more information about the series, visit www.firstlutheran.info/recitals.htm online.

The Tuesday Noon Recital Series, which takes place in April, July and October, is underwritten by the Carolyn Walker Music Fund, contributions made by those who attend and by the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts through a grant administered by Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance. Other support comes from individual contributions.

Fattman works in conjunction with other members of the congregation, as well as consultants Rosemary Pawlowski, Jean Reavel and the Rev. Dr. Wilbert Boerstler, to bring the series to fruition every year. Greer Koeller serves as chair of the kitchen crew and is a member of the task force.

Together, they host a dozen recitals per year and serve around 1,300 lunches — all on a $4,000 budget.

“This takes organization and the input of about 30 volunteers,” Fattman said, “but people respond to success. They like to perform, they like to attend and they like to help.

“I remember the comment of a popular local artist, who said after his program, ‘Everybody should be doing this!’”

Jamieson, an award-winning author, to headline book festival

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

The ninth annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown is set to take place at Bottle Works—Arts on Third Avenue on April 1 and April 2 this year. 
The purpose of the Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown is to provide children with a free, engaging literary experience that promotes the joy of reading. It is also designed to give parents the tools they need to encourage a lifelong love of reading in their children.

The theme for this year’s festival is “Read, Rock and Roll.”

New York Times best-selling author and Newberry Honor Award winner Victoria Jamieson is headlining the festival. Jamieson’s graphic novel, “Roller Girl,” focuses on friendship, survival, determination and girl power.

“Jamieson’s graphic novel is great for young girls because it’s about empowerment and navigating those confusing pre-teen/teen years,” said Ingrid Kloss, The Learning Lamp’s director of development. “Plus, it’s really funny. This year, we knew we had to continue recruiting top caliber authors to headline the festival, and Jamieson does not disappoint.”

In addition to offering presentations and signing books throughout the weekend, Jamieson is to deliver the keynote address during the festival’s “Saturday Night Author Talk.” 

The talk, scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m., is designed to give both published and aspiring authors/illustrators of children’s literature valuable information and tips for finding success within the publishing industry.

“This talk helps to flesh out what people don’t know, and offers the chance to ask questions in a supportive environment,” Kloss said.

Tickets for the “Saturday Night Author Talk” must be purchased in advance through Eventbrite.com; no tickets will be available at the door. Sales through Eventbrite.com will remain open up to two hours before the talk begins.

To complement Jamieson’s book, “Roller Girl,” the Johnstown Roller Derby Club and Pittsburgh Roller Derby Junior League will be offering demos during both days of the festival.

“A lot of people simply don’t know what roller derby is, so it will be helpful to meet actual derby skaters,” Kloss said.

Author Micha Archer and author/illustrator Stacy Innerst are also participating in this year’s festival.

Archer’s book, “Daniel Finds a Poem,” was chosen as this year’s Pennsylvania “One Book, Every Young Child” program’s selection. “One Book, Every Young Child” highlights the importance of early literacy development, the advantages of reading early and often, and the impact of engaging children in conversations and activities as they relate to the books they read. Archer works with oil, watercolors, pen and ink and collage.

Innerst, meanwhile, has illustrated numerous children’s books, including books about Levi Strauss, Abraham Lincoln and the Beatles. His work has received awards and recognition from American Illustration, the New York Society of Illustrators, Society of Illustrators Traveling Exhibition, Print Magazine Design Annual, a Gold Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and an Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Entertainer Mike Zaffruto and storyteller Melinda Falgoust are also participating.

Zaffruto’s “Rock n’ Roll Pet Show” introduces children to an imaginary pet store that comes to life with music, magic, puppets and more. Falgoust’s storytelling skills have been recognized by NY Book Festival Annual Competition, Oshima International Hand-Made Picture Book Competition and Writers Unlimited Annual Literary Competition.

“We’re happy to feature some talented women as part of this year’s festival, as the past two have been male-dominated,” Kloss said. “We got a lot of feedback from young girls wanting female authors.”

During the festival, parents and children can purchase new and used books as part of the book sale. In addition, every child who attends the festival will be invited to select a free, brand-new book of their choice courtesy of First Book.

“First Book is a great organization that enables us to get books for the price of shipping only,” Kloss said. “This means that every kid gets a book, regardless of whether mom or dad or grandma are able to buy one for them. And it’s a new book, so it’s just for that child, which is important.”

Children who are interested in writing and/or illustrating will have the opportunity to participate in workshops once again this year. Due to last year’s positive response, new workshops — including a poetry and a graphic novel workshop — have been added.

“We were overwhelmed to get 30 kids at last year’s writing workshop, and realized the audience for these workshops is here and ready,” Kloss said. “Many showed up with their dedicated personal writing journals and special pens or pencils and were clearly engaged. We heard back that a lot of them wished it had lasted longer.”

Also new this year will be an appearance by Joey Reisberg, this year’s national student poet for the northeast region.

“Through luck of the festival being in April, which is also National Poetry Month, we are able to feature Reisberg,” Kloss said. “He’s a high school student poet who is spending the month of April travelling and sharing his poetry and facilitating workshops for younger students as service to the country. The program is operated through Scholastic in New York.”

Locals selling food are to park their food trucks along Third Avenue. This year’s vendors include HK Hot Dogs, TNT Concessions and Flair of Country Catering. More vendors may be announced.

Children and teens can also plan to participate in a bookmark contest. Winners in each age group receive a basket full of age-appropriate books.

Live entertainment, storytellers, and themed arts and crafts opportunities round out this year’s two-day event.

Kloss and her fellow The Learning Lamp staff members are hoping that this year’s festival is as well-received as last year’s.

“Last year, the festival was a huge hit with the community, spotlighting the importance of reading to over 3,470 children and their families,” Kloss said.

The ninth annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown is supported in part by a $10,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts as part of their “Challenge America” grant program.

“The NEA funding is huge, and I like to talk about it because people read about these crazy, maybe controversial, projects funded by the NEA, which are also important because art is a conversation about the world,” Kloss said. “But also realize that the NEA supports things in our community like the book festival. 

“We also get funding from the state arts agency via (Pennsylvania) Rural Arts Alliance. We’re also grateful to the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh, and to our many corporate and individual donors of both funding and in-kind contributions.”

Kloss added that the festival’s success is also due in part to the many volunteers who donate their time and talents.

This year’s festival will take place Saturday and Sunday only, with no Friday evening events scheduled this year. Saturday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday’s hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bottle Works—Arts on Third Avenue is located at 411 and 413 Third Ave. in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood.

For more information about the 9th Annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown, call a Learning Lamp staff member at 814-262-0732 or visit www.thelearninglamp.org and/or facebook.com/CBFJohnstown/ online.

Kloss said she hopes everyone enjoys this year’s festival, as well as the books they take home with them.

“Reading connects you to the world, to new ideas,” she said.

UPJ students to perform ‘Hamlet’ spin-off

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s theater department will present Lee Blessing’s “Fortinbras” April 5 through April 8 inside the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.

The play, which was voted by Time magazine as one of 1991’s 10 best plays, tells the story of Fortinbras, who enters during the last scene of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” orders the bodies to be taken away and quickly devises a plan to ascend to the throne of Denmark. Fortinbras designates Horatio as his public relations person, which doesn’t thrill Horatio.

Meanwhile, ghosts have invaded Poland — and not just any ghosts. Ophelia and Gertrude are among many seductive ghosts who ultimately make Fortinbras question what distinguishes a good ruler from a great ruler.

“Fortinbras is a naive prince who just wants to be a popular and beloved ruler,” said John Teacher, Pitt-Johnstown’s director of theater arts. “Unfortunately, that encourages him to make some less than ideal choices while — quite literally — having to deal with the ghosts of his predecessors.

“While not a hard-hitting political piece, I think ‘both sides of the aisle’ can have a bipartisan laugh at the trials and tribulations of leadership versus popularity while watching young Forinbras negotiate his new kingdom. Additionally, those with a fondness for Shakespeare can enjoy a laugh at this speculative look at what happens to Hamlet and his family, friends and enemies after they die.”

The “Fortinbras” cast features Michael Cadden as Fortinbras, Mark Bambino as Horatio, Bradley Keller as Osric, Victoria Kwok as Captain, Erin Cain as Marcellus, Ben Berkebile as Bernardo, Carolyn Zeis as Polish Maiden No. 1, Kelsey Chabal as Polish Maiden No. 2, Grant Kristo as Hamlet, Paul Douglas Newman as Polonius, Erin Whyte as Ophelia, Devin Parfitt as Claudius, Emma Adams as Gertrude and Samuel Jackson Miller as Laertes.

Teacher said the script for “Fortinbras” appealed to him because he felt the students would have a lot of fun with it.

“In addition to picking a play that satisfied the academic goals of our department, I felt I needed something to help pick up the spirits of students, something fun that students would laugh at, and laugh while working on,” Teacher said. “This play is a great little comic romp that fills that bill while being a very intelligent and well-crafted piece of theater.”

In addition to the aforementioned cast, many other Pitt-Johnstown students make up the crew, designers and production/stage management team, bringing the total of students involved in “Fortinbras” to 47 altogether.

“Everything on that stage is a result of student effort,” Teacher said. “For this production, 100 percent of the costuming will have been made in our costume shop (including armor) by students under the guidance of me and our costumer, Judy Bingler. Sophomore Temperance Moore designed all of the female costumes as part of her degree study focusing on costume design.”

All four performances of “Fortinbras” are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can only be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the arts center box office during regular business hours.

Teacher rated the play “PG-13” due to crude humor and implied sexuality. He encouraged community members to come and see for themselves what makes Pitt-Johnstown’s theater department special.

“The continuation of the arts for years to come starts right here with the efforts of these students,” Teacher said. “In addition to rewarding their hard work and time devoted, supporting them and all of the academic arts here (music, dance) is also a declaration that one wants to see and attend these activities into the future.

“It is, in many ways, a validation of the arts as a whole.”

Museum offering history program for preschoolers

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

Staff members at Ligonier Valley Historical Society are planning to host its Little Explorers preschool program suitable for 3- to 5-year-olds whose parents want to give them an age-appropriate introduction to local history.

Little Explorers is scheduled to take place Thursday mornings from 9:30 to 11 a.m. April 6 through April 27.

Malori Stevenson, program coordinator and innkeeper at Compass Inn Museum, and Cathy Cummings, Compass Inn Museum’s business office coordinator, are working together to lead the sessions.

“The preschoolers quickly get used to interacting with history,” Stevenson said. “They see it as play and not something to be intimidated by.”

The sessions are to include storytime, a movement activity, a craft and other activities that will encourage learning and exploration within the walls of Compass Inn Museum. All of these activities and opportunities will be designed to teach preschoolers what life was like back in the 19th century.

“Kids learn best through play while engaged and having fun, and that is what Little Explorers offers,” said Cummings, who has enjoyed teaching preschoolers for more than 20 years.

Advance registration is not required, but is strongly encouraged. There is a nominal fee for preschoolers to attend Little Explorers, and sibling discounts are being offered.

For more information, contact Stevenson by calling 724-238-4983 or emailing mstevenson@compassinn.org.

“This is a great introduction to history for little ones,” Stevenson said. “It’s a fantastic way to expose the kids to history in a preschooler-friendly environment.”

Sinatra impersonator to headline arts center gala

Submitted photo
Bo Wagner, an impersonator of Frank Sinatra, is soon to perform in Westmont.

By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent

Community Arts Center of Cambria County is set to host an inaugural fundraising event April 1 at Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont.
“Ocean’s 11” is a one-night-only, Las Vegas-themed gala that will feature a buffet dinner, a professional Frank Sinatra impersonator and casino games.

“I really like offering two events per year that are very special and unique,” said Angela Godin, executive director of the arts center. “So many different groups and organizations have done the gaming or casino night events and this year, I really wanted us to put a new, fresh spin on an event that people have really enjoyed.”

“Ocean’s 11” is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Guests are to have an opportunity to enjoy a cash bar, play slots and participate in table games, such as roulette and craps, until 6:30 p.m.

“Participants can buy as many chips or as much ‘fun money’ as they want, and the tickets they receive from their winnings on the slots or table games can then be placed in baskets that will be raffled off at the end of the night,” Godin said.

Dinner, catered by Sunnehanna Country Club, will begin at 6:30 p.m. The buffet menu features: watercress soup, chicken with acini de pepe, garden salad with assorted dressings, Caesar salad, beef brisket, pulled pork, roasted red potatoes, green beans with matchstick carrots, penne pasta with marinara and alfredo sauces, meatballs, shrimp scampi primavera and assorted desserts.

“The Sunnehanna staff really came up with such a unique buffet that has so much variety,” Godin said. “It reflects exactly the type of buffet you’d find in Las Vegas.”

Sinatra impersonator Bo Wagner is to take the stage around 7 p.m.

Wagner, who has been singing and performing since the late 1960s, served as the lead singer of the international recording group The Four Coins beginning in the late ‘70s. The Four Coins performed at major casinos in Las Vegas and Reno, as well as at resorts in Lake Tahoe, and Wagner even had the opportunity to perform in front of Sinatra himself.

“I’ve seen Bo perform numerous times, and he truly sounds like Frank Sinatra,” Godin said. “He continues to perform multiple times a month in Las Vegas, and word has it that he might even be relocating soon, so we’re excited to bring him to Sunnehanna before he leaves the area.”

At 8 p.m., the evening’s basket winners are to be announced.

Tickets for “Oceans 11” are on sale and can be purchased by calling 814-255-6515. The deadline to purchase tickets is March 29.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Community Arts Center of Cambria County.

Godin said she’s looking forward to the event and hopes it will be a success.

“I think this event will cater to so many people,” she said.

“Some people will really enjoy the gambling portion of the evening. Some people are true Rat Pack fans and will enjoy every minute of Bo Wagner’s performance. This event is going to hit two really different demographics in one exciting evening.”