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November 2013

November 13, 2013

Burlington ... the Closest Thing to Montréal? For Jay Baruchel's New Sitcom, It Will Be

This-is-the-End-Jay-BaruchelJay Baruchel has no immediate plans to visit the Queen City, as far as we know — in reality, that is. But in bizarro TV reality, Burlington is the Canadian comedian's hometown.

The actor's face and voice are familiar from a slew of movies, including Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and How to Train Your Dragon. He starred in Judd Apatow's series "Undeclared" and wrote the excellent hockey comedy Goon. Now Baruchel has a deal with ABC to produce a pilot for an autobiographical sitcom in which he'll play a famous actor who chooses to leave Hollywood, return to his hometown and move in with his buds.

Baruchel really does live in his hometown — Montréal. On TV, however, his character will settle in Burlington.

Say what? Despite their relative physical proximity, last time we checked, BTV and Montréal were about as much alike as ... a small, quirky American college town and a glittering, ethnically diverse metropolis. Both wonderful towns, but apples and pamplemousses.

So ... why?

Continue reading "Burlington ... the Closest Thing to Montréal? For Jay Baruchel's New Sitcom, It Will Be" »

New Tunes: "Rest in Pieces," Paper Castles

1292009_718294808187111_171537384_oAbout a year ago, Paddy Reagan stepped down as the talent buyer at the Monkey House, ending a six-year tenure during which he helped oversee the growth of the Winooski nightspot from a relative hole-in-the-wall to a relative hole-in-the-wall with consistently great music, both local and from beyond. The factors influencing his decision to leave the Monkey were twofold. One, he needed to spend more time on his bedbug-sniffing-dog business. Two — and most germane to our purposes here — he hoped to devote more energy to his talented, but oft-idle, indie band, Paper Castles.

On Wednesday, November 20, Paper Castles will unveil the fruits of those latter labors: a new album titled Vague Era, which is a follow-up to their 2011 effort, Bleating Heart. Earlier this week, the band — which also includes Wren Kitz, John Ragone and Brennan Mangan — made an advance single from the record available for public consumption, "Rest in Piece."

Much like Paper Castles' previous work, the song is a winsome, laid-back slice of jangly indie rock. But this time around, that slackerly bent is fortified with punchy hints of latter-day Yo La Tengo and cool, angular guitar lines that call to mind Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement — ditto Reagan's sleepy vocals on that latter score. Check it out below. 


November 11, 2013

Solve Jim Rader's Word Puzzle to Win $100

Cover - FrontAre you a puzzle fiend? Want to put your puzzling brain to work for some cold, hard cash?

On Saturday, November 30, at noon on the dot, Vermont's own Jim Rader — creator of the Quip-Find word puzzle — will post a special puzzle on the Quip-Find blog. The first person to submit the correct solution wins $100, plus autographed copies of both Quip-Find books. 

Sounds simple, right?

Be warned: These puzzles are tough. Best to get some practice in before the big day. Head over to to learn the basics and solve some of the puzzles posted there.

The contest is in celebration of the second anniversary of Rader's first book of Quip-Finds, Never Play Leapfrog With a Unicorn. It also marks the first anniversary of his second book, When Eating an Elephant.

Rader will sign those books and give a puzzle-solving demonstration at Burlington's Peace and Justice Center on Wednesday, December 11, at 5:30 p.m.

You can read more about the origins of the Quip-Find puzzle here.

Good luck!

Interview with ETHEL's Ralph Farris

ETHYL_Protraits2012-1255While it's not exactly incorrect to refer to the music of ETHEL as classical, it would surely miss much of the point. The genre-defying, restlessly inventive string quartet brings its new program, "Grace," to UVM's Lane Series on Friday, November 15.

Cofounding member and violist Ralph Farris spoke via phone to Seven Days about the band's creative process, different kinds of grace and the enduring greatness of Rush.

SEVEN DAYS: Why is your name in all caps, anyway?

RALPH FARRIS: Why not? I don’t have a good answer! It showed up in a graphic we did once, and it stuck. The name doesn’t stand for anything, and means nothing. There’s really no good reason, which is a terrible answer for you.

So you used to be the musical director for Roger Daltrey. What does that mean, exactly?

 It was a quick little run, in 1994. I was the guy who went to each city in advance of a touring concert with the Roger Daltrey Band, who were playing with orchestra, playing the music of Pete Townshend. I would train up the orchestra playing with him, but I really was the assistant conductor. The conductor would show up after me and conduct the show, and I would then be the fiddle soloist for the band. I would play “Baba O’Reilly” all summer. Really cool gig.

Continue reading "Interview with ETHEL's Ralph Farris" »

November 10, 2013

Birnam Woods' Pathogen Is Spreading

Pathogen-floorIn last week's Seven Days, arts writer Ethan de Seife checked in with Burlington-based Birnam Wood Games about its new release, Pathogen. The strategy game, published by Boston-based Gameblyr, debuted on the App Store on Thursday.

BWG held a Pathogen launch party on Friday night, complete with pizza and beer. Dozens of the gamers' friends and supporters crowded the street-level gallery in the Maple Street building, downstairs from the BWG office, to congratulate its designers, including developer Matt Brand and designer/creator Zach Bohn (pictured below). Several iPads were set up for game play, including one that projected its screen onto the floor (right).

Pathogen got some good press upon its release, and not just in Seven Days; arts and culture site the Verge also noted Pathogen's infectious potential

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November 08, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Playroom

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 2.50.18 PMThis week in movies you missed: Two "Deadwood" stars play parents too busy finding themselves to notice their kids in this drama set in 1975.

What You Missed

Teenage Maggie Cantwell (Olivia Harris, pictured right) and her three younger siblings return home from school to find their parents' suburban living room full of liquor glasses and party detritus — a mess they tidy without comment. Said parents are nowhere to be found.

Mom (Molly Parker, left) eventually arrives while Maggie is attempting to lose her virginity in the garage. Things just get more awkward from there, as Mom swills drink after drink at dinner, banishes the kids upstairs, and flirts with a married neighbor (Jonathan Brooks) as her husband (John Hawkes) looks on.

Meanwhile, upstairs in their attic playroom, the kids build imaginary worlds insulated from the turmoil. Maggie, on the cusp of adulthood, vacillates between her loyalty to her siblings and her urge to escape.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Playroom" »

A Review: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home the Musical

FunHome1This review was contributed by former Seven Days associate editor Ruth Horowitz, who now lives in Providence, R.I. She and her husband, David Christensen, recently headed to Manhattan to see Fun Home the Musical, at the Public Theater off-Broadway. It is based on Fun Home, the graphic memoir, written/drawn by Vermont-based cartoonist Alison Bechdel. This originally appeared in Ruth's blog, Giving Up the Ghost.

David and I took a quick trip to New York last weekend to see Fun Home, the incredible musical based on Alison Bechdel’s incredible 2006 graphic memoir about her closeted gay father’s suicide not long after she came out as a lesbian.

Alison was writing Fun Home at the same time that I began to write my novel. We swapped drafts. She commiserated with me when I faltered (I’m still fussing with my book), and our whole family celebrated with her as she finished her project — to much acclaim.

The “best of” lists, the interviews, the awards — all that success made sense to me. But when Alison told me someone had optioned the rights to turn Fun Home into a musical, I wasn’t convinced. That is, I thought it was the most ridiculous idea I’d ever heard. The book is so intricately crafted, and makes such rich use of the graphic-novel format, the rhymes and ironies and reiterations between words and pictures so perfectly expressing the narrative’s conflicted point of view — how could that possibly translate to the stage?

I was skeptical. But also intrigued. So naturally, when I had a chance to attend an early “lab” performance of the play in progress, I bought tickets, and David and I Megabussed it down to New York to see the show.

That was a strange experience. But not for the reasons I had anticipated. The set featured a meticulous replica of Alison’s Bolton studio, a room I had been in lots of times, but not since David and I moved out of state, a few years earlier. I couldn’t stop staring at it. Actor Beth Malone’s portrayal of the adult Alison was so spot-on, with so many gestures and postures and inflections that were just right, I couldn’t stop noticing the few she got wrong. And I was so curious about which parts of the book the play would leave in, I couldn’t stop thinking of the parts it left out.   

Even with all those personal distractions, lots of parts of the play blew me away — the performances, the songs, some achingly poignant scenes. But as a whole, it felt disjointed, uneven, off balance.

 Fun Home is a coming-out story, a coming-of-age story, a family story, a story about growing up in a funeral home, and a story about coming to terms with the past. It’s also a story about the necessary and dangerous business of turning our lives into stories — necessary because storytelling helps us make sense of events; dangerous because how can we know if the stories we tell ourselves accurately convey the facts, or are just the version we want to be true?

Continue reading "A Review: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home the Musical" »

When the Ogre Met the Princess: 'Shrek' at Town Hall Theater

ShrekMike Meyers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy are hard acts to follow, but that hasn't stopped any number of contenders from taking on the roles of the grumpy green ogre Shrek, the demanding Princess Fiona and a nonstop-talking Donkey  in Shrek the Musical.

In the production that launched last night at Middlebury's Town Hall Theater, they are Leigh Guptill, Kim Anderson and Justin Bouvier, respectively (pictured right).

THT's newest resident company, called, um, the Company, is tackling the stage-musical version of the Oscar-winning 2001 DreamWorks movie. The Hollywood actors named above lent their voices only to the animated characters. Onstage the actors are, of course, human. With silly costumes. I can't tell you who plays the Gingerbread Man or the Mirror or the evil Lord Farquaad. You'll have to go and see for yourself.

What I can tell you is that Shrek the Musical has proven popular nationwide, revealing the country's belief in magic, love and happily-ever-after despite all indicators to the contrary.

Shrek the Musical, staged by the Company, Thursday to Sunday through November 17, Town Hall Theater, Middlebury. $23/18. 



November 07, 2013

Better Late Than Never, the Burlington Fringe Festival Is Back

Andy Gordon called it a "big mix of whatever" last year. But that minimalist description from one of the actors in Potato Sack Pants Theater certainly didn't augur the three-night variety show that was Burlington's Fringe Festival in August 2012. Tonight at the Off Center for the Dramatic Arts, the Fringe returns at last.

As it happens, Potato Sack isn't performing this year, but 18 other acts are. And did I mention variety? The performers include stand-up comedians, dancers, musicians and theater artists of serious and silly sorts. Or, as John Alexander puts it, from "drama to madcap craziness."

Each of the three nights will have a different MC, explains Alexander, the Off Center cofounder. Mastering the ceremonies tonight is actor/playwright Seth Jarvis; Phinneus Sonin will be in charge on Friday, and Kim Jordan on Saturday. 

While the performers are not exactly juried, there is some quality control, Alexander suggests. But, he adds, "We want to give new people the chance to get out there. That's why Off Center was created."

Each act will have just 10 to 20 minutes onstage. And, judging by last year's shows, this one promises to be just as deliriously entertaining.

The shows start at 8 p.m. $15 at the door, or order online via the Off Center's website.


November 06, 2013

R.I.P. Vermont Filmmaker Ed Pincus

Edb&w2UPDATE 11/8: Here is Ed Pincus' obituary in the New York Times.

We've received reports that Vermont filmmaker Ed Pincus passed away yesterday.

Pincus spent decades farming in Roxbury, Vt., but his renown as a documentarian of the '60s and '70s is national. His film Diaries (1982) helped kick off the trend of personal documentaries that continued in later years with Ross McElwee and prefigured the YouTube generation.

Pincus founded MIT's Film Section and coauthored The Filmmaker's Handbook, a standard text for generations of aspiring filmmakers. In 2012, when the Film Society of Lincoln Center did a retrospective of his work, Tom Roston of PBS compared him to such documentary giants as D.A. Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles brothers.

Continue reading "R.I.P. Vermont Filmmaker Ed Pincus" »

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