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THML Theatre Company finishes its first year with Ashley Griffin’s new play, Trial. The play addresses child abuse and suicide in a Kafka-esque version of the afterlife complete with inexplicably slow bureaucratic processes. Directed by Lori Petty, the exceptional cast brings to life the gray shadow that coincides with what we desperately wish to be black and white.

Arcadia (Ashley Griffin) is waiting for her papers to be processed, and she has been waiting a long time. When her number finally is called, she learns that she must be judge and jury for the trial of her father’s soul. Richard Evans (Malcolm Stephenson) is – like many abusers – irresponsible and defensive of what he calls love. He is represented by Mr. Olin (George Drance), the chief executive of the upper level. The prosecutors are Lucy (Gisela Adisa), who manages the lower level, and her assistant Valentine (Ryan Clardy). At the beginning of Richard’s trial he pleads not guilty. Lucy makes the circumstances clear by saying, “We are here to determine your damnation, or salvation, based on the long-term effect of your actions, and how much harm they have actually caused. Not your guilt.” However, the examination is not limited to Richard’s actions, it also includes Arcadia’s actions. As they revisit the instances of abuse that eventually led to Arcadia’s suicide, and Arcadia is confronted by the life-altering effects that her suicide had on others, specifically on Tommy (Ryan Clardy), her closest friend in life, and Margaret (Jennifer Bareilles), her mother. Lucy and Mr. Olin prosecute and defend without rules because they are in a battle for souls not justice. Valentine’s humanity confronts him and Arcadia must determine her father’s eternal fate.

The heart and truth of this incredible story lies in this quote: “Trials will, in the best circumstances, bring what is purest, truest, most beautiful to light.”

George Drance, Ashley Griffin and Ryan Clardy in Trial by Ashley Griffin at the Beckmann Theater.

Griffin draws a very clear timeline of events, and demonstrates explicitly that the abuse and the suicide are linked, yet her characters seem determined to examine them as separate events that would’ve been avoided if different choices were made. Arcadia and Richard are forced to acknowledge and to take responsibility for how their actions affected people around them. While this is crucial to the events of the play, the most unfortunate thing is that it seemingly pits the consequences of suicide against the consequences of abuse. Both acts are considered damnable in the world of the play, but surely that cannot make them equal in the circumstances of this, or any, case. It was easy for me to be frustrated that sexual abuse was being defended by an all knowing God-like figure while suicide was defended by the equally omniscient Devil-like figure. And yet, the play is crafted so well, I suspect that such a reaction is intended by the piece.

Jennifer Bareilles in Trial by Ashley Griffin at the Beckmann Theater.

The universe of the play is well dictated and maintained through dialogue, circumstance and the use of legal jargon. There is a satisfying irony in the circumstance that the performance is held inside a courthouse. The intimacy of this makeshift theatrical space heightens the raw emotion of the play. The set, a minimal and plain courtroom, serves the absurd bureaucratic afterlife very well. Everything is black and white, with the occasional and pointed pop of color in Tyler Carlton Williams’ costumes: Lucy’s red bra, Richard’s gray suit jacket, Valentine’s purple tie, Arcadia’s blue jeans.

Under Lori Petty’s direction, the actors succeed in portraying the darkest and brightest elements of humanity. Ashley Griffin’s performance is driven and impassioned. Gisela Adisa’s fiery interpretation of Lucy strikes both fear and awe into my heart. Malcolm Stephenson brilliantly demonstrates the twisted nuances of Richard’s humanity. George Drance creates Mr. Olin with firm grace and physical ease. As Margaret speaking to her daughter’s grave, Jennifer Bareilles delivers a raw, unsettled and heartbroken moment that I cannot truly describe.  Ryan Clardy shines best in his passionate speeches and his ability to make Valentine small next to Adisa’s Lucy is a credit to both of them.

Gisela Adisa and Ryan Clardy in Trial by Ashley Griffin at the Beckmann Theater.

While handling two very relevant and challenging topics, Ashley Griffin’s play begs the question: What would a victim decide if they could determine their abusers eternal fate? Of course the caveat is that if damning the abuser, the victim damns themselves – but is it justice to give the abuser salvation?

Mr. Olin reminds us throughout the trial, “In the course of justice, none should see salvation.” This leads to where human hearts must go for complete healing: Forgiveness.

Though its run is finished, I hope and expect that Trial will soon have another production.

Trial, THML Theatre Company, The American Theatre of Actors. Closed January 28th.

 

Virginia Jimenez is a writer, dancer and teaching artist in New York City. She teaches for various companies focusing on dancing for musical theatre, ballroom dancing, theatrical skills and story building. Bringing arts education to students in NYC is incredibly rewarding for her because she is passionate about arts integration and using the arts to facilitate an emotional education. As a writer, Virginia believes in the power of words and stories to challenge and encourage audiences to seek growth and modes of expression. She likes tequila and ice cream - though not necessarily together. www.vmjimenez.com

Broadway

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents at Addiss and Dan Lauria

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I am so pleased to announce our guests for next Wednesday’s show on April 24th are Producer Pat Addiss and Dan Lauria.

Pat Flicker Addiss has been a producer on the following shows: Little Women​, Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life, Bridge & Tunnel, Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, 39 Steps, Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike, Promises, Promises, Gigi, Love Letters, Eclipsed, War Horse, A Christmas Story ​and Harmony on Broadway. Off-Broadway she produced Jane Anger and Buyer and Cellar starring Michael Urieher show, Dinner With The Boys with Dan Lauria and Desperate Measures, is currently playing around the country. A native New Yorker. She was a child model and actress. Went to Finch College where she majored and graduated in honors in Costume Design and Merchandising. She started her own Company Pat Addiss Enterprises which designed and manufactured all items and widgets with Corporate names and logos. For her work she was honored by the LPTW Oral History that was filmed for the archives of Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library. She was also given the Woman of Purpose Award by the “Three Tomatoes.”. With colleague, Magda Katz, she has initiated a formula to connect women through YaYa lunches, dinners and now the addition of upscale tea. She loves to speak to women over 50 “How to Reinvent Yourself.”

Dan Lauria is best known for playing the dad Jack Arnold on the TV series The Wonder Years. He also played NASA Administrator James Webb in the 1998 TV miniseries From the Earth to the Moon and Commanding Officer, USA in 1996’s Independence Day. More recently he has appeared as Police Commissioner Eustace Dolan in The Spirit. He appeared as Coach Hamstrung in The Three Stooges N.Y.U.K. on AMC in 2000. Lauria appeared on stage in New York in the summer of 2006 in an off-Broadway production of A Stone Carver by William Mastrosimone with Jim Iorio and Elizabeth Rossa. Lauria also had a small role in a season two episode of Army Wives, as well as a season one episode of The Mentalist. In 2009, Lauria has appeared as General Lee Whitworth, M.D. in Criminal Minds season 4. He has also appeared in an episode of Boy Meets World. In late 2009, Lauria returned to the off-Broadway stage, appearing as Jimmy Hoffa in Brian Lee Franklin’s Good Bobby, a fictionalized account of Robert F. Kennedy’s rise.

Dan is also a very familiar face to the off-off, off and regional theatre scene having performed, written or directed over 50 professional stage productions.  He has appeared as a guest star in over seventy television episodic programs and more than twenty ‘Movie Of The Week’ productions plus a score of motion picture credits.  

In 2010-11 Dan was seen on Broadway in the long running production of Lombardi as the legendary coach Vince Lombardi with the beautiful and talented Judith Light, directed by Thomas Kail of Hamilton fame and returned again in the 2013-14 productions of the Tony nominated A Christmas Story: The Musical, directed by John Rando. 

Dan and dear friend, the lovely and talented Ms. Wendie Malick have performed the play The Guys by Anne Nelson (about our first responders) for numerous theatre and fire departments, around the country. Wendie and Dan also perform Love Letters as a fundraiser for regional theatres, for the development of new plays.  

Dan has now wrote and starred in the off Broadway production of Dinner With The Boys produced by the one and only Pat Addis and the NJ Rep. This was followed by a off Broadway production of The Stone Witch  and the upcoming Regional production of Lee Blessings new play; Tea With The Boss with Gwenn and Wendie Malick.  

He is about to star inJust Another Day written by Lauria. The show will run May 3-June 30 at Theater555 and also stars Patty McCormack (The Bad Seed). Between them, Lauria and McCormack have over 100 years of live theatrical experience, as well as over 150 television shows and films.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show filmed in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode here, six episode here, seventh episode here, eight episode here and ninth episode here.

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Off Broadway

Gun & Powder is a Powerful Piece of Musical Theatre

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Over at Paper Mill Playhouse there is a new powerhouse musical that opened last night. Gun & Powder is the true story of Mary and Martha Clarke, African American twin sisters who, pass as white to settle their mother’s sharecropper debt. In the meantime they learn to love who they are, celebrate their history and bloodline.

The direction of this show by Stevie Walker-Webb features a superb cast, a compelling story, and possibly one of the best new scores to come along in awhile, sung to perfection.

Liisi LaFontaine Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Set in 1893 Texas the show is centered on the book writer and the lyricists Angelica Chéri great- great aunts Mary and Martha Clarke (the incomparable Ciara Rene and Liisi LaFontaine who sing and act these roles flawlessly). Born into slavery, their mother Tallulah Clarke (Jeannette Bayardelle) had the girls with a Caucasian man so they are light skinned. When they are penalized for not reaching their quota of cotton, they will lose everything unless they come up with $400. Mary and Martha decide to leave posing for white. Martha is given a gun by her mother and when she finds the power that gun affords her, the two ended up robbing to get ahead. They ended up in a saloon owned by Jesse (Hunter Parrish) and Mary falls in love and ends up marrying him, but that is when the real action begins.

Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams Photo by Jeremy Daniel

There are also the two housemaids of the Salon, Flo and Sissy (Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams) who almost steal the show with their attitude and killer vocals in “Dirty Shame”. Also standing out are Aaron James McKenzie as Elijah a black servant who falls in love with Martha and sings “Invisible”. His duet with LaFontaine “Under a Different Sun” is in a word, gorgeous. The fabulous Katie Thompson, plays Fannie Porter a white saloon singer who sings “Frenchman Father” and makes you really listen.

Katie Thompson Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The star of this show is Chéri’s lyrics and composer Ross Baum’s music. From Jazz, to Gospel, to Spirituals to blues, to Broadway, this score soars. It is like going to musical theatre church. From the “Prologue”, to “Wide Open Plains” until “All of Me,” this score captures you heart, mind and soul. The orchestrations by John Clancy, just enhance the whole experience.

Hunter Parrish Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s choreography keeps the show in a profound transformation.

The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt is simple yet effective. The lighting design by Adam Honor really makes the set come to life and the costume design by Emilio Sosa keeps us in the period.

Gun & Powder and Chéri and Baum are a show and a team of writers to keep your eye on. I predict big things for both.

This musical is fresh and exciting and if it doesn’t make it to Broadway next year I would be surprised.

Make sure you get your tickets. You will not be disappointed.

Gun & Powder: Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Dr, Millburn, NJ until May 5th.

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Broadway

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Pascale Roger-McKeever and Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. This particular episode was filmed in two parts at different times due to the weather and extenuating circumstances.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Pascale Roger-McKeever and Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton.
We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

Austin Pendleton, Suzanna Bowling

Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever

I am so grateful to my guests Pascale Roger-McKeever and Austin Pendleton. for joining me.

Austin Pendleton, Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling

Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

Austin Pendleton

Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever, Craig J Horsley

Suzanna Bowling

Pascale Roger-McKeever will be starring in Fingers and Spoons directed by Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton. Soho Playhouse 15 Vandam Street. starting on April 25th.

Roger Sichel, Austin Pendleton, Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

We hope to see you there on April 17th. We will be announcing our guests tonight.

All photo’s except for the picture with Roger are by Roger Sichel.

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Broadway

Theatre News: OCC Nominations, Our Town, Hadestown, Romeo and Juliet, Here We Are, Hello Girls and Hell’s Kitchen 

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Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez will announce the 2024 73rd Outer Critics Circle nominations on April 23 at 3:30 p.m. at the Museum of Broadway. The OCC awards ceremony will take place on May 23. Radcliffe, Groff and Mendez were all nominated for the 2022 Off-Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along, with Groff and Mendez winning for Lead Performer and Featured Performer, respectively, in an Off-Broadway Musical.

Now here’s a revival that is star studded. Jim Parsons, Ephraim Sykes, Zoey Deutch, Katie Holmes and more will lead the revival of Our Town. This will star 28 actors of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon will direct the show, which starts first-preview date of September 17 and an opening night of Oct. 10 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons is the Stage Manager, with Tony and Grammy Award nominee Ephraim Sykes as George Gibbs and Zoey Deutch as Emily Webb. The company will also feature Katie Holmes as Mrs. Webb, Tony nominee and Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas as Mr. Webb, Tony nominee Michelle Wilson as Mrs. Gibbs, Billy Eugene Jones as Dr. Gibbs, Isabelle Stevenson Award recipient Julie Halston as Mrs. Soames and Donald Webber Jr. as Simon Stimpson. Rounding out the cast will be Ephie Aardema, Heather Ayers, Willa Bost, Bobby Daye, Safiya Kaijya Harris, Doron JéPaul, Shyla Lefner, Anthony Michael Lopez, John McGinty, Bryonha Marie, Kevyn Morrow, Hagan Oliveras, Noah Pyzik, Sky Smith, Bill Timoney, Matthew Elijah Webb and Nimene Sierra Wureh. Two additional actors will be announced at a later date

Hadestown launches singing sweepstakes for their 5th Anniversary celebration! Until  Tuesday, April 9th, fans can upload a video of themselves singing a song from the show for a chance to win a custom Gibson guitar, two tickets to attend Hadestown on the eve of the show’s 5th anniversary, and two tickets to attend an exclusive 5th anniversary celebration with the Hadestown company, past and present, on Tuesday, April 16. Audience Rewards will host a lottery allowing fans to win a chance to attend the one-night-only 5th anniversary celebration in New York City on Tuesday, April 16th.

Tom Holland in Romeo & Juliet, directed by Jamie Lloyd will head to Broadway after its London run. The Spider-man star, starred in Billy Elliot The Musical as a boy sold tickets out in under two hours. Francesca Amewudah-Rivers is Juliet. Amewudah-Rivers previously appeared in two seasons of BBC series Bad Education and three short films. She has stage experience in productions at the Globe and Lyric Hammersmith among other venues and is making her West End debut.

Concord Theatricals Recordings announced today that the original cast recording of Here We Are, David Ives and Stephen Sondheim’s critically-acclaimed new musical, will be released on CD and digital platforms worldwide on Friday, May 17. The album will be available on 2-LP, 180g baby blue vinyl on Friday, September 6.

You can preorder the album on CD and vinyl HERE.

The album will feature the cast of Joe Mantello’s celebrated world premiere production: Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce and Jeremy Shamos.

Watch a sneak preview from the recording session HERE.

“This show is Steve’s final gift to us all, a brilliant, hilarious and always inventive collaboration with playwright David Ives and director Joe Mantello, performed by an incredible cast and band,” said Flahaven and Rosenfield. ”It was a privilege and genuine pleasure to record it.”

Here We Are (Original Cast Recording) has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, and music supervision and additional arrangements by Alexander Gemignani, conducting a 14-piece orchestra. The album was recorded and mixed by Ian Kagey and mastered by Oscar Zambrano. The album packaging was designed by Derek Bishop.

Prospect Theater Company (Cara Reichel, Producing Artistic Director; Melissa Huber, Managing Director) will present two special concert presentations of their hit musical The Hello Girls: Tony Award Honor recipient Ben Davis (New York, New York; La Bohème), Lisa Helmi Johanson (POTUS), Savy Jackson (Bad Cinderella), Asher Muldoon (Dear Evan Hansen), Laura Jean Spineti (The Oldenburg Suite), Matthew Weatherhead, and Kat Wolff will join the previously announced members of the world premiere actor-musician cast, including Ellie Fishman (Into the Woods) as ‘Grace Banker’, Arlo Hill (The Phantom of the Opera), Chanel Karimkhani (The Goree All Girl String Band), Andrew Mayer (The Great Comet of 1812), Ben Moss (OBIE Award, Oratorio for Living Things), and Lili Thomas (Chicago).

Original company percussionist Elena Bonomo (Six) and bass player Jordyn Davis will join the on stage ensemble of musicians. Fernanda Douglas will serve as Associate Music Director, and Kate Semmens as Assistant Director. Veronica Aglowis the Production Stage Manager, and Hollace Jeffords is the Assistant Stage Manager.

As previously announced, The Hello Girls will play Washington, DC for one night only on Tuesday, May 7th at 7:30pm in the Terrace Theater at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2700 F Street, NW), in a special staged concert presented by the Doughboy Foundation. Tickets, starting at $40, are now on sale and can be purchased at www.kennedy-center.org or www.prospecttheater.org.

The production will also receive a special one night only presentation as part of Prospect’s IGNITE Series in New York City on Sunday, May 12 at 6:30pm at the Peter Norton Symphony Space (2537 Broadway, at 95th Street). Tickets, starting at $30 for students with ID (includes facility fee), are on sale now, and can be purchased at www.symphonyspace.org or www.prospecttheater.org.

The critically-acclaimed musical tells the story of the first women soldiers in the U.S. Army, who served on the front lines during World War I, acting as bi-lingual Signal Corps Telephone Operators. Deployed to France, they connected over 26 million calls and remained to assist during the post-war period, including at the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended the war. Colloquially known as the ‘Hello Girls’, over thirty of the women received individual commendations, including Grace Banker who received the Distinguished Service Medal. Despite their key role in the American combat effort, when they returned home the women learned that the War Department did not consider them military veterans. They fought for their rights valiantly until 1977, when congress finally acknowledged their veterans’ status.

The show features music and lyrics by award-winning composer Peter Mills, with script by Mills and Cara Reichel. Choreography is by Christine O’Grady and music direction is by Ben Moss, and the production is directed by Cara Reichel.

The Broadway premiere of the new musical Hell’s Kitchen, the new musical from 16-time Grammy® Award winner Alicia Keys, is now in performances and will officially open on Saturday, April 20, 2024, at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street.)

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Cabaret

On Your Mark, Get Ready, and GO!!! 

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Spring is here, and with it comes the inevitable rush of shows opening, but perhaps more importantly, shows that may have slipped by your notice and are closing soon.  Also included are some recommendations for things coming up that you should know.  

Corruption — This power-packed examination of the phone-hacking scandal that rocked the Murdoch empire in the previous decade is a must see for anyone who cares about politics, journalism, and decency and ethical behavior within both. Bartlett Sher has once again masterfully directed a piece that in lesser hands could be boring but clips along in a way that leaves one almost breathless.  The entire cast is splendid, most notably Toby Stephens as one of the pivotal characters.  The set by Michael Yeargan gets the audience revved for what is to follow, and playwright J.T. Rogers, who also wrote Oslo, has once again delivered an important play for our times. Catch it at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center before it closes on April 14. 

Dead Outlaw Photo by Matthew Murphy (2024).

Dead Outlaw – Also closing on April 14 is this musical based on a most unlikely true story.  It was conceived by David Yazbek, who also wrote the music and lyrics with Erik Della Penna and written by Itamar Moses.  The music is of the hillbilly/country variety, and the set and costumes appropriately gel with that.  While this is not–as was said in the Sixties—my thing, I was clearly in the minority.  The audience was loving it to bits, and you probably will as well.  Catch it quick at the Minetta Lane Theatre in the Village. 

Do Re Mi – J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company is presenting this Comden, Green and Styne show from the 1960s from April 19 – 28.  Comden and Green always bring a zaniness to their shows, a lightheartedness that seems out of fashion today, but is just what we need right now.  The winner song from this show is “Make Someone Happy”.  Make yourself happy and get a ticket.  This same company is also doing Lucky Stiff from May 3 – 12, the first musical by Flaherty and Ahrens, the genius team that brought us Ragtime.  It is described as a musical farce, which sounds like a perfect antidote for whatever might be ailing you.  Being presented in tandem with these shows are cabarets will feature an all-star cast and will be presented at 7:30 PM on the second Tuesday during each musical’s run (April 23rd, May 7th).   This company has produced several revivals of beloved musicals in the last few years, and each one was a joy! 

I’ll Leave It To You – Deviating a bit from their mission of promoting George Bernard Shaw, the Gingold Theatrical Group is presenting Noël Coward’s first play on April 29 at Symphony Space.  If you don’t know this company already, you are well served to check them out. 

Wicked Little Letters – Can we ever get enough of Olivia Coleman?  Methinks not.  If you agree, see her latest film before it evaporates from sight, like so many great films do. 

Craig Rubano

Craig Rubano — After selling out the Laurie Beechman Theatre in March with his show “Take the Moment”, Craig has added an extra performance on June 12, in addition to the two already scheduled on April 13 and May 19.  This performance is a perfect Mother’s and Father’s Day treat, or an occasion to share with friends.  As said previously, “Rubano made his return to the stage of the Laurie Beechman slowly, dramatically, and expressively, with the reverence of a cleric. The masterful leadership of Jeff Harnar’s direction enabled Craig Rubano to deliver an exceptional performance.” 

Calling All Porterphiles! — If you love Cole Porter and his music, you should know about these two events.  To celebrate his birthday every year, his hometown of Peru, Indiana has a Festival.  This year it runs from June 6 – 9 and is jampacked with entertainment and education for every fan.  Check it out at www.coleporterfestival.org. 

For the true aficionado, there’s a trip planned for late October, beginning in New York and visiting Porter locations is Venice and Paris.  More details as they develop. 

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