logo In the Wings
The Newsletter of The Concord Players
July 2018
                                     Amanda Casale, Editor 
Save the dates!  Auditions for our fall production of Arcadia (by Tom Stoppard) will be Sunday, August 26th and Wednesday, August 29th from 7pm to 10pm.  Complete information and character descriptions will be posted on the Players' website in early July.  The production will be directed by Doug Sanders.  Performances are November 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 16, and 17.

Reprinted from In the Wings, July 2015
"A beloved figure is lost to our national life in the passing of your devoted husband.  He will be mourned by millions whose lives were brightened and whose burdens were eased by his genius as a fun maker and as a dispeller of gloom.  My heartfelt sympathy to you and all the family." - President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a telegram to the window of George M. Cohan, November 5th, 1942

He was physically compact with an enormous intellect; a man who seemed to think and move at the speed of light, brushing away obstacles as easily as swatting at a fly.  With a bottomless reservoir of energy, talent, bravado, and ideas, George M. Cohan earned such monikers as The Father of American Musical and The Man Who Owned Broadway.  An accomplished trouper, actor, singer, dancer, composer, lyricist, playwright, impresario, and businessman, Cohan mastered it all, and he never even reached old age.

Dead at the age of 64, Cohan's legacy far exceeds his formidable body of work.  It is the spirit, optimism, and vitality he infused into American theatre that are remembered.  The self-proclaimed Yankee Doodle Dandy eschewed the histrionic style of Victorian era music and the gravity of European drama for a fresh, uniquely American approach to entertainment.  His songs and stories were light, amusing, witty, and most memorably, patriotic.  Mayor Fiorello La Guaradia praised him for putting "the symbols of American life into American music."  Indeed, at the time of his death a movie about his life starring James Cagney was in theaters all over the country.  Cagney won an Oscar for his bravura performance of the gifted Cohan in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Cohan was born to the theatre.  His Irish immigrant parents, Nellie and Jerry Cohan, had a travelling vaudeville act at the time of his birth on July 3rd, 1878.  They interrupted their tour long enough to return to Nellie's hometown of Providence, RI for her to give birth, but in just a few weeks were back on the road with baby George and sister Josephine.  Cohan played the violin by age 10, was writing music by age 11, and at the age of 15 took over the management of the Family Act, The Four Cohans, quickly turning their lagging sales into box office gold.  As a master storyteller and brilliant promoter he quickly recognized the value of pronouncing the date of his birth to the 4th of July, not the 3rd, but nobody seemed to mind.  Who wouldn't want to rub elbows with a "real life nephew of (my) Uncle Sam?" 

By his late teens, Cohan was writing and producing, and was so prolific that before the end of his life he had written hundreds of songs, 50 plays, and had produced and co-written more than 90 plays.  His finger was always on the pulse of human sensibilities, enabling him to buoy the ravaged morale of all Americans with the war hymn
Over There during WWI.  The composition earned him The Congressional Medal of Honor, bestowed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and is his most enduring work.

He was broadly philanthropic, raising money for national causes, and personally generous, supporting performers who were down on their luck.  But it is for his patriotism that we know him best.  It's a Grand Old Flag, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, and Give My Regards to Broadway became the signature songs of 20th century American spirit and there is no sign that their popularity will diminish anytime soon.

Cohan had a signature line at the end of The Four Cohan's act when audiences demanded an encore.  In an affectionate parody of the family's renowned emotional closeness, he would graciously bow and say "my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and you can be assured, that I thank you."

On this 4th of July, we thank you, Mr. Cohan.  Happy Independence Day.

--Linda McConchie
Tyrant or transformational leader?

An egomaniac hungry for power or a populist champion of the people?

The strong leadership we need or a narcissistic despot we should fear?

These questions may resonate today... but they were also faced more than 2,000 years ago in Rome, when Julius Caesar returned triumphant from the Gallic Wars, having extended Roman's power as far as the English Channel.

But had his victories made him too powerful?

"We've always produced comedies for the Concord Players' Summer Shakespeare on the library lawn," says director Nick Meunier, who also plays Cassius.  "We wanted a drama with universal relevance."

Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare's most accessible tragedies, because of both subject matter and language style.  "The play is really a public debate, more oratorical than poetic," says Nick.  "Everyone is pushing their own point of view."

Julius Caesar will be performed on the lawn of the Concord Free Public Library (an additional performance will be held at 51 Walden), an ideal setting for a play set among a throng of people. "We're planning to integrate the show into the space," says Nick.

It's the sixth Players' production of Summer Shakespeare at the Library.  "It's become a tradition," says Concord resident and CP Shakespeare veteran Ed Bernard.  "The staging is casual, and the play runs only 90 minutes or so."

Returning actors include Andrew Harrington, Topher Carlson, Savannah Carlson, Mike Lague, Mark Prokes, and Arthur Barlas, in addition to Nick and Ed.  Newcomers Vanessa Martinez, Gianna DeReda, Kathleen O'Connor, and Mike Haddad round out an exceptional cast.  The production will once again be stage managed and co-produced (with Mike Lague) by Tom Sikina.

"A group of us are really committed to the summer Shakespeare tradition," says Arthur Barlas.  "It's a great, low-key way to bring the Bard to Concord."

As for the issues raised by Caesar, Andrew Harrington looks beyond today's politics.  "I've spoken to people who read the play in high school," says Andrew, who plays Marc Antony.  "They remember 'et tu, Brute,' and 'friends, Romans, countrymen.'  But many forget the play's ambivalence about who is the hero and who is the villain."

So... was Brutus justified in killing Caesar?  Was Caesar making a power grab that threatened the Republic?  Were Brutus and his co-conspirators driven by jealousy, political expedience, or a principled moral imperative?

"The play has been interpreted many ways in 400 years," says Nick.  "People are surprised at how nuanced the script is."  As for the Players version, Nick just says "Come see the show and decide for yourself."

Julius Caesar will be performed on Saturday, July 28th and Sunday, July 29th, then again the following weekend on August 4th and 5th at 5pm on the lawn of the Concord Free Public Library.  In addition, there will be a performance at 51 Walden on Friday, August 3rd at 7:30pm.

See Rock City & Other Destinations:  CP members Amanda Casale, Julia Deter, Nicole O'Keeffe are headed to Scotland this August for the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe!  U.S. performances of See Rock City & Other Destinations will take place July 27-29 2018, and additional information will be available here in early July. 


July 4, 2018 at 10 a.m.  The Concord Band will be at Emerson Field in Concord, MA for the 2018 Picnic in the Park.  The event is rain or shine.  The rain location is The Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden Street in Concord.  Event is 10a.m.-4p.m.; we play at 3:00, but come down early and enjoy all of the other activities.  Further information is available here

July 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2018 at 7:15 p.m. The Concord Band will be performing a different themed concert in night for the 2018 Fruitlands Summer Concert Series at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA.  Further information is available here.