The Weekly Dish 22/10/13

News from the local food scene

Diner days: Join the Red Arrow Diner for a special 100th anniversary celebration event at its Manchester location (61 Lowell St.) on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The block party-style event is free and open to the public, featuring an afternoon of raffle prizes, games, music, family-friendly activities and an onsite radio broadcast with DJs Nazzy and Marissa of Frank FM, along with samples of a variety of the diner’s most iconic dishes available to ticket holders for a small fee. All year long, to celebrate its 100th year in business, the Red Arrow has also been featuring monthly “Diner Dish of the Decade” promotions at each of its four locations, offering special discounts that have corresponded to various menu items that were or became popular during different decades. Visit to learn more, or check out our coverage of the Red Arrow’s historic milestone in the Sept. 29 issue of the Hippo — the story starts on page 10. Visit to read the e-edition for free.

Grapes and meatballs: Don’t miss the Hollis Grape & Italian Festival, set to return to the Hollis Town Common (Monument Square) on Sunday, Oct. 16, from 2 to 7 p.m. Presented by Fulchino Vineyard, the annual festival raises money for the Hollis Agricultural Scholarship, the Hollis Police Benevolent Association and the Hollis Fire Explorers. This year’s features will include grape stomping, cornhole games and local vendors, as well as a few food trucks and — new this year — a meatball contest. Admission is free, but there is a $5 fee to sample the meatballs entered into the contest. Visit

Get in the spirit: Tickets are on sale now for A Taste of Ireland: Exploring Premium Irish Spirits, a special seminar-style tasting event happening on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Manchester Country Club (180 S. River Road, Bedford) as part of New Hampshire Distiller’s Week. Leading Irish spirit experts and distillers will be on hand to present a series of products from their premium brands, from Clonakilty, Coole Swan and Drumshanbo to Five Farms, Green Spot, West Cork and more. The event will also include a reception with various hors d’oeuvres and sampling of some signature cocktails. Tickets are $60 per person and, at the end of the event, attendees will be able to purchase products with a 15 percent discount on every bottle. While you’re at it, save the date for the annual Distiller’s Showcase of Premium Spirits, due to return to the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown (700 Elm St.) on Thursday, Nov. 3. Visit

On The Job – Chelsey Goss

Portable restroom rental provider

Chelsey Goss and her husband, Zach, own and operate Powerhouse Portable Restrooms, a portable restroom rental service based in Hudson.

Explain your job and what it entails.

At Powerhouse Portable Restrooms, we rent portable toilets for a variety of occasions such as construction sites, weddings, festivals and town parks. On a typical day, I spend my time in the truck completing a service route, which includes pumping out portable restrooms, restocking the toilet paper, sanitizer and deodorizers, and sanitizing all surfaces inside and outside of the unit. I also take care of all of our scheduling of new and existing customers. This includes taking customer info, site locations, billing information, creating our serviced routes and providing quotes.

How long have you had this job?

We opened April 1, 2022, so about six months.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

My husband was affiliated with another company within this field, so I worked for them while I was finishing up a second degree. I became very passionate about this field and enjoyed working alongside my husband every day. We decided to go on our own and open Powerhouse Portable Restrooms.

What kind of education or training did you need?

No education was required. A driver’s license, a great work ethic and hands-on experience was all that I needed. My husband has taught me everything about this field of work, which I am very grateful for.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

We don’t wear anything in particular. We have company shirts with our logo and slogan that we typically wear daily, and a good pair of work jeans and muck boots to keep my feet dry while spraying the units down.

What was it like starting a business during the pandemic?

Starting a business during the pandemic was definitely scary. However, coming from within this field, we knew that the demand was there and still at an all-time high. So far, it remains high. People are taking more units for job sites, and private outdoor events are happening more often as the pandemic pushes people to get outside.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

I wish I had known about this field from a business standpoint sooner because I would have started right out of high school.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

That portable toilets are not gross. There are definitely larger companies that push volume over quality, however, there are more small family-owned companies like us that take pride in what we do and offer top-of-the-line portable restrooms.

What was the first job you ever had?

I worked at Walgreens for a summer.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

To always stay humble, keep my head down and always give 110 percent every day. As long as I do that, the tough days will iron themselves out.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
I’m not a big reader.
Favorite movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Favorite music: Country
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite thing about NH: There is natural beauty throughout the entire state, and the unpredictable weather allows us to experience a little bit of each part of the country right here in one state.

Featured photo: Chelsey Goss. Courtesy photo.

Treasure Hunt 22/10/13

Dear Donna,

Can you tell me if this small pot is old? As you can see, it says Nashua on it and a small home. It measures 1½ inches by 1 inch. Very sweet little piece of pottery.

Thank you.


Dear Tammi,

It is a nice miniature crock. Although it’s not too old, it does have an interesting history. It was done by Sid and Eileen Vernon from Virginia.

Your little crock was created by Sid and then decorated by his wife. Eileen. They created much more as well, lots of miniature pieces made with love. After the loss of her husband, Eileen continued making and decorating pieces herself.

Even though your crock was made in the past 30 years, it’s made and slip decorated (the cobalt painting) to represent an older one. It’s a wonderful piece of miniature pottery and if you have time, Tammi, do research on the artist who made yours and many more.

Values run between $20 and $40 as long as there’s no damage. Thanks for sharing and I enjoyed the personal story of the artist.

Kiddie Pool 22/10/13

Family fun for the weekend

Festivals and expos

• Gather up the troop and head over to Bedford for the Girl Scout expo on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m. at the New Hampshire Sportsplex (68 Technology Drive). Registration for the event closes on Oct. 13. The expo will have events including giveaways for the girls, live performances, hands-on exhibits and more. The program is appropriate for girls in kindergarten through grade 12 and adults, and they do not need to be members of the Girl Scouts to participate. Tickets for everyone cost $5 and can be purchased at

• The fourth annual Hudson Harvest Festival is happening on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dr. H.O. Smith Elementary School (33 School St., Hudson). In addition to a costume parade for all ages with prizes to be awarded, the festival will feature games, music, vendors, craft tables and a pumpkin carving contest. See “New England Vendor Events” on Facebook for details.

• The Town of Windham is planning a harvest fest at Griffin Park (111 Range Road, Windham) on Saturday, Oct. 15, from noon to 4 p.m., featuring food trucks, family-friendly activities and more. At 3 p.m., kids can go trick-or-treating around the park. Visit for more information.

• One Church Manchester (1308 Wellington Road) will hold a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 3 to 6 p.m., with food, games and pumpkin decorating. Volunteers can come and decorate the outpost on Friday, Oct. 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free to attend. Visit for more information.

• The Londonderry Fall Fest is going to be on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Londonderry Town Common (Mammoth Road). There will be more than 50 local vendors on hand to showcase their products, as well as various options from food trucks offering different tasty treats. Admission is free. See the Eventbrite page for more details.

Museum fun

• “My Year of Toys: An Art Journal,” theart exhibit at the Children’sMuseum of New Hampshire’s Gallery 6 (6 Washington St. in Dover), will run through Sunday, Oct. 16. The exhibit displays works by author and illustrator Sandy Steen Bartholomew, who created a drawing of one toy from her large toy collection every day for a year. Gallery 6 is free; paid museum admission (which is $12.50 per person age 1 and up; $10.50 for seniors) is not required for entrance to the gallery only. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. See

Outdoor activities

• A brand new all persons trail is opening at the NH Audubon McClane Center in Concord (84 Silk Farm Road, 224-9909) on Saturday, Oct. 15. The grand opening ceremony will start at 9 a.m. and will be followed by a “birding for all” session. The trail, designed to help people with mobility challenges, was completed in September; it follows the nature trail and goes through the pollinator meadow. For more information on the trail, or to reserve a spot for the grand opening and birding outing, visit

• The Nashua Duck Derby is going to take over Renaissance Park (23 Water St.) on Saturday, Oct. 15. In addition to the 10,000 duck drop goal, there will be a beer tent, food trucks, a scavenger hunt, games and kids’ activities. Live music by the Joe Mack Band will start at 11:30 a.m. and the duck drop will be at 2 p.m. Admission is free; to participate in the duck drop event, one duck costs $5, six cost $25, a dozen is $50, and 25 is $100. The first, second and third place ducks will win cash prizes of up to $2,500. Visit for more information and to purchase ducks.

Putting the garden to bed

Don’t let the bed bugs bite

Frost has already lightly brushed my garden, and hard frost is not far behind. Even in warmer spots it is good to start getting ready for winter. Let’s look at some of the key activities for all of us.

First, remember to visit and support your local garden center. They want to unload as many plants now as they can — perennials, shrubs and trees. So they are discounting plants, often 25 percent or more. I recently got some big burr oaks at a 50 percent discount, a considerable saving. And it is not too late to plant.

I have read that woody plants store up food all summer when the sun is bright, and use some of it now to extend their roots out away from the main stem. So I like to plant trees in the fall especially since it is cooler and more rain is falling now than in mid-summer. If you plant a tree, be sure to spread 2 inches of mulch around the tree to keep the roots warm as late into the fall as possible.

You may have already done so, but let me remind you anyhow to bring in your houseplants that have summered outside. Do it now, not after frost even for plants like rosemary that can sustain a temperature down to 25 degrees or so.

Aphids are the biggest pest on houseplants. Outdoors they are eaten up by other insects or washed off by heavy rains, but indoors a plant that is already sulking is ripe for an infestation. Use your hose to wash not only the tops of leaves, but the underside as well. And wash the surface of soil in the pot — do this by laying the plant on its side. This will help you to get rid of eggs and adult aphids, though a few elude me every year. Watch for aphids or their sticky droppings on leaves. If you see some, spray with Safer Soap to dehydrate the aphids and knock them dead.

Your least favorite fall activity may be weeding and plant cleanup, though I kind of enjoy it. It is very important to remove rotten fruit, stems and leaves of tomatoes, potatoes, and vine crops as they often have mildew or fungus by now. Be sure to get them out of the garden ASAP. And if you have had bugs on any plants, put them in the household trash or on a burn pile. You don’t want them wintering over in the garden or the compost pile. You don’t have to wash tomato cages; their diseases won’t winter over on them.

Getting rid of weeds now is important, but so is covering the soil with leaves or mulch so those seeds blowing in the wind don’t land on bare earth and settle in, ready to grow in early spring even before you have thought about planting next year’s veggies.

Fallen leaves are the best mulch available, and free. You can compact them and make them easier to move to the garden by running them over with the lawnmower. They will settle in and not blow around if you do this just before a nice rain. But you can use grass clippings now, before leaves have all fallen. And if you use a mowing service, ask them to leave the leaves and grass clippings for you to use. But do that only if they do not use any chemicals on the lawn. You don’t want any chemicals in your garden.

Cutting back the flower gardens is hard work and time-consuming if you have extensive flower beds as I do. Many gardeners use their hand pruners and clip away, stem by stem. Not me. That is very hard on your paws. I like to use a curved serrated knife or small “harvest sickle” to do so. I grab a handful of stems with my left hand, then slice them off with my right. One motion, and no work for my fingers the way pruners would do.

You might also consider using a string trimmer to cut back big beds. I’ve done it, but don’t usually do so. It’s fast but less precise. And I like to leave some flower stalks standing, things with seed for winter birds like chickadees and finches. I leave black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, sunflowers and anything else that looks tasty from a bird’s eye view.

The most radical way of cutting back flower beds is to use a lawnmower. In late fall I used to put the blade of my riding lawnmower up as high as possible and ride over it, mowing it all down. Now I no longer have a riding mower, and I doubt my battery mower would chomp through it. I will have to use the string trimmer, I guess. It’s about 75 feet by 10 feet, so a motorized tool helps.

If you have dahlias and other tropicals growing in the ground and want to save the tubers for next year, only dig them up after a frost or two. Bring them into the basement or barn after you have shaken off most of the soil.

I store my dahlia tubers in a cold basement that doesn’t freeze. I put them in a box or tub with some sphagnum moss that is lightly moistened, and spray some moisture on in February. You can also store them in a plastic bag with holes punched in it and some bedding sold for gerbils in it, lightly moistened.

I love winter, but I’m always sad the morning after the first hard frost. Most of my annuals will have fallen, like wounded soldiers. But I also know that at my age, a season of rest from the garden will be good, too.

Featured photo: A harvest sickle. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

See the Squash-bucklers

The Goffstown giant pumpkin weigh-off and regatta is back

By Katelyn Sahagian

Giant pumpkins will take over the Piscataquog River in Goffstown on Sunday, Oct. 16. The day before, the pumpkins will be weighed, hollowed out and decorated for the race.

The event, which started as a way for local giant pumpkin growers to see who had the best crops, has become a national — and international — phenomenon.

“We were contacted by a television company in Japan to see if they can get involved somehow,” said Tina Lawton, president of Goffstown Main Street Program. “It’s known far outside New Hampshire. People come from all over to come and see it.”

Back in 2000, when James Beauchemin started the pumpkin weigh-off, he said that there was nowhere in New Hampshire for giant pumpkin growers to show off the squashes they had spent weeks growing and caring for. He and a few of his friends created the New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and decided that they could hold their own showcase.

Beauchemin wanted something special to happen with the pumpkins after they had been weighed. He said he had heard of a group in Canada that did a pumpkin boat race, where growers hollowed out their giant pumpkins and used kayak paddles to see who could get to the finish the quickest.

“There was one giant pumpkin club in Nova Scotia that did pumpkin races. … They may even still do it,” Beauchemin said. “But I brought it to America.”

The biggest difference between the boat race in New Hampshire and the one in Canada is that Goffstown’s regatta has motors fitted to the boats, giving the pumpkin vessels a little more speed and the captains a greater chance for competition.

While the growers were the first to compete in the makeshift boats, the regatta has become less something for regular people to race in, and more something for public figures in Goffstown and southern New Hampshire in general, Lawton said.

In addition to a few popular teachers racing the boats, WMUR anchor Erin Fehlau will be captaining one of the boats. In the past, Hippo has even sponsored a boat.

While the regatta is the star of the show, Lawton said, there are other events that people can check out throughout the weekend.

Saturday will be the day that all the pumpkins are weighed and, when that’s ended, they’ll be moved closer to the river, Lawton said. The captains will begin the process of hollowing out and decorating their boats in line with this year’s theme, “There’s no place like home.”

“The theme for this year’s decoration is Wizard of Oz,” Beauchemin said. “I was told someone is going to build a tiny house on top of a pumpkin with legs of the Wicked Witch of the East sticking out.”

Sunday will start with a 10K race, and right before the regatta there will be the ever-popular pumpkin drop. Beauchemin said the pumpkin this year will be more than 2,000 pounds, and it’ll be dropped from approximately 75 feet.

In addition to the pumpkin-related events, there will be a slew of local vendors selling handmade crafts, different food options to choose from, a dog costume contest, an art show, a pie eating contest and live entertainment.

Every year, the event seems to grow in popularity, said Lawton.

“We get emails and calls from people all over the states asking when it’ll be,” Lawton said. “Lots of residents have families schedule their visits around this event.”

Goffstown Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta
Where: Main Street, Goffstown
When: Saturday, Oct. 15, starting at 9 a.m.; Sunday, Oct. 16, starting at 8 a.m., Regatta begins at 3 p.m.
Price: Free

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Art Roundup 22/10/13

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

Tell me more, tell me more: Tickets are on sale now for the Palace Theatre’s production of the musical Grease, which will be on stage at the Palace (80 Hanover St. in Manchester; 668-5588, from Friday, Oct. 21, through Saturday, Nov. 12. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and most Saturdays throughout the run, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets start at $25.

What big ears you have: In the meantime, inspire your next generation of stage performers when the Palace Youth Theatre takes the stage to present Red Riding Hood Tuesday, Oct. 18, and Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester; 668-5588, Tickets start at $12 for this show featuring students in grades 2 through 12.

A new view: Your favorite work at the Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester;, 669-6144) may be presented in a new context. Many of the museum’s galleries, including the entire second floor, have recently gotten some new additions, according to the website. The museum is open Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs $15, $13 for 65+, $10 for students, $5 for 13 to 17 and free for kids 12 and under. Admission is also free to all on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m during Art After Work. This week’s (Thursday, Oct. 13) live entertainment is “Doctor Gasp’s Halloween Special” featuring Halloween-themed folk and ragtime songs (see the story on page 38). The tours at 5:15 and 6:30 p.m. are “Myths at the Museum.”

Halloween magic
Master illusionist David Caserta will present Haunted Illusions on Friday, Oct. 14, at the Dana Center for the Humanities at Saint Anselm College (100 Saint Anselm Drive in Manchester; The show features feats of levitation, disappearance and reappearance and more, with dramatic lighting and pyro smoke, according to the website. Tickets for the general public cost $45.

Fashion, art, music, comedy: Support NAMI NH at Live Life Loud, an event featuring Doublesolid Apparel that will showcase new designs as well as music, art and comedy on Sunday, Oct. 16, at Angel City Music Hall (179 Elm St., Unit B, in Manchester), according to a press release. Proceeds from the event will be donated to NAMI NH (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the release said. Doors open at 6 p.m.; general admission tickets cost $20; VIP tickets (which include a T-shirt, swag bag, preferred seating and more) cost $100 (plus fees for all tickets). Showtime is at 7 p.m. and the event will feature Drag Queen Diva Amanda Playwith as the emcee. For tickets, go to

Classic Phantom: Before there was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera there was Lon Chaney’s take on the classic horror character. Chaney starred in the 1925 silent big screen adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, which will screen Friday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Derry Opera House (29 West Broadway in Derry) featuring live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis. The event is free and open to the public.



• “THE WOODS WRAP AROUND YOU” Creative Ventures Gallery (411 Nashua St., Milford, will have an exhibition, “The Woods Wrap Around You,” on display during October, featuring hand-colored monoprints by Loretta CR Hubley. A reception will be held on Friday, Oct. 14, with wine and hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 p.m., followed by a presentation by the artist and a live piano performance inspired by the exhibition.

• “FROM THE HIPPIE TRAIL TO THE SILK ROAD” exhibit fromTwo Villages Art Society will run at the Bates Building (846 Main St., Contoocook) Oct. 21 through Nov. 12. This is an exhibition by Kathleen Dustin that includes her original artwork, inspired by and juxtaposed with jewelry and textiles from around the world that Dustin has collected during her travels. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, Oct. 22, from noon to 2 p.m. Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Visit or call 413-210-4372.


• “MY YEAR OF TOYS: AN ART JOURNAL” at Gallery 6, the art gallery at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St., Dover,, on view now through Oct. 16. For this exhibition, author and illustrator Sandy Steen Bartholomew created a drawing of one toy from her large toy collection every day for a year. Gallery 6 is free and open to the public; paid museum admission is not required to enter. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.

• “STORIED IN CLAY” The New Hampshire Potters Guild presents its biennial exhibition Storied in Clay” at the exhibition gallery at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen headquarters (49 S. Main St., Concord) through Oct. 27. Visit

• “STILL: THE ART OF STILL LIFE,a contemporary art exhibit at Twiggs Gallery (254 King St. in Boscawen;, 975-0015), will feature work by artists Caleb Brown, Shela Cunningham, Bess French, Marcia Wood Mertinooke, Barbara Morse, Shawne Randlett and Marlene Zychowski and will run through Saturday, Oct. 29.

Get into the groove

Let’s hear it for the ’80s band

By Mya Blanchard

We may not have time machines to bring us back to the past, but we have music that allows us to relive those moments. This is what the audience will experience at the Back to the Eighties Show with New York City-based band Jessie’s Girl at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on Friday, Oct. 14.

Jessie’s Girl vocalist Mark Rinzel, who is originally from outside the Washington, D.C., area, moved to New York after college. He recalls walking the streets of Manhattan visiting his brother in the early ’90s and knowing that he, too, wanted to be there. Rinzel got involved with music when he was 5 or 6 years old. He started picking up instruments like the piano and the bass, and participated in musical theater.

Once in New York, Rinzel joined his brother’s band and auditioned for musicals. He started producing and performing with independent rock bands, became a professional thespian touring with Jesus Christ Superstar and, around 15 to 16 years ago, started performing in tribute bands.

Meanwhile, Jessie’s Girl had been doing an ’80s show at the now-closed Canal Room on West Broadway.

“It ended up being one of the most successful nights that the bar had. Once a week, hundreds of people would come, so clearly there was an audience for it,” Rinzel said.

Their lives collided when the members of Jessie’s Girl saw Rinzel performing in a Police tribute band.

“The guys from the ’80s show saw me doing this about a little over 10 years ago and they were looking to add new singers to the mix,” Rinzel said. “So they saw me singing all this Sting stuff and they were like, ‘Hey, do you want to join our ’80s band,’ and I said ‘That sounds fun.’”

Since then Jessie’s Girl has performed with some of the biggest names in ’80s music, like Colin Hay, Howard Jones and Berlin. They have also been a part of a popular weeklong ’80s-themed cruise, in which they are typically one of the favorite acts.

According to Rinzel, ’80s bands are not hard to come by, but coming across one that is on the level of Jessie’s Girl isn’t something you see every day.

“You can go … all over the country … even up and down the eastern seaboard, and you can find ’80s bands in every town. … [I always joke] we’re about 10 times better than we even need to be. I think that’s what people respond to,” Rinzel said. “Almost all of [the band members] are sort of veterans from the Lower East Side.”

The level of talent in conjunction with the high energy makes for a show that’s in a league of its own.

“It’s a mixture of … [a] high-caliber performance but also just a lot of spontaneity and fun, and I think people respond to that.” Rinzel said.

In 2020 the nights of performing came to a halt due to the pandemic.

“We had to put it away for a year and that was very painful for a lot of us, for everyone,” Rinzel said. “And of course there was so much suffering everywhere, and if the worst you can say is I didn’t get to sing in my ’80s band for a year, you did alright.”

For him, the opportunity to be on stage and make others happy has always been one of the things he’s loved the most about performing. But it’s the early post-Covid shows that rank high as his favorite part of his history with Jessie’s Girl.

“The show has become for me … just a lot more meaningful post-Covid. … When people started to come back to the shows, you kind of realize how much you missed something,” Rinzel said.

With the pandemic on a downward curve and safety precautions in place, the Back to the Eighties Show with Jessie’s Girl returns to New Hampshire for another ecstatic performance. “It’s not just bringing them back to the ’80s. It’s also just getting them out of their seats and having a lot of fun with it,” Rinzel said. “We play with hits. We give people what they want to hear.”

Back to the Eighties with Jessie’s Girl
When: Friday, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
Tickets: Tickets range from $35 to $42.50
More information: Visit or call the box office at 668-5588 to purchase tickets

Featured photo: Mark Rinzel of Jessie’s Girl. Courtesy photo.

A Bunch of Characters

Finding Hercule Poirot, becoming Mr. Toad and other tales of actors getting into their fall show roles

New Hampshire is in the thick of fall theater season, with professional and community productions filling the schedule with musicals, dramas, comedies and productions with young performers. We talked to several local actors from some upcoming shows who will be hitting the stage over the next month about how they are getting into character and what makes their shows a must-see.

Connor Weeks, as Mr. Toad

headshot of smiling boy in front of setting sun
Connor Weeks. Courtesy photo.

The Community Players of Concord presents The Wind in The Willows, a children’s theater project featuring 24 young actors,at the Audi Concord (2 Prince St.). Showtimes are Friday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 15, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. Visit

What is The Wind in the Willows about?

The Wind in the Willows is about a group of animals, specifically a toad, a badger, a mole and a rat, [who] go on a bunch of wild adventures together.

Describe the character you’re playing.

I’m playing the role of Mr. Toad. He’s a very posh and very energetic toad who will spring for the new thing when it comes out. He’s a little self-centered but he doesn’t show it. He tries to pride himself on being Mr. Toadwithout sounding too cocky.

What attracted you to this show?

I [wanted] to be in this because I’ve done a ton of shows with the people who are working on [it] and they’re really nice. Also, my uncle had read the book and he said it was a really good show, so that’s why I’m doing the show.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

One of the challenging parts about being Mr. Toad is [that] I have to do an onstage costume change in a very short amount of time, and I haven’t really gotten the chance to practice that yet a lot, and that’s really kind of difficult.

What do you like most about playing this character?

What I like most about playing Mr. Toad is his enthusiasm, being around my friends and just being myself and singing.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I’m most looking forward to being around all my family and friends, and being on stage and showing Mr. Toad off.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

They should come to the show and they might enjoy it because it’s really fun. It has a lot of songs that are really fun to dance to, and all of us worked so hard, and I believe the final outcome is going to be so much better than anyone had imagined.

Mya Blanchard

Izzy Bedy, as Edgar

portrait of young woman with braces and long hair, smiling
Izzy Bedy. Courtesy photo.

The Peacock Players (14 Court St., Nashua) presents Disney’s The Aristocats Kids, performed by kids and teens in grades 2 through 12, from Friday, Oct. 14, through Sunday, Oct. 16, and from Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 23. Showtimes are at 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from $12 to $18. Visit

What is The Aristocats Kids about?

It’s based on a Disney movie about a family of cats. They live with Madame, their owner, and Edgar the Butler, who is me, and Edgar is the bad guy. He wants to get rid of them so he takes them away and they have to try and find their way back to Paris.

Describe the character you’re playing.

[Edgar is] a Disney villain, so lots of the songs are … big songs about being evil, and he hates the aristocats. His goal in life is to get rid of them. Madame is his boss and he always tries to impress her. It’s a very fun role because you can be over the top and everything.

What attracted you to this show?

Well, I love theater. I’ve been doing it for five years. I was looking at the new shows, and I was in the age range for this one. I thought, ‘Oh, that might be fun. I think I have an audition song, so I might as well try out.’

What have you been doing to prepare?

Well, I’ve watched The Aristocats a couple times, like, clips from it, especially with Edgar in them … and I’ve read the script over more times than I can count. … If you think about the goal, your character’s goal in life, or like, what your character is thinking or probably doing in the moment, then it can really help you … decide how you’re going to say your lines and how you’re going to show the audience what you mean with those lines and those lyrics. Facial expressions are also everything. So if you practice how you’re going to look at the audience or who you’re going to look at when you’re saying a certain line, it really helps show the character and the personality of the character.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

The most challenging part is probably because it’s a character that’s very different from me, or from most people you will meet in real life. Disney villains are these evil people and they’re very, very over the top and exaggerated in their emotions. It’s hard to find exactly who that person would be in real life.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I really look forward to our finale and our prologue or opening scene. We have almost the entire cast in both of those numbers and we’ve worked on them for a long time. It was [one of] the first things we started working on, and I think they look really good and everyone is doing a great job of showing their character and their … vocal and acting skills.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

Musicals are known for having these big over-the-top numbers and having these characters with very big personalities. There’s so much going on in a musical, and it’s a musical based on a Disney movie, so it’s [so] lively and energetic that it’s really hard to forget it.

Katelyn Sahagian

Nancy Rosen, as Ida Straus

portrait of smiling mature woman in formal dress
Nancy Rosen. Courtesy photo.

The Manchester Community Theatre Players presents Titanic — performed by actors playing both historical figures and characters that were invented by the show’s writers — at the North End Montessori School (698 Beech St., Manchester) on Friday, Oct. 14, and Saturday, Oct. 15; and from Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 23. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $20. Visit

What is Titanic about?

It’s a musical that was written around the time of the movie. … The subject matter is the Titanic, but it differs in that there’s no Rose and there’s no Jack. The musical is all about the music. … It’s a real musician’s musical. It’s all kind of classical sounding.

Describe the character you’re playing.

Her name is Ida Straus and she was born in the mid-19th century in Germany. She came over to America and married her husband, Isadore. He was a successful businessman. They were very much in love throughout their 40-plus years of marriage. They were traveling back from spending some time in the south of France. They were supposed to take separate ships coming home, but because of a coal strike, they ended up coming home together. They never made it home, because the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Isadore, even though he was an older gentleman, said, ‘No, there are younger people that need to go [on the lifeboats], not me,’ and Ida just says, ‘I’m not going, either.’ Their relationship kind of became a symbol to many at the time of true love and total dedication.

What attracted you to this show?

I was asked if I would be interested and I said absolutely. I thought that this is a nice challenge … of a role.

What have you been doing to prepare?

I look at the lines and then I try to think, ‘How do I parallel this woman?’ My parallels are [that] I’m not married 40 years, I’m married 32, and I try to envision how I feel about my husband. … So it’s just total dedication. I just try to make it real. You have to find elements of ‘How do you connect to the person?.’

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

Because it’s not a huge role and there might be a line coming in and out, [it’s] the one-liners when you’re walking across [and] just getting the timing of lights and the chronology of certain things.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

Just running it from top to bottom, [and] just getting the flow going with the music. We’ve been in a rehearsal process where we can start and stop a lot. But when the show starts, when we start doing actual performances, it’ll be nice just having a flow going, anticipating what happens next. Just being able to live in the show will be nice.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

I think they’ll be swept up by the music and the story. Most people know the story and they know, of course, the inevitability. And the music is the emotion of this grandiose ship. People will be swept up in the whole preparation of the launching of the thing and how it was once in a lifetime. They’ll be swept up in the story of it.

Katelyn Sahagian

Sam Rogers, as John Proctor

head shot of young man with beard and mustache, looking at camera, serious
Sam Rogers. Courtesy photo.

The Seacoast Repertory Theatre (125 Bow St., Portsmouth) presents The Crucible, which runs various dates from Oct. 13 through Nov. 5. Tickets start at $27. Visit

What is The Crucible about?

It takes place in the Puritanical time. The girls are found in the woods at the beginning of the play and they’re doing some kind of dance so that they can talk to the dead. Mr. Paris, who is the minister of the church, catches them in the woods and then they start getting sick. So the girls are sick and everybody in the town is freaking out because they think it’s witchcraft. But the girls know the truth. They know that they were out in the woods and they were dancing naked around in the woods. So they say that it was because of witchcraft and that there were so many people in the town that were sending their spirits out on them and they’re just like these victimized girls. … Eventually things start going to court, and that’s when John and Elizabeth Proctor come in. Elizabeth’s name has been mentioned in court. John is livid. He fights in court as hard as he can, but the court there is just so bloodthirsty and they don’t want any sort of undermining to happen because they’ve sent so many people to death. … Eventually, John gets taken away even though he fights super hard.

Describe the character you’re playing.

I’m playing John Proctor. … He’s the kind of a character that I get really excited about as an actor because he has so many complexities. Something that I really like about him that makes him kind of easy for the actor is that he makes a very clear choice in the middle of the play, in terms of where his storyline is going to go. He has a very important choice to make and he makes it and then that fuels the rest of the play.

What have you been doing to prepare?

I think that something that really helps me prepare for a role as an actor is thinking about the relationships that the character has to the other characters. I know that there’s a lot of things that people can do, but for me, understanding where John’s heart lies with the other characters, like who he trusts, who he doesn’t trust, and who he has faith in.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

In terms of physicality, like, a personal thing for me is that … I’m pretty naturally inclined to … make faster, quicker movements. Like, you know I’ll move across a room quickly or I’ll make … just, like, quicker jolty or movements with my body. And that’s not really what this character is like. … Also just the last scene where he sees Elizabeth again in the jail is really difficult to get to that place emotionally.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I just love to act. … I’ve been working on a bunch of musicals this whole year, which has been great … but obviously a musical is a different beast than a play. … I really love completing a character’s journey. I really like being in a different place at the end of a play than I was at the beginning.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

It is definitely a classic. Arthur Miller is a great writer, so people obviously just like it for that reason. However, it’s timeless because it kind of speaks on … our own history. I think that people like to see things that talk about what we’ve actually been through as a country and things that have happened for real. It’s like, you watch it and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t even believe that that happened.’

Katelyn Sahagian

Sean Bushor, as Lord Farquaad

portrait of middle aged man with bead and mustache, small smile
Sean Bushor. Courtesy photo.

The Epping Community Theater presents Shrek the Musical at the Epping Playhouse (36 Ladd’s Lane) from Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 23; and from Friday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Oct. 30. Showtimes are at 7 p.m. on both Fridays and on Saturday, Oct. 22; and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, Saturday, Oct. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 30. Tickets range from $15 to $20. Visit

Describe the character you’re playing.

Lord Farquaad is a tiny tyrant who is an unscrupulous pragmatic opportunist, a charismatic bully who has gotten to the top with wit, charm and above all else, fear. He is ‘that’ boss who sweet-talks you into working the weekend of your child’s birthday, and angrily berates you for not being a team player, all while upper management or the home office hasn’t heard a peep of his antics. … On a deeper level, Lord Farquaad is that little voice inside all of us that keeps us from chasing our dreams, telling us that we are too little, too ugly to make it, that we should either conform to an impossible standard of perfection or wallow in an oozing mud pit in resignation.

What attracted you to this show?

Lord Farquaad is a funny little villain. If you look at all the great villains, most people will name one who is powerful, who is able to directly put the protagonist into mortal danger. Lord Farquaad’s power is completely illusory, a sham. Shrek goes along with Lord Farquaad’s demands because it is the path of least resistance, which I think is hilarious. … That’s the satire behind Lord Farquaad — we’re all pitted against each other to the benefit of tiny little men whose only power over us is itself a fairy tale. Therefore, the part needs to be played big and extra large to signify how Lord Farquaad is himself overcompensating for his own self-imposed limitations.

What have you been doing to prepare?

I’ve been watching as many different interpretations of Lord Farquaad as I can. I’ve always been a big fan of John Lithgow. … I also love Christopher Sieber’s performance on Shrek the Musical on Netflix. … I’ve pored through YouTube and watched a myriad of other interpretations, both to see how they actually moved [and] what props they used, and what I thought did and didn’t work. I’ve used some open-source audio software to record my lines and add in the rehearsal tracks, and instead of my normal music, I’ve been just listening to my lines on repeat while I work.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

I spend most of the show on my knees. … There’s also a part where I am practically running while singing. However, these challenges are also really fun to do, and I think the audience will really get a kick out of it.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I have a few silly bits that I think the audience will love. It’s also super fun being in a show with my family. My kids are [playing the] fairy tale creatures, and my wife is working backstage. I have an older daughter who isn’t in the show, but I was in a different show [with her] before, so now I’ll have done a show with my whole family, which I think is pretty cool.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

There is this timeless aspect to Shrek that is hard to put a finger on. There are still memes being made about Shrek to this very day, for a movie that came out over 20 years ago in 2001! … Also, like an onion, Shrek the Musical has layers. We have simple slapstick comedy, which for me, never gets old. We have puns and dad jokes, and as a dad myself, that is also another genre that never gets old. There is comedy where we have to explain to the kids in the cast how to do the joke because they don’t get it, but we adults think it’s funny. … Aside from the jokes being funny, there’s also the underlying themes of the show, which I think really gives it that timelessness aspect — that heroes can be found in unlikely places, [and] that you can find true love even if you look like an ogre. The importance of standing up for yourself and not just waiting for wishes to come true. There is strength in diversity, unity, friendship, and in forgiveness. And sometimes, the people who speak out against fairy tale creatures the most are deeply in denial of being a fairy tale creature themselves.

Matt Ingersoll

Hadley Harris, as Janet Van de Graaff

young woman on white background, holding bouquet of white flowers, smiling
Hadley Harris. Courtesy photo.

The Riverbend Youth Company presents The Drowsy Chaperone at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts (56 Mont Vernon St., Milford) from Friday, Nov. 4, through Sunday, Nov. 6. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket sales are TBA. Visit

Describe the character you’re playing.

Janet Van de Graaff is a glamorous showgirl giving up the stage for marriage. She is incredibly dramatic and loves attention and praise. But Janet also has a soft, affectionate side and would do anything for love.

What attracted you to this show?

I’ve been participating in shows with the Riverbend Youth Company for about five years now, this being my final season as a senior in high school. I knew I would be in the fall musical, but when I saw the directing team and title, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The Drowsy Chaperone is such a fun title because it combines elements of old Broadway, but possesses the entertaining qualities of a modern musical. And, of course, MaryEllen [Stevenson], Meg [King] and Henry [Kopczynskie] are such incredible directors to work with.

What have you been doing to prepare?

I’ve been doing a lot of stretching and endurance training. Before being cast as Janet, I didn’t know just how physically demanding the role would be. There is quite a bit of singing with high-energy dancing. Additionally, I’ve been researching 1920s fashion and performance to get a better sense of the show’s setting.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

While I’m similar to Janet in a lot of ways, we’re also quite different. I hope to have just half the confidence and presence she does. I also feel challenged by Janet’s fast-paced and upbeat numbers, which include lots of tricks and intense acting.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I can’t wait to see it all come together. Undoubtedly, the costumes and lighting will be spectacular. The Drowsy Chaperone is such a layered show, so it takes time to come together. But, as with any production, once the pieces click, it’s like magic. The interactive set and fun direction — including roller skating, tap dancing, encores and a power outage — make this show so full of energy and joy.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

I can’t wait for audiences to share in the joy that is The Drowsy Chaperone. I love the “show within a show” trope and think our audiences will find it very entertaining. Ben Erdody, playing Man In Chair, is such a fantastic actor, and I think he is the piece of the puzzle that makes the story come alive. His skillful narration allows the audience to truly dive into the story with him. Altogether, this title builds such lovable characters that I’m ecstatic to share.

Angie Sykeny

Hannah Shepherd, as The Chaperone

young woman in room, looking over shoulder, smiling
Hannah Shepherd. Courtesy photo.

Describe the character you’re playing.

The Drowsy Chaperone is an over-the-top performer. The world is her stage. The Chaperone is rough around the edges and does what she thinks is best.

What attracted you to this show?

I’ve been performing with the Riverbend Youth Company for many years. I was looking forward to the fall season, but I wasn’t familiar with the title of the show and was interested in learning more about it. I listened to the soundtrack, and I loved the 1920s setting and feel. This past March, I was in a production of Chicago where I realized how much 1920s musicals have to offer. Old shows are replete with grand dance numbers and musical ballads. These numbers make for fun choreography and impressive vocal tracks.

What have you been doing to prepare?

The directing team has compared my character of the Chaperone to many other characters in shows and other musicals. For example, Karen in Will and Grace. I’ve watched many clips of Megan Mullally as Karen to observe her acting style. When practicing my track, I’ll sing it to myself in the mirror, trying out different stances and facial expressions. Then, at rehearsals, I’ll try what I’ve worked on to see what feels the most natural.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

The most challenging part of playing The Chaperone is the fact that she pays no mind to the other characters on stage. In other words, their problems aren’t her problems. The Chaperone is also a very monotone character. Naturally, I have a bubbly personality and feel emotions deeply, so I’ve learned that I have to put Hannah aside for the shows in order to step into the character.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ve rehearsed all put together. One of my favorite parts of any show is seeing what we’ve worked on for months finally together on stage. [With] this one especially, I feel each actor individually has put an immense amount of effort into making these characters come to life.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

I think audiences will enjoy this show because of its clever comedic timing and fun choreography. Meg, our choreographer, has worked hard to create amazing dances that challenge us as actors and entertain the audience.

Angie Sykeny

Sean Damboise and Zakariah Tber, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

headshot of tired looking man, small smile
Sean Damboise plays Rosencrantz. Courtesy photo.

Lend Me a Theatre presents Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Hatbox Theatre (270 Loudon Road, Concord) from Friday, Nov. 4, through Sunday, Nov. 6; Friday, Nov. 11, through Sunday, Nov. 13; and Friday, Nov. 18, through Sunday, Nov. 20. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets range from $16 to $22. Visit

What is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead about?

Damboise: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two … kind of small characters in Hamlet. Basically their role is just to kind of spy on Hamlet for the king and queen. Halfway into the show they have to take him to England. The original letter to the English king says, ‘OK, here’s Hamlet, you get to take his head off.’ Unfortunately, Hamlet got the letter twisted around so that when they show up in England, it says, ‘We’re supposed to cut your heads off.’ And Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die. … It’s basically Hamlet from their perspective. And at the same time, they’re kind of floating around going, ‘Something doesn’t seem right here. … We’re being pushed around and asked to be doing weird things,’ and they’re basically just trying to puzzle their way through it.

headshot of young man with curly hair, looking off camera, mischievous grin
Zakariah Tber plays Guildenstern. Courtesy photo.

What attracted you to this show?

Tber: I like that both characters are constantly pondering their situation in the storyline and it’s almost weirdly metaphorical. They’re trying to talk about what’s the meaning of a person, what is existence.

Damboise: These guys are just sorting their way through trying to say, ‘OK, why were we chosen to die? Why can’t we actually change our destiny? Why is it that we have to die?’ But they’re still stuck.

What have you been doing to prepare?

Tber: I watched the movie. I took a look at certain scenes. This show is so heavy on lines, and this show is so heavy on [the question of] what is the true meaning of what they’re trying to say. Every rehearsal, I figure out why I’m saying certain things. Sometimes I don’t know why I’m saying certain things in this show because the language is different.

Damboise: And it does shift from modern speech to actually reciting lines from Hamlet. So now they’re jumping from, ‘Hey, what’s going on here,” to iambic pentameter, and then back again to the regular speech. The constant shifting is a little difficult.

What is the most challenging thing about playing these characters?

Tber: Unless I’m flowing, unless I start the scene and then I move from a motion to a motion seamlessly, I can’t start back up again. So, if I pause and then we give it a director’s note or if I pause and then we resituate something, I’m going to lose it and then I’m going to have to come back.

Damboise: The hardest part for me is [not that it’s] difficult to … flow through the emotions so much as actually trying to pull them out. Going from frustration to happiness, and there are a couple of scenes where he has to shift. It’s very difficult to try and make such a dramatic shift so quickly.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

Tber: There is a director’s note that says there’s only two times this show has failed. And it was when they decided to make it serious. Yes, it’s supposed to be a comedy.

Damboise: Yeah, it’s a comedy at heart. If you go deep, you’re not going to have a decent show because it’s way too much. These characters are not deep. They’re just incidentals in Hamlet’s. And now they’ve got a little bit of depth and background and they’re trying to figure themselves out. But if you try to go too deep, you’re just going to lose the point, which is following these two schlubs through Hamlet.

Katelyn Sahagian

John Jenks Seymour, as Claudius

headshot of older man, serious expression
John Jenks Seymour. Courtesy photo.

John Jenks Seymour, playing Claudius, will also perform in Lend Me a Theatre’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Describe the character you’re playing.

The character I’m playing is Claudius. He’s the king. He’s not a really nice guy. Just kind of a person who’s out for his own interests.

What have you been doing to prepare?

My training was as a method actor. I try to find some feelings that I’ve had, that I can recall. That’s a lot of fun when doing a character who’s a really nasty, rotten guy.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

I haven’t really been in the rehearsal process that long, so honestly it’s really just kind of fun.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

It’s a very, very funny play, and it’s a lot of just crazy humor, but it’s also very intelligent humor. You can take things at a couple levels. There’s some stuff that’s just silly and kind of slapstick, but there’s also some very deep humor.

Katelyn Sahagian

TreVor Nantel, as Spike

young man wearing baseball cap, resting chin on hand, looking up and to the side
TreVor Nantel. Courtesy photo.

Bedford Off Broadway presents Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Old Town Hall (3 Meetinghouse Road) from Friday, Nov. 4, through Sunday, Nov. 6; and from Friday, Nov. 11, through Sunday, Nov. 13. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (doors open one hour before curtain). Tickets are $15 general admission, and $12 for children, students and seniors. Purchase them at the door or at

What is Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike about?

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is about three adopted siblings in their 50s, two of which — Vanya and Sonia — live a miserable life together, while their other sibling, Masha, is a very … renowned, famous actress. … Enter Spike, and he is a 29-year-old stud that Masha has picked up across the way, and she introduces Spike to already regretful siblings. The family goes through some hardships and they learn to live and love each other along the way.

What attracted you to this show?

This is my first ever play, but I consider myself to be a natural actor. … My dad, Rick Nantel, has performed [in] many shows here [throughout] the years. He read this script hoping to get Vanya, and suggested that I audition, as he thought I fit this role perfectly. I decided to give it a shot on the last night of auditions. … What attracted me to do the show was the kind of character Spike is. I feel like he is a very fun role.

What have you been doing to prepare?

I had some fun nights out with a friend and my girlfriend, and we would read lines and I’d constantly get scrutinized for getting them wrong, yet they were very supportive. … It came down to my girlfriend reading lines with me, and me sitting in my work van during the day and constantly reciting them in customers’ yards. … I was hoping they wouldn’t look out the window and see me talking to myself in a dramatic manner.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

The most challenging part of playing Spike is the expectation of fulfilling who he really is in the playwright’s eyes, but I’m having fun and the cast has been amazing.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

To be able to impress the audience, while making my friends, family and girlfriend proud.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

I think the audience will enjoy the show for the raw comedy, and the fact that they will be able to relate to a lot of the content.

Matt Ingersoll

Greer Danzey, as Curly

young man standing in front of door in sunlight, happy and smiling
Greer Danzey. Courtesy photo.

The Kids Coop Theatre presents Oklahoma! at the Derry Opera House (29 W. Broadway). Showtimes are Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m., and a matinee on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 1 p.m. Tickets are $15. Visit

What is Oklahoma! about?

Oklahoma! is a musical that was made [in the] late 1940s through 1950s by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It is about a cowboy during 1906 who is in love with [a] farm girl named Laurey Williams, and [he] wants to get her to marry him. [Laurey is] described as [being] the most beautiful girl in town, [and] she doesn’t know much about him. [The town is] very small, [and] everybody knows each other. With her being known by everybody, many people are after her in a romantic way. She has a love triangle with the lead, Curly McLain … and her farmhand named Jud Fry. Now, this farmer and the cowboy do not get along very well and it’s made very apparent throughout the whole show that they are romantic rivals. On the other side of the story you have a … different cowboy [named] Will Parker, [who’s] in a love triangle as well with this girl named Ado Annie … and a peddler [named] Ali Hakim. The story is a romantic comedy drama [about] these two love triangles happening in early America. It’s very interesting, [and] some parts are darker than others. Overall it’s quite an experience.

Describe the character you’re playing.

Curly is a curly-headed cowboy [with] a big ego. He’s very energetic, [and is] always trying to pitch in on a conversation. He likes to be engaged, [and is] very prideful. His biggest strength is also his biggest weakness [because] it’s what gets [him] in trouble, but it’s what people love about him. Not everybody always agrees with what he does [because] he’s very sporadic, but that energy is what makes him lovable, yet annoying.

What attracted you to this show?

I had seen Oklahoma! once before and I enjoyed the show. I saw the movie version [and] I thought the characters were really fun. The lead cowboy, Curly McLain, was very funny because he has a very big ego, and my friends always made fun of me for having a big ego, so I [decided I’d] go try for it. When I was researching, I started [to get] more into the show, I learned more about it, and I started to feel more connected to it.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

He has a more serious tone to him and when it’s used it’s hard to separate that from his energetic side. You only see it a few times, but when you do it’s like you’re seeing a whole other person. It almost feels like you’re playing two different characters [and] it’s hard to understand that he’s the same guy that everybody loves, but he has this much darker, serious tone to him. Then there’s also the accent that goes with it. They have a silly Southern accent that makes it sound ridiculous so it’s hard to portray a serious tone when you’re talking like you just got scared.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

I’d probably say I’m [most looking] forward to having stage interactions with a lot of my friends. [My friends and I] have been this little group who have been doing shows [together] for a while. [We] always audition for the same shows and always get characters that … interact with each other, and it’s always been really fun. Having that chemistry with each other and getting to put it on stage is always so much fun. We’ll talk to each other about who’s going to get this role, who’s going to get that role, and then if our predictions come out right everything just works out because in our rehearsal process we’ll just feel comfortable with each other and we know that in the end our stage production will feel very true to all of us.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

It’s funny [because] it’s very different from today. It seems like a lifetime ago which, really, it was. It takes place over a century ago, but the story itself has been adapted [into] so many other ways that it seems very relatable. Oklahoma! is very similar to the plot of West Side Story, which is another very popular musical. It’s similar to Grease, which is another great show. It has that classic spin to it that a lot of audience members would feel connected to and just be able to catch on [to] very easily.

Mya Blanchard

Jim Gocha, as Hercule Poirot

photo portrait of older man standing in front of dark background with arms crossed, slight smile
James Gocha. Photo by Karen Bobotas

The Community Players of Concord present Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express at the Audi Concord (2 Prince St.). Showtimes are Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for kids and seniors. Visit

What is Murder on the Orient Express about?

It’s a murder mystery. … It’s a story about a murder that takes place on a train. One character, a man named Sam Ratchett, is stabbed in the middle of the night multiple times … and then it becomes a matter of who did it.

Describe the character you’re playing.

I am playing Hercule Poirot, the main character [and] the very famous detective. [The investigation] turns to me, and so I’ve got to try to figure out what the heck happened.

What attracted you to this show?

Oh my gosh — who would not want to perform as Hercule Poirot? I mean, he’s one of the most famous detectives in all of literature. I couldn’t pass that up. … He’s such a great character, so iconic, and it’s just a matter of putting your own little twist on playing him. So I jumped at the chance, and I was actually surprised that I got it. … I went to school for theater for a while, but … eventually I switched to teaching English. That’s my main job now, but I’ve been doing theater again for probably a good 10 to 12 years now.

What have you been doing to prepare?

I did some background [research] on Poirot, not only from the original text written by Agatha Christie, but also looking at other versions of the character. There’s a famous film with Albert Finney playing him and, more recently, Kenneth Branagh, and also David Suchet on television. … So I looked at all the different versions that they did and how they put their own little twist on a character that is so iconic. … I also read some other information about him from the other Agatha Christie books, just to get an idea of who he is, and how he functions and how he is, not only physically but also just his background. He’s actually from Belgium, not France. … A lot of people make that mistake because he speaks French. But he’s from Belgium, and that actually becomes a joke throughout the show.

What is the most challenging thing about playing this character?

The most challenging thing for me is getting everything right about him. … For example, he has a limp and he walks with a cane. So it’s making use of that physical attribute, along with making sure that I get the accent right. … I’m a stickler for accents, and if you’re going to do an accent, you’d better do it right. … I’ve actually been working on that quite a bit, just looking up videos on how people speak with a French accent and, in particular, how Poirot would speak with a French accent, since he is Belgian.

What are you most looking forward to about being in this show?

As with any show, I look forward to the group that we work with. We’ve got such a really fantastic group of actors, and [I love] the camaraderie that takes place when you’re putting a show together that is such an ensemble piece. … Yes, Poirot is … supposed to be the main [character], but it doesn’t matter what I do if I don’t have these other people to rely on. … So that’s the part I look forward to the most, is interacting with the other folks on the stage.

Why do you think this is a show that audiences will enjoy now?

I think this show in particular is one that people would enjoy anytime, partly because it is such a well-known show. … I mean, Hercule Poirot and the story itself … are so well-known that it’s almost like visiting an old friend. … I think people will have a good time seeing that, remembering and comparing our show to somebody else’s but also [seeing] the twist that we’re going to add. It’s written by Ken Ludwig, and he added a few twists here and there. … So people [will] enjoy the little changes that he has made to the story.

Matt Ingersoll

Featured photo: The cast of Murder on the Orient Express, to be performed by the Community Players of Concord. Photo staged by Nora McBurnett.

This Week 22/10/13

Big Events October 13, 2022 and beyond

Friday, Oct. 14

Majestic Theatre is putting on a limited production of Next to Normal starting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Derry Opera House (29 W. Broadway, Derry) The show follows the life of a normal suburban family as they deal with mental illness, loss and family trauma. Because of the adult themes in the show, the Majestic said that the show isn’t recommended for audience members younger than 17. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for seniors. Visit to purchase tickets.

Saturday, Oct. 15

The 25th anniversary of the Aviation Museum is today, with a celebratory fundraising gala from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Executive Court Banquet Hall (1199 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester). The gala will have a gourmet dinner, the 18-piece Bedford Big Band, auction items, raffle prizes and more. Individual tickets cost $75; a table of eight costs $500. Reserve tickets at

Sunday, Oct. 16

The New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra opens its 118th year with an orchestral showcase, “Nature & Myth,” featuring music by Beethoven, Walker, Grieg and Sibelius, today at 2 p.m. at the Seifert Performing Arts Center (44 Geremonty Drive, Salem). The showcase will also run on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and $8 for kids. Visit to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, Oct. 18

The Canterbury Village is holding a showing of the movie Holy Ground tonight at the Peterborough Community Theatre (6 School St.) at 7 p.m. The movie explores the history of the Shakers, a religious group that spanned from Maine to Kentucky. Tickets for the event are free and popcorn and wine will be included for the showing. After the showing, local author Howard Mansfield will read from his book Chasing Eden. Contact Rae Easter at to reserve tickets.

Wednesday, Oct. 19

Jeff Belanger is telling ghost stories from across New England at the Derry Opera House (29 W. Broadway) tonight at 7 p.m. Belanger, an author known for writing about the paranormal, UFOs, folklore, ledged and ghosts, is a host on the Emmy-nominated series New England Legends and is a co-host on the New England Legends podcast. Tickets can be reserved through the Derry Public Library at

Save the date! Thursday, Nov. 3
The ninth annual Distiller’s Showcase is on Thursday, Nov. 3, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton (700 Elm St, Manchester). The showcase will have dozens of distillers from across the country and around the world. It’s part of New Hampshire Distiller’s Week, which begins on Nov. 1. Tickets to the showcase start at $60. For more information about the Distiller’s Showcase and more events happening during Distiller’s Week, visit

Featured photo. Next to Normal. Courtesy photo.

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