‘Rigoletto — the Oswego Story’ comes to the stage Feb. 21 and 23

Oswego Opera Theatre’s reimagined “Rigoletto,” Feb. 21 and 23 at SUNY Oswego’s Waterman Theatre, shows the many ties of college and community, from plot to people.

“Rigoletto — The Oswego Story,” a rewrite of Verdi’s classic opera by SUNY Oswego adjunct instructor Mack Richardson of the music department, will take the Tyler Hall stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23.

“I was inspired by two things,” said Richardson, artistic director and conductor of Oswego Opera Theatre since 2008.

“First, I was interested in how the Metropolitan Opera reset ‘Rigoletto’ in Las Vegas in the 1960s. I like how it worked — they updated it quite reasonably. Of course, it takes on timeless ideas,” he said.

“And I wanted to try an audience-building marketing idea. Apparently, it has worked because it’s gotten a lot of attention,” he said.

Rather than the original Mantua, Italy, Richardson sets his adaptation of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1851 opera “Rigoletto” in 1920s Oswego, where workarounds to Prohibition are in full bloom and the womanizing Duke of Mantua becomes Duke, the womanizing and personally and politically connected owner of a speakeasy.

In this reimagining, Duke pretends to be a SUNY Oswego college student to woo love interests on campus.

‘Great fun’

While Duke (Jonathan Howell) headlines at his own club, Verdi’s tragic court jester becomes, in the adaptation, Rigoletto the Don Rickles-like comic (Jimi James), hated by everyone for his vicious insult-jokes.

While sung in Italian, the opera will offer a projected image of Richardson’s translation of the lyrics to English. The orchestra features members of Syracuse’s Symphoria.

Richardson said stage director Fred Willard and the cast have embraced the remake of “Rigoletto,” which began life in the mid-19th century as an initially censored and then wildly popular opera.

“Fred very willingly agreed to take on the idea and is having great fun with it,” said Richardson, who is teaching “Introduction to the Worlds of Music” and “The Business of Music” at the college this semester.

Richardson said he came up with the idea for the “Rigoletto” adaptation about a year ago, but has been familiar with the opera since high school.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and master’s in orchestral conducting and arts administration from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, he has led productions of Mozart’s “The Impresario,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore,” Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” Bizet’s “Carmen,” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” and “Carousel,” among others.

As with many community productions, town and gown members work together in the cast and crew.

Jonathan Powers, a recent SUNY Oswego graduate, will sing the part of Ceprano, one of the men loyal to Duke. Oswego graduate Dan Williams will serve as chorus director.

Suzayn MacKenzie-Roy, an alumna who is facilities manager for Waterman Theatre, will deploy the crew for “Rigoletto — The Oswego Story,” Richardson said.

Other key roles include Gilda (Tatiana Poletskaya) and Maddalena (Danan Tsan).

Tickets for “Rigoletto — The Oswego Story” are $25 ($20 for educators and for seniors over 60; $5 for students) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 312-2141.

Parking for these performances is included in the ticket price, and is available in the lot in front of Culkin Hall, the rear half of the lot behind Hart and Funnelle halls or in the adjacent commuter lot.

Patrons with disabilities should call 312-2141 for assistance in advance of the performances.

Flood watch in effect through Saturday

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for late Thursday through late Friday for Oswego County.

Meteorologists say the significant warm up with rain expected Thursday through Friday should result in greatly increased runoff and rising 
waterways. Runoff from rain falling on frozen ground may cause flooding of streets and in areas of poor drainage.

They said plenty of ice also is still in place in creeks so there will be an enhanced risk for ice jams and subsequent flooding. 


2 teens charged in Byrne Dairy robbery

Two Hastings teens have been charged with robbery in connection with a theft at the Byrne Dairy on Route 11 in the town of Hastings on Sunday (today).

Oswego County Sheriff’s deputies and state troopers responded to a robbery at the store and revealed a strong-armed robbery had just been committed by two suspects who fled the scene on foot.

Officers followed footprints in the snow to 166 Roxbury Estates.  Both suspects were arrested and property stolen from the store was recovered.

Those arrested are, Frank J. Burt, 17, and Jeremy L. Champney, 17.

Each is charged with one count of robbery in the 1st degree, a felony,  one count of robbery in the second degree, a  felony, one count of conspiracy in the 4th degree, a felony and Jeremy was charged with an additional count of resisting arrest.

Both men will be arraigned in town court.

Oswego County organizations receive CNY Arts Decentralization Awards

A number of Oswego County organizations are receiving 2014 CNY Arts Decentralization Awards.

The awards are given through the New York State Council on the Arts to to help localities support their own funding for arts events and programs.

Community Arts Grants partially fund community-based arts projects featuring dance, theater, film, music, and folk, literary, digital and visual arts.

Those receiving awards are:

Art Association of Oswego Inc., $1,700, Outreach Program

ARTSwego (through the Oswego College Foundation), $2,100, The Acting Coming: Coming to a Theater in Your Community

Cleveland Historical Society, $2,400, Children’s Glassworks Theatre

The Children’s Museum of Oswego, $710, Bash the Trash Environmental Arts Concert

Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, $1,400, Nature Inspires

Fulton Community Theatre, $1,900, for 2014 season

Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, $2,300, 014 Fulton Jazz Festival

H. Lee White Marine Museum, $2,700, War of 1812 — The Great Rope Play

Oswego Players Inc., $2,391, Gypsy

Pulaski Congregational Church, $2,200, Rhea LaVeck Memorial Concert Series

Salmon River Fine Arts Center, $2,460, Drawing Families into Art

Town of Schroeppel, $1,180, Music in the Park

Village of Lacona, $510, Lacona Music at the Market Concert Series

Village of Phoenix, $1,000, Friday Nights of Fun Concert Series

 

February is Black History Month

It is Black History Month, so The Valley News thought it would be good to share some stories of African-American history right here in Oswego County.

Here are a few vignettes:

‘Harlem Hellfighters’ at Fort Ontario.

The Harlem Hellfighters were an all-black military infantry unit during World War I, a group that received high recognition for its heroism and fighting ability.

By the time World War II rolled around, the group from Harlem in New York City now was called the 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment. And before shipping out to take on the Japanese in the Pacific, these 1,800 black soldiers did their training at Fort Ontario.

Sure, fighting the Germans would be rough. But the soldiers also got a taste of rough when they arrived in Oswego for training in January 1941. One soldier said he remembers getting off the train in Oswego and they immediately lost a soldier in a mound of snow.

Even though the United States was not yet in the war, training of troops was taking place as President Franklin D. Roosevelt prepared for the worse. The men with the 369th spent eight months at Fort Ontario, practicing anti-artillery drills at the Johnson Farm, an abandoned area east of the fort, where nine Mile Point One is now located.

A history student at SUNY Oswego wrote in 1972 that the men of the 369th often went into Oswego or Syracuse when they were off duty. They would hang out at the Dunbar Social Center in Syracuse and play basketball. They would shop in Oswego and eat at local restaurants.

Adding nearly 1,800 black soldiers to the population changed the demographic makeup of Oswego. In a county of more than 71,000 residents, 55 were black before the soldiers arrived, according to the U.S. Census in 1940. By contrast, Harlem — where most of the men were from — had an 89 percent black population, the 1940 Census shows.

“Outside of Harlem, the issue of race became more immediate for the 369th,” a 1993 article in the Journal of Social History says. “Oswego was, in the words of one member of the 369th, ‘lily white.’

The most famous of the 369th soldiers at Fort Ontario was Lt. John Woodruff, also known as “Long John” Woodruff. He had won the gold medal in the 800 meters at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

The 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment was at Fort Ontario from Jan. 15 through September, when they shipped out to Massachusetts and then to Hawaii.

During World War II, they engaged in defensive and tactical operations on new Georgia Island, Emirau, Los Negros Island, Admiralty Island, Biak Island, Sansapor New Guinea, Middleburg Island and Morotai Island, all in the Papua New Guinea area of southeast Asia.

Starr Clark Tin Shop

Starr Clark had a business in Mexico in the 1850s – a tin shop making stove pipes and other pieces of tin wear.

But in addition to the tin work, Clark and his family also used their house to shelter runaway slaves as they made their way north to freedom in Canada.

The tin shop building, on Main Street (Route 104), still exists and has since been renovated into a museum to mark Mexico’s importance along the Underground Railroad.

Judith Wellman, a professor emerita at the State University College at Oswego and expert on U.S. African-American history, researched the building’s role in the Underground Railroad. Her work produced enough evidence to have the tin shop named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. She said it is one of the best documented Underground Railroad sites.

Oswego Public Library

Gerrit Smith, the famous abolitionist who lived in Peterboro, Madison County, provided the money for construction of  the Oswego Public Library.

But he had two conditions to providing the money. One was that the library must be on the east side of the Oswego River. And the second is that the library should be open to everyone, regardless of his or her race or complexion.

According to the library’s history on its website, the library has had “African-American patrons including prominent members of the Underground Railroad and the local community.” Records kept on who was borrowing books from the library show that many African-American families used the library during its first years, the history states.

Grant – dentist, patented golf tee 

The Tudor E. Grant family was a well-known African-American family in Oswego. Tudor Grant’s son, George Franklin, who was born in Oswego, made a name for himself in later life, becoming the second African American to graduate from Harvard’s dental college. He later became a faculty member of his alma mater and was a leader in the treatment of cleft palates.

But he also is renowned in the sports world. He received the first patent for the wooden golf tee.

Bristol Hill Church, Volney

This church on Route 3 had many white and African-American members dating to the early and mid-1800s. The church was built in the 1830s and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Case House in Fulton

The Case House on South First Street in Fulton was well known for the Underground Railroad activity that took place there. It is at the site where the old Elks Lodge was located.

Interracial Couple in Fulton

In a book titled “the American Prejudice Against Color,” William Allen, a college professor who says he was one-quarter African American, tells the story of how he fell in love with a white girl in Fulton, became engaged to marry her and the prejudice they encountered due to their engagement.

In fact, an angry mob of Fulton-area residents who did not want this marriage to take place went after Allen.

“Tar, feathers, poles, and an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails had been prepared for my especial benefit; and, so far as I was concerned, it must be escape or death,” Allen wrote in his book.

He wrote that a mob of 400 to 500 people came looking for him after they learned of his engagement to Miss King. He wrote “Reader, the life of a colored man in America, save as a slave, is regarded as far less sacred than that of a dog. There is no exaggeration in this statement—I am not writing of exceptions.”

Allen and King were eventually married in New York City and then left for Europe.

There are many other stories about African Americans in Oswego County at http://visitoswegocounty.com/historical-info/underground-railroad/ . The county had its own Anti-Slavery Society and was known as a hotbed of abolitionist action.

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

“Chick” Tallman

While recently re-reading a column that I wrote in “The Fulton Patriot,” I was reminded of a venerable Fulton character, Vernon “Chick” Tallman.

Chick had worked his way to the top of the list of well-known Fulton faces.

From that column:

“The first Fultonian I saw when I arrived in this fine city for the first time turned out to be Chick Tallman. As I approached the old Patriot building on the corner of Oneida and South Second streets on a wintry February day, Chick was in the middle of the road directing traffic.

“What a quaint uniform this city’s policemen wear, I could have thought.”

As I said in that column, I was soon to find out that if you knew anything about Fulton, you knew about Vernon “Chick” Tallman.

“Serving as a traffic cop wasn’t a strange role for Chick. I soon found out that Chick was also Fulton’s foremost ambassador.

“He was always somewhere to be found on the downtown scene. I got to know Chick well as The Fulton Patriot building served as his headquarters for at least part of every day.”

“He was responsible for seeing that every downtown merchant received a copy of each week’s Patriot, and he was always available to run errands throughout the area. Chick was often seen with a broom in his hand. He attended every baseball game in town, kept home plate swept clean, and often jumped on the bus for the away games.”

That column pointed out that Patriot employees had a lot of fun with Chick:  “One former employee remembers Chick studiously counting his papers out before delivery.

‘Two, three, four,’ Chick would say. ‘Eight, nine, 10,’ someone would say. ‘Eleven, 12, 13,’ Chick would continue. ‘Three, four, five,’ someone else would say. ‘Six, seven, eight,’ Chick would answer.”

Patriot employees also watched out for Chick. One year, after a particularly heavy first snowfall, employees made sure Chick had a sturdy new pair of winter boots.

The Patriot column detailed a special gift to commemorate Chick’s 70th birth-day. Fultonians responded to a drive spearheaded by Joe Arnold of Foster’s to raise funds to send Chick to New York City for a weekend of Yankee games.

Another Fulton native, Harold “Buck” Greene, who wrote a column each week for his hometown’s “Patriot,” through his connections with Major League Baseball, helped arrange Chick’s weekend trip.

“In his Patriot column that week, Greene said, ‘Well folks, it has happened, Chick Tallman has viewed the city of New York and most important, he saw the weekend series between the Yankees and the Twins.”

Greene continued, “What’s more, on Friday night Chick had the best seat in the house, behind home plate in a front row box. He could have called balls and strikes all night.

“Chick was presented with an autographed baseball by members of the World Champion Yankees, and before returning to Fulton he visited the World’s Fair.

“Time didn’t allow for a sweep-off of home base at Yankee Stadium, but after the action-packed weekend, with much royal treatment thrown in, Chick returned to Fulton with a new Yankees shirt along with the big Chick Tallman smile.”

Many Fultonians undoubtedly still have pleasant memories of Chick Tallman.

From “The Farmer’s Almanac”

Scanning the pages of the 2014 issue of “The Farmer’s Almanac,” I discover that I can:

*Buy “Fresh, Healthy Nuts” – (explanation required).

“Or Laundry balls, concertinas and old phonographs (or sell them).

*Find a “spiritual healer.”  Sister Cindy clears negativity and bad luck; Rev. Jackson is a voodoo healer, and Mrs. Annie, spiritualist, reunites lovers.

*There are several days listed during each month as the best days to: Have dental care, cut hair to encourage (or discourage) growth, or to can, pickle or make sauerkraut.

I also discovered that some folks are fond of puns, such as:

*A hole has been found in the wall of a nudist camp. The police are “looking into it.”

“Two silkworms had a race.  They ended up “in a tie”.

I was interested to learn about some “planting” folklore:

*To make a plant grow, spit into the hole you have dug for it.”

*Anything planted by a pregnant woman will flourish.

*Never thank a person for giving you a plant or it will die; in fact, the best way to ensure that plant slips will thrive is to steal them.

*Never plan anything on the 31st of the month.

*Never plant anything until the frogs have croaked three times, because there will be a killing frost before then.

*Anything planted on Good Friday will grow well.

Now You Know:

This year’s Farmer’s Almanac tells us:

*At the age of 60, fitness expert Jack La Lanne swam from Alcatracz to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf while handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.

*As far as the weather in our area of the country is concerned, winter was expected to be slightly milder than normal, with near-normal precipitation and below normal snowfall in most of the region.

And, finally, the Almanac wants us to know that 200 years ago, the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” took shape on the back of a letter, scribbled there by Francis Scott Key.

                                       . . . Roy Hodge   

Valley Viewpoints — Boosters will miss Margaret

When anyone who does wonderful things on earth passes onto Heaven, we on earth feel the void that they once filled. 

With the passing of Margaret Beckwith, that scenario could not be more accurate.

Our Fulton Athletic Booster Club lost a true leader. Someone who cared so much about an organization and what it stood for, Margaret willed everyone around her to do better and make the Booster Club what it is today.

She was extremely proud of this organization. All you had to do is work at the concession stand and you would realize how passionate she was about this cause.

She made sure the product we were selling was as perfect as it could be. The menu was simple, but it still had to be special.

Margaret taught all of us to serve it with a smile. Many times, students or children did not have enough money to purchase what they wanted and Margaret would reach into her own pocket and pay for it with her money so they could have something to eat or drink. This is just one example of her kindness.

As a fellow board member and others can attest to, Margaret’s main concern was for the student athlete and making their athletic experience as good as it could be.

On a personal level, Margaret always made you feel like you were special. I am sure I am not the only person to say this, but she made me feel like I was family. If she made me feet like this, I can only imagine the love her sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren felt. We were all blessed to have her in our lives.

After reading the article so eloquently written by Jerry Kasparek, we all were so moved. Jerry’s thoughts and memories of Margaret were so precise. As I read, at one moment I was smiling and the next crying. In a comparison that Margaret could relate to, Jerry had hit a ‘grand slam’ with beautiful words she had written.

In a world lacking in the good role model category for our youth, one doesn’t need to look any farther than Margaret Beckwith.

On behalf of the entire Fulton Booster Club Family, our hearts go out to Margaret’s family. So whoever is in charge up there, they would be wise to have Margaret help run their Booster Club. The rest of us down here will continue to honor Margaret’s wishes.

We will truly miss her.

Dan Shue

President

Fulton Athletic Boosters Club 

Oswego library offers class on Photoshop for Artists

A free two-part workshop called Photoshop Elements for Artists will be offered from noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 15 and 22 at the Oswego Public Library.

The workshop will be led by artist and teacher Bill DeMott in the Library Learning Center.

This workshop is being offered in conjunction with the Art Association of Oswego’s AAO Outreach, which is funded in part by a grant from CNY Arts of Syracuse.

DeMott, who teaches art classes for SUNY Oswego and Cayuga Community College, regularly works with students in both traditional and digital art.

“The goal of this workshop is really to get local artists up to speed on digital manipulation and rendering–which used to seem like optional knowledge, but isn’t anymore,” DeMott said.

“Manipulating digital images is something that even traditional studio artists really need to know about,” he said. “There is an expectation that most artists are already digitally savvy, and so many of us are trying to play catch-up.”

This workshop is free, but space is limited. Future classes and workshops may be forthcoming.

To register, email Bill DeMott at wdemott@twcny.rr.com or you can call the library at 341-5867

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