Opinion: Questions Surround the PawSox Sale

mccoyBen Mondor, after buying the franchise out of bankruptcy in 1977, turned the Pawtucket Red Sox into a national model of how to run a successful, fan-friendly, family-friendly, and profitable minor-league baseball team. Until his death in 2010, Mondor defined the beloved institution that became, arguably, Rhode Island’s premier professional sports organization. On February 23, it was announced that a consortium of partners, including its parent major-league Boston Red Sox organization, bought the PawSox from its prior owners, including Mondor’s widow, and planned to find a new playing venue outside the City of Pawtucket.

The news stunned fans who have come to see McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket as part of the experience. Built in 1940 with about half of its current capacity, it pre-dates the 1950s architectural preference for generic multipurpose athletic and entertainment facilities instead of baseball-only parks, a trend that dominated into the 1990s. McCoy is small, with a capacity of 10,000, but typical of the rest of the AAA-level International League in which the PawSox play: of the 14 league members, 8 play in parks with capacity between 10,000 and 10,500. By contrast, major-league baseball venues seat between 35,000 (Oakland) and 56,000 (Los Angeles).

Whatever its shortcomings, not least its age and location some distance off the Interstate highway and surrounded by unbuildable swampland, city-owned McCoy Stadium has one indisputable advantage: it’s already paid for. Nor is it in disrepair, with significant renovations in the late 1990s and early 2000s financed by rounds of government bonds that totaled around $15 million. There is abundant free parking.

The new owners have told anyone who will listen that they want to move the team to Providence, building a new “destination stadium” on land condemned by the state because of the I-195 highway relocation project. Various sources have cited a combined cost of about $100 million, of which $60 million would be new construction and $40 million would be land, each part raising separate questions. According to numerous reports, the expectation is that construction would be privately financed while the land would be subject to some as-yet-undetermined public subsidy.

There is no doubt that $60 million of construction is not justified by baseball alone. Valuing a professional sports franchise is incredibly difficult, because often prices are driven more by owner ego and intangible fan goodwill than by any rational accounting measure. The PawSox are a private business and do not disclose their financial information, but The Boston Globe estimated the sales price for the team at $20 million, which seems about right. The forced sale last year of the National Basketball Association Los Angeles Clippers was reportedly at a price of $2 billion, but that’s a very different world where tickets sell for many times the cost of minor-league baseball, much of the revenue derives from television rights, and the hometown is the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area with a population of 13.1 million. The Providence metropolitan area, which includes parts of nearby Massachusetts, is the nation’s 38th largest with a population of 1.6 million.

Without access to the PawSox financials, it is possible to do some quick “back of the envelope” calculations. Most income comes from ticket sales. If the PawSox sold out all 10,000 seats in 70 games per season at an average ticket price of $10 per seat, that would generate about $7 million per year. Selling out every seat at every game is unrealistic, but this establishes an upper limit. If every attendee also bought $10 worth of food and beer, that would add another $7 million. (Since we’re making unjustified assumptions, anyway, we might as well keep the math simple.) Advertising isn’t much, probably all together under $100,000 per year; even the principal naming rights on a major-league stadium are only worth around $50,000 per year. Adding in a few extras, such as luxury boxes and special events, this establishes an upper bound of about $15 million in annual gross revenue under the most optimistic possible scenario; in all likelihood, it’s probably actually closer to half that.

But that is gross revenue, from which operating expenses, including everything from payroll to cost of goods for resale, must be deducted. Employees cost money, as do the hot dogs and beer being sold. If we assume that the PawSox are a well-administered and tightly run business with good internal controls, they might be able to keep expenses down to about 80% of gross, leaving 20% as net profit – which is still only about $3 million per year under the optimistic scenario. A more realistic guess would be half that, and it would not be surprising to learn that the PawSox are operating close to break-even. The revenue potential is what is technically called “inelastic,” because doubling prices for tickets and concessions, for example, would probably depress sales and result in a net negative result.

Although $3 million per year in profit may seem like a large number, and it is a pretty healthy chunk of change for what is essentially a locally controlled small business, it does not justify constructing a $60 million stadium. Anyone willing to make that sort of capital investment is expecting revenue well beyond baseball. The typical claim is that a new stadium would be a catalyst for development, drawing additional new construction for shopping malls, hotels, entertainment venues and urban businesses. The problem with that model in Providence is that this already happened a short distance away. Just as the opening of the Providence Place Mall cannibalized the malls in Warwick, driving the Rhode Island Mall into closure, any new shopping mall would compete with the Providence Place Mall and any new entertainment arena would compete with the Civic Center/Dunkin Donuts Center.

So what justifies a $60 million construction project at the proposed location? Once the traditional urban renaissance businesses are ruled out, the only kind of business not already in Downtown Providence with the potential to generate enough revenue, at least that I can think of, would be a gambling casino. I have no evidence that this is what is intended by anyone, but the numbers really don’t work in any other way that I can see. Could Providence support two adjacent shopping malls and two adjacent indoor arenas at the same time? Or will the end result be to do to Twin River what was done to the Rhode Island Mall?

Originally, the plan was to use the I-195 relocation project land for office complexes, establishing a “knowledge district” in co-operation with Brown University and its medical school, the Rhode Island School of Design, Johnson and Wales University, and other entities who already have a strong presence in that area. The state floated almost $40 million in bonds to buy that land via eminent domain from property owners, expecting to repay those bonds from proceeds of selling the land to private developers to create the knowledge district.

Eminent domain, the power of the government to condemn private land and take it from property owners for public purposes, is a hotly contested political issue today. The Takings Clauses in both the federal and state constitutions afford protection against government abuse, requiring that the taking be for “public use” and that the owner be given “just compensation,” terms that have led to numerous court disputes. In 2006, the United States Supreme Court decided that the town of New London, Conn., could involuntarily take land from one private owner and transfer it to another private owner to further a redevelopment plan that would result in higher property taxes. That ruling sparked massive outrage leading to a national reform effort, with several states prohibiting such practices by legislative or judicial action. In the end, the New London redevelopment plan fell through, leaving the land vacant after most of the buildings on it had already been knocked down, and it ended up becoming, quite literally, a dump – further fueling political outrage.

While the Providence land was originally condemned for a highway project, its value was appraised subject to the plan for eventual use as part of the knowledge district. Although the general rule is that “just compensation” in the context of eminent domain is based upon the fair market value at the time of the taking and does not consider future uses that are purely speculative, this is not an absolute rule and there are exceptions where it would work an injustice. If the original owners of the land sued the state claiming that, had their land not been taken involuntarily then the construction of a “destination stadium” might have greatly increased its value, they might well have a case. Even if that is an uphill legal battle in the face of precedents dating to the 1930s, the mere filing of a suit would have two guaranteed effects: First, the state would be exposed to potentially enormous liability that could plausibly reach several times the $40 million actually paid for the land, and, second, the assertion of such an argument citing the constitutional Takings Clauses would instantly raise the court case to national political significance. And, of course, the state might lose.

How – or even if – the state plans to make the I-195 land available for a new stadium is unclear. According to press reports, the new owners of the PawSox have not actually asked for it and the elected officials of the state say they have not yet been asked for it. If the proposal involves the state providing the land at no cost, sticking the taxpayers with the $40 million bond cost if the land is not sold as planned, that would seem a political and financial impossibility.

Official projections are that the Rhode Island state government will spend $151.1 million more than it takes in during the fiscal year ending in 2016 and $256.7 million more than it takes in during the fiscal year ending in 2017. The political climate has been thoroughly poisoned by the 38 Studios collapse into bankruptcy in 2012 that may or may not have left the taxpayers holding the bag for at least $75 million of loan guarantees.

Ultimately, the fiscal realities of today make any sizable public subsidy of a sports stadium unlikely in the way it might have been done in the past. The Buffalo Bisons, the AAA-level competitors of the PawSox, play in the largest park in the International League with a capacity of over 18,000; it was built in the 1980s at a reported cost of $42 million, of which the State of New York kicked in $22 million and various city, county and other public contributors paid for the rest. It is widely acclaimed as a beautiful venue and was, in fact, the prototype for Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles, by the same designer.

While the PawSox are as archetypically American as baseball, motherhood and apple pie, devoted fans have to recognize that their deep emotional loyalty is to a private business. If the PawSox decide to leave Pawtucket for what they see as greener pastures, there is not much that anyone can do to stop them. I fear the team will inevitably raise the threat of moving to another state if the Providence stadium does not materialize. Whether to publicly subsidize the project and to what extent are decisions that must be made with cold rationality and in light of hard numbers with full transparency and disclosure. We cannot afford another 38 Studios deal cooked up in back rooms and railroaded through without due diligence.

Teams of the AAA-level International League and their venues:


Playing venues of major-league baseball teams:


Landmark Supreme Court case on the constitutional Takings Clause:


“Pawtucket Red Sox sold; group eyes Providence” by Alex Speier, Boston Globe, Feb 23:


“Mixed scorecard for ballpark economics” by Paul Grimaldi, Providence Journal, Feb 28:


“It’s the Economy, Stupid!” by Michael Bilow, Motif, Aug 6:


Workshop: The Business Experience of Filmmaking

jim“A lot of people don’t emphasize the business aspect in the academy. How do you make a living?” asked Jim Jermanok rhetorically, explaining the focus of his workshop, Successful Film Producing and Financing: Making Your Film Happen, to be offered at the Brooklyn Coffee and Tea House in Providence on Fri, Feb 21.

Jermanok said that his Command Performance Productions has conducted this “workshop – seminar – master class” nearby in Boston and New London and at film festivals at Cannes and throughout the world, but this will be the first time in Rhode Island. “I love your state. It’s a real pleasure to be there. I’ve been all over Rhode Island.” He said that principal photography for Passionada, on which he was executive producer and co-screenwriter, was in New Bedford and Dartmouth in Massachusetts, but had a few days of shooting in Rhode Island; the film starred Jason Isaacs, Sofia Milos, and Emmy Rossum.

Jermanok has decades of experience making a living from creative endeavors, he said, in roles ranging from working as an agent to writing, directing and producing. “No one like me is speaking on this subject,” he said. “Almost no one who speaks on entertainment topics is actually making a living in the field.” Independent filmmaking has changed radically and continues to do so, he said. “The business has changed. The economy has changed. We’re going to consumers to [both] finance and distribute. We’re compelled to build our own audiences, to market to them, and to distribute to them.”

His workshop is targeted toward actors, writers, directors and “especially producers,” but would be valuable to any working or aspiring creative professional, including crew members, who are “looking to get their creative project off the ground,” he said. Some attendees have already made a number of films but anyone should attend “who wants to learn and enhance their knowledge to succeed in a very difficult economy and industry,” he said. “No one has too little or too much experience” for the workshop. “It’s all meat, no fluff. I distill 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry into five hours.”

Jermanok said he is thankful to Rhode Island filmmaker Mike Messier and to Anthony Demings of Rhodywood and Brooklyn Coffee and Tea House for making the workshop possible. Steven Feinberg, executive director of the state Film and Television Office, is expected to attend. In addition to the Providence workshop on Saturday, there will be another offering in Worcester, Mass., the next day on Sunday.

Jim Jermanok’s web site: jimjermanok.com

Successful Film Producing and Financing: Making Your Film Happen! Brooklyn Coffee & Tea House, 209 Douglas Ave, PVD. Sat, 2/21, 10am – 3pm. Registration: eventbrite.com/e/successful-film-producing-financing-making-your-film-happen-tickets-15129451597

Successful Film Producing and Financing: Making Your Film Happen! Clark University, Tilton Hall, Higgins University Center, 2nd Floor, 950 Main St, Worcester, Mass. Sun, 2/22, 10am – 3pm. Registration: eventbrite.com/e/successful-film-producing-financing-making-your-film-happen-tickets-15386939751

Providence French Film Festival 2015

Shoggy 2009The 2015 annual Providence French Film Festival is dedicated in memory of its long-time director, Shoggy Waryn, who passed away only days before the opening of the festival last year in February 2014. Waryn, a native of France, was active with the festival since joining the Brown University faculty in 2001 and became the festival director in 2005. According to a statement from the Brown French Studies department, he had been instrumental in securing funding from the Sevaux Family Foundation to hold the annual event and to build Brown’s collection of French films at its Modern Culture and Media Department into one of the most extensive in the country. The festival was originally founded in 1998 by Sylvie Toux, who was Waryn’s predecessor at Brown, according to Richard Manning, film archivist at Brown University who now serves as director.

Comprising 12 films all shown at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, the home of the festival since its founding, the festival opens on Wed, Feb 25, and tries to screen each film twice before concluding the following Tues, March 3. This amounts to about one-third fewer films over one-third fewer days than last year. “This reduction might set a precedent for the next several years,” Manning said. “As much as everyone involved does a good job, Shoggy was the energy and the drive behind the festival.” Many people at Brown pitch in as a “labor of love” to screen films and make up schedules in addition to their regular teaching and other duties, he said.

In past years, the festival tried to host directors and give them an opportunity to present their films in person, often before they became known even to art house audiences. Manning said that Olivier Assayas, whose breakthrough did not come until Irma Vep in 1996, screened his L’eau froide (Cold Water) from 1994 and Une nouvelle vie (A New Life) from 1993, prints of which at that time would have been impossible to obtain but for the personal involvement of the director. Early films by Assayas are more available now, and this is a common pattern, Manning said. “A film somehow gets distribution and becomes an art house favorite. People ask, ‘What else did this director make?’”

Although the festival is a Brown project, it is not academically oriented and all screenings are open to the public with tickets sold on the Cable Car Cinema website. The tone of the festival has changed over the years, Manning said, in ways that long-term attendees often notice, seeking the “right kind of balance between the so-called ‘tough’ cinema and lighter but still entertaining cinema.” He said that this change was characteristic of French film generally, rather than the festival specifically.

The expanding market for digital distribution via online streaming media such as Netflix and physical media such as DVD and Blu-ray disc has motivated re-masterings and improved translations that likely would not have occurred otherwise, Manning said. He singled out Le jour se lève (Daybreak), originally made in 1939 by the collaborative team of director Marcel Carné and writer Jacques Prévert, as a prominent example of this trend that will be featured in its re-mastered version at this year’s festival. Released only a few months before the outbreak of World War II, the film was suppressed during the war by the Nazi-puppet Vichy government in France and then suppressed after the war by RKO pictures who produced an English-language remake (The Long Night) that was critically panned. The French original was presumed lost until its rediscovery in the 1950s – after which it was acclaimed as one of the best films of all-time.

The industry-wide change to digital distribution rather than film prints has made previously obscure films more easily available. “Personally, I still like the way 35mm looks, when it’s projected well,” Manning said, as opposed to digital, which can have an “overly clean, sheen glimmer to it, but for some films it doesn’t bother me.” Although it has been widely noted that digital production has democratized making films, “becoming a cinephile has been democratized, too,” he said. “Two of the films we screened last year were already available on Netflix, but we still drew good crowds.” Overall ticket sales were around 55 to 75% of capacity, “which is good if you consider late afternoons in mid-week” that figured into the average, he said.

In addition to the re-mastered Le jour se lève (Daybreak), Manning recommended other films in this year’s festival that he considered in the “first tier” due audience attention: Jealousy by Philippe Garrel (Wed 2/25 9pm, Sun 3/1 6:30pm), Girlhood by Céline Sciamma (Thu 2/26 6:30pm, Fri 2/27 6:30pm), Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako (Sat 2/28 4pm matinee, Mon 3/2 9pm), and La Folie Almayer (Almayer’s Folly) by Chantal Akerman (Sat 2/28 6:30pm, Tue 3/3 9pm).

Cable Car Cinema & Cafe, 204 South Main St, PVD, 401-272-3970. Films listing with synopses, show times, and advanced ticket purchasing: http://www.cablecarcinema.com/

Brown University: http://brown.edu/academics/modern-culture-and-media/http%3A/brown.edu/academics/modern-culture-and-media/events-2014-2015/2015-providence-french-film-fest

Facebook festival page: https://www.facebook.com/providencefrenchfilmfestival

Facebook event page (including full schedule): https://www.facebook.com/events/850172485005523/

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: By Their Own Insinuation

I should concede at the outset that Tom Stoppard’s now-classic meta-theatrical Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is one of my favorite plays. It is a clever and rapid-fire comedy that combines Marx Brothers witticisms with serious philosophical quandaries, but – trust me on this from personal experience – is a lot funnier than a graduate-level metaphysics class.

The titular characters are two minor courtiers in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, arguably the single best-known play in the English language. Everyone is familiar with it, even if they have never seen it or read it, because it is so much a part of the culture. If you know The Lion King or Sons of Anarchy, you know at least the basic outline of Hamlet. The meta-joke is that we, the audience, know the whole story of Hamlet, but the courtiers only see glimpses of it, trying to make sense of their roles like mice on a battlefield.

By 1966, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was first performed, having characters in a play come to consciousness of their status as characters in a play was by no means a new idea. Luigi Pirandello did it memorably in the 1920s with Six Characters in Search of an Author. Even the device of coin-flipping as an indication of determinism had been used a few years earlier by the science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick in his 1962 masterpiece The Man in the High Castle where the characters, trapped in an alternative history where Germany and Japan won World War II, cast I Ching fortune telling rods to learn something about what the readers of the book would regard as reality where Germany and Japan lost the war. All of these works, including the original Hamlet, have a play within a play or a book within a book as well. Nor was Shakespeare himself above this kind of playful meta-joke: in Hamlet, he has the characters of Hamlet and Polonius discussing their previous acting experience playing the roles of Brutus and Caesar, almost certainly a reference to the same actors having performed in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Wilbury Group puts their unique stamp on it and plays this for all it’s worth, slyly referencing through scenery and delivery recent pop-cultural memes such as the hip-hop parody I’m on a Boat. The Tragedian Band (Julia Bartoletti, Tom Grace, Marc Kaplan, and David Tessier) perform covers of, among other things, Any Road by George Harrison (“With the spin of the wheel with the roll of the dice; Ah yeah, you pay your fare; If you don’t know where you’re going; Any road will take you there”), Tumbling Dice by the Rolling Stones (“You got to roll me and call me the tumblin’; Roll me and call me the tumblin’ dice”) and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue by Bob Dylan (“The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense; Take what you have gathered from coincidence; The empty-handed painter from your streets; Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets”).

Joshua Andrews (Rosencrantz) and Patrick Saunders (Guildenstern) hold the stage from their entrances to their exits, surprisingly sympathetic characters because they are so utterly and cheerfully clueless, despite our knowing they are obsequious jerks whom Hamlet dismisses without remorse (“They are not near my conscience; their defeat does by their own insinuation grow”). Blissful in their ignorance, often smiling idiotically yet vaguely troubled by inconvenient curiosity, they remain unaware of the events swirling about them.

David Tessier stands out in the central role of “The Player,” the head of the company of tragedians, who is the only character who has even a hint of his own significance or lack thereof. Near the end, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are wondering what they did wrong and what they could have done differently, it is The Player who demonstrates that the answers, respectively, are nothing and nothing, because the play was written that way. Tessier’s Player deliberately overacts, a version of his character who is himself a meta-character, in order to emphasize the artificiality of theater. This is a difficult task that, if done badly in the hands of a less capable actor, deteriorates into  foolishness.

Nile Hawver (Hamlet), Julia Bartoletti (Tragedian, Ophelia), Andrea Carlin (Tragedian), Cory Crew (Tragedian, Claudius), Sam Dumas (Alfred), Seth Finkle (Tragedian), Melissa Penick (Tragedian, Gertrude), and Stuart Wilson (Tragedian, Polonius) round out the capable cast.

The best part of Wilbury Group’s production is that it captures the playfulness and humor, both high-brow and low-brow, not only in the script but in the very structure of the play. Fortunately for the comedy, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a lot closer in tone to the Marx Brothers than one of the targets of its satire, Waiting for Godot, is to Laurel and Hardy.

The show is appropriate for anyone who would understand The Lion King. It’s the most fun you’re likely to have at a hanging.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Wilbury Group, 393 Broad St, Providence. Directed by Josh Short. Thu 1/29, 2/5, 2/12, Fri 1/30, 2/6, 2/13, Sat 1/31, 2/7, 2/14 at 7:30pm; Sun 2/1 at 2pm. About 90 minutes in two acts with one intermission. E-mail: info@thewilburygroup.org Web: thewilburygroup.org/now-playing.html

Facebook event: facebook.com/events/1528132430772766/

Tickets: brownpapertickets.com/event/986011 or telephone 401.400.7100

Braving the Terrorists at the Cable Car Cinema

The Cable Car Cinema in Providence was among a phalanx of independent theaters that screened The Interview after all of the major chains abandoned it, fearful of controversy and terrorist threats generally assumed to emanate from North Korea, where some were unhappy to see their dictator Kim Jong-Un portrayed as an assassinated buffoon.

The first two showings on opening day, Dec 26, had sold out well in advance and the last showing, although starting after midnight, nearly did. At 7pm there was already a line down the block for the 7:30 show. A Providence police car was parked in front of the theater and patrol officers Sion and Levesque were keeping watch over an orderly crowd devoid of North Korean terrorists or any other trouble. According to owner Daniel Kamil, the officers were provided at the initiative of the Providence Police Department, which he said “has been lovely and supportive.”

Enough has been written about The Interview that we assume pretty much everyone reading this knows by now that (SPOILER ALERT) Kim ends up set on fire: first his clothing, then his hair, and eventually his head explodes with parts of his skull blown away. According to news reports, Sony of Japan intervened for the first time ever in a production by their American subsidiary, Sony Pictures Entertainment (formerly Columbia Pictures), because of concerns that the death scene was too graphic. They requested fewer skull fragments. The scene is intentionally grating in a comedy, but by that point in the film worrying about the number of pieces of skull flying around is on par with putting orange traffic cones in front of the Grand Canyon.

Seeing The Interview in a theater is a different experience than watching it alone at home. Because there is no laugh track and the funniest lines are delivered deadpan, watching with at least a group of a few other people vastly improves the viewer’s experience of the film. I had the film available for viewing days earlier but deliberately avoided watching it privately because I wanted to see it for the first time with the sold-out crowd at the Cable Car. A number of audience members approached at random expressed different motivations for attending.

A group eating pizza in the cafe before the show, who gave their names as Ross, Adam and Ben, did not even share the same reasons, although all were fans of past Rogen/Franco movies. Ross said that he wanted to “see it with a crowd, see it with a whole group of people.” Adam observed that it was “way more likely for people online to be victims of hacking than to have the projection room blown up.” Ben, referring to the initial cancellation of the release, said that he was motivated by “freedom of speech, because they tell me I can’t see it.”

Eric and his 14 year-old son Henry were more emphatic about the political consideration. “We came here despite the [negative] reviews to support free speech,” Eric said.

Joe said that he was a “huge fan of Rogen and Franco” and that it is “always better to see movies in person [at a theater]. I’m not going to be bullied into not seeing it.” Melissa, who was with Joe, said that she was “reassured to see the cops.”

Former Providence mayoral candidate Lorne Adrain and his wife, novelist Ann Hood, were also in the audience. Adrain emphasized that he did not criticize the decision by Sony and other theaters to pull the movie “in an abundance of caution,” but Hood disagreed, saying, “Sony made a mistake when they pulled it.” Adrain said, “The truth is we probably would not have come without the controversy. It’s really important to make sure artists can continue to produce art and have venues.” Hood added, “It’s important to make a statement,” and that she had come “to support the Cable Car [showing the film], and it’s great for Providence.”

Owner Kamil said that he was happy to participate in the move by independent theaters nationwide to screen the film. “It was an issue of ‘we are a venue that shows things other people won’t show,’ but I never thought a Franco-Rogen buddy comedy would fit into that category.” Speaking to the audience before a door-prize drawing for a film promotional poster, Kamil said, “It’s a core belief [here] that any government entity or individual can’t threaten what we want to see.”

When his ticket was drawn, the winner of the raffle was so excited that he jumped out of his seat, punched the air, and shouted, “BOOM!” Kamil immediately quipped, “Don’t say ‘Boom.’”

The Interview: More Than Just Poop and Fart Jokes

No motion picture could live up to its hype after the unprecedented rollercoaster ride The Interview has had. Still, The Interview is a much better film than many of the reviews would have you believe.

To be clear, the film is no contender to be a cinematic classic, but it also is a lot more serious and clever than a typical Seth Rogen-James Franco vehicle: After excavating past the obligatory poop and fart jokes, there is a funny black comedy underneath with a real plot and well-defined, although deliberately caricatured, main characters. By contrast, removing the usual Rogen-Franco inanity from, say, Pineapple Express, would leave little more than a three-minute short. The writing at times is very sharp, directed more against the American media’s preoccupation with celebrity tripe than against North Korea. The satire is so over-the-top that the film tries to follow the tone of Dr. Strangelove, and by that stratospheric standard it is a high compliment to say that it does not totally fail.

The Interview opens with hilarious appearances by celebrities Eminem and Rob Lowe using the “Skylark Tonight” talk show hosted by Franco’s character, Dave Skylark, to make sensationally prurient revelations about themselves. Rogen’s character, Aaron Rapoport, has been Skylark’s producer for 1,000 episodes over 10 years, but yearns to put his journalism education to better use by covering “serious” news. He gets his chance when, by happenstance, they learn that the reclusive dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, is a fan of their show.

North Korea and its dictator are certainly skewered in the process, but they are mostly plot devices rendered so fictitiously as to bear little resemblance to their real-life incarnations. Randall Park’s portrayal of Kim as a sociopath who is charming and pathetic rather than bombastic and arrogant is surprisingly funny. There are few cues to signal to the uninformed viewer what has a real basis – such as the bizarre claims that the godlike “Supreme Leader” can talk with dolphins or that he has mastered bodily functions so efficiently that he neither urinates nor defecates – and what is totally imaginary – such as the existence of a fleet of nuclear missiles that can be launched from North Korea to blow up California. Scenes of Kim playing pick-up basketball with Franco’s character are likewise well-deserved shots at the real-life Dennis Rodman, a former NBA star who through naivety and buffoonery allowed himself to be exploited as a public relations shill for a brutal dictator he delusionally described as his “friend for life.”

Once Kim agrees to be interviewed, the American Central Intelligence Agency recruits Skylark and Rapoport to assassinate him by administering a transdermal dose of ricin during a handshake. (Never mind that ricin has to be injected, ingested, or inhaled. Never mind that ricin actually takes a good three to five days to kill someone. Hey, there’s probably no actual pineapple in Pineapple Express, either.) One hopes that the real CIA would not put itself in the position of relying upon anyone who seems as much of a boob as Skylark, but they also wouldn’t call themselves “agents.” (The parlance for what the movie describes as an “agent” would be an “officer,” but it’s a sure bet no one at the CIA was consulted on the production of this movie.) The film is devoid of any true minimally competent tradecraft, such as assuming that all of the rooms in Kim’s palace are bugged, but of course that would bring a rapid end to the entire plot. Nor is there any acknowledgment that the CIA has been prohibited by regulation since the 1970s from using journalists as cover because it puts all journalists in danger, although there is considerable evidence that it is still done. The mythical CIA of the film alternates between amazing abilities, such as delivering an emergency replacement supply of poison via an elaborate process ending with a drone capsule dropped inside Kim’s compound, and staggering incompetence, such as recruiting Skylark in the first place. The drone capsule drop, by the way, prominently involves a tiger, which the typical American audience is unlikely to realize is the national symbol of Korea very much like the bald eagle is of the United States.

The traditional conventions of the “bromance” genre are upended by a crisis where Skylark engages in a day of male-bonding with Kim, joyriding around in an old Soviet tank that he says Stalin gave to his grandfather Kim Il-Sung, threatening Skylark’s long-standing friendship with Rapoport. (Should I even bother to note that real Soviet tanks were so cramped that the Red Army preferred left-handed gunners?) Kim and Skylark share daddy issues, a love for margaritas and Katy Perry, and a wild orgy involving topless Asian women. Eventually circumstances lead even the gullible and stupid Skylark to an epiphany that Kim is playing him for a fool, no matter how much he likes topless Asian women, which at least makes him less of a fool than Dennis Rodman.

The climax of the film, appropriately, is the interview between Skylark and Kim, telecast live to the world including the people of North Korea, and the immediate aftermath of the interview. Kim’s staff has written both the questions and the answers, and the main suspense arises from uncertainty whether Skylark will risk going off-script and having the broadcast terminated.

Understood as a black comedy, The Interview fits solidly within a tradition of political satire ranging from the aforementioned Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick in 1964 to even older precursors such as To Be or Not to Be by Ernst Lubitsch in 1942 – and Lubitsch pours more graphic and violent death into his anti-Nazi comedy than can be found in The Interview. Widely made comparisons to The Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin are very strained, as that lacks cynicism and therefore is not black comedy; despite its legitimately earned status as a masterpiece, it is straightforward satirical farce intended to make the demons of 1940, Hitler and Mussolini, look ridiculous.

The prior collaboration between directorial team Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, This Is the End, is a high-concept black comedy about the Biblical Apocalypse, and although clever in its way never finds a clear target. With The Interview, they overcome that limitation: It is not intended to be a laugh riot, and it has taken some criticism because it is not, but it is by no means unfunny and it very precisely and effectively aims its ample supply of black humor at deserving targets. Long after Pineapple Express becomes a forgotten nostalgic curiosity, The Interview may be remembered as among the best of the Rogen-Franco collaborations.

Opinion: Sony Appeases North Korea

nkNorth Korea is one of history’s most brutal, irrational, vicious, and cruel regimes. The so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is not democratic, views its people as dehumanized slaves to the collective, and sullies the notion of republicanism through rule by a monarchic dynasty now in its third generation. Despite its status as the closest realization of George Orwell’s dystopian fascist nightmares, North Korea continues to be seen by most Americans, and by most American media, as more ridiculous than evil. This is a mistake.

A few weeks ago, Sony Pictures Entertainment had its computer systems infiltrated and confidential information taken that was publicly revealed by the infiltrators. Aside from embarrassing e-mail messages and private records about employees and actors, including home addresses, telephone numbers, credit card numbers and salaries, several commercial films (both released and unreleased) were pirated. It is universally suspected that the computer attack was carried out by infiltration groups under the command and control of the government of North Korea, widely reputed to be heavily invested in the new field of “cyber-warfare.”

Sony is presumed to have been targeted because of its film The Interview, originally scheduled for release on Christmas Day. The official Sony summary (from IMDB) is sufficient to give a sense of why: “In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show ‘Skylark Tonight.’ When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un.”

'The Interview' Barcelona Photocall

On the one hand, it’s easy to see why any nation would legitimately be upset about a film whose core plot is about the assassination of its head of state: If North Korea made a comedy about trying to assassinate Barack Obama, there would be outrage among Americans. From their frame of reference in a totalitarian state where the government controls absolutely every aspect of daily life, there is a legitimate cognitive disconnect where the North Koreans are incapable of understanding that Sony’s stupid satire movie is not an instrument of United States foreign policy. Ironically, Rogen and Franco, playing characters who bumble their way into a high-stakes diplomatic crisis, actually did bumble their way into a high-stakes diplomatic crisis.

At first, leaked information from the computer infiltration was released showing that Sony spent $44 million making The Interview, including paying Rogen $8.4 million for co-directing and acting and paying Franco $6.5 million for acting. Threats of violence were circulated, leading Sony to cancel the premiere of the film in New York City and to cancel all promotional appearances for Rogen and Franco. Eventually Sony announced that movie theater exhibition chains with concerns about safety of their facilities, their staffs, and their audiences would be excused from contract if they wanted to pull out of showing the film, and all of them did. At this point, it seems doubtful whether the film will make it out of the Sony vault ever to be seen by anyone.

There is certainly precedent for films inspiring terrorist acts and getting people killed. In March 1977, 12 Hanafi Muslims under the command of Hamaas Abdul Khaalis staged a coordinated simultaneous attack on three targets in Washington, DC. Separate terrorist teams captured the District Building (the then-equivalent of city hall), the Islamic Center, and the headquarters of Jewish organization B’nai B’rith where the captives were beaten and stabbed with machetes. Over a 39-hour siege, the terrorists held 150 people hostage, killing two and severely wounding others. Although Khaalis had broken from the Nation of Islam and his family including five children and nine-day-old grandson had been massacred in apparent retaliation, his principal demand was the withdrawal and destruction of the film Mohammed, Messenger of God because, he claimed, it defiled Islam by depicting the Prophet. As he said to The Washington Post, “We have told this [American] government that that picture is not to play in this country, that we will not stand for the mockery of our Prophet and our Lord Allah, not while we live. Some Muslims must stand up.”

Sony, by capitulating to terrorist threats and squelching The Interview, is doing grave damage to the real national security of the United States. If the response to Pearl Harbor had been to withdraw all American forces in the Pacific Ocean back to California, avoiding an unpleasant fight by surrendering Hawaii and the Philippines, the world would be much different – and much less safe – today. War is never a good thing, but when someone drops bombs on you, you’re in one whether you like it or not.

As a friend of mine pointed out, if the American government had politely asked Sony to suppress the opening of a film, there rightly would be an outcry about First Amendment violation; North Korea has no concern for such niceties.

Certainly it is understandable that theater exhibitors are worried about physical safety, and maybe The Interview can no longer be released theatrically due to concerns about both moral and financial liability should a showing be targeted by terrorists, but in the modern world this is no excuse to suppress the film itself. Now that Sony has clearly given up all hope of recovering the $44 million they spent to make it, they might as well post the film to the Internet for free: they would not even need web servers, but could make a courageous patriotic statement by putting a copy on one computer and connecting it to BitTorrent, issuing a press release, and letting tens of thousands of anonymous volunteers help them out.

One of the most deservedly famous scenes in cinematic history occurs in Casablanca where a group of German soldiers in the Nazi-occupied city is singing “Die Wacht am Rhein” and the entire café is roused to drown them out with the French national anthem “La Marseillaise.” It’s an unforgettable scene, especially if you know that half the extras were genuinely in tears at the filming because they were real-life refugees from the Nazis. It’s a commonplace in talking about Casablanca to say they don’t make films like that anymore, but the relevant question is: Do they make filmmakers like that anymore?

The 1977 Hanafi Muslim seige of Washington, DC:

“La Marseillaise” scene from Casablanca:

Ty Davis: NewPaper Founder on the Closing of the Providence Phoenix

phoenixThe closing of The Providence Phoenix last week after 36 years is “a sign of the times,” said Ty Davis, the founding publisher of The NewPaper in 1978. He continued in that role until its sale to The Boston Phoenix group that led to its eventual re-branding as The Providence Phoenix. During that decade running the paper, he saw at first-hand the initial stirrings of what would become known as the “Providence Renaissance” that moved arts, music and culture as much as it moved the river.

Many mourn the loss, including Motif publisher, Mike Ryan, who wrote, “Modern American media needs this spirit [of the alternative press] more now than ever before, and to lose a voice in support of that cause is a loss for all of us.” Davis, however, was philosophical and praised its staying power. “I’m amazed it survived as long as it did. It could have gone down the tubes as early as 2001, with the rise of the Internet,” Davis said, noting the business pressures facing the entire industry that forced its Boston parent to cease printing in March 2013. “There will always be a need for information, but it’s gotta be paid for.”

Although he had relatively little to do with it after he sold it to The Boston Phoenix group under Stephen Mindich, “They did a great job of leaving the paper alone,” Davis said. “The Providence Phoenix today looks a lot nicer than The NewPaper did when I sold it in 1988. The changes in technology have been amazing.”

Davis started his journalistic career in 1967 with The Providence Journal, then a powerhouse that dominated Rhode Island in a way that no publication is ever likely to be able to do again. “My first piece was about an album by a new guy that no one had heard of – Jimi Hendrix,” Davis said. Covering the Woodstock Festival in 1969, Davis had a press pass that was supposed to allow him backstage, but “it was so crazy I never got a chance to use it,” he said. He recalled from being in the press van that the famous estimate of 400,000 attendees originated from a remark by a police sergeant to a reporter from The New York Times, but he is convinced that the true number was much higher, at least 500,000.

His then-employer was often “the only thing that stood between the people and anarchy,” Davis said, praising its commitment to honest news reporting in what was then a Mafia-run city. “A lot of the writing was first-rate. They got a Pulitzer for reporting that [President] Nixon didn’t pay any taxes.” Still, in the era of the Vietnam War and the years immediately afterward, he felt the paper “was not reporting the stuff that was out there” and editorially had become “very right-wing at the time.” Davis said that he began meeting veterans “coming out of the Vietnam era, talking to guys coming home giving us a totally different story” than had been officially reported.

The desire to start an alternative magazine percolated for years in Davis’ mind because he was “very frustrated” that he consistently had a half-page of material on his beat but could only get an eighth-page into print. The NewPaper was, he said, an extension of his Journal column in coverage of arts and music.

The music scene was changing along with radio stations taking the attitude, as Davis put it, “Why do we have to have a three-minute song? Why can’t we have a five-minute song?” Live clubs such as Lupo’s and the Living Room were opening up and needed to reach their audience, and that became a main role for the alternative press and a source of much of its advertising revenue. “Rich Lupo, in particular, was a huge factor in the ‘Providence Renaissance.’ I’ve made the case that it began when Lupo brought Bo Diddley to town and had the Young Adults backing him,” Davis said. “The first time I saw the new mayor [Cianci] was at the opening of Lupo’s, drinking for free at the open bar.” Lupo and Living Room owner Randy Hein “represented a whole new way of doing things,” Davis said, “especially because they were not mob-connected.”

Davis is proud that he upheld journalistic principles. “We never did editorial trade for advertising. We had a fairly strict separation, which the Phoenix continued. I firmly believe that it resulted in our having a much better reputation, and people could trust us,” he said. On the other hand, often the advertising people provided story leads. “That’s how we found out about a new thing called ‘paintball.’ The ad staff were an underrated part of the paper.” As a matter of policy, quotes were not cleaned up, he said, remembering an incident when the Journal claimed that presidential candidate George McGovern had told someone “Kiss my backside,” a claim that was not believable to anyone. “We tried to avoid vulgarity, but we always quoted people accurately,” Davis said.

“I’m very much a Rhode Island booster and I think it’s a great place to live. It’s small enough to get around and get your business off the ground,” Davis said. “You can get a meeting with the governor or the mayor just by asking for it.” He was told that The NewPaper itself was an integral part of the ‘Providence Renaissance.’ “It was exciting to be part of it.”

Providence Phoenix Folds Its Wings” by Mike Ryan, Oct 10, 2014,


“Dear Providence Phoenix: An avalanche of remembrances, tributes, tall tales, and trivia,” Oct 15, 2014,


The Addams Family Musical: Kooky, Spooky, and Ooky Fun

addamPremiering their new black box theater space off Glenbridge Avenue on the West Side of Providence with a Halloween musical, the Academy Players of Rhode Island put on a fun and entertaining show, albeit with a plot so thinly obvious as to amount to deliberate self-parody, in The Addams Family Musical. Something of the flip side to The Fantasticks, it centers on two young lovers trying to get their families to bless their plans to marry. The Addamses are a rather unusual family, doing such things as raising their dead ancestors for celebrations, while the Beinekes are far more ordinary.

Originally a series of single-panel gag cartoons in The New Yorker drawn by Charles Addams beginning in 1938, The Addams Family is best known today because of a television situation comedy that ran for only two seasons from 1964 to 1966, but then entered syndication seemingly forever, spawning animated series, video games, and live-action films. Neither the macabre family nor its members had names until they were needed for the television series and a line of dolls, and it was the doll maker who called the daughter “Wednesday” from the old folk rhyme that included the line “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”

Although Addams was repeatedly barraged with proposals for a live theatrical version even before his death in 1988, it took until 2010 for anything to come to fruition, and it was this musical that made it to Broadway. At one point Addams worked to develop a play with colleague Wolcott Gibbs, theater critic at The New Yorker, but nothing came of it. According to biographer Linda Davis, one of the worst such proposals came in a letter from an obscure writer in 1961 suggesting that the family surname be “Monster,” that the children be named “Rack” and “Ruin,” and that the mansion have a wreath of marijuana plants on the front door for Christmas; Addams scribbled “save in case of blackmail” on the letter and filed it away.

Fortunately, the musical employs the characters as we now know them. Jack B. Klaus plays a stellar Gomez Addams as the host of a party everyone is just dying to attend. Jessica Gates plays his wife Morticia. John Sheppard is outstanding as the comic Uncle Fester, not the first man to fall in unrequited love with an inflatable companion, but among the funniest. Grandma (Jackie Pion) would hardly be out of place running a meth lab in a trailer if she could remember where she put it. Wednesday Addams (Chelsea Morgan) and Lucas Beineke (Riley Houlihan) are the moon-crossed lovers. Young son Pugsley (Alex LeBlanc) is wonderfully heartbroken at the prospect that his big sister, preoccupied with her new romance, will have less time to torture him on the rack. Jacob Farnum as Lurch, the butler, does a superb job with an effectively silent pantomime role that steals a couple of scenes. Lucas’ father Mal (Joseph Luca) and mother Alice (Meryn Flynn) are not quite as normal as they seem at first, and actually have a lot to learn from the seemingly strange Addamses. A large number of extras, many of them children, play a wide variety of roles ranging from ghosts to stars.

The music is intended to be light, but some of the lyrics are very witty. Puns and allusions abound for an audience immersed in pop culture from the 1950s to the 1980s. Choreographer Dante Sciarra has created dance numbers that echo genres from the Charleston to the Bunny Hop. While the show’s music is weak, written to sound like a lot of other things that it isn’t quite, the singing and performance are generally strong, especially Klaus’ Gomez and Flynn’s Alice.

The new cinderblock theater space is not friendly toward musicals, with an HVAC system that sounds as if it belongs in a warehouse, and the troupe should seriously consider using wireless microphones and amplification in the future. It’s a cozy space, however, with 64 seats plus a few cabaret tables for four, so most of the vocals were able to overcome the obstacle.

The Addams Family is by design intended to appeal to anyone who remembers the television show, and it does a very good job of that. Even for those too young to have seen it in syndication, it can be enjoyed on its own terms. At community theater ticket prices, The Addams Family could be one of the best values of the season. It’s the ideal date night for 30-somethings, but it’s also appropriate for children who are mature enough not to be scared of Halloween and who can tolerate a really sappy love story.

The Addams Family Musical, directed by Rita Maron, Academy Players Q2Q Blackbox Theatre, 202B King Philip Street Bldg. 2 (use Button Hole Golf Course for GPS), Providence. Thu 10/23, 10/30, Fri 10/24 (sold out), 10/31, Sat 10/25, 11/1, 7:00pm; Sun 10/26, 11/2, 4pm. Ticket sales are online only, no tickets available at the door. http://www.academyplayersri.org/the-addams-family-1.html

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/516176845194459/

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/781396

The Impaler’s Progress: An Evening with the Hitler of the 15th Century

vladActor Mark Carter is well-known in theatrical circles for many years of performing, but he has been working for over a decade on a personal dream project as a scriptwriter, bringing to the stage something of the life of Vlad III, a 15th Century monarch of Balkan Wallachia (in modern Romania, near Transylvania) who became known even during his lifetime for extreme cruelty, earning the cognomen “Tepes” (“Impaler”) because of his practice of impaling alive tens of thousands of victims on long poles and suspending them in the air as a means of both slowly torturing them to death and instilling fear in his remaining subjects.

The historical Vlad is primarily remembered for fighting under the banner of Christianity against the Muslim Ottoman Turkish Empire led by Mehmet II, emphasizing the religious nature of the war despite his own previous alliance with the Turks against Christian Hungary. Eventually Vlad was sold out by his fellow Christians in Hungary for political reasons and his severed head was sent to Constantinople, a strategically critical city recently captured from the Christians by the Muslims, to be publicly exhibited, ironically, on a pole.

Vlad would be almost totally forgotten today but for Bram Stoker, a commercial novelist of Irish ancestry working in England in the 1890s, who wrote Dracula, a classic work of horror fiction. Stoker apparently knew nothing of the historical Vlad other than what he gleaned from checking a book out of the public library, and the most important point Stoker seems to have taken from the book, that “Dracula” means “Devil” in the language of Wallachia, is wrong because in the case of Vlad it was actually a reference to the family name that used a dragon (Latin “drac”) as its canting emblem. Stoker’s notes show that he originally planned to set his story in Austria but instead chose Transylvania only because of a newspaper article he read.

Nevertheless, since the 1960s the historical Vlad has been creatively twisted in popular imagination into the original inspiration for Dracula, and the playbill circulated to the audience explains that Carter “found a mysterious soul connection to Vlad Tepes, a man many consider one of the true monsters of history.” Rudy Sanda plays Vlad very effectively as an athletic and aggressive character, suggesting Rudolph Valentino as a professional wrestler. Set entirely in the afterlife, the play is straightforward about Vlad’s cruelties, detailing at some length a litany of gruesome tortures that need not be rehashed here. Yet the play both opens and closes with an appearance by Mary Magdalene (Corinne Southern), explicitly putting into Christian religious terms whether anyone is ever so evil as to be totally beyond redemption and therefore damned to Hell.

Vlad, who is in nearly every scene, in the course of the first two acts engages in debate with a succession of different historical and mythical personages. He argues with Mehmet (Justin Paige) about whether his fighting for religious principles instead of mere power justified his acts. Vlad and Mehmet make a joint visit to the gates of Valhalla, guarded by Amage (Corinne Southern) dressed in camouflage fatigues and holding an automatic assault rifle, both entering and leaving to music strongly associated with 20th Century Nazism, “Ride of the Valkyries” from  Die Walküre by Richard Wagner and “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, respectively. Grigori Rasputin (Anthony Medeiros) and Lucrezia Borgia (Vanessa Blanchette) argue over the fate of Vlad’s soul, Rasputin on the side of Heaven and Borgia on the side of Hell. In a flashback scene of teenaged Vlad (Blanchette) and his younger brother Radu (Southern) as hostages given by their father to the Ottomans, there are disturbingly explicit recitations of the sort of abuse of teenage boys one imagines would be expected in what is quite literally a Turkish prison. A monk, Brother Hans (Mark Carter), challenges Vlad and even in the afterlife is impaled on a pole.

The third act is a trial scene presided over by the Roman god of war, Mars (Brian Shovelton), in which the prosecution is conducted jointly by the seven deadly sins, Gluttony (Paige), Lust (Southern), Covetousness (Blanchette), Pride (Medeiros), Anger (Carter), Envy (Liz Hallenbeck), and Sloth (Dori Blacker). All make their arguments, which are refuted in turn by Vlad, except for Sloth who spends the entire trial in pyjamas cuddled with a pillow. Lust does an impressive burlesque strip-tease. Finally, Mary Magdalene reappears and answers the question of Vlad’s redemption.

The title of the play is an unsubtle allusion to The Pilgrim’s Progress, not so well known now but formerly regarded as a major work of pre-Enlightenment 17th Century English literature on a somewhat similar theme, that of a lost soul, “Christian,” traveling toward either salvation or damnation, and encountering characters who are anthropomorphic abstractions of philosophical principles, such as “Evangelist,” “Worldly Wiseman,” and so on.

It is legitimate to question whether anyone could so transgress into sin that they are beyond redemption, and there might be a plausible theoretical argument from a Christian religious perspective that no soul while alive in the world is beyond forgiveness, but the play makes a mistake in simultaneously presenting Vlad as possessed by unspeakable evil while exploring his motivations in a pseudo-psychiatric way. Vlad is more or less the closest thing the 15th Century had to compare with Adolf Hitler in the 20th Century, and it is arguably likely that their death tolls would have been similar if Vlad had access to railroads and the other accouterments of industrial modernity that made the Holocaust possible. If hypothetically it were discovered that Hitler was sexually abused as a child, it would be morally offensive to suggest that this either explains or excuses using the apparatus of the state in the cold-blooded and rational murder of millions of people for political and ideological reasons.

Although it severely lacks organization and focus, the play is effective in forcing one to confront uncomfortable logical consequences of traditional Christian theology: if no one is outside the grace of a Christian God, why can’t a tyrant who impaled babies and their mothers on the same stake go to heaven?

The Impaler’s Progress, a production of The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theater (TRIST) in co-operation with Courthouse Center for the Arts, 3481 Kingstown Rd (RI-138), West Kingston, Rhode Island 02892. Contains graphic descriptions of torture, cruelty, mass killing, and child rape; thoroughly unsuitable for children. Directed by Bob Colonna. Thu 10/16, Fri 10/17, Sat 10/18, Sun 10/19, all 7:00pm.

Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/850697

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/793643724029392/
Wikipedia on Vlad:

Emerita Prof. Elizabeth Miller, Memorial University of Newfoundland, thoroughly demolishing the myth of connection between the historical Vlad and the fictional Dracula: