It was your typical night at Oberon: a packed house belting the lyrics to the perennial pop gem “Africa” by the band Toto.But this wasn’t karaoke. It was a reading by the Arlington, Mass.-based writer Steve Almond, author of several books including “Candyfreak,” “My Life in Heavy Metal,” and his most recent work — and the event’s namesake — “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life.”The book is Almond’s love letter to music, of which he confesses he’s a “drooling fanatic,” and Oberon was a befitting space for the avant-garde production that featured audience participation and concluded with a performance by singer-songwriter Dayna Kurtz.The year-old Oberon, which houses the popular disco spectacular “The Donkey Show,” is the younger sister of Harvard’s American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.). Formerly the Zero Arrow Theatre, Oberon was the vision of A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, who sought to turn the venue into a permanent nightclub theater, according to Ari Barbanell, Oberon’s associate producer.“This new venture was one of our main initiatives to further the A.R.T.’s core mission to expand the boundaries of theater,” said Barbanell.“Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life” is just one of the diverse performances Oberon is offering this summer. Oberon’s docket includes, for example, “Conni’s Avant-Garde Restaurant,” which presents guests with a five-course home-cooked dinner set to dance, music, and more; and “The Other Network,” which showcases previously unseen TV shows by Conan O’Brien, Ben Stiller, and Judd Apatow, starring Jack Black, Adam West, Amy Poehler, Owen Wilson, Ron Silver, Jason Segel, and others.“Oberon is committed to presenting work that fits into the world of ‘club theater’ that a show like ‘The Donkey Show’ has begun drawing attention to,” said James Wetzel, programming associate at Oberon. “We look for work that promotes a social atmosphere, works well in a bar environment, and gets audiences up and moving. This is what makes Oberon stand out. Not only are we helping local artists cultivate their work and talents, we also encourage them and their audiences to come into the venue, have a great time, and push the boundaries of theater.”Drink, sing, and dance. Those three “rules for the evening” were projected on a screen over the stage during Almond’s show, highlights of which included a close reading of the lyrics of “Africa,” and the author’s waxing about records (“they were large, pitched to the scale of their emotional importance”) and his favorite songs (“the sheer gypsy longing of ‘Rhiannon’ by Fleetwood Mac made me feel like a gypsy, too”).Other summer shows include “Uhuru Afrika Jump!” — a “jumping afro-diasporic dance floor explosion”; “Bent Wit Cabaret,” a “high-end, low-brow variety show” with a different theme each month and a brilliant core cast of collaborating performers and musicians; and “Abbey Road: A Sugar Coated Production” that promises an unforgettable interpretation of the classic Beatles album.“The great thing about the programming schedule we have here at Oberon is that it is never the same,” said Wetzel. “We accept submissions from performance groups and also seek out interesting work in Cambridge, Boston, and beyond.”This past spring, Oberon was one of the homes to the first Emerging America Festival, a collaboration among the A.R.T., the Huntington Theatre, and the ICA/Boston to present new American performances.“The A.R.T. hosted six different companies over two days in Oberon, each working in a different style of club theater,” said Barbanell. “It was a great representation of the kind of work Oberon is proud to share.”This fall, Oberon will present the first show of the A.R.T.’s 2010-11 season, the musical “Cabaret” directed by Steven Bogart. In February, says Barbanell, the A.R.T.’s production of “Prometheus Bound” will premiere.The musical, directed by Paulus and written by Steven Sater with music by Serj Tankian from the band System of a Down, continues the venue’s outrageous legacy.“The dance floor of Oberon will become a mosh pit,” revealed Barbanell. “It’s going to be amazing!”For performance, ticket, and location information, Oberon.
In a letter sent to media today, Jason Gibbs, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, announced he is stepping down from that position May 14. There has been speculation in Montpelier that he will seek elective office this fall, perhaps as a Republican candidate for secretary of state. That office is currently held by Deb Markowitz who is running instead for governor.Gibbs initially joined the Douglas Administration as the governor’s first press secretary, before moving on to the Parks Department post. He previously worked at Fletcher Allen Health Care in public affairs.The letter announcing his resignation follows:Dear Colleague:As the legislative session draws to a close, I write to notify you that I will be stepping down as commissioner effective May 14th to pursue other options. Above all else, I want to thank you for your extraordinary professionalism, hard work and resilience during a tumultuous time. Working with, and learning from, each of you has been an amazing experience for which I will always be grateful. My admiration for FPR and its important work will never fade and you can count on me to be an advocate for the department in the years ahead.Together, we’ve overcome historic challenges. We focused our entire organization on actions that would help generate economic activity, increase (and diversify) our revenue base and reduce our reliance on tax dollars. We resolved to be agile and innovative—constantly evaluating changes in our environment—always adapting in ways that maximize our productivity and the value of every dollar that taxpayers invest in us.To be sure, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Our progress wasn’t easy, without difficult decisions or the need for each of us to shoulder more responsibility. Nevertheless, you rose to the challenge and embraced the opportunity to prove that a government agency is capable of being nimble, innovative, less costly, more productive, and a true partner to private sector economic activity. I could not be more proud of this organization.Because of your hard work, both the legislative and executive branches regard FPR as a model for other areas of government and are poised to provide us with a level of operational flexibility—and budgetary stability— over the next two fiscal years that is truly unprecedented and does not, in any way, deviate from our core public service and natural resource functions. In fact, this flexibility and stability is critical to preserving these important functions and our current staffing levels.As FPR moves forward, our state continues to face serious challenges. We need to rethink, revitalize and reform policies and systems at every level of government, until we are satisfied that they are the best, most efficient, most productive and most valuable policies we can put in place. But because of our efforts, FPR is among the best positioned, and the best prepared, to succeed in this era of change. Over the next few weeks, my focus will be on wrapping up our legislative priorities and tying up various loose ends. And, when a replacement has been selected by the Governor and Secretary, I will work to ensure a seamless transition.As always, please feel free to contact me for any reason. My personal contact information is below.I wish you all the very best for a bright and productive future—please do stay in touch!Sincerely,Jason4.29.2010
By Dialogo December 22, 2010 A police and military crackdown on drug crime spilling across the border from Mexico has yielded 10 arrests in Guatemala’s northern Alta Verapaz department, Defense Minister Abraham Valenzuela said. The anti-crime drive launched by order of President Alvaro Colom suspends some civil liberties, including the right to protest and urges people to report crimes. The campaign is to last 30 days, but Colom said it will go on “as long as necessary.” Valenzuela told a press conference 10 people have been arrested so far in Alta Verapaz, “including one woman” and two people for carrying a weapon without a permit. Eight other people arrested are suspected of belonging to drug trafficking organizations, he said, adding that all those apprehended claim to be Guatemalans. Weapons, ammunition and four vehicles, “some armor plated and with characteristics used by drug traffickers,” were also seized during the anti-crime offensive, he said. The combined military-police sweep focused in and around Alta Verapaz capital Coban, 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Guatemala City, Valenzuela said. The minister said Colom launched the crackdown because he “is very concerned over the growing level of crime and insecurity across Guatemala, and because Alta Verapaz is being hit hard by violence and organized crime.” Authorities acknowledge that the Zetas organized crime gang — formerly the armed wing of Mexico’s Gulf drug cartel — control a large area of Alta Verapaz as part of their route protection operations.