Tri-County Performing Arts Center: The Journey On

Last Friday’s “State of the Organization” event at the Tri-PAC began with a tasty array of food from area restaurants and caterers. Thank goodness Dean Foster, wine genius and fellow blogger, was there to steer me in the right direction at the wine table. (Definitely look for the guy with the full, white beard at similar events around town & don’t be shy about asking for help!) It was also a pleasure to meet Tom Abbott, publisher of The Mercury, who slyly suggested that someone write about the event. Positively!Pottstown was already on the case! So, here you go…

Photo courtesy of Village Productions

I knew the program would be informative in nature, updating the community on how far the organization had come and where they’re headed, but I had no idea how entertaining it would be. Musical selections from the upcoming production of Ragtime, The Musical alternated with information about the importance of the arts and the actual achievements of Tri-PAC, and the format was just right. In fact, it was downright fun. And inspiring, especially the voices rising in song, filling the main stage up to the rafters.

Photo courtesy of Village Productions

Speakers included Bill Kiesling, singer & Spouse Extraordinaire; Deborah Stimson-Snow, Artistic Director; Martha McGeary Snider, PA Policy Advisor for Arts and Culture; Marta Rubin Kiesling, Executive Director; Jordan Shoemaker, student, singer, actress; and Tri-PAC board member and actress Lisa Waltz, a Spring Ford and Carnegie Mellon grad, now living and working in L.A.

What grabbed my attention at the start was Deborah Stimson-Snow saying, “There’s a kind of truth happening here… There’s an opportunity every day to do something true.” Yes – that’s what live performance is all about – an artist or group of artists sharing a search for some kind of truth with an audience. This is a noble thing.

The social impact of the arts is now a well-documented phenomenon, and Martha McGeary Snider, Policy Advisor Arts and Culture for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, hit the high points. A strong arts presence can be a stabilizing force in neighborhoods, providing a common destination, a shared language and a place for diversity to flourish, which is exactly what’s taking place at the Tri-PAC.

Marta Rubin Kiesling, Executive Director, provided key statistics from the fall of 2008 to the spring of 2010. These numbers are essential to understanding exactly what Village Productions has achieved, and it’s pretty astounding:

– Over 14,000 audience members
– Over 150 performances
– Over 800 students
– 64 classes
– 11 staff
– Participation of hundreds of volunteers
– Educational outreach to more than 1,000 students

Educational offerings run the gamut, from children’s classes to voice, guitar, comedy improvisation, piano, dancing, directing, script analysis and group singing. There’s something for every one in every age group.

In looking toward the future, Tri-PAC will soon be offering subscriptions. They’re continually finding ways to increase student and community outreach, and they hope to add a retail and concession stand in the lobby area. Perhaps the most important project will be the façade improvement, giving them greater visibility and creating a landmark location on High Street. Representatives from the state are coming to town today to meet and consider a funding request for the façade improvement project. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. (Feel free to post your support for that project right here!)

The success of the Tri-PAC is a KEY ingredient in the revitalization of Pottstown’s downtown. As McGeary-Snider pointed out early in the program: The arts mean business. And she added, “There is a distinct relationship between engagement in art and engagement in civic life.”

In the end, it all comes down to personal responsibility. Strengthening the arts in your hometown is your civic duty. It also happens to be fun and uplifting. Sign up for a class. Volunteer. Get a group of friends together and see a show. A lively downtown will be the result of the artist, or audience member in each of us, coming out from behind the curtain, or taking our seat in the darkened theater, joining other human beings on a journey for some kind of truth.

Note: More on Ragtime, The Musical in a future post. Subscribe to Positively!Pottstown or join on Facebook to enter a drawing for free tickets!

Pottstown’s Weekend… at a glance

THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN POTTSTOWN THIS WEEKEND AND BEYOND…

May 14State of the Organization, reception & multimedia presentation
Special Guest Speakers Lisa Waltz & Martha McGeary Snider
Location: Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street
Time: 6-8 pm
RSVP: events@villageproductions.org

May 10-15 – Spring Student Faculty Show in the Gallery
Location: The Gallery on High, 254 E. High Street, Pottstown
Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 10am to 4:30pm; Friday 10am to 5:30pm; Saturday 10am to 3pm; closed Sunday and Monday.

May 15 and every Saturday – Singer/songwriter Showcase
Location: Churchill Artisan Baker & Chocolatier, 137 High Street, Pottstown
Time: 11 am – 1 pm
Phone: 484-941-5100

May 15 and every Saturday night – DJ Dance Party
Location: The Brickhouse Restaurant, 152 E. High St., Pottstown
Phone: 610-906-3527

May 16Margaretta R. Lamb & the Boyertown Area Choral Association’s 20th Annual Free Spring Concert
Location: St. James Lutheran Church, 1101 E. High St., Pottstown
Time: 3 pm
Cost: Free!

May 22-23 Senior Follies
Location: Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street, Pottstown
Time: Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 3 pm
Tickets: ADULTS $12; STUDENTS/SENIORS (65+) $10; CHILDREN (12 & under) $8
$2 off per ticket for groups of 10 or more!

May 22 Sammy Kaye Orchestra
Location: Sunnybrook Ballroom
Time: 8 pm
Cover: $25 Advance tickets; $32 at the door.

May 24-Aug. 6Montgomery County Community College, West Campus Gallery presents
Philadelphia/Tri State Artists Equity
61st Anniversary Exhibition
Location: North Hall, 16 High Street, Pottstown
Time: Mon.-Thurs. 8 am-9:30 pm; Fri. 8 am-4:30 pm
Cost: All exhibits are free & open to the public.
Opening reception Wednesday, June 9 from 5-7pm

June 3-20Ragtime, The Musical
Location: Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street, Pottstown
Time:Thursday – 7:30 pm; Friday – 8:00 pm; Saturday – 8:00 pm; Sunday – 3:00 pm
Tickets: ADULT: Thurs $19; Fri, Sat & Sun $23
STUDENT/SENIOR(65+): Thurs $17; Fri, Sat, Sun $21
CHILD (12 & under): Thurs $13; Fri, Sat & Sun $15
$2 off per ticket for groups of 10 or more!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…

SCOOPSTER’S!!

The new ice cream parlor at High and Franklin Streets is now open. They’re selling Philadelphia water ice; Nelson’s Dutch Farms ice cream, made in nearby Royersford; and a colorful concoction called “Flavor Burst Combo Cones.” These are soft vanilla custard twists with flavor ribbons on the outside. You pick the flavor you want – caramel, chocolate, strawberry, tropical orange, cotton candy, raspberry, pina colada or banana brickle. (See the banner in the photo.)

Scoopster's

They’ve got eight flavors of water ice: mango, lemon, rainbow, cherry, pina colada, blueberry, cotton candy and root beer (that last one is my favorite.)

Lots of ice cream to choose from: I stared longingly at the chocolate moose trail, which had thick pieces of fudge and mini-peanut butter cups embedded in chocolate ice cream. And the graham slam looked intriguing: graham ice cream with graham ribbons and chocolate-covered pieces of graham cracker.

In addition to the awesome flavors, the prices should put Scoopster’s immediately into the regular rotation for every family and sports team in the area. Ice cream goes for $1.75-$3.50, plus tax. Water ice goes for $.94-$2.50, plus tax. And they’ve got “small prices for small children,” which translates to a pee-wee serving of water ice that’s just 75 cents (plus tax), and ice cream that’s just 94 cents (plus tax) for children 7 and under. Nachos, soft pretzels and hot dogs are available, too.

Scoopster’s is owned by John and Ellen Lettiere, who also own Fine Fixin’s Deli at High and Keim Streets, so you’re assured of good quality & service at prices that won’t break the budget. Look – the sun is shining and summer is in the air. What better time to take your pick of warm weather treats and give ’em a try?

Scoopster’s Ice Cream Parlor
384 High Street (corner High & Franklin)
(610) 327-3109
Hours are 11am-9 pm Monday-Saturday. They’re open on Sundays, although regular hours aren’t set yet.

Happy Mother’s Day!

To all the moms – and all the women acting as moms and caregivers in their many different forms – hope you’re having a great day and feeling the love!

Here are photos of the paintings by local artist Fay Talley that I bought at the YWCA Art Show held at The Gallery last week. I have mostly framed photographs around my home – in addition to my kids’ artwork, of course! – so I’m thrilled to have some original paintings (which were very reasonably priced.) 🙂

I can’t seem to get the “caption” or “title” function to work today. You should be able to match these titles with the images below: “Justa Pear,” “Reds,” and “Reaching for the Sun.”

Everybody’s working for the weekend…

It’s Friday and that tune and lyrics from the 1980s Canadian band Loverboy are stuck in my head, and now you, too, can sing (or suffer) along with me!

Here’s some of what’s on tap for the weekend. If anyone’s got more, feel free to add to the list.

Oh, I also have to make a plug for the YWCA Women’s Festival of the Arts, which ends tomorrow at The Gallery on High. I was at the opening last weekend, and it was packed. I got three small, beautiful paintings done by local artist Fay Talley. I hope to track her down for an interview. I’ll pick up my paintings this weekend and post some photos in a couple days. A portion of all sales benefits the YWCA; maybe there’s something there that your mom will enjoy? Stop by to take a look around before it’s too late! The show ends tomorrow!

THINGS TO SEE AND DO WHILE YOU’RE IN POTTSTOWN THIS WEEKEND

April 30-May 8YWCA Women’s Festival of the Arts
Location: The Gallery on High, 254 E. High St.
Opening Reception: 6-8pm, Friday, April 30

May7-9Melange Contemporary Dance: So You Think You Can Dance!
Location: Tri-County Performing Arts Center, 245 E. High Street
Time: Friday & Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 3 pm
Cost: Adult $17; Senior/Student $15; Child (12 & under) $13

May 7Camp Hill Fundraiser Dinner Dance – Tennis Ball
Location: Sunnybrook Ballroom
Time: 6:30 pm
Band: Jump City Jazz Orchestra

May 8 Schuylkill Valley Regional Dance Company 2010-2011 Season Auditions
Location: Pottstown Dance Theater
Time: 12-3 pm
For further information: thesvrdc@yahoo.com or 484.941.0683

May 8Otherwise-Poetry at Churchill’s featuring Jules Gibbs & Bruce Smith
Location: Churchill Artisan Baker & Chocolatier, 137 High Street
Time: 7 pm
Host: Glenn McLaughlin (featured readings followed by open mic)

Letting Go at High Street Yoga

Admit it. You know it’ll make you feel better. You know you should be doing it. Yes, I’m talking about yoga, and I keep putting it off too. So, what’s stopping us?

For me, I keep getting stuck in the same old rut in how I think about a “workout.” Being a former athlete, I’m locked into the idea of going to the gym, breaking a sweat on a machine, lifting some weights, suffering the consequences in my arthritic joints for the next 24-48 hours… and then avoiding the gym for several days.

A conversation with Barbara Kosciewicz, director of High Street Yoga and Wellness, though, has given me new hope that I can break the cycle. The idea of yoga is to open yourself up, and in that spirit, I asked Barbara to tell us what it’s all about. For more details and to see photos of her tranquil studio – yes, you can find inner peace on High Street! – check out her website and her blog.

High Street Yoga and Wellness is on the second floor at 141 E. High Street, above the Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks. Their refurbished and air-conditioned building is across the street from Borough Hall, where there’s ample parking. (More on the Academy in a future post.)

PP: What’s a typical class like? How long is it?
BK: There are many styles and types of yoga. I really like to help people focus on slowing down, focusing on their breath and truly relaxing. A class is an hour and fifteen minutes. The beginning is all about settling in. It’s hard to walk in the door and just start meditating. So we take deep breaths, focusing on the breathing. Then we move into gentle stretching, easing into the physical practice of yoga. The last 10-15 minutes are for deep relaxation.

PP: Your website says: “A typical class at High Street Yoga offers breath awareness, centering/meditation, sequenced and clearly explained asana (physical postures) and, of course, Savasana (final relaxation).” Where do all those strange words come from?
BK: There is an ancient Indian text, written in Sanskrit, that’s called the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. It’s based on 8 philosophies or steps to achieve a quiet mind. It’s not a religion. That’s where the terms come from.

PP: What if I’ve never meditated before. What happens?
BK: I guide the class to use their breath to still their minds. Meditation is really all about quieting the mind. We take deep, full breaths in and out. The idea is to stop yourself from thinking about work, your day, your lists. Your breath is the one thing that’s constant. That’s the place to always come back to.

By the way, I don’t incorporate chanting into my classes. I want everyone to be comfortable, and some people may be put off by chanting.

Traditionally, yogis did the physical practice of the poses so that they could sustain long hours of meditation. The Western take on this, though, is the reverse – more physical practice, less meditation.

PP: How can I do yoga if I can’t even touch my toes?
BK: You don’t have to be completely flexible in order to do yoga. There are several versions of a pose, so I can help people do what’s comfortable for them. We have props, such as blocks and straps, to help people do the poses at their own comfort level.

PP: How many people are in a class, and what should I bring?
BK: The class size varies. There could be anywhere from 3-9 people. We have mats that people can borrow, or you can bring your own. Dress comfortably, preferably in layers. And bring a water bottle. Classes cost $12 each, and there are packages available.

First Saturday!

I went to my first FIRST SATURDAY yesterday, and it was a lot of fun!

I was there in the morning with the kids in my Pottstown Influential Leaders of Tomorrow writing class. Check us out in a photo in today’s Mercury!

The music and entertainment was excellent, although I would have to say that my students and I probably had the most fun adding our own special touches to the painting of the ’48 Buick, which will eventually become a piece of sculpture somewhere in town.

Car Art!

I also went back in the afternoon with my mom after a delicious lunch at Churchill’s across the street. Already looking forward to the upcoming First Saturdays on June 5, August 7 and September 4!

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