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A Night of Shorts

Theatergoers in the Capital Region have it easy. With Capital Repertory Theatre and the New York State Theatre Institute right here in our backyard, and the summer theater Mecca of the Berkshires just a hop, skip and scenic drive away, the offerings are ample. But even avid fans may miss some of the activity taking place under the canopy of the big names, down at ground level. There are also many innovative amateur and/or experimental productions out there, and beginning on Friday (June 7), Changing Spaces art gallery will host just such a one.

Written by Craig Ryan, A Night of Shorts consists of four one-act plays penned specifically for the gallery. The writer collaborated with the gallery’s resident artist, Sandra Williams, from the get-go; while he wrote the script, she prepared the sets and backdrops, and handled the production of tickets and promotional materials. And according to Phillip Williams, Changing Spaces co-owner, the collaborative process has not stopped now that the plays are ready for performance. The gallery’s modest scale (it seats 40) allows for, even promotes, a heightened interaction between performer and audience, he says.

“The audience is exposed to everything that happens onstage, because they’re right on top of it,” Williams says. “The whole evening will be focused on the live feel of small theater. We’ll be hiding less than a big theater. There’s a lot of set changing and stage work, and the audience will see that. It’s got a very intimate feel. The audience can feel like they’re almost part of the production, and, really, they are; We can’t have a show without an audience.”

Fortunately for the audience to be so involved, A Night of Shorts is a performance that most won’t mind being press-ganged into. Williams says, “It has a kind of Saturday Night Live feel: comedic, with political and spiritual satire thrown in.” Williams also cites vaudeville variety show traditions—the show boasts original songs by Jami Johnson and Courtney Connolly—and the Marx Brothers as influences. And, secretly, haven’t you always wanted to be a Marx brother?

Changing Spaces (306 Hudson Ave., Albany) will present A Night of Shorts June 7 through June 9 and June 12, 14 and 15, all at 8 PM. There is also an early show Sunday (June 9), at 6 PM. Tickets are $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door. On Wednesday (June 12), students may purchase tickets for $10 advance, $12.50 door. For more information, 433-1537.

Alive at Five

Summer’s here, and the living’s easy. OK, that’s not exactly, precisely true. Summer won’t be here for three more weeks, and the living . . . well, we won’t bore you with our complaints, but it’s no bowl of cherries. The good news is that summer’s almost here: We can tell because, once again, the free concert series known as Alive at Five is back, beginning today (Thursday). And, honestly, even such cynical fussbudgets as ourselves will admit that free music makes the living, if not easy, at least less riddled with existential angst.

The concert season at Tricentennial Park on Broadway kicks off this year with Irish night. Local bar staples Hair of the Dog will team with the band about whom Time magazine crowed, “Finally, rock & roll that means something again”: Black 47 (pictured). Though the genre-blending group of Irish expats came to national attention in 1993, with their breakthrough hit “Funky Ceili,” they’re best known as a hard-working bar band. In fact, it was a long-term residency at Paddy Reilly’s Bar in Manhattan that brought them to the attention of EMI, the label that gave them their first deal. And though they’ve made appearances on all the major network late-night shows, and been written up in all the big music and arts mags, they’ve never stopped performing in the taverns and saloons where they formed their Celtic-meets-reggae-meets-rap signature style.

The series continues through Aug. 1; each and every Thursday until then you’ll get, give or take, three hours of live, completely free music: On June 13, the Drifters and the Sundowners are featured in an oldies’ night; June 20 is Southern rock night, with the Dickey Betts Band and House Project; June 27, Bill Kirchen and the Lustre Kings perform an evening of rockabilly; an encore Irish night on July 11 boasts Gaelic Storm and the Glengarry Boys; July 18 is soul night, with the Spinners and R&R Express; Poco and Stony Creek will be onstage July 25 for country night, and on the ultimate evening, Aug. 1, the legendary Southside Johnny will host a party with Albany’s own the Refrigerators.

The Alive at Five concert series takes place at Tricentennial Park, Broadway (Albany) each Thursday at—if you have to ask—5 PM. In the event of rain, the shows will move to the Corning Preserve Boat Launch under the I-787 underpass. For more information, 434-2032.

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