CHAUTAUQUA - On Monday at 6 p.m., Chautauqua's Hall of Philosophy will be the scene of a performance of a remarkable examination of the Christian Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The production is called ''The Prodigal Daughter,'' and it is the original writing and composition of Doreen Firestone. The performance, which lasts about 70 minutes, is Firestone's examination of the parable, which is found in the 15th Chapter of the Gospel According to Luke. In the parable, Jesus tells of a man who has two sons. The younger of them demands his share of his eventual inheritance, while his father is still alive, then when his demands are granted, he takes the wealth to another country, where he wastes it all on riotous living. Eventually, the son finds himself starving and alone, and he returns to his father, asking nothing but that he be hired as a servant, but the father welcomes him home, and back into the family.
Firestone is a resident of Long Island, where she is the cantor of Our Lady of Peace, Roman Catholic Church, and leads the congregation in song. She is an operatically trained mezzo-soprano and actress, and has been developing ''The Prodigal Daughter'' for a number of years, performing it in theaters and churches, and at retreats and similar events.
Monday at 6 p.m., Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy will be the site of a performance of ‘‘The Prodigal Daughter,’’ an originally written and composed musical examination of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Pictured, from left, are Christine Fitzgerald, as the guardian angel, Peter Quinones as the Father of the parable, and Doreen Firestone as the Prodigal Daughter.
I recently spoke by telephone with Firestone, about her coming performance, and I'd like to tell you what I learned from that conversation, and then, for those who are not familiar with Chautauqua, I'd like to tell you how to go about attending the event.
Firestone first performed in Jamestown in April of 2011. She reports that she remembers that the church at which she was performing had the word ''Zion'' in its name, but that it has been more than three years, and she performs dozens of times per year, and doesn't recall the exact name. A check of the phone book shows three churches in Jamestown with that word in their name, so, sadly, we can't be more precise than that.
From time to time, we print our policies for your information.
Any organization wanting a performance or exhibition reviewed should request, preferably in writing, that The Post-Journal review. Sending us information about an event will get you an announcement. You must say some version of "Please review this event," to get a review.
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When performances are religious in intent, the newspaper can not evaluate their religious value, only their artistic qualities.
Children and youth through high school will not be reviewed, and if they appear in a performance with adults, may be named, but will not be evaluated.
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The Critical Eye joins the entire community of Jamestown and many beyond, in mourning the recent passing of Miles Lasser.
Miles devoted his long life to doing good for our area, serving on boards of trustees, heading up foundations, and innumerable other services which have made life richer and better, in a million different ways, including in the arts. He will be missed, profoundly.
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Anyone who acted, sang, worked on a crew, or in any way participated with the late R. Richard Corbin, in his wonderful Shoestring Players company, is invited next Saturday at 3 p.m. to come to the Carl Cappa Theater at the Robert H., Jackson Center, in Jamestown, for a reunion. That building was previously the Scottish Rite Consistory, where the Shoestring Players once performed their magic.
Light refreshments will be served. Those who attend are encouraged to bring photos, news articles, and other memorabilia to share with other fans of Corbin and his many contributions to the community.
For more information, email Corbin's daughter, Diane Corbin Meyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sunday at 3 p.m., the 1891 Fredonia Opera House will host a live performance by political satirist Mark Russell.
Born in Buffalo, and having spent part of his growing-up years in Jamestown, Russell went on to international fame as a newspaper columnist and performer, both in night clubs and on television.
Tickets to his performance cost $27, with a discount for members of the opera house. Purchase them in person at the box office, which is located inside the Village Hall of Fredonia, in front of the theater itself. Purchase them by phone during box office hours, Tuesday through Friday afternoons, at 679-1891, or by computer at www.fredopera.org.
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The Buffalo Philharmonic released the programs and the names of guest artists for the 2014-15 concert season, back in February. Since then, the only way to buy tickets to any of their concerts has been to purchase a season ticket. Now they are offering advance purchase of individual tickets to six of their coming concerts. These include the Sept. 27 concert, featuring guest artist Matthew Morrison, of Broadway fame and the television series ''Glee;'' the Oct. 1 concert, titled ''Dark Secrets," featuring a concert performance of Bartok's opera ''Bluebeard's Castle,'' featuring a unique stage setting, designed by glass artist Jeff Chihuly; the Nov. 7 concert, with guest artists Led Zeppelin; the Dec. 10 performance with guests Celtic Thunder; the Dec. 19 and 21 concert, featuring holiday pops; and the March 14 performance, with guest star Megan Hilty, star of Broadway's hit ''Wicked,'' and star of the television series ''Smash.''
Individual tickets to the remaining concerts in the coming season will go on sale next Saturday.
To purchase season tickets or individual tickets to the concerts named above, phone 885-5000, or go to the orchestra's website at www.bpo.org.
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Lovers of hot and spicy foods will want to visit Toronto, between Aug. 15 and 17, when Harbourfront Centre will host their annual Hot and Spicy Food Festival. The festival includes demonstrations by world-famed chefs, lectures on the medicinal qualities of spices, samples, foods for sale, live music performances, and more.
For a complete listing of events and starting times, phone Harbourfront at 416-973-4000, or visit their website at www.harbourfrontcentre.com. Note the Canadian spellings of ''harbour'' and ''centre.''
The complex is located at 235 Queen's Quay West, on the Toronto lakeshore.
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The Center for the Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo, continues their announcements of coming events in their various auditoriums:
On Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. the Brian Selzer Orchestra will perform their Christmas Extravaganza Concert. Tickets range in price in several steps, from $37 to $77.
Oct. 4, Buffalo's international touring dance ensemble, Lehrer Dance, will perform at 8 p.m., featuring two world premieres, mingled with audience favorites from past performances. The company will do four additional performances at the University, to be announced. Tickets to the Selzer concert are now on sale. At this time, only season tickets for four of the coming performances are for sale. They are $94. Individual tickets for the performances will go on sale on Friday of the coming week.
For ticket information, including full descriptions of the content, times and dates of the performances, go to the center's website at www.ubcfa.org. To purchase tickets, come to the center's box office, or via their web address, as given in the previous sentence.
She said that after her performance, she was approached by Dr. Gena Bedrosian, of Chautauqua, who told her she thought that the performance had much to offer, and who first proposed that she should perform at Chautauqua.
Several years later, I first met the singer and composer, at the wedding of Lara Sergi, the daughter of operatic baritone James Sergi and soprano Julia Lovett-Sergi, whose reputation in Chautauqua County is warmly valued by a great many of our readers. Ms. Firestone and Mrs. Sergi are friends who often work together to bring the arts to bear as a tool for enriching religious faith in the New York City area.
I sent the Sergis an email, to ask them to comment about ''The Prodigal Daughter.'' This was Julia's reply:
''I've been involved with the show from the beginning. Doreen started by just telling her story, and singing composed songs which she thought went with it, but as more and more people wanted her to perform, she decided she should dramatize her presentation, and compose all her own music. It is all hers, and completely original.
''I have always appreciated her true mezzo voice, her stage presence and her musicianship, but, as I started playing through the new score, it was obvious that a composer and lyricist had been born,'' Mrs. Sergi continued. ''She also did the orchestration for other instruments, in the professional recording which she uses as accompaniment in performances.
''The show is full of poignant moments, but is also funny and uplifting. Anyone can relate to the journey Doreen writes about. She is a wonderful actress and singer, not to mention, one heck of a kick boxer,'' she said.
''The show is largely based on my own life, plus, of course, on the parable,'' Firestone said. ''I've often wondered what happened to the Prodigal Son, between the time when he hit the bottom, having wasted all his wealth, and when his father welcomed him back into his family. The man in the story could have committed suicide, but he didn't, he trusted in his father, and he seems to have found a way to forgive himself - at least to begin doing so. When people screw up, they can't begin to heal until they can find a way to forgive themselves, and that is the part of his journey that I have focused upon.''
''I had a difficult childhood,'' she continued. ''I suffered abuse, as a child, and I fell into drinking. There was a long time in which I did not expect to live very long.''
The performer was born into a Jewish household, but her family didn't actively follow their religion. ''I used to joke that I was Jewish by cuisine, because I loved the food, but it was the only part of the faith that I adopted,'' she said.
In 1999, she converted to Christianity, which she insisted she doesn't claim to be superior to her original roots, but which seemed more able to reach her, where she was, at the bottom of her descent. ''I fell in love with God, and that has turned everything around for me,'' she said.
Her presentation in ''The Prodigal Daughter'' is delivered directly to the audience. ''I want to include everyone who attends, but I never single people out or embarrass members of the audience,'' she said. ''At the end of every performance, I give a short presentation about the things I went through in creating the production, including both my personal journey, and the more than 3,000 hours in which I worked on the music and the text. If people have questions or want to make comments, they are welcome to do so, but we don't focus the spotlight on anyone who doesn't want it.''
Firestone admits she's a bit nervous about performing at Chautauqua, because her friend Julia has loaned her a book about the place, and has told her about how educated, eager and involved audiences are, at the institution. On the other hand, she is honored to perform on the grounds, where so many artists have performed before.
''I've now performed this production many times, in a great many places. I've recently done several evenings in an off-Broadway theater, and I've been approached about recording a performance for a religious television network,'' she said. ''It's amazing. Ten years ago, I couldn't get run over by a bus, and we've come from there, to here.''
Firestone travels with a company of four. While she can do the production entirely as a solo, she is now prepared to perform with actress/singer Christine Fitzgerald, who performs in the show as her guardian angel, and with actor Peter Quinones, who plays the father of the parable, who of course, represents God. They are accompanied by their friend Jewel De Maria, who serves as stage manager, costumer, stage hand and dozens of the other roles necessary to present such a production.
''Jewel is a retired officer from the New York Police Department, so we've found her to be capable of dealing with just about everything that comes up,'' Firestone said.
The performance is presented with accompaniment of a professional orchestra, which has been recorded on Long Island. ''It's orchestrated for a large ensemble, with violin, flute, percussion, guitar and many more instruments. That's too many musicians to travel with, so we have to rely on the pre-recorded accompaniment,'' she said.
The small company was expected to fly to Buffalo last Wednesday, and to stay in the home of Dr. Bedrosian. Ms Firestone sings the praises of her hostess, who she says she knows has devoted herself to helping artists to get a start in the career, in many ways of support.
The music of the production is diverse, according to its composer. One number is a samba, she said, while another is gypsy-sounding. There is one song which often reminds people of the Broadway show ''Fiddler on the Roof'' and one traditional art song. ''We use many different genres of music, to express the many ideas and feelings of the script,'' she said.
It sounds like an inspiring and interesting evening.
There is no admission charge for ''The Prodigal Daughter,'' for those who have a gate pass, which will admit them to Chautauqua on Monday evening. Those wishing to attend, who live outside the grounds, should plan on parking in the main lot, across Route 394 from the main gate to Chautauqua. The parking fee is $8.50.
You should purchase a ticket, good from 4 p.m. to midnight, which can be used both for ''The Prodigal Daughter,'' and for the evening performance in the Amphitheater, which will be by the Music School Festival Orchestra, conducted by Timothy Muffitt. Such a ticket is normally $40 per person, but I am told that Monday evening is a local community appreciation day at the institution, and the ticket is available for half the regular price.
Once you have purchased your ticket, in the Main Gate building, show it at the actual entrance to the grounds, where it will be scanned. Once your ticket is scanned, you may put it away, but it is important that you don't throw it away. You will need to show it again, when you leave Chautauqua.
Once you are in the gate, you may turn to your right, and go to the large bus and tram stop, which is right inside. There, you may ask the drivers of the various buses and trams which vehicle is to be taken to the Hall of Philosophy. They will help you find the right one, and there is no charge for the ride. If you do this, be sure to ask the driver how to get transportation back to the gate, when the performance is over.
If you prefer to walk to the Hall of Philosophy, walk directly away from the main gate, for about three blocks, where you will find a large village green. That is Bestor Plaza. Cross the green, to the narrow street which runs along the opposite side, and turn right. Follow that street past the giant Amphitheater, and continue on for several blocks, until you arrive at a building on your left, which looks like a giant Greek temple, with no walls, but a roof, help up by columns. That is your destination.
If you wish to attend the orchestra concert, in the Amphitheater, after the Firestone performance, just retrace your steps. You won't need to pay again, but you will need to show your gate ticket to gain entrance to the performance site.
It's an opportunity for inspiration, entertainment, and a chance to spend some time in the beauty and serenity of Chautauqua. That's a combination which is hard to beat.