Courtesy of The Bitter Pill

“The Bitter Pill,” a new musical featuring the songs of Billy Butler, is on stage at the Players Ring in Portsmouth through the end of October. NHPR’s Sean Hurley and theater critic Michael Curtiss attended a preview of the show and send us their thoughts.

NOTE:  Please scroll to the bottom for a video preview.   

Monika O'Clair Photography

When Caroline Nesbitt decided to start a theater company in Sandwich in 1999 she was met with a little resistance.  People in town knew her as the woman who raised Connemara Ponies and gave riding lessons.  What they didn’t know was that Nesbitt was also a professional actress. 

By Wikicali00 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

For many people under the age of 25, the Steeplegate Mall in Concord, New Hampshire is a landmark of the city. But, its early days were marked by uncertainty. In July 1990, the mall opened with the goal of providing a convenient shopping experience for New Hampshire residents, without overshadowing the businesses and atmosphere of Main Street.

Michael Brindley/NHPR

A mall in Concord may seem like an unusual place for the city's newest live-performance space.

The Steeplegate Mall is a poster child for the economic challenges facing malls across the country, struggling to compete with online shopping and a resurgent downtown.

But the opening of the Hatbox Theatre this month could mark a new beginning for the Steeplegate.

Bryan Jones via flickr Creative Commons /

After Fidel Castro nationalized Cuba’s farms and businesses, thousands fled, leaving factories, farms and assets that now add up to eight-billion in claims from Exxon to Walt Disney. On today's show, the complicated task of settling decades old suits and how these kinds of Cold War hangovers could affect US/Cuba reconciliation.   

Then, we shift into holiday gear. Cookbooks are a wonderful gift for the foodies in your life, but sifting through the thousands of new selections can be daunting. We'll hear about 2015's best from AP food editor J.M. Hirsch.

Sean Hurley

In 1967, at the height of his success, one of the world's great singer songwriters, Jacques Brel, stopped singing.  “I left the day I realized I had an ounce of talent," he said later. "I stopped singing for honest reasons; not for reasons of exhaustion.” 

But the following year, two New Yorkers put together a musical revue of Brel's work to remind the world that even though the great "chanteur" had retired - he was not dead. 

Jeff Myers via Flickr CC /

When it comes to stump speeches, presidential contenders want their words to resonate with as many voters as possible – which may explain why Donald Trump speaks to the public at a 4th grade reading level. Today, the strategy of simplicity. Then, from speech to song…later in the show we go behind the glimmering façades and dance numbers to examine how movie musicals reflect American culture.

11.01.15: Incognito, Jedis, & Daylight Savings

Oct 30, 2015
Leo Reynolds via Flickr CC /

Michael Fosberg grew up in a middle-class white family – and didn’t discover until his early 30s that his biological father was black. Today, a conversation about race, identity and personal discovery with actor Michael Fosberg. Plus, whether you’re looking forward to brighter mornings or dreading the dark afternoons, daylight saving time is happening on Sunday. We’ll debunk the myths of daylight saving time., starting with its origins.

Farrukh via Flickr CC /

Michael Fosberg grew up in a middle-class white family – and didn’t discover until his early 30s that his biological father was black. Today, a conversation about race, identity and personal discovery with actor Michael Fosberg.   Also today, autumn habits gone wrong. We’ll talk to a writer argues that apple- picking is a big fat scam. And, after more than twenty years of carved pumpkins and big crowds, Keene, New Hampshire will be quiet this weekend. We’ll ask residents how they feel about the loss of a long holiday ritual. 

Sean Hurley

The Winnipesaukee Playhouse got its start in 2004 as a store front theater on Weirs Beach.  In 2013, the theater moved to the former Annalee Doll factory in Meredith.  In this 3rd installment of his Summer Stock series, NHPR's Sean Hurley pays the playhouse a visit.  

Timothy L'Ecuyer, Education Director at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse says there are still remnants - in closets and unused rooms - of the "factory in the woods" as the Annalee Doll company used to be known. It can be a little spooky, he says -

Good Gig: Lighting Designer* Laura Frank

Mar 11, 2015

Laura Frank is the founder of Luminous FX, and as she says in her bio on her website: “I am not a designer, and I am not a technician. What I am is a creative partner. I’ve called my role a technologist, a visualist, a mediator, but ultimately I think I am a great editor. I take the genesis of the designer’s concept and make it thrive in the chaos of production.” The Super Bowl halftime show with Paul McCartney? That was some of Laura’s work. 

There’s a non-profit organization in Portsmouth with the aim of bringing veterans from all branches of the U.S. Military into the performing arts, both on and off the stage.  Jonathan Rockwood Hoar is the Artistic Director of Veterans In Performing Arts. He spoke with Morning Edition about how it started and what it has meant for those who participate.

courtesy of

Los Angeles’ skid row has the nation’s largest concentration of homeless people. For nearly 30 years, this nexus of impoverished shelters and cardboard boxes has also been home to the Los Angeles Poverty Department, an arts and performing arts group comprised of people who live and work on skid row. The other LAPD makes theater about experiences common to people living in poverty – like addiction, incarceration, and the psychology of victimization – for stages all over the world. Their play “Hospital” follows the dysfunction of the American health care system, and is being performed at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on January 17th and 18thJohn Malpede is Founding Artistic Director, and Kevin Michael Key is a performer and Community Coordinator for the group.

Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

This Saturday, the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series will broadcast worldwide. The live performance will be streaming to more than 700 theaters in the United States, seven of which are right here in New Hampshire.  Starring in the opera is soprano Patricia Racette of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Courtesy Bushor Photography

Since its premiere in 1899, Anton Chekov’s play Uncle Vanya has been adapted for stages all over the world. Originally about a family property in eastern Russia, it’s been re-set in the English lake district in the 1930s, at an abandoned theater on Manhattan’s 42nd Street, and a post-apocalyptic interpretation set in Hawaii after a zombie attack.

Now, Kent Stephens, founding artistic director of Stage Force Productions, is bringing Uncle Vanya to the Maine coast.  Stephen’s relocates the bored, begrudging family members to the banks of the Androscoggin – bringing 21st Century concerns of environment and land policy issues to the fore. Uncle Vanya in Maine opens this Friday, November 1st, and runs until the 10th, at the Star Theater in Kittery, Maine.

Acting Gets Upstaged At Winnipesaukee Playhouse

Aug 10, 2013
Cheryl Senter

When Kat Morris's eldest daughter asked to try out for a play at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse, she could not have guessed the effect community theater would have on her entire family. 

The Palace Theatre Brings Art To Kids, And Vice-Versa

Feb 16, 2013

In addition to staging plays and concerts, The Palace Theater runs educational and cultural programs to engage community in the performing arts. Rebecca Gosselin is 12. She has participated in the Palace’s youth theatre programs for four years.

Josh Rogers, NHPR

This week marks what would have been the 103rd birthday of Doris Haddock, better known by the name Granny D.

She made national headlines in the late 1990’s for walking across the country, 3200 miles, to highlight the issue of campaign finance reform, just ahead of her 90th birthday.

Doris Haddock died in 2010 at age 100, but you might be able to hear her voice at a birthday party in her honor in Keene.

Rochester Opera House

Jun 23, 2012

The Rochester Opera House is a historic theater located in the Rochester city hall. It has been a center of community and community entertainment for more than a century. Now it is leased and operated as a non-profit, bringing a variety of shows and performance opportunities to the community. Shay Willard started acting there as a sixth grader; he is now a graduate student in film production and is directing a play at the opera house.

Photo Credit COG LOG LAB, Via Flickr Creative Commons

The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is the one-man play by Mike Daisey that runs for nine performances at the music hall loft in Portsmouth. Daisey was vilified by the media when news broke that Daisey had fabricated characters and scenes and portions of the story, which aired on This American Life. Daisey was then grilled by host Ira Glass and producer Brian Reed as part of an hour-long retraction, during which Daisey regretted airing the monologue as journalism, but denied that it wasn’t true.

Photo Credit Mag3737, via Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1: Trophy Wives/Old Lady Style

In those gin-soaked days of yesteryear, a beautiful woman on the arm was an executive’s secret weapon for landing the deal.  A young knock-out by your side signaled power, style, and proof that you had it all. Just ask all those Mad Men...That was then.

When Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman hit Broadway and swept the Tony’s in 1949, it was a middle-class masterpiece – a transformative play that could bring even stoic-factory workers and tough-love fathers to tears. These days, the price of a ticket for the Broadway revival may be as out of reach for the average American family as a pro sports career was for Biff. 

If you weren't a college theater major, you can be forgiven for not knowing much about commedia dell'arte, the 500-year-old theatrical tradition that Carlo Goldoni used for his comedy The Servant of Two Masters in 1743. Contemporary playwright Richard Bean has adapted that play into the decidedly British laugh riot One Man, Two Guvnors -- and he says all you really need to know about commedia is ... well, it's funny.

Earlier this month, tenor Juan Diego Florez made headlines when he sang the aria "Una furtiva lagrima" in the Donizetti opera L'elisir D'Amore at the Metropolitan Opera — not once, but twice.

The audience responded so enthusiastically that after well over a minute of applause and shouts of "Encore!" he sang the whole thing again — all five minutes of it.

Triple M Tool and Die has been a sometimes-working, unassuming, hard- to- find machine shop in Alstead for more than 50 years. At least that’s what it is during the day.

Since they made their debut in 1971, it's been rare for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to not have a show on Broadway. But now they're ramping it up, with the opening of Evita following fast on the heels of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"It's actually just a coincidence as far as I can tell, because the two shows came from totally different sources," Rice says. "And by sheer chance, they've arrived within two or three weeks of each other on Broadway, which is fun!"

Hollywood is dominated at the moment by the upcoming release of The Hunger Games, the first film adaptation of a phenomenally successful series of young adult novels set in a dystopian, divided America, where teenagers from different regions are pitted against each other for survival.

When 21-year-old Kevin Smith decided he wanted to be a filmmaker, his sister gave him some advice: "Don't say you want to be a filmmaker; just be one." So he did. He made his first film, Clerks, on a shoestring, shooting at the convenience store where he worked.

'A Salesman' Lives On In Philip Seymour Hoffman

Mar 18, 2012

When Philip Seymour Hoffman took the stage on March 15 in the new revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, he became the fifth actor in 63 years to walk the boards of Broadway in the shoes of the blustery, beleaguered salesman, Willy Loman. In the last six decades, each incarnation of the play has resonated with a new generation of theatergoers.

Et tu, Macbeth?

Mar 15, 2012
Photo by Potatojunkie via Flickr Creative Commons

Greed...avarice...a thirst for power. Sure, these things all describe our modern corporate and political landscape, but they're also just a few of the themes at play in Macbeth. This weekend, The Acting Loft in Manchester is staging a new version of the play, one that doesn't forget the times we live in...or Shakespeare's intent.