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Last Weekend @ Riley’s:
The St. Patrick’s Day Shows

March 25th, 2017

Pittsburgh’s still the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That’s according to Niche.com, which places the Burg ahead of Boston (the city that held its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1737) and Chicago (where they dye the Chicago River green in the saint’s honor). Pittsburgh’s Parade Day traditions might be younger than Boston’s, and our rivers might not ever go green, but Pittsburgh is still the best place to be for mid-March celebrations … and the place to be in Pittsburgh (at least for my money) is Riley’s Pour House.

This post is a follow-up to Parade Day @ Riley’s: Just the Beginning, which I managed to post between a couple of marathon gigs on Parade Day Weekend. I intended to be as timely with this post, but the St. Pat’s performance schedule proved to be even more demanding than the one on Parade Day. We played ten hours over two days, dividing our time between the pub stage and the tent. Now, after a week, I’m finally ready to do some blogging.

The St. Pat’s weekend got rolling on a snowy Friday afternoon, but the weather didn’t deter the crowd. By evening, the party was in high gear as piper John Walsh (above) did his traditional march through the pub.

Meanwhile, out in the tent, hundreds were dancing and singing along with Mike Gallagher and his son John (right). Bandmate Lauren Moore and I arrived at the end of their set, in time to hear their rousing rendition of “A Nation Once Again.”

We took the stage at 5:00, and before long the place was at capacity. At once point, I had to pause and snap a picture (left). I can’t prove it, but I sense it was the best party this side of Dublin.

At 8:00, Mark Guiser took over the pavilion stage while bassist Duane Davis joined me for two more sets inside the pub. Then, the next night, we did it all again.

I’ve been playing March shows like this for years. They’re fun but demanding, and over time I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing the sets so as not to run out of steam. But this year I decided it was time to purchase some new gear to ease the strain of back-to-back performances. I offer the following as a bit of musician shoptalk. FYI.

First, I opted to play some of these shows with a Martin 000×1 rather than my usual full-size Guild. I love my all-wood dreadnought, but the Martin — with its smaller design and laminated back and sides — makes standing and playing a lot easier, especially during the final sets. Second, I fashioned a mic-hat that provided more freedom on stage. It might seem like a small thing, but the wider range of movement seemed to keep me limber as the night wore on. That’s the mic-hat (and the new Martin) on the right. The microphone, a Shure WH20XLR, comes with a wire head brace that looked like it might get uncomfortable fast.

The hat seemed like a good way to provide padding while keeping the thing in place. Headgear for a 21st-century scop. What do you think? Maybe I should market these.

Images © The 21st-Century Scop, 2017.

Springtime Stories @ Riley’s

April 30th, 2015

Shaggy compressed for blogThe Anglo-Saxon storytellers marked the ages of their characters in winters.

Consider, in Beowulf the hero is said to have lived fifty winters, not fifty years.  Why? Because anyone can survive a summer, but if you live through a winter, it’s time to celebrate. And that’s exactly what our band of 21st-century scops did Tuesday, April 28, when Story Night made its monthly return to Riley’s Pour House.

Having survived the winter, we celebrated with stories.

Bob P Compressed for blogMarking his Story Night return after too many months away was Sean “Shaggy” Sears (above left), a talented performer whose previous story about munchkin wrangling was one of the standout stories of our 2014 season.

We were delighted to have Sean return this time with a story about a dog and a rolling suitcase. We’ll call it “Shaggy’s Dog Story,” and I hope to have the audio posted soon as part of our ongoing series of podcasts.

Karen Rok Compressed for blogAlso making their returns were Bob Podurgiel (above right), who shared a story about a pair of amorous wrens; and Karyn Rok (left) who told a tale about a kidnapped dog. Great stuff!

Making his storytelling debut was Jimmy Zamerski (below right), a talented musician who often plays piano at Riley’s. He has backed me up during my performances on a number of occasions, and it was great having him join the scops at this month’s Story Night. His tale involved a revelation regarding an intersection between math and music. You can learn more about Jimmy’s discovery of “The Eternal Melody” by checking out his video below.

Jimmy Z Compressed for blogApril also marked the anniversary of my first storytelling performance at Riley’s. It was a year ago this month that I stopped by the pub on a rainy evening to find out what Story Night was all about. Jim Riley was the host back then, and I guess he liked my story because a week later he called and asked if I’d be interested in taking over.

In honor of that anniversary, I told my debut story again. It’s titled “The Haunted Attic,” and you can hear it by clicking the podcast player below.

Podcastlogo (1)Clearly, the art of storytelling springs eternal at Riley’s, and you can help make sure it continues.

If you live in or are planning a visit to the Pittsburgh area, please consider joining us for one of our upcoming sessions (stories take the stage on the last Tuesday of every month). You can also help by sharing links to this blog, the media below, and our growing roster of free podcasts (most of them recorded live at Story Night). You can find a directory of those podcasts here.

Remember, the first rule of Story Night is you do talk about story night. Keep talking . . . and scop on!

Spotlight on All-Star Storytellers:
Larry Ivkovich

December 19th, 2014

Larry IkovichIt’s almost here. Not Christmas. Not New Year’s Eve. I’m talking All-Start Storytelling, the event that will feature this year’s top storytellers from Story Night @ Riley’s Pour House.

With fewer than two weeks to go to the event, I’d like to begin highlighting some of the storytellers who will be appearing at our year-end competition.

First up is Story Night regular Larry Ivkovich, who made his first Riley’s appearance at the Writers on Writing session back in May. He then returned in July for Midsummer Night Stories and again in August for Mannequin Adventures.

sixth-precept-front-cover-lighter-shadeLarry has a personable, folksy style that complements the intimate setting of Riley’s, and we’re excited to have him returning for an encore performance.

In addition to telling stories, Larry is an accomplished writer, with a number of short story credits in various publications, including Penumbra Magazine, Twisted Cat Tales, Abaculus III, and Triangulations.

His short fiction has also earned him distinction as a  finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and a recipient of the 2010 CZP/Rannu Fund Award for fiction.

His novels include  The Sixth Precept and Blood of the Daxas. The latter debuted earlier this month at Rickert & Beagle Books.

Connolly at Story Night PPG croppedAll-Star Story Night at Riley’s begins at 8:00 PM on Tuesday, December 30. Other storyteller will include Michael A. Arnzen, Joe Collucio, Owen Kilbane, Michael McBurney, Marlene Pendleton, Karyn Rok, Martha Swiss, Richard “Shaug” Shaughnessy, C. S. Wyatt, and Stephanie Wytovich.

For more information, please see Bob Podurgiel’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette feature article, which includes a review of our holiday-themed November event as well as an All-Star Night preview. It’s good reading.

More storyteller spotlights will be coming soon. Until then . . . scop on!

Image Credits:

Larry Ivkovich at Writers on Writing @ Riley’s, May 2014. Photo by Karen Yun-Lutz.

The Sixth Precept. IFWG Publishing, 2011.

The 21st Century Scop hosting Holiday Stories @ Riley’s, November 2014.
by Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette.

 

Storytelling @ Riley’s Presents: Masks

October 25th, 2014

masksThis month at Riley’s we’ll be telling stories about masks. Think Halloween, theatre, deception, and the roles people play in everyday life. The theme is open to a variety of interpretations, and we’re looking forward to hearing yours.

If your interested in sharing a story, you can let us know by posting to our event page or signing up at Riley’s on the night of the event, October 28. We’re interested in told stories running approximately ten minutes, similar to the stories featured on Moth Radio.

Michael McBurney

Our featured guest this evening are members of The Throughline Theatre, storytellers who enthralled a standing-room audience back in June with their Stories from the Theatre.

Among the returning storytellers is Michael McBurney, whose previous story, “The Best Dr. Pepper I Ever Had,” made for one of this year’s stand-out story performances. An audio of that performance is available at a previous blog post and can be accessed by clicking here.

Michael is currently starring in Throughline’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. His previous shows with Throughline include Saving the World, Arsenic and Old Lace, and August: Osage County. He has also worked  with Alarum Theatre, the Duquesne Red Masquers and the Summer Company at Duquesne. We’re excited to have him back.

Lazel LeroyHazel Leroy studied Theatre History, Literature, & Criticism at University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Pittsburgh and currently teaches at Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts. Active in the city’s theatre scene, she has added her talents to a number of Throughline Theatre productions, among them the recent world premier of C. S. Wyatt’s A New Death.

In her previous appearance at Riley’s, Hezel shared a story about a George Bernard Shaw production that suffered (or perhaps benefited) from a major prop malfunction. You can year that story by clicking on the player below, and you can hear Hazel’s new story by attending this month’s Storytelling Night.

Pat HeadshotAlso joining us will be Patrick Conner, a member of the Board of Throughline Theatre Company who has served the company as both an actor and dramaturg for various productions over the past few years.  He graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a degree in English Literature, and served as a professor at West Virginia University for 34 years before his retirement in 2010.

This month will mark Patrick’s Storytelling Night debut, and we’re delighted to be welcoming him aboard.

Throughline TheatreIf all of this wasn’t inducement enough to attend this month’s Storytelling Night @ Riley’s, the evening will also feature two story monologues from Throughline’s current production, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The monologues will be presented off-book (in the tradition of great storytelling), and each will center on the story of Judas Iscariot, who wore one of the most deceptive masks of all. The storyrtellers for this segment will be Amy Portenlanger and Kevin H. Moore.

Amy Portlenlanger

Amy Portenlanger has performed in six mainstage production with Throughline,among them August Osage County, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, and Arsenic and Old Lace. She currently plays the roles of Gloria and Mother Teresa in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.

She has also performed with several other companies around Pittsburgh, including The Cabaret at Theater Square, South Park Theater, Terra Nova, The Steel City Improv Theater, and The New Hazlett.

Kevin MooreKevin H. Moore earned his BA in Acting and BSW in Social Work from Slippery Rock University. He is currently a part of Saltworks Theater’s touring company and has performed with Pittsburgh Classic Players and Slippery Rock/Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His performance as two of the characters in Iscariot marks his debut with Throughline. Likewise, this will be his first appearance at Riley’s.

At the close of this month’s event, we will be giving away three pairs of tickets to The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. For a chance to win, all you need to do is be there. It’s our way of thanking you for supporting one of the city’s most exiting storytelling venues .

Riley’s Pour House is located at 215 East Main Street in Carnegie. Sign-ups begin at 7:15. Stories begin at 8:00 and continue until 9:30 (or until the last story’s told). Masks are optional.

Hope to see you there! Until then, scop on!