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Sitting Down with Stone Phillips
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Canfield Casino, glittering light radiating from its grand windows, seemed to be welcoming me. I walked down into Congress Park with my back straight, but my mind flying in all different directions. All I could think was, “I’m going to meet Stone Phillips – is this real?”
As the entertainment editor for Saratoga TODAY, I have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with a diverse group of people, both residents of Saratoga Springs and those visiting. On this special occasion, I was invited to attend the 60th anniversary gala for the Adult and Senior Center of Saratoga, where Phillips was serving as Honorary Chair. Phillips is best known for his career in television journalism, including 15 years as a co-anchor on “Dateline NBC.” When I was little, I didn’t watch music videos or cartoons after dinner like a lot of kids. I watched “Dateline NBC” instead. My grandmother and I would have deep conversations after the show about the news and the world, which undoubtedly sparked my interest in pursuing a career in journalism.
As I made my way into the Canfield Casino where the gala was being held, I was surprised to find I was one of the first people there and the first member of the press. Punctuality has its perks, I thought, gazing around the room at the warm golden décor and the elegant high ceilings. For six decades, the Senior Center has been empowering seniors to achieve independence and fulfillment through their many programs and services, and I was thankful and honored to be a part of it.
Phillips was easy to spot. Tall and statuesque, I found him in the middle of a conversation with Traci Jersen, the marketing coordinator for the Senior Center. I anxiously approached, first introducing myself to Jersen, before turning to Phillips. When I was visualizing the gala beforehand, I imagined him surrounded by the media and by fans, but since I was so early, it was just us. He had a kind and genuine smile as he introduced himself. When I asked if we could sit and chat, he responded with, “of course!” and led me over to a small sofa.
As I prepared to ask my questions, I sat next to Phillips and pictured all the people I had seen him interview, all the world leaders, celebrities, heroes and notorious criminals. For a moment, I felt as though I was sitting next to all of them. I channeled my inner Stone Phillips, and began. H
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
A: As with most journalists, I feel it’s telling important stories that have an impact on people’s lives. That can be an interview, a feature, a human interest story or a hard news investigation. One of the things I loved about Dateline for many, many years was the variety. We were doing all of those kinds of stories. Those were some great years.
Q: What is the difference between a good piece of journalism and a great one?
A: I think a great piece of journalism is original, it’s built on the facts, and I think, if you don’t care about a story, why report it? I think you ought to care about a story, and I think that often carries you to the next level. I think it’s about having an impact on people. It’s about opening their eyes, maybe challenging them to think about something in a way they didn’t think about before. It’s certainly not following the pack.
Q: If you could go back and interview someone one more time, whom would it be?
A: The interviews that are coming to mind I can’t interview anymore because they’ve deceased. But I would say Boris Yeltsin. I found him very interesting and I would be interested in sitting down with him again if that was possible. Often times when you circle back around to a story, to a person or to an interview much later, you often get more depth, more perspective and sometimes, a completely different take than you did in the moment when news is breaking. In that case, Yeltsin was on a plane. I flew with him from Moscow to Washington for his first summit with George Bush. He was really being very mindful about his agenda during the summit, and to talk with him 20 years later, you’d get a different perspective about his experiences. He was such a pivotal figure in Russian history at that point.
You know, I’d be interested in talking to Lynndie England, one of the soldiers involved in Abu Ghraib. Lynndie was caught in the middle with that. I think there were forces much greater than she at work there. I’m interested in talking to her. Scott Waddle, the submarine commander who was at the helm during that horrible accident with the vessel carrying the Japanese students in Hawaii. Circling around back to that would be interesting.
Q: How did you get involved with the Senior Center?
A: I got a cold call actually, just an e-mail from the director here. She came into my website and wrote me. I was very moved by the e-mail. I’ve never met her or set foot into the Senior Center until today. I had been to Saratoga before, and I think it’s beautiful here. I salute a center like this that has been serving seniors for 60 years, and I just thought well, what can I do to tip my hat and celebrate with them? So I signed on to serve as the Honorary Chair here and I am really happy I did. I went to the Senior Center today for the first time and I am so impressed with what’s going on there. It’s active, it’s vital; I saw smiling faces everywhere I went. It’s a place to take a class, meet a friend, or grab a meal. It’s just got a wonderful feel to it. This evening is going to benefit the Community Connection Program which trains volunteers to help out with transportation or shopping, home visits, respites for Alzheimer’s caregivers, very important work. It’s near and dear to my heart.
Q: What issues facing the aging population are you most concerned with and passionate about?
A: I think isolation and loneliness, as well as homelessness amongst the elderly. There are a host of problems. My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s. We have a lot of work to do there. We need more support for caregivers, families, for loved ones struggling. Those are the issues I’m passionate about.
After our interview, Phillips gave me some excellent advice and wished me the best of luck in my career. Later, as I was leaving the gala, he took time out of the group he was speaking with to say goodbye and wish me well. You wouldn’t think this humble and soft-spoken man once sat across from serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer or the remorseless “subway vigilante” Bernie Goetz. Though I’m only at the beginning of my journalism career, my conversation with seasoned veteran Stone Phillips has inspired me to work hard, stay original, and most importantly, continue to love what I do.
Who’s the Funniest of Them All? Make Me Laugh Finals Will Crown Winner
GLENS FALLS – Make Me Laugh is looking for the funniest amateur comedian in the Capital District, and with the final round approaching, the search is almost over. The finals for Make Me Laugh: Albany will take place Saturday, November 14 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
This month, the competition received countless online submissions, held auditions at local colleges and hosted a preliminary round at Parting Glass Pub in Saratoga Springs. The best of the best were given stage time at Albany Comedy Works on November 5, which included special guest Jaye McBride, who appeared on America’s Got Talent and at the Boston Comedy Festival.
“We are endlessly impressed with the talent we have found so far,” said event producer and comedian Dan Frigolette. “I cannot wait to see what these contestants bring to the final round.”
The performers who have been selected for the finals are: Tania Lewis, Nicholas Yost, Jenny Young, David Shine, Darren Discenzo, Usama Saddique, Jennie Sutton, Chris Barnes, Josh Wright, James King, Iris Brody, Johan Hernandez, Nick Leydorf and Katie Kimacek.
For the finals, contestants will be given a three minute opening round to perform, and then the best four will be asked to come back up and perform a six minute round. The one overall winner of the contest will be given paid performances all throughout the northeast, free head shots, free business cards, a free website, their picture in multiple newspapers and appearances in two upcoming comedy festivals. The winner will also be performing in Comedy’s Best Kept Secret Tour on November 20 and December 11 at The Parting Glass Pub, as well as at The Haunt in Ithaca on November 21.
Judges for the finals include: 2014 Make Me Laugh Albany winner Erik Anker, Glens Falls Civic Center producer Alyssa Aufiero, entertainment editor for Saratoga TODAY Newspaper Rebecca Davis, publisher of The Saratogian Robert O'Leary, performer from Mop and Bucket Theater Company Amy Nolte, and comedian featured on The Artie Lange Show, Wendy Williams Show, and Boardwalk Empire and producer of Make Me Laugh across the country, Dan Frigolette.
"Make Me Laugh prides itself on finding some of the most important industry decision makers in each city to judge the comedic talent. Providing local celebrities and future comedy bookers, we hope this further sweetens the pot for prospective comedians to submit." said Frigolette.
Last year's winner Erik Anker performed in 65 shows in 2015, which included a 42 day road trip from New York City to Anchorage, Alaska that encompassed 19 cities and over 40 shows. Anker will also be closing out the show with a performance after the finals.
Tickets to the finals at Glens Falls Civic Center are $12, which can be purchased at the door or online. For more information or to buy tickets, visit laughUSA.org.
Willie Nelson’s Son to Perform at Putnam Den
SARATOGA SPRINGS – After supporting Neil Young as his backing band on his recent album, “The Montsanto Years” and on his national tour, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real are making a special stop at Putnam Den on Saturday, November 14.
Lukas Nelson and his band, Promise of the Real, are an American rock n’ roll group based out of California, Lukas first picked up the guitar at age 11 to honor a promise he made to his father, Willie Nelson. Nelson was able to teach himself the craft by playing along to classic Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix songs.
Now 24, Nelson is building his following the old fashioned way by touring year round and delivering high energy performances to fans across the country. Nelson and his band have performed over 400 shows in the past three years, playing with the likes of Neil Young, John Fogerty, Bob Weir, B.B. King and Bob Dylan. The band also has self-released four records, and declares their genre as “cowboy hippie surf rock.”
On Saturday, November 14, doors open at 8 p.m. and the show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 the day of the show. Only those 18 and older will be admitted, with a $5 surcharge for those under 21.
Putnam Den is located at 63 Putnam St. in Saratoga Springs. For more information or to buy tickets in advance, visit putnamden.com.
Skidmore Theater Presents Macbeth
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Skidmore College Department of Theater will be performing “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare for its 2015 Mainstage show. This production is directed by published writer, feminist media critic and Skidmore Theater artist-in-residence Holly L. Derr.
The immoral classic is given new life in this bold, gender-bending production of “Macbeth.” In a world of witches, war and madness, Macbeth and his cunning wife will stop at nothing to hold the throne of Scotland. The price of power, however, is greater than they predicted- an army led by the strongest warrior in the land is determined to restore the King’s daughter to her throne.
“Macbeth is generally thought of as being about ambition, but it’s really about so much more than that,” said Derr. “In our production, we complicate questions about the nature of gender, pointing out Shakespeare’s underlying theme and reflecting the way gender functions in our world. We’re also using some pretty cool SFX to highlight Shakespeare’s use of the supernatural as a storytelling device and as a way of exploring questions about mortality, nature and time.”
The production will run November 20, 21 and 22 and December 3, 4, 5 and 6. All shows are at 8 p.m., except Sundays (November 22 and December 6), when the show begins at 2 p.m.
Ask the Artist: Student Displays Sketches at Gallery
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jamie Weiner, a senior at Skidmore College, will be presenting her diverse and inventive artwork at Skidmore’s Case Gallery from Thursday, November 19 until Tuesday, November 24. Below, she shares her creative process, her passions and her plans for after graduation.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
We are each unique, but we are also highly connected to our history, each other, our environment, and the tools we use and make, sometimes in ways we are not conscious of. In order to communicate through my art I am constantly searching for entities beyond my perception to make new and all-encompassing connections, creating an endless challenge not meant to be mastered. This inspires me without a limit, and allows me to be real and be myself, with no hesitation, with no apology. I am driven to make those connections to include every person, but fully understand there will always be exclusions. This understanding drives me further, to keep reaching, which is all part of my creative process.
Which artists do you admire?
Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher.
What about art brings you joy?
Art is limitless in possibilities, so it frees me in a way that no other activity can. It is my special way of reaching out to others who are all connected to me in some form, and if successful, touching others’ lives by communicating the way I think and how I perceive my experiences.
How did you become an artist?
I am an artist just by my existence. I don’t ever remember not being one, so I don’t know. I did improve and develop my art as a solitary habit, as I was quiet, and as an only child, I was able to communicate even while alone.
What do you enjoy drawing the most?
I’d love to continue making many forms of art and ultimately find a way to make a living using my creativity and my full potential. Currently I’m a senior majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Japanese, English Literature and Asian Studies. I hope to find more meaningful connections to help others, and by helping others, succeed in a higher understanding of what my role and place in the world should be. As my graduation from college approaches in 7 short months, I’m leaving my options open and flexible, but I know that I desire my ending role to focus on the interconnectedness we have to all other beings.
Groovin' at Proctors: Local Musicians Portray Classic Rock Stars
SCHENECTADY – Grab hold of your groove and prepare for a trip to the past with an “out of sight” musical experience at “GROOVIN’…A 60’s and 70’s Musical Journey,” coming to Proctors on November 14.
The show features a variety of the very best musicians and singers who specialize in re-creating the most popular artists and their songs from the greatest era of classic rock history, leaving audiences amazed at how accurately and realistically their favorite musicians are depicted.
Captivating and bursting with energy, “GROOVIN’” is one of the biggest multi-act tribute shows performing today, with all the cast members and musicians from the Capital District.
Previously at Proctors as the “Sixties Rock Experience,” the new line up now includes legendary Icons from the 70’s such as Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond and Heart. Combined with the show’s 60’s legends, such as Felix Cavaliere of The Young Rascals, Van Morrison, Justin Hayward of Moody Blues, Carlos Santana, Melanie, Dusty Springfield, Ian Anderson, Lulu, and Joe Cocker, audiences are taken on an amazing musical journey flashback.
“GROOVIN’” gives the audience a chance to fully experience a true to life festival concert right out of a timeless era. This year, there will be a special tribute to open the show, featuring a live presentation of the early hit songs from the original British Invasion bands: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Saratoga resident, Collette McComb, will be portraying Melanie, Stevie Nicks and Heart’s Ann Wilson. McComb is the School Director at Performance School of the Arts in Clifton Park, and has performed at venues all over the Capital Region, as well as in Europe and in Montreal.
"She has this amazing ability as a performer to make every person watching her to get the feeling she is singing the song to them only,” said Gary Weinlein, director and producer of the show. “Collette is so alluring while sharing her vocal gift that she captures the entire audience. Seeing is believing, and this truly mesmerizing talent can only be fully appreciated and felt during a live performance."
Thirteen incredible acts will have the audience at Proctors singing and dancing in their seats as this Capital District production guarantees to make them feel groovy all over with wonderful memories.
“GROOVIN’…A 60’s and 70’s Musical Journey” will be performed at Proctors on November 14 at 7 p.m. Proctors is located at 432 State Street in Schenectady, roughly 25 miles from Saratoga Springs.
Tickets can be purchased at proctors.org or by calling the box office at 518-346-6204.
Protecting Against Backyard Predators
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Wild animals observed in their natural habitat can be a fascinating sight. A deer spotted on a morning walk, squirrels seen playing in the trees, and birds soaring the skies above are looked at with wonder and curiosity. But what happens when wild species begin encroaching into where people live, in particular, species that can pose a dangerous threat? In the last month alone, there have been two bear sightings in Saratoga Springs, locals are distraught over losing livestock to coyotes and, though there is no proof for certain that coyotes are the culprits, there is a noticeable increase in the number of cats going missing in the Clifton Park area.
Without a doubt, people often consider bears and coyotes two nuisance species worth avoiding at all costs.
Unfortunately, there are certain species in general that are thriving living among humans. “Those are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, deer and geese. Those five are the big ones. But bears and coyotes are the scary ones, because there is a predatory component to them; they have big teeth, and because they do kill pets and bite people,” said Allen Gosser, the State Director for Wildlife Services at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Now, while coyotes and bears may be dangerous, Gosser points out that they are not lurking behind every tree. In fact, most coyote nuisance calls come from down state, in Westchester County, and bear disturbances are more common in the Catskills. However, residents upstate still need to be prepared as there is still a possibility of a coyote or bear encounter.
But why are these species coming into residential, urban environments in the first place?
“There is really good cover in residential areas. A lot of wild animals, like coyotes, are very secretive,” said Gosser. “They’re living among us, except we just don’t know it, usually because they are nocturnal.”
Good hiding places are not the only thing drawing in wild animals; they are also attracted by human food. Garbage cans and pet food left out are easily smelled and picked up.
“Coyotes are omnivore and bears are the same way. There is a wide range of what they do eat. Coyotes in particular will exploit any food they can,” said Gosser. “Some people that see coyotes will start feeding them, and that’s the worst thing you could do. You’re going to get them habituated. You’re not only inviting an unnatural situation, but these animals are also known rabies carriers.”
One of the most dangerous threats wild animals pose in close proximity to humans is the possibility of spreading the rabies virus. Though attacks are rare, frightened or aggressive animals can bite pets, children, and adults alike, which always carries with it the risk of rabies infection. Rabies can only be detected post-mortem by examining the brain, which means that the bite victim will most likely have to undergo post-exposure therapy as a preventative measure.
“If anyone gets bitten by any sort of wild animal, they should immediately see a health professional,” said Gosser. Wildlife Services at USDA seeks to prevent rabies by trapping and vaccinating wild animals, preventing further exposure.
Homeowners have several options when it comes to protecting their home from coyotes, bears and other wild nuisance species. If animal activity is suspected on your property, it is best to remove all attractants to the animals (see “Prevention Tips”). They can also call a local, licensed trapper or a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) to come and remove the animal from the property. These professionals are trained in how to best deal with and handle potentially threatening animals.
But what do you do if you find yourself face to face with a wild animal expectantly?
“Stand your ground and be big. Some people even say flap your arms. Personally, I think it’s important to remain calm,” advises Gosser.
If the nuisance animal is also a game animal (goes into season for hunting), licensed hunters are allowed to take them if they are in season. Always check the local hunting regulations and guidelines first to determine which animals can be hunted and when. Self-defense is also taken into consideration if the animal poses a direct threat of harm to you or your family.
Knowing when certain wild animals will be most abundant and prominent is another important part in avoiding them. Be on the lookout for bears in late winter and early spring, as well as harvest times when crops are in the field. Coyotes are often spotted in mid to late summer.
For more information about nuisance species, including coyotes and bears, visit the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s website at dec.ny.gov or the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website at aphis.usda.gov.
Prevention Tips to Keep Nuisance Animals off your Property:
-Make sure that garbage bags are securely tied and that trash can lids are placed on firmly. Locking trash bins are also available that are made specifically to keep out wildlife.
-Do not leave food out. When possible, feed domestic animals indoors so their food does not attract predators.
-Do not operate refrigerators or freezers outside or on porches.
-Limit or eliminate bird seed, which is known to attract bears and coyotes.
-Do not let domestic pets run free without supervision.
-Block off and seal crawl spaces where animals could find their way in.
-Fencing the yard may be a solution for keeping out wildlife, preferably one that is set at least 6 inches into the ground and four feet high or taller.
-Advise community members to take the same precautions.
Step Right Up to the Vaudeville Circus! Arts Fest Fridays Continue
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Tang Teaching Museum will host the third Arts Fest Friday on November 6, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Arts Fest Fridays are free, entertainment-filled events designed to bring the community together at various local art hotspots. Each Arts Fest Friday is held at a new location with a different theme; the Tang Museum’s theme is “Vaudeville Circus,” which includes tumblers, tricksters, tappers and much more.
Tang’s evening of entertainment includes dancing by Saratoga Jazz Tap and violin performances by Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Mike Campese. To complete the circus theme, the Skidmore Circus Club and the Waldorf School Circus Club will be performing their unique acts live.
The headline act is the traveling one-man-band extravaganza, “The Suitcase Junket.” Matt Lorenz, the sole performer of “The Suitcase Junket” is known for playing instruments not only with his hands, but his feet! He sings, plays guitar and plays up to four instruments using his feet, making him sound like a several member band is playing. Lorenz is also known for his “throat singing,” where he can produce two notes at once with his voice.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour the Tang’s “Affinity Atlas” exhibit, as well as Mark Allen’s visual art exhibits.
Food will be provided by Circus Café.
All Arts Fest Fridays are free and open to the public. The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is located at 815 N. Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
For more information, visit saratogaartsfest.org.
Faculty Art Exhibition at Skidmore
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Schick Art Gallery at Skidmore College presents the 2015 Selected Art Faculty Exhibition, featuring new works by John Galt, Doretta Miller, Lauren Sandler and Peter Stake.
The exhibit will run from Thursday, November 5 through Friday, December 13. An opening night reception will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on November 5 at the gallery. On Wednesday, November 11, all four artists will participate in a gallery talk at 4:30 p.m. Schick Art Gallery events are free and the public is welcome.
John Galt’s sculptures combine interest in the human figure, sensitivity to form and movement and a passion for iron and bronze casting. He has been teaching at Skidmore since 1990, and he is actively involved in foundry events like iron-pours, both on and off campus. His work has been exhibited locally and in Europe.
Using miniature toys as actors and her own garden as a stage, Doretta Miller has creation enigmatic scenarios with her paintings. Her work combines an interest in museum dioramas with preoccupations about current events, such as environmental and geo-political tensions. She has been teaching at Skidmore since 1982, and has also taught and curated exhibits in China.
Lauren Sandler’s recent ceramic works are re-creations of common household objects. Though life-sized and realistic in form, the pieces have an obvious lack of utility, showing the ambiguous realm between the literal and metaphoric. She has taught at Skidmore for two years and is also a visiting teacher at Saratoga Bridges.
Peter Stake’s abstract paintings arise from his interest in relationships of light, color and space. Teaching at Skidmore since 1986, he has also served as director of the Schick Art Gallery.
Skidmore’s Schick Art Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, and from 12 to 4 p.m. on weekends.
For more information, call 518-580-5049 or visit skidmore.edu/schick.
20th Anniversary of First Night Saratoga: Lineup Announced
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Arts has just announced the lineup of events for the twentieth annual First Night Saratoga on New Year’s Eve. As one of the oldest and largest First Night celebrations in the country, First Night Saratoga is one of the most affordable, accessible, family-friendly and safe ways to ring in the new year. On Thursday, December 31, join over 15,000 revelers as Saratoga Arts hosts over seventy performance groups in thirty venues throughout historic Downtown Saratoga Springs.
First Night Saratoga starts with the 5K road race at Skidmore College at 5 p.m., and culminates with SPAC sponsored fireworks in Congress Park at midnight. In between, the night is jam-packed with live music, dancing, comedy and magic. Here is just a small sample of the highlights:
The Music –
Headlining the event is the iconic New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (NRBQ), who will share the mainstage with Harold Ford, a Johnny Cash tribute artist, and Jim Gaudet’s bluegrass ensemble. The internationally touring rock duo Sirsy, who played for standing room only crowds last year, will return. Afull range of genres is represented, from country-rock and ska/reggae to 60s retro and jazz.
Saratoga Arts provides a showcase opportunity for young performers, including the fourteen year old pop savant Talia Denis, as well as sixteen year old Elvis impersonator Matthew Boyce and his band Suspicious Minds.
The Comedy –
The local improve troupe Mop and Bucket Company are always good for a laugh and are a staple of First Night Saratoga. Also, check out Chris Ruggerio’s one man variety show, an act with a thrilling mixture of stand-up comedy and daredevil juggling.
Mind Arts –
There will be a venue at First Night entirely dedicated to the mind arts such as tarot card and rune readers, as well as a certified psychic. Corbie Mitleid will provide gallery-style past life readings. Comic hypnotist Michael Ray will bring the most suggestible on stage for some ridiculous New Year’s hijinks. Nationally recognized actor and magician, Josh Lozoff, will rivet the audience with his mind-bending act, “Life is Magic.”
The Arthur Murray Dance Studio will open its doors all evening, providing a different type of group instruction every hour, from Salsa to Swing, no partner necessary. The Turtle Clan Dancers will be leading ceremonial winter dances from the Ojibwe and Abenaki tribes. Homespun Dancers will brighten the night with live folk music and guided square and line dancing from the American tradition.
All performers will be inside their respective locations; all venues are heated. Community partner, CDTA, is providing free shuttle and bus trips to all of the venues, as well as special shuttle service to and from Wilton Mall.
Buttons, which allow admission into First Night events, can be purchased online or in person. For more information about where to buy a First Night button, visit saratoga-arts.org/firstnight/buttons. First Night Saratoga is a GE Kids in Free event. One child age 12 and under will be admitted for free with each paid adult.