G.S. FILMFEST SERVES UP SOME HOTHOUSE TOMATOES, VIA LIVE STREAM

NOTE: By order of the State of New Jersey, all bars, nightclubs, theatres and performing arts centers are closed until further notice. Restaurants remain open for take-out and delivery on a limited schedule, while local cinemas and playhouses have cancelled all shows. Contact individual venues for information on regarding prior ticket sales and reschedulings of announced events…and keep the safety of our community in mind!

Published in The Link News (Long Branch, NJ), March 26, 2020

To be clear about it, the various film-actor celebs that we were anticipating seeing — including Full Metal Jacket star Matthew Modine, or Terminator tandem Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick — will not be making any of those promised personal appearances at area restaurants, theatres or screening spaces.

Instead, these distinguished guests and many more will be coming to your living room, your home office, your kitchen, your bedroom, your bathroom — wherever you choose to take in a movie, TV series or video on your personal screening space these days.

With its 18th annual edition — the third since returning to the Monmouth County milieu of its birth — set to unspool over the course of this weekend, the Garden State Film Festival had mapped out a sprawling slate of screening-event blocks, panels, seminars and ceremonies; a rigorously organized schedule set to commandeer auditoriums, businesses, and municipal meeting places all over Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.

Our unprecedented public health emergency, and its mandated closings of nearly every space in which audiences congregate, had another something to say about those best-laid plans of mice and men. And it appeared as though the GSFF would be just one more small ripple in a wave of postponements and cancellations that included big-time concert events, Broadway shows, major pro and college sports contests, the Cannes Film Festival, and a little thing called the Olympics.

Rather than remaining lost in the tsunami that’s crashed against the economic shore, however, the festival diverted its current to a place Down by the Old Live Stream — with the result that beginning today, March 26, and continuing through this coming Sunday, March 29, the event with the Jersey Tomatoes in its logo soldiers on in “hothouse tomatoes” style; presenting all of its previously announced films as scheduled, and as streaming programs available exclusively to GSFF “attendees.”

Speaking on the eve of the first live-stream happening, festival founder Diane Raver observed that “as recently as ten days ago, we were still a physical event…but when we realized what had to be done, we turned this thing around in record time.”

“That’s all Lauren, God bless her,” said Raver in reference to GSFF exec director Lauren Concar Sheehy, “along with Sage Del Valle, our director of operations and technical wizard…thanks to them, we were able to design a solution, and to build something ourselves.”

As the festival organizers point out, this remains a “ticketed event” for which anyone who purchases an admission at the official website gsff.org is able to access their choice of featured programming blocks from private servers (“not YouTube or Vimeo, and not prone to pirating”). According to a press announcement, previously purchased tickets will be honored for the streamed programming, as well as at the 2021 Garden State Film Festival — and while panels, workshops and other in-person offerings have necessarily been cancelled, the live-stream format has the advantage of allowing film fans to “be in two places at the same time,” with none of the scheduled events subject to turning away attendees from a sold-out screening space.

As Sheehy put it in a statement, the festival “promises to be a celebration of independent film that you can’t see anywhre else, all from the comfort of your home.” Festival chairman Eric Ascalon added that “we intend to ‘virtually’ reach not only our traditional attendees, but also an expanded homebound audience yearning to interface with the arts.”

The 18th annual event kicks off tonight at 7 pm with a special Meet the Filmmaker video that offers previews of featured films — and continues at 8 pm with one of the most anticipated offerings on this year’s schedule, the feature-length documentary QT8: The First Eight. An examination of the career of game-changing director and producer Quentin Tarantino, the project from filmmaker Tara Wood features contributions from such frequent QT collaborators as Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell, and is made to order for passionate film buffs in a state of self-”Quarantino.”     Continue reading

THE HORROR! AN INDIE FILMMAKER TAKES IT HOME, TO ASBURY PARK

NOTE: By order of the State of New Jersey, all bars, nightclubs, theatres and performing arts centers are closed until further notice. Restaurants remain open for take-out and delivery only until 8 pm, while local cinemas and playhouses have cancelled all shows. Contact individual venues for information on regarding prior ticket sales and reschedulings of announced events…and keep the safety of our community in mind!

Director Craig Singer is pictured at left, with his “6:45″ cast members Thomas G. Waites, Augie Duke, and…….?

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), March 19, 2020

In the midst of everything that’s come to pass within these last several days — the spawling spectre of a global pandemic; the calls for “social distancing” and unprecedented disruption to everyday/night life; the mandated curfews and closings of all places of public gathering — a body can almost take a curious kind of comfort from such dependably terrorific touchstones as spooky spirits, grisly murders, and descents into vortexes of hellish horror and madness.

Of course, staying home only feels safe and snug when the house in which one lives — in this correspondent’s case, the Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park — doesn’t happen to be an in-demand location for film crews from ghost-chaser TV shows, paranormal investigators, and producers of supernatural fright epics.

So it was that one recent winter’s day found the 140 year old historic site playing host to a large crew of young actors, technicians, and production assistants, led by Craig Singer, a veteran producer/ director/ screenwriter who’s worked with such diverse talents as Robin Givens, Neil Patrick Harris, Debbie Harry, Lainie Kazan, Matthew Lillard, Michael Rappaport, and Mickey Rourke.

The Jersey Shore native was back on familiar turf — Asbury Park, where several of his projects have been set and/or filmed — to lens a few scenes for his latest feature-length work in progress; a chiller entitled “6:45.” It’s a “time-loop” tale in which a man (young horror-movie veteran Michael Reed) is forced to re-live the same day over and over — a day that saw tragedy befall his female companion (Augie Duke of Netflix’s Messiah) on an outing to the seemingly benign New England seashore resort of Bog Grove. Think Groundhog Day if you must — only in place of the groundhog seeing his shadow, substitute a mysterious shrouded interloper known only as the Shadow Man.

“It’s a great feeling, to be back doing a low-budget indie film here on the Shore,” says the industry pro whose recent résumé includes a stint as an exec with the Disney organization (“a wonderful journey; incredible company”), a gig that he secured when the giant entertainment concern acquired a small Tribeca-based company co-founded by Singer. “I get to work with a young, hungry group of filmmakers — and I get to sleep in my own bed at night!”

Currently “knee deep in post-production,” the project that wrapped shooting this past Valentine’s Day also utilized locations that included downtown Asbury’s Bangs Avenue and exteriors in Ocean Grove, as well as additional “Bog Grove” settings in such Ocean County locales as Seaside Heights, Toms River, and Lavallette. The film that’s on track to hit the festival circuit in summer 2020 (a foreign distribution deal is also in the works) further boasts an intriguing supporting cast that includes veteran character actor Thomas G. Waites (“Windows” in the John Carpenter cult horror fave The Thing), hip hop artists Remy Ma and The 45 King — and, doing double duty as actor and co-producer, former pro boxing champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

“6:45” stars Augie Duke and Michael Reed (at front left) are pictured with Craig Singer and crew, on location in Toms River.

 “Ray’s an old hand at this — he’s done seven or eight films already, and he’s working here with his son Leo, where they play a couple of police detectives,” says Singer, who credits the fact that “I’m my own casting director” for 6:45’s eclectic ensemble. “I’ve actually been working with him for years, on a Mickey Rourke picture (Monkey’s Nest) that we’re hoping to start shooting in April.”

Rourke, of course, has his own strong Asbury connection courtesy of Homeboy, the grim 1988 boxing story (filmed almost entirely in the down-and-dirty Asbury Park of the late 80s) that predated the writer-star’s own foray into pro boxing. The actor would return to the AP waterfront in 2008 for his Oscar-nominated turn in The Wrestler — while Craig Singer would mine his fascination with the city in three other passionate projects.      Continue reading

IT’S JUST AROUND THE CORNER: LIGHT OF DAY KEEPS THE AP HOME FIRES LIT

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, January 17 2019

To hear the man tell it, “Longevity is a benchmark of greatness” — and given that the speaker is Tony Pallagrosi, the words are no mere fridge-magnet platitude. After all, this is the veteran music scene mover ‘n shaker whose unimpeachable cred extends from his days as one of the cats in the band (The Shots, The Asbury Jukes), to host of some much-missed Shore nightspots (The FastLane, Xanadu), to co-founder of major concert venues and promotion entities (Starland Ballroom, Concerts East), to manager of The Weeklings — and quite possibly all the way to “the other side,” thanks to Asbury Angels, the musical memorial initiative that he chairs.

Pallagrosi, however, isn’t referring to himself, or to any of those aforementioned feathers in his cap, but to the endeavor that may ultimately stand as his most lasting legacy: Light of Day, the music-driven fundraising vehicle that’s  illuminated some of the darkest winter days and nights in this City of Summers for well nigh two decades.

Co-founded by Pallagrosi with music promo/ management pro Bob Benjamin as an awareness resource for Parkinson’s Disease research — and inspired by Benjamin’s own diagnosis with the disorder — the annual slate of star-studded happenings grew out of a 40th birthday party for Bob at the Stone Pony; taking its name from the Springsteen soundtrack song “Just Around the Corner to the Light of Day” on its way to becoming a sprawling affair that’s spanned several continents, major North American cities and additional satellite events throughout the calendar year.

Of course, along the way Light of Day became indelibly identified with the stamp of Benjamin’s long-time friend Bruce Springsteen — not just via the organization’s name, but in the very real presence of The Boss as an onstage participant and de facto ringmaster for the majority of those all-star Bob’s Birthday concerts. As an undeniable draw (and a focal point for some tantalizing will-he-or-won’t-he buzz each year), the Bard of the boardwalk has generously shared the stage with a core cast of frequent-flyer performers (including Joe Grushecky, Willie Nile, and Steve Forbert), as well as drop-in guest stars that have ranged from Southside Johnny, Darlene Love and Gary US Bonds, to Light of Day movie star (plus high-profile person with Parkinson’s) Michael J. Fox, and  The Sopranos’ Vincent Pastore.

While the nonprofit Light of Day Foundation is a year-round entity upon which the sun never sets, the heart and soul of the positively charged enterprise remains LOD Winterfest, the mid-January jamboree of activity that commandeers the stages, storefronts and saloons of Asbury Park during the post-holiday “off season” interlude when most other Shore towns are deep into a long winter’s nap. Having offered up a couple of preliminary pace-setter events on January 13 (see the feature on Bob Burger in last week’s Coaster), the circus comes to town in full force for a long weekend that begins tonight, January 17, with a choice of tuneful entertainments that includes a “Hall of Fame Jam” featuring veteran Bruce drummer Vini Lopez (Langosta Lounge), a special edition of Sandy Mack’s Wonder Jam at the Wonder Bar, and an official kickoff concert at downtown’s House of Independents that spotlights such next-gen talents as Williams Honor and Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato.

“No other town this small has such a vibrant music scene,” says Pallagrosi. “And at the end of the day, I want everyone involved.”

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8/27: The Privilege is Rock Wilk’s

RockWilk(color120dpi)Playwright, musician and spoken word artist Rock Wilk returns to The Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park, where he introduced his Off Broadway show “Broke Wide Open,” with a performance of his new script “Privilege.” The first in a new series of “Sketches From Life” events at the historic Asbury Park home, the play will be presented on the evening of Tuesday, August 27.

“Sketches from life,” is how a young aspiring author named Stephen Crane described some of his first attempts at short fiction — a body of work that included his very first story, written when he was a teenager living at his mother’s cottage on Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park.

Nearly 130 years later, the former home of the celebrated American novelist, poet and journalist best known for “The Red Badge of Courage” will be the setting for “Sketches From Life” — a new series of theater and spoken word events, spotlighting poetry, prose and performance that speaks to this still-young century — even as it illuminates the long and dynamic history of The Stephen Crane House.

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12/3: Fear of an Animal Planet

Pandora

Performance artist, playwright and self-described “Queermamasapien” Pandora Scooter makes a long awaited return to Asbury Park this weekend (December 7-9), when she brings her terror-ifically timely solo work FEAR JUNKIE 2012 to the Shore Institute of Contemporary Arts for a three-night engagement that gets in just under the wire of the post-Mayan Calendar Meltdown! 

Call it Guerrilla Theater — although that can sound a bit strident and humorless for a body of work that’s often possessed of a playfully satiric edge. “Gorilla” Theater isn’t actually too far off the mark, when you consider that Animal Rights just as often enters into the mix. We actually prefer Hermit Crab Theater — the kind of living, breathing, creative entity that invades and adapts to any available non-traditional space; be it a Bingo hall, bowling alley, bar, restaurant, art gallery, retail store, gazebo, Afghanistan banana-stand, warehouse, whorehouse, outhouse, or even our house.

Long before we ever had the notion of actually staking out living quarters inside Asbury Park’s venerable Stephen Crane House, we were a fairly frequent guest at many of the oddball and outré performance events hosted by owner Frank D’Alessandro at the history-dripping house of ideas and letters. It’s a gamut of intimately scaled, one-of-a-kind entertainments that ranged from a one-woman adaptation of Jane Eyre, to an early version of Rock Wilk’s sensational solo opus Broke Wide Open (currently enjoying an Off Broadway run at NYC’s 45th Street Theater).

Also caught lighting up the postage-stamp stage of the Crane’s 40-seat Lecture Room was one Pandora Scooter — a dynamic being of verbal elbow jabs and chameleonic character morphs; a “homo…sapien who happens to be a citizen, a woman, a mother, a woman who loves women, a poet, etc.”; a savvy standup and a serious/seriously funny supercharger of words. The Highland Park resident, whose many works for the stage include OUTworldlyFabulous (a traveling solo show designed to confront issues of homophobia and bullying in schools and adolescent peer groups), has maintained a fervent following in and around Asbury Park (she debuted her show Samuraization here in 2005, and has performed at several different hermit-crab venues around town) — and beginning this Friday, December 7, she returns to the storm-slapped but undaunted city for three nights, with a timely little thing entitled Fear Junkie 2012.

A single-Scooter, multiple-personality vaudeville about the way we’re dealing (or not) with the imminent end of the world — as prophesied more or less by the rather abrupt end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012 — this continuation of the themes explored in her earlier Fear Junkie finds snug harbor inside The Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts (SICA), Doug Ferrari’s recently relo’d gallery and cafe space that’s fast become one of the most stimulating storefronts in town. Produced by Black Box of Asbury Park (the arts collective behind many of Pandora’s past local excursions), the intriguing olio of “hilarity and sobriety” goes up at 8pm on December 7 and 8, and at 7pm on Sunday, December 9.

Meanwhile, back at Crane’s Crib, the old house comes alive once more with the latest in a long line of bracingly original works created and performed by our friend Marjorie Conn — performance player, playwright, and proud founder of the original Provincetown Fringe Festival. Since leaving P’town in favor of greater AP, the self-described “Conn Artist” has made herself at home numerous times at the house, for projects that have included a sensational monologue on the life and legacy of Lizzie Borden, to a chamber piece about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok — a history about which she observes, “I fell in love with the Crane House the first time I saw it…I love doing my thing at odd spaces that resonate with me.”

Each of the past few winters, she’s also gathered a group of friends and creative partners together for a yearly Playwriting Festival — the fourth edition of which commandeers the Crane this Saturday evening, December 8, for a program of playlets assembled under the title Animal Crackers (no relation to the 1929 Broadway hit starring the Marx Brothers).

Sharing a common theme of, you guessed it, Animals, the five pieces (written and performed by Conn, Lisa Banwell, Christine Emmert, Richard Emmert, Laura Porter and Rosemary Wright, with music interludes performed by Christine Leahy) include a skit by Marj and Christine that was originally submitted to the New York-based FACT (Friends Always Creating Theater) group; a relationship that came to an abrupt end when, as Conn explains, “I was supposed to write two lesbian comedies but they censored one of them, so I pulled out.”

The short play, concerning two snails attempting to mate (“a very funny play about hermaphrodites, and I don’t often write comedies”) will be seen for the first time here, and will go on to a featured spot in a New York festival this January. It’s joined on the 7pm program by a skit about polar bears (“it’s a funny thing about global warming; they’re losing their ice floes and keep falling into the water”), a one-minute bit about mosquitoes; a script (“Hiss Hiss Kiss Kiss”) inspired by Cain, a rescue cat adopted by Conn earlier this year — and a piece inspired by Big Shot, a deceased frog whose burial-at-sea “coffin” was discovered by veteran beachcomber Conn. A $5 admission (taken at the door) will benefit “the grassroots effort to feed, spay, neuter and find homes for the Asbury Park/Ocean Grove beach cats.”

“Some of them died during Sandy, but slowly they’re coming back,” explains Marj. “They found two week old kittens in the Casino, both of whom now have wonderful homes…one of them was adopted by a woman in the cast who has 20 cats.”

Proceeds from the sale of homemade soaps will be dedicated to an area greyhound rescue effort, and refreshments will be provided for all attendees. Take it to (732)807-4052 to reserve seating — and take it just around the paperless page for our Q&A with Pandora Scooter.

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2/20: It’s the Crane House Movie Club!

Acclaimed mystery novelist, suspense genre authority, former newspaperguy (and O.G. original gangsta) WALLACE STROBY is the guest programmer for the first in a new series of Crane House Movie Club events, happening on Sunday, March 11 right here at the Stephen Crane House! (Photo by Patti Sapone)

Over here at the Stephen Crane House — the historic and literarily legendary Asbury Park landmark that also serves as the home office of this bloviatin’ blog — the sluggish segue from mild winter into mucky Wet Side spring is charged with a certain Spring Cleaning energy that can’t wait for that narrow window between Too Cold to Work Around This Un-insulated House and Too Hot to Work Around this Un-insulated House.

We’ve been getting back into gear in recent days, scraping some of the accrued barnacles off this 19th century “cottage” that’s served as everything from a proper Christian lady’s parlour to a post-nuke Asbury flophouse (and almost-scuttled squat) and reorganizing some of those out-of-control rooms back into some semblance of a reclaimed public space — about which more in a moment.

We’ve also got some thoughts and plans regarding the Crane House theater and screening room, the downstairs    in-house venue that’s hosted all manner of quirky stage plays, readings, house-party concerts and a monthly words-and-movie series programmed by Crane House owner Frank D’Alessandro. It’s there that “Mr. D” presented a birthday salute to Charles Dickens this past Sunday (with featured film George Cukor’s sparkling MGM take on David Copperfield) — and it’s there that we’ll be introducing a new film-buff’s series that could ONLY be called The Crane House Movie Club.

Offered up free of charge and open to the public, The Crane House Movie Club is a not-so-secret society dedicated to the viewing, digestion, discussion (and, sometimes dissing) of Film — conceivably any kind of film, from Janus-collection French Nouvelle Vague and wartime Euro-exile Hollywood, to stuff that wouldn’t have been out of place at old-school Asbury grindhouses like the Park and Baronet. It’s a real-world place to gather, enjoy some refreshments and argue balls ‘n strikes with your fellow cinema enthusiasts — as well as meet and participate in a Q&A with a special invited guest programmer, and take in a roomful-of-people screening of a feature presentation that’s been personally selected by our guest.

We’re pleased and proud to announce the early evening of Sunday, March 11 as the first call-to-meetin’ of the Crane House Movie Club — and we’re just as pleased to announce that our guest programmer for that inaugural event will be the award-winning mystery novelist (and eminent authority on all things crimey and suspensey) Wallace Stroby.

Now open to public perusal for the first time in a dog’s age, the upstairs library at the Crane House is a work in progress that boasts one of the area’s most extensive collections of works by and about Stephen Crane — as well as works by his friends and contemporaries and a number of historically fascinating antique volumes.

A resident of Ocean Grove, Stroby used his background as a classic old-school newspaperman (breaking-news reporter for the Asbury Park Press; arts editor at the Star Ledger) — to say nothing of his life experience on the mean streets of O.G. and its “evil twin” A.P. — to craft his debut novel, The Barbed Wire Kiss, a thriller of misplaced loyalties and overdue paybacks that starred a former state trooper, and used the tired, peeling Tillie-face of our local seaside haunts as an effective backdrop. Asbury Park (and that same ex-cop) figured heavily in his followup effort The Heartbreak Lounge — and since taking the plunge into a full-time career as a working fiction master, Stroby’s traveled the country making personal appearances, and picked up massive raves for such recent-vintage hardboilers as Gone Til November (a book that The Huffington Post said “puts author Wallace Stroby in the company of noir masters like Dashiell Hammett and Elmore Leonard”) and Cold Shot to the Heart.  With his latest novel Kings of Midnight (in which a female thief who’s trying to go straight and a “retired” mobster cross paths with five million bucks in “buried” heist money at stake), Stroby has truly arrived: as witness his book’s recent plug in New York Magazine’s The Approval Matrix;  an appearance that positions Kings at pretty close to BRILLIANT (if just this side of LOWBROW).

Stroby, a genuine movie fan with whom we’ve had the pleasure of co-hosting a showing of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing at The Showroom a few years back, will be introducing a screening of one of his favorite suspensers on March 11 — and while we’re unable to announce the title right at this moment, chances are excellent that it’ll stand as a Stroby-stamped example of effective book-into-film translation (unless of course he opts for a newish find like The Man From Nowhere). We’ll have a pre-film talk with the author, with signing copies of his books available for purchase and complimentary ‘freshments + face time before and after the screening (feel free to contribute to the snackpile).

Again, that’s Sunday, March 11, with the Crane House door creaking open at 4:30pm; pre-show starts at 5, the film screens at 5:30 and it’s open-ended from there. Admission’s free as we mentioned, although it’s not a bad idea to give us a RSVP via the Facebook link at top of the page. Stay tuned for more details on this and future assemblies of The Crane House Movie Club, right here on the upperWETside!

In other Crane House news: the upstairs library “red room” is, as referenced in the photo caption above, once more open to the public after a fairly extensive tearing up/ hosing down/ putting back together again that involved what amounted to an archaeological dig through the boxes, grottoes and crannies of this circa 1878 structure. While it’s still a bit rough around the edges — books are not arranged to any approved librarian standard, and we promise to gradually replace all the Post-Its and Ziploc bags with classier versions of same — the room has an appropriately muted and musty vibe that frames one of the area’s finer collections of novels, stories, poems and nonfiction pieces by Stephen Crane, the American novelist and journalist best known for the Civil War tale The Red Badge of Courage. We’ve got first and early editions of his books, vintage magazines with his stories, a host of bios and critical studies, along with selected volumes by his major influences, friends and contemporaries (including Dickens, Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde and Henry James) as well as those who were influenced in turn by Crane (Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather and more). Lots more where that came from, including some other vintage literary volumes and other fascinating printed artifacts of period life (some of them as old as 1818).

It’s on view in what’s officially branded “The Chris Hayes Room” (various rooms in the Crane House are named for members of the Hayes Family who purchased the home at 508 Fourth Avenue and rescued it from wrecking-ball oblivion) — and our plans for the coming months involve a freshening up of many of the other rooms at the Crane, with progress reports right here as things, uh, progress…

Notes from the Crane, 11/11

In an interview we did with her a few years back, Marjorie Conn told us, “When I first moved here, and I didn’t know anyone, I picked up all the local papers to get a sense of what was going on — and the minute I walked into the Stephen Crane House I knew immediately that it was where I wanted to do my thing.”

Her “thing,” as it turns out, was a brand of theater that was personal and political, confrontational and conversational, intimately cosmic and engagingly guerrilla — like, FRINGE, as in Provincetown Fringe Festival, the quirky quasi-underground brand she cultivated for years in the place that Norman Mailer called “a spit of shrub and dune.”

Ousted from her P’town stomping grounds in the name of upscale rents, exiled like an emperor to the Elba that is Asbury Park, the self-described “Conn Artist” set about doing that aforementioned “thing” in such hermit-crab haunts as restaurants, art galleries and retail establishments — finding her most comfortable berth at the historic Crane House, the circa 1878 cottage whose old dining room and kitchen regularly play host to poetry readings, film screenings, intimate concerts and writers’ workshops (and from which this very blog issues forth into the world).

It was at the Crane that the playwright and thespian introduced local audiences to her dynamite one-woman show Miss Lizzie A. Borden, a character portrait that we observed “took an axe to everything you’ve ever assumed about the infamously accused (but indisputably acquitted) figure of Yankee legend — illuminating a person who lived a life far beyond the morbid quatrain of the familiar rhyme.” Her many other projects at Crane’s crib have even included an original musical about the relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and her longtime friend Lorena Hickok.

This Saturday, November the Fifth, Marj Conn and the Provincetown Fringe Festival in Asbury Park commandeer the Crane for their third annual Short Play Festival, an evening of original playlets collected under the beach-umbrella title By the Beautiful Sea.

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Basie Keeps the Ghost Light Burning

Grant Wilson (left) and Jason Hawes (right) are the SyFy network’s GHOST HUNTERS, and they’re driving the TAPS van to the Count’s castle for a Thursday night appearance.

Tag along on any of the Red Bank Walking Lantern Ghost Tours that wind through the downtown business blocks every Friday night through Halloweekend, and you’re likely to hear told about the tradition of the “ghost light” — and why historic old auditoriums like the Count Basie Theatre have found it prudent and necessary to keep a bulb burning for the restless entities who are often said to haunt the catwalks, catacombs and balconies.

On Thursday night, October 20, the old Basie place gets paid a visit by Grant Wilson  and Jason Hawes, New England-based bosses of The Atlantic Paranormal Society and — thanks to the long-running hit SyFy Channel series Ghost Hunters — internationally renowned (and even somewhat reluctant) TV stars.

The pair of regular-joe tradesmen (they also famously operate a RotoRooter franchise by day) and lifelong history buffs (partners as well in a venerable New Hampshire inn) haven’t been called to the Count’s castle to flush out a clamorous poltergeist, or even snake out a sluggish floor drain. When they step out onto the stage that’s hosted many of the biggest names in show business, the men from TAPS won’t be tap-dancing, singing or telling jokes, but offering up a refreshingly matter-of-fact presentation on the nature of their work, the fascinations that led them to their passionately pursued avocation, and the real reasons why they spend so many nights lurking around allegedly haunted houses all over the United States — including the house where this correspondent lives (more on that in a moment).

UpperWETside spoke to the well-traveled Grant Wilson in what could be called his most frequent haunt — behind the wheel of a moving vehicle on an interstate highway. Following is what we found when we reviewed the recording.

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