TROUBLE_press_1It’s opening weekend for the Two River Theater Company production of TROUBLE IN MIND, above. Below, the kids from Rockit! polish Janis Joplin’s PEARL as part of the annual Brookdale Guitar Festival. (TRTC photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

Friday, April 11 – Sunday, April 13: 

view_image.aspRED BANK: Although the late Alice Childress is known these days primarily as author of the young adult novel A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, among her many firsts and foremosts was becoming the first African-American woman to have one of her plays produced in New York. She also became the first female playwright to win an Obie Award, for a 1955 play entitled Trouble in Mind.

On Friday night at 8 pm, Two River Theater Company opens a new production of the comedy-drama directed by the acclaimed Jade King Carroll, associate director for the recent Broadway Streetcar Named Desire. It’s a “backstage” portrait of a multi-racial theatrical troupe, a play-within-a-play about a Southern lynching, and the fireworks that fly when the show’s black leading lady (Brenda Pressley of TRTC’s In This House) questions the inaccuracies and stereotypes being perpetuated by her white director (fellow Two River returnee Steven Skybell).

Surprisingly resonant today, the oft-overlooked play costars Tony winner Roger Robinson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), with McKinley Belcher III, Jonathan David Martin, Brian Russell, Hayley Treider, Amirah Vann — and Robert Hogan, the octogenarian character ace of stage and screen interviewed here on redbankgreen, when he starred in Two River’s recent On Borrowed Time. The show continues with performances at 3 pm and 8 pm Saturday, as well as 3 pm Sunday; take it here for schedule details and tickets ($20-$65). Then stick around after Sunday’s matinee show (or drop in free of charge at 5:30 pm), when director Carroll is joined by Pressley, TRTC Artistic Director John Dias, and her longtime associate, Tony winning actor-director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, for a panel discussion on “Modern African American Theater (1950s to Today),” presented as part of Two River’s “Exploration of Justice” slate of special events.

stepdanceSt. Patrick may have chased the snakes from the Emerald Isle, but nobody chases the spirit of St. Patty’s Day from the Jersey Shore — not while events like Family Fun Irish Day in Middletown (featuring the step dancers of Claddagh na nGael, above) keep the festivities going well into the verdant spring.


Friday, April 11 – Saturday, April 12: 

MIDDLETOWN/ SHREWSBURY: The famous fossil beds at Poricy Park Conservancy have yielded many a fantastic find for generations of school-trip archaeologists, but on Friday evening, the most sought-after artifacts are not only above the ground — they “glow in the dark.” Kids are invited to come out to the park after dark (bringing your own basket, running shoes and flashlight from home) for a nocturnal Easter Egg Hunt that begins with a grouping by age at 6:30 pm (please be on time!). A parent/child hunt for ages 2 and under starts off the evening; the eggy action continues with parent-free hunts for ages 7-8 (7 pm), ages 3-4 (7:15 pm), ages 5-6 (7:30 pm), and ages 9-10 (7:30 pm). Then at 7:45, it’s the parents’ turn! The park will offer shuttle service from nearby Fairview Acres — and more info is available by calling (732)615-2260 or emailing recreation@middletownnj.org. In case of rain, call (732)842-5966.

The hunt for the colorful eggs on the greater Green continues on Saturday morning, with an Eggstravaganza running between 10 am and 1 pm at the Middletown Arts Center. The first 500 kids attending will get a free goodie bag; parents and guardians are urged to bring their cameras for a photo op with the Easter Bunny as well. Then at 1 pm, First Assembly of God Church Shrewsbury presents a bring-your-own-basket Easter Egg Hunt that boasts a puppet show and other free activities for ages 2 to 11. The event moves indoors in case of rain; call (732)741-0048 for more info.

Saturday, April 12:

RED BANK: With the 2014 Masters Tournament in full swing, Red Bank Elks Lodge #233 invites one and all to watch the Third Round of competition on the riverside patio bar, during a “Day at the Masters” event that also offers up a chance to show off your own golf skills in a “Closest to the Pin” contest. A $20 donation includes “Butch’s famous BBQ” plus tap beer and wine; pay $10 for food only — and even if you’re not eating or drinking, feel free to stop in and enjoy the day between the hours of noon and 4 pm. There are prizes for the winners and other door-prize raffles; purchase tickets online or in person at the West Front Street lodge.

RED BANK: If you’ve been following the recent news out of the Red Bank Public Library on redbankgreen, you’ll know that the ongoing fiscal woes have resulted in Saturday closings and the cancellation or relocation of many of the library’s scheduled events and programs. Fortunately for followers of the River Read Poetry series, the monthly session of readings has found an alternate home for the time being — right across West Front Street at Manhattan Bagel, the series’ summertime home (enter on the Water Street side of the Rite Aid shopping plaza). Series coordinators Linda Muhlhausen and Gregg G. Brown will be welcoming a pair of guest readers — North Carolina’s John Hoppenthaler and Jersey’s own Pushcart Prize nominee Deborah LaVeglia — for a 2:30 pm presentation that further features the now-traditional River Read open reading.

NAVESINK: Although their ambitious “Season of Simon” — the maiden voyage for their newly re-energized Navesink Arts Center — took its share of lumps from schedule conflicts and the peskiest winter in recent memory, the Monmouth Players conclude the 2013-2014 slate with a return engagement of a favorite from seasons past, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Continuing Doc Simon’s semi-autobiographical excursion into his professional past, the 1993 comedy uses the playwright’s experiences as a staff writer for the late TV kingpin Sid Caesar to craft a cohesive framework for personal dynamics and a plethora of gags. Performances are tonight at 8 pm plus Sunday at 2 pm — and the show continues (with that justifiably famous spread of homemade desserts) through April 27, with no performances scheduled for April 18-20. Call (732)291-9211 for tickets ($18) — and take it here for a feature story regarding the rebirth of the historic Navesink Library, on redbankgreen.

Sunday, April 13:

LINCROFT: One of the most hotly anticipated signifiers of springtime — and does anybody out there recall why on earth they used to do it in the dead of winter? — the Brookdale Guitar Show returns to the Warner Student Life Center at Brookdale Community College for a 17th annual edition of live music, panels, clinics, and thousands of stringed things to see, hear, touch and taste. A fantastic fundraising vehicle for the award-winning Brookdale Public Radio 90.5 The Night, the day-long event (taking place both inside the SLC and under the outdoor performance tent) offers plenty to interest even those of us who can’t find the frets — and for those who can, it’s a must-see musician’s marketplace overseen by people with a real affinity for the art and craft and labor and love of making music. The strolling smorgasbord of instrument, accessory and gear vendors will be joined by area nonprofit orgs Musicians on a Mission and Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation; panels include helpful discussions on marketing and publishing, and the schedule of entertainers features Hey Anna, We’re Ghosts Now, and the students from Red Bank’s Rockit! for Kids (performing a spot-on tribute to Janis Joplin’s epochal album Pearl). Take it to the web link above for a detailed breakdown of vendors, acts and happenings; doors open 10 am and tickets are $15 at the door, $10 for online pre-orders, kids ages 5 to 12 (under 5 gets in free), or anyone with a Brookdale student ID or 90.5 The Night member card.

MIDDLETOWN: The Shamrock Shakes may have oozed off to whatever McDonaldland limbo they occupy for eleven months of the year — but here on the Jersey Shore, such a thing as the spirit of St. Patty’s Day can no longer be contained within so boxy a niche as the month of March. In fact, you might say we’re gearing up for the inevitable “Halfway to St. Pat’s” festivities, as this April’s Sunday afternoon offers up two chances to celebrate the rich cultural traditions of what one might call the greatest of Greens. At 1:15 pm, Middletown Township Public Library hosts the people of Daltaí na Gaeilge, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion and teaching of the Irish language, in a free storytelling session (with portions read in Gaelic) of ancient irish tales “that are sure to stimulate your child’s imagination.” Then at 4 pm, take it over to the Middletown Arts Center, for a three-hour festival of song, storytelling and dance presented by members of the Shore-based irish cultural collective Claddagh na nGael. Admission is $15 — free if you’re 16 and under, or if you’re a “traditional Irish musician” looking to join in the fun — and deeper detail is available by calling (732)915-2191.