John McDaid's blog

Portsmouth Senior Center Holiday Bazaar this weekend

The Portsmouth Multi-Purpose Senior Center holds its annual Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, November 14 from 9am to 3pm and Sunday, November 15, 10am to 3pm, according to an e-mail circulated to members and supporters. The e-mail goes on:

"Featured are handmade domestics, knitted items, Christmas crafts, jewelry, baked goods, large themed basket raffles, gift table (winner every time), lucky tree plus $500.00 grand prize raffle. Thrift shop and kitchen will be open all day. Drawings at 2:30 pm Sunday."

The Senior Center is located at 110 Bristol Ferry Road in Portsmouth.

02871, Localblogging, Senior Center

This weekend, "Race for Open Space" in Portsmouth

On Saturday, November 7th, the Aquidneck Land Trust will be holding a "Race for Open Space" 5K Run (or walk) along the scenic Sakonnet Greenway Trail. Individuals, families, and teams are welcome, and walkers can bring along strollers or canine companions (on a leash.) Registration details and more info available on the ALT web site.

02871, Localblogging, ALT

Contemporary Theater offers dark, potent “Sweeney Todd”

Jason Shealy as Sweeney Todd, Eden Casteel as Mrs. Lovett, Terry Shea as The Judge. Photo by Seth Jacobson Photography.

Ezra Pound once said that artists are the “antennae” of the human race, and when Stephen Sondheim was writing what some consider his finest musical, “Sweeney Todd,” back in the late 1970s, he was clearly picking up the grim meathook realities of the impending Reagan years, where unrestrained capitalism first found purchase in our national psyche.

The Broadway production, in 1979, literally opened with a huge illustration of the rigidly hierarchical “beehive of British society” on the curtain; unsuspecting theatergoers were treated to a macabre tale of revenge and class struggle fought with razors and rolling pins.

The show has a message that’s timely now, in an America where the top 1% own 40% of the nation’s wealth. And the Contemporary Theater Company in Wakefield pulls no punches, offering an energetic, unblinking version of “Sweeney Todd” that’s full of powerful voices, fine acting, sly comedy, and moments of inspired stagecraft.

The plot is probably familiar to many. Sweeney Todd (played by Jason Shealy with grim determination) is a London barber who has made his way back home 15 years after being transported to Australia by a judge who coveted his wife. Rescued by the sailor Anthony (wonderfully voiced by Alex Bermudez), he finds his wife has taken poison, and his daughter Johanna (Maggie Papa) is a ward of the evil Judge Turpin (the delightfully sleazy Terry Shea). Anthony and Todd arrive in London only to be immediately accosted by a beggar woman (an evocative, heartbreaking turn by Alison King Anthony). All Sweeney has going for him is his disguise (no one recognizes him as the deported Benjamin Barker), an empty barber shop, and his razors, which have been hidden by the owner of the pie shop below, Mrs. Lovett (Eden Casteel).

What happens then — as the opening number says — well, that's the play, and while it sounds like dark business indeed, there are leavening notes of humor, as Todd competes with a street barber (Robert Grady), worms his way into the graces of the judge’s beadle (J. Rick Casey), and discovers, with Mrs. Lovett, the powerful vertical integration possible between a barber shop and a meat pie bakery.

Yes, this is a show about cutting people’s throats and grinding them up into pasties. But it’s a delightful musical.

Shealy and Casteel are outstanding as Todd and Lovett. Shealy’s taciturn demeanor is the perfect foil for Casteel’s expressive, passionate turn as Mrs. Lovett. Their simmering relationship is played more openly than the Broadway production, full of clever bits of business. Their voices are uniformly excellent. This is a challenging score — most of the show’s two-plus hours is sung — and both Shealy and Casteel deliver with power, range, and expressive vocals. Their duets, particularly “A Little Priest,” are an absolute delight.

Musical director Jean Maxon-Carpenter has done an excellent job coaxing strong performances from the entire cast, and the five-member pit band does a solid job bringing the complex arrangements to life. This is a score where the accompaniment offers very little for the actors to cling to — or even clues for where to come in — but she has succeeded in making it all work.

Director Christopher Simpson has captured the essence of the show: Sweeney Todd is both a dark tragedy and a moral fable, and this staging, which brings the actors into — and through — the audience, implicates us all in a way no proscenium can. He’s also ensured that the energy of the show — which is as insistent and merciless as a Victorian clockwork steam whistle — never flags. The pacing is brisk but never hurried, and he has wrung every inch out of the Contemporary’s performance space.

One highlight, for fans of the show, is the staging Simpson created for Fogg’s Asylum. Originally done on Broadway with shadows on canvas, he brings the inmates out into full view, and ties in their oppression thematically in a very satisfying way. It’s a deft moment.

As someone who saw the original several times on Broadway — including once from the front row, close enough to see the tears in Len Cariou’s eyes in the final bakehouse scene — I have a high bar for productions of this show. Much as I admire Johnny Depp, the film version does not — and cannot — do this show justice because of the importance of the chorus and frame narrative. That said, I can recommend this production without reservation. If you remember the Broadway version, you will find much familiar and some fine new touches; if this is your first experience of one of the greatest works of American musical theater, well, you are in for one grisly, exhilarating, absorbing evening.

Tickets available at Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main Street, Wakefield, RI, (401) 218-0282. Evening shows at 7pm on Oct 17, 24, 30, 31, Nov 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 with Sunday matinees at 2pm on Nov 1 and 8.

Localblogging, 02871, Theater reviews

Leadership Rhode Island to host state-wide convo on RI strengths

October 8, 2015 (Providence, RI) - Leadership Rhode Island (LRI) is hosting the first statewide strengths-based convening in the United States on October 24, 2015 from 1pm-5pm at Rhodes on The Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI. The event, titled "The Greatest Lil' State on Earth," is free and open to the public and features Jim Clifton of Gallup, Marc Dunkelman of The Vanishing Neighbor, Karl Wadensten of VIBCO, Steve Duvel of Gilbane Building Company, Vinny Gebhart of Preventure, and hundreds of Rhode Islanders.

"We're excited to have Mr. Clifton kick-off the first statewide strengths-based event ever, right here in Rhode Island," exclaimed Mike Ritz, Executive Director of Leadership Rhode Island. "Jim's drive to put his father's decades of positive psychology research to use around the globe is making impact. Rhode Island is the perfect size to implement his work at a statewide scale."

Over 500 attendees, residents of all 39 Rhode Island cities and towns, are already registered to attend with maximum capacity expected to be reached at 800. The afternoon is segmented into three attendee interactive sessions: individual strengths using StrengthsFinder and a strengths-based leadership activity, community strengths that rely on data collected by the current LRI class through 33 LRI-hosted community meetings across the state earlier in the year, and affinities clustered by attendee interests.

"To paraphrase the late Don Clifton, this event applies his foundational question initially applied to people to our state: "what if we studied what is right with Rhode Island, instead of what is wrong?'" asked Ritz.

Jim Clifton's father, Donald O. Clifton - American psychologist and World War II veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross - was named "the grandfather of positive psychology"* by the American Psychological Association before he passed away in 2003. Jim Clifton carries on his legacy having served as CEO of Gallup, a global leader in consulting and public opinion research and analytics, since 1988. Under his leadership, Gallup has expanded from a predominantly U.S.-based company to a worldwide organization with 30 offices in 20 countries and regions. Mr. Clifton is the creator of The Gallup Path, a metric-based economic model that establishes the linkages among human nature in the workplace, customer engagement and business outcomes. This model is used in performance management systems in more than 500 companies worldwide. His most recent innovation, the Gallup World Poll, is designed to give the world's 7 billion citizens a voice in virtually all key global issues.

Leadership Rhode Island launched its social enterprise initiative to deliver the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment test and training to accompany it in the spring of 2014. LRI has since assessed over 1300 Rhode Islanders, a balance of emerging and established leaders within the nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors. It's now increasing its capacity to reach more Rhode Islanders over the next 3 years.

The Greatest Lil' State on Earth is free and open to the public, but advanced online registration is necessary at All registrants receive a complimentary code to take the online StrengthsFinder assessment, courtesy of Leadership Rhode Island.

About Leadership Rhode Island
Leadership Rhode Island is a 501© 3 non-profit, established in 1981, whose mission is "to provide leaders and emerging leaders with knowledge and access to resources which will enable them to positively affect their communities." For more information about Leadership Rhode Island's mission, programs and activities, please
call 401-273-1574 or visit

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, LRI

South Portsmouth water main flushing next week

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District (PWFD) will be flushing water mains from 8pm to 6am next week on the following schedule, according to a news release:

Oct 19 East Main Road and Middle Road from Crossings Court to Hedly Street. Hedly Street and all side streets, including Industrial Park. Corys Lane and all side streets. Kings Grant and all side streets. West Main Road from Hedly Street to Union Street, including Father Flanagan’s and John Street.

Oct 20 Middle Road and all side streets to the west, Mill Lane and all side streets, West Passage Drive to Locust Avenue, Stonegate Drive, Greylock Drive, and Greystone Terrace area.

Oct 21 East Main Road to Middle Road, from Town Hall to Union Street.

Oct 22 East Main Road from Sherwood Terrace Vanderbilt Lane, east to the Sakonnet River, Union Street, Jepson Lane, and all side streets.

Oct 27 East Main Road from Lawrence Farms to Sherwood Terrace. Vanderbilt Lane to Sandy Point Avenue and all side streets.

Oct 28 East Main Road from Union Street to Mitchell Lane and side streets, Oakland Farms, Bramans Lane east to Meadow Lark Lane. Sandy Point Avenue and Sandy Point Farms.

Oct 29 Wapping Road to Old Mill Lane. Bramans Lane and side streets. Old Mill Lane, Indian Avenue and side streets.

The PWFD added, "Discoloration of the water is expected during and after the flushing. Flushing in one area may create discolored water in other areas. Customers are advised to avoid washing clothes and those with hot water tanks are advised to avoid drawing hot water during the flushing hours and until any discoloration has cleared. It is expected that the water will clear by midday after the flushing. Customers may also experience low water pressure during the flushing. This schedule is subject to weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances."

Editorial note: written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, pwfd

Portsmouth Water district to flush mains next week

The Portsmouth Water District will be flushing water mains from 8pm to 4am next week, according to this schedule sent to local media today:

Oct 6 Willow Lane and Sprague Street., Bristol Ferry Road to Camara Drive and Mitchell Road, and side streets.

Oct 7 Bristol Ferry Road from Cherokee Drive to Bayview Avenue, Boyds Lane to East Main Road and side streets. East Main Road from Sprague Street and Child Street to Boyds Lane and side streets, including Viking Drive area.

Oct 8 Island Park and Hummocks Point areas.

Oct 13 Sprague Street to Freeborn Street, Turnpike Avenue and side streets; West Main Road from Statue Way to Sprague Street and side streets.

Oct 14 East Main Road from Child Street to Clements and Aquidneck Place and side streets to Sakonnet River. Also Common Fence Point.

Oct 15 Common Fence Point.

PWFD notes that "Discoloration of the water is expected during and after the flushing. Flushing in one area may create discolored water in other areas. Customers are advised to avoid washing clothes and those with hot water tanks are advised to avoid drawing hot water during the flushing hours and until any discoloration has cleared. It is expected that the water will clear by midday after the flushing. Customers may also experience low water pressure during the flushing."

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, pwfd

Portsmouth landfill capping project enters final covering phase

The Portsmouth landfill capping project is now officially closed to any soil not meeting residential standards, according to a letter sent from RI DEM to Arthur Palmer Enterprise (APE) and released to the media this afternoon. According to the terms set forth by DEM in their original approval of the project, the only work allowed on the site now is the grading and shaping of the final cap which must be completed within the next year.

Here's what RI DEM Principal Scientist Mark Dennen said in his cover note:

The following letter was sent on Monday to APE as confirmation that the Beneficial Use Determination, allowing the site to accept alternate soils meeting industrial/commercial standards has expired. As per the original approval, the remaining cover soils at the site will need to meet residential standards. Site closure is required within 1 year.

You can download the DEM letter here.

02871, Localblogging, landfill, Landfill capping

Reading tomorrow night with ARIA authors in Cranston

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 9.29.38 AM.pngTomorrow night, three local science fiction writers will be reading at the Elephant Room in Cranston, and I'll be one of the folks on the program. The event is part of the monthly "Lively Literati" reading series, sponsored by the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA).

The event will feature readings by Tabitha Lord, K.H. Vaughn and yours truly, and will run from 6:30-8:30pm at the Elephant room, 2170 Broad St., Cranston. Maps and contact info on the Elephant Room web site.

If you're in the neighborhood, hope you'll consider dropping on by.

02871, Localblogging, sf

PBA hosts 5K run to benefit PHS scholarship fund

pba_run.pngThe Portsmouth Business Association is hosting a "Summer’s End" 5K Run/Walk on September 26 to benefit the PHS Scholarship fund.

PBA is hosting their 3rd annual 5K run/walk on Saturday, September 26th in Common Fence Point. It's a flat course with scenic water views. Leashed pets and baby strollers are welcome!

The race begins and ends at the Common Fence Point Community Center. (Directions)

Sign up online. $20.00 entry fee until Sept 24th. $25 on day of race. First 100 entrants receive a premium Spor-Tek running shirt.

All proceeds go to the Portsmouth High School Scholarship Fund
Each year, the PBA awards $1,000 scholarships to two exceptional Portsmouth High School students.

Contact John C. Farley at

Editorial note: Written from a PBA press release.

02871, Localblogging, PBA