Green Builders Come Together at Buffalo Forum

The Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. hosted the Green Building Forum: A Blueprint for Change at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum Wednesday. The forum brought together nearly one hundred local building professionals interested in learning how to create green and affordable housing in Buffalo.

Sam Magavern, an instructor who teaches who teaches Affordable Housing and the Environment at University at Buffalo Law School said, “If we are working in the building field already, we need to see how can we take it to the next level and build green.”

The Keynote Speakers, Ann Petersen, Home Ownership Coordinator for the City of Schenectady, New York and David Sadowsky, architect, discussed their Schenectady project which created a prototype environmentally friendly home which was designed for low income buyers.

The home was awarded the Best in American Living Award by the National Association of Homebuilders. It was the first home in New York state to be certified by the United States Green Building Council to meet national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The home which was built for forty dollars less per square foot than typical Schenectady construction costs and was designed to fit the historical character of the community, Sadowsky explained. Operating costs are also kept in mind. The twelve month average combined utility cost was less than half that of a typical Schenectady home of that size.

The home was created using the principals of Universal Design, Sadowsky said, “Universal Design enables people to age in place by building in flexibility. Wider doors, a first floor bedroom, first floor laundry, accessible or adaptable bathroom, on-grade access” are among the features that allow for adaptability for an aging or disabled resident without ” looking like an institutional space.”

“HUD Subsidies are essential to building these homes,” added Ann Petersen, “because we don’t have private developers coming into these neighborhoods and building homes that cost $200,000 to build when they can only be sold for $100,000 due to neighborhood market conditions.” Using real costs from prototype, the partners applied for grant funding to develop more homes.

Kevin Connors of eco_logic STUDIO, a design studio which focuses on ecological architecture and design, worked with University at Buffalo architecture students to build a straw bale project in Depew. Green Building, according to Connors includes, “Super insulation, utilizing natural daylight and ventilation, locally renewable and recyclable products and systems which conserve water and green space.”

Nathan Rizzo, Vice President of Solar Liberty Energy Systems seeks to make solar energy a ” rewarding and viable alternative.” Several Buffalo buildings including St Gregory the Great, Erie County SPCA and the Chautauqua Institution are able to generate sixty to one hundred percent of their energy through passive solar technology.

Sam Magavern states that all housing is pollution, the key is how much we can eliminate the impact on the environment. Concerned that there would be a “value conflict between affordable housing and environmental protection,” he has found green buildings cheaper to operate, healthier and more likely to prevent global warming. Magavern says the best strategy for Buffalo is rehabbing existing housing stock and taking a block by block approach to turn Buffalo’s supply of vacant lots into “assets instead of eyesores”.

The next step, according to Stephanie Simeon, Executive Director, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, is to “get the word out to the public so that people who are looking to build or renovate will have a resource.”

Originally appeared in buffalo.com

NYSCAR Unveils New Software Program

The New York State Commercial Association of Realtors and the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise hosted a presentation of a new commercial listing software program at Harry’s Harbor Place Grill Thursday.

The program will help commercial realtors to work together and centralize their listings with Commercial Listing System (CLS), similar to the Multiple Listing System (MLS) that has been used by residential realtors for years.

The challenge surrounding commercial real estate in Western New York is that the “information is scattered. There is no centralized location so you need to go to the individual commercial real estate sites,” according to Paula Blanchard, Commercial Realtor and Marketing Committee Chair of the Western New York Chapter of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors.

The goal is to “create a more synergistic organization” among Western New York commercial realtors, says Kristin Badger-Bach, Past President of the Western New York Chapter of NYSCAR and membership chair. Buffalo is the home of “smart people, the 20-minute commute and one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. We need to tell people our story, leverage marketing and spread the word.”

Catalyst Real Estate software, according to Nancy McKellar, Vice President of Regional Sales will help realtors “save time, save money, make money by creating relationships and working together.”

Patricia Collins, President of the Western New York Chapter of NYSCAR stresses the importance of getting people to work together and utilize the system. “It’s like the chicken and the egg, until people are using it, it’s not recognized as a resource,” she said. “The purpose is to bring people together.”

Thomas Kucharski, President and CEO, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise says that commercial real estate is one of the pieces of the puzzle that attracts people to do business in Buffalo, which has “low cost power, a high quality work force and affordable real estate. We are recognized nationally as a college town with a high quality of labor,” Kucharski says of Buffalo, “we are going to come out of this economic downturn as one of the places leading the way.”

Originally appeared in buffalo.com

Eclectic Improv Electrifies Opening Night Crowd

“When you’ve been together as long as we have, you learn to trust each other,” said Don Gervasi, when he was asked about his ten plus years of working with the members of the Eclectic Improv Company. Todd Benzin, who has known Gervasi since college said that they have to be ready to do anything. “It helps that we share the same pop culture references.”

The Eclectic Improv Company opened their season Saturday night to a packed house at Shea’s Smith Theatre. The troupe started the show with an improvised sermon by Peter Cumbo. They said they begin the show with the sermon to promote audience interaction and drive up the energy that is crucial to a good perfomance.

After sequestering Cumbo offstage, Don Gervasi and Todd Benzin asked the audience for a multi-syllable noun, verb and adjective. When Cumbo returned, he discerned, with help from Gervasi and Benzin, that he was to perform a sermon about an organic, filibustering parallelepiped (a geometric shape not covered in fourth grade class).

The structure of the show is short-form, game-based improvisation, according to Cumbo. They can’t prepare jokes, but Gervasi writes down a list of the gimmicks or games on a white board prior to the show. “It’s like a set list you would see musicians with at a concert,” Gervasi explained.

Basic principle of improv is “yes, and?”, meaning that you have to accept whatever premise you are given (in this case by the audience) and build on it. You can’t say no or the scene dies.

Cumbo noted that you can never just relax back stage like you might in a conventional stage show. “In a regular ongoing stage show, you might see people backstage reading, but in improv you have to always be aware of what is going on onstage, even if you won’t be in that scene.”

The audience laughed their way through a song about eggplant, accompanied by pianist Mike Hake and a Spanish version of Goldilocks. The group also performed a musical about foot augmentation in which Todd Benzin spontaneously created a character named “Mr. Galumpers” a funny/creepy clown who taught Peter Cumbo that his tiny feet made him special.

The Eclectic Improv Company will be performing at Shea’s Smith Theatre the last Saturday of every month through June. See www.eclecticimprov.comfor tickets or additional information.

Originally appeared in buffalo.com

MusicalFare Sondheim Production a Success

Sunday in the Park with George, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is a fictionalized account of the life of French Pointillist Painter George Seurat based on his painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

The MusicalFare production is the second Sondheim musical featured at the theatre on the campus of Daemen College in Amherst.

Directed by Randall Kramer, the story centers on Seurat’s obsession with “design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony” to the exclusion of genuine human relationships.

George Seurat, played by Paschal Frisina III, meets the love of his life, Dot (Jenn Stafford), but their relationship is hampered by his inability to see past the tip of his paintbrush. While his art was best viewed by stepping back and looking at the whole, Seurat lacked the perspective to do so with the rest of his life.

Act One begins with a petulant Dot modeling for George and longing for his attention. Jules (Doug Crane), a rival painter, stops by frequently as do Jules household staff, Franz, (Louis Colaiacovo) and Frieda (Leah Russo), who provide much-needed comic relief along Jules’ bratty daughter, Louise, played by Anne Roaldi.

There is a marked difference between the first and second acts, the former set in the 1890s and the latter in the 1980s. “It was initially written as only the first act,” said Director Kramer, “Sondheim and Lapine tried to write act two quickly. The second act was drubbed by critics, while the first act was considered brilliant. But the whole show is what won the Pulitzer.”

While Seurat is known to have painted from life, the back stories are fiction. “The People that he sketched were actual people in the park, most of them lower class,” said Debbie Pappas, who played Jules’ wife, Yvonne. “Dot is the only real thing in his life. The others need the painting to exist,” added Frisina.

Chris Schenk’s set design is minimalist, but evocative of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon.” He employs a painting-sized scrim that allows the artist to work while facing the audience. Costumes, by Loraine O’Donnell and Olivia Ebsary, are remarkably true to the painting.

The show continues through April 5. See http://www.musicalfare.com or call the box office at 716-839-8540 for tickets or information.

Originally appeared in buffalo.com

Buffalo Quickies Titillates Alleyway Audience

Buffalo Quickies 2009 is a one-act play festival presented by Alleyway Theatre. Director Joyce Stilson has assembled this annual show for 18 years.

This year’s festival, billed as “The Sex Edition,” included one-act performances mostly about relationships. Stories ranged from Jay C. Rehak’s “Marinated Steaks and Socks” about marital communication problems between Francine (Sheila Connors) and John (Christopher S. Parada) referred by therapist Dr. Watts (Louise Reger) to Alex Broun’s “Saturday Night Chippewa, Sunday Morning Lackawanna” on the perils of an alcohol- laced one night stand. Michael Seitz and Tammy Reger played the mismatched pair.

“The selection of pieces is extremely difficult,” said Stilson, “because there are so many factors: casting, content, set, and of course if it’s any good and how it relates to the rest of the evening.”

This is the fourth year with a unifying theme. Most years the festival has been an eclectic mix. Previous themes have been love, theatre and Greek Mythology.

The one-acts transitioned seamlessly into one another, the actors moving their own props and set pieces, sometimes changing costume right on stage. The set itself was a plain black box. Scenes were set with chairs and other moveable pieces.

The evening moved quickly, fitting 10 plays into 90 minutes. The actors were well-utilized – Carlton Frankin played everything from a frustrated suitor to a death row inmate equally well. Seitz was a charismatic presence when he stepped on stage and Parada always provided a laugh.

The climax of the evening was “Jump!” by George J Bryjak, the 2008 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition One Act Winner. It was about a young philosophy student (Seitz) and his no-nonsense neighbor (Louise Reger). The philosopher was experiencing existential depression (ED) and was interrupted while attempting to jump from the roof. The laundry hanging neighbor pressed him to make a decision, but he was unmoved until the arrival of a Birkenstock-clad flash poet (Sheila Connors) who shared her art with him.

Next appearing at Alleyway Theatre is Hell Hole Honeys, a world premiere musical, directed by Todd Warfield. Show dates are April 23 through May 9. See http://www.alleyway.com for information or tickets.

Originally appeared in buffalo.com

Hell Hole Honeys Bawdy Fun at Alleyway

Hell Hole Honeys, written by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes & David Ogrin opened Thursday at Buffalo’s Alleyway Theatre and continues through May 9th. This World Premiere Musical is directed by Todd Warfield.

The show begins as cable access journalist Mary Jo Huntsinger (Kim Piazza) is jailed for refusing to reveal her source in a controversial story. MJ’s investigation uncovered city corruption, making her the target of the powerful people she crossed.

Naive young MJ is thrust into Bellpole Women’s Maximum Security Prison and quickly learns to adapt. Her fellow inmates appear to be hardened and heartless, but most are just afraid and making the best of what is sure to be their home for some time to come.

Cutter (Stephanie Bax) shines as MJ’s deranged cellmate. Her crazy behavior is mostly her method for coping with a disturbing childhood. She tells MJ her story and soon becomes her protector and confidant.

Scratch (Victoria Perez) is the tough chick on the cell block. She chose the wrong man and took the fall for his crime. Tragically, she was pregnant when jailed and her daughter is being raised without her. Scratch is willing to do anything the corrupt Warden Beaumont (Jeff Coyle) asks of her hoping to get out to raise her child.

B_tch (Mercedes), Ho (Jasmine Ramos) and Squeaky (Kate Wolff) round out the cellblock. The song “B_tches and Hos” is one of the musical highlights of the evening. The music, under the direction of Michael Hake crossed a wide range of styles from rap to ballads and was consistently well done.

“Most of the cast has worked with me before,” said Warfield, “But, Jasmine Ramos and Kate Wolff are making their professional debut.”

Warfield makes remarkable use of the small Alleyway space, with jail cells hung on a scaffold base and a couple of moving set pieces.

The show is bawdy throughout, not suited for children or teens, but a fun night of adult entertainment.

Hell Hole Honeys continues through May 9. Contact Alleyway theatre at 716-852-2600 or http://www.alleyway.com for tickets and information.

Originally appeared in buffalo.com

Bedouin Soundclash Headlines Reggae Lineup at Town

Town Ballroom featured a wide range of musical styles this past Saturday night. There was something for everyone, from old school punk fans to lovers of reggae, R&B and ska.

Wolf Tickets, a Buffalo punk band opened the evening. The group has been performing together since 1992. Chris Malachowski led the vocals and played guitar. Russell Bickert backed him on drums and Mike Snyder on bass.

A couple of teen boys began slam dancing, much to the dismay of a flock of young women in sundresses and cardigans, but the boys gave up when no one else would  join them.

Wolf Tickets played “Long Walk” from their soon to be released record, Here Comes the Hell. They finished the set with, “Down at the Casbah Club,” a reggae inspired number that served as a great segue into the next band, The Great Train Robbery.

The Great Train Robbery has been part of the local music scene since the 1980’s. The band is difficult to categorize – their sound seamlessly blends jazz, reggae, R&B and ska.

They have a large local following. David Watts is the lead vocalist, David Malia plays guitar, and Naheem Shabazz the trombone. Vincent Fossitt awed the crowd on both tenor and alto sax assisted with vocals. Rodney Chamberlain rocked the bass and Andrew Case played drums.

The venue really came alive when Bedouin Soundclash took the stage. An Ontario band, Bedouin Soundclash formed when lead singer Jay Malinowski and Bassist Eon Sinclair met at Queens College in Mississauga.

The band opened with “Until We Burn in the Sun”, a hit from their 2007 album Street Gospels, and went through a wide range of their play list, much of which the audience knew well enough to sing along.

Malinowski smiled throughout the entire performance, jokingly prodding the techs at one point, “Turn down the lights a bit, it’s like high school talent night”

Malinoski introduced “Rude Boy Don’t Cry” from their 2004 album Sounding A Mosaic with a shout-out to rude boys everywhere. “Rude boys” were originally street toughs in Jamaica, but in recent years, the term has come to include fans of ska.

Malikowski joked that one of their biggest hits, “Walls Fall Down” was about crossing the US-Canadian border.

They closed the set after eleven with 12:59 Lullaby which most of the audience sang as well.  The song gained a lot of exposure when it was featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Contact The Town Ballroom at 716- 852-3900 or see their website at www.townballroom.com for information on future shows.

Originally appeared in buffalo.com