Arts & Culture: A theatrical fundraiser for Ukraine, a talk on local women’s basketball history, and more

Published: 03-24-2023 10:24 AM

Musician tackles his declining vision on new album

NORTHAMPTON — A few years ago, Mark Erelli got some bad news: The problems he’d developed with his vision — like not being able to see the neck of his guitar clearly during a gig — were caused by retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative (and genetic) eye disease that leads to a loss of night and peripheral vision.

Erelli, the veteran singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who holds a master’s in biology from UMass Amherst, was badly shaken at the time. But he turned his initial feelings of fear and isolation into fodder for a new album, “Lay Your Darkness Down,” which wrestles with these issues but finds light — optimism — at the end.

A regular performer in the Valley who’s backed many other musicians over the years, including fellow eastern Mass. singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, Erelli is playing two shows at The Parlor Room on March 25: a solo acoustic set at 2 p.m., and an album release party at 6:30 p.m. that unfortunately has sold out.

For his new record, for which he’s received some of the best reviews of his career so far, Erelli says he took a more layered approach to the production than typical, focusing his creative energies on looking at what life offered despite the uncertainty of his future.

“That was probably a way of compensating for the lack of control that I had in other parts of my life,” he notes on his website.

Songs like “Sense of Wonder” speak to the joy he still finds in life, and “You’re Gonna Wanna Remember This,” which he co-wrote with McKenna, is about appreciating the here and now: “You’re gonna wanna remember this / It flies by, it’s easy to miss / Don’t blink, drink it in / It happens once and it might not happen again.”

Mark Erelli’s website is Tickets for his March 25 afternoon show can be purchased at


A local stage for Ukraine

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NORTHAMPTON — Area theater professionals and other artists will host a fundraiser March 26 for Ukraine at the Edwards Church in Northampton, an event that will be focused on readings of work by Ukrainian playwrights.

“A Night Out For Ukraine” is a collaboration between the Valley group Play Incubation Collective and the Center for International Theatre Development, a Baltimore organization that has translated work by Ukrainian playwrights into English and connected with theater groups internationally to stage readings as fundraisers.

Organizers say over 200 readings have taken place so far, raising more than $250,000 for Ukrainian relief organizations.

The Edwards Church event, which takes place from 4 to 9:30 p.m., includes Ellen Kaplan of Smith College, Sheryl Stoodley of Serious Play Theatre Ensemble, Milan Dragicevich from the UMass Amherst Theater Department, and Josh Goldstein of Ethel Playhouse. They’ll each direct a Ukrainian play reading, with their actors as readers.

John Feffer, a recently arrived Northampton resident and playwright who has worked with the Center for International Theatre Development, helped organize the project.

The event includes a panel discussion on the Russian-Ukrainian war, live music and food. There is a $5 fee to register for the event, and attendees are asked to make a donation to one of the charitable organizations involved, such as Ukraine TrustChain or Jewish Family Service of Western Mass Refugee Resettlement Program.

You can register for the program at


Last week of A.P.E. Gallery show

NORTHAMPTON — “After Archives,” which runs through March 30 at the A.P.E. Gallery on Main Street, brings together the work of three artists who reimagine aspects of African American history and experience by reassessing traditional archival materials.

Alex Callender, a painter and installation artist who teaches at Smith College, explores historic land and housing policies that continue to impact communities of color.

Sarah Stefana Smith, an interdisciplinary scholar and visual artist at Mount Holyoke College, uses permeable sculpture and installation made from “threshold” materials to give form to the interplay of absence and presence in historical records.

And Wendell White, a professor of art at Stockton University who specializes in photography, examines America’s interwoven histories of slavery, abolitionism, segregation and civil rights in archival materials such as a lock of Frederick Douglass’ hair.

“Each artist charts a course ‘between or out of or in the holes’ of the archive,” as exhibit notes put it, “navigating the ways in which space, bodies, material traces, and forms of (un)freedom intersect.”

Historic women’s hoops in Hamp

NORTHAMPTON — Sports historian and writer Rita Liberti will discuss the pivotal role Northampton played in the early years of women’s basketball in a Zoom presentation hosted by Historic Northampton on March 29 at 7 p.m.

Liberti, who lives in the Valley but teaches online at California State University, will talk about the first women’s college basketball game ever played — at Smith College on March 22, 1893 — and how the game became a centerpiece of campus life.

Liberti will also examine how girl’s and women’s basketball teams were sponsored by schools, churches, playground associations and factories in the early 20th century, and her talk will show the links between that early history and larger social and cultural issues in the U.S. such as sexuality, ethnicity and class.

Sliding scale admission for the event is $5-25 (free for students). You can register at by clicking on the link for “Programs.”


Amherst College Glee Club andConcert Choir

AMHERST — The Amherst College Department of Music presents the 157th Amherst College Glee Club and Concert Choir on March 25, in a show titled “Acquainted with the Night.”

The performance, at 8 p.m. at Buckley Recital Hall, is directed by ArianneAbela and is free and open to the public — no tickets are required.

Four world premieres are featured, including music by Amherst graduates Scott Wheeler and Paul Salerni, class of 1973, and works by music professors Andrew W. Mellon and Eric Sawyer and students Charlotte Shuyao Wang ’24 and Haoran Tong ’23.

Facemasks are required for the concert.


Competition marks 100 years of poetry

SOUTH HADLEY — The Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Competition, now marking its centennial, returns to Mount Holyoke College March 31-April 1. Details are at

The oldest continuously running poetry contest for undergraduate students in the U.S., the Glascock competition invites students from across the country, who are judged by a panel of three distinguished poets.

This year the judges are Eileen Myles, Evie Shockley and Hoa Nguyen; past judges have included Audre Lorde, Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Adrienne Rich, and others.

Sylvia Plath won the contest when she was a student at Smith College, and James Merrill won while attending Amherst College.

— compiled by Steve Pfarrer