Flagpole Radio Cafe
Greg Van Antwerp
Mention Newtown and invariably someone will say, “that’s the place with the flagpole, right?” Soon, however they may be saying, "that's the place where they have the Flagpole Radio Cafe.” The radio-style variety show has been packing the house at Edmond Town Hall with six shows from September to May featuring music, comedy sketches and guest musicians.
It's something like Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” but the show is “is very distinctly New England and Housatonic Valley, Connecticut,” according to executive producer Martin Blanco. “We do comic bits on the area and local government, flavored to respond to the inherent goings-on of where we live.”
The show opens with its folksy theme song, “Saturday at the Old Town Hall.” Then host Chris Teskey, a local radio personality, comes out and chats with the audience. Musical director Jim Allyn and the Radio Cafe Orchestra provide a highly entertaining musical backdrop throughout the production. Allyn also writes many of the songs and parodies.
The hyperbolic Flagpole Shakespeare Repertory Theater performs a mix of short skits and “The Flagpole Radio News,” a parody of current events. “We do a blend of sketches—period pieces, spoofs of literary works and the daily struggles of contemporary life,” Blanco says.
The shows have pulled in some impressive musical guests—Vaneese Thomas, Tom Chapin, Peter Yarrow, and The Yale Whiffenpoofs have all performed.
The show was Blanco’s brainchild. The Yale School of Drama grad got together with Barbara Gaines, Jim Allyn and The Newtown Cultural Arts Commission and put on the first show in 2008. “When we were planning this, we didn’t know the economy was going to crash,” Blanco says. “But it turned out okay. The price [$18] is low and people don’t have to travel far to go out and have some fun. And they get much more than they bargained for.”
Brittany Yarrow (Peter’s daughter) and Rufus Cappadocia perform on Feb. 5. Shows are recorded and broadcast on Tesky’s Wednesday-night spot on WPKN in Bridgeport.
For info, visit flagpoleproductions.org. —C.P.R.