Gregarious Expressions

by Alicia Grega



HardScrabbled Chic

As Scranton made national headlines this week for the inadequate size of the city bank account and therefore the Mayor’s decision to cut the pay of all city workers to minimum wage, city residents picked on our beloved home as much as emigrants eager to pat themselves on the back for having gotten out of the old coal hole. The worst offenders, however, seemed to be the random grabbers-on who have some sixth degree of seperatation to the “Electric City,” and therefore consider themselves experts on how much it sucks to live here.

I had the opportunity to chat about these bewildering responses to our local fiscal crisis yesterday afternoon with E.W. Conundrum host of Free Speak & Some on WFTE FM Community Radio. You can tune in online via The episode airs Sunday, July 15 at 11:30 a.m.

The overwhelming eagerness out there to bash Scranton leaves me wondering- where are our cheerleaders? All poverty aside, there’s a still lot to be said about this honest, straightforward place at the top of the Pocono Mountains where I have chosen to live and raise my kids.

OK, so our politicans are behaving badly and we all now have to suffer for it and that’s not fair. But struggle builds character and no victory is so sweet as the one you have to work your ass off to earn. We’ll get through this. Let’s talk about what will we do then.

Has the entitlement culture so soured us that we can no longer appreciate the simple pleasures of living here? Or are the people who love life just too busy living it to stop and tell these bullies to cut it out?

Even when business was booming in Scranton, most of the wealth was held by a few powerful tycoons. The parks may have been prettier but people survived on thrift and because they invested in communities and supported each other. They weren’t holed up at home watching cable TV on big digital screens, eating over-priced processed junk food and complaining about how somebody else better do something because a tax increase means they can’t go back to Florida next year for the fifth time next winter.

Back in the early 20th century when Scranton was thriving – vaudeville was huge. The city was considered a try out town where audiences could be tested and shows tweaked before transfering to NYC, etc.

“If you can play Scranton,” they said, “You can play anywhere.”

I think that’s more true than ever and I take pride in knowing that if I can keep making art happen in this impoverished place without the support structure and bountiful nourishment supposedly available elswhere, then I can make art anywhere. This dream will not be lost.

Yeah, sure, the city could use a break. It could also use some compassion from the people who live here. Stop kicking Scranton while she’s down and let her know you have faith in her ability to heal, to start over, to find herself again. Take a risk. Give a little love.

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Billtown Burlesque troupe comes to Synergy Friday


“This is a young group, and like most people their age, they are a hyper-connected crowd. This hyper-connectivity isnt just online either – their ties to the community have let them pull together both the resources and the fans they need to put together several impressive shows.”

via Billtown Burlesque troupe comes to Synergy Friday – | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – Williamsport-Sun Gazette.

If You Can Play Scranton: A Theatrical History, 1871-2010 by Nancy McDonald: Excerpt

I studied an early, cardstock-bound copy of this book while working on my NeoVaudeville grant presentation back in 2009. It’s a little fact-heavy but boasts a few memorable anectdotes and is a worth $13 for those interested in vaudeville and theatrical history –especially if they’re from Scranton.

I’m personally curious to read the last chapter — as one of the few journalists covering theater in Scranton for the past decade (as well as consistantly working on the production end in my freelance life). and I’ve never met or spoken with the author as far as I can remember but according to her bio she has participated in local cemetery theater productions.


“If You Can Play Scranton is a theatrical history of America as seen through the famous performers who came to Scranton, Pennsylvania. It discusses performances by the best known actors and actresses of the tragic and comic stage, ethnic performers, vaudevillians, musical comedy, concert, orchestra and band performers from 1871-2010. At the turn of the 20th century, Scranton was one of the most famous try-out towns for legitimate stage productions. The sophisticated taste of its audience, created by extensive exposure to world renown talent, continues to this day.”

via If You Can Play Scranton: A Theatrical History, 1871-2010 by Nancy McDonald: Excerpt.

reading: An Awful Lot Of Vaudeville | Beat Magazine


An Awful lot of Vaudeville is not a tacky reproduction of a bygone era. Instead, it is a contemporary tribute to what was – and in many ways remains – an avant-garde period of pushing boundaries and crossing lines. Mojo Jujus romantic attachment to the dark, underground world of sleazy jazz clubs and flapper girls enables her to capture the essence of the 1920s while evolving the art form to fit the 21st century.

via An Awful Lot Of Vaudeville | Beat Magazine.

Quoting: Maria in the Shower

Jack Garton of the Vancouver “vaudeville-inspired” band Maria in the Shower acknowledges  his interest in pre-mass media, pre-electronic entertainment and a magic transportative quality unique to live experience, as discussed in my 2009 presentation: NeoVaudeville in the 21st Century: Exploring the Revival of Burlesque, Sideshow & Cabaret in Popular Performance. (



Introduction of new technology — radio, television and film — has had a dramatic impact on the way artists entertain, he says. “The technology made the art forms fragment into their own little pockets and Id like to sort of bring it back to the time before that, when before those technological innovations we had the live experience and that was it,” he says. “For our shows, people can go back to that space.”

via A vaudevillian feast for the senses.

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