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Michael Urie Hamlet For The Ages at Shakespeare Theatre

July 15, 2019

The king of Denmark has been murdered and his son Hamlet comes home from school to deal with all the craziness of his family’s situation. Some think he is going mad, and this is a madcap play with plenty of humor. His school friends and family are all spying on each other as they try to figure out what is going on.  Casting Michael Urie as Hamlet may not have seemed the thing to do when Michael Kahn first did it but Urie has proven to be a Hamlet for the ages. Urie has been called a brilliant comedic actor and we all know him from his roles in ‘Ugly Betty’, his brilliant one-man show ‘Buyer and Cellar’ at the STC, and his recent rave reviews in New York for ‘Torch Song’.  But Kahn said he always wanted to do Hamlet with Urie since having him as a student at Julliard. When I first saw Urie in the role it was immediately evident it was an inspired choice. Just listening to him deliver the soliloquy “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!” you knew he was going to be brilliant in the role. 

Madeleine Potter and Michael Urie (Photo by: Scott Suchman) Madeleine Potter and Michael Urie

In his return to Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual FREE for ALL Urie has only gotten better in the role if that is possible. The play this time is being directed by Craig Baldwin, who was Michael Kahn’s assistant director in the original production, and he keeps a steady hand. 

Kahn has said about his original production “As I return to this play, I’ve found myself thinking about its complexities—public and private, political and familial—not in new ways, necessarily, but with an altered center of gravity in the world of 2018. First, we must remember that, beneath the diplomatic emissaries and complicated political plotting, Hamlet is at root an intimate family drama about a son deeply in mourning for his dead father and disturbed by his mother’s sudden remarriage. The family relationships that lie at the heart of Hamlet are crucial to the piece.”

So if you keep Kahn’s thoughts in mind when you go you will revel in this modern day Hamlet understanding it stays true to what Shakespeare wrote. From the security desk and computer screens in the opening scene to the smartphones the cast uses to text each other, it all works. If you have seen or read Hamlet you will get insights into the play you might not have had before; if you are new to Hamlet you will become a fan and understand how great a play it is. . For those who question the modern dress I would remind you when it was originally performed it was also in modern dress of that time. 

Joining Urie again is a star powered cast including Madeleine Potter (Gertrude), Hamlet’s mother, who shines with a commanding presence particularly in act two. Keith Baxter is back again as (Ghost/1st Player/Gravedigger), the oldest member of the cast by far, reminds you with every scene he is in why he has had such a great and long career.  Federico Rodriguez (Horatio) is a winning friend to Hamlet and Robert Joy (Polonius) again returns to STC after his brilliant performance as King Charles in Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III. He is equally brilliant here. In this production Paul Deo, Jr. is a totally believable Laertes. The entire company do themselves proud. 

Keith Baxter and Michael Urie (Photo by: Scott Suchman) Keith Baxter and Michael Urie

This production is again enhanced by all those incredibly talented people behind the scenes including scenic designer John Coyne, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting Yi Zhao, and sound and original music Broken Chord. Together they and the cast make this production of Hamlet a memorable night in the theater no one should miss.  

Each summer, with the help of a group of community-minded sponsors, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) presents two weeks of FREE performances of a Shakespearean classic. Hamlet will be at Sidney Harman Hall through July 21st.

Get your FREE tickets here and enter the lottery. The online lottery is open for entries between 12:01 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. the day PRIOR to the performance you are interested in attending. All entrants are notified via email of their ticket status about an hour after the lottery closes. Two tickets per person and all seating is general admission. Or you can just get in line. Every day STC will make at least 200 tickets available to the public in our ticket line at Sidney Harman Hall beginning two hours prior to curtain. Limit is two tickets per person and all seating is general admission. Remember to get there early! The line usually starts forming about four hours before curtain up. Either way you do it know you will have a great time in the theater.  

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Norwegian GETAWAY Baltic Cruise: Part IV

July 11, 2019

There are a few things a ship needs to make it a great cruise ship and the GETAWAY has them. One is of course the Captain. Then there is the General Manager who is responsible for literally everything from food and beverage, all the cabins, swimming pools and in general providing the great ambiance you want and Mario Markovic, the General Manager of the GETAWAY does all that. Last but certainly not least is the Cruise Director. He/she works from early morning to late at night, always smiling, ensuring the great entertainment and in general making sure each passenger always has a smile on their face.

Norwegian GETAWAY (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Norwegian GETAWAY


The Cruise Director during my time on the GETAWAY was Vincent Teschel and he did all that without breaking a sweat.  I had the chance to chat with him for a short time and considered myself lucky as he was literally always on the go. He oozes charm and what’s more that charm is backed up by a wealth of knowledge and experience. Vincent has been with NCL for five years and aside from the GETAWAY has worked on the Pearl, Sun, Star, and the Pride of America. Prior to that he worked on land at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, and was a traveling performer for ten years. The performing background is immediately visible when you meet Vincent as he is always performing in his job and that is a positive thing. He is entertaining people and does it superbly. 


He was born in Pensacola, Florida and that is where he makes his home when he is not onboard ship. He is also clearly a young man with a big heart and is currently taking care of his elderly parents who live in Pensacola. I asked him what is the most fun of his job and he said he really believes if he is having fun all the time everyone else will be having fun. He says he tends to try to live on the lighter side of life and always looks at things from a positive perspective. That helps when you have a job like his with 150 people reporting to you and thousands depending on you to make their cruise memorable. 


Vincent is thirty-three and once you get to know him a little better you realize more and more how his acting training adds to his ability to do his job. He went to college in the Circle in the Square in New York for Musical Theater and got his BFA in Music with a minor in Opera and Dance from Jacksonville University. He has traveled to over thirty-eight countries on five continents. On his own time he loves the Mediterranean and enjoys going back-packing where he can get off the grid. He finds that helpful and centering after always having to be on at work. He is also into yoga and goes to an annual yoga retreat. His contract with NCL like most of the staff is for four months on and two months off. But remember during the four months there is not one day off. I met Vincent toward the end of this current four month tour but you would never know that from watching him and talking with him. 

Vincent Teschel (Photo by: Courtesy of Vincent Teschel) Vincent Teschel

He has actually developed his own brand and he loves that. He is proud of being a fashion plate and owns twenty-seven suits from wild plaid to pale green and they are all with him onboard sharing his cabin. He has them made for him by a tailor in Colorado. I asked him what was the weirdest question anyone asked him and he laughed while answering. He said an older lady on one cruise came up behind him and grabbed his behind and said she was only checking if he was wearing any underwear as she couldn’t see a panty line.  I actually didn’t ask him what his answer was but from watching him around the ship surely many more men and women would like to do that test on him.  

While his great sense of humor and perpetual smile can sometimes belie how serious he is about his job if you watch him for any period of time you know he gives total attention to even the smallest details making sure every show, every act, all the games, come off without a hitch and leave passengers smiling. He is a consummate professional and NCL is really lucky to have him. 

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Norwegian GETAWAY Baltic Cruise: Part III

July 3, 2019

My bucket list has always included a visit to Saint Petersburg, Russia. So it was the chance to spend two whole days there that hooked me and I booked my nine day Baltic cruise on the NCL GETAWAY.  My trusted travel agent, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin were coming on this trip and suggested we hire a private guide for the two days we would be there. Along with them and our friend John we met our guide Larissa and driver Misha at the pier our first morning in Saint Petersburg. Over two days and eighteen hours they shared the wonders of Saint Petersburg with us including one of the best museums in the world, the Hermitage, opulent Palaces and churches. Larissa was a font of information able to answer every question we had. 

Cascade fountain at Peterhof (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Cascade fountain at Peterhof

Saint Petersburg is a beautiful, well-kept modern city. On day one we headed directly to the Hermitage and on the way Larissa gave us a running history lesson which continued as we toured the museum. It is the second largest art museum in the world and was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great wanted a place to exhibit her art collection. It has been open to the public since 1852. Its total collection comprises over three million items. There are six buildings, five open to the public that comprise the museum including the opulent Winter Palace. 

Catherine was a smart lady and purchased or was gifted paintings now in the galleries along the southern facade and in the western wing of the New Hermitage including collections of Van Dyck, Rubens, and Rembrandt. Then there is the magnificent golden peacock clock made up of three life-sized mechanical birds. Larissa told us the clock is shown daily on a Russian TV channel as the Peacock spreads its feathers when the clock is wound. We saw the gold and the diamond treasuries with artifacts unearthed in archaeological digs and gifts given to the czars. It boggled the mind to see all the diamond and other precious jewel encrusted sabers and watches; crowns of gold thorns, jewelry of all sorts all really quite breathtaking. After many hours in the Hermitage we drove through the city and stopped at a number of other beautiful churches and parks. 

Day two dawned sunny and warm and we had asked to see the orthodox Jewish Synagogue. Today in Russia one can practice many different religions. The Synagogue was quite beautiful and we were there during morning services. We then headed to the main shopping street in Saint Petersburg, Nevsky Prospect, and walked along until we reached a metro stop. Larissa took us on the metro for two stops where Misha again met us with the van. The Metro stations are beautiful with marble carvings, incredible mosaics and glass columns with lots of gold leaf.   

Then a forty-five minute drive to Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) which is often referred to as "the Russian Versailles". Actually a series of palaces and gardens commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to his seeing the Palace of Versailles which had been built by Louis XIV of France. I have been to Versailles and Peterhof is even be more impressive with its fountains and gardens. Once again Larissa was a fount of information on all the rooms and how the gardens were set up and how the fountains worked. 

     Hermitage grand staircase (Photo by: Peter Rosnestein) Hermitage grand staircase

Versailles was the inspiration for Peter the Great's desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new city.  It was Peter's daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and greatly extended the park and the famous system of fountains, including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade. Larissa told us Peterhof was ravaged by German troops during the Second World War but was rebuilt thanks to the work of military engineers as well as over 1,000 volunteers. The Lower Park opened to the public in 1945 and the facades of the Grand Palace were restored in 1952. The name was also de-Germanicized in 1944, becoming Petrodvorets, the name under which the surrounding town is still known. However the palace and park are once again known as Peterhof.

The most famous ensemble of fountains, the Grand Cascade, which runs from the northern facade of the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal, comprises 64 different fountains, and over 200 bronze statues, bas-reliefs, and other decorations. At the center stands Rastrelli's spectacular statue of Samson wrestling the jaws of a lion. The Grotto behind the Grand Cascade, which was once used for small parties, contains the enormous pipes, originally wooden, that feed the fountains.

 Inlaid floor in the Hermitage (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Inlaid floor in the Hermitage

After hours in Peterhof we headed back to the city and toured the Church of the Resurrection, also known as the "Savior on Spilled Blood". It was built in memory of Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881 on the spot where the church now stands. Alexander II is considered among the greatest Russian Czars. He actually emancipated Russian serfs in 1861, which brought an end to the de facto slavery of the Russian peasantry. That was five years before the emancipation of slaves in the US.

Having a little time left before we needed to return to the ship Misha drove us through the city while Larissa gave us a running commentary on all we were seeing. Our two days in Saint Petersburg were magical. 

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