How Books Brought Two Theatre Majors Back Together Decades After Pursuing Acting

September 24, 2018  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Phoenix Books Owner Mike DeSanto to Host Author Event Featuring Graduate School Alum Gray Basnight for His New Political Thriller “Flight of the Fox” 

When Mike DeSanto, longtime co-owner of Phoenix Books, decided to plan a book festival for 2019, he began looking at other events for ideas.  Imagine his surprise when his research uncovered an old acting friend now writing novels who attended one such writer’s conference last fall.

Mike and Gray studied theatre at GW University in Washington DC in the 1970s.  Mike recalls that the two appeared together, sharing several scenes during a summer performance of the play “Cassiopeia,” by Roma Greth, and that The Washington Post’s theatre critic Richard Coe was not impressed.

“We tried our best, we always tried our best,” recalls Mike fondly.  “Our theatre student days were long and our nights were eventful, probably even a bit wild and wooly.  What fun to come back together around books after so much time.”

They both moved to New York City after graduate school, landed in the same apartment building and pursued their art.  Mike juggled casting calls, small parts and teaching while shuttling between New York and DC where his then wife and children lived.  Family ultimately pulled Mike back to DC and a career in government affairs.  After divorcing and remarrying, Mike and his second wife, Renee Reiner, eventually left the mainstream, moved to Burlington, Vermont and bought the bookstore BookRack & Children’s Pages in 1995, selling it in 2003, only to begin again in 2007 with Phoenix Books.

Gray pursued acting — and waiting tables to pay rent.  A few year later, he moved to broadcast journalism and then spent almost 30 years as a news writer, producer, editor, reporter and announcer at NY radio stations such as WOR, WINS, and ABC Network.  In his spare time, he wrote his first novel, a Civil War story about young slaves on the edge of freedom.  When he was let go from his broadcast job at Bloomberg News during the 2009 financial downturn, he and his wife decided it was time to focus on being a full-time novelist and house-husband.  When the Civil War story wasn’t getting picked up, Gray shifted to a contemporary detective story called The Cop with the Pink Pistol, published in 2012 to starred reviews.  Shadows in the Fire, the Civil War novel, was published next in 2015.  And this year, his political thriller hit the shelves in July.

Mike reached out to NY-based author Gray Basnight through Facebook and the two connected, sharing updates of each other’s lives since their young acting days, and realizing that they both moved from the stage to the page.  The two reunited at Phoenix Books on September 13, where Gray read and signed copies of his new thriller Flight of the Fox at the Burlington location.


The Lamoille County Players Present Their Foliage Musical:  ALL SHOOK UP

September 13, 2018  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

(From Left to Right): Tricia Grube of Essex, Sam Lewis of Johnson, Shannon DeSantis of Waterbury, and Olivia Sheppard of Cambridge share a Coke and a smile.

The Lamoille County Players are proud to announce their upcoming Foliage musical, “All Shook Up.” Performance dates for this Elvis Presley® inspired musical are September 27-30 and October 4-7 (Thursday – Saturday, 7:00pm; Sundays, 2:00pm) at the historic Hyde Park Opera House in Hyde Park, Vermont.  Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students, or seniors ages 60 and over.  The Lamoille County Players are offering a $10 Matinee Special:  any seat for the 2:00pm matinee on September 30 is only $10.


Tickets for all shows are now available online at where people can pick their own seats and get ticket confirmation, all at no additional charge.  To speak to a real, live person in the box office, call 802-888-4507 to find out the specific hours.  The box office is also open one hour before the start of each performance.  If you are unsure of your plans, we recommend that you not make reservations, but rather buy your tickets at the door.


“All Shook Up” is an American jukebox musical inspired by and featuring the songs of Elvis Presley®, and based on William Shakespeare’s 1602 play “Twelfth Night.”  It’s 1955, and into a square little town in a square little Midwest state rides a guitar-playing young man who changes everything and everyone he meets in this hip-swiveling, lip-curling musical fantasy that’ll have you jumpin’ out of your blue suede shoes with such classics as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”   The town is divided along class lines: the haves, and the have-nots. Lorraine and Dean fall controversially in love; she is from “the wrong side of the tracks.”  Four other couples also fall in love… but with whom?


Director Patricia Jacob was drawn to “All Shook Up” by the music, the dancing and the energy of the show.  It is a perfect blend of rock and roll and musical theater styles.  Anna Sargent’s dance numbers are sure to delight and impress audiences of all ages.  If you are a fan of the fifties, you’ll love “All Shook Up.”


The “All Shook Up” cast features Federica Veluntini-Hoffmann (Waitsfield), Sam Lewis (Johnson), Kris Johnson (Essex), Becky Millard (Montpelier), Katelyn Shaw (Morrisville), Marcus Becherer (Cabot), Kim Anetsberger (Hyde Park), Holly Biracree (Essex), Jack Manning (Hyde Park), Richard Shanley (Morrisville),  and 18 other local actors and actresses.




Shelburne Players present “Sleeping Indoors”

September 12, 2018  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

When literary reviewer Paul and his wife Nora invite a homeless man, Dwain, into their home for Christmas dinner, they don’t expect to be so charmed by him, or that his journal will be the incredible literary masterpiece that it is. But can Dwain, whose art thrives in anonymity, be convinced to give up the only life he’s known for such comforts as sleeping indoors?

Find out when you attend Shelburne Players fall production, “Sleeping Indo,ors” by Jim Holt. Show dates are Oct. 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. at Shelburne Town Center, 5420 Shelburne Road. Tickets are $15, matinee tickets are $12, and can be purchased at Shelburne Market or reserved at

Vermont Shakespeare Festival premiere of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart In a New Version by David Harrower  

September 10, 2018  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment


A country torn apart by public dissent, terrorism, greed, lust and pride. 

Two Queens fight to the death in this newly adapted political thriller. 

400 years later, the intrigue and violence of Mary Stuart feels ripped

from today’s headlines.


Vermont Shakespeare Festival premiere of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart

In a New Version by David Harrower


Vermont Shakespeare Festival will present the U.S. premiere of a new version of the only classical play starring two women in power, Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart.  It will be presented as a staged reading, the latest in the Salon Series, on Saturday, October 6th at

7 p.m. at the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro, and on Sunday, October 7th at

3 p.m. in the McCarthy Recital Hall at St. Michael’s College.  This is a rarely seen epic in a fresh and lean adaptation.


Adaptations of Mary Stuart have recently played to great acclaim on Broadway, the West End and the Stratford Festival. See it before the release of the film in December 2018 starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, directed by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon.


Directed by Margo Whitcomb, the presentation will feature Sorsha Anderson as Mary Queen of Scots, Jena Necrason as Queen Elizabeth and and a cast of regionally prominent actors.


About our Salon Series: Vermont Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 Salon Series asks our community to play a role in interpreting and exploring plays inspired by Shakespeare and his times that examine faith, longing, and the relationship between morality and politics. A discussion follows the reading, giving an opportunity for audience and artists to connect on a more intimate and immediate level.


Tickets at Highland Center for the Arts are $15 adult, $12 senior, and $10 student.  Go to

Tickets at McCarthy Recital Hall at Saint Michaels College are free to the public, donations accepted at the door.

For more information go to




PO Box 64733 ● Burlington, VT 05406-4733 ● 877.874.1911 ●

HANDS Reaches Out to Older Adults on Christmas

December 6, 2017  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, News


In collaboration with Age Well, Burlington School Food Project, Elks Lodge, and Temple Sinai among many others, HANDS (Helping and Nurturing Diverse Seniors) is pleased to offer both a delivered meal and a sitdown dinner again this year on Christmas Day. “The need continues to rise among the seniors we serve,” said HANDS Executive Director Megan Humphrey. “We hope to serve at least 400 meals,” she continued.

The FREE 13th Annual Holiday Dinner will be held on Christmas Day anytime from Noon-3:00 p.m. at the Elks Lodge at 925 North Avenue in Burlington. There will be a special gathering there at 1:00 for seniors. If you need transportation, please call Megan Humphrey at 864-7528 or email

To reserve the free meal delivered to your home (either ham or vegetarian lasagna) in Chittenden County and are 50 or older, please call Age Well at 865-0360 by December 15. After December 15, call Megan Humphrey at 864-7528 or email “Hundreds of volunteers and organizations come together to make this happen and we couldn’t do it without them,” explained Ms. Humphrey.  For more information or to donate, please check

Vermont Songbird Finds Her Voice

October 19, 2017  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Cooie Sings MainBy Phyl Newbeck

Cooie DeFrancesco grew up harmonizing with her parents and three siblings as they drove from their South Burlington home to her grandparents’ home in St. Albans.  Read more

Christmas Comes Early

October 19, 2017  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Lyric Theatre Company presents ‘A Christmas Story The Musical’

By Pat Boera

Just in time for the holiday season, Lyric Theatre Company’s “A Christmas Story The Musical” will debut on the Flynn Center MainStage. In 1940s Indiana, a bespectacled boy named Ralphie has one wish for Christmas—a Red Ryder BB gun. A kooky leg lamp, pink bunny PJs, a cranky department store Santa and a triple-dog-dare to lick a freezing flagpole are just a few of the obstacles that stand between Ralphie and his dream. Based on the book by Jean Shepard and classic movie, the show captures holiday wonder with funny and heartfelt songs from the Tony-winning songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“Dear Evan Hansen” and “La La Land”), show-stopping dance numbers, delicious wit and a heart of gold. Read more

UVM Theater Department

September 26, 2017  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

uvm theater
By Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
Directed by Gregory Ramos

Culled from interviews, letters, transcripts, case files and the public record, The Exonerated tells the true stories of six wrongfully convicted survivors of death row in their own words.
Moving between first-person monologues and scenes set in courtrooms and prisons, the six interwoven stories paint a picture of an American criminal justice system gone horribly wrong-and of six brave souls who persevered to survive it.

There will be post-show discussions following the Thursday, October 5 and Friday, October 6 performances.

Moderators of the October 5 post show discussion will be UVM faculty members Stephanie Seguino (Department of Economics) and Randall Harp (Department of Philosophy as well as a cast member of this production).

On Friday, October 6, UVM faculty member Kathy Fox (Department of Sociology and board member for Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform) will be joined by Dr. Ashley Lucas (Associate Professor of Theatre and Drama and Director of the Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan) will moderate the post show discussion.

The Exonerated will be presented ONE WEEK ONLY, Oct. 4-7 at 7:30PM and Oct. 7 & 8 at 2:00PM.

*Seating for this production is General Admission.
*This play contains strong language and mature content and is not suitable for younger audiences.

Vermont Shakespeare Festival Presents a Salon Version of

May 4, 2017  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Jolie Garrett

Jolie Garrett


Imagined Experiences based on the True Story of

Ira Aldridge

By Lolita Chakrabarti


Sunday, June 4, 3 p.m.

St. Edmunds Hall Farrell Room at St. Michael’s College

Refreshments provided.

Suggested donation $10.


It is 1833, Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.  Edmund Kean, the greatest actor of his generation, has collapsed on stage whilst playing Shakespeare’s Othello. A young, black American actor has been asked to take over the role.  But as the public riots in the streets over the abolition of slavery, how will the cast, critics and audience react to the revolution taking place in the theatre?


This is a Vermont Shakespeare Festival Salon presentation, a full reading of the play featuring Jolie Garrett as Ira Aldridge.  Garrett appeared as Martin Luther King Jr. in a 2015 Vermont Stage Company production of The Mountaintop.


What is a VSF Salon?

  1.  A play is chosen with immediate relevance to our world right now.
  2. The play is read, with actors from the community and beyond.
  3. Special guests are invited to speak to the issues presented in the play, with a full discussion including the audience.


To RSVP go to or call (877) 874-1911.


Vermont Shakespeare Festival – Jena Necrason

PO Box 64733

Burlington, VT 05406

(917) 539-4913

Québec comes to Vermont: Film Festival April 7-9th

April 4, 2017  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Things to do

Bringing the world to Vermont through film


Global Roots Film Festival: Québec
Friday, April 7 – Sunday, April 9
Contois Auditorium, Downtown Burlington

Three days of screenings, guests and receptions celebrating the rich cinema of our neighbors to the North. Thank you to our reception sponsors: Penny Cluse Cafe (Fri. 6pm), Honey Road (Sat. & Sun. 6pm), Zero Gravity cash bar daily. 

A special thank you to the Québec Delegation, Boston, for helping VTIFF bring the visiting filmmakers, to Alliance française of the Lake Champlain region and to BCA for their continuing support.
Full program, passes and tickets available now – discounts for VTIFF Members.


Directed by Pablo Larraín
Chile | Spanish/French w/ English subtitles | 2016 | 107 min
Followed by a talk and audience Q&A with Latin American Poetry professor and Neruda scholar Tina Escaja
Wednesday, April 26, 7:00pm at Champlain College Alumni Auditorium

This exclusive Burlington screening is a joint benefit for the Vermont International Film Festival and the 2017 Burlington Book Festival.

By donation. Recommended amount $20. Make your donation here HERE.
More information is available at 802-660-2600 or 802-658-3328.


GloryVTIFF Presents: Glory (Slava)
Sponsored by Main Street Landing 
Directed by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov
Bulgaria/Greece | Bulgarian w/ English subtitles | 2016 | 101 min
Thursday, April 27, 7:00pm at Main Street Landing Film House

Tickets can be purchased HERE.


Community Screenings


junction 48Junction 48
Thursday, April 6, 7:00pm at Merrill’s Roxy Cinema

This is a Tugg event. 78 advance tickets need to be sold for it to take place.
Tickets can be purchased HERE



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