Laughs for everyone: Comedian Brian Regan coming to Casino Ballroom

When Steve Jobs ran Apple he always found a way to give people what they didn’t know they wanted. Brian Regan is a lot like Jobs — rather than read a room and calibrate his set to it, he goes with what he finds funny and lets the crowd come to him. It’s a strategy that’s elevated him into the top echelon of comics.

“I have always tried to be careful not to try to figure out what the audience wants; I don’t think that is what performers are supposed to do,” Regan said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a dangerous line to cross. It means you are no longer being interesting, you’re just placating.”

Regan also walks a comedic tightrope in his act; he manages to keep everyone believing he’s on their side. In a joke about guns, one of the most polarizing topics of all, he’s the only attendee at a convention for people in the middle on the issue, a lonely man in an empty ballroom.

“There’s a visual of me just standing there really awkwardly drinking ginger ale looking around … you can be on either side of that and still enjoy it,” he said, noting that some hardliners won’t give in. “I can’t please everybody, so I have to just please myself comedically and hope people will want to come along for the ride.”

One of the labels that’s stuck to Regan for years is that he works clean, which is a bit unfair. For example, his bit about theme parks from a 2008 special culminates with a joke about an attraction called “JFK: The Ride” — dark stuff, even if there aren’t any four-letter words.

Asked for an elevator-pitch description of his act, Regan said, “If I had to put it in a handful of words: I try to find the peculiar in the mundane.”

It’s tough to describe, he continued.

“Somebody once said talking about comedy is like dancing about architecture. I used to have a joke answer when every once in a blue moon somebody asked me that question. I’d say, just to be absurd, ‘My comedy is Kierkegaardian with Machiavellian undertones.’ And a writer one time said, ‘Oh, I can kind of see that.’ I was like, ‘Oh no! Now what do I do?’ How do I explain that I was being ridiculous?”

His role on the Peter Farrelly-directed series Loudermilk, now shooting its third season, provides him with the rare chance to work blue.

“It’s interesting for me on two fronts: I get to act, which I never really got to do in my career, and it’s not clean,” he said.

The latter is OK because it’s not his act.

“I’m serving their creative vision. … I make a clear line between the comedy I create and the comedy that somebody else created,” he said.

Stand Up and Away, his most recent Netflix project, was a four-episode series that blended standup, sketches and audience Q&A. With an eye toward newer fans, Regan revived some older material for it, something he normally eschews.

“Once I’m done with a bit, I kind of move on,” he said. “But then I thought, people still like these and there are probably a lot of people out there who have never heard them before. I thought it would be a way to showcase them, but in a new way.”

Echoing his sold-out 2013 Red Rocks concert, Regan will film his next special at Tuacahn Center for the Arts, a Utah amphitheater built into a rocky box canyon.

“A lot of comedians don’t like to perform outdoors. … I’ve always liked it,” he said. “I think my comedy is theatrical enough; I can get away with it. Maybe some other comedians are more heavy on the spoken word without acting things out [and] for them, it’s more challenging. I just found it to be an amazing experience.”

— Michael Witthaus

Courtesy photo.

 

Brian Regan

When: Saturday, September 28, 8 p.m.

Where: Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach

Tickets: $27-@57 at casinoballroom.com

Play on: Parents get time off, kids stay and play

Finding a sitter on a weekend night can be a challenge, but Luv 2 Play has created a chance for parents to get a little time off while the kids have plenty of fun.

Every Friday night since January, Luv 2 Play’s Hampton location has hosted what they call Parent Night Out, where parents who sign up ahead of time can drop their children off between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m. While the parents are out doing whatever they want to do with their free time, the kids can play in a safe environment.

“They have the facility to themselves during those hours to run, go through and play on whatever they want to play,” said Luv 2 Play Hampton owner Patrick St. John. “There isn’t a lot of structure to it in a sense. We don’t have a reading time or anything like that. What we find is the kids are much more interested in just burning some energy.”

Luv 2 Play is designed for kids 2 to 12, with a variety of play areas that suit children of different ages. From a massive playset with four slides, to arcade games, to an infant area, parents can be assured that there’s always something age-appropriate.

For parents who might want to stay, rather than leave entirely, Luv 2 Play offers a cafe with Wi-Fi and a clear view of the play area.

“It’s very easy for the parents to come and relax while the kids play, because they can keep an eye on them, but they don’t necessarily have to be right with them,” St. John said.

Something that sets Parent Night Out apart from other sitting services is the price, St. John said: The cost of $8 per hour for the first child, plus an additional $4 per hour for every other child, means that parents can rest assured their children are in good hands without breaking the bank or frantically searching for a sitter at the last minute.

“[The price is] pretty reasonable, particularly if you have more than one kid. It’s an option that’s reliable. I know from my own experience that trying to get a teenager or someone to commit can be difficult. But here, every Friday we’re available from 5 to 9 no matter what,” St. John said.

In addition to Parent Night Out, Luv 2 Play also offers a Drop and Shop program on weekdays, a similar sitting service to Parent Night Out that gives parents some time to get errands done after work and school is out for the day.

St. John said that as a retired veteran, he and his wife, Melissa, place a particularly strong emphasis on cleanliness — something that many feel similar child play places often lack, they said. St. John said one consistent compliment online reviewers give of his franchise location is how clean it is.

“It’s something we take pride in,” he said.

Something else St. John takes pride in is the food Luv 2 Play serves its customers. Despite the otherwise typical menu of pizza, mac and cheese, and hot dogs, over the years, he says he’s spent time reworking the meals they offer so that what they provide to customers is higher-quality than what one might typically find on the kids’ menu. At the end of the day, though, he says what’s important is that customers enjoy themselves and parents want to bring their kids back. And parents do bring their kids back.

“As people continue to learn more and more about [Parent Night Out], it continues to get more popular. Compared to the first month that we did it, we’re definitely seeing consistently eight to 10 kids every Friday night,” he said. “We definitely have repeat customers, and every week we get one or two new new folks who have heard about us from one of the other parents, so it continues to expand in that fashion.”

Making sure kids have a fun but safe environment to play in is one of Luv 2 Play’s highest priorities. All employees have been adult and pediatric CPR-certified and have passed background checks and drug screenings.

To sign your child up for Parent Night Out, go to luv2play.com. For questions, call Melissa St. John at 203-430-3964, or email her at info@luv2play-nh.com.

— Elyse Carmosino

Courtesy photo.

James House fun

The James House in Hampton will host open houses on Sunday, Sept. 29, Sunday, Oct. 13, and Sunday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tour the James Farmstead and House with Skip Webb (pictured). Ongoing weaving and spinning demonstrations are provided by James House Master Weaver Dianne Howes. Attendance is free. For some spookier fun, James House will host Spirit Chasers Paranormal Events for people 18 and older. On Saturday, Sept. 28, there will be a séance with psychic Val Lafaso, 7 to 9 p.m. Attendance limited to 7, $20 per person. On Saturday, Oct. 19, there will be a ghost hunt at the James House, 7 p.m. to midnight. Attendance limited to 10 people, $25 per person. Paranormal events require advance registration. To register contact willy Hassell at drifter3@comcast.net. For information concerning Special Programs and Open House Days contact Skip Webb at 603-926-3851. Visit jameshousemuseum.org.

Natural connection: BioBlitz returns to Odiorne State Park

On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Seacoast Science Center’s annual BioBlitz event is back at Odiorne State Park, with unique opportunities to explore local wildlife and habitats. The event is meant to be a creative way to get community members actively thinking about the biodiversity around them.

“Bioblitz is one of my favorite events of the year, and it’s such a fun way to inspire people to connect to and appreciate nature,” Director of Mission Kate Leavitt said. “We love being able to offer this unique opportunity to people of all ages.”

What makes this event different from most is that attendees are given the chance to assist local biologists with research and add their own contributions to a working database. Odiorne State Park consists of 135 acres and seven distinct habitats that allow ample room for exploration and discovery. According to the Center’s website, over 2,300 species have been identified since 2003, and that number only continues to grow. Last year alone, 350 participants identified over 500 different species, 21 of which hadn’t previously been discovered in the area.

“We now have a 16-year dataset of the biodiversity of Odiorne,” Leavitt said. “This information helps us to track change over time, and better informs our understanding of the complex webs of interactions that exist here, and the important services they provide to not only the local ecosystem but to our own health.”

The Center stresses the importance of events like this one, where participation by local community members helps to not only monitor biodiversity but also provide educational opportunities for families and generations to come.

“It’s a great way to get curious children and adults involved in scientific research. They’re able to make discoveries, share them with experts, and contribute to the overall results of our BioBlitz,” said Leavitt.

For those not interested in getting their hands dirty, the Center’s Gregg Interactive Learning Studio will have plenty to explore indoors. Attendees can learn about the identification process and use microscopes to examine insects, seaweed, and other samples of species that have been collected by local naturalists.

This year participants will have another opportunity that’s even more hands-on. For an extra $5 visitors can learn about the anatomy and physiology of squid during a guided dissection session.
“It’s fun to go into the learning studio and see kids and visitors hunched over the scopes and talking with the scientists and trying to key out different species,” Leavitt said.

The day’s schedule is packed with fun and educational activities from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., and the Center wants to engage as many community members as possible. Regardless of interests, there’s an event for everyone.

“We go tide pooling, we go out to the salt marsh, we hunt for mammals and mushrooms and insects, we check out the freshwater pond. It’s just an amazing opportunity to check out the biodiversity that exists here in our coastal park,” said Leavitt.

According to Leavitt, one of the day’s most popular events is always birdwatching, when some of the more eager attendees rise at the crack of dawn to gather at the park and attempt to identify a handful of the area’s many bird species. Leavitt says this event isn’t only about the birds, however, but also a chance to bond with other like-minded individuals during one of the most peaceful moments of the day.

“It’s fun to ride the sun. It rises right over the water. We all kick the day off with coffee, watching the sun rise, and then the birders start their walk,” she said.

Anyone interested in attending BioBlitz can register on the day of the event at the Seacoast Science Center or ahead of time online at seacoastsciencecenter.org. Fees are $10 per individual or $30 for parties up to six people. For more information, email e.carey@sscnh.org or call 436-8043, ext. 17.

As part of a lesson on responsible research and leaving no trace, participants are asked to bring reusable water bottles and containers in an effort to make the event zero-waste.

— Elyse Carmosino

 

BioBlitz Event Schedule:

  • 6-7am – Birding
  • 8am – Seine Netting
  • 9am – Plants
  • 10am Tide Pooling/Seaweed
  • 11am – Pond/Insects
  • Noon – Lunch/Special Program
  • 1pm – Mushrooms/Beach Clean-Up
  • 2pm – Mammals
  • 3pm – Salt Marsh/Squid Dissection

Rides of the Century: Cyclists of all abilities welcome to ride the Seacoast

The 46th annual Seacoast Century Weekend kicks off the morning of Saturday, Sept. 21, at Hampton Beach State Park’s South Pavilion, and will continue throughout the weekend.

The event is hosted by one of New England’s most active adult recreational bicycling clubs, the Granite State Wheelers, who are eager to get everyone, regardless of age and skill level, involved in one of New England’s biggest biking events.

“It’s a pretty special event,” said Granite State Wheelers committee member Molly Lunn Owen. “There are lots of bike rides in the region, but this one has … different length options. … What’s best about this race is you can do a number of different routes and still have the beautiful scenery along the Seacoast.”

Cyclists will have their choice of 25-, 50-, 63- and 100-mile scenic routes along the New England coastline. All experience levels are invited to try any route and are welcome to come two days in a row to bike a second route for no additional cost.

Greeting riders when they return to the pavilion will be a fun, festival-like affair that includes ice cream, DJ-led music and massages, as well as the event’s traditional post-cycling meal of soup and chowder.

“Folks finish at all different times, so whenever you roll in, we want to make sure there’s an upbeat vibe available for you when you finish the event,” Owen said.

The event’s relaxed atmosphere is a purposeful attempt by the Granite State Wheelers (formerly the Granite State Wheelmen) to expose as many people to the sport as possible. By offering a welcoming environment and letting bikers go at their own pace, the goal is to provide a family-friendly environment where everyone feels welcome.

“We’re trying to make sure everyone feels included. That’s something, as a relatively younger cyclist, that I really care about: exposing the sport to people of all ages so everyone can feel comfortable and excited to be on a bike,” said Owen. “We do say it’s a family-friendly ride in that as long as the group stays together, 25 miles is perfectly doable for a kid who likes to ride his or her bike.”

While the more experienced bikers generally lead the pack, Owen made it clear that the event is for anyone who’s interested, and that the flexibility of the route’s length means more flexibility for the riders themselves. She says the Granite State Wheelers refer to the Seacoast Century Weekend as an event, not a race, because removing any pressure to finish within a certain time frame leaves ample room for riders to simply enjoy themselves.

“There are always cyclists who want to go fast. They tend to start at the beginning, they start early, they finish early and then everyone else is able to ride and enjoy themselves and not worry that they’re in a race or trying to stay out of the way of intense cyclists. It’s really an all-levels friendly event,” she said.

Not only does the Seacoast Century Weekend attract riders of all ages and experience levels, but Owen says the ride frequently pulls in loyal cyclists from across the country who make a point of returning to the East Coast each year just for this event.

“We do have a number [of riders] from California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Utah. We get people from all over the country. People tend to come back year after year,” Owen said.

Anyone interested can register Saturday or Sunday for $75 (registering Saturday means you can come back and participate again on Sunday at no cost).

All proceeds go to fund rider education and support bicycle safety and advocacy in New Hampshire. Owen encourages everyone to come out to support the riders, enjoy the number of activities happening at the finish line, and volunteer to help the ride run smoothly.

— Elyse Carmosino

Photo by Jason Record.

Run for Rett’s Roost

On Sunday, Sept. 22, Throwback Brewery in North Hampton will host the Superhero 5K and Kids Fun Run, an annual celebration to benefit Rett’s Roost, an Ogunquit, Maine-based organization that runs weekend retreats for families that have experienced childhood cancer and child loss. The fundraising event will begin with a 3.1-mile race starting and ending at Throwback, followed by a kids’ fun run on-site shortly thereafter. During and after the race, there will be ample activities for all ages, including free kids crafts and games, face painting courtesy of Pixie Palette, balloon animals and a magic show with Sages Entertainment, a Kona Shaved Ice truck, fresh cotton candy and popcorn, a raffle and more. Adults 21 and over who complete the race will receive a free beer compliments of Throwback. And for the third year in a row, Alligator Wine will be playing a set of Grateful Dead covers immediately after the race. Visit rettsroost.org.

For the love of crafts: Hampton Falls fair returns to town common

Hampton Falls loves its crafts. The 11th annual Hampton Falls Craft Festival, happening Saturday, Sept. 14, and Sunday, Sept. 15, was started at the request of fair exhibitors, says Terry Mullen, event coordinator at Castleberry Fairs.

“With a simple question to our artisans, we asked where they would like us to host an event. Hampton Falls was mentioned again and again,” she said.
The festival hosts 75 booths at the town common on Route 1, with work from local artisans.

Castleberry Fairs is a family business that has been producing arts and crafts fairs throughout New England since 1989. The Hampton Falls Craft Festival started in 2009.
“The fair is full every year and always has a waiting list [for vendors]. As for attendees, I would guess about 3,000 shoppers visit over the two-day weekend,” said Mullen.

Mara Wesolaski, owner of Handpainted By Mara, creates hand-painted folk art on a variety of everyday items, like towels and tissue boxes, as well as large paintings. She is a regular at Castleberry Fairs events and appreciates the popularity of Hampton Falls Craft Festival.

“The central and beautiful location … draws a crowd with diverse tastes and desires,” she said. “It’s a very popular and well-attended fair.”

Valley View Maple Farm, which sells its maple products and hand-crafted wooden gift boxes, also enjoys having a booth at Hampton Falls.

“It’s a beautiful venue for a craft fair with lots of traffic and customers,” said Gaetane Kezar, owner of the farm in Springfield, N.H., with her husband Ben.

As for Liberty Farm and Forge, a blacksmith shop in Maine, the best part of being at the Hampton Falls Craft Festival is the people. Liberty Farm and Forge makes decorative metal craft items from recycled iron and steel.

“What we are really known for is our metal animation. We absolutely love showing [these works] to children and we consider it a privilege when families take the time to visit us,” said Debbie Liberty of Liberty Farm and Forge. “It all adds up to a memorable visit [with your family].”

Besides the artisan booths, visitors can sample homemade specialty foods like fruit spreads, herbal dips, olive oils and fudge. There is also live jazz performed on the bandstand, and many attendees enjoy stopping by the food booth run by the Hampton Falls Fire Department.

“The folks in the Hampton Falls area have a great appreciation for the hand-crafted tradition,” said Mullen.

Attendance at the Hampton Falls Craft Festival is free, and the town common has plenty of free parking. The fair will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

— Danielle Roberts

Courtesy photo.

Beach on fire: Circus Guild returns for fire show

On Saturday, Sept. 14, the Boston Circus Guild will return to Hampton Beach for its popular fire show, giving residents and visitors a chance to close out the summer with an energetic choreographed performance featuring the guild’s expert fire performers.

Professional daredevils will combine exhilarating stunts, graceful movements, and a touch of comedy, all while wielding flaming props. The BCG’s official website boasts that they have “a versatile roster of fully-insured fire performers ready to delight and amaze guests as they spin flaming staffs and swords, juggle blazing torches, and plunge fiery wicks into their mouths!”
If the name “Boston Circus Guild” sounds familiar, that’s because Saturday’s fire show follows a successful night of circus acts by the same company at the Sea Shell Stage earlier this month, where an estimated 4,000 people came out to see one of Hampton Beach’s most anticipated shows of the summer. The group is a collaborative organization consisting of dozens of musicians, artists, circus performers, dancers, and event producers from across New England.

“There were a lot of very young children and young parents and the kids were mesmerized by it and they were behaving like it was Christmas Eve, kind of star-struck. It really went well,” Hampton Village commissioner Robert Ladd said about the Aug. 31 show.

The fire show — put on in partnership with the Town of Hampton Recreation Department, Experience Hampton, the Sea Coast Chamber of Commerce, and the New Hampshire State Parks — is another in a long list of performances meant to bring the Hampton Beach community together for a night of family fun.

“One of the things I like about the fire show is we get co-sponsorship from the other major players in the town. So we make this an attempt to bring different parts of the community officially together to do something collectively,” Ladd said.

It’s meant to offer audiences something a little different than what they might be used to seeing at Hampton Beach. Younger audience members have given the company’s previous fire shows rave reviews, and they aren’t the only ones. Reader’s Digest named Hampton Beach as New Hampshire’s best state park in its August issue — largely because of its entirely free, family-friendly performances like the ones put on by the Boston Circus Guild.

“My feelings toward the fire show come out of my having seen what we do in other ways. You know, we have bands, they may play different forms of music, but it’s music. We have fireworks every week, and fireworks are fireworks. So we’re looking for some alternative to what we do all the time, to add to what we do,” Ladd said. “It’s very rewarding to see hundreds of preschool-age children sit there just totally fixed. They were so intensely watching what was going on. They didn’t move. And you know, 3-year-olds don’t tend to sit still for too long.”

The show starts at 8 p.m. on the beach and is free and suitable for adults and children of all ages.

“It’s a good feeling when it’s a little bit like when you can play Santa Claus to a large audience. There is a really good feeling you get from being able to do that. Being able to share these things,” Ladd said.

— Elyse Carmosino

Courtesy photo.