New play sings the blues of Saint Georges

Steve Hazzard as Joe Michini and Peggy Chiras in the role of Marge star in “Saint Georges Blues.” They join the eclectic crew who assemble at Saint George’s Country Store for gumbo, pumpkin pie, the blues and camaraderie. The play will be performed at the Smyrna Opera House Saturday night at 7:30. (Submitted photo/Jane Jewell)

Steve Hazzard as Joe Michini and Peggy Chiras in the role of Marge star in “Saint Georges Blues.” They join the eclectic crew who assemble at Saint George’s Country Store for gumbo, pumpkin pie, the blues and camaraderie. The play will be performed at the Smyrna Opera House Saturday night at 7:30. (Submitted photo/Jane Jewell)

Driving for many years on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Bridge, high above the tiny village of St. Georges, Earl Lewin had always wondered what life was like below him.

When Mr. Lewin, a playwright for many years, finally stopped to find out, he got the surprise of his life.

In the early spring of 2015, while driving home to the Eastern Shore of Maryland from New York, Mr. Lewin and his wife decided to bypass the bridge and stop off in St. Georges for lunch.

“We figured there had to be some place to eat around there. So we pulled up in front of the Saint Georges Country Store. I looked at the place, wasn’t too sure about it and could hardly open the front door,” Mr. Lewin recalled earlier this week.

“But we got in there and we got to talking to the bartender, Jen, and ordered some Cajun food, which turned out to be fantastic. Pretty soon, the owner, Marge, came out and then the cook and then Aunt Shirley came in. We must have sat there two hours while Marge told me her life story, which was really fascinating.”

Leaving the little joint, he turned to his wife and told her there was a play waiting to be told in there.

“So I went back the next week to talk to Marge again. She was so pleased that someone was interested in her story. Then I said, ‘You know, Marge. I’m going to write a play about this.’ And she broke down crying,” said Mr. Lewin, a New Jersey native who has lived in Chestertown, Maryland, for the past 23 years.

Months of writing followed until “Saint Georges Blues” was born. It tells the true story of Joe and Marge Michini and their successful collaboration with musician Garry Cogdell and Gene Fontana, president of the Diamond State Blues Society, in bringing rhythm and blues to the 45-seat country store.

The play follows the couple’s love story and the often bumpy ride that turned the small place into a popular East Coast music venue and created the nationally recognized Saint Georges Music Festival.

The show opened Sept. 29 for eight performances to enthusiastic audiences, including some of the subjects of the play, at the Church Hill Theatre in Maryland. It will be staged Saturday night at the Smyrna Opera House.

“Since the play takes place in Delaware, I wanted it to run at least one time in Delaware,” Mr. Lewin joked.

Best Bets logo -NEWA writer of five full-length plays and several one-act pieces, Mr. Lewin says most of his previous works have been a bit lighter than this one.

“Not that this isn’t funny but it’s got some real emotion in as well,” he said of the play that he also directs.

In the show, Marge (portrayed by Peggy Chiras), a longtime resident of St. Georges, wants to own a country store, which is up for sale. Divorced with two grown children and her elderly Aunt Shirley with Alzheimer’s (portrayed by Kathy Jones), Marge can’t afford it.

Joe (played by Steve Hazzard), a Delaware River pilot who has a knack for Cajun cooking and a taste for good scotch, is in love with Marge. He has the resources and goes along with it and then it’s up to Marge to fully commit to the idea. Everything is going well until fate steps in.

While not wanting to go into complete details on the ins and outs of the play, Mr. Lewin turns to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

“Let’s just say ‘Into each life, some rain must fall,’ ” he waxed poetically.

Mr. Lewin said he was surprised at the reaction the show got at Church Hill, a regular venue for most of his plays.

“I’m amazed at the appeal of the show. After it was over, I got a letter from the folks at the theater who said it was an unusual success and stated that audiences loved the show. You usually don’t get that from the theater itself,” he said.

“I think I’ve really boosted the business at the country store. You have to make a reservation when they have music. It’s all been very satisfying.”

Mr. Lewin has two musicals to his credit, “She Stoops to Conquer, The Musical” and “Celluloid,” both featuring scores by Dick Durham. “Celluloid” played off-Broadway in 2010. His murder-musical “The Burgundy Wine Mob” went on to an off-off Broadway life in 2012. Mr. Lewin’s short script “Not Responsible” was also featured in the Short Play Lab’s MidTown Festival in New York City in 2013. Most recently, BC Productions collaborated with Church Hill Theatre to present Mr. Lewin’s murder mystery “Accidentally Wealthy” in 2015 and romantic comedy “Visiting Sam” in 2014.

Retired from his 20-year job as producer of industrial films and videos, Mr. Lewin, who will simply cop to being “older than dirt,” has kept to his goal of writing a play a year for the past four years.

With “Saint Georges Blues,” he thinks he’s got something.

“I think this one has legs. I’ve already gotten some interest from people in New York. They came down to see it and asked me what I was going to do with it. So I’m hoping that’s a good indication that it might have a chance to go further.”

Tickets for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. show are $16 for general admission, $14 for Smyrna Opera House members, seniors and military members and $8 for children younger than 12. Doors will open at 6:45 at the theater located at 7 W. South St.

Call (302) 653-4236 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/
2600389 for reservations.

Blues winners

Speaking of the blues, the Central Delaware Blues Society recently held its Battle of the Bands at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia. The annual competition decides what band the society will help fund to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January.

The winner was Tom Craig and the Soul Patch Band. Other artists competing were Blues Reincarnation Project, Billy Pierce and Barrelhouse.

The winner of the Youth Showcase was Radka Kasparcova, who will also be going to Memphis.

Named Best Self-Produced CD was “Shapes of Soul” by Billy Pierce.

Other CDs were “Flashback” by Time Gap and “Songs of a Renegade” by Greg Sover.

The fundraiser to help pay for the Memphis trip will be Dec. 11. Details will be announced soon.

Glenn Miller Orchestra at Dover Downs

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will bring their classic, big-band favorites back to Dover Downs Hotel & Casino at 7 tonight.

Tickets can be purchased by contacting VIP Services at (800) 711-5882. Prices range from $13-

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will play Dover Downs' Rollins Center tonight at 7. (Submitted photo)

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will play Dover Downs’ Rollins Center tonight at 7. (Submitted photo)

$18.

First formed in 1937 by Glenn Miller, the orchestra continues to thrill crowds worldwide, playing almost 300 shows per year in front of more than 500,000 people annually.

With a repertoire of more than 1,700 compositions, the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s list of favorites include “Moonlight Serenade,” “In the Mood,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “St. Louis Blues March,” “Sunrise Serenade,” “Little Brown Jug,” and “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The Glenn Miller Orchestra has been led by music director and vocalist Nick Hilscher since January 2012. Mr. Hilscher, who began his professional career in the 1990s as a teenager, has been featured on several albums with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, including “On The Air” and “Steppin’ Out.”

Speakeasy Masquerade Ball in Dover

Also today from 6 to 11 p.m., the Dover Art League and The Schwartz Center for the Arts will host the Speakeasy Masquerade Ball.

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. at the league for a speakeasy-inspired cocktail hour featuring live music and artistic masks for sale and at 8 p.m. it will continue at the Schwartz for dancing, food, drinks and more. Tickets will be $80 for members of SCA and DAL and $100 for non-members and at the door. Call 674-0402 to reserve tickets.

Visit www.doverartleague.org for event details or to view the call for entry. www.doverartleague.org/event-calendar.

Fall Festival at Harvest Ridge

Rebel Seed Cider will host its first Fall Festival Saturday at Harvest Ridge Winery to benefit the Hero-Hunts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides military servicemen and women opportunities to enjoy recreational hunting.

The main event at the family friendly festival will be a food truck competition, featuring over a dozen food trucks including Po’ Boys, Rebel Cove, Delicious Craving, Savage Meals and Tre Sorelle Dolce. Other activities will include pumpkin painting, a moon bounce, corn hole, and line dancing guided by Cowboy Up. The festival will also feature live entertainment and cider/wine tastings.

The food truck competition runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. followed by line dancing from 5 to 8 p.m.

All festivities will be at Harvest Ridge Winery, 447 Westville Road, Marydel. A $10 entry fee earns a commemorative glass, a ticket for wine or cider, and a ticket to vote for your favorite truck.

Advance tickets, which give the bearer and extra drink ticket and a pass through the express line, are available online for $16.82.

For more information, visit www.rebelseed.com or call the tasting room at (302) 343-9437

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters, Tom Hanks continues his quest as Dr. Robert Langdon in the suspense thriller “Inferno” and the document “To Joey, With Love” chronicles the love affair of country duo “Joey+Rory.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Star Trek Beyond” and the comedy “Bad Moms.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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