Off-Broadway Comedy ‘Craving for Travel’ Showcases Travel Agents Trying to do the Impossible

Facebook/Craving for Travel

Joanne and Gary, rival travel agents compete for their industry’s top honor, the Globel Prize, while trying to address their clients’ impossible demands in an Off-Broadway comedy that debuts this week, “Craving for Travel.”

The 85-minute, two-actor, 30-character comedy was commissioned and produced by Jim Strong, president of the Dallas-based Strong Travel Services travel agency.

“Travel agents are always asked to do the impossible, and this play shows how that is done, from finding the impossible rooms to making dreams come true,” Strong told the “Dallas Morning News.” “I decided to bring it to life on stage as a comedy in New York.”

From “Craving for Travel’s” press release:

With their reputations on the line, travel agents Joanne and Gary will tackle any request, no matter how impossible, and any client, no matter how unreasonable. Full of overzealous travelers, overbooked flights, and hoteliers who are just over it, Craving for Travel reminds us why we travel-and everything that can happen when we do.

“Craving for Travel” opens Thursday at the Peter J. Sharp Theater, where it’ll run through Feb. 9. Tickets are $32.50 and $49. They can be purchased at CravingForTravel.com, 212-279-4200 or the Ticket Central Box Office (416 W. 42nd St., 12-8 p.m. daily). More than half of the shows are already sold out.Written by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg and directed by Sandberg (a Tony Award-winning producer for the 2009 revival of “Hair”), the play stars Michele Ragusa (who also was in “Young Frankenstein” and “Disaster!”) and Thom Sesma (“The Lion King,” “The Times They Are A-Changin'”).

“While travel industry professionals may have a different kind of appreciation for it, the script is written for general audiences,” Sandberg told the “Dallas Morning News.” “Everyone can relate to travel, especially when painted in such a humorous light.”

Shakespeare Slept Here: Hidden Old Room In Oxford Once Hosted The Bard

ShakespeareBehind an eighteenth-century facade in downtown Oxford, just above a clothing shop, is a bedroom that was once used by William Shakespeare.

It was part of the Crown Tavern, owned by Shakespeare’s friend John Davenant. The Bard frequently stopped in Oxford on his trips between Stratford-upon-Avon and London. A nearby courtyard may have hosted his troupe’s performances.

Known as the Painted Room, it’s been remarkably preserved since Elizabethan times and still has hand-painted wall decoration from the late 16th century. This rare artwork survived thanks to oak paneling installed in the following century, and was only rediscovered in 1927.

Part of the decoration includes a religious text:
“And last of thi rest be thou
Gods servante for that hold I best / In the mornynge earlye
Serve god devoutlye
Feare god above allthynge. . .”

This week the Oxford Preservation Trust is offering guided tours of the Painted Room. If you can’t make it, BBC has posted a video tour of the room, led by some silly guy in an anachronistic tricorne hat. The Trust is also working on making the rooms permanently available to the public.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Overlooked London: The Bookshop Theatre At The Calder Bookshop

LondonWelcome to “Overlooked London,” the first in an occasional series on the lesser-known sights of one of the world’s greatest cities!

Anyone who loves theater will love London. From glitzy musicals to serious drama or weird experiments, London’s theater scene has it all. One place that has become a shrine of sorts for alternative theatergoers is The Bookshop Theatre. By day it’s the Calder Bookshop, stocking fiction, philosophy and plays. At night, the stacks are cleared away and it hosts plays, movies, lectures and other events.

The space is tiny. When I attended a play by Samuel Beckett, the 25 or so people in the audience filled the back room. The actors were so close I could have touched them. It was like being part of the performance.

The theater was founded by John Calder, who has been at the forefront of London’s theater and independent publishing scene for decades. Through his publishing company he helped popularize Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs and many other leading figures in the literary and theater world. On more than one occasion he had to fight for the right to publish controversial authors – fights he always won.

His theater reflects that scrappy, independent outlook by hosting experimental plays, lectures about avant-garde literature and, to commemorate the anniversary of the Falklands War, a documentary on British Imperialism.

The Bookshop Theatre is located at 51 The Cut, near the more famous theaters of The Old Vic and The New Vic. It’s served by Waterloo and Southwark Tube stations and there are plenty of dining opportunities nearby. So if you like your theater experience a little more intimate, check out their website and see what’s on.

Delos: the birthplace of a Greek god

Delos
An ancient theater on the Greek island of Delos has received funding for a major renovation. The Greek government has earmarked 1.5 million euros ($2 million) to make the site more attractive for the thousands of tourists who visit it every year.

Delos was an important religious site in ancient Greece, being the purported birthplace of Apollo. Delos is one of the smallest of the Cyclades Islands, which are a favorite destination for many travelers for their historical importance and natural beauty.

The theater was finished in 250 B.C., and constructed entirely of marble. It could seat up to 6,500 people and it may be used as a theater again once the restoration is completed. Restoration work will include putting together the jigsaw puzzle of many broken pieces of marble, clearing away the plants that have grown on the site and providing drainage to minimize water damage.

The entire island of Delos is one of Greece’s seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is rich with archaeological remains. Archaeologists from the French School at Athens have been excavating at Delos since 1872 and are still making major finds. One of the most attractive is the Sacred Way leading to the sanctuary of Apollo. The road is flanked with carved lions, much the way sacred paths in Egypt were flanked with sphinxes. Besides Apollo’s sanctuary, there were also spaces set aside as sacred to Dionysus. Several giant phallic symbols sacred to the god of wine and partying have been found. You can see a couple in the photo gallery below.

Sumptuous mosaics have been discovered in many of the buildings as well as statues and richly painted pottery. Many of these finds are displayed in the local museum, one of the best in Greece.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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Somali National Theatre reopens in Mogadishu

Who ever thought going to a play could count as adventure travel? Now it can, because the Somali National Theatre has reopened in Mogadishu, Somalia.

This is the latest sign of growing normalcy in the battered capital. Traffic cops have returned to the streets, the markets are thriving and there are now regular commercial flights to Somalia from Turkey.

The theatre closed in the early ’90s when Somalia spiraled into civil war. With rival clans fighting over every block, going to the theatre wasn’t a big priority. Al-Shabab certainly didn’t try to reopen it during their brief control of Mogadishu. The Islamist terrorist group banned all public entertainment as well as Western music, foreign food aid and bras.

Now Al-Shabab is on the defensive, being attacked on several fronts by the Transitional Federal Government, the African Union, Kenya and Ethiopia. This has allowed a period of relative peace in Mogadishu, although bombings do still occur. Somalis have been quick to rebuild and the theatre is the latest sign of renewed life.

The Somali National Theatre celebrated its reopening by entertaining an audience of about 1,000 with a night of music, drama and comedy. That’s right, comedy. The fact that Somalis are laughing is a good sign. Who knows, perhaps tourism will be next!

As further proof that absolutely everything ends up on YouTube, here’s a clip of a concert at the Somali National Theatre in the 1980s. It’s obviously transferred from an old VHS tape, so the quality isn’t the best, but how often do you get to see something like this?