Coffee Rhetoric: Hartford Matters
Showing posts with label Hartford Matters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hartford Matters. Show all posts

February 16, 2012

HartBeat Ensemble's New Play Institute Presents, Project: Turnpike

Still somewhat fresh off the success and much lauded spring/winter run of their original main-stage play, Flipside-- (a play I had the pleasure of blogging about from behind the scenes)-- which will begin touring around New England in March, Hartford based professional theater group, HartBeat Ensemble is already hard at work on a new stage production  currently in development called Project: Turnpike.

The work is based on the 2007 federal trial of the United States vs. Dennis Paris; a case that unfolded right here in Hartford.  

Project: Turnpike charts 72 hours in the lives of four exploited sex workers in a motel room on the Berlin Turnpike; a busy 4-lane Connecticut highway.
In order to bring this landmark case to the stage, true-to-their art-form, HartBeat Ensemble members interviewed and collected the personal stories of people affected by human trafficking and worked with human rights advocate Raymond Bechard, who wrote the book The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America. Raymond Bechard explains;
"With a long and sordid history, The Berlin Turnpike serves as a metaphor for the landscape in which human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and all forms of prostitution have existed in the U.S. for centuries, while continuing to flourish today." 
HartBeat Ensemble will workshop and debut a staged production of Project: Turnpike Friday, April 20th at 7:30pm (at a TBD facility), in the first of three planned staged readings as part of HBE's New Play Institute. The two-year project will commence in collaboration with an area college or university, also TBD, where HBE will work in-residence while teaching a master class on "The Creation of Original Work".

The New Play Institute serves to foster an environment of experimentation and creativity for HartBeat Ensemble and college students. It also offers audience members a chance to experience new theatrical work in its early stages.

General admission will be $5 and free for students with proper identification.

HartBeat Ensemble continues to create original professional theater based on stories from the community via main-stage plays, open-air performances, and educational out-reach programs. HartBeat Ensemble makes theatrical arts accessible beyond the barriers of class, race, and gender.

For more information on HartBeat Ensemble and Project: Turnpike, visit the official HartBeat Ensemble website or call: 860.548.9144 ext 115

**Additional Reading--  

December 09, 2011

Lose It!

Photo by Charles Quiles
I really admire anybody who is unapologetic about being who they are, especially in the name of the arts. It seems that the concept of living and letting live is increasingly becoming extinct in this current climate of bullying, homophobia, race baiting, and woman bashing. It's enough to make me want to lose it...

Like the otherworldly unicorn that he is, enter fearless performance artist, visionary, and singer/songwriter Dani Arranka. This past spring, I wrote about Dani after attending his Born Day party and music video premiere for his catchy tune, Be Like Me. Fabulous and confident about who he is, but never arrogant or ungracious, Dani's popularity was undeniable then, as I watched the packed venue lose their shit when he performed. I definitely see the appeal. There's an intangible quality about his carefully cultivated persona... The French call it a certain je ne sais quoi. Now a New York transplant, Dani Arranka is poised to take over the club scene and capture the hearts of the NYC underground with his sexy new song, Lose It.

I Google+'ed the song to a friend and she immediately fell in love, re-tweeting it on her Twitter timeline. The syncopated beat is indeed, infectious. I picture a packed club, with sweaty revelers touching themselves on the dance floor and thrusting their pelvises in slow motion when I listen to it (I have an active imagination, OK?). The behind-the-scenes promo video/photo shoot, directed by photographer Charles Quiles, shows Dani playfully frolicking with sultry Argentinean male supermodel, Alejandro Salgueiro. And it's hot. It definitely conveys the tone of the song. "Lose It is being remixed for the club scene soon!!" Dani said enthusiastically via email. "Lacorey produced the track, along with all my others!" 

I definitely look forward to hearing a remixed version of the track. In the meantime, lose your chonies listening to --> Lose It and be jealous as you peep the panty leche inducing promo video, featuring Alejandro...

December 02, 2011

Holiday Happenings In the HartBeat- (Say that three times)...

In a flash, the month of November has come and gone. Thanksgiving festivities and events are behind us here in the HartBeat and the Christmas is nigh. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the re-opening of The Bushnell Park skating rink. This year's Winterfest (presented by iQuilt) is now bigger and better, having kicked off this past November 25th. The rink (located on the east side of Bushnell Park by the Pump House) is free as are skate rentals, and is open 7-days a week, 11:00am - 9:00pm (except Christmas, when it closes at 5:00pm and New Year's Eve, when it closes at 1:00am). Winterfest runs through February 20, 2012. Visit here for more info on Winterfest events.

Also, December 8th Greater Hartford Arts Council Welcome Center will be hosting a Holiday Open House. The daylong holiday event will celebrate the Greater Hartford Welcome Center and the Let*s Go! Holiday promotion. Revelers who donate $50 to the United Arts Campaign will automatically be enrolled in the Let*s Go Arts! program, which will entitle them to 2-for-1 and discounted admission to plays, concerts, and museums with the added benefit of 10%-20% off local area restaurants, specialty classes, local services and other events. 
The holiday promotion will also enable current Let*s Go Arts! members to gift an additional membership for $25! Those who donate will also have the option of participating in a drawing for gift certificates to some of Hartford's most popular restaurants and tickets to see stage plays. 

The event takes place Thursday, December 8th, 10am-3pm; 4pm-7pm at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, 100 Pearl Street, First Floor, downtown Hartford. During the earlier part of the event, visitors can enjoy free hot cocoa, cookies, and other tasties. The evening hour’s offerings will include a reception, free light wine, and cheese. For more information, visit:

November 11, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Shakespeare in Love- Cindy Martinez's Fundraising Goal!

 I'm a huge believer in the arts... especially the Hartford arts and I love making the masses privy to the creative movers and shakers in my town. My homecity may not be the biggest and it may not be New York City (as many NYC transplants love to pompously remind us, while still partaking in our offerings), but it is home to a LOT of talent and it has a lot of hart, which is why we affectionately refer to Hartford as The HartBeat.

The Hartford arts scene is home to a diverse sub-genre of artists who thrive in the myriad of different disciplines. They include but aren't limited to; writers, poets, spoken-word performers, performance artists, hip-hop lyricists, playwrights, professional theater companies, filmmakers, producers, museums, publishers and the like. Many young people from Hartford and across Connecticut hone their respective crafts via a wide array of different program offerings including Greater Hartford Arts Council's Neighborhood Studios, Hartford Stage Young Company (where they perform an annual, contemporary production from Shakespeare's body of work), the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Niro Boutique's Niro Foundation, and HartBeat Ensemble's Youth Play Institute.

Hartford native Cindy Martinez, a Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts alum and HartBeat Ensemble cast member/Community Liaison, is looking to make her mark as an actress. Talented and driven, Cindy has starred in a number of local stage productions and independent films. Looking to sharpen her acting skills, Cindy has taken on an aggressive fundraising goal in hopes of gaining enough funds to attend professional actors training at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts (prompted to action after getting a rejection letter for a scholarship). Cindy has set a lofty fundraising deadline of November 29th for herself and has already managed to raise $2,672!

Having had the opportunity to work with Cindy during my blogging stint with HartBeat Ensemble, I can vouch for her talent and how motivated she is!
"My dream is to be on Highway 91N on December 27th!" Says Cindy. 
If you're interested in helping her reach her goal of $4,000, click her PayPal account to donate! More importantly, peep her appeal in this video...

June 24, 2011

In Which Coffey Has Much To Do!

I have a lot on my mind and have a few pressing topics I've been dying to weigh-in on however I'm grappling with sinus (again) and throat issues and can't really think clearly enough to run my mouth via my computer, effectively. I've also been besieged by unsettling images of having to sleep next to whoever my partner will be, while they listen to me snore horribly due to these said chronic sinus issues... but I digress...
I've also got quite a bit on my plate and have attended or will be attending a few events in the coming days. It is a great time to be in Hartford this summer, so Kanye-shrug at anything contrary you may have heard, because people have no clue what they're talking about. Trust me on this. 
This past Friday, I had the privilege of being able to attend this year's Juneteenth Celebration Gala thrown by The Amistad Center for Arts and Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. This required me to find and buy a dress I didn't entirely hate and wear it (without having to double up on Spanx) and condense my belongings in a clutch (a difficult feat, as I only shoulder carry-on luggage sized purses).
The well-heeled were in great form as they got crunk in their formal regalia to the DJ's set list of Luke Campbell, Jay-Z, Beyonce and contemporary pop-folks of the like. I must say, it was amusing watching political power-players and Black society types thrusting their hips, pumping their fists, and chest pumping in their formal wear as Uncle Luke challenged everyone to "Shake Them Daisy Dukes!" Compelling and fun stuff. I was particularly fond of the Lemon-Basil Martini as one of the featured drinks and could use another right now.
This Friday, as in later on today, I'm hoping to be able to attend The Gil Scott-Heron REVIEW in Reflection at The Hollander Building downtown, presented by arts and culture initiative, Center Without Walls and Hartford-based theater company HartBeat Ensemble! There is an awesome lineup of spoken-word poets and jazzologists scheduled to perform and despite my weepy sinuses, swollen throat, and the wet weather I plan on being in attendance from 7pm to 10pm. 
And since they're determined to keep it crunk - (Yes, I like that word... And?) - since bringing their originally penned play Flipside to the Hartford masses, HartBeat Ensemble will also be presenting a stellar poetry showcase July 8th also at The Hollander Building at 410 Asylum Street, downtown Hartford. More on this event coming soon, but keep the date open, because ten of Connecticut's dopest poets and spoken-word performers will be bringing creative REALNESS to the space. There will also be a pre-performance shindig with BBQ (vegetarian fare as well) and booze. Pre-party festivities are from 6:30 -7:30pm and the showcase is from 8 -10:30pm. 
So if one of your mealy-mouthed colleagues complain that there's nothing to do in Hartford and to avoid mushing him/her in the face with an open palm, patiently tell them that this summer, things are going down (basement) in the HartBeat and recount these events to them. 

June 14, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Nu Style Cut Creators

“In many traditional cultures communal grooming was a social event where a woman could socialize and strengthen bonds between herself, other women and their families. An individual's hair groomer was usually someone whom they knew closely. Sessions included shampooing, oiling, combing, braiding, twisting adding accessories. Hair grooming of afro-textured hair was considered a very important, intimate, spiritual part of one's overall wellness, and would last hours and, sometimes, days depending on the hair style and skill required.” –Wikipedia, entry on Afro-textured hair

… And so explains the importance and camaraderie surrounding many Barbershops and Hair Salons. I’ve always been more fascinated by the fraternal aspect of most Barbershops however. They seem like places where men not only congregate to get themselves freshly groomed and have their fades lined up, but a space where they open up to one another and share their inner-most feelings about the myriad of topics from relationships (especially) to racial issues to current events. I’ve always wanted to walk into a barbershop and sit amongst men as they poured their hearts out, laughed and guffawed about the trials and tribulations of interacting with women and dating, notwithstanding my very female presence in their midst. Not to mention the men (most of them very attractive) from all walks of life, spanning all ages and income levels that frequent barbershops; their own little slice of heaven… and a sliver of celestialness for single women. Every now and again, while traipsing around downtown, I’d slow down a spell in front of a barbershop operated on Ann Street in downtown Hartford and peer inside through the window (pretending to see if the post office was open). This very same barbershop has now re-opened on 255 Main Street, 1 South and Downtown Hartford, CT and is owned and operated by Cedric Roberson.
Armed with some vitals this one particularly hot afternoon, I decided to walk inside rather than leer at the patrons, barbers, and stylists through the window and ask for one Mr. Cedric Roberson. I introduced myself, and found a very warm, low-key, and friendly gentleman who was glad to walk me to the back for a brief chat and offered me a cold bottle of water to help cool down.
I would learn that Cedric, a quiet spoken but seemingly driven Hartford business owner, has been in the business for the past 18 years and is a skilled Loctitian who oversees a few other comparable dreadlock experts, barbers, stylists, and braiders. Community and being at the helm of a positive work space seems to be of the utmost importance to Cedric. Upon walking in, I noted how quiet, clean, and cheery the space and people were.

“When we moved to Main Street, we scaled back and are just keeping the basics. We went from renting on Ann Street, to actually owning this space. We’re more visible on Main Street and there’s more foot traffic.” Cedric explained. This creates an opportunity for new comers to check them out! Nu Style Cut Creators specializes in the cultivation and maintenance of natural hair (and you all know how I laud natural hair!)… This includes braids and especially the process and maintenance of dreadlocks.
Upon browsing around the neat shop, I took in its shiny hardwood floors, a mounted flat-screen TV (turned to a sport of course), the easy flow of conversation and more importantly the display case filled with products… including PERFUME OILS AND INCENSE! I hastily made my way over. Cedric unlocked the case and allowed me to peruse and woman-handle the various scents. There were so many to choose from… so I chose about nine of them including; Amber, Frankincense, Lick Me All Over, and the aptly named and scented Michelle Obama. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cedric Roberson is a noted spiritual and community leader, who oversees his own ministry and encourages people toward their path to enlightenment and spirituality, prompting his shop’s patrons to appreciate his presence even more!
Cedric said that appointments are gladly accepted and walk-ins welcome! Nu Style Cut Creators’ Hours of operation are Tuesday – Friday 8am – 6pm and Saturday 7am – 5pm. Credit cards are accepted!

More importantly, there is free parking!! For more information call 860.560.3600

I genuinely love discovering noted, local business owners and interesting people in the Hartford community! Makes navigating my city that much more exciting!

May 23, 2011

Exotic Fragrance Redux!

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the smellnificent, creamy soft wonders of Exotic Fragrance perfume oils and shea butter... a Hartford-based company owned by Zaahir Qawi. I've corresponded with him several times since then and spoke to him on the phone, only to find a pleasant and driven business man working hard to hustle- (to much fanfare as illustrated by the initial email I received, that made me privy to his business)- my favorite type of products to use! Since that time I've discovered that Zaahir is in the process of checking out rental spaces in the area, so as to have a store front for us Hartford folk to frequent for high-grade perfume oils, incense, oil burners and natural products for skin and hair.
In the interim and to appease all you fine readers who inquired about Zaahir's products and for those who are just plain ol' interested, he was generous enough to offer a Coffee Rhetoric discount... Order from Exotic Fragrance and save 10% off your order! Are you stoked?? I am! I like Amber Cream, Egyptian Swirl, and Rihanna's Reb'l Fleur (much to my surprise) myself and I've gotten a lot of compliments from wanted and unwanted admirers, but I digress. I use raw shea butter by the tubs and he just got batches of fresh raw shea in- (Shea butter is magical. Trust)- after having been sold out. The Coffee Rhetoric discount is from him to you. Get on it! 
--> Exotic Fragrance Coffee Rhetoric Discount
That is all. 

May 10, 2011

Why, Yes... You May Sniff Me Now...

Some weeks ago, I opened my Yahoo! Mail and found this message in my inbox:  
I recently came across some of your reviews on Yelp and thought of someone I was introduced to a few years ago a real nice guy who lives in Hartford who sells fragrance body oils, shea butter and interesting novelties right here in Hartford. I have even seen some of their business ads posted on bus stops mostly in the Northend. His company is called Exotic Fragrance and his website is  I've purchased their China Musk (euphorious), Egyptian Musk and Baby Powder oil and they were wonderful. I thought of your review of Noor's body oils in Manchester, who I've also purchased from and this other business came to mind. Maybe you can request his samples (he sends them out free from his website or follow his contact link- I know their email is  He says he's going to expand his natural body care to include more natural hair and skin care! Thanks again for the witty, insightful information on your blog!
Intrigued- Firstly, because I'm stoked that folks actually read and enjoy my Yelp reviews  (a local business owner or perhaps one of his cronies did try to have a review I wrote  flagged once, to no avail but I digress), and also because I wear perfume oils everyday and go through tubs of raw shea butter as if the end of the end world were imminent... deeming it necessary to go out with guns blazing and supple skin- I visited the website via the link provided in the email. I was excited because I usually order my perfume oils off the internet from a supplier in New York, as it's hard to come across street vendors (at least around here) who sell quality oils... or who don't cut or water down their products (I'm a perfume oil connoisseur... I cannot and will not be tricked... I know a dupe when I smell it), so being made privy to the fact that there's a local person in the business of selling quality scents and other products, I emailed the vendor, Zaahir Qawi. I explained how I found his website and asked if he'd be willing to send me a few smellies to sample and so I can possibly feature his business on my blog (as I'm all for endorsing interesting local people, places, and things particularly if I become a fan). Zaahir promptly responded offering to mail me some samples... And so I waited... 
Fast forward about two weeks later... This past Saturday, I got a text from my visiting sister saying that a man had dropped off- (Yes, much to my surprise, he hand delivered it himself)- a small package with "Coffey" written across the front and that her husband had received it in my absence. "It smells really good too!" she texted.  I immediately knew what it was... and sternly instructed her to promptly put it away and not to open it. Needless to say, upon getting home I was highly impressed by what I received...  Zaahir also provided me with a small container of unrefined Raw Shea Butter. The oils are definitely high quality, heavily scented, and they last throughout the day... all good signs because, this past Monday, I went to one of my offices (The Market at 21's cafe), to do some much needed writing when a man sitting nearby interrupted me and asked, "Excuse me... I'm sorry to bother you, but what scent are you wearing??" Pow! The Egyptian Swirl was undeniable. 
I called Zaahir to personally thank him for dropping off the samples and was told he was hoping to, at some point, open up a shop in the Hartford area. In the meantime folks can order his custom blended perfume oils (he'll blend any combination you want) at "We get new scents everyday!" he assured me. If you're looking to provide an Exotic Fragrance experience to someone's olfactory organs (whether you're a Hartford local or not) I'd get on it... I know I plan on ordering more!

April 28, 2011


After much ado about PLENTY, the play I've been blogging about so diligently... Flipside... opens tonight! And will run through May 21st at The Hollander Building at Asylum Street, downtown Hartford every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, 7:30pm! Tickets are $20 with a discounted price of $15 for all students, old folks, and Let's Go Arts! members. 
There's originally composed music courtesy of Martin Carrillo, singing,Voguing, creative flashbacks through time,  spoken-word, discussion about wormholes, Chinaza Uche takes his pants off, so forth and so on. Opening night is sold out... but alas, Hartford Theater goers have a whole month to check it out. April 29th is HartBeat Ensemble's opening fundraiser... For a paltry $50 (you know it's paltry when compared to the cost of other fundraising events), there'll be noshables, a DJ spinning, and an opportunity to get a little tipsy before settling down at 7:30 to watch another Flipside performance.  
In the meantime, since some of you interested folk probably won't be able to make tonight's opening show considering it's sold out, catch up on all the behind-the-scenes drama on HartBeatEnsembleTube, filmed by the talented Rabbit Ears Media, and read my witty and revealing blog content on HartBeat Ensemble's website. I'm stoked. 

April 19, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Arranka!

Dani Arranka (center) w/ party revelers
Anytime I've asked friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even my sister if they've any idea who local talent, Dani Arranka is, I'm generally met with the same incredulous answer: "You don't know who DANI ARRANKA is??? EVERYONE knows Dani!" to which I reply somewhat furtively and regretfully, "I don't. Perhaps I'm the only one..." I know and have worked with Dani's sister and at her suggestion, have watched his Polo Club performances via YouTube in the past, so I've heard of him and his work  but wasn't acquainted with him socially, but I still felt like I was amongst those in-the-know via osmosis but alas, this simply did not suffice. My one brief encounter involved my recognizing and stopping him at Dish in downtown Hartford last year, during which I was on a date and Lady Gaga just happened to be in town at the Excel Center. He was amongst the daring Little Monsters milling about, dressed in their Avant-Garde and fiercest finest, and I recall him being gracious and very receptive to me... a stranger... intercepting his flow, despite not having any idea who I was. Beyond that interlude, I was determined to find out more about Dani Arranka... and so I hopped on an opportunity to attend his Born Day Party/Music Video premiere at Real Artways this past Saturday... accompanying a friend and local socialite who'd gotten the Facebook invite to show up and look fierce and by extension I took this to mean I also got an invitation, so off I went!
Dani Arranka gets the crowd hyped
As expected, Dani's supporters, friends, family, and even Hartford Mayor, Pedro Segarra turned out to wish Dani Happy Birthday and view what was seemingly the long-awaited premiere of his music video to the infectious, electro-dance-pop song, Be Like Me. The tune is a manifesto for those who are "confident, driven, and fashion forward with that 'I don't care' attitude" Dani explained. Watching Dani float around the gallery in a stylish, flowy green dress ... Euro-kissing and greeting his guests appreciatively, it suddenly became clear just who Dani Arranka is... The quintessential, post-modern performance artist who's an amalgamation of Pete Burns  (pre-plastic surgery), Gaga, Lady Miss Kier, and just a dash of Madonna, mixed with a heaping helping of his own sound and method of style. He definitely lives up to Arrancar! Which loosely translates to"starting" in Spanish... or perhaps to "take off"... and he's definitely slated to take flight... particularly since the likes of RuPaul's Drag Race personalities are jamming to his tune during their performances. Definitely an illustration and true testament to just how dynamic and diverse Hartford's arts and entertainment community is. The Be Like Me music video is a visual tour de force co-directed and edited by Wameng Lor along with photography studio, The Terrible Child (who got their feet wet directing for the first time in this instance). "I thought to myself, it would be interesting to have the video be a 70's horror inspired video about a high fashion cult who kidnaps me, because they believe if they eat me, they will turn into me. Which happens at the end of the video with the main girl. Wameng Lor and The Terrible Child are amazing visionaries!" Dani Arranka explains.  Just see it for yourself and make sure to peruse YouTube for more of Dani Arranka's work!

March 26, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Rabbit Ears Media

Check out Rabbit Ears Media's video montage/advert for Real Artways' upcoming Odd Ball fundraiser. It honestly makes me want to fork over the $65 admission fee to attend. And be sure to "like" the Rabbit Ears Media fan page on Facebook. It's great work! Comment, comment, comment... let him know what you think of his cinematography and more importantly, enjoy the rest 

Oddball at Real Art Ways from Helder Mira on Vimeo.

January 17, 2011

Coffee Buzz: The Relevancy of 'Flipside'

I'm currently working with Hartford based theater group, HartBeat Ensemble, to help document the making of their upcoming play, 'Flipside,' slated to open and run April 21 - May 14, 2011. 
Please support the effort, as it's an original work by a talented group of actors and it gives voice to important issues not unknown to most urban areas! Discourse via the use of art. Read my latest update on the process 'The Relevancy of Flipside' HERE

More to come...