Monday, February 27, 2012


Gina Barreca, popular author, humorist, essayist, feminist, blogger and stand-up comedienne will be at Fairfield University’s Quick Center on Sunday evening, March 4 at 6 p.m. “Talking about Italian-American Art and Life.”

Combining lecturing with laughter, Barecca will speak on all things Italian.  Her talk will be presented in conjunction with the university’s Bellarmine Museum of Art’s current exhibition “From Italy to America – Photographs of Anthony Riccio.”  The show documents in image and word the experiences of Italians and Italian-Americans in Southern Italy, New Haven’s Little Italy and Boston’s North End and will be on view until March 30.

A professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut, Gina Barreca has written such classics as “They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted” and her latest “It’s Not That I’m Bitter or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.”  She is known to carry on conversations with audiences on The Traumas of Trying on Bathing Suits and What Women Carry in Their Suitcase-like Pocketbooks.

With eight books translated into Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and German, she also writes a weekly column for the Hartford Courant, a monthly column for Principal Leadership, pens the “Brainstorm” section of The Chronicle of Higher Education and blogs for Psychology Today, among others, as well as appearing on such television shows as Dr. Phil, Oprah and The Today Show.

For tickets ($25), call the Quick Center, 200 Barlow Road, Fairfield at 203-254-4010, 1-877-278-7396 or online at

Laugh out loud with humorist Gina Barreca as she reveals why she has been called one of the funniest women writers in America today.


Robert Fulghum wrote a guide for living, one that applies equally to children and adults, about basic rules in society. He stipulated that we need to share, play fair, clean up our own messes, put things back where they belong, don’t take what isn’t ours and say we’re sorry if we hurt someone.  Not fighting, taking an afternoon nap (after eating warm cookies and cold milk), enjoying the small wonders of every day life, remembering to work, play, dance, draw, sing and think, holding hands and sticking together, LOOKing and knowing that everything from goldfish to hamsters to people eventually die are further postulates.

Advice coupled under the heading “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten” is now a delightful musical, conceived and adapted by Ernest Zulia, with music and lyrics by David Caldwell.  Until Sunday, March 11, Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford will be sharing this simple yet profound guide for grown ups as vignettes and life lessons to learn.

Let Jeff Horst, Richard Dennis Johnson, Scott Scaffidi, Megan Snyder and Denise Walker take your hand and hopscotch with you along the garden path to self- knowledge. When do we forget the eagerness and enthusiasm of the young who respond to every question with “Yes! Of Course I Can!”?  This talented troupe will act out a unique Cinderella play where the child who wants to play a pig, and not the prince, wins the day.

We count to ten and then engage in an invigorating game of Hide and Seek, launch a helium balloon ride with a daredevil adventurer named Larry Walters, empathize with a heart-broken actor Charles Boyer when he loses his true love and imagine how a great composer like Beethoven could create symphonies when he had lost the ability to hear.  And that’s just some of Act 1.

In Act II, we learn lessons about generations of fathers and sons, appreciate small wonders, neighborliness, Alzheimer’s disease and the power of love, religion, death and letting our inner child out.  Joseph Keach-Longo directs this intriguing look into childhood, as a search for nugget of wisdom.  Kevin Barlowski provides the soothing musical accompaniment on piano.

For tickets ($22.50-32.50), call Playhouse on Park 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at  (exit 43 off I-84).  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 2 p.m.

Enjoy the pithy and poignant passages as Robert Fulghum spins his homespun humor and wisdom on the meaningful moments of life.


When Pinocchio told a lie, his wooden nose grew and grew and then grew a little more.  It was easy to see when he prevaricated from the truth.  Not so easy to part fact from fiction when Vincent Didonato wanders into the land of falsehoods in Seven Angels Theatre’s current offering of the Gino DiLorio and Nancy Bleemer comedy “Centennial Casting” playing in Waterbury until Sunday, March 11.

When you enter Vincent’s family’s sheet metal shop that makes auto parts and tools, you’d hardly expect to find a casting couch.  But the ambiguity of the business’s name, Centennial Casting, allows for more than a little confusion.  Eager young starlets frequently submit their photos and resumes in the mistaken conclusion that the metal shop is really a theatrical agent’s office.

Now that Vincent’s mom has gone to that great resting place in the sky, he is the boss. The sight of an actress’s photo on his cluttered desk sets off a domino effect of actions and consequences that brings an enthusiastic and naïve actress Edie Keaton to Vincent’s “theatrical” door.  Edie (Elizabeth Meadows Rouse) thinks she is meeting Vincent (Lou Martini, Jr.), the producer of a new independent film about a racetrack, a fiction that Vince’s co-workers Doo Doo (Anthony Patellis) and Carmine (Nicholas Wilder) are helping him fabricate. Vincent has been in a funk and his friends feel meeting Edie will dispel his sorrows.

Edie’s best buddy Michele (Amanda Brooke Lerner), who works beside her at the Moondance Diner, encourages her to pursue her dream of being on stage instead of settling for a job as a drama teacher in Ohio.  Vincent’s little white lie soon blossoms into a rainbow of fabrications.
Semina De Laurentis directs this quirky and convoluted path to romance that detours with funny twists and turns before it crosses the finish line, by a nose (the winning horse’s, not Pinocchio’s).

For tickets ($29-39), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come play Casanova and Cupid as Mr. Vincent Didonato takes on the role of big city theatrical agent by inviting aspiring actress Edie Keaton to test out the comfort of his casting couch.

Monday, February 20, 2012


The term possession can refer to the ownership of a piece of property or an accumulation of things, a crime such as drug possession, self-possession as in identity of who we are or who we belong to, possession of a person as in slavery of one man to another, control of another’s emotions evinced as love and demonic possession, where a spirit controls malevolently.  Possession in all its varied contexts is the subject of a world premiere drama “Good Goods” by Christina Anderson, raising the emotional roof of the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven until Saturday, February 25.

In a mythical town, shrouded in mystery, where an “invasion” occurred sometime in the past, a collection of lost souls congregate in the general store, a store named “Good Goods” for its owner, Mr. Good, Sr.  The store’s proprietor Truth (Marc Damon Johnson) watches over every box of Rinso and can of peaches and has done so since he was a lad.  But Truth does not own the property.  That right by birth belongs to Stacey (Clifton Duncan), the owner’s son, who has been on the road for a decade in a comedy duo with Patty (De’Adre Aziza).

Now Stacey has been back exactly seven days and he is asserting his demands over how the business is run, a domain Truth has controlled and doesn’t wish to abdicate.  On the eve of Wire’s(Kyle Beltran) thirtieth birthday, a date he shares with his twin Patty, the stage is set for something sinister  to happen.  At thirty, Wire, a messenger boy, realizes his life is quickly passing him by and what does he have to show for it.  When Patty returns to town with a young bubbly girl Sunny (Angela Lewis) at her side, events are ready to explode.

The remembrance of a vision from the past, that history is about to be made, when a gift of a new drum to Wire disturbs the spirit world, the air is ripe for Waymon (Oberon K. A. Adjepong), who possesses the soul of a priestess, to come to the store and perform his magic.  Tina Landau directs a truly talented cast in a theatrical adventure ride.  After a slow beginning, the story becomes a hurricane of excitement, with Angela Lewis’s performance at its stirring center.

For tickets ($20-88), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven (corner of York) at 203-432-1234 or online at  Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m.

As the tambourine rattles and the drum beats, discover that “folks need people.  That’s how life is,”  in this drama where everyone needs to know and learn his own heart.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012


            Krystal Lucas, Photo by Larry Nagler

Empathy and enthusiasm battle with exasperation and enmity in the complicated relationship of a mother and daughter in Philip Hayes Dean’s involving comedy/drama “The Sty of the Blind Pig.”  Hartford TheaterWorks will be casting its critically accurate eyes on this 1971 play that sets itself in Chicago in the 1950’s with the Civil Rights movement knocking on the door.

Until Sunday, February 26, “The Sty of the Blind Pig” will reveal how a mother’s love can turn tyrannical and pierce and wound an unsuspectedly sensitive daughter.  The matriarch Weedy, played with supreme queenly qualities of entitlement by Brenda Thomas, never misses an opportunity to alternately encourage and berate her unmarried daughter Alberta, portrayed with grace and fire by Krystal Lucas.

The two women inhabit a run-down apartment that will eventually be condemned by the city and that is the boxing ring where they figuratively take and give their verbal punches.  Weedy is the righteous Christian who distains anyone who is not a faithful churchgoer, who imbibes alcohol, who indulges in the devil’s game of gambling or who leads an immoral life of sin.

She directs her preaching directly at her brother Doc, a sassy street wise Jonathan Earl Peck, who laughs off his sister’s religious ramblings and continues to pursue all the transgressions Weedy abhors.  Her arrows of indignation, however, wound Alberta who has her own code of honor firmly in place. 

The pair parry and thrust, advance and retreat, especially when a stranger crosses their threshold.  The appearance of Blind Jordan, in the capable hands of Eden Marryshow, puts this street singer without sight directly in the love starved Alberta‘s vision.  This man who was born in a brothel, named The Sty of the Blind Pig, ignites both women with startlingly different results.
Tazewell Thomas directs this memorable memory play with discerning care.

For tickets ($50-63, and student rush $17 when available), call Hartford TheaterWorks. 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Come early to the upstairs gallery to enjoy the artwork of Jenni Freidman.

Watch how Alberta’s innate kindness to a stranger propels the family to reexamine its basic values and turn them inside out.


As a master of the macabre and a designer of the dark, Charles Addams delighted the world of cartooning with the characters he named “The Addams Family.”  The subject of over 1000 cartoons, two live-action television shows, two animated television series, several books and a trio of motion pictures, Addams drew his signature characters for five decades and one would be hard pressed not to have some acquaintance with Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch the butler, Gomez, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and Thing who all lived in a spooky mansion on a hill.

Prepare now for the national tour of “The Addams Family” that will be flying in and haunting the happy stage of the Bushnell for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, February 21 to Sunday, February 26 when the musical comedy comes to Hartford.

With timeless universal themes, grim and gruesome and yet gleeful, Addams was a genius at helping us laugh at all things scary.  By making fun of our fears, he felt we reduce them to manageable beasts.

In the musical coming from Broadway, we find little Wednesday is now a grown-up 18 year old with, yikes, a boyfriend.  Not a boyfriend who is eccentric or bizarre or feels at home in graveyards, but one who is frighteningly normal.  When Wednesday confesses to her father Gomez that she is in love, she makes him promise to keep it a secret, a secret not only from the world at large, but from the person closest to Gomez’s heart, his wife and Wednesday’s mother, Morticia.

How long before the jig is up and the black cat is out of the bag can be marked on the calendar:  the date when Wednesday’s boyfriend and his parents, clothed in all their normality, sit down for dinner with the Addams clan.

This new musical comedy has been created by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and choreography by Sergio Trujillo, with direction/design by Phelm McDermott and Julian Crouch and production supervision by Jerry Zaks.

For tickets ($17-80), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Get those fingers snapping as the sinister is imbued with silliness and the creepy becomes cleverly comic when the Addams Family comes to Hartford.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


A fortnight ago, versatile and accomplished performer Ben Vereen was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame on Broadway, one of the highest honors an artist could ever hope to achieve.  With a career that spans over four decades, Ben Vereen , a song and dance and acting master, has performed worldwide.

A gifted speaker, he will be at Sacred Heart University’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield at 3 p.m., Sunday, February 19 as part of their American Legends Series.  The range of topics he may discuss span his colorful career, overcoming adversity, Black history, arts in education, recovery through physical and occupational therapy, motivation, the importance of continuing education or his charitable causes like diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and a drug free America.

In an Actors Studio conversation with Jerry Goehring, the center’s Executive Director, he will reflect on his careers on stage, film and television as well as show clips of films from his multitude of productions.

Ben Vereen is a consummate entertainer, a triple threat, singing, dancing and acting for decades.  Perhaps you remember him as Judas  Iscariot in ”Jesus Christ Superstar,” as the Wizard of Oz in “Wicked,” as the Leading Actor in “Pippin,” the story of the son of Charlemagne, as “Chicken George” Moore noted for his cockfighting skills in Alex Haley’s miniseries “Roots,” or even as Mayor Ben, the leopard in “Zoobilee Zoo.”

Vereen is currently working on “Tenacity,” a show he is readying for a Broadway debut in July, featuring himself and his band, of which his son is a member.  The show will feature rock and reggae music and expand on how we overcome and persevere, the determination we need to survive.  It will characterize how he, himself, lives his life and determines his career path, by knowing who he is.  It will also pay tribute to men like Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bob Fosse who were his mentors.

For tickets ($25, student/faculty $20, seniors $15), call the Edgerton Center, on the campus of Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield (off the Merritt, exit 47) or online at  The next American Legend will be Mickey Rooney, Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m.

Let the iconic Ben Vereen share insights into a life filled with triumphs and tragedies and how he had the ‘tenacity’ to succeed.



Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts unveiled its exciting new season with a launch party last night.  Look for “The Addams Family” in February, “Les Miz” in March, “Fiddler on the Roof “ in April and the Frank Sinatra, Twyla Tharp special “Come Fly With Me” in May to complete the present schedule.

Hold on to your hats for 2012-2013!  It starts off on a flying start with “Mary Poppins” in September, followed by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” over Thanksgiving weekend, a gospel concert “Great Joy” in early December, a favorite TBA show followed in January with “Million Dollar Quartet” featuring Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis jammimg.  Next up is “American Idiot” in February, “Sister Act” in April, “Catch Me If You Can” in May and “Billy Elliot” in June.

Now is the time to make your plans and buy your subscriptions.  Call the Bushnell at 860-987-5900 or go online to Don’t be left with your nose pressed against the bakery window looking in.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Ever think of celebrating Valentine’s Day in the company of some quirky but sincere Down Easters or Mainers, if you prefer.  Thanks to actor and playwright John Cariani and the Music Theatre of Connecticut in Westport, you have that unique possibility weekends until Sunday, February 19.

People from Maine go about their lives in a slightly different step, to a definitely different drummer.  John Cariani proves it in a series of vignettes about love, romance and courtship in all its shades of red.

A quartet of fine actors, Cynthia Hannah, Tim Reilly, Jim Schilling and Katie Sparer, take us over the speed bumps and under the railroad trestles as they attempt to find a mate and live happily ever after, or at least until the ice pond melts. 

Learn how three little words, “I love you,” can stop the universe in its tracks, moose tracks or the other two legged kinds. Find out what happens when your heart is broken into a gazillion pieces, well maybe only nineteen, but you get the idea.  Can it be mended?

Don a warm flannel shirt and  go in search of the Northern Lights as East meets Wes(t).  Discover how a misspelled tattoo can inadvertently lead to a new romance and learn whether an ironing board can be as effective as Cupid’s arrows in striking up a new attraction.

Investigate what can happen when a disillusioned sweetheart returns three large bags of love to the man who doesn’t seem to care for her anymore.  Decide for yourself if Chad or Randy wins the title of having the Baddest Date Ever.  Put on ice skates and go to Echo Pond with Phil and Marci and take a chance wishing on a shooting star and then tag along with Hope as she travels to give an answer to a question Daniel posed to her eons ago.

Finally, hop on a snowmobile with Rhonda and Dave as a personal painting sets their relationship in a whole new unexplored frame.  Kevin Connors directs these bittersweet and funny stories of lost love, found love, new love and the magic that once was and could be again.

For tickets ($25-45, $5 off seniors and students), call MTC, 246 Post Road East, Colonial Green, lower level, Westport at 203-454-3883 or online at  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Save Saturday, March 31st for MTC’s Silver Anniversary Gala.  Dress as your favorite “Mad Men” character for an evening of cocktails, dinner, music and more!  Call the theatre for all the details.

Travel to the mythical town of Almost in the picturesque state of Maine for some poignant and piquant portraits of love in all its possibilities.


Imagine seeing and hearing a century of great songs and dances from Broadway and beyond in one spectacular evening.  Composer and lyricist Neil Berg has one such night of entertainment planned for you at the Bushnell’s Center for the Performing Arts.  On Sunday, February 19 at 7 p.m., the parade of hits will sparkle down the runway and you don’t want to miss the razzle-dazzle fun.

With personal musical credits that range from “The Prince and the Pauper” to “Grumpy Old Men” to “The Man Who Would Be King” to “Heidi,” Neil Berg is well qualified to take on this daunting showcase project.  Hop scotching across the decades of America’s finest hits, five of Broadway’s top stars will perform selections from such shows as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “Aida,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Jersey Boys,” “Chicago,” “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Mamma Mia.”

This musical feast will be provided by Broadway veterans David Elder (Curtains, 42nd Street, Kiss Me Kate), Ted Louis Levy (Black & Blue, Bring In ‘Da Noise! Bring In ‘Da Funk!), Meredith Patterson (White Christmas, 42nd Street, The Green Bird), Natalie Toro (A Tale of Two Cities, Les Misérables) and Rob Evan (Jekyll & Hyde, Les Misérables, Little Shop of Horrors).  For more information visit Neil Berg's website:

“Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway Song and Dance” is an evening you won’t want to miss, a production guaranteed to chase away the winter blahs and blues.
That day at 2 p.m. local Greater Hartford dance studios will present a special Student Showcase competing to appear in the evening performance.  Dancers will be from four area studios, including Stage Left Dance, Aprille’s Danceprints, The Dancer’s Image Dance Academy and Dance 10 Studios.  The winning troupe will be in the evening’s grand finale.
Tickets to the Student Showcase are $15 or only $10 with the purchase of a ticket to the 7 p.m. performance.  Tickets to the Neil Berg Special are $35-45 and may be purchased by calling the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at

Watch these five Broadway veterans strut their stunning stuff as they journey through a century of memorable song and dance routines and make them come alive all over again.


Seven decades ago Noel Coward penned the comedy “Blithe Spirit” in a five day writing marathon and it is still entertaining audiences to this day.  Weekends until Saturday, March 10, Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin is inviting you to discover the world of the occult, believers and non-believers alike.

Author Charles Condomine (Tom Roohr) is researching his next book, a look into the psychic realm.  For some authenticity or dialogue or just plain fun, he sets up a séance with the local medium, an eccentric and colorful character, in feathers and fringe, Madame Arcati (Joanne Callahan-Roohr). Charles, accompanied by his second wife Ruth (Barbara Horan) and dear friends Dr. Bradman (Paul Braccioforte) and his wife Violet (Abbie Brooks) gather for what they hope will be lively entertainment.

Madame Arcati, as promised, goes into a trance and contacts the “other side.”  Who should answer the call but the ghost of Charles’ first spouse, Elvira (Rachel West-Balling), who was temperamental and demanding in her previous life and hasn’t changed much since.

This time around Elvira, who can only be seen and heard by Charles, has an agenda of her own.  She wants Charles to join her in the hereafter and the only way to accomplish that is to murder him, ever so gently of course.

Elvira’s plans go slightly awry as Ruth jealously accuses Charles of spousal abuse or of going crazy, neither of which she will tolerate. The Condomine’s servant Edith (Linda Kelly) gets into the fray when Madame Arcati returns and tries spell after incantation to exorcise Elvira.

Soon there is more than one ghost running amok and sending the Condomine household into total chaos.  Director Kris McMurray keeps the fun spirited (pun intended) as vases go flying and lamps crash down.

For tickets ($30), call CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Remember to bring snacks to share at your table or plan to purchase dessert and drinks on site.

Watch how easily a seven- year old ghost upsets the delicate balance of a marriage when she is invited in for a manifestation of merry mayhem.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012



Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close could be described as Extremely Sad and Incredibly Wonderful.  It is a poignant 9/11 story of one family and the aftermath when the father dies in the tower.  How the son, Oscar, copes with his great loss is painful to watch.  Young Thomas Horn is remarkable in his portrayal, with Tom Hanks as dad and Sandra Bullock as mom.

Bring Kleenex as this movie will tug on your heartstrings as Oscar searches for a sign from his dad and for a way to stand up after his tragedy. 



We all have the same allotment of time in an hour, a day, a month, a year.  How we utilize those minutes and hours is vastly different for each one of us.  Wesleyan University’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery will explore “Passing Time” in a variety of mediums in its current exhibition of fourteen artists from around the world until Sunday, March 4.

The artwork of Rineke Dijkstra, from the Netherlands, of two photographs of a young girl was especially poignant.  One picture is before her induction into the Israeli army as a soldier and one is three months later.  This international exhibit is unique and strange, ranging from a corner stacked with 700 pounds of licorice candies (you are invited to take one) to videos of a cello player on a cliff to a skateboarder on the rock wall edge of a beach with danger below to a wall of a death row inmate’s last thoughts and goodbyes.

The gallery is on the Wesleyan campus, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown.  Hours are Tuesday-Sunday, noon – 4 p.m.  Call 860-685-3355 or go online to



Singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman gave the world inspiration through her Jewish music.  Her voice gave hope and promise of a better world.  The one year anniversary of her death was celebrated on Sunday, January 29 at a concert at Woodbridge’s Jewish Community Center.

Youth groups from area schools and synagogues paid tribute to her by singing her wonderfully gifted melodies.  Her death at the age of sixty was far too young.  As long as her music is sung, she will live on as a legacy.



The legendary film critic and columnist for the New York Observer, Rex Reed, is also an entertaining raconteur.  He proved his storytelling skills on Sunday, January 29th, at Fairfield University’s Quick Center, as part of their Open VISIONS Forum program.

For Reed, name dropping is a talent and a necessity.  Every tale he told was stuffed with famous people from Hollywood, stage and screen.  His first girlfriend was Elizabeth Ashley and he’s best buds with Angela Lansbury.  He’s danced with Fred Astaire and been insulted by Frank Sinatra.

He’s broken bread with Greta Garbo, Mae West and Carole Channing and scores of others.  How many people can boast that they’ve sung with Judy Garland, acted with Laurence Olivier and smoked pot with Jane Fonda?  If you ever meet the great man himself, ask him why Marlena Dietrich had a drawer full of pocket knives or how Reed’s life was saved by a lemon meringue pie?

Gene Shalit has advised Reed to put all these star stories in a book.  If he ever does, I’ll be the first one in line at the book signing.