Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Clients Partner: Cross-Culture Journeys Develops Springtime Holland/Belgium Tulip Cruise for "Says You!"

Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, 413-733-7095 or

"Says You!" Presents "Tulip Time in Holland and Belgium" a Springtime Cruise with Host Richard Sher

Boston, MA---"Says You!", public radio's popular game with words, has organized a 9-day/7-night, fully-escorted journey to Holland and Belgium with a Tulip-time cruise of the rivers and canals of the Low Countries from April 17-25, 2010.  Richard Sher, creator and host of the Boston-based show, will join the travelers for the voyage. 

The trip was developed by Cross-Culture Journeys, an Amherst, MA travel company that produces specialized travel programs for public radio stations, alumni organizations and the public.

Travellers begin their tour in Amsterdam, where they board the brand new MS Amadolce to begin their cruise through the Dutch and Belgian countryside. With the ship serving as home base, travellers will discover the Amsterdam of vanGogh and Rembrandt, the medieval cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, and savor the region's world-famous cheese, pastries, and chocolates. The ship is equipped with bicycles for those who choose to experience the blossoming tulips and flowers of the spring countryside on wheels. On two evenings, Richard Sher will host games of "Says You!" for fellow travellers.

Prices begin at $2,995 per person, double occupancy. Airfare, which can be arranged from any North American city, is extra. Cross-Culture Journeys will provide free transfers from the airport to the ship for those who book flights through the company. A complete itinerary is available at the "Says You!" website at or by calling Cross-Culture
Journeys at 800-491-1148 or 413-256-6303.

"Says You!" is the popular public radio quiz show, independently produced by Pipit & Finch in Boston, MA. First broadcast in 1997, it is carried on over 120 stations coast-to-coast. Show creator Richard Sher has been its producer and host since its premiere. In 2009, "Says You!" broadcasts were taped before live audiences in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Maine. For a backgrounder on "Says You!", visit their website at

Cross-Culture Journeys has been offering individual and customized group tours for over 20 years. They specialize in all-inclusive, small-group, in-depth cultural travel programs to over 40 unique destinations from Antarctica to Zagreb by air, land and small-ship. Over the last decade, Cross-Culture Journeys has developed travel programs for alumni associations and numerous public radio stations, including NPR member stations in Western New England, Washington, DC; Virginia, Ohio, Utah, and Texas.  For information and itineraries,visit Cross-Culture Journeys' website at or call 800-491-1148 or 413-256-6303.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Where Has Mark Been? Chapter 2:

July 24, 2009: Script Outline #3 Approved

To see Chapter 1: either click on "Client: The Writing Project" or

All of us Yankees know that 2009 has not been the summer for natural tan-enhancement, as my somewhat pale body attests. (Take my word for it, don't investigate. The Michael Phelps' swimmer's body of years ago has morphed into more Shelley Winters as Belle Rosen look). So, being indoors working on this writing project has not been too difficult. No pool distractions. No lazy summer days beckoning through the windows. From so much rain, my patio looks like "Grey Gardens". Weeds and grasses are growing fast and furiously from the sand spaces between the bricks. I'm torn between letting nature take its course and modern technology: Green vs. Round-Up! I imagine myself garbed as Little Edie, repeating the words "honestly" and "staunch" while furiously spraying every weed and grass blade within view. Another personality takes over as Big Edie, the matronly environmental activist pleading "Stop, Edie. Stop!" I put the Round-Up down (cussing "Honestly, Mother darling" under my breath) and remove the weeds the old-fashioned way, bending over and uprooting them one weed at a time. Ah, the somewhat idle brain is the devil's playground here on the condo flood plains in River City.

When I last did a project update on June 29, the research had been about 75% completed, and I had drafted Outline #1. Outline #1 was critiqued by multiple parties and revised into Outline #2 , which was again critiqued by the same multiple parties and revised into Outline #3, which was submitted on July 17. There are more revisions to come. I know it.

Some of the scenes outlined play over and over in my head. I'm personally attached to some of them. It won't be difficult to lay them out on the page when it comes time to write the actual script, but I don't know how I'll react if my favorites are rejected or revised to the point that they're completely different than they are at present.

The waiting game has been tough. Thank god for simple distractions.

Distraction #1: Johnny Depp announced that he'd like to play Carol Channing in his next movie. I imagine my writing project transformed. In my project, one setting is New Orleans. Now, I imagine Johnny Depp sitting there as a club patron. A sudden shower hits the French Quarter and Carol Channing darts in to dodge the rain. The rest is history. He sings "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock" from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". She swoons. She responds with a medley from "Sweeney Todd". They encore together with something from "Hello, Dolly!". He now wants to play Patti LuPone and rushes to find a script to "Evita". Curtain.

Distraction #2: The Long Island Lolita, Amy Fisher, provided headlines as she announced her two-performance only run at The Mardi Gras, my hometown's famous strip club (now turned "cultural center" for one night). Now, I imagine her starring in my project, which is now set on Long Island (change at Jamaica). She does her pole dance to the music of "The Five-Fifteen" from "Grey Gardens" (the only showtune to mention the Long Island Railroad's Montauk Line). My project now plays strip clubs from Times Square to the Tenderloin to the Chicken Ranch. Amy, who doesn't do matinees, relinquishes the role to Varla Jean Merman (one of my favorite impressionists), who forges a new career as a plus-size pole dancer. Curtain.

Distraction #3: When I'm not being script-writer, I'm still PR dude. There is client work to be done. My clients need the same attention and dedication that the script is getting. The curtain doesn't fall.

I fast learn that the art of making art is not a solo gig. Besides the producers to answer to, there is the subject of the theatre piece, who will also perform it. The subject has final approval. We get along well, so there have been little difficulties in communicating. Soon, there will be a director and a designer (s), musicians, perhaps a choreographer, and management, publicists, etc. etc. I like the collaboration and the feedback.

Nonetheless, this part of the writing is the lonely part. I'm not at liberty as yet to discuss the initimate details of the project, so I have to be careful as to what I divulge--and to whom.

I share my project challenges with my first professional mentor, an international arts administrator who has worked globally with some of the finest performing and visual arts festivals. I was a young marketing guy at Wolf Trap, when he discovered my abilities and forced me to exceed other people's expectations. He, as he always does, provides encouragement, unconditional support, and sound advice.

I share some details with the "boys", (two colleagues from my WFCR days, one of them's partner, and a mutual friend of the group). Over regular lunches they keep me laughing and grounded. I won't be able to get too carried away with them around--on the other hand, smash hit or infamous flop, they'll be there for me. One, a theatre dude, will be my sounding board. He used to work directly with me, so he knows how to phrase his criticisms and commentaries so I react positively. (He also knows how to push my buttons, which he might do for the amusement of the other boys). Another, who's a PR and marketing guy, will take on some of my client work, when I need an extra hand.

And, there's my pool buddy of many years, a neighbor, with whom I'm close. Theatre is quite the unknown to him. He's been to live theatre once--an outdoor Shakespeare performance which left him preferring a root canal without anesthetic to another theatre trip. (In fairness, he's a Red Sox junkie, and I can hardly sit through a game). He checks in with me constantly to make sure I'm OK. I couldn't ask for more from someone who will likely only attend my opening night under extreme duress (provided that the performance doesn't conflict with a regular Red Sox game, playoff, World Series, spring training game, or someone's DVD of Red Sox highlights).

Then, there are the unknowns: 1) an unknown 12 year old kid, who taught me how to text message on a layover in the Atlanta airport. I wish I'd known his name; and 2) an unknown kid of the same vintage, who taught me some computer skills at the local library when some research put the filters into use. He showed me how to over-ride the filters. Thanks, guys.

Fast forward: Friday afternoon, July 24--we're on !!! I get the encouraging e-mail from the lead producer. The third outline has been approved by both producers and the subject of the musical! No more outline revisions!!! The next step is 1) producers pulling together a funding prospectus and a production budget -- thankfully, not my job and 2) the script coming together in time for a rehearsal and backer's audition to be held on October 1--my job under extreme pressure.

Friday night, the lead producer (the guy who got me into the project) calls. He updates me on the meeting the two producers had with the subject of the project. Producer #2 will give me guidelines on the next part of the process. I also hear from the subject; we'll be chatting on Tuesday.

The next chapter begins....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Client Event: Mike Thornton and Thad Wilson Jazz at Bangkok Blues in Falls Church, VA on July 31

DATELINE: July 14, 2009
Mike Thornton
Mike Thornton Agency
Mark G. Auerbach
Public Relations
413-733-7095 (W)
413-427-7352 (C)


Jazz musicians Mike Thornton and the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra combine forces for the first time to salute the great classic and contemporary singers of the big band era on Friday, July 31 at Bangkok Blues, the Falls Church restaurant and club. Showtime is 7PM.

Thornton and Wilson, two of the area's finest jazz musicians, salute classic big band singers like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams, and Bobby Darin, along with contemporary stylists like Al Jarreau, Joe Jackson, Donald Fegan, Joe cocker and Elvis Costello.

About Mike Thornton

Mike Thornton, a regular performer with The Capitol Steps, has been a featured jazz vocalist at the Kennedy Center, Blues Alley, Bohemian Caverns; and many New York City jazz venues such as 55 Club, Arthur's Tavern, Cleopatra's Needle, The Garage, Red Blazer, Augie's, and Torch. Mike has been featured soloist with Hartford (CT) Symphony Pops, as well as the NPR-based variety show "1990’s Radio Hour". Mike has extensive acting credits; he was featured in "Shear Madness" and other New York productions.

Jim Santella of Cadence Magazine recently wrote: "Thornton electrifies. He has the energy to lift any audience for hours on end. He's unique. Twisting each vowel and consonant into a series of related musical tones, he gathers the best of both worlds: the dexterity of an instrumentalist and the lyrical passion of a singer...Thornton shows his deep love for fun-loving Swing, soulful ballad interpretations and uptempo romps with a clear, baritone voice and vibrant expression.” For details:

About The Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra

Thad Wilson is a fixture on the Washington, DC jazz scene, as composer/arranger for over twenty years and as trumpeter for thirty years. Thad's energetic and engaging approach unearths memories of Louis Armstrong, but his music always reflects a personal style that blends progressive elements such as Blues, Funk, Gospel and a touch of Hip-Hop. His various projects include: The Thad Wilson Quintet, Inner Urge, a collaborative project; Kindred Soul, his electric group; Kako Se, an acoustic duo, Ugetzu, a 10-piece Jazz Orchestra and the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra, his 16-piece big band.

The Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra became the only big band in the DC area to land a permanent residence at the esteemed One Step Down. Previous performances also include H-R 57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues and the Jazz in the Garden series. The band currently performs every Monday night at Bohemian Caverns. This year marks the 11th anniversary of the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra. For details:

Bangkok Blues, a Thai restaurant and music club, is located at 926 West Broad Street, Falls Church, VA. For reservations and information:


Friday, July 10, 2009

More Trip Details: "Says You!": Tulip Time in Holland and Belgium

Savor Tulip Time in Holland and Belgium with "Says You".
Join "Says You!" creator/producer Richard Sher for A Springtime Cruise.
April 17-25, 2010. (9 nights / 7 days)
Produced for "Says You!" by Cross-Culture Journeys

There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe the colorful palettes of springtime in Holland and Belgium. The fields of the “Low Countries” are carpeted in tulips, and spring flowers line the waterways. Learn about Dutch and Flemish cultural traditions, and taste world-famous cheeses, pastries and chocolates. Discover vibrant Amsterdam and visit Belgium’s great medieval cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges.

Your home is the brand new MS Amadolce, launched earlier this year. It’s a river cruise ship small enough to stop at villages along the canals, yet large enough to offer deluxe accommodations and fine international cuisine. The ship has an abundant supply of bicycles for those who wish to ride along the canals. On two evenings, you’re invited to test your own verbal agility by playing some of the "Says You!" word games with Richard Sher.

Day 1: 4/17/10: Depart for Amsterdam.
Day 2: 4/18/10: Arrive Amsterdam and embark on the MS Amadolce.
Day 3: 4/19/10: Tour Amsterdam canals, Volendam and Edam (say cheese).
Day 4: 4/20/10: Arnhem and into Belgiuim.
Day 5: 4/21/10: Antwerp with optional trip to Brussels.
Day 6: 4/22/10: Ghent with optional trip to Bruges.
Day 7: 4/23/10: Willemstad, Dordrecht, Kinderdijk and Zeeland
Day 8: 4/24/10: Utrecht, Keukenhof Gardens, Amsterdam.
Day 9: 4/25/10: Disembark and transfer to airport for flight home.

Trip includes

• Seven-night cruise accommodations in outside stateroom
• Private airport-ship transfers (if purchasing trip with airfare and arriving/departing with the group
• Twenty meals: 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners including Captain’s Gala Dinner
• Unlimited high-quality red and white wines from Europe’s great wine regions with dinners aboard
• Two evening sessions of "Says You!" word games with host and producer Richard Sher
• Lectures and regional entertainment on board
• Comprehensive program of shore excursions as listed in the itinerary
• Services of a Cross-Culture tour manager and site guides
• Use of bicycles to explore on your own

Prices begin at $2,995 per person, double occupancy, cruise and land only. Port charges ($133) are extra.

Prices with round-trip air from Boston, New York (JFK/EWR) begin at $3,795 per person, double occupancy. Port charges ($133), airline taxes and surcharges (approximately $395 are extra).

Call for airfares from other cities.

***Early Bird Savings ! Register and pay in full before August 30 and save $500 per person / $1,000 per couple.

Go to to download an itinerary in PDF format.

Call Cross-Culture Journeys at 800-491-1148 for information and to reserve by phone.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Websites and Blogs of Interest: 7/02/09

We Surf. We Discover.

***The Cranky Flyer. I landed here by accident when clicking on the wrong thing. The best accident that's happened to me in a while. Brett Snyder, a former airline employee, has a blog that recaps trips, airline news, and airline issues. (He's really not that cranky).

***Andy Propst did a great job cataloguing and condensing theatre news from the USA, Canada and the UK for American Theatre Web over the last 11 years. He's moving his show, an excellent one at that, to TheaterMania. His new news condensations begin there after 7/13/09.

***Ketzel Levine, former NPR gardening guru, has closed her blog "Ketzel Uprooted" ( It was a great read while it lasted.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Upcoming Client Event: "Says You!" Goes to Nashville

"Says You!" will tape programs before live audiences on Saturday and Sunday, August 22-23, at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, TN. Nashville Public Radio is the presentor. Saturday's performance is at 7PM. Sunday's performance is a 1PM matinee. Tickets for both performances are still available. For information, visit the Says You website at: or