Class, mystery and the arts

June 18th, 2015 10:26 am

First Posted: 1/20/2015

SCRANTON — Standing inside the Rossetti Trust home, one may think he or she is in a castle in Europe, rather than a large house in Lackawanna County. With chandeliers hanging in practically every room of the building, ornate antiques and artwork filling every corner and crevice and a palette of colors covering the ceilings and carpets, the atmosphere of the place is one that, according to local actor and playwright Robert Hughes, must be experienced for oneself in order to understand.

The Clarks Summit resident will help give community members an opportunity to do just that at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1, when he will present at the venue a dramatic reading of Don McKeon’s one-act play, “A Closed Mouth - A Wise Head.”

“The ambience of the place,” Hughes said of the mansion, “is just spectacular.”

The play tells the story of an Irish catholic priest, who, upon his father’s death, seeks to solve the puzzle of the man’s past.

“It is a light-hearted mystery based on a real life death bed teaser,” reads the author’s description. “The characters in the play (all four portrayed by Hughes) were real people and all related to the playwright. The plot centers around two ($50) bills, which were carried around for (30) years in the wallet of Thomas Francis McKeon, son of the master sleuth Father Kinnard. Solving the mystery entails delving into his father’s past, his connection with Buffalo Bill Cody in the wild west of the late 1800’s and his dubious association with the infamous outlaws of the that time, Frank and Jesse James.”

Tickets are $10 and benefit the Lackawanna Historical Society. Reservations can be obtained by calling the society at 570-344-3841 or emailing

Hughes will also perform the same play at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25 at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church, 1217 Prospect Ave., Scranton. Tickets are $5 and benefit the Youth of St. Paul of the Cross Parish. For information, call the church at 570-343-6420.

Both performances will also feature the vocals of opera singer Eileen Hanisch, who will present four songs, interspersed throughout the play.

A native of Tulsa, Okla., Hanisch is currently an adjunct professor at Marywood University and music director at St. Michaels’ Roman Catholic Parish in Scranton. Her regional experience includes work with Marywood Orchestra, the Northeast Pennsylvania Choral Society, Mostly Opera, Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, WVIA’s Simply Grand Concert Series and Hazleton’s Autumn Carousel Concert Series.

Hughes, who is a native of Scranton, began his acting career in 1960 with his longtime friend and mentor, the late Jason Miller. He continues to entertain audiences throughout the region with various theater groups, in addition to writing and starring in is own one-man piece, “The Miner’s Tale.”

He is also currently perfecting a new play, based on the life of John Mitchell, founder of the modern day labor movement, to debut Oct. 29 at the Anthracite Museum in Scranton.

With a passion for local theater and a desire to see a regional renaissance of art in NEPA, Hughes expressed great excitement and gratitude toward the Rossetti Trust, which he said is looking to use their home as “a performance space for theatrical offerings and solo performances for actors, singers and musicians.”

“The Rossetti family home,” he said, “is a unique setting that celebrates European culture and art, which is an extraordinary treasure to the the region, especially Lackawanna County.”

But, it doesn’t stop there.

“We want to celebrate the culture of Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well,” he said. “And this is a gathering place for people to come in the area and discover the experience of history.”