Eastport Arts Center

where creativity and community meet

Youth Theater Group’s Wacky Spring Show Treated Audience to Lots of Laughs

Tension mounts in act two as Roy Duffy as Sir Bedevere outlines to King Arthur (Marion Look) a daring plan to attack the Castle Aaaargh, while Sir Lancelot (Kieran Weston), Sir Robin (Erin Harrell) and Patsy (Liam Rouleau) listen in. EAC’s Children’s Theater Workshop, with 15 young participants from Eastport, Perry, Pembroke, Trescott and St. Stephen, N.B., presented Of Kings and Coconuts, an adaptation of Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail, to a delighted audience on April 20. Photo by Brandy Argir.

EAC’s Children’s Theater Workshop presented Of Kings and Coconuts, an adaptation of Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail, to a delighted audience on April 20. The group, which had 15 participants who came from as far away as St. Stephen, NB, and Trescott, and from as nearby as ‘next door,’ worked on the show every Saturday but one since late January. Familiar to some but hilarious to all—as affirmed by attendee David Brass, who’d never seen the Monty Python original—the young performers’ renditions of “The Bridge of Death,” “The Knights of Ni,” “The Castle Aaargh,” the “Bring Out Your Dead” sketch and the peasant’s diatribe kept the audience laughing loudly and smiles on all faces.

Kieran Weston, calling “Bring out your dead!” (left) has humorous difficulty with Tucker Thompson and Ivy Owens: “I’m not dead yet!” Photo by Brandy Argir.
In this scene, Roy Duffy as Sir Bedevere, Marion Look as King Arthur and Rachel Bailey as Sir Galahad, with an entourage including Liam Rouleau, Zephyr Nickerson and Erin Harrell, are viciously taunted by the French Guard, played with gusto by Tucker Thompson. Photo by John Leavitt.

“We had lots of fun, and were proud of the work we did,” noted Director, Chris Grannis. “Our next project will have a shorter-term rehearsal commitment and will be part of EAC’s annual Moose Island Follies show. We are looking for a short skit—ideas welcomed. It could be a short spoof commercial, a poem acted out, or a piece of music.” Those interested in participating in CTW’s new project should email Chris, chris@eastportartscenter.org.
Children’s Theater Workshop is a free program supported in part by a generous donation from Michael Tucket.

Among the 15 participants in Children’s Theater Workshop’s Of Kings and Coconuts were Zephyr Nickerson (from left), Cadence Nickerson, Owen Leavitt, Rachel Bailey, Roy Duffy, Marion Look and Kali Wallender. Photo by Brandy Argir.

Special thanks are extended by the show’s director, Chris Grannis:
“To all of the parents who provided invaluable help to this production by raising amazing children, and driving them all over the place to support their interests. Also, thanks to:

Cathy Adelman who helped in many ways as a volunteer gatherer, seamstress, painter, etc.
Cash Adelman, 10, from Parsonsfield Maine, who helped paint set pieces.
Colby Stoker, sound effects director, who was willing to jump in during heck week.
Marissa Stoker who came willing to play, and constructed an amazing Knight of Ni helmet.
Pam Koenig who gave us a good head start with costuming.
Susan Lehnen who joined the fray and helped with set pieces.
Wren Fraser who was sorry to miss the production after attending rehearsals but flew south over school break week.
Susan Bailey who was at most rehearsals and was of great support by being ‘on book’ for the actors and also with her creative painting on set.
Peg Richardson who stepped up and made us a cake.
Steve Grannis who willingly (it seems; he may be a good actor) helps create whatever crazy idea I have.”

The after-party cake, featuring fearsome bunny, was made by Peg Richardson. Photo by Brandy Argir.

Participants included:
Rachel Bailey, 27, of Eastport: Sir Galahad and Reporter’s wife.
Roy Duffy, 14, of Perry: the Reporter, Sir Knight of Ni, Sir Bedevere and Brother Maynard.
Siobhan Duffy, 15, of Perry: the Narrator and God.
Erin Harrell, 8, of St. Stephen, NB: a Ni Person and Sir Robin.
Abby Leavitt, 15, of Trescott and Pembroke: Light Operator.
Owen Leavitt, 13, of Pembroke and Trescott: Old Man Soothsayer, Tim the Enchanter and the Bridgekeeper, and sound effects.
Marion Look, 13, of Eastport: King Arthur; also of invaluable help to the director and a helper with props and set.
Cadence Nickerson, 15, of Pembroke: Dennis the Serf, the Black Knight, and Roger the Shrubber, and sound effects.
Zephyr Nickerson, 9, of Pembroke: the English Guard and the Green Knight, and sound effects.
Ivy Owens, 8, of St. Stephen, NB: the Not Quite Dead Person, a Ni Person and the Fierce Bad Bunny, and sound effects.
Liam Rouleau, 7 of St. Stephen, NB: King Arthur’s Patsy and Brother, and boulder construction help.
Tucker Thompson,12, of Eastport: the Customer, French Guard and Tim 1.
Kali Wallender, 13, of Eastport: Mrs. Dennis and the Old Crone, sound effects and stage hand.
Kieran Weston, 13, of Eastport: the Dead Collector and Sir Lancelot.

Director Chris Grannis is shown doing some behind-the-scenes work on the castle, which occasionally is a menacing rock wall (above), and helping a performer on stage, as the set (including cardboard boulders and vegetation) comes together.

Sound effects: Colby Stoker
Set building & painting: Steve Grannis, Susan Bailey, Marion Look, Kieran Weston, Cash Adelman, Catherine Adelman, Lindy Weston, Susan Lehnen and Shelly Thompson.

Wool Felting Double Header Enmeshed Participants in a Fascinating Medium

Meg McGarvey selects colored roving as part of a workshop in wet-felted fiber beads. Photo by Brandy Argir

Participants in Audra Christie’s back-to-back wool felting workshops on April 27 and 28 immersed themselves in gloriously colored and textured wool roving and batting, hot sudsy water, and a special camaraderie as all engaged with the near-magical material in the transformation process of wet felting. The Saturday group learned to make spherical beads and the more complex sushi roll beads, similar to millefiori glass work. Necklaces, key fobs and earrings were then formed from the beads. Sunday’s group (which had six in attendance from the previous day) took on the lengthier task of creating a wet felted vessel, and spent nearly four hours in carefully building up the layers of malleable material, then shaping the resulting forms. Some attendees became so enamored of this process as a result of the felting immersion weekend that ongoing felt experiments are a new passion. Learn more about Audra Christie, a returning EAC instructor who taught us the art of Painting with Wool in May 2018 (needle-felting an image onto a wet-felted wool sheet) at her website, audrachristie.com. And watch for a wealth of summer workshops opportunities coming soon!

A felted wool vessel, product of a satisfying if laborious process, is shown filled with experimental felted cording made the day after the workshop by a participant who just can’t stop felting. Photo by Lauren Koss

For more information about EAC education and outreach programs, please visit our Education page or email Alison Brennan, Education & Outreach Director, at alison@eastportartscenter.org. EAC workshops are partially funded by the Maine Community Foundation’s Belvedere Handcrafts Grant; a sliding scale for fees is available by request.

Arts Campers Reached for the Stars

Eastport Arts Center’s April vacation week arts campers are shown with some of their outer space themed creations. Instructor Sara Myrick is at top left.

Rocket ships, UFOs, aliens, pastel space paintings and more added up to an action-packed Outer Space themed April Vacation Arts Camp April 16-18 at Eastport Arts Center. Thirteen children from Eastport, Robbinston, Pembroke, Edmunds, Parsonsfield, Bangor, Scarborough and as far away as Bolivia (South America) explored their ideas of extra-terrestrial life, intergalactic travel and heavenly bodies, using a wide variety of media.

The busy supplies table included a found object bin in which campers enjoyed rummaging for parts for their aliens and spaceships.

Instructor Sara Myrick ingeniously provided multiple project options each day for the arts campers so each could gravitate towards whichever art supplies and techniques they found most appealing, simultaneously assuring that attendees ranging from 6 to 13 years of age would all be engaged. In addition, she encouraged the young people to continue to experiment with her designs to come up with their own solutions, such as with a wee paper rocket built to be launched by the child’s burst of breath through a drinking straw.  

Sara Myrick demonstrates for April vacation week arts campers how to launch their paper rockets via a drinking straw. 

“I am continually amazed with the innovativeness of children,” said Myrick after the camp. “I can show them a simple idea and they find their own way of expanding on it. Arts camp attracts children who enjoy creating independently and who like to work together on projects. It’s been such a fun session.”

Myrick, who teaches K-12 art in the Eastport schools, will be one of the instructors for EAC’s Summer Workshop Series, which begins in June. The center’s next Arts Camp—with popular leaders Ann Cannizzaro and Willy Claflin—will take place in July, and feature a North Woods Adventures theme. For more information about EAC’s outreach and education programs, please visit our page or email Alison Brennan, alison@eastportartscenter.org.  EAC workshops are partially funded by the Maine Community Foundation’s Belvedere Handcrafts Grant; a sliding scale for fees is available by request.

Schuth Show a Spring Treat for EAC

Sam and Henry Schuth rehearse for their evening concert. Photo by Brandy Argir

Sam Schuth, a familiar face for Eastport music-goers of nearly two decades, arrived home for a visit, musical friends in tow, on April 12. His April 13 recital presented a pleasing array of flavors and styles, and the near-full house clearly appreciated his efforts. In addition to performing solo renditions of Bach’s Chaconne and Misty Mazzoli’s Dissolve, O My Heart, Sam brought Portland-based musicians Max Eddington, piano, and Kinnon Church, bass, to join him for a mesmerizing rendition of Haydn’s Gypsy Trio.

Sam Schuth treated the EAC audience to a recital on April 13. Photo by Brandy Argir.
After humorously serving as stage hands for the first portion of the show, Sam’s brothers, Henry and Frank Schuth got to jump in musically for a set of Schuth Faktori tunes, to the delight of audience members of all ages, but perhaps especially for those who ‘knew them back when.’
“While enjoying Sam Schuth’s concert last week the years just flew right by, back to when I watched three young boys, barely babies, play their instruments in Eastport Strings,” said Chris Grannis. “Suddenly, all worries left … How wonderful to see our children grow up to be such talented and generous adults.”

—EAC is pleased to announce that Sam will be back this summer as part of our Concert Series—on August 9! Stay tuned for details.—

EAC Community Members Thrilled to Host Raja Rahman

John Newell (center) and Linda Courtney (right) were psyched to host pianist Raja Rahman at their home after his EAC concert on November 11. “It was wonderful to get to know him,” noted Newell. “In terms of his concert, I will just say that he is an incredible pianist. He is indeed a virtuoso and presented what are sometimes described as ‘war horses,’ but his playing has a subtlety of expression that is too often missing today. In each work Raja allowed the music to breathe and to take shape for the audience. He gave us a wonderfully elegant and dramatic musical experience.”

Raja posted the ‘selfie’ (above) with John and Linda on Facebook, noting that he is very excited to return to Downeast Maine this summer for more music, vacationing and lobster, and this time he’ll bring Jarrett!

While we’re awaiting that excitement, we can make sure to catch up with John and Linda at the Quoddy Voices concerts December 14 and 16 at EAC (John directs the international chorus, and Linda is one of the singers).

Brundibár Project an Inspiration

“To have the opportunity to come up here and to be in this opera is really a rare treat, because oftentimes in Washington County we don’t get as much in the fine arts,” said Noah Carver, a Jonesport/Beals high school student before the final performance of Brundibár, a joint production of PBSO’s Music for Children Program and Downeast Community Theatre, which concluded a series of 10 shows for students from 20 Washington County schools on October 24. The opera, written in 1938, featured an exuberant cast of 28 students aged 8 to 16 years and was performed for 1,500 area children. In a question-and-answer session following the performance, Noah urged students in the audience to get involved: “Definitely! If you want to get into the arts and be a part of a show like this—audition, do it, it’s awesome, you’ll love it!”

Noah Carver, a blind student from Beals portrays the Sparrow in Brundibár, urging protagonists Luna Lord (Aninku) and Cadence Nickerson (Pepicek) to fight back agains the bully. Photo by Brandy Argir.

Noah plays the sparrow in the opera, a powerful character who inspires protagonists Pepicek and Aninku and their young allies to bravely face the bully, Brundibár, by working together. Noah’s own strength in the face of adversity is one of the many success stories of the production. “I’m totally blind. I cannot see at all,” said Noah. His participation in the production was made possible with the help of Sydney Anderson, a peer from Elm Street Elementary who plays the cat. Noah and Sydney, who have sung together in the Washington County Children’s Chorus, worked out a system: “We figured out how to communicate where I should be on stage, when the conductor is giving the singers cues to come on or hold a note or cut off,” said Noah. “We’re all a big team, onstage and offstage.”

Other team members are legion, and include parents who put in the miles driving children to rehearsals in Eastport and Machias over the five-month preparation period, and in some cases got involved in the production. “I drove three other kids every day,” said Mindy Dean, mother of ‘Ice Cream Man’ Jonah Dean from Marshfield. Mindy became involved with the extensive period hairstyling tasks of the show, including studying ‘victory roll’ technique via YouTube videos. “There were other Moms who helped with hair and makeup on various days—Monique Carver, Lisa Campbell, Britannia Balyint were some—but I don’t remember everyone. There were grandmothers helping as well!”

Costumers Jessica Brissette and Debbie Staggs labored long over accuracy in the detailed costumes, all of which were either 40’s replicas or actual vintage pieces from the era. Many of the pieces were loaned by other organizations such as The Grand in Ellsworth and the Whiting Village School, but the leads’ costumes were made specially for the production out of a fabric similar to what the inmates were required to wear as uniforms in the concentration camps.

Conceived three years ago by Gregory Biss, Sarah Dalton-Philips and Helen Swallow, the Brundibár project has been a long-term labor of love for all involved. Biss served as conductor and musical director for the production; Dalton-Phillips directed and memorably conducted the question-and-answer sessions following each school performance. The team pulled in Chris Grannis to create the props and as stage manager and Ken Varian ran sound. In addition, myriad volunteers lent support to the project.

Voices united in harmony, the children of Brundibár sing a beautiful lullaby in hopes of earning coins to buy Pepicek and Aninku’s ill mother a bottle of milk. Hannah Maker (from left) portrays the bully, Brundibár; Cadence Nickerson and Luna Lord are Pepicek and Aninku; and Madyson Curtis is the Policeman. Photo by Brandy Argir.

Swallow, who produced the show alongside fellow PBSO member June Gregory, enthused about the many triumphs of the production, including performers transcending physical disability, learning difficulty, and stage fright, including a particularly spectacular case for one of the youngest performers—Addi Landrum, a homeschooled student from East Machias. 8-year-old Addi’s one ‘line’ (to state her name and role at the end of the show) initially gave her so much trouble that she’d sneak offstage to avoid the moment. By the end of the run, Addi could announce herself clearly and with confidence. Swallow asked her what had changed. “If you do it once, it’s like you get used to it,” said Addi.

Addi is daughter of the production’s Music Coach, Eustacia Landrum, who worked with the chorus and leads on the songs; Landrum previously served as a music teacher at Elm Street Elementary school and now has changed her path to homeschool her three children. “For us this is just another unit of school that we’re doing,” said Eustacia, and noted that nearly half of the children in the production are homeschooled. The perk for the homeschooling families was that they didn’t have to negotiate with schools to arrange their children’s absence during the 8 school day performances.

A sneering Brundibár, played by Hannah Maker, overpowers Aninku and Pepicek’s first efforts to get the milk for their mother. Photo by Brandy Argir.

Hannah Maker, who played Brundibár, commented on balancing her school work at Washington Academy with the show: “You have to be careful to find out what you are missing and keep up with it.” Hannah, who from the first expressed interest in portraying the bully, noted that she’s enjoyed “acting horrible and loud and rude” since she’s normally “a nice person.”

The show ends with a triumphant chorus, “Tyrants come along/ but just you wait and see/ they topple one-two-three/ our friends make us strong!” This rallying cry was clearly heartfelt; the group of children exclaimed many times that a favorite aspect of the being involved with the production was making so many new friends. Meanwhile, their awareness of the opera’s history deepened their experience. “The people who were taken prisoner found a way to get through it with the arts,” said Sydney. “It catches my heart because the arts mean so much to me and get me through things.”

“The storyline of two children in a bad spot, and the backstory of the opera being staged by children in a concentration camp combine,” said Swallow, “to make strong the message of community, kindness, courage and the strength and joy that music brings to life everywhere.” Swallow explained numerous goals that informed her choice of this production for the students of Washington County, such as exposing attendees to diversity, including culture, geography, language, dress and music, and educating about the Holocaust. In addition, all of the Music for Children programs put forward by the PBSO aim to quality musical experiences to children in our area, and in this case the choice of an opera, and in particular such an apt rarity as a children’s opera, was made in favor of the emphasis on singing, acting, creative storytelling and scene design. “The many shows … the hours of rehearsal … the enormous work that Gregory Biss did leading the music … the 1,500 kids who saw the show … We, the whole crew, are very proud and very happy.”

Chorus members sing their triumphant finale. Photo by Brandy Argir.

During World War II, Brundibár was performed 55 times at Terezin concentration camp by an all-child cast, accompanied by musicians playing instruments they had been able to smuggle into the camp. As noted in the Teachers’ Resource Manual written by Sue Andraeas and distributed to the 20 schools who attended the performances: “To know that most of the original children performers died from starvation or in gas chambers, or that their beloved director was moved to Auschwitz where he died, is more than many of our young students could comprehend or bear. But we need to begin somewhere. History that is ignored tends to repeat itself.”

The resource guide goes on to emphasize the positive outlook that’s embraced by the opera’s storyline: that “with courage and cooperation, we can face unbeatable ‘bad guys’ with courage and dignity” and specifically that collaboration is the key. “Don’t give up. Help others when you can. Allow others to help you. We can accomplish more than we think we can.”

Those inspired and interested in becoming involved with future projects of the Music for Children program should email Helen Swallow at pinkcottage@roadrunner.com. Brundibár was supported by generous grants from The Maine Community Foundation (including the Bary Lyon Small Fund), The Maine Arts Commission, and The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. For more information please visit the Passamaquoddy Bay Symphony Orchestra page at eastportartscenter.org.

Day of Jazz a Bright Spot for Many

EAC hosted an exciting day of jazz for students and the public on Friday, October 19th. The day began at noon with a big band concert for 126 student musicians from Alexander, Calais, Eastport and Washington Academy. The band featured 19 talented college musicians under the direction of Dr. Philip Edelman, who talked comfortably with the audience, telling them all about what to listen for in the dynamic program of swing, dance band ballads, classic jumps, funk and more. 

Students from four schools had the midday treat of a big band jazz show. EAC photo.

Following the concert, some of the students from Calais and Eastport were able to hang out in small groups and learn more from the UMO players about their instruments, techniques for improved musicianship and life as a college musician.

Brandon Emerson, a member of UMO’s Big Band Jazz Ensemble from Augusta, cracks flugelhorn jokes as part of the break-out group for horns. Photo by Brandy Argir.

During the break between the two concerts, the college musicians toured Raye’s Mustard Mill, visited downtown Eastport and ate a wonderful homecooked spaghetti meal hosted by EAC. At 6:30, the public concert began, much to the delight of area jazz lovers. A very responsive audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance and were very appreciative to have a chance to listen to live big band music.

“We strongly believe in the power of music and shared experience as a force for good in our community,” Edelman said.  The visit from the UMaine Jazz Ensemble to the area was made possible by a joint grant from the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Humanities Council.

Pop-ups Conclude Summer Workshop Series

An appreciative group met with Jo Smith, traveling art educator from Virginia, to learn the process of making a variety of pop-up cards and pop-up pages in books during the concluding workshop of EAC’s Summer Workshop Series on August 21. Using beautifully colored card stock, origami, scrapbook pages, wires, stickers and more, the card creators made three-dimensional cards for all occasions. Jo loves visiting Downeast Maine and sharing her talent with us and we love having her instruct art processes with her detailed, calm and reassuring teaching style. Thank you for another fun class Jo!

Young Performers a Perennial Delight

This year’s Young Persons’ Concert, which concluded the EAC Concert Series on August 31, featured an enjoyable range of styles and some very charismatic acts. Performers included Siobhan Duffy, violin; Cora Zipperer-Sánchez, violin; Milei Kido, piano; Luna and Sarah Lord, flute; Isaac Atkinson, bass guitar; Roy Duffy, trumpet; Ellis Zipperer-Sánchez, guitar; and Kieran Weston, drums. The EAC would like to thank the following Washington County music educators for their assistance with the show:
Bonnie Atkinson, Lois Bezanson, Gregory Biss, Alison Brennan, Elizabeth Nichols-Goodliff, John Newell, Kris Paprocki, Christine Proefrock, Alice St.Clair, and Robert Sánchez.

Children’s Theater Troupe Delights Audience

Several members of the Children’s Theater Workshop group gave a special performance and talk for the Sunday Afternoon series on April 8. Two of the groups’ favorite improv skits were shared, as well as some exciting behind-the-scenes info on the group’s upcoming production of Macbeth. One highlight of the hour was the theatrical debut of 5-year-old Gabe Hopkins, who was very engaging on stage.

The young performers also discussed their reasons for participating in theater and what they like about the form. Theater fans and families alike laughed often during the presentation, and we’re all looking forward to seeing the group’s take on Shakespeare this June.  

Photo by Robin Farrin of Coastal Maine Photography

Photo by Robin Farrin of Coastal Maine Photography

Photo by Robin Farrin of Coastal Maine Photography

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The work of Eastport Arts Center is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. The work of Eastport Arts Center is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.