On October 26 at EAC Sara Myrick led a fun-filled morning of artistic expression for 17 area children and their accompanying family members. Each child created a Halloween-themed house, using an array of recycled materials: corrugated and thin cardboard, brown paper, egg cartons and more. The houses, swiftly constructed by the eager children and their adult helpers were varied in design and decoration, some looking quite creepy and others bright and whimsical. Myrick’s calm, encouraging instructions were of great help to all: how to create a roof, short-cuts for shingles and spooky tufts of grass, hinges to make doors open and shut and in one case, a fold-off roof to allow dollhouse-like play. The large group enjoyed Halloween-themed snacks, including wee ghost-shaped sandwiches, as part of the festivity. Those interested in participating in future workshops may find more information at eastportartscenter.org/education, or via EAC’s events calendar, or may write to express interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featuring a diverse lineup of performers ranging from two first-timers to the stage to several with theatrical degrees, Stage East’s Broadway Musical Revue was a treat for enthusiastic audiences on November 1 and 3. Box office smash shows Wicked, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera were well represented with 8 of the show’s 22 numbers, as well as an array of hand-picked shows: Annie, Annie Get Your Gun, Big River, Cats, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, Evita, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, Newsies, Oklahoma, Show Boat, South Pacific and West Side Story. The show’s soloists were given the chance to choose their favorite songs to bring to the stage, resulting in an eclectic mix of stories and styles. “My favorite part about musicals are the songs, so this show was nice because we got to cut out all the fat, so to speak, and just sing songs,” noted Stage East newcomer Zach Smith, who appeared in five numbers. “It’s always good to widen your horizons with theatre, brush up on your acting and singing chops,” added Smith, a singer/songwriter, drag performer, and lobsterman who received his BA in theater arts from Brandeis University. “I ended meeting many new friends and hopefully collaborators, as an added bonus.”
“After much soul searching I decided to join the Broadway musical because there were no auditions,” said Marlene Russ, who until the show remained strictly behind-the-scenes, volunteering in the EAC kitchen, her “safe space” due to her catering background. Her first rehearsal was a daunting experience: “People show up and are finding seats and in front of everyone I am asked, ‘Are you a soprano or an alto?’, to which I reply, ‘I don’t know. I have never done this before.’ At this point I am ready to run because of course I am the center of attention, but I find a seat. I am given sheet music which is in not one but two foreign languages which I do not know. By the end of the night I am so confused that I am sure I will not be coming back. This is way out of my league and my comfort zone. The director asks as I am leaving how I liked the rehearsal. What I am feeling is dazed and confused. But I tell her I am not sure this is for me and her reply is come back, and if nothing else just move your lips! This gave me the courage to come back and stick with it.”
In the end, Russ was thrilled and grateful she didn’t flee. “Warming up before the show I could feel the excitement building, and waiting behind the curtain, peeking out seeing so many people in the audience coming to see us was a rush I have never felt before. Working with so many talented performers who were dedicated to this show to make it a success was one of the best experiences I have ever had.”
Mark Macey, a recent addition to the city as EAC Island Institute Fellow, received theatrical training in Utah, but not in the musical realm. “I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone singing in the Broadway Revue, but I’m glad that I did. I got to meet so many wonderful people from Eastport and neighboring communities and had a blast performing with them.”
Lori Schnieders, a UMM professor, seasoned actor, occasional director, and longtime singer with Quoddy Voices, despite the double commitment of commuting from Cutler for rehearsals, chose to sing “Memory” from Cats.“”As a little girl I would walk around the house with my mom’s hand mirror, using it as a microphone singing Broadway songs at the top of my lungs, then as a young woman I got to see a “real” Broadway show on Broadway—Cats! I was in love, never dreaming that one day I would see my own son on that same Broadway stage. I continued to sing those tunes I loved until one day I woke up at 70 singing the song from Cats that has always been my favorite, realizing that I finally understood the meaning of the words I’ve sung for so long.” Mirror in hand, Schnieders’ rendition of the tune was poignant and beautiful, and a benchmark of the emotional depth of the revue.
“It was a pleasure to work with some performers from other parts of Washington County, including some young people new to the area,” noted co-director, Nancy Tintle, who wrote for the show’s program about the evolution of musical theatre from the chestnuts enjoyed as a child with her father, to upbeat shows written after World War II when spirits needed a boost, to more sophisticated contemporary shows. “Songs about overcoming adversity and repression appeared alongside a darker comedy. Always, to me, this music is about the human spirit and its ability to survive, strive for freedom, to love and defy the gravity of life.”
“The audience response was overwhelmingly positive with many people asking if we will do this event again because they loved it so much,” said co-director Beth Goodliff. “I know that I really enjoyed working with the singers on their songs and putting the show together. I could see this becoming an annual or bi-annual event in the future if the interest remains high.” Goodliff extended thanks to co-director Tintle, and to Mark Macey, who was stage manager, designed the lighting, and performed on stage, as well as numerous other tasks. She also praised John Newell, accompanist, “Without whom we couldn’t have succeeded.”
For his own part, Newell greatly enjoyed his task: “It was such a pleasure to play for the Revue! The choice of songs was terrific; Nancy and Beth put together a very effective mixture of numbers from older and newer musical hits, keeping it fresh. Some of the songs I had never played before, and I also got to work with several wonderful singers who were new to me and to the audience here in Eastport.” Asked whether he had a favorite tune from the show, he responded: “One of my favorite numbers was the opener, ‘Willkommen,’ from Cabaret, featuring Zach Smith with the chorus. The audience really came to life instantly and everyone knew that they were going to have a great time!”
Those inspired to learn more about Stage East, and to become involved with future projects and productions are invited to attend the group’s Annual Meeting and County Fair-Themed Party this Saturday, November 9 at 2 pm, at EAC. Learn more about the event here, or contact email@example.com with questions.
The Eastport Arts Center community spent a whirlwind four days with actor Ed Asner, his daughter and producer Liza Asner, and film and stage director Mitch Levine, as the political comedy God Help Us! was brought to the EAC stage. After an intensive period of rehearsal and technical arrangements, the show opened to an excited, brim-full house about 30 hours after the Asner team rolled into town. The accelerated production process gave rise to many learning opportunities and the making of countless fond memories and connections.
“The whole weekend was really a wild ride!” commented Brian Giles, who had one of the non-speaking roles (an angel) in the production. “I have to admit that meeting Ed Asner made me feel pretty star-struck. I really felt honored to share a space with him. I am also astounded by his excellent mood and work ethic at 89! Moreover, I was astounded to learn we share a passion for autism awareness. The Asner foundation is dedicated to helping families find resources to assist with raising a child with autism!”
Of the production’s rapid pace, with Asner and company arriving Friday midday and instantly jumping into preparation for a Saturday opening night, Giles was a fan: “It was the best way to do theater: get in, get it done, get out! I am truly impressed with the work of the arts center and its crew for hanging lights, building sets, running sound and the like! Chris Grannis is a superhero.”
For Chris Grannis, Director of the EAC, preparations for the production were a family affair, as husband Steve and son Reuben logged many hours in set construction and particularly in lighting the show.
As Giles reported, “Reuben Grannis practiced some next-level skills on a ladder hanging lights, and to quote Mitch Levine: ‘Reuben is the most agile theater tech I have ever worked with!’”
Reflecting on these kudos, Chris Grannis and Jean Wilhelm, a longtime Board member of EAC and Stage East, recalled a time when Chris and Steve would have to keep pulling a very young Reuben off of the scaffolding and ladders. During the technical rehearsals, seeing Steve’s turn to climb, Levine quipped, “Now I see where he gets it!”
Reuben, who at 22 was the youngest person involved with the production, explained that in addition to working on plays with his parents, he received much of his training on theatrical lighting while participating in the High School One Act Play competition with the Washington Academy Players. “They have a techie olympics where you have to assemble lights, wrap up cords, build a box, etc., while being timed.” About the God Help Us! production experience, he noted, “Everyone who showed up to help with the lighting on Friday was completely unfamiliar with how the lights were set up in the theater and 5 people ended up working 12 hours over three days to figure how to get a lighting scheme for the show. Mitch was a wealth of information for us and it was a fantastic learning experience for everyone to work with a professional outfit. Under pressure on Saturday to get the job done, everyone kept positive and constructive despite the time crunch. After the show Jean Wilhelm said, ‘The lighting looked amazing, how much of the equipment is theirs?’ To which we could say: none of it! Mitch was flexible with what we had, but still came out with a fantastic production.”
With another view of the busy technical crunch period, EAC and Stage East Island Institute Fellow Mark Macey commented, “The technical rehearsals before a production opens are sometimes jokingly referred to as ‘Hell Week’ because of the long hours and often stressful conditions in which they occur. Luckily, the dedication, patience, and generosity of the team at the EAC made opening God Help Us! much more like heaven. The work was hard, but what could be better after all that hard work than hearing a theater full of strangers sit together and laugh at God?”
“After my first production at the EAC, I find myself impressed by the dedication and cheerfulness of the staff and volunteers,” continued Macey, a performance and theater artist in his own right. “I have always considered the mark of true professionalism to be kindness and the arts center’s team has it in spades!”
Hard-working behind-the-scenes volunteer and sound tech Bernie Cecire dubbed the weekend’s work “a great and effective effort!,” and noted, “Mitch, Liza and Ed were all very professional and easy to get along with and very knowledgeable. Ed was generous and very friendly.” He explained that it was an educational experience to participate in a show with cues called by the stage manager, “Which apparently is the way it is done at most theaters!”
The Asner team, according to Cecire, “adapted to our limited resources very quickly. I have to add high praise to Chris, Steve, and Reuben Grannis as well as Colby Stoker and Mark Macey. Not to forget those who worked on the set.”
Some of the happy memories from the production happened offstage, and much of these involved feeding the Asner team. “The first night Ed was there, Friday night, I came in with some moose stew that Colby had just made,” noted Marissa Stoker, who volunteered as an usher for the show, and whose husband Colby Stoker worked the thunderclap effects up in the booth. “I didn’t know if there would be any food there. When I arrived there was a beautiful spread that I believe was made by Jenie Smith; she had made a smoked salmon chowder and excellent pumpkin cheesecake among other things that were divine. It was really one of the best meals I’ve had in Maine. I was glad that we could share such authentic regional fare with Ed and Liza and Mitch.”
Another shared food experience was “Ed Asner’s Kugel” made by community member Pam Koenig from her former mother-in-law’s recipe. “I used to make it a lot for Jewish holidays and other meals like pot lucks,” said Koenig. “There are many ways to make kugel but I’ve only made his recipe.”
“Being the generous, nurturing gal she is,” noted cast member Ann Cornelison, “Pam brought not one but two pans of kugel to the real Ed. One pan was devoured by all at the cast party, and the other one went along to Canada with Ed, Liza and Mitch, to sustain them on their continued journey.”
“The night before we left,” recalled Liza, “we were at a local bar/restaurant and had the best seafood chowder in the world and when we left the entire bar gave my father a standing ovation!”
Cornelison reported, “As our cast party was winding down and the star was slowly making his way to the exit, someone in the Old Sow Grill called out, ‘Hey, everyone! Ed Asner’s in the house, and he is leaving now!’ The entire crowd broke into loud and enthusiastic cheers and applause, which continued until he was out the door. You have no idea how touched Ed, Liza and Mitch were by this act. Believe it or not, this is an uncommon thing for him.”
“Impressive it was to see how many audience members raised hands at having come from outside Washington County,” noted Board member Marged Higginson. “Eastport Arts Center definitely is on the map. It was a delightful show, carried out by people who went so far beyond what one could hope to expect their expertise to be.”
“We never imagined we would be bringing the show to the easternmost city of the United States but are so grateful we did,” said Liza. “It is a beautiful area, and has a vibrant community spirit. We were overjoyed with the turnout and couldn’t have asked for a better audience reaction to both shows.”
While the surrounding community hastily prepares for winter, with final garden harvests, wood chores and weatherizing, the EAC has been a hive of another type of activity. In preparation for the advent of actor Ed Asner, who’ll appear with local cast members in a political comedy on October 12 and 13, EAC staff and community members are hard at work building ‘Heaven’ as a stage set, since Asner’s show casts the star as God himself. Meanwhile, four local performers are preparing for ‘Heaven-sent’ roles opposite the 8-time Emmy award-winning icon. The production will be put together at high speed, with Asner arriving with his producer and director on Friday for opening night on Saturday. “It is indeed a quick turn around,” said Liza Asner, Ed’s daughter, assistant and the show’s producer. “The local actors have been rehearsing by the time we get into town and then do table reads while the director works on programming light and sound cues with local theatre’s tech director.” The show, which has been staged so far this year in small towns in Tennessee, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania and California, and which heads to Eastport after concluding a run in Montana, is headed next to Mabou, Nova Scotia for an October 18 performance. Each venue meets the Asner team midway, creating their own iteration of the celestial set, costumes and by finding cast members. “I thought it would be great to feature local actors in the show,” said Liza. “It adds a local flavor … and has been well received by the communities we land in.” And to the oft-repeated question, ‘Why Eastport,’ Liza replied, “I had reached out hoping to add a show before Canada and Chris Grannis jumped on it!” Pausing from stagecraft work with her husband Steve Grannis, EAC Director Chris Grannis noted with her quick grin some of the many volunteers who’ve stepped up to aid the production: Bernie Cecire will assist with sound; Colby Stoker will run the light board; Sally DeCicco has been working on costumes; and set dressers/painters will include the Grannises plus Cathy Adelman, Jude Kempe, and Lauren Koss. EAC’s Island Institute Fellow Mark Macey will fill in ‘for God,’ reading Asner’s lines as part of practices with local cast members Jenie Smith, Peter Frewen, Ann Cornelison and Brian Giles. “I have had a crush on Ed Asner for decades now,” confessed Cornelison, who’ll fill one of two nonspeaking roles as an angel who doubles as a stage hand. “To say that this opportunity is a dream come true would assume that it ever occurred to me that it was even remotely within the realm of possible dreams.” Cornelison, who divides her time between Eastport and the Texas Hill Country, has enjoyed a career of mostly comic roles with Stage East. “I admire his acting and his activism, and I hope I do not dissolve completely in his presence. I guess God has that affect on people.” The other angelic performer will be “The Reverend” Brian Giles, a stand-up comic, educator and off-grid homesteader. “I used to do theater but have found it is so time consuming that I cannot make it, my kids, my job, and my chores all fit on the same schedule,” explained Giles. “This was a unique opportunity to do theater in a dine and dash fashion! No month-long rehearsal schedule, just four days of fun! Also, I am a fan of Ed Asner mostly because he is the most Santa a Santa can be. I dig Santa a bunch.” “Mr. Asner has long been a hero of mine, both as an actor and as a progressive thinker,” noted Jenie Smith, who will portray a conservative opposite husband Peter Frewen, who’ll play a liberal. “What a gas for me to play counter to my own political bent, and fun for Peter to not be his usual ‘grumpy man’ role. We’re memorizing like mad in hopes that we will not make fools of ourselves in front of Mr. Asner and the rest of his company!” Smith and Frewen, familiar faces for Washington County theater-goers have appeared frequently on the EAC stage in Stage East and Magnificent Liars productions, as well as in musical performances. “An opportunity to learn from [Asner] is … unreal and awesome,” continued Smith. “After the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ I was a ‘Lou Grant’ devotee, and his acting on that was a huge draw for me. Thereafter, his work for multiple causes towards making the world better has incurred my great admiration. We are grateful beyond measure for this opportunity.” “This is a very interesting year ahead of us leadership wise. I think this show is wonderful, funny, topical and important,” notes Liza. “It’s a way to open a conversation about that scary word, ‘politics’. Politics is in everything we do in life but the show is more about ethics, ethics that people refer to as politics, but are really ethics—instilled in us from youth. And we will all feel differently about certain issues. We must come to an understanding that not everyone will agree on issues and the sooner we accept this, the more we will be willing to walk in each other’s shoes.” Tickets for both performances are sold out at this writing. More information about programs of Eastport Arts Center, ‘where creativity and community meet’ may be found at eastportartscenter.org.
Eastport Gallery member Joan Lowden, “the bass lady,” led a group of musicians for a jazz jam on the gallery’s deck as part of August’s first Friday art walk and Eastport Pirate Festival’s opening day. Performers included familiar EAC faces Allan Gore, cajon, Alberta Hunter, guitar, Lauren Koss, vocals, percussion and kazoo, and Lee Suta, clarinet.
EAC is thrilled to announce its selection by the Island Institute, a Rockland organization that works to sustain island and remote coastal communities of Maine, as host site for Island Fellow Mark Macey. The Island Fellow program places recent college graduates in communities for one to two years, with objectives to meet community-stated needs through project-based work; increase capacity for local management of cultural, natural, historical, economic and informational resources; and assist local research, planning, education and technology projects.
Macey is EAC’s third Island Fellow; he was preceded by Tarah Waters and Naphtali Fields. He is a performance and theatre artist who works across disciplines. A graduate of Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, he also holds a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Utah. He is the founder and producer of Suckerpunch, a performance research collective whose productions range from multimedia installations to short films. Macey’s tenure in Eastport will aim “to enliven theater arts in the area with Stage East and the EAC,” said EAC Director, Chris Grannis. “The performing arts are where we come to share ideas and experiences and gain perspective,” noted Macey. “I believe in a theatre that not only entertains its community but offers it a place to see its hopes, concerns, and contentions played out. To me, theatre should be by, for, and about the community it serves.”
A weekend spent sculpting under the tutelage of Elizabeth Ostrander was a dream come true for the participants of this very popular August workshop. Inspired by Icelandic fairies, sea creatures, totem art, goddesses including Sedna the Eskimo goddess of the sea and others, each artist worked with paper clay to create a fully realized piece. Once these sculptures are completely dry, Ostrander will fire them in her kiln.
“I went to the workshop just a bit apprehensive about my ability to sculpt with clay,” said Mary Anderson, “but I was pretty sure Elizabeth would be a good teacher, and she was. She got me through the process of building up the clay base and encouraged be to have fun with the process. Taking her advice, I did let the clay lead me to make a really cartoonish and fun wild hare. I now have a better appreciation of what it takes to be a great sculptor like Elizabeth.”
Ostrander noted: “The first day everyone was learning how to ‘listen’ to their clay. By the second day everyone ‘heard,’ and what wonders were created—just fabulous work! Stay tuned for more EAC workshop offerings coming up, or check out EAC education programs on our site.
Models/performers are sought to pose for EAC’s Life Drawing Workshop. Each drawing session begins with a series of short poses, ending with an hour-long pose. Those interested in modeling need no previous experience, as the workshop facilitator will discuss with them what is needed in advance of the drawing session, and there is a generous fee for the two hours of modeling. Also, photography of the models is not permitted. Those interested in modeling, or seeking more information about the drawing workshop should email Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Eastport Arts Center is at 36 Washington Street, Eastport, and is fully handicapped-accessible.
Setting the Stage is a four-part narrative podcast that tells the true story of the Stage East theater in Eastport. It features interviews with members of the Eastport community and Cornerstone Theater Company. The story begins in 1990, when a group of idealistic theater majors arrived in a sleepy fishing village with one lofty goal: to create a theater that could sustain itself in a rural, economically disadvantaged, and socially divided community. This is the story of Eastport, Maine, Cornerstone Theater Company, and the decades that followed. Interviewees include: Jean Wilhelm, Joyce Weber, Barbara Smith, Jay Skriletz, Ann Skriletz, Brian Schuth, David Reiffel, Lynn Mitchell, Meg McGarvey, Chris Grannis, Lou Esposito, James Bundy, Alison Brennan and Greg Biss. Listen online or download episodes at settingthestagepodcast.com.
Setting the Stage creator Quinn Rose (Quinn Sluzenski) was born and raised in Charlotte, Maine, and started attending EAC programs regularly when she joined Eastport Strings in elementary school. She played with the orchestra until her high school graduation in 2014, and came back to the EAC as a publicity intern in the summer of 2015. In the summer of 2018, Quinn wrote for the Quoddy Tides and interviewed a dozen members of the community to produce Setting the Stage. Quinn graduated from Harvard College in 2018 with a degree in sociology and a minor in theater, dance, and media. She currently lives in Chicago, IL, where she works as a freelance podcast producer and editor, and spends a lot of time thinking about and watching theater. Learn more about Quinn’s work at aspiringrobot.com.
May 14, 2019 / Lauren Koss / Comments Off on Youth Theater Group’s Wacky Spring Show Treated Audience to Lots of Laughs
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.
“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, email@example.com.
Children’s Theater Workshop is a free program supported in part by a generous donation from Michael Tucket.
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.”
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.
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.