Eastport Arts Center

where creativity and community meet

Outreach Program Brings the Arts to Area Preschoolers

Eastport Arts Center’s KinderArts program has received a Kars4Kids grant in support of expanded educational outreach efforts for the 2018/2019 school year. In collaboration with Theresa Fisk, District Early Childhood and Youth Coordinator for Washington County of the Cutler Institute, EAC has organized outreach visits of the KinderArts program for the Passamaquoddy Child Development Center, KidzFirst childcare center, Calais Head Start and Pre-K, Passamaquoddy Head Start and the St. Croix Early Care and Education Center. More than 60 local preschoolers have enjoyed learning yoga and meditation through dance, music and storybooks with instructor Caroline DiLio. Owner of Maine Moon Kids Yoga, DiLio is a certified children’s yoga instructor and a mother of three. She also leads the Tiny Yogis program at Eastport Arts Center, which will resume weekly starting March 21.
“Caroline’s quiet and patient presence when working with young children helps them to become fully involved in the activity.” said Marcia Rogers, Site Manager for Head Start at Child and Family Opportunities.
“The yoga and music experience can be relaxing and fun when the instructor is able to capture their interest. Caroline excels at this, which is evident in the excitement of our children when they learn she is coming to visit their classroom.”
Prior to receiving the Kars4Kids funding, EAC’s KinderArts program did a series of outreach visits to private home-based caregivers in Eastport and Perry, with support from the Crewe Foundation and the Maine Arts Commission.
“We reached out to area childcare centers because these children did not have the opportunity to travel to our center,” said Alison Brennan, EAC’s Education and Outreach Director. “Early arts learning is so important to the well-rounded growth of healthy children.”
Eastport Arts Center’s mission is to stimulate and nurture an appreciation of the visual and performing arts and the creative process and to provide a home and an environment within the community where they can prosper. More information may be found at eastportartscenter.org/education.

Quoddy Voices Welcomes New Singers to Explore World Music

Rehearsals will resume for Quoddy Voices’ spring concerts at 7 pm, Monday, February 25, at Eastport Arts Center. This season’s program is titled Around the World in 80 Minutes and will include choral works from all seven continents, even Antarctica (or written on the way there in 1843!). The chorus will prepare an exciting mix of pieces reflecting the diversity of cultures within the human family. The program, full of rhythm and joy, draws upon traditional folk idioms, including a Russian men’s chorus; a Zulu wedding song; an Australian work, Hope There Is, with text by an Aboriginal poet; and an arrangement of a melody of the Ojibwe First Nation tribe in Canada. One highlight will be a work composed for Quoddy Voices by the Chinese composer Yujing Bai.
The group welcomes new singers of all experience levels. No auditions are required, but those wishing to join are asked to contact director John Newell before the first rehearsal at jnewell384@gmail.com.
Quoddy Voices is a constituent group of the Eastport Arts Center, with dedicated members who hail from all over our region. For additional information, please contact Newell at the address above, or send a message via the Quoddy Voices Facebook page.

EAC Gift Certificates are ‘One Size Fits All’

Shop Local—from Home! What could be easier? Shop EAC Gift Certificates online, or purchase your certificate in person at the arts center. Certificates are redeemable at the box office for any EAC event, and make a perfect one-size-fits-all gift for everyone on your list!

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!

EAC’s Festival of Trees Seeking Decorators

As you enjoy the diamonds on the water, the treasures on the beaches, the produce from your organic gardens, your stunning flowers, the shore birds, the boats on the water, are you gathering ideas and nature’s bounty to be one of the 25 decorators who participate in the 9th Annual Festival of Trees on December 8?
Back by popular demand: Tree-trimmers are welcomed to join the fun on Friday evening the 7th by joining with other decorators in the comradeship of decorating on-site after picking up their trees.
As for decorating ideas—feathers, flowers, vegetables and fruits that can be dried, sea shells, small pine cones, packets of seeds, inspirations that make you want to sing or paint or mold some clay, play a flute, dance or pick up a fiddle all present ideas to get you excited. Unable to get outdoors? Books, buttons and beads, jewelry, fabric scraps, the unusual shapes of small items headed for recycling, sheet music, or dreidels, playbills, fishing lures and bobs stashed on those shelves you have been meaning to clean off, tiny cars or boats or miniature lobster buoys or pots, aromatic teas or coffees in lovely little bags, cookies, treats for pets and wildlife and all the stuff of life can turn into a charming tabletop tree celebrating nature, the arts, hobbies and being alive in beautiful Downeast Maine.
Contact Marged Higginson at margedhigginson111@gmail.com with any questions or if you’d like to sign up for one of the 25 decorator slots. The Festival of Trees is an important fundraiser which helps ‘keep the lights burning’ all winter long at EAC. 

A New Perspective from Backstage

by Susan Coopersmith


I signed my 8th grade photo to my grandmother “Love your actress granddaughter”. Throughout high school I was active in drama club, playing the “spirit” in our senior production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. My plan was to go to UCLA to study acting. My parents, who were paying for my college education, had other ideas.
Fast forward four decades. I am not an actress, I am anthropologist who is returning to the US after living twenty years in Central and East Africa. 
“What are you going to do when you come home?” asks my now grown daughter. “I am going to write and I am going to be an actress,” I told her. “Good luck with that in Maine, Mom,” she encouraged me.
In 2016 I landed an acting role in Stage East’s New Year’s Eve production. Being back on stage was all I imagined it would be, but now I was more aware of all the people working to make the production a success. Nervously pacing backstage, going over lines in my head, I looked at the stage manager and stage crew and thought, “
Maybe I want to be one of them. It looks like they are having a good time.”
            Chris Grannis, a backstage pro and enthusiastic coach, started me off with small crew jobs. My first big test was running a dress rehearsal for the 2017 Moose Island Follies. I had to lower something onto the stage on cue. Chris and I ran through it several times but I still held my breath during the performance until I made it through that scene. Since then, I have crewed for several EAC productions including the Children’s Theater Workshop’s Macbeth.
When Stage East’s 2018 summer production, Neil Simon’s I Ought to be in Pictures (IOTBIP), was in the planning stages, I felt daring. Although ill prepared, I volunteered to be the production’s stage manager and they accepted me. As an actor I never thought about who was telling the sound and lighting people that I was in my place and ready to go. That was just the “magic of theater”. The music came on and the lights came up, I walked onstage and delivered my lines. The IOTBIP sound person, Bernie Cecire, and lighting person, John Morton, patiently taught me how those illusions come to life and that it is the stage manager’s responsibility to make sure it all happens at the right time.
So, with my newly developed skills, do I plan to stay behind the curtain forever? Not a chance. One of the amazing things about becoming involved with Stage East and Eastport Arts Center—when you want to be an actor, you can be an actor, when you want to be a stage manager… 

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.

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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.