History in the making – Martha’s Vineyard Museum presents a new play


A new musical play titled “Lighthouse Point,” which will be presented as a reading today at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, focuses on a scenario that is familiar to many Vineyarders and summer visitors. The play deals with a family home that has been passed down through the generations and the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the house when the current owner dies.

The play, which includes 10 original songs, is a collaboration between Rick Herrick, script; Kate Hancock, lyrics; and Ben Willmott, music. The work was begun about two years ago by Mr. Herrick, who became a full-time Vineyard resident seven years ago. Ms. Hancock, also a longtime summer visiter who moved here about the same time, came on board early in the process and helped shape the play as well as provide the lyrics. Mr. Willmott, who lives in the Boston area, was eventually recruited to compose the music.

Mr. Herrick spent summers as a child in a family home on East Chop, the setting of the play, and he currently lives in his wife’s family home, which has been in her family for three generations. The play is not autobiographical, according to Mr. Herrick, but he is treading on familiar ground.

“I know the chemistry of a four-generation home,” he said. In the summer, he and his wife, Lyn, share their home with her brother and sister-in-law and multiple children and grandchildren. Up until a month ago when Mr. Herrick’s father, Graham Dripps, died, the house on East Chop Drive was a summer home to four generations.

Mr. Herrick, who relocated to the Island from North Carolina, is a former professor and magazine editor who has had two novels and one work of non-fiction published. His first play “Lighthouse Point” was presented as a private reading with actors last summer. Since then, it has undergone substantial changes. For the upcoming reading, Mr. Herrick has written a truncated version of about an hour, which will be presented with all of the songs prerecorded, since the composer is not currently on the Island.

Mr. Herrick explains the premise of his play: “The matriarch of the family dies and that sets in motion a crisis of what to do with the house. There are four generations. They have lost their fourth when the matriarch dies. They all come back to deal with this problem and there are lots of flashbacks into their past.”

The story, as the title suggests, has a connection with the East Chop lighthouse. The patriarch, deceased before the action begins, was the lighthouse keeper for many years and he appears in flashback scenes.

For the project, Mr. Herrick not only drew on his childhood memories, he also worked with a childhood friend. Ms. Hancock, a long time theater professional who has worked for The Vineyard Playhouse for the past eight years, wrote the lyrics for the songs and helped shape the play. She has authored dozens of plays for children and wrote the book (the script) and lyrics for three plays for adults, one of which was produced in Petaluma, Calif., and one performed as a reading in Chicago.

Since she is not a musician, Ms. Hancock relies on a composer. For “Lighthouse Point,” Ms. Hancock and Mr. Herrick recruited Mr. Willmott, a pop/rock pianist, singer, and songwriter whose family has a home on the Vineyard. Mr. Willmott recently released his latest album, “Rich With Love,” and he performs throughout New England and New York.

Ms. Hancock and Mr. Herrick have known each other since they were children summering on the Vineyard. Their parents were friends. “We all sort of grew up together,” she says of the two families.

Because of its historical context and Vineyard-centric theme, David Nathans of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum invited the writers to present the play.

“We struck up a conversation and he told me he was working on this play about a house and a family that’s been in East Chop for generations,” said Mr. Nathans. “I thought it was a perfect fit. It’s the kind of historical perspective yet contemporary that we need to think about for new kinds of programming.

“We want to do more things that might make someone say, ‘That’s interesting. The museum’s doing something different.’ I’d like to hear that.” This is the first play presented by the museum.

Added Mr. Nathans, “I want us to get known for doing things that are contemporary but related to our mission — Vineyard culture, art and history — past, present, and future.”

“Lighthouse Point” – a reading of a musical play featuring Christopher Kann, Amy Barrow, John Ortman, Jill Macy, Katrina Nevin, Judy Krantz, Kate Hancock and Fred J. Hancock, Thursday, May 16, 4 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. Q&A follows. Free. Visit mvmuseum.org or call 508-627-4441 for more information.