Authors Posts by Gwyn McAllister

Gwyn McAllister


The store carries larger home goods as well as smaller decorative items.

Jane Peters has always had an appreciation for beauty, and she has channeled her aesthetic sense into a number of businesses in her lifetime. She has worked variously as a Steuben glass gift buyer for the Reagan White House, designer for the Lake Placid Olympics (as well as for a number of other corporate clients), interior designer, and owner of two shops in Greenwich, Conn.

The exterior of At the French Doors, next door to Tisberry in Vineyard Haven.

The exterior of At the French Doors, next door to Tisberry in Vineyard Haven. — Michael Cummo

Her latest venture, an antique and home décor store in Vineyard Haven called At the French Doors, is truly an expression of her abiding passion. “I have a long history of loving antiques and beautiful things,” Ms. Peters said. “My parents were collectors of antiques.”

Everything in the shop, located next to Tisberry on Cromwell Lane, is stamped with Ms. Peters’s exceptional taste. She doesn’t collect just anything old: she buys what she likes and what she knows, from her long experience with antiques, is interesting and desirable.

The quaint shop is stocked with a collection of unique furnishings and objets d’art focusing on early French and English finds. Among the more eye-catching items is a 1920s replica of a large boar’s head sculpture from the 17th century, an impressive painted French screen from the 1920s, and a set of rare hand thrown pottery lamps from mid-century Japan. There is also a smattering of unusual finds from U.S. craftsmen such as a small early American drop-leaf table.

The shop owner’s interest in gardening is in evidence in the selection of antique garden ornaments such as a large statue of St. Lucille, the patron saint of writers, holding a removable quill; a large, very ornate stone bird bath decorated with gargoyles; marble-topped iron outdoor dinette sets; and many decorative planters and urns.

Ms. Peters also carries a number of new home items including her own pillows, small monogrammed soaps, candles, boxwood bonsai trees, and a line of watercolor cards printed with an antique letterpress on cotton and linen paper. “I want to welcome all pocketbook sizes to the store,” Ms. Peters said. “I have items from $5 on up.”

Also on display are a series of beautiful detailed marine oil paintings by Connecticut artist Tom Graves. A longtime sailor, Mr. Graves focuses on accuracy in his paintings of racing and pleasure sailboats. Although he has only been painting professionally for about six years, the artist’s eye for light and attention to detail bring his maritime scenes to life. The work of Mr. Graves can be found in galleries in Connecticut and on Nantucket, and he has done a number of commissioned pieces, but he has never shown on the Vineyard before. You can see his work at

At the French Doors is technically a pop-up shop. Ms. Peters has taken over the remainder of the lease from the former consignment shop Freebird. It was a bit of a last-minute decision by Ms. Peters, based on a need to stay active. “In November of 2012 I was a pedestrian hit by a texting driver,” says the Vineyard summer resident, who lives in Stamford, Conn., the rest of the year. “It took me a long time to get back to where I am.” She emphasized, “Not where I was, but where I am now.”

Prior to the accident, Ms. Peters spent a good deal of time sailing and playing tennis. While recovering from her injuries, the 80-year-old said, “I read a lot of books. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I’m a people person. Spending all that time alone was not good.”

With her new business, the outgoing, energetic Ms. Peters enjoys visits from shoppers — both locals and tourists — with whom she enjoys sharing her knowledge of antiques or talking about her years sailing on a Sparkman and Stevens one-off sloop, traveling between the Caribbean and the Bay of Fundy and all over Yugoslavia, Greece, and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

At the French Doors is located on Cromwell Lane in Vineyard Haven.

Da'African Village performed at the Union Chapel last Saturday.

Of all of the performers that have visited the Vineyard this summer, possibly the ones that travelled the farthest to bring a taste of another culture to the Island were the members of Les Enfants Du Soleil (Sons of the Sun). A group of eight dancers and four drummers from Senegal, the group presented two high-energy, colorful, and informative shows at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs last Saturday.

The musicians and dancers, part of the cultural exchange and sustainability organization Da’African Village, are currently touring the U.S. and Canada with stops in a number of cities, including Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York where they performed at Symphony Space.

Fortunately, the troupe took a side trip to the Vineyard where they helped raise money for the local chapter of the NAACP Youth Empowerment Program.

Master of ceremonies Mara Diakhate introduced the evening show by saying, “It’s going to be really hot in here.” And the performers certainly did turn up the heat with six sets of traditional dances featuring rapid fire drumming and adrenalized dance. The dancers changed their look for each set and the spectacle of the brilliantly hued costumes was only rivaled by the talent, energy, and joyous exuberance of the dancers, each of whom took solo turns displaying their unique styles and acrobatic skills.

In between sets, Mr. Diakhate explained the background and significance of each dance and talked about the differences among the dozens of African ethnic groups, making the shows as informative as they were entertaining. The organizers of the show hope to make the performances an annual summer event.

For more information about Da’African Village, visit

Multiple generations of the Neal family turned out for the dedication at the MV Playhouse.

Twelve members of the Patricia Neal family gathered at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse last Friday for a dedication ceremony honoring the late actress, whose dazzling career included winning Tony and Academy awards for best actress. The Playhouse recently reopened after a two-year renovation hiatus.The brief ceremony and reception officially unveiled the new stage which has been named after Neal, a longtime friend, supporter and fan of the 32-year-old organization.

“My mum was an actor’s actor,” said Neal’s daughter, writer/actress Tessa Dahl, during a brief speech in which she returned to the Playhouse a plaque honoring her mother. “I think that’s why she loved this theater so much.”

Neal died in 2010 at her home in Edgartown. She was a committed member of the Vineyard community, serving on various boards and supporting a number of organizations, including Camp Jabberwocky. Neal was an important part of the Playhouse family for years, acting as honorary board member and attending almost every production. She was an honored guest at many Playhouse events and fundraisers. In 2009, the Playhouse hosted a memorable one-night performance of Neal’s show “As I Am,” which looked back at the actress’s illustrious career.

Highlights from that long career included playing opposite Paul Newman in “Hud,” a prolific Broadway career, and a Tony award. However, Neal’s personal life was fraught with tragedy — including the death of a child, the near death of another, the breakup of her marriage to writer Roald Dahl, and a devastating stroke which left her in a three-month coma when she was pregnant with her fifth child.

That child, screenwriter Lucy Dahl, gave a short speech at the dedication ceremony and read from her mother’s contribution to a book by Larry King called “Remember Me When I’m Gone.” Asked by King to supply an appropriate epitaph, Ms. Neal’s response was, “Show me heaven. I’ve seen hell.” Ms. Dahl went on to say that her mother’s letter to King included a self-penned eulogy discussing the importance of family in her life.

Much of that family made the trip to Martha’s Vineyard specifically for the dedication. Among those gathered on the stage for the presentation were two of Neal’s children, five grandkids, and two great grandchildren. The latter served as ribbon cutters for the official launch of the new stage. The Dahl clan travelled from London, New York, and Los Angeles to attend the ceremony — a number of the guests hurried from the theater after a small reception to catch a plane back to England.

The new theater is the focal point of the Playhouse’s ongoing $5 million, three-phase renovation project. The first phase was completed this year in time for the theater to host a full season of plays, readings, and gallery shows. Currently on the mainstage is Larry Mollin’s “Search: Paul Clayton” a musical drama about the life of Bob Dylan’s mentor. The Playhouse is concurrently running an outdoor production of “The Three Musketeers” at the Tisbury Ampitheater.

In a short speech following the ribbon cutting, Playhouse artistic director M.J. Bruder Munafo opened by introducing herself as “the team captain of what Patricia called this darling little theater.” Ms. Munafo concluded her memorial to the woman she considered a great friend by saying, “Your spirit will strut this stage always.”

Anne Marie Eddy uses specialized paint to make old furniture feel new.

Taking old things and giving them new life is the idea behind Anne-Marie Eddy’s business ReFabulous.

Using a specialized type of paint, she transforms old furniture that was originally in outmoded colors and finishes into beautiful distressed country living items. So you could say that she’s taking the old and making it new — or actually older, but more contemporary.

This past June, Ms. Eddy opened a small workshop/shop in Vineyard Haven where she sells a selection of upcycled rustic pieces along with the tools that people need to create their own refurbished furniture and housewares. The line that she uses is called Chalk Paint, a decorative paint by Annie Sloan that is distributed solely through independent stores that are equipped to instruct customers in the painting techniques. Ms. Eddy is the sole Island distributer of the paint products, she said.

According to the Annie Sloan website, “Chalk Paint® is a unique decorative paint in 30 decorative and historical colours made specifically for painting furniture, painting floors, and for giving walls a completely matt, velvety finish. Chalk Paint® sticks to just about any surface… wood, concrete, metal, matt plastic, earthenware and much more, inside and outside the home.”

Ms. Eddy quickly developed an addiction to upcycling furniture after she was introduced to the distressed look by a friend in California. Shortly after setting up shop, she transformed the look of an entire Edgartown home by giving a shabby chic look to more than 20 pieces of furniture and cabinets. “There was a lot of old dark wood pieces,” she said. “They wanted a lighter, brighter look.” Ms. Eddy now has a number of clients for whom she does custom work and she also transforms thrift shop and yard sale finds to sell to the public.

The new shop, located across from the Black Dog Tavern, is full of beautiful antiqued pieces in a variety of colors and different types of finishes. During a 10-day workshop in North Carolina, Ms. Eddy acquired a variety of techniques: “You can use two layers. You can have a rustic look or a washed out or stained look. You can use clear waxes for a fresher look or use dark wax to get that antique rustic shabby chic look.”

For those interested in creating their own upcycled pieces, Ms. Eddy gives lessons every Saturday morning at the shop. She has set up a paint bar where people can try out the Chalk Paint on pieces of scrap wood. In the fall, Ms. Eddy plans to offer more in-depth workshops. She also encourages people to come by any time she is in the shop for a hands-on demonstration.

Complementing the rustic furniture, ReFabulous also features a number of home decor lines as well as items made on the Vineyard. There are decorative candles, pillows and linens, decorative hardware, and a variety of other items in either Parisian or nautical looks. Ms. Eddy initially wanted to have a French theme to the store but segued into a maritime look to suit her locale and clientele.

Local products include gorgeous pillows and wall hangings made from vintage cloth by Minor Knight, Scrubby Neck Soaps, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, and jewelry from various Vineyard Along with her husband, Jim, Ms. Eddy has owned and operated Big Sky Tents for the past 17 years. Prior to that she worked in the corporate world. Now, with her new business, she is finally able to pursue an artistic venture. “I’ve always had a creative bent,” she said. “I started making jewelry about 10 years ago. When I turned to painting furniture it just clicked for me.”

She now devotes herself full-time to her custom painting and shop. However, there is some overlap between her two businesses since she has been able to repurpose some of the Big Sky furniture stock. “We’re upcycling a lot of the rental items that we no longer use. We have 450 folding chairs that I’m painting in sets and using old table linens to change up the cushions.”

This Thursday, July 24, from 5 to 7 pm, Ms. Eddy is hosting a trunk show featuring the work of local artists and artisans including jewelry by Sissy Yates, Moroccan bags by Phoebe Styron, and photography by Marilyn Roos. And, of course, people will be encouraged to try out the Chalk Paint. But be forewarned, as Ms. Eddy has discovered, upcycling can be addictive.

mvyradio's Porch Concert at the Harbor View Hotel earlier this July.

Outdoor concerts are a summer staple of virtually every urban area. Currently, the Vineyard boasts many al fresco music events that, here on the Island, where one wants to spend as much time refreshed by the sea air as possible, music lovers can enjoy the casual atmosphere of an outdoor performance just about any evening of the week.

For example, mvyradio is in the midst of a mini concert series taking place on the porch of the Harbor View Hotel. For the second year in a row, the radio station is hosting a mix of local musicians and imported talent for free concerts on the wraparound deck of the Edgartown hotel. All can relax on the porch with a drink or a snack and enjoy acoustic sets from some of the artists from mvy’s playlist. “It’s a way we can get out there and give something to our listeners and have the opportunity to interact with them,” said director Barbara Dacey, who hosts the concerts. “This year we’re doing more than we did last year. We’re hoping it’s something that could build on itself.”

This summer’s lineup so far has included the Vineyard’s Jemima James, Ben Fuller of Lake Tahoe, and Boston-based Will Daley. On Thursday, July 31, local musician Mike Benjamin will perform. Ms. Dacey says that the station will most likely schedule more concerts for this summer as they reach out to other favorite musicians.

The sprawling lawn of Featherstone in Oak Bluffs is a picturesque place for a concert. The bucolic arts campus has hosted Musical Mondays for 19 years — predating even the gallery there. This summer, Featherstone added a Thursday evening jazz series. People bring refreshments, kids frolic, and there’s plenty of socializing and dancing while listening to some of the Island’s most popular artists. The jazz series is the brainchild of Musical Mondays regular John Zeeman, who has curated a summer jazz program to give more musicians a chance to play.

“I always say it’s the best family event on the Island,” said executive director Ann Smith, of Musical Mondays. “The adults can be sitting listening to music while the kids are meeting other kids and playing on the field.” Ms. Smith notes that the jazz Thursdays have attracted a new, somewhat less family oriented crowd, to the campus. She suggested, “Bring a picnic and a lawn chair.”

The Vineyard Haven Band has entertained audiences with a combination of old standards, patriotic favorites, and Broadway tunes for 145 years. The large brass, woodwind, and percussion unit plays every Sunday evening during the summer — alternating between Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and the gazebo in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. This summer, filling in the gaps between the bi-weekly Oak Bluffs concerts, Rob Myers, AKA Jellybone Rivers, is offering a free family concert every other Sunday.

Although the first outing of the Jellybone Rivers band was rained out this past Sunday, Mr. Myers said that the concerts will include a mixture of Americana, family music, some soul songs, and some all-time favorites. The multiple piece band includes a full horn section. The bandstand sits right in the center of the ocean-facing park, which gives people the chance to catch the music from all angles.

For the past eight years, Eisenhauer Gallery in Edgartown has hosted Thursday evening concerts. From June through August, the sounds of blues and rock and roll give the busy business area a lively, street fair vibe. Vineyard Square Hotel guests and others sit on the porch sipping drinks from Chesca’s while kids play on the gallery’s outdoor sculpture and people dance in the square.

And, lastly, The Yard in Chilmark will host a first-time event on August 2. An outdoor DJ dance party, billed as “Pride not Prejudice: A Pride Event” will feature tunes by DJs from New York City and Provincetown and entertainment by drag performer Schwa De Vivre. The Yard will provide mixers and water for BYOB drinks. The event is open to people of all ages. Admission is $10.

Erica Belle-Williams of MV Allston, a new store located on Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

Two young women — one a native and one a longtime Vineyard visitor — recently opened shops in Oak Bluffs. Both stores are welcome and interesting additions to the downtown business scene, and both spotlight the individual talents of the two young entrepreneurs.

Islander Holly Lawyer recently opened Made MV, a new store on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

Islander Holly Lawyer recently opened Made MV, a new store on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. — Gwyn McAllister

Made MV is a collection of offerings from local artists and artisans. MV Allston is an affordable boutique run by a woman whose fashion background is evident in the range of women’s clothing options, from sporty to dressy.

Made MV is located at the top of Circuit Avenue. Owner Holly Lawyer has filled the small shop with her handmade children’s clothing, jewelry, and photos, along with items from a number of local folks displaying a variety of artistic talents.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said the Vineyard native, who has sold her work for the past nine years at the Ag Fair and at various street fairs. “I think all Island artists come to the same conclusion that it’s expensive to have a store here.” Her solution was to reach out to other local artists to sell on consignment. Among the shop’s inventory are paintings, photos, collage works, pottery, wooden items, clothing crocheted items, hair accessories, skin care products, soaps, food items, and lots of jewelry.

A few of the artisans whose work is on display are well represented on the Island but most are new to the Vineyard arts scene, which makes the shop a great resource for those looking to discover new and unique hand-made products.

“I was trying to get people who aren’t that well known. I don’t think it’s fair to judge people on what they’re making rather than on their talent,” Ms. Lawyer said, referring to the restrictions set by some of the flea and artisan markets on Island.

The store features work by more than 20 individuals. Among the items are cotton scarves made from recycled Vineyard tee-shirts by Rae Carter. The lightweight and colorful scarves show off familiar images such as the Black Dog patchworked with logos from banks, stores, and nonprofits.

Angelic Fontaine has a pretty display in one corner with hair accessories made from silk flowers. Pottery fans will be pleased to find several very unusual styles of glazing from ceramicists Debbie Hale and Scott Campbell.

Jewelry styles cover a wide range of prices and materials from beach pebbles and wampum to pearls and other gemstones.

And then of course, there is Ms. Lawyer’s handiwork. One of the first things to catch the eye in the shop is a rack of charming little girl’s dresses. The mother of three young girls has come up with a simple design, made from cotton, that features a halter top with a drawstring. Ms. Lawyer notes that the garment can be worn in multiple seasons — first as a dress, then as a tunic top over tights. The ties can be adjusted as the child grows.

The inventory is constantly growing as more and more artists discover the store. Ms. Lawyer sells everything on consignment and welcomes new artists, artisans, and others offering items made on the Vineyard.

MV Allston

Erica Belle-Williams named her store MV Allston after her grandfather, Leonard Allston Yancy, a jazz musician who was well known on the Vineyard for his performances at Lola’s. While others in Ms. Belle-Williams’s family encouraged her to pursue a professional career, her grandfather supported her artistic side. “He was the one in my family who really encouraged me. He always told people, ‘She can do something creative.’”

A high energy, driven young woman, Ms. Belle-Williams approached a fashion career through the business side. She attended the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in New York City, then went on to work as a fashion merchandise buyer and in marketing and merchandising. As a stylist, Ms. Belle-Williams took part in Fashion Week in New York and was able to develop a sense of the fashion market and fashion trends.

“When I graduated from college, everything was expensive,” she said. “It was all about labels and high-end products. Then we saw the economy shift and people wanted cheaper goods.”

Nothing in MV Allston even approaches a $100 price tag — including some fabulous evening wear numbers. The pieces range from casual comfortable cotton separates for $15 to $25 to flowing kimonos and tunics featuring popular tiny prints, to stretchy skinny jeans in black or white for $25. Despite the very reasonable prices, the clothing is hardly of the disposable variety. Many of the items are made in the U.S. or the U.K. The fabrics are soft cottons and blends. The designs are not necessarily of the trend-of-the-moment variety. A small selection of jewelry runs from $3 (yes $3) for a pair of earrings to $25 for items made by local designers.

The Kennebec Avenue shop caters to all sizes with a range from size 0 to 26. “Being plus-size myself, I know that it’s hard to find good quality stuff,” Ms. Belle-Williams said. “London has the best plus-size fashion. I like to find smaller designers and local designers.”

MV Allston carries a line of logowear from a small company called Legendary MV. The locally based company makes soft tees, tanks, hoodies, and sweatshirts featuring a distinctive logo and Oak Bluffs and Inkwell imprints. A small selection of fun party dresses can be found in a variety of styles. Ms. Belle-Williams joked, “My favorite color is glitter.”

The 29-year-old owner, who has been spending summers on the Vineyard since she was a baby, has managed to keep her prices down by decorating the store with hand-me-down furniture and otherwise keeping things simple. The small shop is filled with light and welcoming. “My vision was to have a coffee shop feel,” she said. “It’s neat and bright, but you feel like you can come in and relax.” The price point is certainly not intimidating, and Ms. Belle-Williams stocks water, snacks, candy, and dog treats.

The very personable shop owner has found the town to be as welcoming to her as she is to her customers. “The other store owners have been great,” she said. “Basics has sent some people in who were looking for plus-sizes. That’s what I love about the Vineyard and why I wanted to open a store here even though friends kept asking me, ‘Why don’t you open a store in New York?’”

Made MV is located at 55 Circuit Ave. across from Slice of Life. The store is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm.

MV Allston is next to Rouge Luxe on Kennebec Ave. in the space formerly occupied by the vintage store Aequinox. Open Sunday through Thursday, 10 am to 7 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm.

Old Whaling Church, rear view

Delores Stevens is well connected in the global chamber music scene. Every summer the director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) brings groups with some very enviable credentials to perform before Vineyard audiences.

This month, Ms. Stevens recruited two young ensembles who are fast making names for themselves worldwide. In two separate programs, Vineyard audiences will have the chance to hear virtuoso musicians performing Mozart, Schubert, a few contemporary composers and, to finish it all off, a little Dave Brubeck.

On Monday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 15, the Calder Quartet makes its Martha’s Vineyard debut. The Los Angeles-based string quartet was recently awarded the prestigious 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant. The quartet has been called “outstanding” and “superb” by The New York Times.

The Calder Quartet, which hails from Los Angeles, joins the Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society for two shows next week.

The Calder Quartet, which hails from Los Angeles, joins the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society for two shows next week. — Photo Courtesy of MVCMS

The quartet has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Edinburgh International Festival, and Austria’s Esterhazy Palace. They debuted a number of new compositions at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and earlier this year performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The group of young musicians has toured with rock bands and have been featured on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel.”

Ms. Stevens, who spends her winters performing and teaching in southern California, is a strong advocate for new composers and has been following the Calder Quartet since its inception in 1998. “I became aware of them because when they were first formed they did a lot of new music,” she said. “They were very adventurous. They had a unique quality that was quite obvious from the beginning. It’s really been a joy to watch them grow and play with different orchestras.”

In the two concerts on the Vineyard, the Calder Quartet presents a program that represents a mix of eras. The performances will start off with a chamber music piece by Mozart. “Mozart’s piano concertos usually have orchestra accompaniment,” Ms. Stevens said. “But he wrote several that were intended to be accompanied by a quartet. This piece is one of my favorites. I think it’s one of the most beautiful concertos that he wrote.”

Mozart will be followed by Schubert’s famous “Death and the Maiden,” one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire that has been featured in a number of films. A more contemporary piece by Leoš Janáček will complete the program. The Czech composer drew from Eastern European folk music in creating his lively compositions.

“There’s going to be a little bit of every kind of music,” she continued, “from classical to the romantic period to more contemporary.”

Ms. Stevens generally makes an effort to mix up her programs in order to introduce audiences to a range of styles. Such will be the case with the second program of the summer season, when The Quartet San Francisco visits the Island for two performances on July 21 and July 22.

Grammy nominees for their last three CD releases and International Tango competition winners, the Quartet San Francisco mixes up jazz, tango, and contemporary classical, making them a perfect fit for MVCMS, which despite being a 44-year-old organization, seeks to promote new music and various styles in order to introduce audiences to chamber music and continue the education of aficionados.

The concert starts off with Samuel Barber’s haunting “String Quartet Op. 11,” made famous in recent times through its inclusion in a number of movie soundtracks including those for “Platoon” and “The Elephant Man.”

The program also includes a swing number by Gordon Goodwin, known for his many film and TV scores; a piece by jazz, film, and TV composer Patrick Williams; and works by Peter Schickele, aka P.D.Q. Bach.

Drawing on the Quartet San Francisco’s strong jazz roots, the group will finish up with Dave Brubeck’s famous “Take Five,” which has been featured in numerous films and served as the theme for the NBC’s “The Today Show” for many years. That piece, like most of the others that make up the program, will be familiar to many audience members due to their commercial history and mainstream appeal.

Ms. Stevens hopes to attract new — and younger — audiences to MVCMS through her commitment to including work by contemporary composers and more widely accessible genres. While she spends her winters in Los Angeles performing, teaching, and serving on the boards of a number of music organizations, while on the Vineyard Ms. Stevens focuses solely on bringing world-renowned musicians and eclectic programming to Island audiences.

“I’m really concentrated on the concerts here, which is kind of a relief,” she said. “From here I can focus completely on the music…and taking the occasional walk in the woods.”

Music: M.V. Chamber Music Society with Calder Quartet present From the Halls of Carnegie and Disney, 8 pm, Monday, July 14 at Old Whaling Church, Edgartown; Tuesday, July 15, Chilmark Community Center. $35; $30 with Our Island Club card; free for students. For more information, visit

The cast of Shaina Taub and Kim Rosenstock's new musical, "There's a House."

Keep a close eye on what’s going on at Vineyard Arts Project (VAP) in Edgartown this summer. Many of the theater productions that were developed during summer residencies there — and presented to Vineyard audiences — are now enjoying runs at New York City theaters, on Broadway and at Lincoln Center. And don’t be surprised to find some of the shows currently under development here making their way to prestigious venues. Right now at VAP, teams of accomplished playwrights, directors, and a music composer are working on three new plays. Vineyard audiences have the chance to get a first glimpse of these works-in-progress on Thursday, July 10 and Friday, July 11.

Playwright Kim Rosenstock and composer Shaina Taub are in the process of finishing a musical called “There’s a House,” an original folktale described on the VAP website as “a mystical travelogue loosely inspired by the ballad ‘The House Carpenter.’”

Ms. Rosenstock is a writer for the Fox show “New Girl,” and her play “Tigers Be Still” was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award. Ms. Taub’s debut album was featured on NPR/WNYC’s Best of the Year list. The versatile composer recently won the coveted Jonathan Larson award for musical theater. Her original soul/funk opera was a finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award. Ms. Taub was also recently nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for her role in the critically acclaimed “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

Both collaborators are former artists in residence at Ars Nova in New York, which is how they were introduced to VAP. VAP has hosted playwrights and actors from Ars Nova for the past four years.

Playwright Beth Wohl is also currently at VAP with director Rachel Chavkin and a crew of actors working on her play “Small Mouth Sounds.” Ms. Wohl has written a number of plays and has developed film and television work for HBO, USA, Fox, and Paramount.  She has had work commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club and Center Theatre Group, and has received support from Ars Nova.

The play will be directed by Obie Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin, also nominated for the Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel, whose work includes the world premiere of “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.”

“Small Mouth Sounds” takes place at a silent retreat, which might seem like an odd choice of setting, but, Ashley Melone, founder and director of VAP, said: “You hear the voice of the guru teacher the whole time and there is dialogue. It’s a very touching portrayal of people searching for something. I’m so excited to see it staged. I think it’s going to show what you can communicate without language and what you can learn from silence.”

Ms. Wohl is another playwright whom Ms. Melone met during an Ars Nova residency. The playwright was on the Vineyard last summer with the New York theater group when she began writing her current play.

Rounding out the trio of new plays that will be performed as readings this weekend is “Naperville” by Mat Smart. Mr. Smart is one of the founders of the Slant Theater Project, a New York based organization that helps to develop new works. He is the recipient of the 2014 New Voices Award from the William Inge Center for the Arts. His previous works have received favorable reviews from a number of publications, including The New York Times.

On the VAP website, “Naperville” is described as a romantic comedy. “It’s a comedy but it’s also really touching,” Ms. Melone said. “The play is about a mother/son relationship. The mother is blinded in an accident and she’s learning how to live as a blind person.”

Tony and Emmy Award winning actress Debra Monk will star in “Naperville.” All of those taking part in the in the trio of plays are equity actors and/or singers from New York City.

Two years ago, VAP hosted an initial reading of Pulitzer Prize winner James Lapine’s “Act One.” This past spring that play completed a three-month run at Lincoln Center.

“Disgraced,” a play by Ayad Akhtar, was part of VAP’s 2010 New Writers/New Plays series and is now headed to Broadway’s Lyceum Theater after being produced at Lincoln Center. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins presented a reading of his play, “Appropriate,” at VAP in 2012. This past spring both “Appropriate” and his subsequent play “An Octoroon” enjoyed New York City runs. The latter play won two Obie Awards, while the former was a New York Times critics pick.

Considering VAP’s track record and Ms. Melone’s eye for new talent, the theater lab tucked away in a compound on upper Main Street in Edgartown should be the place to be this summer for audiences wishing to be among the first to witness some exciting new works in theater.

Also coming to the Vineyard for the first time this summer is Rosie’s Kids, aneducational program founded by Rosie O’Donnell. VAP will host a retreat for the nonprofit in August so it’s possible that the theater and dance compound will prove to be an early breeding ground for some of the next generation’s major theater talent.

Theater: “There’s a House,” 4 pm on July 10; 9 pm on July 11. “Small Mouth Sounds,” 9 pm on July 10; 6:30 pm on July 11. “Naperville,” 6:30 pm on July 10; 4 pm on July 11. All shows at Vineyard Arts Project, Edgartown. For more information, call 508-413-2104 or visit

The Martha's Vineyard Playhouse's Monday Night Specials feature readings by playwrights.

A Catholic priest is struggling with his faith and the tenets of the church while mourning the loss of his mother to lung cancer. Not exactly the stuff of comedy. However, “Sweetened Water,” the first play by author and frequent CNN contributor Edward L. Beck, deals with some pretty heavy issues with a light touch and a good deal of humor.

Kicking off the Monday Night Special series at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, a reading this past Monday of “Sweetened Water” drew a sellout crowd. The play featured performances by Amy Brenneman, Brooke Adams, and Stephen G. Anthony, with D’Arcy Dersham and Brian Keane from the Playhouse’s current production “The Whaleship Essex” in small roles.

In a Q&A following the performance, the playwright quoted the common advice, “Write what you know.” As a Catholic priest, Mr. Beck is very familiar with some of the controversies surrounding the church. His play explores touchy territory such as the perception of the church with pedophile priests in the news. But mainly the seriocomedy explores the priestly vow of celibacy and the question of where does a clergyman draw the line between intimacy as a spiritual advisor and intimacy on a more human level.

This is all very familiar ground for Father Beck, who has been tapped variously by ABC News, CBS News, FOX News, CNN, HLN, and MSNBC to comment on issues of ethics, morality, and religion. The charismatic priest is also the executive producer of the Sunday Mass on the ABC Family Channel, and previously he co-hosted “Focus on Faith” for ABC News. Father Beck is also the author of three non-fiction books.

The play is set on Martha’s Vineyard and deals with a priest taking his own meditative break after leading a retreat here. Like his protagonist, Father Beck does lead retreats on the Vineyard and elsewhere. While on the Island on vacation following one retreat, he found himself in a situation similar to that which is depicted in his play. However, as far as the play’s menage-a-trois of sorts, Father Beck explained that part came purely from his imagination. He noted that writing the play was a way for him to tread on territory forbidden to a man in his position. “I feel constrained in some areas,” he said. “How can I explore issues like celibacy? Fiction is a way to do it.”

Recognizing that some of the play’s language and sexual scenarios might strike the audience as a little shocking coming from the pen of a Catholic priest, Father Beck explained that priests are often misperceived as less human than they truly are.

One audience member asked Father Beck what he thought the Pope would think of the play. The priest/playwright answered that as long as His Holiness wasn’t asked to publicly condone it, “I think he’d love it.” Monday night’s audience certainly did, giving the actors and playwright a standing ovation.

The next Monday Night Special reading is “Tevye, Two Daughters, and a Cow” written by Sholem Aleichem, 7:30 pm, Monday, July 14, hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and held at the M.V. Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven. $25 donation. For more information, call 508-687-2452 or visit

Choose between multiple dress, shirt, and skirt fabrics and styles at the Ellie Kai pop-up shop.

A pop-up shop hitting Edgartown this week represents a new way to shop. The Ellie Kai brand features made-to-order fashion that involves the customer, a consultant, and the Ellie Kai design team in the process of creating looks that are unique, yet more affordable than other bespoke options.

Ellie-Kai-clothes.JPGHow many times have you been in a situation where you’ve found a dress in a perfect style but the color or pattern wasn’t quite right? Or vice versa, a great print but not the most flattering style for your body type?

This weekend, women will have the chance to try on and customize their choice of dress, top, and skirt styles at the Ellie Kai pop-up shop at the Vineyard Square Hotel on North Water Street.

Customers can design and order custom apparel with the help of an on-site consultant, or they can chose from a wide selection of ready-to-wear styles fashioned from custom textile designs in silk and jersey stretch. Among the 25-plus items available are dresses, tops from halters to long sleeve tunics, and a range of skirts.

Women can try on the sample styles to determine which design works best for them and then chose from approximately 40 different designs. The garment will be custom made and will arrive by mail within three weeks.

Ellie Kai’s designs are unique to the brand as they were created by a graphic designer and produced in Asia to founder Elizabeth Hostetter’s specifications. In creating custom prints, Ms. Hostetter draws inspiration from her travels throughout Asia. Customers can chose from approximately 70 different prints and solids. “I think we cover the spectrum from the brightest brights to the most neutral neutrals, from stripes to preppy to conservative,” Ms. Hostetter said.

The print designs tend towards subtly stylized variations on traditional ethnic patterns and sophisticated takes on preppy prints. Solids come in neutrals and custom colors focusing on the popular hues of the season.

Ms. Hostetter described the designs and fabrics as, “that sort of Northeast urban take on preppy. I think that was our core when we started designing this collection. It’s always been about really casual for daytime and a little dressier at night.” She designs the clothes to be ideal for traveling, noting that they are easy to pack, comfortable, and suit the resort lifestyle. The brand was founded in 2012, and, though most of the business comes from hosted home parties and trunk shows, Ellie Kai pop-up shops have appeared in Nantucket and South Hampton, N.Y.

Ms. Hostetter hopes to introduce new people to the brand through the temporary stores, and also to recruit new hostesses and consultants for what she refers to as “social shopping trunk shows.” At the trunk shows, a consultant is on hand to assist customers.

The Ellie Kai founder was inspired to create the label when she found it difficult to meet her own wardrobe needs. She and her family moved to Hong Kong in 2009, and she now spends summers on Cape Cod, where she was born and raised and where she still maintains an office and showroom.

“I found shopping challenging because I’m tall. I made some things custom and my friends all asked me about them. As soon as I explained that connection, the lightbulb went off. No one had taken that idea in customizing and wardrobe design to the next level.”

Ms. Hostetter is focused on creating styles based on what women are looking for in terms of wearability, flattering styles, and individual taste. “Some of the best ideas for styles have come from feedback,” she said. “I see myself more as a curator than a designer.”

The garments are designed, sourced, and manufactured in Asia. To avoid doing business with disreputable manufacturing concerns, Ms. Hostetter says that she did a good deal of research. “From the beginning we developed a business model of integrity. We make sure workers are given fair wages, have air conditioning, get breaks. As a mother of three I’m extremely concerned about the ethical side of production. I make it a point of the company to have a focus on that.”

Ellie Kai’s Edgartown Pop-Up Shop, Thursday, July 10–Monday, July 14, 9 am–6 pm, Vineyard Square Hotel, Edgartown. For more information, email