Authors Posts by Gwyn McAllister

Gwyn McAllister

597 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

0

In 2010, Vineyard Arts Project (VAP) hosted a new playwriting team as part of their inaugural New Writers/New Plays residency. The musical “Witness Uganda” by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews was among three plays to be developed here that year and presented for the first time ever to Vineyard audiences. Since then, the show has enjoyed success and critical acclaim in a variety of venues.

And now, following a sell-out run at the prestigious American Repertory Theater at Harvard University, the rousing musical based on Mr. Matthews’s experience working with a group of African orphans is coming back to VAP for one night on Saturday, August 16. The performance here will be a presentation of selected musical numbers from the show.

“I really wanted to do a concert before the show blows up and ends up being a big flash in New York,” said VAP artistic director Ashley Melone.

The musical is based on Mr. Matthews’s humanitarian work in Uganda where he spent five years building a relationship with a group of orphans. He was so inspired by the spirit of the small group of impoverished teens that he became determined to help fund their education. When his fundraising efforts stalled as the economy collapsed, he and his partner Mr. Gould decided to create a musical to help raise money, as well as awareness of their organization, the Uganda Project.

Mr. Gould has created a series of memorable, joyful songs that combine traditional African music with rock and roll. Mr. Matthews, who wrote the show’s book, weaves the tale of the plight of the children with his own successes and frustrations as someone trying to make a difference in the world.

From the seeds of the first few musical numbers — which were presented as fundraisers to audiences throughout the country — the work evolved into a full-fledged musical, having been developed in a large part during a residency at VAP that included the actors/singers/dancers.

“The most important resources that a writer can have are time and space,” Mr. Gould said. “The Vineyard Arts Project provided us with those resources and gave us the chance to explore our piece with a depth we hadn’t ever been afforded. We’re returning to see if we can find some last touches of that magic before we move to Broadway.”

New Writers/New Plays cofounder Brooke Hardman explained how the play came to the VAP: “Matt and I went to college together at B.U. I knew he had been working on a couple of different musicals. I knew how brilliant he was. At our first meeting he played me some mp3 files on his phone. It’s an amazing thing to be part of a process like this. Musicals are so epically difficult to develop. They involve so many people. It’s such an honor for us to have played a small part in the success of this show. To see it go from just a few songs on an iPhone to a full-blown great musical at a great theater is such a thrill.”

Ms. Melone, a former dancer who previously ran the compound as a summer dance school, was impressed enough by “Witness Uganda” to commit herself to the show. “I fell in love with the piece,” she said.

The show has since gone on to receive a Richard Rodgers award and was then picked up by the American Rep where it was directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus.

VAP continues to serve as a choreography and dance residency, hosting some of the biggest names in both the theater the dance world.

“Witness Uganda” is one of a number of success stories with roots at VAP. Since its founding in 2008, shows developed at the compound have gone on to runs at Lincoln Center, the Public Theater, ARS Nova, and other esteemed venues. This fall, the play “Disgraced,” which was also part of the 2010 New Writers/New Plays series and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, will open on Broadway.

“I’m so thrilled that this was all part of our first year,” says Ms. Hardman. “We started with a bang. That’s what the festival is all about. It’s a great place to conceive and coax the work. We want to help give them legs so they can really run.”

“Witness Uganda,” Saturday, August 16, 6:30 pm, Vineyard Arts Project, Upper Main St., Edgartown. Pay-what-you-can admission available at vineyardartsproject.org and at the door; free for children. Proceeds benefit Uganda Project and VAP.

6
Sally Taylor shows her mother, Carly Simon, the details of one of the exhibits at Consenses. — Michael Cummo

The Grange Hall in West Tisbury was the scene of a unique three-art event, August 18–20. Consenses, a group show of artists from all over the world, paired photography, painting, sculpture, music, dance, poetry, the written word, and even perfumery and tea blending into a multi-installation, multi-themed journey through the senses.

Consenses paired all types of art into a multi-installation, multi-themed journey through the senses.
Consenses paired all types of art into a multi-installation, multi-themed journey through the senses.

The project, begun in 2012, was the brainchild of artist and musician Sally Taylor, whose idea was to invite artists to draw inspiration from each other — translating a song into a painting, a poem into a sculpture. A total of 140 artists, selected by Ms. Taylor from among her friends and associates and through research on the web, participated. Among them were the famous, including Jimmy Buffett, Wes Craven, and Ms. Taylor’s parents, Carly Simon and James Taylor (along with other members of the Taylor clan), the locally renowned, such as Alison Shaw, Alan Whiting, and many others who have achieved success in their fields but who will be unknown to most visitors to the temporary gallery space.

A visit to the Grange Hall show was like exploring a museum with multiple installations. There were eight in all, each laid out by a different designer, and each featuring an individual theme and evoking a very specific mood. The chains – as they are called – were created by asking individual artists to execute a work in their medium inspired by the work of the previous participant. Each chain began with a photo of the Vineyard, which was used by a songwriter whose work was then interpreted by a dancer and then passed on to a painter, etc.

Artist Mark Cooper, who contributed to Consenses, watched a piece in a separate exhibit.
Artist Mark Cooper, who contributed to Consenses, watched a piece in a separate exhibit.

The installation event is called Festival of the Senses and it is a true multi-sensory experience. Visitors are invited to view artwork, listen to music through headphones, watch videotaped dance performances, read poetry and prose works, sniff scent samples, and sip specially brewed herbal teas — all part of the art experience. Each artist provided a short explanation of their creation process.

Consenses is a full-immersion experience that can best be appreciated by taking time in each space and simultaneously experiencing two or more creations at once. One can listen to a beautiful James Taylor instrumental piece while watching a set of intricately designed paper wings flap in an inspired feat of engineered sculpture. Or watch a hypnotic dance involving a large hoop while sipping a spicy tea blend. Each viewer’s experience will be different depending on how they approach the installation, and viewers were invited to add their thoughts on sheets hanging on the wall near each exhibit.

The eight complete installations are part of a 19 chain series. The others were represented in the show by interactive digital displays that allowed guests to scroll through and view or listen to the various works. The Vineyard event also included a series of performances and artist-led workshops at satellite venues.

Teacher Sara Baumrin interacted with one of the exhibits, which asked how the viewer interprets the art.
Teacher Sara Baumrin interacted with one of the exhibits, which asked how the viewer interprets the art.

The current exhibit marks the first time that the works have been displayed together. From here, the show will move to the Boston area where the entire collection will be on view in two separate locations.

This is also the first time that the artists have been able to experience the work of the other participants. Eight-six of the 140 artists were on hand for the premiere of the show here. One unfortunate note, the first of the painters who was recruited for the project — an artist named Henk Gringhuis — died of cancer just months before the installation. Ms. Taylor explained that he was one of the most enthusiastic participants and that she had developed a close telephone relationship with him. She has dedicated the exhibit to Mr. Gringhuis, whose wife and brother-in-law, visiting from Canada, stayed with Ms. Taylor.

Painter Gosia from Toronto was among those who made the trip to the Vineyard for the show. She was provided with a song by Isaac Taylor on which she based a beautiful fairytale-like painting of a woman partly submerged in the ocean, her hair becoming one with the waves, a tiny ship floating beside her. “I found it really easy,” she said. “I already use music as my inspiration.”

From left: Carly Simon, Peter Simon, and Consenses creator Sally Taylor.
From left: Carly Simon, Peter Simon, and Consenses creator Sally Taylor.

Gosia, a young woman who has enjoyed success as an illustrator, painter, and sculptor, was impressed with the exhibit. “I was a little surprised,” she said after viewing the multiple installations. “I thought there’d be more of a disconnect.”

In many cases, although each participant was only given access to one work of art, the entire chain seems to have maintained a consistency.

Ms. Taylor was thrilled to witness the culmination of her two years of work as curator. “This is better than I could have envisioned it,” she said Monday, standing outside the hall where a few works were displayed on the porch. She explained that from the beginning she had planned to launch the exhibit on the Vineyard. “All of the photos are of the Vineyard. This was my starting point — my elephant,” she said, referencing a fable that in part inspired her ambitious interpretation experiment.

Next to Ms. Taylor, her father, James, was admiring a textile piece. Asked for his reaction on the final stage of a project in which he played a part, he said, “I’m knocked out. I’d only seen little bits and pieces before. Man, it’s beautiful.”

He added, “Like any great exhibit, you want to devote some time to it. To feel the connection. To get into the chain of events.”

Hundreds of people did just that, taking time out from a string of picture-perfect beach days to experience a unique artistic collaboration.

To find out more about the project and the artists and check out future locations, visit consenses.org.

0
Rob Karma Robinson plays Satchel Paige in the M.V. Playhouse's current production. — MJ Bruder Munafo

“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”

Satchel Paige, one of the most famous players in baseball’s Negro leagues, is responsible for the above quote. Often repeated, it is included in the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse’s latest production.

Soneela Nankani and Stan Strickland in "Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing."
Soneela Nankani and Stan Strickland in “Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing.”

While baseball hall-of-famer Paige has been relegated these days to a footnote in history, in his own day he was a legend and certainly more than deserving of the sort of hero worship that has been bestowed upon other baseball greats by biographers and filmmakers.

In Richardo Khan’s and Trey Ellis’s new play, “Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing,” not only is Paige’s remarkable professional story — a stellar career as a pitcher in the Negro Major League and a short stint in the major leagues — brought to life, but the man who lived his life according the above quote is seen as the highly likeable, charismatic, and complex man that he was.

“Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing” is a rich, full spectrum of a show. There’s music — both a couple of ensemble songs from the period and some saxophone interludes, dancing, simulated ball playing, a dream sequence, a dramatic fight scene, and some extremely effective use of projections and lighting.

In fact, the entire piece is a masterwork of choreography. Players mime a practice session very realistically, throwing and hitting an imaginary ball. The difficult blocking of the multi-character dramatic scenes is executed without a hitch. And everything is authentic to the period, including Paige’s old-style wind up and delivery.

The play’s action takes place shortly after Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player in the major leagues — in 1947, when Paige was 41. Paige was robbed of that distinction despite his reputation — among other ballplayers as well as fans — as the best player in all of baseball. Still, Paige is enjoyed great success and acclaim and, in his own way, is broke color barriers by taking part in a barnstorming tour with Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller. For many years, the two men led opposing teams that travelled together and played in major league parks during the off season, introducing many baseball fans for the first time to black players.

The story starts out during this tour on a ballfield, but most of the action takes place in a black-owned rooming house in Kansas City where a few of the ballplayers, including Paige and Feller, are lodging. The audience is introduced to the proprietress and her young daughter, an aspiring singer who is following in her mother’s footsteps. The inclusion of these fictional characters lends some Tennessee Williams-style drama and a considerable bit of sexual tension to the story. The boardinghouse scenes also lead to the relating of a few very funny anecdotes, the exploration of some of the issues faced by black ballplayers, and some nice repartee between Paige and his former love, Ms. Hopkins.

Ms. Hopkins is played by the remarkable Suzzanne Douglas, who has appeared at the Playhouse previously as both an actress and as a jazz singer. She is well known for her many television and film roles having starred in the sitcom “The Parent ‘Hood” as well as in several motion pictures including “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” In the Playhouse production, she proves herself a very strong dramatic actress with a flair for comedy. It would have been nice to have been able to enjoy a bit more of Ms. Douglas’s considerable musical talents in the play.

The real revelation among the cast is the very versatile Rob Karma Robinson, a New York stage actor who has twice before appeared at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. In his most recent outing here as a member of the ensemble cast of “Fly,” we got a taste of Mr. Robinson’s acting chops as he played the most charismatic of the play’s Tuskegee airmen. As the star of “Satchel Paige,” Mr. Robinson proves that he can run the acting gamut — alternately joking with the boys and quoting from Homer’s “The Odyssey” — a very effective recurring metaphorical device used throughout the play.

Along with a strong cast, including Playhouse regular Christopher Kann, it is a delight to watch an actor of Mr. Robinson’s strength and range. He is clearly ready to break into his own version of the major leagues, and we are very likely to see more of this extremely talented actor — hopefully on Broadway or in TV or film.

Mr. Khan’s and Mr. Ellis’s previous collaboration “Fly,”  which was a hit on the Vineyard in 2010 before taking off to the famed Ford Theater in Washington, D.C., featured an ancillary character — a tap dancer — who helped interpret the action. Similarly, the accomplished jazz saxophonist Stan Strickland provides both music, some exposition, and atmosphere in the current Playhouse production. At one point, Mr. Strickland also does a brief turn as the legendary Charlie Parker on the verge of revolutionizing the jazz music world.

All in all, the show has mass appeal beyond baseball fans. And, it’s a telling story about the history of race relations in this country. In an interview after opening night, co-writer and director Mr. Khan noted that his research for the play led him to an interesting discovery.

“In the midwest, where segregation was very much a part of life, the result was a thriving black middle class,” he said, “I was shocked that there would be so many blacks who owned their own businesses and that that community actually survived.

“The idea was to tell the story of the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues in baseball, but I also wanted to explore the climate of an America that was just on the eve of integration. That was originally my intent. We were so separate and yet in 1947 Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and I guess the question at that time was what was going to happen now. It was kind of representative of all of America to take a snapshot of Kansas City in the middle of the country.”

“Satchel Paige” is cleverly staged, using projections, a musical narrator, and an interesting, minimal opening scene set to good advantage. The lighting and special effects are worthy of a metropolitan production and, as previously mentioned, the choreography, including dance and movement sequences by Marla Blakey, is exceptional.

Theater: “Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing,” Wednesdays-Saturdays through Sept. 6, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. $50; $40 seniors; $30 students. For more information and for tickets, call 508-687-2452 or visit mvplayhouse.org.

5
At The Moth this past Saturday, Arthur Bradford told a story about his friendship with a Camp Jabberwocky camper. — Susan Safford

This past Saturday at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, a near capacity crowd got the opportunity to peer for a moment into the lives of five very different people and hear remarkable stories that were at times moving, sad, inspiring, and, in every case, very funny in the best possible self-deprecating way.

Bestselling author Adam Mansbach talked about the unanticipated success of his first book.
Bestselling author Adam Mansbach talked about the unanticipated success of his first book.

The event was The Moth on Martha’s Vineyard Mainstage, hosted by The Moth, which, through a series of events and Internet and radio broadcasts, offers slice of life stories that give listeners a chance to get to know people in their own words of 15 minutes or so.

The Moth is a storytelling series founded in 1997 that hosts live Mainstage events in venues throughout the U.S., offers weekly podcasts, and is featured on National Public Radio as the Moth Radio Hour. MothSLAMS — informal storytelling contests — take place in more than 50 cities worldwide. For the past three summers, The Moth has hosted Mainstage events on the Vineyard featuring both locals and national amateur storytellers.

The Moth’s real tagline is True Stories Told Live, and the Vineyard event provided a good example of what they do best — providing a truly genuine and candid alternative to the reality show phenomenon. Reality that’s not only real, but a glimpse of the human condition and lessons learned through trials and triumphs as seen through the eyes of both writers and entertainment professionals and ordinary citizens.

The Vineyard event was bookended by two humorists whose dialogues were laced with joking commentary and wry observations. First up was Arnie Reisman, a regular panelist on NPR’s syndicated comedy quiz show Says You! Mr. Reisman is an Oscar nominated writer, performer, and producer who currently writes a column for the Vineyard Gazette and, along with his wife, national consumer reporter Paula Lyons, has lent his talents to a number of local events.

Mary Lou Piland was the event's only full-time Islander.
Mary Lou Piland.

Mr. Reisman riffed on life as a Jew in a Wasp community and the trials of being an extraordinarily overprotected only child. His story detailed a comically nightmarish evening as the escort of a debutante to an exclusive country club dance. The tale centered on Mr. Reisman’s two sets of parents — both birth parents and surrogate parents — all equally obsessed with navigating a teenage Mr. Reisman safely into adulthood. At one point he cracked that the incident he was describing, “set in motion their locomotive of fear.” The story was full of laughs and set the night off to a rollicking start.

Islander Mary Lou Piland provided the most heartwarming story of the evening, although the tale traversed a rocky road before reaching its happily-ever-after-conclusion. Ms. Piland is the daughter of strict first-generation Italian-American strict Catholic parents who had a hard time coming to terms with their daughter’s black boyfriend.

In an interview after her turn on stage, Ms. Piland, who works in the emergency room at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, said that her parents and husband were in the audience hearing her version of the story for the first time. “I warned my father that he is vilified in the first half,” said Ms. Piland. However, all participants in the real life “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” scenario are now a close-knit family. In a heavy Italian accent, Ms. Piland’s father explained the lesson he gained from his daughter. “I accept people the way they are,” he said, and went on to extoll the virtues of his son-in-law, physician assistant Anthony Piland.

It was a packed house at the Tabernacle.
It was a packed house at the Tabernacle.

Ms. Piland gained an audition with The Moth on the recommendation of writer and writers’ group leader Cynthia Riggs, who has appeared at Moth Mainstage events both here and in NYC. Ms. Piland developed her story at a Moth workshop on the Vineyard last summer. “They helped me polish my story in such a way that I really wanted to tell it,” she said after the show.

Perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser of the evening was former Camp Jabberwocky counselor, co-director, and current board member Arthur Bradford. His story focused on a long-term relationship he had with a Jabberwocky camper. The story spanned Mr. Bradford’s years with the camp for disabled people through his career as an award-winning writer and Emmy-nominated filmmaker.

Mr. Bradford told the story behind the making of an MTV show and documentary with Ronnie Simonsen, a man whose obsession and ultimate friendship with television star Chad Everett helped him deal with the challenges of cerebral palsy and a diagnosis of terminal leukemia. The story was entertaining, poignant, and the most unique of the evening’s offerings, bringing a very memorable character to life.

At intermission, Mr. Bradford said that his only regret was that the Jabberwocky campers didn’t get a chance to attend. Those who might have remembered the late Mr. Simonsen were not on the Island at the moment and the current group were all at the camp that evening presenting their annual musical.

Mr. Bradford was recruited for the Mainstage through his two Moth StorySLAMs and one GrandSLAM wins. In a post performance interview he said, “I lobbied to be a part of the Vineyard event. I knew that people here would know Jabberwocky.” His mention of the camp drew a round of applause. One of his goals in making the film was to raise awareness of the Vineyard-based camp.

Moth stories tend to feature a life lesson and, in Mr. Bradford’s case, a question raised was the validity of helping someone else fulfill a dream while possibly putting your own interests on hold. After the performance, Mr. Bradford said, “This is my dream. Doing the Moth.”

The two storytellers featured in the second half of the program were both nationally recognized figures. Emmy Award-winning journalist, foreign correspondent, and writer Charlayne Hunter-Gault related her experiences interviewing Nelson Mandela multiple times, including immediately following his release from prison. Her story touched on her long career in the news business and her position as a prominent figure in the civil rights movement in the U.S.

Completing the lineup of stories, bestselling author Adam Mansbach told about the unanticipated success of his first book, “Go The Fuck to Sleep,”  which was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Mr. Mansbach proved himself as outrageously funny in person as he is in his multiple books and videos. Commenting on his surprisingly swift rise to fame, he quipped, “I now had a public persona as a fake parenting expert and I wanted to ride that gravy train as long as I could.”

The evening was hosted by Ophira Eisenberg, comedian, writer, and host of NPR’s weekly comedy trivia show “Ask Me Another,” who provided funny one-liners of her own, including a few jokes about Vineyard life. Musical interludes were provided by composer and violinist Carla Kihlstedt, a veteran of folk/pop, contemporary classical, and experimental music.

For more information on The Moth, visit themoth.org.

0
Lauryn Hill performs Sunday at Featherstone. — Karl Ferguson Jr.

Some of the “first ladies” of the music world will heat up the apex of the Vineyard season this weekend when the second annual Martha’s Vineyard Summer Madness festival rolls out its Ladies First lineup.

Headliner Lauryn Hill, five-time Grammy award winner and former member of The Fugees, will perform an outdoor concert at Featherstone on Sunday, topping off an exciting weekend packed with concerts, parties, artist showcases, and an educational panel, all starring female music makers and movers and shakers.

The three-day festival kicks off with a live jazz reception followed by a mixed performance  show at Dreamland featuring a performance by hip hop legend MC Lyte along with entertainment by an acclaimed spoken word performer and music from one of NYC’s top DJs. Throughout the weekend, artists — both emerging and established — will perform a range of music from jazz to soul to R&B to hip-hop. The majority of events take place at Flatbread Company at the M.V. Airport.

The festival is the brainchild of summer resident Sean Porter, a concert promoter, TV producer, and former nightclub owner whose Brooklyn-based club hosted parties for some of the biggest names in hip hop and R&B including P Diddy, LL Cool J, Kanye West, Ice T, and Lil’ Kim. Last year, Mr. Porter recruited Norman Hall, financial expert and entrepreneur who is a year-round Islander, to the festival team. The two men, longtime friends, are joined by a team of part-time Vineyarders and others in organizing and producing the M.V. Summer Madness Festival.

Last year’s inaugural event featured a performance by headliner Big Daddy Kane, who played to a sold-out audience at Dreamland. This year, the organizers decided to honor women in music, taking the theme’s name “Ladies First” from a groundbreaking hip hop song recorded by Queen Latifah in 1989.

Among the events this year will be a chicken and waffles brunch featuring jazz artist and TV and movie actress Suzzanne Douglas, an R&B showcase with Grammy nominee Amel Larrieux, a new artist showcase, and a beach BBQ bash to take place between Inkwell Beach and Waban Park.

Private VIP parties follow the Friday and Saturday evening performances.

Billed as a music festival and conference, the M.V. Summer Madness schedule also features a panel discussion with some of the heavyweights (all women) in the music industry including entertainment managers, attorneys, executives, and performer/entrepreneurs.

A variety of festival packages are available. Individual tickets can also be purchased for any of the events.

For more information, and a full event schedule, visit mvsummermadness.com.

0
The store carries larger home goods as well as smaller decorative items. — Michael Cummo

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.

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 graves-marine-art.com.

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.

1
Da'African Village performed at the Union Chapel last Saturday. — Gwyn McAllister

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 daafricanvillage.com.

0
Multiple generations of the Neal family turned out for the dedication at the MV Playhouse. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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.”

0
Anne Marie Eddy uses specialized paint to make old furniture feel new. — Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Eddy

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.

1
mvyradio's Porch Concert at the Harbor View Hotel earlier this July. — Photo by Louisa Gould

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.