Authors Posts by Gwyn McAllister

Gwyn McAllister

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On Friday, the crowd was seated in a V formation around the runway, which had a stage at the apex. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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A model sports an Island Outfitters sweater. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Fashion Week founder and Dressed MV editor Trena Morrison provided a quick introduction at the start of the second night of Martha's Vineyard Fashion Week. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Dreamland was packed for Friday night's event. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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A male model shows off an Island Outfitter's zip up on the runway at Dreamland. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Each Island Outfitters model came out after the show to model their outfits. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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A model walks the runway wearing a look from B*Tru. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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The models, like this one wearing B*Tru clothes, showed off the clothes from a platform. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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B*Tru featured stylish clothes for the cooling weather. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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A model shows off a style from B*Tru while the crowd returns from an intermission. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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Now that autumn is here, fashionistas say sweaters are in. — Photo by Michael Cummo

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A shoulder season look from B*Tru. — Photo by Michael Cummo


The fourth annual M.V. Fashion Week, which wrapped up Saturday night with a splashy runway show, featured eight events, clothing by six local designers, half a dozen jewelers, fall looks from 10 Vineyard stores, eight hair and makeup stylists, and more than 30 models.

Most important, the weeklong event raised thousands for benefiting organization Angel Flight Northeast. Fashion Week is the sole Vineyard fundraiser for the all-volunteer nonprofit that provides free air travel to and from medical appointments for those in need. Since its inception in 2011, M.V. Fashion Week has provided $20,000 for Angel Flight. According to founder/organizer Trena Morrison, this year’s event was the most successful so far in terms of money raised.

Thursday’s fashion show and dinner at Lure featured new designs by established designer Stina Sayre, whose boutique on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, offers high-quality fashion with a European flair, and the mother/daughter team of Randi Sylvia and Marlene DiStefano, whose Kenworthy line of designs can be found at StudioShop in Oak Bluffs.

Friday’s show at Dreamland spotlighted casual looks from local stores as well as the work of two local bathing-suit designers. The willowy Dynasty Models, imported from Boston, flashed lots of skin while strutting the double, two-way runway and posing on a small elevated platform in bikinis, shorts, and cover-ups.

The real drama could be found at Saturday’s finale — also at Dreamland — where Karen Trotier of Menagerie showcased showstopping designs. Models were decked out in hats decorated with gilded horseshoe crabs, capes and bodices made from clamshells, a conch-shell headdress, a giant top hat garlanded with ferns and green mini lights, and — the final bit of drama — a precariously tall set of antlers fashioned from tree branches. Not everything was strictly for show. Ms. Trotier’s evening looks feature lots of sequins and feathers, long trains, and highly textural fabrics, but maintain a dramatically elegant feel.

On the other end of the spectrum, new designer Lauren Morgan presented a line that was remarkable for its simplicity. Working mainly with luscious solid colors — lemony yellow, melon, robin’s-egg blue — Ms. Morgan has a great sense for breezy, untailored design with flair. Her signature look combined a flattering free-flowing shift dress with architectural elements or feminine adornments adding interest up top. It was an impressive, very professional debut from the Vineyard’s latest designer.

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Singers perform in one of the landscape/art installations at Still Point. — Photo by Cheryle Alexander

Nature became art, and art intertwined with nature, during Still Point, a magical landscape and performance experience last Friday and Sunday. The public was invited to witness the unique installation/performance on a serenely beautiful property in West Tisbury during two guided tours. Still Point, an art and nature experience was a collaboration between landscape artist and patron of the arts Claudia Miller, whose thoughtfully laid out West Tisbury acreage provided the site, and director/choreographer Wendy Taucher of New York and Martha’s Vineyard. The two women have been working on the piece — from conception to selection of material and casting to logistics — for the past two years.

On Friday afternoon, a group of over 120 people gathered in a large barn and its adjoining veranda. They chatted while waiting — not quite sure what to expect — for the adventure to begin. Then, after a brief introduction, the audience was split into four groups and shuffled off in four different directions.

The weather was perfect. A warm, bright, Indian summer day. Following an all-but-silent guide, the guests walked along winding paths, first skirting a pumpkin patch, then passing from open field to canopies of trees where the sun created a dappled surface on the path.

Featured singers Hilary Ginther and David Gordan perform a new vocal arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations. —Photo by Cheryle Alexander
Featured singers Hilary Ginther and David Gordan perform a new vocal arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. —Photo by Cheryle Alexander

There were pleasant surprises, both planned and fortuitous, to be discovered along the way. A beautiful rock sculpture by Dave Brown, a feat of both engineering and aesthetic vision, was on display just off the path. A pond lay behind a scrim of foliage. A formation of geese flew overhead, causing the walkers to look upward. Then, shifting their focus back earthbound, they were greeted by a serene Buddha sculpture sitting unobtrusively on a large rock to the side of the path.

More Buddhas popped up often along the way, perched in trees or on rocks, festooned tastefully with sunflowers and feathers. A copse of starkly white, branchless tree trunks presented itself as an organic sculpture garden.

After a lengthy walk, the visitors arrived at a semi-clearing for the first of four 10-minute performances. A group of six opera singers, both men and women in orange ombre robes and tunics, surrounded an incongruously placed piano. Strolling through the trees, gazing off contemplatively in different directions, the group filled the woods with otherworldly music. The piece they performed was an arrangement by Ms. Taucher and pianist Dror Baitel, based on J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The singers, like all the other participants, were accomplished professionals recruited from Ms. Taucher’s company of New York City singers, actors, and dancers.

While one group of visitors was immersed in this nature and art experience, the others were playing witness to three disparate performances. Then each group moved on to the next prearranged location. Each piece was created specifically for its particular site.

At a clearing surrounded by Tibetan flags and a large Buddha meditating next to a sea-washed driftwood tree, a solo dancer interacted with a row of inverted stumps, her movements and poses emulating, or responding to, the twisting root formations.

From atop a log bench, actor Donovan Dietz gave a powerful dramatic reading of a poem which combined a work by T.S. Eliot with poetry by West Tisbury Poet Laureate Justen Ahren. An excerpt from Eliot’s Four Quartets referred to as The Still Point of the Turning World was the inspiration for Mr. Ahren’s contribution.

At another clearing, a quartet of singers stood arranged around and atop a large flat rock. Unaccompanied, they harmonized beautifully on a chanting arrangement of four of Bach’s chorales. Chirruping insects filled in the pauses. The piece, intentionally nonverbal, had mystical and spiritual overtones.

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Ayo Janeen Jackson, performs at Stillpoint to choreography by Wendy Taucher. —Photo by Cheryle Alexander

The latter performance was Ms. Taucher’s jumping-off point in the creation of the performance part of the installation. During an initial walk-through of the property, she was inspired by a view from a particular vista. “I decided when I was up on a hill that I wanted to use the Bach chorales,” Ms. Taucher said in a post-event interview. “I knew that I didn’t want to use language. I changed the lyrics to syllables. That was the first idea for how I wanted to connect the piece. Bach music was the key to everything.”

“It really did feed on itself with all of the collaborations. Justen came in and listened to the arrangement. He wrote a new poem and found Still Point by Eliot.”

Ms. Miller was responsible for the landscape backdrop. “My home and my land is a canvas for me,” Ms. Miller said. “Because I do collages with what I can find and coordinate, that’s what I love. I walk these woods with that in mind. Nature doesn’t need much improvement. Rearranging is more what I do with what is already there.” She was also involved with every piece of the performance aspect. Ms. Taucher only signed on to the project with the promise that it would be a true collaboration with Ms. Miller.

“The property itself is a work of art, the vistas, the landscapes,” said Ms. Taucher. In her introduction to the event, Ms. Taucher explained the project: “Still Point is a place. It’s a canvas for Claudia Miller, and also an inspiration.”

After the initial guided tour, guests were invited to stroll along the property and revisit the four arenas where the performances were playing out in a continuous loop. Most took advantage of that opportunity, taking the time to stop, admire the art, immerse themselves in the surroundings, and enjoy a meditative, multisensory, self-guided experience.

“We designed it so that people could either re-experience it or check out other paths,” said Ms. Taucher.  “The audience really did become part of the event. The reception to the piece was great. I try to do the work and let the work talk to me, and if it’s well received, that’s a bonus.”

Ms. Miller concurred. “I wanted this to be as natural as possible,” she said. “To invite people to have an artistic experience in nature so that we, as humans, can interact with nature and be more cooperative than destructive. Through the arts we find harmony and I think that’s what we achieved. I was very happy to see [among the visitors] that there was curiosity and open mindedness.”

Friday’s guests, without exception, seemed to fully appreciate an experience that was as uniquely and indefinably magical as the Vineyard itself.

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Teo Azzollini, wearing a dress by designer Karen Trotier, at the Sandbar and Grill in 2013. —Photo by So Focused Photography

This is the time of year for a little pampering. Congratulate yourself for getting through another summer of traffic, parking woes, crowds, lines, and stressed-out tourists (it should be an oxymoron, but unfortunately, as we all know, it’s not).

Luckily, there’s an event coming up that will give folks the chance to dress to the nines, catch up with friends, enjoy a fun spectacle, and maybe even indulge in a new fall wardrobe purchase. Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week 2014 will feature events through September 20, all with the focus on creativity in the realm of personal style.

Model Zoe in a dress, belt, and hat by Kenworthy Design in 2013. — Photo by Geoff Parkhurst

Lest one think that Fashion Week is all fantasy and frippery with no substance, keep in mind that all of the proceeds go to a very worthy cause: Angel Flight Northeast, an organization that provides free flights to and from medical appointments for those in need. It’s a privately funded organization that serves a huge need for Island residents. The pilots are all volunteers who donate their time, fuel, and aircraft to the effort. While Angel Flight NE has operated for 18 years, they have served folks on Martha’s Vineyard somewhat under the radar.

M.V. Fashion Week, the brainchild of writer/editor Trena Morrison, was launched four years ago in an effort to raise funds and awareness for their beneficiary, and also to bring a little splash to the Vineyard off-season.

This year, the event has been reined in and streamlined considerably. The six days — Monday through Saturday — will include seven events in three towns. Fashion Week will feature three movie screenings, one trunk show, two runway fashion shows at Dreamland, and a sit-down dinner/fashion show. Monday through Wednesday will be devoted to fashion-centric movie screenings at the M.V. Film Center.

The gala event, An Elegant Affair, to be held at Lure on Thursday, Sept. 18, will please both gourmands and fashionistas. For $125, guests will be treated to a sumptuous sit-down dinner while previewing the latest fall fashions from two local designers as well as some of the Island’s premiere boutiques. The former include Stina Sayre, whose high-end line features great fabrics and simple lines with unique tailoring details. Ms. Sayre’s clothes are eminently wearable, yet eye-catching. And for the fourth year in a row, Kenworthy Designs will roll out its latest line. The mother/daughter team of Marlene diStefano and Randi Sylvia always manage to surprise audiences with their continually evolving line of hip, artistically rendered women’s clothing.

On Friday, Sept. 19, Fashion Week will take a turn for the casual with In the Company of Angels, a show at Dreamland featuring sportswear, Vineyard casual attire, and bathing suits from two different local designers. SeaLove Swimwear, which has been parading bikini-clad models since year one of Fashion Week, will be joined by new-to-the-fashion-scene designer Liane Fitzgerald of Roy Swim. Ms. Fitzgerald, who studied studio art in college, started up her line of two-piece suits last summer, and has been selling them at the Chilmark Flea Market. She was inspired to design her own suits during her nine years working at Lucy Vincent Beach. “I basically lived in bikinis,” says Ms. Fitzgerald. Last winter she took some classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and worked on expanding her sewing and design skills.

Another newcomer to Fashion Week will be featured in Saturday’s show. Lauren Morgan has only recently begun designing clothes, but has had a passion for fashion for a long time. Her new line draws inspiration from the Island landscape, as well as the Vineyard lifestyle. “I’m trying to create dresses that can go from day to night for women who want to dress smart. The looks are inspired by stone walls and the lichen that grows on them.” Ms. Morgan’s pieces are all made from linen and fine silk. She has workrooms lined up in New York City, giving her the ability to mass-produce her dresses. She hopes to find a Vineyard outlet for her beautiful and unique designs.

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Nate Vieira, Rachel Romanowsky, and Traeger DiPietro walks the finale for Mikel Hunter in 2013 at Union Chapel. —Photo by Geoff Parkhurst

Saturday’s benefit runway show will spotlight some trend-setting looks from local stores, including the boutique/art gallery Mikel Hunter (formerly PikNik Art & Apparel). Mr. Hunter always puts on a great show, and has an eye for pairing layers and accessories in fun ways. The grand finale will be provided by Karen Trotier of Menagerie. Ms. Trotier, a onetime Project Runway finalist, has a flair for drama, and you can certainly expect something fun and very cool from this highly creative designer who has been a star of Fashion Week since the first year.

In the days prior to Fashion Week, Ms. Trotier was still working on her line, but she did give a few hints as to what we can expect. “The show is based on shells and stuff from the sea,” she said. Stuff from the sea may include wampum and, surprisingly, horseshoe crab shells. A true nature lover and repurposer, Ms. Trotier says that she is also incorporating branches from her backyard sassafras tree to complement some 1940s print fabric. Appropriately in keeping with the “found on the Vineyard” theme, the designer also salvaged some of her yardage from the Chicken Alley Thrift Shop, and she will be recruiting a few local artists to help hand-paint — and model — a couple of menswear looks.

This year, once again, all the runway shows will feature professional models from Boston’s Dynasty Models, Inc., as well as locals. Music will be provided by DJ Pretty Ninja, and hair and makeup by SeaSpa Salon, Wavelengths, Maggie’s Salon, and Companhia de Belleza Salon. The two Dreamland shows will both feature a Chilmark Chocolate tasting bar, a photo booth with local photographer David Welch, and something new to Fashion Week: a vendor area where guests can purchase items like handcrafted jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, and skincare.

Fashion Week is unique and enjoyable — like a New York or Paris Fashion Week without the attitude. And it’s always just as interesting to see what the audience members have pulled out of their closets as it is to admire the runway looks.

An Elegant Affair dinner and fashion show: Thursday, Sept. 18, 6 pm, Lure at the Winnetu. Table of 4: $480; adult: $120. Includes dinner, tax, tip, and ticket to show. Does not include alcoholic beverages.

In the Company of Angels fashion show: Friday, Sept. 19, 8:30 pm, Dreamland, Oak Bluffs. VIP: $40; general seating: $20; general admission (sold at the door): $10.

2014 Fashion Show Benefit: Saturday, Sept. 20, 8:30 pm, Dreamland, Oak Bluffs. VIP: $40; general seating: $20; general admission (sold at the door): $10.

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Philip Weinstein will give a series of lectures on Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Illicit love affairs, bankruptcy, infidelity, intrigue, gambling debts, feuds, rivalries, spiritual seeking. Sound like a typical winter on the Vineyard? Well, anyone so inclined can spend the next three months immersed in this sort of melodrama — virtually at least — plus a good dose of real drama in the form of war with all of its violence, politics, and strategizing, by reading one of the greatest books ever written. It can all be found in the 1,000-plus pages of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “War and Peace,” the subject of a six-part seminar beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Professor Philip Weinstein of Swarthmore College and New York University has been lending his considerable knowledge and keen insight on the classics of literature to Islanders for the past few years. This fall he will lead readers through the monumental epic that is considered by many the greatest novel ever written.

With the summer season at a close, now is a great time to tackle such an undertaking. Perhaps you can get some reading time in while waiting for the fish to bite in the Derby. And fear not, the book will be broken down into manageable 200-page chunks with two weeks in between each of the hour-and-a-half lecture/discussions. Professor Weinstein encourages attendee participation, and even welcomes differences of opinion. He excels at engaging a group and presenting information in a colorful fashion with wit, humor, and intelligence.

Mr. Weinstein has selected Tolstoy’s masterpiece for his latest series of participatory talks for a number of reasons. “First, I adore it,” he says. “I’ve taught ‘War and Peace’ off and on for 30 years at Swarthmore. It’s what the 19th century realistic novel can produce at its best. My line of approach is, Let’s keep attention on why this is a successful 19th century novel. It has all the power of realistic Western fiction.”

Mr. Weinstein is convinced that once people get over the intimidation of reading a work of such length and breadth, with so many characters and storylines, they’ll find themselves enthralled.

“I get a lot of people who read it umpteen years ago.” he says. “I’m hoping they’ll get so caught up in it that they’ll keep going.”

“War and Peace”follows the lives of a series of characters during the Napoleonic era, switching back and forth from battlefields to war rooms to drawing rooms. The work is divided into four books, each with subparts. “It breaks down beautifully into six sessions,” says Professor Weinstein, “breaking at critical junctions at the end of each two sessions.”

The characters range from the sympathetic to the villainous, from historical figures to members of the aristocracy to simple peasants. “It’s such a powerful gathering together of human drama,” Mr. Weinstein says. “There’s a mix of the historical and the fictional that no one has ever replicated. He [Tolstoy] makes that come to life because of the people he puts into the story. He has the capacity as a writer to take you into a character’s experience. You live out their emotional and intellectual fields in such a way that you’re inside their head.”

Mr. Weinstein has been splitting his time between his homes in Aquinnah and Pennsylvania since 1997.

During the handful of times that he was on sabbatical, the Swarthmore professor has presented fall and winter workshops at various Vineyard libraries. In the past he has led participants through seminars on William Faulkner, William Styron, American short stories, and the fiction of race. The current workshop is presented by the Vineyard Haven Public Library at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

This year, Mr. Weinstein officially retired from his position as the Alexander Griswold

Cummins Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College, and he and his wife will now live full-time on the Vineyard, although he will continue to teach in Boston, New York, and elsewhere. Upcoming for Mr. Weinstein are a course for Swarthmore alums in Boston this fall and a stint teaching for NYU in Abu Dhabi next spring.

“I’m a teacher by calling,” says Mr. Weinstein. “It’s just something I have to do in order to recognize myself.”

It’s a lucky thing for us on the Vineyard that Mr. Weinstein has a need to keep busy. He’s an inspiring teacher whose workshops are rich with interesting background information and full of insightful evaluation and interpretation.

“Tolstoy’s Modern Epic: War and Peace” will be presented by the Vineyard Haven library at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Spring Street, Vineyard Haven. Classes will be held on Sept. 17, Oct.1, 15, and 29, Nov. 12, and Dec. 3, from 7 to 8:30 pm. The first session will cover Volume One, Parts One and Two. Professor Weinstein will be using the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of the book, which is available through the CLAMS library system. Please register online or at the Vineyard Haven library and read the assigned sections in advance.

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The new men's section at Bananas. Photo by Michael Cummo.

The down-Island towns may be known for their abundance of shops and restaurants, but it’s definitely worthwhile for all you “urban” dwellers in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown to make the drive up Island to check out a few unique boutiques in the other towns. Now is the time. Not only are a couple of these stores closing for the season soon, they all have great sales going on.

On the Cliffs

On the Cliffs is one of the Island’s best-kept secrets for those looking for great style as well as bargains. Adriana Ignacio, owner of Aquinnah’s On the Cliffs boutique (whose name is its location) has an eye for finding cool stuff at great prices. The tiny shop is packed with lots of fun and funky looks, as well as classic soft-as-cashmere ponchos, capes, and drapey sweaters from $30 to $68. If you prefer the real thing, there are Pia Rossini cashmeres for under $200.

The store also stocks a good selection of figure-shaping spandex leggings and more from a line called Lysee, which employee Sascha Wolodyka swears by. “I used to be a professional ice skater. I know my spandex,” she says.

While the fall looks are priced to sell, there’s also summer stock at an even better deal. The funky-chic Tsubo sandals are now 50% off. There’s a great selection of lighter-weight scarves on sale, and all of the jewelry is 30% off. The half-price rack out front holds lots of summer dresses, tops, and flowy lightweight pants. Check out the beautiful Dolma embroidered silk tunics ASAP. There’re only a few left, and at half off they’re going fast.

On the Cliffs also offers some of the best prices on Vineyard logo wear. Tees are now going for $9 to $12, heavyweight sweatshirts for $30. And, of course, given Ms. Ignacio’s great taste, the souvenir shirts all feature both high quality and stylish design.

Pandora’s Box

IMG_3370.jpgNo trip to Menemsha is complete without a stop at Pandora’s Box, at the top of Basin Road leading to the beach. One of the chicest boutiques on the Island, it has a vast selection of fall looks right now, including lots of cashmere and denim by Hudson Jeans, DL1961, and more. Some of the popular brands carried by Pandora’s include Free People, Johnny Was, Hard Tail, Odd Molly, Koch, and Margaret O’Leary, among others. There’re still a lot of summer looks left at 50% off, as well as shoes and boots (all 20% to 50% off) from Bed Stu, Lucky, Dr. Scholl’s, and Corkees.

The jewelry case includes a number of designs by local jewelers, including gold, brass, and leather looks from Ivry Russillo and Jenny Gaynor’s handblown glass pieces.

It’s worth stopping by Pandora’s just to check out some great skincare and fragrance lines. The boutique carries a variety of products by Tocca, and vegan organic oils made from healing herbs and flowers by Lotus Love Beauty. Pandora’s also stocks the hip Tokyo Milk brand whose current Dark line features fragrances named Bulletproof, Arsenic, and Tainted Love in blends like earth + moss, crushed herbs, wild grass and Jasmin or absinth, vanilla salt, cut greens and crushed fennel. The fragrances are unique, subtle, and downright delicious.

Bananas

When it comes to Vineyard fun and funky style, few people have the look nailed better than Judy Hartford, owner of Bananas on State Road in West Tisbury. The cozy former home is full of all the essentials for the look that can be described as boho chic with a flair for the feminine. Sort of Victorian meets street waif, meets prairie, meets gypsy. You get the idea. Well, maybe not. Best to see for yourself. Check out Bananas’ selection of dresses, skirts, tops, and pants, in high-quality fabrics, rich in texture and pattern. And bring the guys with you. Men now have a room of their own at Bananas, full of not only casually stylish sweaters, shirts, jackets, and more (from CP Shades, S. Moritz, etc.), but also lots of belts, wallets, and other accessories, and some of the coolest men’s shoes to be found on Island.

Which brings us to shoes. Bananas is known for its vast selection of shoes and boots for women, which all pair comfort with high style. Imagine a pair of heels or wedges in which you can actually chase down a runaway dog — or cow, or child — and you get the idea of what’s to be found at this West Tisbury gem of a store. Lines include Fly London, Trippen, Gentle Soles, Camper, Re-Mix, Gidigio, Softinos, and more. Summer shoes are all half off right now. Bananas’ current sale also includes summer and last year’s fall clothing from 30% to 50% off, and all jewelry is 20% off.

Go ahead, spend some of that hard-earned summer cash. You deserve something special for making it to the other side of the seasonal crunch.

On the Cliffs, 23 Aquinnah Circle, Aquinnah, is open through Columbus Day. Currently the store is open every day from 10 to 5, but check their Facebook page as the hours may change. 508-645-3660.

Pandora’s Box, 4 Basin Road, Chilmark, will be open through Columbus Day, every day from 11 to 5. 508-645-9696.

Bananas, 697 State Road, West Tisbury, is now open year round. Through Columbus Day they’ll be open every day from 10 to 6. Call ahead for days and hours after that. 508-696-5939.

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New York musician Garrett Manley performed at Salt this past Sunday. — Photo by Gwyn McAllister

In a cozy barn-like building lit by candles, a small crowd gathered on overstuffed couches, chairs, and rustic wooden benches to hear a lone musician play guitar, improvising a jazzy set, accompanied by the sound of chirping insects and a soft breeze from across the Lagoon.

It’s a scene reminiscent of a group of friends enjoying a casual get together, except that the backdrop is shelves of jeans and a few old rock posters — The Velvet Underground, John and Yoko — and the makeshift stage area is surrounded by racks of flannel shirts, vintage dresses, and shelves of boots and shoes.

The boutique Salt MV on Lagoon Pond Road in Vineyard Haven has hosted musical evenings since the beginning of August. Last Sunday’s entertainment was provided by jazz guitarist Garrett Manley of Brooklyn, N.Y.

This Thursday, Sept. 4, Lexie Roth is the featured entertainer. Ms. Roth has released three CDs of her own and has been featured on albums with Keith Richards, Slash, Steve Miller, Levon Helm, and her father, Arlen Roth, a famed guitarist, guitar teacher, and writer. Ms. Roth has performed in venues throughout the country including the Montauk Music Festival on Long Island. She will be joined at Salt by Maesa Pullman of California.

The funky shop, located by the entrance to Veterans Field, carries clothing, shoes, jewelry, and home décor items. It has been open, somewhat under the radar, for the past 15 years. This summer, owner John Zannini decided to increase hours and visibility to some extent. The store has been open since August and on occasional evenings the rustic space features live music.

Manager Sabra Saperstein, who took over the day-to-day operations earlier this summer, has been responsible for recruiting musicians. So far the lineup has been a mix of locals and friends of Ms. Saperstein from her off-season home of Brooklyn. “It’s been a great opportunity to have friends come and visit and get some beach time and play music,” she said.

It’s also provided a new spot for music lovers to check out performances in a quiet space that’s a far cry from the bar scene. The music tends towards neo folk — solo acts or duos – and the lofty space makes a great listening room, similar to that of The Pit Stop in Oak Bluffs, which closed a year and a half ago.

The season’s entertainment schedule kicked off with a guest DJ from New York on August 1. The first live performance was by local songstress Nina Violet, who brought on board a musician friend who was visiting from Australia. So far there have been about half a dozen shows featuring to mostly solo acts and groups who play around the New York area.

Last weekend’s musical evening featured jazz guitarist Garrett Manley, who plays regularly with New York groups and occasionally as a solo act in bars and clubs around Brooklyn. He played a number of impromptu arrangements of old jazz standards on a 1965 Gibson guitar with an amazing sound. The tall vaulted roof of the old wooden building with rough plank flooring provided excellent acoustics. People wandered in and out enjoying the cozy ambience and watermelon juice refreshments provided by the store, as well as the balmy evening breeze.

For those inclined to shop, there is plenty to browse through. The store carries a selection of reasonably priced vintage, including lots of old Levis, flannel shirts, and leather goods. Mr. Zannini, a designer who has worked variously for Ralph Lauren,Filson, and Vineyard Vines, has gathered a wide range of jeans, from the American made brand Wild Ass, which sell for $35, to some of the the higher end brands such as the hip Brooklyn Denim.

There are racks and a selection of shoes and boots including some used as well as some new boots from Filson. A counter display case holds a good selection of jewelry, a mix of old and new items from independent designers. There are beaded bracelets, interesting leather cuffs, and some wampum. The large center space is surrounded by unpainted indoor/outdoor statuary. Buddhas and other Eastern figures in a range of sizes are found resting on the floors and shelves and spilling out down the outside steps.

It’s an eclectic mix and a fun space to wander around. Browsers are always welcome. Check out the store during the daylight hours before the racks get pushed aside for evening performances. Or just drop in for a relaxed evening of music and socializing.

Salt MV is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm. Music with Lexie Roth and Maesa Pullman on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 8 pm. Free. BYO refreshments. For future music events, visit Salt MV’s Facebook page.

Curator and artist Margot Datz assembled all the pieces on display for the Take a Walk on the Wild Side exhibit. — Michael Cummo

A menagerie of critters currently occupies one section of the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown. The show is called Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Exploring the Fauna of the Island to which 25 artists contributed about an equal number of species. There are birds, beasts, insects and – of course, given our Island locale – lots of fish and other marine creatures.

Fish are a common theme in Old Sculpin's current show.
Fish are a common theme in Old Sculpin’s current show.

The Old Sculpin is the viewing space for the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA) and generally only members show their work there. This year, being the MVAA’s 60th anniversary, they have decided to open the gallery to outside artists for a couple of fundraising shows.

“We’re doing new things this season,” said gallery manager Jennifer Bottone. “We’re inviting non-members to participate.”

The current show includes work by an almost equal number of members as other artists. “I think there’s been a great response to these types of shows,” Ms. Bottone said. “Our membership energy has increased.”

Like the previous open-to-all-artists show — a Plein Air exhibit that hung in July — the event is a fundraiser for the MVAA scholarship fund. The association provides scholarships for both graduating high school seniors going on to college and to families who may not be able to afford the association’s summer kids’ art programs.

Artist and author Margot Datz juried the show and came up with the theme. “Were always celebrating seascapes and flowers and maritime traditions,” she said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to see all the different types of animals?”

The gallery sent out a call to artists early in August asking them to submit work featuring Island fauna — wild, domestic, or barnyard animals.

Ms. Datz contributed three pieces to the show. Each showcases a different dimension of the very talented artist’s range. A bejeweled bunny is a good example of the wit and whimsy that Ms. Datz is perhaps best known for. A  barn scene, viewed from the perspective of an owl in the rafters, has a great storybook feel. The third — a painting of a reclining calf — is a more straightforward, masterfully executed portrait.

Ms. Datz’s daughter, Scarlet Blair, also has a piece in the show — a charming profile head shot of a lab facing off with a rooster. Ms. Blair has clearly inherited her mother’s talent and sense of humor.

The larger pieces include two Gyotaku fish prints — a method similar to gravestone rubbing, using an actual fish. The two prints are huge, a testament to the two contributors’ fishing talents, as well as their artistic skills.

Edie Yoder has executed a lovely Chagall-like scene featuring a woman and a goat standing near a stream with what looks like a gypsy caravan in the background.

Some of the most appealing pieces include two little oil paintings of birds by Sharon McCann Daly, June Schoppe’s stylized depiction of swimming fish, a lovely ceramic of coral and sea plants by Jennifer Langhammer, and MB Thompson Dowlin’s vibrantly colored small oil of a  butterfly among flowers. “I usually do buildings and architecture,” said MVAA member Ms. Dowlin, commenting on her response to themed shows. “Sometimes artists like a challenge. They like a call. It offers a suggestion.”

Photographs include Louise Clough’s Not So Wild Turkeys, featuring the birds roosting on an outdoor deck, one of Benjamin McCormick’s fantastic underwater fish, and Harvey Beth’s extreme close-up of a feeding hummingbird.

Daisy Lifton, who creates beautiful works of art using a traditional Japanese ink and watercolor technique, chose an extinct species for her subject. She has managed to resurrect the bird that once flourished on the Vineyard with her ink wash depiction of a mated pair of heath hens.

Wild geese captured the imagination of two Island artists. Corinne Kenney created a wonderful oil portrait of a standing goose with wings outstretched, while Anna Finnerty’s lovely pastel titled Trapps Pond Waders shows the birds in a more relaxed moment.

Thomas Fane did a fun pen-and ink-sketch of a sheep while Meg Mercier contributed a pretty pastel farmyard scene with lambs.

Ms. Datz was pleased with the variety of media and subjects. “Our affection for these animals invited interpretation,” she said.

Ms. Datz was also happy to give lesser known artists a chance to exhibit. “There are people who aren’t affiliated with any other gallery that we might call amateurs but have this creative bent. The thing that’s really important is that this show was open to everyone. I could see it as something that attracted enough people to do it again.”

Take a Walk on the Wild Side runs through September 5. For more information, call 508-627-4881 or visit marthasvineyardartassociation.org.

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Photo courtesy The Martha's Vineyard Playhouse

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse winds up its season of Monday Night Specials (play readings featuring professional actors) with two new works. On Monday, Sept. 1, the Playhouse presents a comedy/drama by Avram Ludwig, movie producer (Swingers) and actor. The Same Boat will tread some familiar ground for Vineyard audiences as the action takes place on a sailboat headed to the Island. A staid Connecticut couple’s life is shaken up when a bohemian young woman enters the picture. The reading is at 7:30 pm at the M.V. Playhouse on Church Street in Vineyard Haven. Admission is $25.

Another work with a similar title — but very different subject matter — will be presented on Saturday, August 30 at 4 pm, also at the Playhouse, also $25. The Same Man compares the lives and work of two of our greatest contemporary authors — George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh. The play is written by attorney/author David M. Lebedoff and based on his critically acclaimed book of the same name. Mr. Lebedoff, a former treasurer of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, has written a number of other nonfiction books covering topics from partisan politics to the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Both plays will be followed by Q&As with the playwrights. For more information, call 508-696-6300 or visit mvplayhouse.org.

Lila'Angelique, left, and S. K. Thoth of Tribal Baroque perform at the Union Chapel on Sunday, August 31. — Dan Rubin

One of New York City’s most often witnessed and most talked-about performances is coming to the Vineyard this weekend. New York-based street performers S. K. Thoth and Lila’Angelique are known throughout the world for their unique brand of opera, though they tend to operate somewhat under the radar, so it’s only the lucky few who are in the right place at the right time who get to witness their colorful and emotionally charged act.

On Sunday, the two will present their very unique music and dance show Tribal Baroque at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs for one performance (or “prayformance,” as they refer to their concerts). The show is a Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater production.

It’s a bit challenging to describe exactly what Tribal Baroque is. To begin with, there are the costumes. Thoth has a look that’s both androgynous (he tends to wear a skirt or apron/loincloth) and a blend of ethnic elements. His shaved head and facial adornments suggest a Tibetan monk, but he also incorporates a number of other cultures in his look with extreme eye makeup, fur, silver jewelry, and other adornments. His look, like that of his partner and wife Lila’Angelique, changes from performance to performance. Lila is partial to pink and white, and in hair, makeup, and clothing and she favors feathers, flowers, and elaborately bejeweled facial art. While Thoth embodies sort of a savage virility, Lila is pure feminine with more than a touch of the Romantic era of periwigs and frills.

Despite what might be seen as an outlandish look, the husband and wife duo are very serious musicians and vocal technicians. Lila sings in a beautiful coloratura soprano voice. Thoth is an accomplished countertenor and classically trained violinist whose mother played timpani for the New York Philharmonic. Both performers play violin expertly while providing percussion through multiple rows of ankle bells.

The performances are mini operas based on a fable of Thoth’s own imagining. In his days as a solo act, Thoth created a country, language, and mythology around which he based a complex series of song and dance pieces. Lila joined him in 2009, adding another element and a great deal of depth to the story and performance.

“It’s changed everything,” Lila said of their collaboration in a recent Skype interview. Thoth had his own energy — the male. Now it’s very much yin and yang with both of us both feeding off each other. There’s a lot more energy to work with. The performance is more fleshed out.”

The music is unusual for its invented language, but the compositions are classically structured and quite beautiful and very rhythmic. The music incorporates classical sensibilities and elements from a number of ethnicities including gypsy and other folk music and chanting that resembles both the Gregorian and the muezzin call to worship. It’s a fascinating mix that somehow works really well and highlights the two disparate and equally virtuosic vocalists.  Despite the language barrier it’s easy to absorb the themes of yearning, devotion, love, and valor, the basis of any great opera — or myth, for that matter.

In 2002, before Lila and Thoth had joined forces, filmmaker Sarah Kernochan made a documentary about Thoth that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. Ms. Kernochan, who has written a number of screenplays and won two Oscars, spends her summers at her home in Edgartown.

Thoth and Ms. Kernochan have maintained a friendship ever since the making of the film. During the Skype interview, Thoth said, “We’re really good friends. We’ve kept in touch over the years and got closer in fact after the film.” Thoth explained that he has some issues around trust and added, “She’s one of my only friends.”

Ms. Kernochan discovered Thoth at his regular haunt, the vaulted Angel Tunnel in New York City’s Central Park. That is still the couple’s preferred street performance space. Tribal Baroque “prayforms” up to five times a week, although they try to do no more in order to give their much strained voices a break.

“We perform all over the world,” said Lila. “We just performed on the Royal Mile [in Edinburgh] for a couple of months. We went to Amsterdam and performed outdoors at the Rijksmuseum.” The couple arrives straight from an extended European tour when they appear here. After this show they will return to New York City.

Although they rarely perform by invitation, the members of Tribal Baroque are often approached during their informal shows and recruited to appear at venues or private parties. Joe Ashcroft and Mollie Whalen of Vineyard Haven chanced upon a performance in San Diego and arranged, through Wendy Taucher, to bring the couple to the Vineyard.

Interestingly, both Thoth and Lila’Angelique have Island connections. He visited the Island with his mother once while his mother was touring with the musical “Showboat.” He recalls having a small part in that show and even remembers his one line. Lila’s mother’s godfather was the late author William Styron, who spent summers here. She hopes to have the chance to meet Styron’s widow Rose, who she last saw when she was a child.

The Tribal Baroque show is sure to prove one of the more unusual events of the summer season. But, surprisingly, the group’s appeal seems to be universal as witnessed by the variety — from hipsters to Park Avenue matrons — among the spectators who tend to stick around enthralled by the duo’s street appearances.

Musicians and music lovers will enjoy the original compositions and virtuosity of the players. Others will appreciate the spectacle as much as the stories and the music.

Thoth and Lila will be on hand at a reception at the A Gallery in Oak Bluffs following the performance.

Tribal Baroque performance, Sunday, August 31, 6 pm, Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. $25; $20 general in advance; $50 front row in advance. Meet the Performers reception follows at A Gallery. For more information and tickets, visit wendytaucherdanceoperatheater.com or call 646-872-7249.

Aparna Ramaswamy of the Ragamala Dance Company performed at The Yard last weekend. Photo by Sally Cohn — Sally Cohn

Like a Hindu goddess come to life, Aparna Ramaswamy of the Ragamala Dance Company enchanted a sold-out house at The Yard this past Saturday night. In two weekend performances, the master of Bharatanatyam dance presented four intricate dances each with a different theme — the Divine Feminine, the Ganges River, a love poem, and a celebration of life.

Dressed in traditional costume comprising a sort of sari/pants/pleated skirt combination, with a jeweled headdress, belled ankle cuffs, and eyes made up in an exaggerated cat eye style, Ms. Ramaswamy expertly combined a series of statuesque poses with fluid dance moves and mimed actions. Accompanied by a singer, a chanter, and two musicians (all female), the accomplished dancer utilized every part of her body — from her eyes, head, and neck to her very supple fingers — to achieve a program that was in equal parts a spectacular display of dance and a very moving and spiritual experience.

Ms. Ramaswamy, along with her mother and co-choreographer Ranee, her musical accompanists, and a small troupe of dancers were in residency at The Yard in Chilmark for two weeks before presenting their work Sannidhi (Sacred Space) to the public on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Aparna Ramaswamy.
Aparna Ramaswamy. Photo by Sally Cohn

The Minneapolis based Ragamala Dance Company was founded by Ranee Ramaswamy in 1992. The mother and daughter are co-artistic directors and choreographers. Their work has been performed at venues all over the world and they have received commissions from a number of prestigious organizations including, most recently, Lincoln Center Out of Doors.

The New York Times gave a rave review to that performance of Ragamala’s Song of the Jasmine, which featured five dancers in a music/dance collaboration, calling it, “a soulful, imaginative and rhythmically contagious collaboration with the superb jazz composer and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa.”

Bharatanatyam is a classical form of Indian dance that dates back to ancient times when it was performed as a form of devotion to the gods in the Hindu temples. Since enjoying a revival in the 19th and 20th centuries, Bharatanatyam has become very popular throughout India and elsewhere. The music — called Carnatic music — is an integral part of the dance. As the younger Ms. Ramaswamy explained in a Q&A after Saturday evening’s performance, the Ragamala musicians work very closely with the choreography team in creating the dances. Bharatanatyam is said to be the embodiment of music in visual form.

The musicians, who also performed an intro and an interlude unaccompanied by dance, were fascinating to watch. Sitting on the floor to the side of the stage, along with Ranee who at times read from classical Indian poetry and chanted, were vocalist Ramya Sunderesan Kapadia and sisters Anjna (violin) and Rajna (percussion) Swaminathan. Both highly skilled, the sisters improvised a good deal, demonstrating both their prowess and the level of connectedness they have attained in the years spent performing together.

Ms. Ramaswamy stressed the amount of training that each of the members has gone through. Although the younger troupe members, including Aparna, were born in the U.S., they have all spent years studying under masters in India.

“Each of us comes from a very well known, well respected teacher in India,” said Ms. Ramaswamy. She and her mother both studied under one of the world’s greatest living Bharatanatyam dancers.

However, as Ms. Ramaswamy explained to the Saturday audience in a knowledgeable and articulate manner, the Ragamala dancer’s work is very much a product of the member’s experience living in this country as well as their roots in India.

According to the Ragamala website (ragamaladance.org), “We draw from the myth and spirituality of our South Indian heritage to make dance landscapes that dwell in opposition — secular and spiritual life, inner and outer worlds, human and natural concerns, rhythm and stillness — to find the transcendence that lies in between. Together we craft every moment to create intricate and complex worlds that convey a sense of reverence, of unfolding mystery, of universal celebration.”

The quartet of dances enjoyed by Yard audiences last weekend were both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally gratifying. There was something mesmerizing about watching the fluid movements and marveling at Ms. Ramaswamy’s grace and strength that provided a soothing, meditative experience. Although the lyrics would have been unintelligible to most Western audiences, the poems were read by Ranee in English and the stories and themes of each dance were obvious. In particular, the dance that dealt with the relationship that Indians enjoy with the sacred river, the Ganges, was very literate and beautiful as Ms. Ramaswamy used her expressive hand movements and postures to full effect.

Both informative and exhilarating to watch, the Ragamala performances were a great example of the spectrum of dance that The Yard brings to Vineyard audiences every summer.

“This summer we’ve had an overarching theme of artists who have clearly dedicated themselves to the past but are not trapped by the past,” said David White, in his introduction to Saturday’s performance.

After the performance, Mr. White said that he hopes to have a continuing relationship with the Ragamala dance troupe.