Authors Posts by Holly Nadler

Holly Nadler

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Michael Eudenback’s new CD brings the waves to your bedroom.

It is universally acknowledged that everybody loves the sound of ocean waves. Well, almost everyone. Back in the ’70s I heard about an individual — she happened to be a celebrity — who was rattled by the boom of big waves outside and even underneath her newly purchased house built on pilings over the Pacific Ocean. Lying awake at night in the Malibu Colony, pop singer Linda Ronstadt worked herself into a state of nervous exhaustion from the jolting breakers, so much so that she built a bunker out back on terra firma, with soundproofing panels to enable her to sleep through both “surf’s up”-size waves and nuclear war.

But apart from Ms. Ronstadt, seemingly everyone in the world is soothed by the sound of waves. Which brings us to the latest project of photographer Michael Eudenback, formerly of West Tisbury and now in Newport, R.I. Mr. Eudenback loves to film our beaches, but a few years back he realized another dimension of the ocean beguiled him utterly.

He’d been stressed out and losing sleep. In a recent phone interview with The Times he said, “I was consulting doctors about insomnia. Nothing seemed to help.”

He had no interest in medicating himself silly (as some of us do). And then one afternoon on Lambert’s Cove Beach, after snapping a number of gorgeous shots, he stretched out on the warm sand and fell asleep. His last thought before a nice restorative snooze was, “Man, those waves are soporific.”

He returned to Lambert’s Cove with a recorder, and soon he was able to take the waves home with him: “It was transformational. Night after night the sounds from the shore lulled me to sleep.”

Pretty soon Mr. Eudenback was a man on a mission. He recorded the heavy surf of South Beach (where Linda Ronstadt should never buy a home), and the softer waves of West Chop, Lucy Vincent, and Gay Head. The quality of the sound of the CD Mr. Eudenback has produced from these recordings, Ocean Sounds of Martha’s Vineyard, is so clean and pure that at a first listen one might wonder, “How the heck did he bring the beaches into a studio?”

Mr. Eudenback says he took every natural precaution to derive unsullied sound. “I recorded in the off-season, went out very early in the morning, and then I found tricks to deal with the wind” (which can, apparently, really ruin the track). He scanned weather reports. For thunderous surf recordings he raced to south-facing beaches in the aftermath of storms. For gentler tides, he strove to capture the wave action in one continuous track. Should a jet fly over, he sighed heavily, then started again. This is not an art form for the impatient.

Mr. Eudenback, who is also a sailboat captain, met his future wife, painter Jessica Pisano, when she worked a few years ago at her father and stepmother’s Belushi Pisano Gallery on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. Michael and Jessica married in 2009 at the Whaling Church, and while they reside in Middletown — near Newport — in Rhode Island, they’re often on the Island for visits with family. And of course beaches.

Also a photographer, Mr. Eudenback has exhibited his photographs at the Dragonfly and Belushi Pisano galleries, and currently in Cohasset and Chatham. Ms. Pisano has a show coming up of her paintings this August at the Field Gallery in West Tisbury.

Meanwhile, Mr. Eudenback’s CD of Ocean Sounds beckons to the impulse buyer with one of his photos of South Beach: It’s a lyrically blue, lacy white, and gold day: gold for the sand, lacy white for the frothy wavelets, pale turquoise for the close-in shallows, indigo blue for the Atlantic Ocean, and a flag-blue sky that informs all the colors below.

Mr. Eudenback said in a recent phone interview that the recordings are aimed at yoga practitioners who normally groove to the sounds of nature, as surround sound for surfers (“They turn it up high!”) when they’re trapped indoors, and as background feed for anyone far from this beloved Island who needs a tune-up from its wonders. But principally, it’s a tool for sleep.

The time had come for this reporter to test out the sleep dynamics of the Ocean Sounds CD. I happen to be an insomniac of epic proportions. Even as a small child, I often lay awake in bed watching the ruffling lights of far-away cars on my ceiling. When I complained to my mother that I rarely slept, she said, “Resting is just as healthful as sleeping.” OK, so I’ve spent my life resting.

I plugged in my CD player near the bed, turned Ocean Sounds on low (in case Linda Ronstadt dropped by for a late-night chat), put on my jammies and crawled under the covers with a book.

The sounds of the softly licking waves — the first 11-minute cut is from West Chop — includes ever-so-nuanced gurgles of water, almost like a fountain, only even sweeter. I read a few pages from the book, sinking deeply, hypnotically into a mound of pillows. I was out in no time, with no recollection of setting the novel aside or of turning out the light.

I slept through the night without waking up once: a new personal best. This works, my fellow and sister insomniacs. I intend to buy a few more copies of Mr. Eudenback’s CD before supplies run out. Look for them in the bookstores and assorted gift shops on the Island. The CD can also be purchased on eBay, Amazon and iTunes, and from theoceansounds.com.

And you know who else should stock them? Physicians, both allopathic and naturopathic, that’s who.

 

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Island Theater Workshop knocks out a fun new mix of one-acts

The smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd arrived last weekend for a three-day run with the One Act Play Festival at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. The buffet was as fresh and variously inflected as a Brooklyn potluck supper.

Is It Me? by playwright Tony Devaney Morinelli, deftly directed by Leslie Stark, presents Margaret (Molly Chvatal) and Louisa (Alyssa Langill), seated side by side for no immediately apparent reason. Are they part of what’s known in the theater world as a “cattle call”? Awaiting a flunky at their local unemployment office? At first they speak to themselves in cartoon thought bubbles. “Something smells odd,” muses one of them. In fact, they’re both confused, insecure, and then outright phobic about odors in their vicinity. Fear of bodily smell — underarm? foot sweat? — pervades their thought processes. Thought turns to small talk: insincere, yet incisively probing for the source of that hair-raising aroma. In the end, their neuroses cause them both to panic and flee.

The second short, directed by Lee Fierro, was worth the price of admission — and the travel in bitter cold weather — to see actor George Ricci, whom Island Theatre Workshop (ITW) board president Stephanie Burke described in a pre-curtains-up phone interview as “a juicy actor” in this one-act by the inimitable Anton Chekhov: On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco (interesting that this subject was already afloat back in the Imperial Russia of 1886). A pompous, preposterous, sad sack of a man, Ivan Ivanovich Nyukhin, prepares to lecture a group of “ladies and gentlemen,” and yet confides that he’s “no professor” and “not exactly a scholar.” It turns out his wealthy wife, who runs a girls’ boarding school of questionable propriety, and who stashes away tens of thousands of rubles, leaving poor Ivanovich with “not even a kopek!” has dropped him off to be rid of him for a while. Not a single sentence of poor Ivanovich’s is a sequitur of the last, and yet he lets slide that his wife addresses him as “dummy!” while he describes her as “miserly and hellish!” Ah, marriage in the 19th century Chekhovian style.

The First Fireworks by Alex Broun, directed by Kevin Ryan, grabs our attention as Mom (Felicity Russell), in a torn hospital gown, claws her way onto a bench. She’s joined by daughter Helen (Christine Ferrone), dripping in glam evening wear; she’s been summoned to find her runaway, dying mother. She knows this is Mom’s special spot from the New Year’s Eve of 30 years before, when Helen was 8 and Mom first brought her here to watch the fireworks. An entire family saga is decanted in this short, tender play, with a memorable La Pieta scene out: Rather than mother holding in her lap a dying divine son, a daughter supports her parent.

She’s Fabulous by Jack Neary, directed with panache by Kevin Ryan, lands us in the intermission break from Death of a Salesman — a clever program placement as it precedes this ITW docket’s own intermission — as two actresses, Clarice (Linda Comstock) and Bethel (Melissa Keeler), dissect the role for which they themselves had auditioned mightily. To their intense dismay, the onstage actress is peerless, unassailable — a Meryl Streep comes to mind. They can’t stop gnashing their teeth at her wonderfulness, yet at the same time ruining the hard work they themselves brought to bear on their own auditions. As the day follows the night in theater jealousies, they fall to attacking each other, Clarice chuffing Bethel for her turn in Lost in Yonkers. Her hard work had showed all too clearly: “You were a thespian jackhammer!” And yet the lights dim and the second act threatens, as they resign themselves to their invidious admiration of the one who won the part.

Trifles, written by Susan Glaspell and directed by Lee Fierro, is a time machine to a faraway, archaic setting. In a Nebraska farmhouse, the frozen plains steep into the sad, shabby interior. Only the day before, a farmer (Jim Osborn) had dropped by to see if Mr. Wright might partake in a party phone line. He found Mrs. Wright in her rocking chair: “She looked queer.” Without any apparent emotion, she informed him Mr. Wright was dead upstairs, strangled by a rope. The action unfolds the following morning, as a hotshot investigator (Tim Daniels) with a local law enforcer (George Ricci) questions the farmer who found the body, then proceeds upstairs to hunt for clues. In the meantime, two farmwives (Lee Fierro and Stephanie Burke) assemble the homey details — the ruined fruit and the single jar of cherry preserves, the pieces of quilting never joined, an empty birdcage and a throttled canary — as the crime is solved by their women’s intuition. A nascent feminism is born in that gloomy Nebraska homestead.

The final offering, Pillow, cleverly directed by Kevin Ryan, presents Wilma, a woman in a bathrobe over plain pajamas (Corinne DeLangavant), as she answers the call of her friend Janice, in a silk robe over a negligee (Corinne Kurtz), in the aftermath of a one-night stand. The fix-up had been arranged by Wilma and botched by Janice, who reveals that her significantly — an unappetizingly — older, wealthy blind date is dead in bed upstairs. The manner in which Janice managed, involuntarily and yet cavalierly, to kill him could elevate Fifty Shades of Grey into the PG category.

Stephanie Burke pitched in as assistant director, longtime ITWers Brad Austin and Gwen Mead as stage managers. The One Act Play Festival continues this weekend, on Friday, March 27, and Saturday, March 28, at 7:30 pm, with a matinee on Sunday, March 29, at 3 pm. Tickets are $15 for one, or $25 for two, recommended for adults only. Tickets are available at the door; for additional information call 508-627-2456 or 508-737-8550.

This summer, watch for work from ITW Children’s Theater, and a promised production of The King And I, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr (kidding, of course: We’ll see which ITW players haul out star turns for this beloved musical).

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Tim Daniels as the farmer in Trifles. That role is played by Jim Osborn, whose last name was incorrectly spelled Osborne. Tim Daniels and not Mr. Osborn played the hotshot investigator.

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A little (more than a little) rain didn’t dampen the wearing of the green.

Updated March 18 at 5:30pm

When parents of little kids looked out their windows this past Saturday morning, in anticipation of taking the tykes to the Edgartown St. Paddy’s Day bash, many of them may have turned to their spouses, kids, and even their indolent pets sprawled against the pillows, and declared, “Let’s sleep in today!”

The situation was this: The rain was steady and unending, turning the sky, bare trees, and ground a still more determined steel grey. Our landscape resembled a typical day in Ireland, host country of this special celebration. So the question became, would anybody show up?

But show up they did. Not in the usual crowd-mania amounts, but enough to make this the happy event it’s been in all four years of operation. The event is hosted by the Kelley House in Edgartown, and hotel manager John Robert Hill was pleased that troopers of all ages turned out for the gala that starts with a mercifully brief parade at the Edgartown wharf.

Mr. Hill and assistant manager Robyn Joubert led the gathering at opposite ends of a giant wooden nickel on wheels — wooden nickel as in “never take one.” In past years, attending families have brought along their collies, labs, spaniels, and cockapoos in green ribbons, green cockade hats, and green plaid vests. On this rainy day, however, pooches were wisely left at home, but plenty of tykes turned out, and since when have kids ever felt inconvenienced by wet weather?

Inside the original restaurant, now the dual-level entertainment space of the Kelley House, the full splendor of the event unrolled. Every table held a complement of artwork, including green paint and ornaments to be decorated, which this reporter mistook for cookies until she bit into one and found it strangely salty and inedible.

Staffer Elizabeth Rothwell passed out strands of green beads. Ms. Rothwell reckoned more than 50 kids had shown up, a goodly amount to party hearty, kindergarten-style. On the varnished dance floor, D.J. Shizz (a.k.a. Mona Rosenthal) sat at her computer blaring out her special mix of “Family Dance-a-Rama.” A flock of wee ones took the music and the unobstructed floor as an opportunity to run, jump, crawl, and snatch at green, orange, and white balloons, but one illustrious 3 year-old, Demyen, in green pants and yellow boots, snapped out his legs and boogie-woogied his head in a style that suggested he’ll be a future Macklemore.

The grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Parade and Party, John Murray of Edgartown, presided in a green cap and a gold-and-white vestment. Mr. Murray, whose Dublin accent lends credibility to his annual role, leads the parade every year, accompanied by his now 11-year-old son, Ryan, looking his part in a green bow tie with green suspenders. The grand marshall says that back in the Old Country, St. Paddy’s Day was customarily more solemn and church-oriented, although nowadays they’ve picked up the festive vibe from America, and the parades are much goofier, and the iconic pints consumed in greater numbers: “The holiday is always marked by a traditional meal of ham and cabbage — here it’s corned beef and cabbage.”

Meanwhile, at nearby tables, Grace, 9, Caroline, 8, and Sarah, 4, visiting from Cambridge, and lucky enough to have a granny in Edgartown, worked to paint green ornaments on white paper plates. Sarah looked classically Irish in a pale green and white polka-dot frock, her blond locks held high in pigtails. Moon-faced and bright-eyed 19-month-old Juniper strolled by, decked out in a tricolor green-orange-white tee designed by her auntie’s company, New Jersey Knits.

The most striking — unofficial — award for St. Patrick’s attire goes to 7-year-old Nova of West Tisbury, whose mom, Amelia, found a wig of emerald-green tinsel in a trunk from her Irish grandma. Meanwhile, roving lights in the same green, orange, and white Irish trifecta played across walls and children’s costumes. Pinatas in the shape of shamrocks were thwacked by lines of kiddos, some of them too young to render more than a slight tap, others sending showers of goodies to the floor, and in turn inviting youngsters to fall on the booty with shrieks of joy.

A more sedate grownup event was on offer in the Kelley House lobby, involving tea and coffee and cookies. But what about the bursting shamrocks and disco-decibel dancing demons? Uh, no. The fun was here with the young lads and lasses.

A St. Patrick’s Day celebration would not be complete without a brief historical footnote: No, the shamrock-bearing 5th century preacher did not, in fact, rid Ireland of snakes after a 40-day fast on a high hilltop, for the simple fact is — according to naturalists, and what do they know? — that the post-glacial Emerald Isle never did provide habitat to snakes. Also, ironically, St. Pat has never been officially canonized by a pope. Sixteen centuries of veneration by hundreds of millions of Irish people — including Irish people and friends of Irish people gathered at the Kelley House — confer a sainthood of their own.

 

International Women’s Day is celebrated at Chilmark Tavern.

The Yard's Jesse Keller spun and leaped to the music of Phil DaRosa. – Photo by Michael Cummo

International Women’s Day is one of those holidays that slips right past us without anyone much noticing (and it has slipped: It took place last Sunday, overshadowed by Daylight Savings, an event that leaves us dazed and grateful). But it was celebrated to a fare-thee-well at the Chilmark Tavern on Saturday night.

Anyone who lives here year-round, and who pursues the arts — either as artist or audience member or both — is aware that up in the dark and winter-icy reaches of Chilmark, the lights are on at the tavern. Two or three evenings a week, one may shuffle in from the cold, grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea, a plate of cheese and crackers, sit at one of the linen-draped tables, and be thoroughly entertained by a winter program of the arts — mixed and shaken and stirred — called Pathways.

The host and modern-day Gertrude Stein, Marianne Goldberg, chose last Saturday to celebrate International Women’s Day with the call-to-arms of “Making Art/Enacting Change.” Under the stunning high rafters of the tavern, the emcee of the event, Brit-born Natasha Taylor, read an essay that answered once and for all — or so she hoped — the question that constantly confronts her: “How Did You End Up Here?”

Ms. Taylor’s humor is of the ribald, smashing, hilarious variety, and she started off her musings with tales of her early single-mom days in London, wondering when her infants would “bugger off to college” so she could pack a suitcase and take a trip.

Next up appeared Pathways regular, the young, blithe dancer and choreographer Jesse Keller, with a short bristle mop of red hair, red leggings, and tank top, accompanied by singer and composer Phil DaRosa on acoustic guitar. Mr. DaRosa sang of lost love while Ms. Keller spun and leaped in the concise space ringed by tavern tables.

Elegant dancer Christina Montoya, her work compromised by scoliosis, produced a video of her extraordinary back — bare, feminine, muscled, embellished with a hennaed snake — as the dancer moved sinuous and slow, the camera caught between the figure and changing rays of light, with words of the artist invoking what Ms. Montoya describes as “Snake Medicine.”

Pathways founder Marianne Goldberg hosted the event, titled "Making Art/Enacting Change.” – Photo by Michael Cummo
Pathways founder Marianne Goldberg hosted the event, titled “Making Art/Enacting Change.” – Photo by Michael Cummo

Ms. Goldberg rose from her seat and invited revelers to look up — way up — to the human-length portraits hung on high and snapped by photographer Paul Lazes of half-a-dozen women artists in our midst, including Nancy Aronie of the Chilmark Writing Workshop, clad in jeans, her fists braced in benevolent attitude on her hips, and director Wendy Taucher, recognizable even covered in a heavy down jacket, cap, and dark shades.

Next up came Caroline Curry, sharing three short poems, the last about “princes” who are anything but. Susan Puicil of Cleveland House Poets shared three of her own aperçus, the most striking about childbirth: “All seams burst and you will never be the same.”

Gwyn McAllister also decanted three poems, brash and hilarious, including one about adopting a cat, as she admits outright, “I hate him,” until at last she confides, “He hates me.” Next came Sian Williams with two poems, one titled “Canned Heat,” the other, “Year-Round Island Girl,” so sharp and searing and forthright that one could hear, as she finished, a collective groan of recognition.

Singers and composers Rose Guerin and Jemima James changed up the energy as they each sang a song, swapping a single guitar. Ms. James provided a verbal prologue to her offering: A few months back she noticed a full moon which she learned had the unusual nomenclature “Beaver Moon.” She then proceeded to compose a song about it. She sings with a wise-woman voice, and her flair for words reminds those who happen to know this about her: she’s a descendant of the James family, as in William and Henry. Together Ms. James and Ms. Guerin, with a high and low vocal range, gave voice to that old mountain folksong and stern warning to young girls, to spurn that married man who offers to carry them “across the blue mountains to the Allegheny.”

Teen poet of great precociousness, Claudia Taylor read new work in which she plays with a construct of reverse words, so that girlhood changes to hood girl, shockwaves to wave shock, fireworks to work fire, and so on. As always, she impresses mightily, and we look forward to the time when we’ll be able to say we were part of the village that raised her (as did her mom, Ms. Taylor, whose other daughter, Paige, is also an emergent poet).

Musician Phil DaRosa performed throughout the evening on acoustic guitar. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Musician Phil DaRosa performed throughout the evening on acoustic guitar. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Gabriella Grecco, with a Broadway background and a passion for the music of Judy Garland, introduced her video-in-progress tracking the album, also in progress, of her singing Garland standards. Next on deck was Ellie Bates with another trio of poems, one a new take on Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Ms. Bates contradicts the belle of Amherst with “hope is not that thing with feathers,” but we’d like to think both poets make a strong case.

Last up was musician Kim Hilliard, who led with a song that beautifully summed up the evening, “When I Was a Boy” by Dar Williams, a meditation of that time in childhood when we’re not one gender or another but simply pure being, pure awareness, a bicycle-riding, fastball-pitching child of nature.

Perhaps the most special part of the evening — even above and beyond the striking talent on display — was the fact that men made up nearly half the audience of 82 people (headcount provided by the indefatigable production manager Scott Crawford). And these weren’t poor sad sacks dragged to the event by the females on stage, but rather many of the usual suspects who turn up at Pathways on cold winter nights, sometimes themselves reading, performing, and sharing videos.

These days, with law schools and med schools packed with more girls than boys, surely all the arts draw similar demographics. The day will come when there’ll be no more need for an International Women’s Day, because all the other 364 days of the year bring men and women in equal proportions to our attention, as each in turn takes the stage.

Next at Pathways: Thursday, March 12, at 6:30 pm, “Digital Visions/Creating Realities,” and on Tuesday, March 17, at 6:30 pm, “Playwrights Read.” All events free and open to the public.

An evening of comedy welcomes Boston comics back to the Island.

Local MCs Dan Cassidy, left, and John Tiernan (a.k.a. Johnny Showtime), right, will host a comedy-driven trivia contest. – Photo courtesy of Harbor View Hotel

Nothing moves on the roads, and yet far in the distance we see lights amid the frozen tundra. Villagers gather and laughter rings out. Is this a scene from Beowulf? On the contrary, it’s happening at least 12 centuries later — in fact, this Friday night, Feb. 27, at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown: It’s the (almost) annual Evening of Comedy to blast us out of our frigid-season lethargy.

The regional director of marketing for the hotel, Elizabeth Rothwell (also dear to our hearts as a graduate of MVRHS, class of ’97), first organized this event in the winter of 2012, then again in 2013. Busy with other happenings, she skipped the show in 2014, only to have avid fans clamor for a comeback.

To book the event’s trio of Boston comics, Ms. Rothwell turns to Dick and Kathy Doherty of Beantown Comedy, with two clubs, one in Boston, the other in Worcester. For decades Boston has been known for more than its tales of Paul Revere and bowls of clam “chowdah.” The town’s funnymen (and hilarious women, of course) have created a special niche for their homegrown humor: Brash, rowdy, and innovative are words commonly used to describe their style.

Boston comedian Fran Solomita devoted a full documentary to the subject, When Stand Up Stood Out. He attributes the iconic humor to a melting pot of intelligent and gritty working-class youth up against the hip college crowd: “Those two things right next to each other created an odd vibe — really smart people who also understand a dollar earned. The comedy just sort of percolated.”

Mr. Solomita referred to what are considered the glory days of Boston comedy, the ’80s and ’90s, but clearly the continuing success of comedy clubs in the metropolis and surrounding areas — including ours in Edgartown this Friday night — lets us know that Boston humor as an industry is alive and well.

Ms. Doherty of Beantown Comedy told The Times by phone this week, “Although there are fewer comedy clubs in Boston, there are just as many people going to the shows. The quality of Boston comedy remains elite at a national level.”

The Harbor View evening spotlights Orlando Baxter, a finalist in NBC’s Stand Up For Diversity Showcase; Amy Tee, who, according to Beantown Comedy’s press release, “brings boyish charm and dry wit to her experiences with alcoholism and bipolar disorder with stigma-bursting honesty”; and Shaun Bedgood, who was featured in a Boston Globe article in 2005 as “one of Boston’s best young comics.”

The main show starts at 9 pm this Friday, but for Islanders keen to clear out of their cold dark houses earlier, a new warm-up portion of the show has been added to the program. Island merrymakers Dan Cassidy, maestro for years of weekly trivia night at the Wharf, and local hotelier and entertainer Johnny Showtime (John Tiernan), the master of revels behind the Wharf’s bingo nights (“Not your grandma’s bingo night,” he calls it), will be putting together, for Vineyarders’ delectation, a comedy-driven trivia contest. (The Wharf is closed for cleaning this month, and Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Tiernan are aware of trivia addicts dying a slow death everywhere on the Island. Knowing themselves to be arguably the sole delivery system at this time of year, they’re rushing to fill the void.)

Mr. Tiernan, reached by phone this week said, “I’m not a comedian.” Then he paused for a second before adding, “But I’m very funny!” He maintains that his goal in life has always been to work as a concierge in a hotel. Not too long ago, longtime hotelier Caleb Caldwell approached him about buying the Dockside Inn together, on the harbor in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Tiernan confided, “So now I’m a concierge, all right. With a mortgage.” His dream is real, however, as in the summer he jokes and chats with his guests all the livelong day.

Tickets for Friday’s events are priced at $25. Admission along with a prix-fixe meal in the luxe and cheerful dining room of the Water Street Restaurant within the hotel is $55. For those wishing to attend without dinner, drinks and a snacks menu will be available.

Ms. Rothwell, sailing into her 11th season at the Harbor View, is pleased to see how well her open-seating arrangement has worked out for the show: “People find themselves at tables with interesting strangers or folks they haven’t seen all winter. There’s a fun meet-and-greet aspect to the evening.”

As a final memo to our communal mental health at the end of this long winter: We’re constantly exhorted to “live, laugh, and love,” and if we had to choose just one of those three activities, we’d probably, in all honesty, go for “laugh,” which in turn makes the living and loving mo’ better. Or mo’ “bettah!” as Boston comics would say.

Tickets for Friday night’s Evening of Comedy are available by calling 508-627-7000, or online at hvcomedy-show.brownpapertickets.com. Event is 18-plus.

Does the lack of a sweetie have to mean the end of the world?

Who needs a man on Valentine's Day, when Huxley's around for company? – Photo by Michael Cummo

We need a “bah humbug!” exhortation for Valentine’s Day. The minute New Year’s Eve celebrations have ended — yes, another mental toe-stub for the singles among us — retailers churn out Valentine’s ads for diamonds, chocolates, and sickeningly cute gifts, all to be given and received by a partner. And not just any partner. No, a swooning-with-love partner.

Holly bought a candle and card for herself at Sanctuary in Oak Bluffs on Valentine's Day.
Holly bought a candle and card for herself at Sanctuary in Oak Bluffs on Valentine’s Day.

Well, heck, we’ve all had those. We’ve been those. But for those of us who find ourselves shy a plus-one on Valentine’s Day, there’s a silver lining:

It can be sublime to be alone.

Some of us may use this special day of romance to uncork a bottle of bubbly (or ginger ale) to celebrate solitude.

Growing up, I thought marriage was gross. This was back in the ’50s, when actual Mad Men in flannel suits abounded, and most women, at least in my suburban milieu, were housewives who vacuumed much of the day, and served meatballs and spaghetti to sulky children at night. I vowed never to marry. So what did I do? I tied the knot at the ridiculously young age of 22.

That was a practice marriage, lasting a mere 2½ years. Down the line, I met comedy writer Marty Nadler, who introduced me to Martha’s Vineyard in 1976, and who cut so wide a social swath on-Island that people still ask me when I’m introduced to them, “Are you Marty’s wife?”

The Oak Bluffs library served hot cocoa.
The Oak Bluffs library served hot cocoa.

We had our baby Charlie here in ’84, moved year-round to our house in East Chop in ’91, and finally split the blanket — and everything else — after Charlie went off to B.U. in 2002. Yes, it was sad. So let’s not dwell on it. I had a bookstore in Oak Bluffs, then closed it after six years when the Great Recession squatted on me like a fat, unseemly toad. Somewhere along the line — was it 2009 or 2010? — I took part in a marriage that lasted for all of 13 months. This breakup was less sad, across the long saga of my lifetime. The whole experience rattled by so fast, it was like one of those movies where you ask yourself, “Did I watch the whole thing or just the trailer?”

Bottom line, I love to be alone. So did Thoreau. So did Emily Dickinson. Problem is, our culture makes no space for anything other than the attainment of couplehood. Each seeker of solitude has to find peace in his or her monastery of one.

I’ve often wondered what modern life would look like if girls and boys were told, “Some of you might find you’re attracted to being alone more often than not. Along the way, figure it out. It might save you a failed marriage. Or three.”

Not that I’m against romance per se. My idea of the perfect marriage would be for two people to own a lot with two houses set a hundred yards apart, encircled by a fenced-in area through which the couple’s pack of dogs could freely come and go. An invitation to coffee would be made by phone.

But most single people on Valentine’s Day feel bereft without a sweetheart with whom to celebrate. I’ve tried telling my anxious female friends, “You don’t need a boyfriend if you have a dog.” A dog’s median body temp burns at a hot-water-bottle warmth of 102°. Dogs make really good snugglers on a cold winter’s night. It’s not as good as spooning with your sweetie, but on the plus side, you’re not obliged to make conversation when all you want is a cup of coffee and a long perusal of the newspaper.

So here’s the bull I grabbed by the horn this past snowy Feb. 14th: I celebrated life itself, with me in it. And all the rest of you.

Even the most staunch of hermits require people time. You can get that here in spades, where everyplace you go is like the Cheers bar, where everybody knows your name.

First, I trudged up School Street in the aching cold to the Oak Bluffs library, which had a heated pot of hot chocolate on offer, along with candies and the kind of literary chitchat all readers enjoy; in fact, Jonathan at the desk sent me home with a biography of Catherine the Great by Peter K. Massie.

Drop-ins were invited to write Valentines to favorite fictional characters. I picked Bernie Rhodenbarr of Lawrence Block’s mystery series. Bernie is a bookseller by day and a burglar by night, so once again I found a perfect, unconventional partnership as I proposed, “Bernie, while you’re sleeping until noon after burglarizing posh houses, I’m up at the crack of dawn, which in turn puts me back into bed just at the time you’re planning a new raid. Do you see the beauty in this? We could have fabulous lunch dates!”

I went home and grabbed my Boston terrier, Huxley, bundled him into both his sweaters, and we popped in on friends Frank and Rita Imbimbo, who own the inspirational gift store Sanctuary on Circuit Avenue. After a bunch of laughs — Frank’s specialty — and treats for Huxley, Rita’s forte, I bought a scented pale turquoise candle and a Valentine’s card to myself, which read, “Just knowing you’re there keeps a smile in my heart.” Well, duh, if I weren’t there, there’d be no heart to smile in.

Back at home, I called two out of three ex-husbands (the first is lost to the mists of time). Number Three asked, “Have you phoned Number Two?” I told him I had, which pleased him; these guys really like each other. Both men make me laugh, which is one of the reasons I keep in close touch with them.

I’d invited my friend, native New Yorker Timi Brown, who lives a few blocks over on Samoset, to join me for homemade soup and salad and the best bread in stock at Reliable, but a new blizzard front was coming in, so we postponed.

I lit some candles and spent the rest of Valentine’s Day alone; well, alone save for my boon companion, Hux, who bundled beside me on the sofa as I picked up the heavy tome about Catherine the Great to see how the great Russian empress dealt with her own love life.

There was something about a horse, as I recall.

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Sharky’s beast is off to Chappy and soon to the Cape for restoration.

What the heck is Bruce the Jaws shark doing on the Chappy Ferry?! – Courtesy Chappy Ferry

It’s the stuff of nightmares: This past Tuesday, motorists and pedestrians on the 90-second ferry ride from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick were shocked to behold the mean black eyes and torpedo-shaped nose of a great white shark perched on a flatbed truck, looking big enough to gobble up a VW Bug, if not the truck itself. At the helm of the ferry, Capt. Brad Fligor knew a photo op when he saw it, and snapped a picture.

Bruce safely ensconced in his Edgartown perch at Sharky's, before the move. – Courtesy Sharky's
Bruce safely ensconced in his Edgartown perch at Sharky’s, before the move. – Courtesy Sharky’s

Like all great whites, this gigantic fake shark has enjoyed a wide migration. His resin-based hide was originally slapped together for JawsFest 2005 by renowned FX artist Greg Nicotero, creator of the zombies of “The Walking Dead” (thanks a lot, Mr. Nicotero!). The MV Chamber of Commerce took charge of the imposing shark figurehead, then transferred it over to the MV Museum which, wisely enough, in 2010, entrusted it to Sharky’s Cantina in Edgartown. From its stationary cafe setting, el monstro has gone viral. Sharky’s owner, JB Blau reports, “Tens of thousands of pictures have been taken of visitors posed beside our boy.”

As sometimes happens with works of art that are so photogenic and compelling — think of Michelangelo’s Pieta and Davinci’s Mona Lisa — some prickly part of the public has had its way with it. Over the years, patrons with perhaps two or more Sharkaritas down the hatch, have wrenched out the Sharky’s shark’s teeth for souvenirs. Too, the silver sides have been nicked and scratched; a restoration is in order.

Paul McPhee will restore Bruce's smile. – Courtesy Sharky's
Paul McPhee will restore Bruce’s smile. – Courtesy Sharky’s

Island and Cape Cod artist and marine enthusiast, Paul McPhee is on the case. He enlisted carpenter Eric Ropke to haul it to Chappy for safekeeping. Soon, however, in effect any minute now — this paper will keep its readers informed — “Bruce” (the name given to the first faux shark – and all subsequent faux’s used on the blockbuster adventure movie Jaws) will cross the Sound to Cape Cod where Mr. McPhee, like an artist-cum-orthodontist, will replace the missing teeth from the original molds designed by “Jaws” artist Roy Arbegast.

“I’ll use Epoxy on the implants, and I’ll also paint it all over, airbrush it, and finish it off with a matte clear coat,” he told The Times.

This sea dog is going to be gorgeous.

As virtually everyone knows, Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw, was shot right here on Martha’s Vineyard, three months over deadline, and three-and-a-half million dollars over budget (funny how that sounds like chump change now, even to this reporter who can barely afford lunch). Three mock-up sharks, all named Bruce, provided the thrills and chills that made us scream every time the Great White was ready for its close up, especially the one where Mr. Scheider, chumming the waters, comes face to face with the ultimate plug-ugly, teeth the size of old Caddy fins, and he stumbles into the cabin to drawl the iconic line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Mr. McPhee, reached by phone on Thursday, said only a single original bust of Bruce remains, and that belongs to a fan in the San Fernando Valley who keeps his treasure out in the yard, slung between two palm trees. Mr. Nicotero, recently offered the Valley gentleman $20,000 to borrow it to make a new mold.

The answer was “No.” You’re gonna need a bigger wad of cash.

In the meantime, Mr. McPhee believes he can complete the restoration in a couple of weeks. At Sharky’s where the bar mascot will be desperately missed, the management has filled the void with a pool table. (The plan is to put together an official pool hall in a new location).

Meanwhile, eyes to the skies over the Steamship ferry in the coming days when a gummy, battered Bruce – still ferocious after all these years – makes his way, as so many of us do, to Cape Cod to get his teeth fixed.

And, for sharkomaniacs on the Cape and Islands, this summer Mr. McPhee will be opening a store in Chatham stocked with great white gear. While there, check out the beach where, oftentimes, just offshore, a shiver (yes, that’s the collective noun) of live sharks is routinely sighted.

And not eat it all?

Marguerite Cook shows Holly Nadler how to display the chocolates they've made (and not yet eaten). – Photos by Michael Cummo

You might say I chose this particular mission — prepping chocolates — as an easy way out in the “How Hard” enterprise, whose credo, if it had one, would run something along the lines of “How hard could it be for one neurotic, I-have-a-note-from-my-psychiatrist Valley Girl to attempt some new venture that takes her far out of her comfort zone?”

Solid chocolate is made into liquid chocolate, so it can be scooped and poured into molds.
Solid chocolate is made into liquid chocolate, so it can be scooped and poured into molds.

Making chocolate? Pffff! Isn’t that like how hard could it be to get a massage, or to drink Campari and soda with George Clooney?

But I’m asking one of Life’s Big Questions here, and my goal is to receive the answer after an afternoon with Marguerite Cook, accomplished chocolatier and owner of the Good Ship Lollipop at the top of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

The Big Question? If you’re like me, and your control blows a gasket when surrounded by sugary treats (with perhaps the exception of Fig Newtons and a particularly dry Jewish pastry called mandel breit), how hard could it be to actually work in a candy store and resist munching one’s way through the stock (asking the proprietress, of course, to run a tab — a big tab)? And this made me wonder: How many of us go wobbly-kneed at the sight of a cupcake or even an after-dinner mint? And conversely, what percentage of us eat very few sweets? Or none at all?

Caught in the act.
Caught in the act.

Turns out, hardly anyone is able to hold back, at least according to my own double-blind study when I posed the question to Facebook friends, asking how they’d address a bag of macadamia nut cookies left over from coffee with afternoon guests. Would they scoff them all before their heads hit the pillow? (As I had done the day before.)

Out of the dozens of comments that flooded back, the plea for abstention ran something like 20 to 1 against. Respondents related sugar consumption of epic proportions, such as Carole Flanders, originally of Oak Bluffs, now of Florida, who wrote, “I recently demolished three-quarters of a carrot cake at a single sitting.” Barbara Beichek of Oak Bluffs shared, “I’ve gobbled Nestlé Quik dry ’cauz I had no milk.” Jim Bishop, also of Oak Bluffs, revealed he would polish off the cookies immediately, because “it’s not worth waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep because there are certain uneaten cookies in the kitchen.” Nancy Slonim Aronie of Chilmark bravely admitted, “I have thrown cookies into the garbage and retrieved them two hours later, let them dry out from the pickle juice and finished them off.”

Exactly three souls identified themselves in the “just say no” camp: Lynnda Blitzer from Santa Barbara wrote, “Throw them away, they’ve served their purpose.” Susan Wilson of Oak Bluffs maintained, “Leftover cookies turn to shards and crumble in my cupboard.” Debbi Kanoff of Westwood, Calif., ranked herself in the “self-restraint/deferred gratification department.” As usual, the grownups among us are few and far between.

So if most of us occasionally — or always — weaken in the grip of Back Door Donuts straight from the baker’s vat, was there any wisdom I could winnow from an afternoon of chocolate making? Could I resist munching my way through my apprenticeship?

Marguerite Cook admires the finished chocolate pops at her shop, The Good Ship Lollipop.
Marguerite Cook admires the finished chocolate pops at her shop, The Good Ship Lollipop.

I showed up at the candy shop on a freezing November afternoon. Amid festive displays of toys, stuffed animals, and every brand of candy in the known world, Marguerite already had her three Hilliard kettles rolling and gently heating to 90 degrees. One kettle held milk chocolate, the second dark, the third white. The sweet fragrance from the drums was so seductive. I was ready to plunge my face in the white chocolate cylinder and sing as I slurped, “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!” like the Disney character caroling away on the sound system.

Fortunately, Marguerite kept things on the sane and sanitary side. I was given a lavender scrub with cartoon drawings of Pinocchio figures. I’d already had the foresight to cover my hair in a pink bandana. We washed up at a specially designated sink, my mentor filling my dry hands with so much soap, I rinsed under hot water all the way through Annette Funicello’s rendition of “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

Yes, it’s clear from the music and the memorabilia that Marguerite is nostalgic for her childhood in small-town Braintree in a family of 12 kids. Yowzer! On the same block, another family had 13 kids, yet another 15. Nowadays, she and husband David have two grown daughters and five grandkids, all of them living on the Island. Her extended family has just taken over a small city in Bavaria.

Marguerite showed me how to feed a spoonful of melted dark chocolate into trays of turkey-shaped molds. The chocolate hardens fast, so you don’t want any to spill over, and of course, mine did; I have the motor ability of Lucille Ball on the assembly line. No prob. Marguerite wielded a putty knife and slid the surplus chocolate back into the kettle where it reformatted with the sinuously swirling, bulbous ball of chocolate. She taught me to insert a white stick, twirling this way and that, before the trays of chocolate turkey pops disappeared into the cooler.

I wanted to lunge after one of those yummy treats but, well, Marguerite would notice the empty mold and, also, my right hand was encased in a latex glove, my left hand meant to mind itself. No petting of dogs or patting anyone’s bottom. Or eating the product.

Next we poured milk chocolate into a tray, gave it a few minutes to harden, then Marguerite spooned white chocolate over it ever so carefully so as not to rile up the dark layer beneath. She handed me a hammer, and I bashed candy canes into tiny crystals which we sprinkled over the top. This confection too got whooshed into the cooler, but some 20 minutes later, Marguerite retrieved it and sliced it into small squares. She gave me one to sample. Heaven. The combination of chocolate layers and the poignant dusting of mint-flavored candy was a taste bud thrill of uncommon proportions; possibly the result of nibbling nothing else in the full time I’d worked in the shop.

Marguerite packed up three turkey popsicles and six of those candy cane babies for me to take home for my Thanksgiving with my son and his girlfriend in NYC. She tied a gold ribbon around the box, and said with a knowing wink, “I’m calling Charlie to make sure this ribbon was intact when it got to him.”

The ribbon remained intact all the way up my stairs. By the time I crawled into bed, however, I’d devoured four of the squares. My tummy churned, and I swore off candy cane bark for alI  time. Conceivably I might have overdosed on sweets for the rest of my life.

Before falling asleep, I realized I’d stumbled on a major cultural breakthrough. Anyone can be treated for sugar addiction: Simply indenture oneself to a baker or a candy maker for an afternoon!

The next morning I woke up with something in my freezer with my name on it.

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Thanksgiving with a side of sit-com.

Zuma Beach, California, 1979. The scene of the great Thanksgiving mashed potato wars, with Marty and Holly Nadler. – Courtesy Holly Nadler

Thanksgiving is designed with such assembly-line precision — turkey, cranberries, that odd little green-beans-and-mushroom-soup mix —  that it’s hard to imagine any single occasion going awry. But it happens, and those become the fodder for tales we carry forward for all the Thanksgivings of the future. Here are a few gathered from friends, with a final doozy of my own.

Albert Fischer of West Tisbury — hunter, gatherer, photographer and arguably the most popular good old boy on Martha’s Vineyard, when asked if he had any one stand-out Thanksgiving memory, said, “Not really,” then followed that up with an immediate, “Although . . .” Typical somehow of Albert’s field-and-stream way of life, this Thanksgiving started out behind a duck blind. “While waiting for some ducks to fly into the decoys, I passed the time away by opening fresh oysters to eat. My cell phone rang, and my wife in a tizzy informed me that our oven, with a 25-pound stuffed turkey in it had [expletive deleted] the bed.”

Albert headed home wondering how in the blue blazes he could render this roasting, and now, not-roasting bird edible for his 20-plus guests. A legendarily resourceful guy, he phoned an off-Island friend with a summer house nearby, and received permission to finish browning his turkey in her oven. But man cannot live by turkey alone. “I cooked a squash and apple pie on my outdoor grill, and they came out not so bad.”

Barbecued apple pie? Everyone should try it at least once.

If Albert’s tale summons up a rural “All In The Family,” then Rebecca Dopp of Valparaiso, Indiana, who first visited the Island in the early 2000s because she loved the mysteries of Philip Craig and Cynthia Riggs, has a story that’s “Frazier” on steroids — canine steroids.

Rebecca says, “I think of Thanksgiving 2009 [spent in Indiana] as the doggie debacle. When my group gets together it’s always chaotic and, try as I might, I haven’t found a solution, but this one time was off-the-charts crazy.”

Rebecca’s circle consists of seven adults, all of them gathered for the holiday in Rebecca’s 1970s bi-level house with small rooms and no dining area, only an eat-in kitchen. “It’s very claustrophobic,” she admits. “Now, add to that my golden retriever, plus my daughter brought over her Australian shepherd who’s high-strung, always barking, always herding everybody, and a yippy Pomeranian. My son contributed his American bulldog which his veterinarian calls ‘one chromosome away from a pit bull.’”

If this were not enough dogs to round out the very definition of disaster, friends of Rebecca’s heading out of town finagled the favor of accommodating their elderly, arthritic yellow Lab and a black Lab puppy.

Hieronymus Bosch, if asked to paint a canine version of The Last Judgment could not have invented more frenetic visuals. The Lab puppy scored some chicken and dumplings and barfed them up all over the house. A tremendous pile of doggy doo, as if by magic, materialized on the living room carpet. And as the night follows the day, dog fights broke out, one of them with horrific sounds effects coming from the kitchen. “The bulldog had the geriatric Lab pinned to the floor with her massive jaws clamped around her neck.”

Rebecca straddled the attacker. The Lab was unscathed; it was just one of those, you know, doggy rumbles.

And so the Thanksgiving of 2009 progressed. More vomiting, more barks and growls and at one point, during an outdoor bathroom break, the old limping Lab had the good sense to flee. “We found her blocks away. It was a day of doggy mayhem, and every year someone brings it up as ‘The Thanksgiving that literally went to the dogs.’”

And then my friends Ted and Alice McCormack* (names changed to protect the tender feelings of others involved in this story) of Oak Bluffs and Maryland, had a Turkey Day straight out of a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode. A couple whose company they enjoyed on MV invited them to trek up from Maryland to spend Thanksgiving on the Island. “We loved the idea!” reports Ted.

Ted, a culinary maestro, offered to bring the turkey. “It was a free ranger already mortgaged from Whole Foods. I brined it and lovingly slow-smoked it. “By a pure stroke of good luck, last-minute ferry reservations had been secured. “We and the turkey were in the car and off to the Vineyard full of joyous anticipation.”

Ensconced in their Island house on Thanksgiving eve, Alice and Ted prepped side dishes to accompany their prized turkey. A phone call came in from the other couple: There would be no Thanksgiving. Something better had come up, a trip to New York to see a grandkid, hey fun, huh? Aren’t you delighted for us? And just so we can still enjoy a catch up visit, come with us tonight to a buddy’s house mid-Island for a pre-Thanksgiving, ‘kay?!

Deflated, Ted and Alice tagged along. The friend, who seemed deflated himself to have extra, unknown company, served luke-warm turkey chili, no side dishes. After the meal was finished Ted reported, “Our host picked up a book and announced decisively that he was going upstairs to read.” And up he went.

And here’s the clincher: The next day the other couple called and “Cheerily asked, since we wouldn’t be needing the whole turkey, could they buy half for their trip to New York?”

The only piece missing from this “Curb”-inflected story is a final gotcha! from the master Larry David himself. How’s this for a final plot twist: From the get-go, Ted and Alice had been aware they may have accidentally left out a key ingredient in brining the turkey, the lack of which could cause severe intestinal disorders in the diners (remember this is purely fictional). They’ve had a call in to a chem lab, but the answer doesn’t arrive until after the friends leave with their 50 percent of the gourmet bird. Ted turns to the camera with a look of “Oops!” that turns to a wicked grin.

My own Thanksgiving story has a certain Rhodaje ne sais quoi to it with everything but Carlton The Doorman. Back in 1980 Marty Nadler (my then future ex-husband) and I lived in a tiny condo on Malibu Beach, and my parents dwelled some 15 minutes up the road in a condo overlooking Zuma Beach. Thanksgiving was organized at my folks for an extended family of 20-plus people.

My mother had started a diet and, being possessed in those days of a bit of a Draconian personality, she sent word to the cooks, namely me and my dad, to eliminate the much-beloved and traditional mashed potatoes. (Hello! Could she simply have eliminated them from her own plate?)

The night before, there came a knock at my door. My dad, dressed in a trench coat and a fedora hat, handed me a bag of potatoes. I was to peel ‘em and slice ‘em and have ‘em ready to go on the morrow.

Well, of course, on Thanksgiving day at their Zuma pad, my mother spied the boiling potatoes on her stove: She’d been darting in and out of the kitchen to make the martinis that only Greatest Generation guys and gals know how to stir. She blew her stack, her coifed red-headed stack, loudly enough that, in the living room, all conversation ceased. My dad grabbed potholders. He picked up the pot of boiling potatoes and headed for the back door.

“I’m dumping these in the ivy!”

Immediately Marty Nadler swooped up the silver platter of turkey which earlier my dad had laboriously sliced and artfully arranged. Marty carried the tray into the living room, to the amazement of all, shouting over his shoulder, “Larry, if those potatoes go out the back door, the turkey sails over the balcony!”

My mother laughed, breaking the evil spell. The day was saved. And my mom’s vow to embark on a diet was vindicated when my half-blind great-uncle Boris (he saw colors and shapes) took his empty glass directly into the kitchen, held it out to the big golden-rod-yellow refrigerator, and asked it if he could have another martini.

My mother was wearing a golden-rod-yellow dress.

Got a great holiday story? A memorable family picture around the table from this Thanksgiving or another winter holiday? Share them with us: onisland@mvtimes.com.

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The Nutcracker will screen at the Film Center December 21. —Photo courtesy M.V. Film Center

Last winter, Richard Paradise, executive director and cinema wunderkind of the three-year-old Film Center in the Tisbury Marketplace (and the 12 year-old Martha’s Vineyard Film Society), sent an email to his more than 5,000 followers, and asked if any were interested in filmed performances of operas from around the world.

Heck yeah, was the (obviously simplified) response from several hundred audience members. Mr. Paradise proceeded to put together an opera series culminating in a July evening of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, with a live intro by opera director Wendy Taucher and her Three Ladies from The Magic Flute.

Now, a second series is afoot. It’s lead event was offered this past Saturday, Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi, which first opened to an ecstatic audience in Rome in January of 1853. Verdi’s masterpiece has proved a popular success ever since; not a critical success, mind you, which shows how completely fun and enchanting it is.

Mr. Paradise is confident that opera lovers will fill many of his seats during the series, but he also hopes the cinema version will entice a new crowd of those who’ve long considered themselves opera-phobic (we know who we are).

“A lot of people think opera is for snobbish, ultra-cultured folks,” Mr. Paradise said before last Saturday’s screening. “Now they’ll find out they don’t need to dress up, they get to sit in the dark in comfy chairs. And none of the operas we choose are over two-and-a-half hours long.”

Without a classical music background of his own, Mr. Paradise relies on a few aficionados to steer him in the right direction. “Doug Cramer of M.V. and New York is my main go-to guy,” he said.

Not only the fear of elitism drives so many away. For some, a single evening trapped before an incomprehensible opera can remain a “never again” proposition. My own opera panic occurred on a summer evening in 1971 at the old, gorgeous Paris Opera House, with Chagall murals, and steps so narrow and high they could give Edmund Hillary vertigo. The featured opera was Tristan Und Isolde by the daunting Wagner, and the entire second act devolved into an endless duet between a hefty soprano and an ungainly tenor seated on a bench, never rising, only singing, in German, naturally, for the whole seven hours (or so it seemed), in the dark. Never again, indeed.

Richard Paradise believes opera has been transformed and opened up to the untutored with its use of subtitles — now on display in opera houses themselves — but delivered by rote in  movies. Before the era of subtitles, unless one had boned up in advance on the plot, the whole mess looked like people with exquisite voices falling all over each other, wailing in Italian or German or French a version of “Wah wah wah!” and it was anybody’s guess what had upset them so. Three hours of this can be torture.

But here’s how Il Trovatore played itself out last Saturday afternoon: From the Berlin’s Straatsoper Unter der Linden, red velvet curtains parted to reveal a stage so wide and shimmering that one’s suspension of disbelief transformed it to one’s own stage set before us. Costumes were straight out of 1853 fantasyland, with balletic soldiers in shiny black boots and uniforms, a gypsy crew looking more colorfully magical than homeless, and Placido Domingo as the evil Count di Luna. And, of course, the close-up galore allow for exponentially expanded intimacy with story and characters.

It would take a Joseph Campbell to unravel all the nuances and mythologies of the story, but in broad strokes, the count’s father had once had two little sons, one of whom got sick, a gypsy sorceress was blamed and put to the stake…. Best to stop here; it must be seen to be at least partially digested. Let’s just say that the grown surviving count’s son loves the royal lady Leonora, who loves the soulful Rumi of a troubadour (the English word for Trovatore), who happens to be the grandson of the enflamed witch, but also possibly the brother of the present count.

Trovatore has everything, including luscious costuming, modern effects with video projections, choruses, duets and arias that you’ll recognize because they’re famous, and they’re famous because they’re splendid. You’ll also see the best example of that operatic trope of a character taking 20 minutes to die during which she collapses multiple times, then rises to sing with bravura abandon that brings the house down.

The point here is that an opera-phobe will arrive at a venue such as this with the intent of slipping away under cover of darkness after only an hour, and will instead sit, as Mr. Paradise has promised, in the dark in comfy seats, enrapt for the full intermission-free two-and-a-half hours.

On November 30, the film center will screen Ballanchine’s Millepied (note that the opera program includes two ballet performances).

            And here’s the remainder of the schedule for this fall / winter / spring series:

            The Nutcracker from Austria’s Mariinsky Theater, November 30.

            La Cenerentola by Rossini, January 11.

            La Forza by Kuse, February 15.

            Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci by Castiglione, March 15.

           L’Elisir D’Amore by Villazon, April 12

            Rigoletto by Viziola, May 10.

For more information and for booking tickets, log on to mvfilmsociety.com/genre/opera-ballet/.