Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer

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ACE MV director Lynn Ditchfield dressed for the occasion at culture fest. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) offers an expanded catalog of more than 60 classes this winter and spring. There are graduate level programs, college credit classes, a high school equivalency program and general education courses that cover a wide range of topics from women’s auto repair to French cooking and piano to birding, conversational Portuguese and an international volunteer service work project in Brazil.

Some classes begin this month, others begin at various times through the winter and spring. Most classes are held at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. All classes are taught on-Island.

“We try to use instructors from the Island to facilitate the development of a lifelong student-mentor relationship,” said ACE MV director Lynn Ditchfield. “We have an amazing amount of local resource people who are experienced professors and educators and are excited about being able to offer courses here on the Island.”

She said that some instructors come from off-Island. There are charges for the classes, but Ms. Ditchfield says that, “No one has been turned away who cannot pay.” Most credit programs are taught in conjunction with Cape Cod Community College or Fitchburg State.

“ACE MV began in July of 2008, when I began helping with the education part of a program Annie Palches developed,” Ms. Ditchfield said. “She was working out of the superintendent of schools office and secured a grant that allowed us to manage a program, in conjunction with Cape Cod Community College, to teach early childhood education courses for Islanders who needed associate degrees to meet changing state requirements for people working with children. I looked around, saw a need, and the program has just taken off.”

Ms. Ditchfield explained, in a conversation this week, that many of the classes are the result of requests from Islanders who want to continue their own studies or want to learn something new. She said that the program has an advisory board of 70 people from all walks of life, ” a bunch of different people.” They form into task forces that deal with individual projects that range from course development and scheduling to fundraising and program management. One task force plans ACE MV’s “One-Day University: Arts Culture and Sustainability.” a program of speakers and workshops on June 23

Both the number of students and the number of course offerings have increased each year since the program began, according to Ms. Ditchfield. There were 548 enrolled for classes during ACE MV’s first academic year 2008-9, when 40 courses were offered. Last year, there were 1,028 students and this year more than 60 courses offered.

Ms. Ditchfield’s interest in community and adult education developed early in her career. Her first master’s degree was in adult community education in the 1980s. Lynn taught Spanish at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for 24 years and was head of the foreign language department for four of those years. Retiring in 2006, she returned in 2007-8 to fill a vacancy. During that time she raised a daughter, Mara, who is studying film at NYU and is now in Singapore filming, and a son, Brian, managing director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. Her husband, Michael, recently retired from counseling to work full-time writing novels. “My family has helped in enormous ways, helping with technical things that I have trouble with,” she said. “I find it so exciting to see our programs work. To see a learning community developing is what makes it so exciting.”

Find ACE MV online at; call ACE MV director Lynn Ditchfield at 774-310-1131, or email her at

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High school principal Steve Nixon. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) principal Steve Nixon, MVRHS drama teacher Kate Murray, and special guests will perform in a rock and roll concert next Thursday evening, Jan. 26, at Katharine Cornell Theatre at 7 pm.

The concert is to “help keep alive the memory of David Brand and to benefit the David Brand Scholarship Fund,” Mr. Nixon said. David Brand died at age 39 after a brief illness in 2008, having taught earth sciences at MVRHS for one year.

The concert’s special guests include well-known Island musicians Michael Tinus on bass, Charlie Esposito on keyboards, and a group of high school students playing backup instruments. This is the fourth annual concert.

“About 50 percent of the concert will be original tunes,” Mr. Nixon said. Formerly a member of a New Jersey based rock group called Night Wing that played mostly in the New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania area, Mr. Nixon, 56, wrote and performed music for many years before “changing careers and going into education.” He has been playing guitar and piano for most of his life and still has a recording studio at home where he continues to write songs.

Kate Murray, an actress and singer as well as a drama instructor, is known for her soulful ballads and electrifying stage presence.

According to an obituary that ran in the MV Times, David Brand was a former resident of Wellesley. He graduated from Wellesley High School in 1987, received a BA in Environmental Conservation from the University of Colorado, and a Master’s degree in Human Geography with a focus on permaculture from the University of Massachusetts.

After graduation, Mr. Brand pursued his desire to help those in need and joined the Peace Corps, where he taught young children in Uruguay, followed by a year of teaching in Guatemala City.

He was most proud of his experience as a logistician with Doctors Without Borders. In this capacity, he spent several years on assignments in Kenya, Africa, Georgia, Russia, Mexico, and Barcelona. This work focused on displacement of refugee populations and malnutrition. His extensive travels through India, Burma, Central and South America fostered a deep compassion for humankind.

Benefit Concert: Steve Nixon and Kate Murray with special guests, 7 pm, Thursday, Jan. 26, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $10; $7 seniors and students.

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Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (G)

A cruise ship, mischief, and a shipwreck. The animated film features the world’s most celebrated squeakers, starring David Cross, Jenny Slate, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R)

The much-anticipated American film version of the book of the same name. Starring Englishman Daniel Craig (the most recent James Bond) as Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who attempts to solve a 40-year-old murder, and the young American actress Rooney Mara as the young, eclectically tattooed Lisbeth Salander, who lends her considerable skills to the hunt. With Christopher Plummer. Directed by David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Fight Club”).

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (PG-13)

Best yet. Against an international backdrop, a blacklisted IMF team has to stop World War III. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) penetrates the Kremlin, hangs from the world’s tallest building, and escapes from a Russian prison while things explode. Tom Wilkinson, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner. Super crash-dash excitement.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (R)

The most recent adaptation of the best-selling 1974 British classic spy novel by John le Carré. In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldham) is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet mole within MI6. Also stars John Hurt, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch. Directed by Tomas Alfredson.

War Horse (PG-13)

Produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, it’s an epic adventure. A tale of loyalty, hope, and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War. With Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch. Nominated for the Golden Globe best picture of the year award.

We Bought a Zoo (PG)

Based on a true story, a widowed father buys a dilapidated zoo in hopes of making a fresh start. Directed by Cameron Crowe. Starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson. Icelandic musician Jón Þór “Jónsi” Birgisson, the lead singer of the band Sigur Rós, composed the music.

Young Adult (R)

Directed by Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”) and starring Charlize Theron and Patrick Wilson. In this sometimes funny examination of prolonged adolescence, Mavis Gary, a writer of teen literature, returns to her small hometown to relive the glory days and attempt to reclaim her happily married high school sweetheart. Things turns a little more serious when returning home proves more difficult and Mavis forms an unusual bond with a former classmate who hasn’t quite gotten over high school either.

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Auston McCormick works on the first floor deck of The Vineyard Playhouse addition. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Vineyard Playhouse is growing. The Vineyard Haven theater center broke ground several weeks ago for a new addition to its staid, colonial home on Church Street.

Playhouse producer and artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo and board president Gerry Yukevich each smiled broadly as they stood on the new first floor deck, still open to the sky, last week. “It is so nice to see the old, frail Playhouse be strengthened and improved for the future,” Dr. Yukevich said.

For many years one had to walk with great care in the tiny backyard of The Playhouse. There were almost always stacks of old scenery flats and construction materials awaiting another trip to the stage or a final journey to the dump. Now the property has no backyard.

In its place, The Playhouse is adding a two-story addition. There will be a workshop and new bathrooms on the ground floor and a new elevator. The new second floor will contain dressing rooms, a green room, and staff bathrooms. The expansion will allow for a more efficient and practical use of the old building once it is renovated, part two of the renovation plan.

The old stairs to the second-floor theater and the late-addition bathrooms have been stripped off of the 1830s building that has been a Methodist Meeting House and a Masonic Lodge. A foundation has been poured, filling the space that was the backyard. The first and second floor decks are in place and the walls are framed. Steel I-beams support the second floor.

The Playhouse celebrates its 30th anniversary this year – 30 years of growth as an organization without a corresponding growth in its facilities, until now. There have been incremental improvements to the building over the years: new seats 20 years ago, upgrades to the electrical system, lighting changes, air conditioning, an elevator, and new bathrooms, but never a project of this magnitude.

This stage in The Playhouse’s physical growth began last year with new windows and the replacement of the old rotting siding with custom milled clapboards on three sides of the building, and a much-needed sprinkler system to protect the aged wooden structure.

Care was taken to maintain the historic quality of the building. “We are conscious of our role as a caretaker of this great community building and intend to preserve it for future generations,” Ms. Munafo said. “The addition’s scheduled finish is the first of July at which time the 2012 summer season will begin.”

Except for the changes that must be made to the theater space to accommodate the new addition, flipping the seats from a western orientation to an eastern one, among others, most of the planned renovation of the old building’s interior will be accomplished later, as time and financial resources allow, according to Ms. Munafo. Those changes will include a renovated theater space, a larger lobby, a new box office, and for the first time, an office, all in the old building.

Ms. Munafo said that the theater’s board of directors officially launched its capital campaign, “A Time to Act,” in 2010. She said that the money raised to date is funding most of the current construction, more than $600,000. She added that an equal amount will be required to renovate the old interior and to improve the theater with new seating, lighting, and audio equipment.

“In a way, The Playhouse serves a mission similar to the original purpose of the Methodist Meeting House,” an obviously pleased Dr. Yukevich said. “We try to involve the community in artistic, moral, social, and political issues that are of concern in our current world. Excellent theater does just that. It will be a tremendous pleasure to see it happening in a much improved facility.”

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Alvin and the Chipmunks, Chipwrecked (G)

A cruise ship, mischief, a shipwreck, the film features the world’s most celebrated squeakers, starring David Cross, Jenny Slate, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate.

Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (R)

The much-anticipated American film version of the first book of the best-selling Swedish trilogy of the same name. Starring Englishman Daniel Craig, the most recent James Bond, as the Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who attempts to solve a 40-year-old murder and the young American actress Rooney Mara as the heavily tattooed Lisbeth Salander, who lends her considerable skills to the hunt. Christopher Plummer also stars. Directed by David Fincher who also directed “The Social Network,” “Fight Club,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Hugo (PG)

Martin Scorsese’s animated, melodramatic version of the award-winning children’s book set in Paris in 1931. Twelve-year-old Hugo keeps all the clocks ticking in the train station with the help of a mysterious mechanical man. With his friend Isabelle, Hugo finds the spare parts needed to keep Hugo going.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (R)

The most recent adaptation of the best-selling 1974 British classic spy novel by John le Carré. In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldham) is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet mole within MI6. Also stars John Hurt, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Directed by Tomas Alfredson.

Young Adult (R)

Directed by Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” and “Juno”) and starring Charlize Theron and Patrick Wilson. In this sometimes funny examination of prolonged adolescence, Mavis Gary, a writer of teen literature, returns to her small hometown to relive her glory days and attempt to reclaim her happily married high school sweetheart. Things turns a little more serious when returning home proves more difficult and Mavis forms an unusual bond with a former classmate who hasn’t quite gotten over high school either.

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— Photo by Ralph Stewart

The scaffolding set up inside the new Steamship Authority (SSA) ticket office in Oak Bluffs is a performance stage for one of the Island’s most prolific muralists, Margot Datz. The lithe Ms. Datz moves deftly on such a platform, a familiar workplace for her. She is putting the finishing touches on the ticket office upper walls and she expects to finish the job in about 10 days, long before the terminal’s season opening in May.

“The terminal was just begging for a mural,” said Ms. Datz, who proposed the project to Steamship Authority Vineyard member Marc Hanover soon after the building was finished. “Mr. Hanover acted as my liaison to the SSA and was wonderfully supportive in getting the project rolling.”

The SSA covered about two-thirds of the cost, and Ms. Datz raised the rest from a variety of private donors, including the Friends of Oak Bluffs. She has successfully raised private funds for several of her other projects, including the new 12-piece installation in the cafe area of the YMCA, which was paid for almost entirely by donations she raised. A Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council materials grant helped cover the supplies costs of her work in Oak Bluffs and for her art at both the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and YMCA. Her fanciful paintings brighten many Island spaces, including the Vineyard Haven SSA building, the sub-marine themed wall in the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital community research center, and at the Oak Bluffs Library.

“Some walls and spaces just cry out to me,” she said this week.” I can conceive of how transformational painting would be in certain spaces, how it could affect the entire experience of the space.” She credits her partner, Tom Haines, for his help, as “a terrific artist and the can-do man who sets me up for success, with scaffolding and painting. ”

Her paintings also enhance businesses and private houses. Nectar’s has a wall filled with Thomas Hart Benton-like scenes of Island life and Island characters. She painted these murals for the nightclub and restaurant when it was the Hot Tin Roof.

Then there are murals that have been covered up by decorators after a different look, but who have had the foresight to not destroy her work. She likes to call these the “slumbering ones.”

The Lola’s Restaurant mural of a large group of Islanders hanging out at Lola’s is slumbering, as is a mural at Season’s. The Tisbury Inn’s restaurant walls were covered with her art before the fire that leveled the Inn, leaving just a memory and in a few photographs.

Her work has not been confined to the Island. She has completed projects for hospitals in Arkansas, Illinois, and Louisiana. Her private home murals decorate “hundreds of homes” both here and off Island, according to Ms. Datz, enhancing practically every type of room from bedrooms and living rooms to kitchens, halls, and bathrooms.

Ms. Datz does not confine herself to murals. She has illustrated books and creates paintings, some of which she sells as prints. She is adept at painting in the style called trompe l’oeil, a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object, a technique she often uses in her work. She is a sculptor too.

In her “personal time,” of which she said she has little, she pursues “personal exploratory painting” and is always trying to discover “new territory.” Most of her work includes at least a touch of this new territory.

“I have been painting murals for over 30 years, and it is extremely gratifying for me to feel like I can leave a legacy of public art to my very beloved community.”

Her landscapes reflect a fertile imagination, a colorful palette, and a skilled hand. It brightens a dull day. She can also raise money, an art in itself of sorts.

Tax deductible donations to the Oak Bluffs project may be made at, entitling the donor to add a name to a plaque that will be on display in the terminal.

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— Photo courtesy of Vineyard Power

Vineyard Power Cooperative (VPC) has begun development of a “large scale” solar electricity project to be built on canopies above the side parking lot of Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven. The plan consists of two rows of solar electricity parking lot canopies. The 128 kilowatt (kW) canopy array will provide approximately 160,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year. It will include electric vehicle charging stations to power a future fleet of electric vehicles. The cooperative announced the plan in an email sent January 11 to members.

Richard Andre, president of VPC, declined to make public the financial details of the project but said that it will cost approximately $1 million. The array will be owned by Vineyard Power Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of VPC.

VPS will lease the Cronig’s location. It will be funded by local equity investors and debt financing from Edgartown National Bank. The West Tisbury-based South Mountain Company will design and install the project. Mr. Andre said that the project will eventually be able to use both state and federal tax credits to defray the cost and will be able to sell the power produced back to the grid.

VPC has begun the design and permitting process and hopes to begin construction at the end of March or early April, Mr. Andre said. The project is scheduled for a pre-public hearing review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) on Monday, January 23.

VPC membership is open to year-round and seasonal Vineyard residents. Its goal is to power the Island from renewable energy sources. The co-op currently has 1,200 members. The membership fee is now a one-time fee of $150, increasing quarterly until 2016, when it will be $950.

The VPC website states that the economic benefits of cooperative membership begin with stabilized electricity prices by 2016 and then significantly lower prices after the initial financing period.

More information on Vineyard Power is available online at

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— Photo courtesy of Camila Fernandez

Camila Fernandez of West Tisbury, a freshman at Middlebury College in Vermont, is a very busy student. In addition to a full class schedule, Camila is raising money to help fund a one-week trip in February to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

Camila, 18 this month, is one of a group of 14 Middlebury students who will travel to the Caribbean country to teach English, Spanish literacy, geography and “anything else that is needed,” to younger students. But first she and her enterprising group must raise the funds for the trip.

The students have organized several creative fundraising events that included on-campus candy-grams and babysitting for a faculty dinner. A battle of the bands concert at Middlebury and raffle is in the works. In an email to The Times this week, Camila appealed to the Vineyard community for support.

The trip is being planned in conjunction with a group called Outreach 360, which organizes volunteer support for the orphanage and disadvantaged neighboring communities with a focus on education — English, literacy, and community health. The Dominican Republic, on the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, is known as a vacation spot with wonderful beaches and expansive golf courses, but it is also a country with much poverty.

The students will spend their week on a very tight schedule that has them teaching and helping in whatever ways they can for most of every day they are there. There will be little time for leisure, according to Camila.

Camila attended the Oak Bluffs School and graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 2010. The daughter of Rodolfo Fernandez and Valeria Esnal, she was born in Uruguay. Her family moved to the Vineyard when she was in the sixth grade.

“Finally a place that I could call home,” she said in an email to The Times. “I love the Vineyard and the community we have here. In my opinion the tight-knit, supportive and helping community is one of the most unique and special qualities the Vineyard possesses.”

Camila speaks Spanish and currently volunteers in with the Open Door Clinic, which offers health care to migrant farm workers in Vermont. She is excited by the prospect of assisting the children.

“It will be a great experience for all of us and hopefully we can make an impact on the children’s lives,” she said. “I know this trip will be an emotional roller coaster. We will be immersed in an environment we are not used to and spending time in a developing country in conditions we are probably not accustomed to. There will be ups and downs, but I think that the important thing is to remember that the reason we are there is to give inspiration and hope to the children that attend the orphanage.”

For more information go to or email Camila at

For more information about Camila’s group at Middlebury College and to make a donation, go to

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Jennifer Tseng. — Photo courtesy of Dan Waters

With the warm glow from the State Road Restaurant fireplace behind them, Jennifer Tseng and her mother-in-law, Fanny Howe, both prize-winning poets from West Tisbury, headlined the third and final Speakeasy Series of author talks on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Their engaging and entertaining readings included background and notes, and the crowd, a full house, responded with questions and praise. Besides the hors d’oeuvres and light refreshments, attendees had the chance to mingle and speak with the poets in person, both before and after the readings.

State Road Restaurant, in collaboration with the West Tisbury Library Foundation Inc., presented this series of intimate evenings with noted authors to benefit the library’s capital campaign to finance their planned library addition and renovation. Earlier readings featured, on separate evenings, the married West Tisbury authors Tony Horwitz and Geraldine Brooks. In October, Ms. Brooks discussed her work as a writer and her latest book, “Caleb’s Crossing,” a novel based on the life of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Native American Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk here and at Harvard College, where he became the first Native-American graduate in 1665. In November, Mr Horwitz discussed his latest book, “Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War.”

The series has been so successful that Mary and Jackson Kenworth, owners of State Road, have agreed to resume it in the spring. Library board member Dan Waters said, “We’re looking at a list of exciting local writers, one of which is Alexandra Styron. Stay tuned for more news.”

The capital campaign is only about a year old, but the West Tisbury Library Foundation Inc. is near its fundraising goal of $1.5 million. Contributions and pledges total more than $1.2 million.

“The entire community has risen to the occasion,” Mr. Waters said, “pouring out support of all kinds: not just money, but talent and resources. Writers, artists, cooks, musicians — even apple-growers — have come forward to help.”

The library was awarded a matching grant of close to $3 million in state funds on July 7, 2011. The state has just extended the deadline the library must meet to raise the matching funds, from January 31 to just after the April town meeting when the foundation expects West Tisbury taxpayers to match library fundraising to secure the state grant so that the expansion work will be fully underwritten.

For the past several years, the library has been judged to be among the top 10 libraries of its size in the nation by a Library Journal rating index.

“We’re coming tantalizingly close to the day when some library-lover puts us over our $1.5 million target,” Mr. Waters said.

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See Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish this Friday, Jan. 13 at the Chilmark Community Center. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

“Dance” on the Vineyard is practically synonymous with The Yard. The Yard provides a teaching, learning and, performance space that has attracted dancers and choreographers from many parts of the dance world. Like most nonprofits, they rely to a large extent on fundraising

They are asking for our help in reducing their debt by hosting a “Public Dancing Allowed” fundraiser Friday evening, Jan. 13, from 8 to 10 pm at the Chilmark Community Center. The dance, open to the public, is being promoted as “dancing and desserts to support The Yard.” Music will be provided by Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, one the Island’s best dance bands, specializing in music that covers pretty much the entire spectrum of rock and roll. The desserts will be provided by friends of The Yard and Cakes by Liz. The cost of admission is $20 and children dance for free. It is a BYOB event.

The Yard has held a series of fundraisers to help reduce a debt left over from a rocky period. In addition to the plight of many other arts organizations suffering from the double whammy of cutbacks from government-funded arts organizations and individuals, The Yard underwent an internal administrative upheaval in 2010 that left the group owing a number of companies a total of some $248,000.

Jesse Keller, resident manager for Island programs and education, said that while she could not provide an exact figure for the remaining debt, The Yard had made considerable progress. “We have retired roughly two-thirds of our debt through payments, the generosity and reorganization of debt with individual creditors and help from our board,” Ms. Keller said. “We have installment plans in place to pay the remainder over the next two years.”

This is the third dance in the series launched by The Yard this past summer to give people a chance to dance to the music of local bands and help support the group’s transformed barn/theater in its wooded setting off Middle Road near the Chilmark Town Hall.

The Yard is hoping to sponsor more off-season events to increase their year-round exposure, according to Jesse Keller, the resident manager of Island programs and education. Nearing the end of his first year as the director of The Yard, David White said of the first two fundraisers, “It was great. It was multiple generations gathering simply for the love of dance.” The first two dance events featured the music of The Kahoots in July and Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish in August.

Public Dancing Allowed: Dancing & Desserts to Support The Yard, with Johnny Hoy & The Bluefish, Friday. Jan. 13, 8–10 pm, Chilmark Community Center, $20 at the door; free for children. BYOB.