Whale extravaganza, ahoy!

The perilous situation of whalemen. Illustration courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Museum
This illustration is titled "The perilous situation of whalemen" and is from an 1857 book, "The Arctic Whaleman." Illustration courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Museum

By Nis Kildegaard - July 20, 2006

Perhaps it was inevitable that when The Yard and the Martha's Vineyard Museum got together to plan a summer celebration around the theme of the whale, the event would grow to leviathan proportions.

What began as a two-day event envisioned by Lynne Whiting, education director at the museum, and Wendy Tauscher, executive director at The Yard, has ballooned into a week packed with family-friendly events beginning Monday, July 24, and extending through Saturday, July 29.

The celebration is entitled Wow! It's a Whale of a Week!, and the advance posters need a legal-size page of fine print just to contain all the listings of the week's events.

Ms. Whiting says that she and Ms. Tauscher began talking last fall about collaborating on a program this summer: "I've known Wendy for years, since she was an artist-in-residence and I was a schoolteacher in Chilmark. Wendy and I worked very well together from the get-go. She is a very creative person who not only understands choreography and dance, but understands children and the importance of the arts to them. She and I have collaborated on a couple of projects over the years."

The pair began by looking at a window of time in midsummer when the main stage was dark at The Yard's Barn Theatre in Chilmark. As they were casting about for program ideas, Ms. Whiting visited the Nantucket historical society and learned of a program they had recently sponsored with great success - a one-man interpretation of Moby Dick in drama and dance.

"We thought, aha, this is interesting," recalls Ms. Whiting. And soon they were discovering all sorts of possibilities for programs built around Island history, whales and whaling.

Two major fund-raising events at The Yard anchor the week. The first, on Monday night, features modern dance performances by the renowned Limon Dance Company and Built on Stilts, the Island program founded by Abby Bender. The second, on Thursday evening, presents Carlo Adinolfi of the Concrete Temple Theatre in New York City in his remarkable creation, the one-man performance of Moby Dick. The show will open with sea chanties by Mark Lovewell.

Other highlights of the week:

Folklorist Dillon Bustin will present the story of Island mariner George Fred Tilton in story and song at 6 pm on Tuesday, July 25, on the museum campus in Edgartown.

Tobias Vanderhoop and Mark Lovewell will present First Contact Whalers Through Music and Story, a performance based on the show they toured in Alaska, at 5 pm on Wednesday on the museum grounds. This program is free and will be followed by a family ice cream social.

Carlo Adinolfi will present his performance, The Whale, again at 7:30 pm on Friday, July 28, at The Yard in Chilmark. Tickets are $25.

Revels on the Road will wrap up the week with a family-friendly musical entitled A Celebration of the Sea, at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs at 7:30 pm on Saturday, July 29. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children, or $25 for a family of four.

The whole morning and afternoon of Saturday, July 29, has been organized as a family festival on the museum campus, with events from 9 am to 5 pm. There will be music, demonstrations of blacksmithing and scrimshaw, authors speaking about their books, and special guest docents giving museum tours and sharing their family artifacts and history.

Having never organized a program this ambitious before, Ms. Whiting says she doesn't know quite what to expect from the Whale of a Week. But she's convinced that this idea of collaboration between cultural organizations on the Island is full of promise.

"Collaboration is so important on the Vineyard," she says. "I think that, more and more, we need to see our nonprofits banding together and supporting one another in terms of sharing audiences and resources."

Details of all the week's events appear in the newspaper calendar listings, and online at the web sites of The Yard and the Martha's Vineyard Museum.

For a complete schedule of events, visit www.dancetheyard.org or call the Yard at 508-645-9662, or the Martha's Vineyard Museum 508-627-4441.

Nis Kildegaard lives in Edgartown. He is a writer and editor, and the former longtime news editor of the Vineyard Gazette. He is editor of the Messenger, twice-yearly newsletter of the Martha's Vineyard Museum. He is a frequent contributor to The Times.