Events

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A fundraising party at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on March 4 will benefit the Guest family of Edgartown, who is working to help their daughter Jillian through difficult medical circumstances.

According to the family’s website, guestfamilyhelp.com, Jillian, 24, was born premature. She has cerebral palsy and is blind, and is currently rehabilitating a broken femur. Though now living at home, her family is working with an agency so that she can live a more independent life.

The Mardi Gras Celebration party is from 6 to 11 pm, and features a silent auction, costume contest, music by Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, and light appetizers. Tickets are $25. For more information, visit guestfamilyhelp.com.

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The M.V. Film Center is hosting an Oscar night party.

Celebrate the 86th Academy Awards with friends and film lovers this Sunday, March 2, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven.

Walk the red carpet, enjoy a buffet dinner and live music by Jeremy Berlin, have your photo taken in a photo booth holding a real Oscar, and take part in a ballot contest. Doors open at 6:45 pm, and tickets are $40; $35 for M.V. Film Society members.

For more information and tickets, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

Dancing frees the body and the mind at "Group Dance Group" each Thursday night.

The room is dimly lit — almost completely dark but for some ambient brightness from the streetlights outside. The music is pulsating, but not heavy or jarring. A small group of sock-footed women are moving to the music — each seemingly in her own world but also picking up on the energy of the room. Each dancer has her own style, but all are energetic, not merely swaying back and forth, but really exerting themselves. It’s Thursday evening and the group has gathered to participate in “Group Dance Group,” a new event hosted by Rebecca Brown and Noavakay Knight.

Noavakay Knight, left, and Rebecca Brown, hostesses of "Group Dance Group."

Noavakay Knight, left, and Rebecca Brown, hostesses of “Group Dance Group.” — Photo by Jennifer Coito, Stella

The weekly event, which was launched in January, is focused on freestyle dance that is as much about having fun and letting loose as it is about enjoying a meditative and aerobic experience. “It’s focused on health,” said Ms. Brown, who was leading the group on this particular Thursday. “It’s morphed into meditation as well.”

As Ms. Brown describes it, dancing in its purest form — distanced from the attitude, distractions, and self-consciousness of a club experience — lends itself to freeing the body and the mind. “I have a couple of friends who would say they can’t dance when they’re not drunk,” she said. “Why can’t music be a bridge into having that meditative silence that happens when you’re not thinking? I just find that dancing is a really natural, easy way to ‘cheat’ at meditation without drugs or alcohol.”

The evening starts out with group warmup time and a short reading from a spiritually related source. Shifting colorful images are projected on the walls to add to the pulsing, hypnotic atmosphere. There’s no instruction or even suggestions from the hosts to focus on a mind/body type experience. The group’s only rules: no shoes, no talking, no structure, set the stage.

“We try not to talk at all so as not to break concentration,” said Ms. Knight. “It’s all about meditation dance. You’re going into yourself, creating whatever it is you’re creating. Either you’re standing still and creating, or you’re moving and creating.”

The beauty of the experience is that there’s really no one paying attention to what the others are doing, and no jockeying for personal space. This non-judgmental atmosphere lends itself to letting go of inhibitions and allowing oneself to experiment with different movements while attaining a trance-like state.

The digital projections are provided by Ms. Knight. She also recently purchased a more powerful speaker and is hoping to bring a disco ball into the mix. Of the visuals, she said: “it really helps to create the kind of vibe to relax and go with it and enjoy yourself.”

The playlist is put together by Ms. Brown, who is a fan of electronic dance club music. “It’s not trendy,” she said. “It’s mostly dubstep with a heavy emphasis on trap (a form of electronic hiphop/rap music) that  really helps to feel the music because there’s so much bass in it.” The playlist switches around from heavy, pulsing beats to tunes with more of an ’80s electronica feel. “The music fills the quietness inside,” said Ms. Brown. “The undertone of the whole experience is to be at one with yourself.”

After the freestyle dance, there might be some structured exercise or something a little more experimental. “Then we do something totally different,” said Ms. Knight. “We do some abs or dance to Youtube videos that have choreography attached to them. It makes it a little more grounded. It’s nice to be able to do free dance, but it helps build connections to learn movements that you wouldn’t necessarily do on your own.”

Ms. Knight is responsible for launching the group. She wanted to find something to replace the hiphop class she had attended the previous winter but was no longer available. (Since then, another hiphop class has begun at Rise). She also wanted to fill a void on the Vineyard.  “I just really love to dance,” Ms. Knight said. “You don’t get much opportunity, especially here in the winter. You don’t have to stay out late at night drinking to have this wonderful experience of just dancing.”

Ms. Knight created a “Group Dance Group” Facebook page just to see who else might be interested. Through that listing, she met Ms. Brown, and they proved to be perfect partners for the experiment. “She found a space; I had the contact list,” said Ms. Knight.

The first event took place at the Anchors in Edgartown. Then, the group moved to the studio at Yoga Haven before settling in the dojo space at Decca. It’s a large room with a lot more space than either of the group’s previous venues. “It has really great energy,” said Ms. Knight. “It reminds me of being in high school and all the bands used to play there.”

The group is evolving as things progress. There are a few regulars, but new people show up each time. They are mostly women, but according to Ms. Knight, there’s always at least one guy. The age range has been from 20s to 40s, but the co-founders hope to attract some older people as well as high schoolers.

The dynamics of the group will most likely influence future additions and adjustments to the program. “We’ve just been fine-tuning it,” said Ms. Knight. “We’ve never done this before. People really enjoy that part of it. We don’t know what we’re doing, so it’s okay for them to not know what they’re doing.”

This open-minded attitude really adds to the experience. Judging by the crowd on a recent Thursday night, everyone seemed to be completely comfortable and finding their own groove.

With “Group Dance Group,” there’s no wrong or right, no better or fitter or more coordinated. It’s all about moving and getting what you want out of the experience. It’s the perfect way to give yourself a psychic boost on a cold dark winter’s night.

“Group Dance Group” meets every Thursday, 6:30-–8 pm, at Decca on Peacegate Way, Vineyard Haven. $7 admission goes toward renting the space.

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At Pecha Kucha Night, presenters show 20 images for 20 seconds each. Before the last Pecha Kuch Night, M.V. Museum assistant curator Anna Carringer made a brief introduction and screened a short video.

What began in Japan in the early 2000’s as a networking event has turned into a celebration of the arts at Edgartown’s Harbor View Hotel. “PechaKucha Night” which draws its name from the Japanese term for “chit chat,” will return to the Harbor View on Friday, February 21 from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. Presentations follow the same simple format: 20 images are shown for 20 seconds each. According to a press release from the hotel, “it’s a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.” The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required only for presenters. For more information, call Jessica at 508-627-4441, ext. 117, or e-mail jbarker@mvmuseum.org.

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Shakespeare for the Masses presents free, fun, and shortened versions of the Bard's plays. Pictured is Billy Meleady and Brooke Hardman.

The Vineyard Playhouse presents another installment of Shakespeare for the Masses, organized and edited by Chelsea McCarthy and Nicole Galland and performed by a group of actors. There are two shows scheduled: Saturday, Feb. 15, at 7 pm, and Sunday, Feb. 16, at 2 pm, both at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.

The only Shakespeare play ever banned by a democratic government, according to a press release, “Coriolanus” is a “startlingly contemporary tale about political intrigue, political spin doctors, political treachery…and, as with any story involving proto-fascism, the importance of motherhood,” the press release continued. Admission is free. For more information, call 508-693-6450 or visit vineyardplayhouse.org.

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Show your love for the Martha’s Vineyard Arena this Friday, Feb. 14, also Valentine’s Day, at a benefit  Las Vegas Night.

Play various table games and raise money for the Island’s ice rink at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs from 7 to 11 pm. Admission is $10. For more information, visit mvarena.com.

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Square dance the night away this Saturday. Pictured is Lea Scott, Mike Gilman, and Violet Southwick.

The Rowing Club of Sail Martha’s Vineyard is hosting a benefit Contra Dance on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs starting at 6:30 pm. No contra experience is necessary to have a fun time dancing to music by The Flying Elbows paired with caller Kansas Brew.

“The thing about contra dancing is that it is great for families and inhibited dancers because you don’t have to make anything up,” said Rowing Club member Sarah Vail in a press release. “The caller, Kansas Brew, tells you exactly what to do and runs through it first.” Admission is $10; free for children. Tickets are available at Mocha Mott’s and Sail M.V., and at the door on Saturday night. For more information, call 508-696-7644 or visit sailmv.com.

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Store signs from the past grace the walls of the M.V. Museum for its latest exhibit, The Art of Advertising.

In talking about the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s latest exhibit, assistant curator Anna Carringer borrows a quote from an 1897 issue of Harper’s Weekly. The magazine describes advertising as, “a true mirror of life, a sort of fossil history, from which the future chronicler might fully and graphically rewrite the history of time.” Ms. Carringer and chief curator Bonnie Stacy have done an excellent job in telling the story of the Vineyard in The Art of Advertising, which will be on display — starting this weekend — through May 26.

“It’s a fun graphic look at how advertising has changed over the years and some of the ways that advertising has has been used to sell products — graphically representing Island history through products and selling and marketing,” said Ms. Carringer. The pictures in this article can attest to the fact that the many colorful, imaginative, and, in many cases, clever examples of the history of Martha’s Vineyard advertising can best sell the exhibit itself.

Advertisements from the past tell stories about the Vineyard's history.

Advertisements from the past tell stories about the Vineyard’s history. — Photo Courtesy M.V. Museum

As anyone who watched last weekend’s Super Bowl telecast knows, advertising by its nature is a particularly attention-grabbing form of art. Walking into the small room containing the exhibit attests to that. The walls and cases are full of eye-catching mementos of the past, both distant and recent. And despite its small scope, one can spend a good deal of time admiring and being entertained by the many items, from tiny campaign buttons (including one for Calvin Coolidge and a beauty with the simple message, Votes for Women) to elaborately carved wooden shop signs (Borrowdale Book Store, Dr. Nevin, and others). The exhibit demonstrates that marketers often recruited some remarkable talent to help sell items, businesses, and even the Island itself.

The exhibit is divided into three sections. The first illustrates early newspaper ads and packaging for products sold (but not produced) on the Vineyard. Next to a wonderful old black-and-white photo of a Vineyard general store with its myriad selections is a case full of inspired colorful packaging. Among the items are old tins, elaborately decorated corset boxes, and a clever card designed to entice customers to John Bent’s store featuring a voluptuous beauty in a swimsuit, which if worn today, would be described as bondage gear. It’s easy to see why these things that could have been considered throwaways have survived for more than a century.

One of the prizes of the collection is a somewhat gruesome WWI poster for Victory Liberty Loans featuring a bloodied American soldier proudly displaying his trophies of conquest including some German helmets. A small section is devoted to the former Oak Bluffs roller skating rink and features a charming poster advertisement and a pair of skates named for the Vineyard. Ms. Carringer explains that the owner of the rink also manufactured skates and was able to use the product to promote the venue and vice versa.

Section two features materials intended to advertise the Vineyard itself. Among a good-sized collection of tourism pamphlets is one from the 1920s, most likely designed by an artist with no firsthand knowledge of the Island. It features a couple in resort wear enjoying the sea breezes in front of a bungalow shaded by a palm tree. Another charming early brochure shows ladies in full flowing early 20th century garb painting en plein air and a gentleman enjoying a sail, illustrating that some of the delights of the Vineyard have remained constant through the years.

“Advertising in the 20th century on the Vineyard is a combination of sophistication using all the latest90.81a.jpg advertising forms/materials, but also relying heavily on the personal connections that a small intimate community living on an island affords,” said museum oral historian Linsey Lee, who is involved with the exhibit.

Ms. Carringer pointed out that many of the tourism materials featured similar taglines —calling the Vineyard variously the Island of Health and the Island of Beauty. “They used any way that they could to market this place,” she said. “The Vineyard advertised itself as a place of respite. They would tout the restorative benefits of coming to the Island.”

One of the gems of the collection is a poster advertising the Saturday Evening Post. It features one of four witty covers by artist Stevan Dohanos that spotlighted the Vineyard (all four covers are included in the exhibit). The painting shows a large extended family attempting to enjoy some outdoor time on a rainy day by crowding the porch of a small summer cottage.

Among the fascinating oral histories included is one with Phronsie Conlin, who was among the models in the painting. She says that although the family in the painting was supposed to be visitors from Ohio, “He wanted to put in some of us because we were his friends and it was convenient and it was fun.”

The poster is signed by all of the models including a young Sam Low of Oak Bluffs, who is depicted as a tot staring wistfully at a model sailboat in his hands. He has simply signed Sammy in a childish scrawl on the side of the poster along with some other familiar names.

The contemporary portion of the exhibit features advertising materials for local products and services including a tee-shirt from the late Che’s Lounge designed by Colin Ruel, a catalogue of 1980s fashions from local designer Lorraine Parish, and a series of clever campaign merchandise from clerk of courts Joe Solitto’s only contested run for office.

Marketing professional Carol Kolodny, of Kolodny Design Group, has donated a caseful of samples of her work for client The Black Dog, including some charming newspaper ads featuring the iconic dog in a rowboat dressed variously to represent some of the Tavern’s ethnic dinners. Ms. Kolodny, who is featured in a short video, provided inspiration for the exhibit by offering some examples of her work as a graphic designer throughout the years.

The video and all of the oral histories, including interviews by Ms. Lee with locals talking about the old Tashmoo Springs Bottling Company and Priscilla Hancock’s Candies, are very interesting glimpses into life in a small community in another era. By all means, take the time to check out the short audio clips.

Among other things, Ms. Carringer says the museum hopes to encourage new donations with the current exhibit. “Sometimes we have an ulterior motive,” she said. “We’re really looking at recent history where our collections are not that strong presently. There are a couple of things that people will leave the exhibit with. One is to really look at advertising around the Island. There’s a lot of really wonderful advertising around us and maybe in looking at that people will keep us in mind. We don’t have a lot in our collection from businesses of the last 30 or 40 years.”

Referring to one of the most effective marketing tools around, she said, “There’s nothing that really gets to you as much as looking at a shop’s sign. If a shop closes, you have to wonder,  where did the sign go?” Hopefully, some are stored away in local businesses and homes and may resurface after Islanders get a glimpse of how representative of our history and culture advertising can be.

The museum will be a particularly busy place this upcoming week, between the opening party for the new exhibit on Friday and a couple of other events. On Saturday, Feb. 8, from 10 am to 12 noon, Kay Mayhew, the museum’s genealogist, will lead an introduction to genealogy workshop. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Bonnie Stacy will present a slideshow and talk featuring the history of Valentines.

Exhibit opening for The Art of Advertising, Friday, Feb. 7, 5–7 pm, M.V. Museum, Edgartown. $7; free for members. Show runs through May 26. For more information, visit mvmuseum.org or call 508-627-4441.

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Daytrippers Shelagh Smilie and Boaz Kirschenbaum will play Saturday at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in celebration of Mr. Kirschenbaum's birthday.

Martha’s Vineyard musician and piano tuner Boaz Kirschenbaum is giving the Island a free mini-music festival for his 40th birthday on Saturday, Feb. 1.

A supergroup of eight local professional musicians, all Deadheads, will headline the show, performing songs from the Grateful Dead’s live album Europe ’72.

“There will be two drummers, backup singers. It will be a lot like the real Dead,” Mr. Kirschenbaum said. He will play the Jerry Garcia role on guitar. “No one has really heard me play like that. It’s been a closet passion of mine and of course having Mike Benjamin on guitar as well will be fun. We always have fun playing together. I have always wanted to perform this music, so this will be a dream for me if we pull it off.”

Brian Weiland, pictured, will play with his son, Liam, and high school freshman Tessa Whitaker.

Brian Weiland, pictured, will play with his son, Liam, and high school freshman Tessa Whitaker. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Flying Elbows, Jellybone Rivers, Nina Violet, the Island Beatles tribute band The Daytrippers, among others will join the festivities. Special guests Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School freshmen Tessa Whitaker and Liam Weiland will sing with Liam’s dad Brian Weiland, Oak Bluffs School music teacher, on guitar.

All ages are welcome. The performing musicians are all friends or clients of Mr. Kirschenbaum. “I thought it would be cool as a thank you to the community and all my friends to put on a concert,” he said. “Everyone I asked to play said ‘Where do I show up?’ and ‘What do you want to play?’”

Mr. Kirschenbaum also plays with The Daytrippers. “I used to play professionally, but now I have my tuning business,” he said. “I really wanted to see if I could put on a concert for the community that was a real professional concert but with no money involved. All tech people and musicians are donating their time for rehearsals and for the concert.”

Nina Violet joins the line-up for Boaz's birthday celebration on Saturday.

Nina Violet joins the line-up for Boaz’s birthday celebration on Saturday. — File photo by Susan Safford

He said he wants to use the concert as a way to raise public awareness about the need for musical instrument maintenance at the Vineyard’s  schools as well as their need for musical materials. He also plans to mention the Island-wide string program at the concert. Concert-goers will be given a chance to donate to the music programs, but he said that no one has to donate to come to the concert.

The musicians filling the roles of the 1970s Grateful Dead lineup are: Mike Benjamin and Doug Brush (Bob Weir – vocals and guitar), Boaz Kirschenbaum (Jerry Garcia – vocals and guitar), Pinto Abrams (Phil Lesh – bass), Brian Weiland (Billy Kreutzmann – drums), Tauras Biskis (Mickey Hart – drums), Wes Nagy (Keith Godchaux – piano), Charlie Esposito (Ron “Pigpen” McKernan – organ), and Shelagh Hackett (Donna Godchaux – vocals).

Free Pop/Rock Concert, Saturday, Feb. 1, 5 to 10 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. Free.

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The crowd at Black Dog Tavern enjoyed dinner before the lecture.
A black and white photograph of the Charles W. Morgan.

A black and white photograph of the Charles W. Morgan. — Photo by Susan Safford

Every so often a subject is made for a venue like a slice of gruyere cheese on a Carr’s cracker, and so it was Wednesday night, January 22 — a notably frigid five-degree evening — when a sold-out crowd dined at the nostalgically charming Black Dog Tavern on Vineyard Haven harbor and listened to Matthew Stackpole discuss the life and death and rebirth of the Charles W. Morgan. It was the first in a series of fundraising dinners and lectures hosted by Sail Martha’s Vineyard.

With its sloping wooden doors and windows aglow against massive drifts of snow and vistas of lonesome boats afloat on cold black waters, the restaurant made for a perfect backdrop for whopping tales of a mighty whaler and its 80 years of service.

Let it be noted that whenever the golden age of whaling is invoked, the geography is almost inevitably framed by Nantucket, New Bedford, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. Stackpole’s life and achievements prove a case in point: He was born and raised for his first seven years on Nantucket before his historian dad was tapped to oversee the maritime museum at Mystic Seaport. Today Ms. Stackpole proudly proclaims, “I played on the Charles W. Morgan when it was moored right out in front of us.”

Today, as part of the fund raising team and ship’s historian for the Morgan Restoration Project of this, the oldest American commercial sailing ship in operation, he’s come full circle.

The Vineyard too lays claim to Mr. Stackpole. Over the years he served as executive director for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and president of Sail M.V. Now, as the ancient vessel nears a total retrofit, Mr. Stackpole is clearly thrilled about its date with Vineyard destiny: The wooden whaler that hasn’t sailed since 1922, will swan its glorious way into Vineyard Haven for a four day visit June 21 through 24.

At the Black Dog Tavern, paintings, drawings, and photographs flashed behind Mr. Stackpole as he regaled us with stories of the Charles W. Morgan’s maiden voyage on September 6, 1841. He quoted Island historian David McCullough: “The story of the American whaling industry, which the Charles W. Morgan so powerfully represents, is a rousing chapter in our nation’s history.”

Renowned painter Frederick Cousins captured the vessel on canvas, with its myriad ruffles — like a lady’s petticoat — hued with a pale amber glow of sunrise as it left New Bedford under full sail. It was 113 feet long, with a beam of 27 feet, six inches. Its rigging soared 135 feet above the water, and it has a depth of hold of 17 feet, six inches.

Its first voyage went first to the Azores, down the west coast of Africa, then over to the eastern coast of South America, around Cape Horn, up to the Arctic, and then back around Cape Horn to New Bedford. It took three years and four months. The captain was Islander Thomas Norton, with a crew of 35, many of them fellow Vineyarders.

Mr. Stackpole described a convocation — called a gam — of two New England whaleships near to the equator in the Pacific in 1841. “Whalers at sea would drop sail and send small ships back and forth to share letters and news with one another.” On this particular gam, a young feckless sailor on the Achusnet (feckless because the sailor later deserted to Taipei) happened to be named Herman Melville.

In the chit-chat and swapping of war stories with sailors from the other ship, Melville learned about the wreck of the Nantucket whaling ship Essex, struck by a whale in 1820, thus sending its survivors in life boats out into a merciless sea. Melville’s imagination was so inflamed by this story of a homicidal whale that back home he wrote “Moby Dick,” a book that sold few copies in its author’s lifetime but that since, of course, has served as the masterwork of the whaling era, and of American letters as well.

On that first voyage, the crew of the Morgan harpooned 70 whales and brought back 1,600 barrels of sperm oil, the finest lubricant and fuel for lanterns and machines of its time. During the more than 250 years of whaling under sail, 2,700 whaling ships plied the world’s oceans. Mariners on these ships compiled charts so meticulous, they were used in World War II to guide our battleships.

The Charles W. Morgan was deemed a “lucky ship” for surviving all the ordeals accrued from its 37 voyages — typhoons, near wreckage on a coral reef while being attacked by hostile speared natives, enclosure by Arctic ice, attacks on the whaling fleet by Confederate raiders during the Civil War, all of these near escapes culminating in valiant and lucrative returns to New Bedford, the hold a-groan with barrels of oil and baleen (whale bone used for a multiplicity of things, including ladies’ corsets).

In 1941, a decommissioned Charles W. Morgan arrived in Mystic as the Seaport’s key attraction. Many years later, with the restoration in full bloom, marine archeologists have been given a unique glimpse of the original wooden material. Meanwhile, new joists and beams right down to the keel have been wrought from white oak and locust trees shipped from Virginia and Connecticut, live oak from hurricanes, and long leaf yellow pine from Florida, Virginia, and Alabama.

There remains a wealth of whaling lore — almost, it would seem, an infinite amount. Mr. Stackpole treated his audience to the spoken equivalent of a full book. And books galore await the avid arm-chair mariner, not forgetting visits to the M.V. Museum filled with memorabilia of all things nautical. But in the meantime, a profound immersion lies in store for all of us on June 21–24 when a-whaling we may go (in a stationary sort of way), aboard the Charles W. Morgan in a neighborhood near you.

The next fundraising dinner is on Wednesday, Feb. 12, from 6 to 9 pm, at the Black Dog Tavern. For more information, visit sailmv.com or call 508-696-7644.