FUNNY, FABULOUS, AND FANTASTIC – DO NOT MISS GLOUCESTER STAGE “THE 39 STEPS!”

At Gloucester Stage, “The 39 Steps” Amazes and Astounds

By Tom Hauck

In this era of computer generated film “performances” that create an artificial reality of human capabilities, it’s a daunting task indeed for a regional stage company, in a production with only four actors, to startle an audience and leave them breathless. Yet this is what “The 39 Steps,” expertly directed by Robert Walsh, now through July 28 at The Gloucester Stage Company, does handily.

It begins with the fast-paced script, adapted by Patrick Barlow from the 1915 novel by John Buchan. The play premiered in 1995 and ran for nine years in London’s West End. It’s a laugh-out-loud parody of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, and lest you think that this makes it somehow less artistic, you’d be mistaken. This physical comedy relies on the precise split-second timing of the four actors, who tangle in a string of set pieces that strive to top each other for outrageous choreography. The gags, relentless and perfectly executed, compel you to watch closely so that you won’t miss a single nuance.

The cast is superb. Stage veterans Amanda Collins, Gabriel Kuttner, Paul Melendy, and Lewis D. Wheeler are a well-oiled comic machine. Wheeler plays Richard Hannay, a man caught up in a mysterious espionage kerfuffle, while Collins, Kuttner, and Melendy trade off multiple roles as if it were as easy as trading hats—which is what they literally do! The stage performers are ably assisted by Malachi Rosen, who from his onstage office provides a steady stream of sound effects, and to whom the actors occasionally direct their complaints (in this show, no wall is left unbroken!).

When celebrating such an outstanding ensemble cast, the reviewer is rightly reluctant to shine a spotlight on any individual performer, for fear that by doing so the brilliance of the other three might appear to be dimmed. Yet I would be remiss if I failed to give special notice to the mind-blowing physical and vocal skills of Paul Melendy. There is no Walt Disney cartoon character or SNL cast member who can prepare you for the astonishing, barely human shrieks and sneers that issue from this actor’s mouth. When midway into the show he appears as Professor Jordan, the energy of the production, already high, goes through the roof.

Whether you’re a denizen of the theater or you haven’t bought a ticket in years, this production will amaze you. It will bring you to a place you might think has vanished forever—a place where real humans create marvelous magic, right in front of your eyes.

“The 39 Steps” is playing now through July 28 at The Gloucester Stage Company. For tickets, call 978-281-4099, or go to gloucesterstage.com.

Snapshots from The 39 Steps Cast Podcast

Cape Ann Museum July 25 |special lecture and new biography about American artist Nell Blaine by author Cathy Curtis!

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Alive Still: Nell Blaine, American Painter | A Talk with Author Cathy Curtis

The Cape Ann Museum, is pleased to present an illustrated talk by author Cathy Curtis about beloved Cape Ann artist Nell Blaine on Thursday, July 25 at 7:00 p.m. This program is free for Museum members or $10 nonmembers. Reservations are required. For more information visit capeannmuseum.org or call 978-283-0455 x10.

Alive Still: Nell Blaine, America Painter (Oxford University Press, 2019) is the biography of an artist who believed she was at the top of her game in 1959, when she traveled to Greece to paint. She had a great time . . . until she contracted the most severe form of polio and had to be airlifted to New York. A paraplegic at age thirty-seven, she was determined to regain her skills. Her coloristically brilliant, rhythmically vibrant style illuminated landscapes and still lifes that reflect her passion for the natural world. During the next three decades she would become a notable painter and one of America’s great watercolorists. In 1974, she purchased a cottage on Ledge Road, where she and her partner, painter Carolyn Harris, made the most of the splendid views available on Cape Ann.

Cathy Curtis is the author of two previous biographies of women artists, RESTLESS AMBITION: GRACE HARTIGAN, PAINTER (Oxford University Press, 2015) and A GENEROUS VISION: THE CREATIVE LIFE OF ELAINE DE KOONING (Oxford University Press, 2017). She earned a master’s degree in the history of art from the University of California, Berkeley, and wrote art criticism for many years. In 2018, she was elected to a two-year term as president of Biographers International Organization in 2018. Her website is www.cathycurtis.net

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Cathy Curtis

About the Cape Ann Museum Continue reading “Cape Ann Museum July 25 |special lecture and new biography about American artist Nell Blaine by author Cathy Curtis!”

Cape Ann Museum July 27 | Who Was Ben Butler? special program with Gloucester Stage

16. Alfred James Wiggin (1823-1883), General Benjamin F. Butler (1818-1893).jpgUpcoming special event at Cape Ann Museum

Who Was Ben Butler? A series of presentations at the Cape Ann Museum

The Cape Ann Museum and Gloucester Stage Company are pleased to present Who Was Ben Butler? a special arrangement of speakers and performers on Saturday, July 27 at 2:00 p.m. This program will take place at 27 Pleasant Street, Gloucester and is free for Gloucester Stage Company & Museum members or $10 nonmembers(includes Museum admission). Reservations are required. For more information visit capeannmuseum.org or call 978-283-0455 x10.

Benjamin Franklin Butler of Gloucester had many admirers and detractors as he helped shape the course of mid-19th century America.  He won a seat in Congress while camping in Bay View, started the Cape Ann Granite Company, owned the yacht “America,” championed women’s suffrage, and changed the course of the Civil War, not through military skill but legal acumen.  These accomplishments are among many achieved in a life spent in business, law, and the military.

In 21st century Gloucester, however, Butler remains a cypher.

The Gloucester Stage Company and the Cape Ann Museum are pleased to re-introduce Ben Butler to his adopted city.

Gloucester Stage will present the play BEN BUTLER August 2-25, and in anticipation of that, the Cape Ann Museum and Gloucester Stage will offer an opportunity to acquaint themselves with one of Gloucester’s most accomplished citizens.  Professor Robert Forrant (U. Mass Lowell), a noted Butler historian, will join some of Butler’s Bay View descendants for a lively discussion, and actors from the play BEN BUTLER will make an appearance to give a hint at this fascinating and witty play.

Image credit: Alfred James Wiggin, Benjamin F. Butler. Collection of the Cape Ann Museum.

About the Cape Ann Museum Continue reading “Cape Ann Museum July 27 | Who Was Ben Butler? special program with Gloucester Stage”

Dore & Whittier School consolidation plans & costs heading to MSBA August 1, 2019

 

On July 18, 2019 the architectural firm, Dore & Whittier, was slated to reveal associated rough costs on new school(s) buildings– such as construction costs, swing space costs, and eligible reimbursables– with the School Building Committee. (See summary of City Council requests July 9, 2019 here.) The meetings are public. Associated costs were not transparent for the public. Instead a dollar sign rating system was illlustrated pictorially, like so:

Slide 9 comparative costs 14 options_East Gloucester consolidation costs by Dore & Whittier and School Committee July 18 2019 Gloucester MA (11)

Why were rough estimate details cut from the presentation? A few reasons were provided, namely “MSBA does not look kindly” on public disclosure because

  • The MSBA aims to have the best possible build based on educatioal needs and goals rather than cost. Publishing amounts can taint the bidding or decision making.
  • The public may be too attached to numbers they hear and/or be confused because of the (lengthy) timeline. By the time shovels hit the dirt the final bids will be different.

Other districts post all associated costs, why not Gloucester? Why are the design/build firms awarded these contracts charged with bidding out the cost evaluations on projects, especially ones greater than 5 million?  Why assume this process is the only way to go about it?

Michele Rogers with Dore & Whittier announced that there were “no surprises” following review of the cost estimate comparisons. “Eliminations were easy; the most expensive were eliminated.” She concluded that this presentation was the second and final per their contract for services related to this Feasibility Study Phase. [This one feasibility study phase contract total cost is: $569,075  ($284,296 for the feasibility study and $275,704 for the future schematic design. One environmental study add on is $9075). Requests for a breakdown of all studies and plans related to new schools–at least since 2012– have gone unanswered by the school committee and architectural firm.]

The next step is to compile and deliver submission to the MSBA, the state agency tasked with reviewing Gloucester’s application for new schools.

Q. Next steps? “Submittal allows us to do geotechnical site evaluation and other necessary investigations (like traffic and environmental studies), and more design. Submittal helps us narrow down and leave behind areas we won’t bother with as we know…We’ll need to tighten the building design and handle specialized pieces. We’ll proceed from 9 options to 6 very quickly. ”

Q. What is the submission? “It’s a thick binder, maybe 10- inches thick, with all our reports to date, the educational program narrative, the space summaries approved earlier, etc.” Will the MSBA require a presentation? “No. The MSBA will review the binders within a two week turn around; then we have a two week turn around to respond.” Dunn commented to make sure the City see that. The MSBA will decide on November 13th or November 20th whether to make a recommendation to allow this proposal to proceed to the next phase: schematic  design. “Or they’ll push back and request more information.” The MSBA “will not require more work on many options as the scoring was so low. They’ll be concentrating on the top 3 or 4 options.”

Tom Ellis was present related to a staff change; Roger who managed the design phase is moving out of state so the team for Gloucester will need to be reorganized. They met with MSBA July 17, 2019 to discuss this change. (Was someone from the city at the meeting?) Chris Tremblay will be assisting. “MSBA doesn’t like surprises,” Ellis remarked.

Who does?

The costs and application should be public before it’s forwarded to the state. Chairman Jonathan Pope said he’d forward the pricing.

Presentation

Double click on pictures to enlarge the slides for the “East Gloucester Elementary School Building Committee 7.18.19″. Color coding continues as in yellow = East Gloucester; Blue = Vets; and Green = Green Street area.

And the winner (high scoring) is…

one location at Vets and both at Green

slide 13_scoring finalists_East Gloucester consolidation costs by Dore & Whittier and School Committee July 18 2019 Gloucester MA (16)
slide 13- scoring on final 9 for state

 

REVISED SCHEDULE

“By October we’ll be back on schedule. Yes, MSBA has seen the schedule and is pleased.”

slide 16 _TIMELINE NOW_East Gloucester consolidation costs by Dore & Whittier and School Committee July 18 2019 Gloucester MA (1)
slide 16 revised timeline expectations

 

Reminder! Community meeting July 25 6:30 PM

Fraternity Club Gloucester, Ma

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How did we get here?

Catch up posts, documents, links related to Gloucester’s school committee new school buildings/consolidation process: Continue reading “Dore & Whittier School consolidation plans & costs heading to MSBA August 1, 2019”

We are America the Beautiful

We Are America the Beautiful is a non-partisan initiative engaging citizens to learn about the status of national events, the impact of local action and the importance of voting thoughtfully.

If you look at our facebook page: weareamericathebeautiful you will see the many subjects that we have addressed over the past couple of years.

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Love Our Library!

Have I mentioned recently how much I love Sawyer Free Library? As a librarian myself, I have made it a point to visit and use as many libraries and library services as I can. Sawyer Free stands out among the very best. I am sometimes there for research and have the opportunity to overhear exchanges between patrons and workers. The staff has been unfailingly patient and helpful. If you haven’t been there recently, I suggest you make a visit. Maybe I will see you at the microfilm machines!

Sunday, July 21: Jazz Brunch Featuring SCOLLINS-WARSI DUO at Feather and Wedge

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The Scollins-Warsi jazz duo is back at Feather & Wedge for another fantastic jazz brunch! With Kevin Scollins on guitar and Sahil Warsi on double bass, they will play from their extensive setlist including selections from the Great American Song Book, modern jazz, contemporary blues and R&B.

Reservations highly suggested! 978.999.5917

Sunday, July 21, 2019
10:30 AM  –  2:30 PM

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Feather & Wedge, 5 Main Street, Rockport, MA, 01966
978.999.5917
https://featherandwedge.com

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