White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sittin' on the Arc of the Bay, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Sittin' on the arc of the bay. (Yes, that is a shameful play-on-words of Otis Redding's 1967 hit tune those of us of a certain age will remember).  As a young man, I used to wonder why all those old men I would see at the shore just sit on benches staring out to sea.  Now I've become one of them.  I think I've learned why:

After a career of work, it is sometimes simply enough to sit, to listen, to watch, to feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the waves in my ears, and be glad to be alive for another day to  breathe another breath and simply enjoy the beauty of this world. And yes, there is a bench right at this spot.

There is something else special about this "arc of the bay."  Perched on the distant bluff is the Manomet Bird Observatory (MBO), a part of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. My son as a young boy, perhaps eleven or twelve years old, first visited MBO and was wowed by the science of ornithology and their work here.  That seed planted by those early visits led to volunteer work, paid work, college, and now, a career in the field.  How special it is to find your passion in life at such an early age and pursue it to such fulfillment.

Individual owners are repairing the wooden stairs that invariably suffered damage during ferocious winter storms.

Not to sound too philosophical but, the sun is always shining somewhere, like this little patch of bright green along the coastline on an otherwise cloudy sky.

Spring is still springing around the area.

More green, more leaves, more bees, more bugs, more light, more warmth.

The days are still getting longer, now about 15 hours between sunrise and sunset, the tadpoles are hatched, and soon the chorus of frogs will serenade the evenings.

I can't for the life of me figure out why this raccoon climbed the tree right outside my window - he was at least 20 feet off the ground. (The lighting was poor at dusk but you get the idea).   He's probably the same critter that recently chewed his way into our compost bin and pulled out various remains of fruits and vegetables.  A vegan raccoon? Perhaps - it is an amazing and wonder-filled world in which we live.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Audition, Priscilla Beach Theatre, Priscilla Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

The Audition - these two folding chairs sitting alone on the stage likely strike both joy and terror into the heart of each prospective actor/actress as they approach the stage.  They know they will sit there to read lines and perform a brief scene.  They may have to sing too, since this is a musical.  

I had the opportunity to observe a recent audition for the upcoming show, "Fiddler on the Roof," which is the premier performance in the restored Priscilla Beach Theatre's (PBT) season on the Barn Stage beginning July 10, 2015.

Each of these aspiring performers has trained, dreamed, rehearsed, and performed in countless productions, many beginning as young kids, perhaps in a summer program much like what Priscilla Beach Theatre offers every year.

It's an intensely focused setting - the prospective performer, the director, theatre executives, the pianist. In some cases, as shown above,  the director will read lines with the performer while theatre executives observe from the audience seats. 

I am not an experienced theatre guy.  Other than a brief opportunity in high school 45+ years ago as the light board operator for local productions (which I really enjoyed), my adult experience has been as an audience member only.  I can only imagine what goes into the myriad of details in bringing a production to an audience. Theatre guy or not, I am truly impressed with the whole experience at PBT.

One of the most critical elements (along with a dozen other critical elements), is the selection of the cast.  In this case, through an audition of interested prospective performers. As I said, I am not an experienced theatre guy but, as a retired air traffic control executive, I understand the importance of the right person for the job, the synergy of a group, the value and importance of ensemble, the ability to give and take direction in a positive and productive manner, and the ability to perform under pressure.  It looks to me like the time spent in auditioning prospective talent is time well spent.

Co-owners and guardians of Priscilla Beach Theatre, Bob and Sandy Malone observe the auditions from the audience seats.

Sometimes the director, Ron Fassler, observes from the audience perspective also.

Sometimes the director sits and reads the scene with the actor/actress. 

The director looks and listens for that special combination of qualities suitable for this production.

Sometimes he talks about the lines with the actor/actress.

Sometimes the actor/actress stands alone and sings, hopeful his/her voice has that quality the director wants.

Each person knows that everything rests on these few brief minutes when they "stand and deliver." It's an all or nothing challenge, win or lose, no gray area, either chosen for the part or not.

They each hope against hope that the few minutes they have to demonstrate their art and craft will be enough for the director to choose them. It's a solo act - showing what you've got - sound, sight, voice, diction, inflection, accent, presence, projection, confidence, and many other attributes - hoping that the director will choose you. I suspect for some that it awakens the old hope and fear from elementary school when choosing sides for kick ball at recess, "oh please, - pick me, pick me, pick me."

But who is this mysterious "director" who wields such power over these hopefuls?

For this production, he is  Ron Fassler. He has been chosen by PBT co-owners and guardians Bob and Sandy Malone to direct the first production on the newly restored Barn Stage, "Fiddler on the Roof." He is an actor, writer, and director with thirty-five years of professional credits in film, television, and stage. More than that, however, is this wonderful information - for three consecutive summers, between the ages of seventeen and nineteen, back in the 1970's, he cut his teeth on the great American plays and musicals in an idyllic setting with a wonderful group of passionate and dedicated young people - right here at Priscilla Beach Theatre! - including performing in "Fiddler on the Roof!"  Imagine his joy and surprise to be chosen to direct the first show in this restored and reborn venue, thirty-something years later. How cool is that! An amazing full circle experience!

The clock is ticking and the show must go on - choices must be made and roles filled. The owners and director confer on the role choices - so much talent and desire - so few positions available.

And then, this moment  -  this magical moment for a performer when, right on the spot, the director sees/hears/feels that combination of attributes that makes an individual perfect for the show - and announces and congratulates her on the spot as a new cast member - how thrilling for me to witness!

It's going to be a great production and director Ron Fassler (left) and co-owner Bob Malone (right) are happy at the prospect.

From my perspective, these aspiring actors/actresses are all winners whether they get the part or not. Their willingness to put themselves on the line to be judged so quickly and absolutely - to be passed over or not - to have the next two months of their lives filled with excitement, hard work, and the joy of performance or, to try to find another show somewhere else to go through the same process - it's a challenging path, that of the actor/actress, young or old. 

I for one, as an audience member who, over my lifetime, has been moved to tears of both joy and sadness by live performances, am glad these aspiring actors/actresses are willing to go through this and thank them for their commitment to the art and craft.

Come celebrate the grand re-opening of this precious jewel of American theatre, the Barn Stage at Priscilla Beach Theatre, Broadway in a Barn since 1937.

"Fiddler on the Roof," will open on the Barn Stage on July 10, 2015. Call PBT at 508-224-4888 or online at http://www.pbtheatre.org/Fid2015.php for tickets.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Preserving the Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

I have always been a person who thought that beaches should be accessible to the public.  So, when I bought my current house and learned that the title included "deeded beach rights," I was perplexed but curious. A long story short - in the 1640's the Massachusetts Bay Colony issued land titles that included ownership in some cases to the LOW water mark rather than the HIGH water mark.  This effectively created "private" beaches.  Many of those titles are still in force. So it's true that some folks do legally own the beach here.

As a practical matter and apparently a matter of law (though I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice), the public has some rights regarding "fishing, fowling, or navigation" in the intertidal areas (between high and low tides) even on private beaches.  Confused? me, too. Here's a link if you want to read the details from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Affairs.

In any case, the coastal bluffs in southeast Massachusetts are particularly fragile and many stone revetments and jetties have been constructed over the years to reduce the "damage" caused by ferocious winter storms. I use the term "damage" loosely because truly it is just the natural cycle of wind, wave, sand, erosion that humans attempt to thwart. I appreciate the effort of private owners and beach associations to preserve the wonders of a sandy shoreline as well as protecting the valuable land and homes that sit atop the coastal bluffs.  It is not inexpensive to contract heavy equipment and heavy equipment operators to painstakingly, rock by rock, repair these walls.

Sometimes, I'd rather just walk along the road so I don't have to think about all this complex ownership and trespass stuff. Enjoying the beauty is enough.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Priscilla Beach Theatre Restoration, Priscilla Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Priscilla Beach Theatre (PBT), now in its 79th year, is the oldest barn theatre still in operation in the United States. The ongoing restoration work by owners and guardians Bob and Sandy Malone is nearing completion and the venue will soon welcome "Fiddler on the Roof," and "Chicago" this summer to this hallowed space. (You can call 508-224-4888 or go online to get your tickets/reservations. Here's their website - http://www.pbtheatre.org/).

This update is the latest edition of a multi-part series which I began in May 2014 to chronicle this extraordinary project to restore a precious part of our American theatrical heritage. If you choose, you can read my other blog posts about the construction progress and stage performances by typing "Priscilla Beach" in the search box in the right side column of this blog.

In this update, the new grass is all in, the permanent railings have been installed in the granite entrance steps, the venue sign has been mounted, and the countdown continues to opening night on July 10. (And yes, that is Sandy Malone, co-owner and guardian of Priscilla Beach Theatre, waving, while conferring with Joshua Patino, the recently selected full-time Production Manager for PBT. (He is also an alumnus of PBT, most recently performing in last summer's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

You know that project completion is very near when the official name sign is hung on the wall to welcome patrons to the magic of this live theatre.

The northeast side view on a cloudy day.

The southwest side view on a cloudy day.

Early evening, the photographer's "blue hour," is pretty special at PBT, also!

A point-and-shoot camera doesn't do too well in the dark but, you get the idea.

And of course, PBT always looks great on a sunny day.

Even a sunny day in winter, too!

Friday night, 7:30 pm, July 10 - that's the date and time when the magic returns live to the restored "PBT Barn Stage." The boards will again echo with the footfalls of actors and actresses, the sounds of voices raised in song and speech, and the rousing and heartfelt applause from an appreciative audience as Priscilla Beach Theatre welcomes, "Fiddler on the Roof," to this great venue - the oldest barn theatre in America, still going strong since 1937.

Come out and support local live theatre in our community.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Walk in Spring, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Springtime in New England is always a magical time. Surviving another cold season makes the beauty of spring even more delightful.

The trees are budding out.

A fresh green tint begins to cover everything.

People appear at the beach in shorts and short sleeves.

A fat-tired bicyclist pedals along the surfline.

Beach associations repair the damage to their stairways from the winter storms.

And the skies are big and bright and blue. When I make a panorama image, the camera/phone always cautions me to keep it level and move smoothly. I decided to try otherwise........

.........and got this. (Click on image to view full width).