Part 3: Uncovering Heart(s)

pall

something that covers or conceals

especially : an overspreading element that produces an effect of gloom

 

Heavy Hearts

Some mornings, before the last dream fades away, the world – my world – feels ‘normal.’

As I open my eyes…the feeling dissipates…and reality falls over me – clothing me in a kind of grief – a pervasive sense of gloom.

My ‘normal’ return to Peaks Island would be to clamber to the top deck of the Casco Bay ferry, stand next to the railing and become hypnotized by the waves. (VIDEO)

Mid-way across the bay, I would turn my back to the mainland and take in the view of the islands.

In years past, as we approached the dock, there would be a line of islanders waiting to board. They were headed to work or school on the mainland. Some may have nodded a greeting as they sipped their coffee. I once was welcomed by a serenading accordion player.

In May, there was no one waiting to greet arrivals. No one heading to work. Instead as the gangplank was lowered, a stenciled number 9 appeared on the road.

As I turned the corner, the number 9 appeared in store windows and on sidewalks. On telephone poles and car doors.

I later learned of the accidental death of a teenager from a longtime island family. His football jersey number was #9.  Islanders conveyed their compassion by adorning their doors and house windows with the number 9.

 

 

Eyes that do not cry, do not see – Swedish proverb

 

In his article titled ‘Spare a Moment of Sorrow,’ John Dickerson of 60 Minutes wrote:

… in this period, we should spare a moment for sorrow and grief. This is the human thing to do; it is what following through on the pledge to be in this together actually means.

If we spare a moment, we give our neighbors the simple communal feeling of being seen in their loss. If we spare a moment, we minimize the risk of sending a public signal to those who have just lost their world that the rest of the world is indifferent to their suffering. If we spare a moment, we acknowledge that the national push to find solutions and get back to normal at some point, as reasonable as that is, is impossible for many.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/the-grieving-world/609013/

 

 

I find myself tearing up at the most inopportune  moments – in the grocery store, the middle of conversations, or after a small act of kindness.  Events and scenes that in the past would not engender tears are now inextricably paired with spontaneous sorrow.

 

 

 

 

I can’t help but feel this grief is not just personal but a reflection of our collective losses as we learn to live within the “new normal.”

Revealing Heart(s)

Melancholia was described as a distinct disease with particular mental and physical symptoms in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Hippocrates, in his Aphorisms, characterized all “fears and despondencies, if they last a long time,” as being symptomatic of melancholia. Other symptoms mentioned by Hippocrates include: poor appetite, abulia, sleeplessness, irritability, agitation. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia

Artists appear to have struggled with melancholia throughout recorded history. Aristotle gave melancholy a philosophical dimension. In his Problem XXX, written in the 4th century before Christ, he asked:

“Why is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts are clearly melancholics?

https://www.medicographia.com/2010/10/melancholy-in-the-arts/

Works of art depicting those inflicted with what is now classified ‘melancholic depression’ by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – V appear throughout history.

In 1514 Albrecht Durer, the German Renaissance printmaker, created Melancholia 1- a psychological self-portrait.

“Dürer may have associated melancholia with creative activity; the woman may be a representation of a Muse awaiting inspiration but fearful that it will not return.”

Metropolitan Museum of Art  www.metmuseum.org

In 1621 Robert Burton in his book An Anatomy of Melancholy described melancholy as the ‘character of mortality.’ Somewhat facetiously he wrote: “I write of melancholy by being busy to avoid melancholy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagery later evolved from depictions of the angst of others to self-portraits reflecting personal ‘melancholia.’

In her article: “How Artists Took Selfies 400 Years Ago,” Tanya Mohn wrote:

“The differences between then and now are significant. But one thing remained unchanged: the fact that the creators of a self-portrait must choose how they want to present themselves.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyamohn/2015/07/30/selfies-from-the-golden-age/#59564d993859

Seventeenth century Rembrandt (1606-1669) produced more self-portraits than any other artist of his time.

Early images of himself as a young man reveal a secure, yet introspective, demeanor. At 53, following the death of his wife and bankrupt as well, Rembrandt’s self-portrait depicts none of the self-assuredness of his younger self. Instead, his image reveals the changes that he has endured.

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/baroque-art1/holland/v/rembrandt-nga-self-portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PBS American Portrait series, In This Together, features first person accounts of how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their lives. They are a kind of video selfie – shot and edited by the ‘citizen producer.’  Through personal stories, photographs and videos, people share their firsthand stories.  They are provided an opening phrase (…I never expected…) and closing phrase ..(…when this is over…) around which to create the work .

https://www.pbs.org/american-portrait/series/season-1/special-1-in-this-together-an-american-portrait-story

 

‘I never expected’..

… that a pandemic would create a journey from normal to the ‘new normal.’

… that I would mourn the death of live performance.

… that I would question the role of art in my life.

… that I would lose heart.

 

In her article, Breaking Open in the Bardo, Buddhist Pema Khandro Rinpoche explains four essential points for understanding what it means to let go, and what is born when we do.

It’s when we lose the illusion of control—when we’re most vulnerable and exposed—that we can discover the creative potential of our lives.

https://www.lionsroar.com/four-points-for-letting-go-bardo/

 

Recovering Heart

Mainers, especially islanders, are known for their creativity and problem-solving skills.

No yard sales:

Place no longer wanted or needed items at the side of the road. Attach sign – ‘Help yourself – but leave the table.”

No public library:

Set up “free to good home” book tables.

 

 

 

 

No playgrounds:

 Build tree houses or secret hideouts under porches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No PPE for essential workers:

Re-tool your company and produce face shields for the State of Maine.

Charley Friedman grew up on Peaks Island. As a teenager, he learned to use an industrial sewing machine to make and repair boat sails. And as the story goes….

One day, his grandfather’s hand-me-down leather wallet finally fell apart, so Charley crafted himself a new one out of scraps of racing sailcloth from the factory trash. The wallet was super thin, lightweight, and tough as nails. And just like that, trash turned to treasure, and Flowfold was born. https://www.flowfold.com/ The product line includes wallets, backpacks, totes, bags and now faceshields.

To respond to the overwhelming need for PPEs, masks, and face shields for Maine’s hospital personnel, in eight days – yes, 8 – Charlie retooled his machinery, trained employees and became the producer of face shields for the State of Maine.

https://www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/maine-business-flowfold-steps-up-manufacture-shields-for-health-care-workers/97-a46eb135-93b1-4297-8b8e-0e0ce52d66dc

 

Making the decision to return to Maine was influenced by my commitment to produce a play to commemorate the Maine Bicentennial. In 2007, while sculpting a memorial bench to my Dad, I cleaned the 5th Maine Museum in the evenings. www.FifthMaineMuseum.org

I washed floors, scrubbed bathrooms, dusted pictures of generals. I polished glass cases filled with ephemera related to Maine’s contribution to the civil war.

I became curious about a framed handkerchief embroidered with names.

Every time I dusted it, I copied another name to research.

Solving this ‘mystery’ was the inspiration for the creation of the play: Trunk Show.

Trunk Show highlights the origin of summer stock theatre in Maine and was intended to provide an immersive theatre experience. Attendees would attend a 1920’s style summer stock theatre production including opening acts, a short play and closing musical event. Proceeds from the sale of popcorn and root beer would go to the Lion’s Club scholarship fund.

After a winter of writing and revising the Trunk Show script with my co-author, forming the Ad Hoc Theatre Company, casting the show with both year -round and summer residents, finding a director, finalizing dates with the venue, and applying for a grant, we scheduled the first reading of the play for Memorial weekend.

As the pandemic spread, more and more arts and community related events were first postponed and then cancelled. In response to Covid-19, it appeared that all performance venues on the island would be dark for the season.

The Trunk Show would not be performed live on stage.

Radio was the first broadcast medium, and people regularly tuned-in to their favorite radio programs, and families gathered to listen to the home radio in the evening. A variety of new entertainment formats and genres were created for the new medium…By the late 1920s,… sponsored musical features soon became the most popular program format.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Age_of_Radio

Most radio stations are corporate or group owned. PIRadio 1700 AM is the brainchild of Chris Marot and Brijit Joyce. (Brijit also has a used book shop.

Peaks Island Radio 1700AM is committed to providing high-quality, local radio to the Peaks Island community. PIR is self-supporting and very – VERY – local. Waddling ducks greet you as you approach their home. The studio is wedged into a second floor guest room.

Programs are streamed live as well as available on-line. Chris exhorts island residents to share their personal stories through PIRadio. He believes: “We could all use some neighborly contact….”

Persons of a certain age who watched Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies know the solution to all setbacks and challenges is to “put on a show.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRZ5400UKSc

In July, the members of the Ad Hoc Theatre Company embellished the rallying cry:

“Let’s Put on a Radio Show!!’

Converting a play written for the stage to a radio program, on the face of it, should have been simple.

  • Voices would need to differentiate characters.
  • Narration would need to clarify scene changes.
  • Sound effects would need to distinguish action.
  • Humorous dialogue would need to replace sight gags.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/tnkQgSgPJVWM4ZpZ3hHbjv/ten-tips-for-writing-a-play-for-radio

  • However, during a pandemic, there are other factors that require, not only creativity, but out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Casting would need to be based on quarantine requirements or cohort relationships.
  • Scheduling read throughs would need to consider time zones, work schedules.
  • Rehearsing would need to take place via Zoom.
  • Recording sessions would need to be in a space large enough to accommodate recording equipment, sound absorbers, dividers, microphones and stands, computer, cables.
  • Actors would need to maintain social distancing while recording.
  • Doors and windows would need to remain open throughout the session to allow for airflow. (This proved somewhat problematic due to passing airplanes and lobster boats.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editing would need to be completed by a production specialist with a connection to Peaks Island, a sense of humor and dogged determination. And, of course, a willingness to volunteer.

Trunk Show is the story of 1924 theatre, tourism, prohibition and politics on Peaks Island through the eyes of two sisters as they prepare for an uncertain future. It is a 2-act play with multiple scenes. There are 14 characters as well as music and sound effects.

Editing of any kind (words, video, film, music, sound effects) is a slow, tedious and always frustrating, process. It could take 10 hours of editing to produce a minute of video.

  • You need to download the sound files to the computer.
  • You need to sift through each sound file for the best of 3 takes for each. character for each scene for each act. (Occasionally parsing out a two-syllable clip.)
  • You need to research, identify and download onto separate sound tracks the music, commercials, sound effects and then insert them into the sound track.
  • You need to match audio levels.

And you do this again and again…and AGAIN. Until it is ready to air.

Steve Devoney, Production Specialist, musician, actor and volunteer editor.

“When this is over…”

… I will appreciate the willingness of others to accompany me along a difficult path.

… I will honor the indomitable spirit of the ‘creatives’ in my world.

… I will believe that solving problems can grow from artistic endeavors.

… I will celebrate the completion of another community-based artwork.

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

Trunk Show Premiere

Thanksgiving Week.

Wednesday:        November 25th  –  8 p.m.

Thursday:           November 26th  –  2 p.m.; 6 p.m.; 9 p.m.

Sunday:              November 29th –  8 p.m.

The live broadcast will include interviews with the playwrights and cast. To listen, go to peaksislandradio.com and click on “listen live.” Trunk Show will be archived and available to download after premiere week.

 

More ShowS That Did Go On …

Peaks Island in the late 19th century was famous for its summer entertainment and earned the nickname “Coney Island of Maine.” Entertainment on Peaks Island has a long history, beginning with a picnic grove that visitors accessed by rowboat during the 1850s. …later transformed… into an amusement park, known as Greenwood Garden, that featured an open-air roller rink later converted to a playhouse … http://www.portlandlandmarks.org/peaks-island-amusement-district

Despite Covid-19 and its restrictions, the burning of the island post office, reduction in boat service and fewer tourists, the arts community of Peaks Island has been able to continue its long tradition of providing quality entertainment for island residents.

 

The 19th Annual PeaksFest kicked off the summer with virtual events: Scavenger Hunts, Schmoozefest, BINGO, Dock Day Expo. In lieu of the Common Hound parade, canine competitors and their owners practiced their favorite tricks and “paraded’ via Zoom.

 

 

The 71st Variety Show a 2-night event open to all island ‘talent’ built an outdoor stage. Audiences sat at socially distanced picnic tables.

 

 

 

 

 

The TEIA Players staged the play Our Place on the TEIA Docks and set up the sound system in a dinghy. https://teiaclub.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5th Maine Museum Art on the Porch highlights local crafts became an Art Walk providing a map to individual artists homes. https://www.fifthmainemuseum.org

 

The Umbrella Cover Museum erected a ‘Pop up Pavilion.’ At the end of every tour, visitors shook mini maracas (sanitized nightly) to the beat of  “Let a Smile be Your Umbrella” played on accordion. https://www.umbrellacovermuseum.org

 

Concert performances and other musical events became Porch Concerts and a way to support island talent.

The Lion’s Club substituted burger nights and outdoor seating in lieu of lobster bakes and weddings to raise monies for scholarships. They opened their grounds to outdoor Pilates classes and jazz concerts.