Arts Council Has Big Plans

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John Schratwieser, co-director of the Kent County Arts Council, came before the Chestertown council meeting Monday to give an update on what’s in the works for the organization. He said Leslie Raimond, the long-time executive director of the council, will be retiring in December, at which point there will be a party to recognize her contributions.

Chestertown council members Linda Kuiper and Liz Gross listen as John Schratwieser outlines plans for the Kent County Arts Council at the July 17 council meeting

Meanwhile, the Arts Council has acquired the Town Arts building on Spring Street across from the Post Office, and is in the process of renovating the building to make it “a home for the arts.” The first step is replacing the roof, which has already been approved by the Historic District Commission, Schratwieser said. He hopes to have the work completed by the end of August. Other necessary work will follow, including eventually fitting out the second floor as a place for visiting artists to stay. The building will be completely handicapped-accessible, he said.

The Town Arts building

A downstairs room, formerly a gallery and performance space, will be returned to those functions, he said. There will be exhibits by local and visiting artists and “small” performances such as poetry readings or acoustic concerts. “We’re not competing with The Mainstay,” Schratwieser said,

The Arts Council receives grants from the state, which it redistributes to local arts organizations all across the county, Schratwieser said. He said he would also like to set up a series of workshops and retreats to show those organizations the ins and outs of fundraising and grant writing.

Schratweiser is also planning a vigorous Artist in Residence program for the county, bringing in artists in all fields to interact with their local counterparts and give performances in the local community.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said she hoped the Arts Council will sponsor projects like the large mural painted on the rear wall of Tractor Supply along Morgnec Road.

Schratweiser said he had funding to cover such public arts projects and would like to do more. He invited council members to come visit his office in the Town Arts building to discuss any issues or ideas for the arts in the community.

Washington College President Kurt Landgraf

Also at the Monday council meeting, new Washington College President Kurt Landgraf introduced himself to the council. He announced September groundbreaking dates for two projects on the college’s waterfront campus. He also announced that the college will return the date of commencement to Sunday, a request several local merchants and restaurateurs had put before the council. “That’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Landgraf said a recent Spy editorial on the town and the college was a good foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship.

“All we can ask for is a president who understands the connectivity between the town and the college,” Mayor Chris Cerino said after Landgraf’s comments.

Drew McMullen, president of Sultana Education Foundation, requested approval for two changes in the Downrigging Weekend program. They would be two parades down High Street. One would be lighted boats on trailers, Friday night. He said the idea was inspired by a similar parade in Vermont. The other, Saturday morning after the town’s Halloween parade, would involve members of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Ferrari Club of America, who are already planning to meet nearby. McMullen said the cars would be on display along the waterfront, and the members would be patronizing local businesses. The council approved the changes.

The council also gave permission for an antique car gathering around Fountain Park on Wednesday, August 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. John Slocum, who would organize the event, described it as an informal get-together for car enthusiasts, whether for antique cars, sports cars or other vehicles they would like to show off. He has been working with Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown and Police Chief Adrian Baker to iron out the details. He said it could be a boost for downtown restaurants and businesses on what is currently a “dead night” downtown.

“It’s a neat idea,” Cerino said; “I hope it takes off.”

 

Mid-Shore Education: A Chat with Washington College’s New President Kurt Landgraf

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New Washington College President Kurt Landgraf had been in office not quite two weeks when the Spy staff dropped into his Bunting Hall office for an interview on July 13. In a wide-ranging conversation, Landgraf was frank and ready to ask questions of his own, a good sign that he will be open to give-and-take with other stakeholders in the college community.

As the interview begins, he is answering a question about what attracted him to Washington College. Later, he responds to a question about a recent poll result showing that some 60 percent of Republicans believe that a college education is not good for society. Landgraf disagreed strongly and went on to to express his belief that the liberal arts curriculum helps provide a good foundation for citizenship in a democracy. Click on the picture above to see the video, which runs just over seven minutes.

The new president began with a brief autobiography, not included in the video. He was born in Newark and raised in Rahway, both in New Jersey. He attended Wagner College on an athletic scholarship and played baseball with the Reading Phillies for a while before joining the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war. After the service, he had a number of jobs, including a short stint at ETS, the Educational Testing Service, before ending up at DuPont, where he spent a major part of his career, overseeing divisions both in the US and abroad.

He worked in the pharmaceutical division and noted that the opioid antagonist drug Narcan was developed during his time there. He spent ten years as head of the European division of DuPont, and was under consideration to become CEO of the entire company. When that position went to someone else, Landgraf was recruited by Educational Testing Services, which at the time was on the verge of liquidation. He turned the company around, stayed there 13 years, and became very interested in education. During that time, he became chairman of the New Jersey Higher Education Commission, which oversees all colleges in the state. Then in 2015, he was contacted about the Washington College presidency.

After the initial phases of the search process, Landgraf was one of the finalists for the WC job — which eventually went to Sheila Bair. When he was on campus for interviews, he said, he asked one young student what was the most important thing he had learned at the school. “Moral courage,” said the student. Landgraf was so impressed that a young person could cite that quality that he decided on the spot that, if he was offered the job, he would take it. That opportunity came this June, when Bair tendered her resignation.

Asked the difference between his former position as a CEO at DuPont and his new one, Landgraf said that a CEO has nearly absolute power in decision-making, whereas a college president is in a position of co-governance with the board. On the other hand, he said, all institutions “are made up of the same kind of mammal;” with human nature the constant.

Washington College has substantial assets that offer high value to prospective students, he said. He cited the waterfront campus, which is currently under development, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, with its strong program of readings and publications; and the Douglass Cater Society, which supports undergraduate students in self-directed research projects all over the world. He plans to continue and, where possible, expand these programs and their impact. Landgraf said the college needs to market these assets to reach its full potential.  These are wonderful programs, offering outstanding opportunities for students but most people – locally or nationally – don’t know about them.

Landgraf is also aware of the college’s relationship with the town of Chestertown. He has already met with Mayor Chris Cerino, he said, and he is planning to attend the town council meeting July 17 to introduce himself. He said he isn’t concerned with past relations between the two entities; “We need to go forward,” he said. He said he plans to work with the Save the Hospital group and to get involved with United Way of Kent County. He has worked with the United Way previously in New Jersey.  It is very important, he said, for the town and the college to support one another.

In explaining the value of a college education in today’s society, Landgraf said that the U.S. depends on three pillars: capitalism, the rule of law and democracy. An educated populace is needed for each of these to carry its weight. A liberal arts education, while it may not appear to prepare students for specific roles in the workforce, is the best preparation for citizenship in general, he said.

It will be interesting to see how Landgraf’s presidency develops. As one college staff member observed, there have been four presidents in five years, with significant turnover in senior staff. The college can obviously benefit from a period of stability, and given Landgraf’s comments on the need to work with the board and his interest in making the college and the town closer than they have been, friends of the college may be encouraged to hope that this is the beginning of a time of stability and regeneration.

Shoge Will Not Run for Re-election

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Sam Shoge, Chestertown’s Third Ward councilman, announced in a Spy interview that he will not seek re-election.

First Ward Councilwoman Liz Gross announced at Monday’s council meeting that she is  not seeking re-election in the upcoming election, due to her husband’s health. That leaves two seats open in the town council elections, set for Tuesday, Nov. 2. Mayor Chris Cerino, who also faces re-election this fall, has not announced his intentions. The deadline for candidate filing is Friday, Oct. 6.

Shoge told the Spy, “After three and a half years of serving on the town council, it’s very difficult for me to say, but I will not be seeking re-election for the Third Ward on the Chestertown town council.” Shoge went on to explain: “I was fortunate enough to get a fantastic job with Talbot County, serving as their economic development coordinator, and I’m very grateful to the county council in Talbot for allowing me to finish out my four-year term. But for very obvious reasons, serving as an economic development coordinator for one jurisdiction while being on the town council for another one – it certainly opens me up to potential conflict, and it really wouldn’t serve anybody well. So I will be finishing out my four-year term and I won’t be seeking re-election.”

“Being on the town council has been an extremely enlightening experience,” Shoge said. “It’s kind of hard to believe, but I was 24 when I was first elected, and it seems like at the time I was so young, and so unprepared for something like this – constituent service, and really having to manage the fine details of a budget. I’m not afraid to admit, it was pretty overwhelming to begin with. But I really settled into the position, and what really kept me going was walking down the street and so many people expressing just how proud they were and how they were rooting for me and how I had their full support. That was really motivating and uplifting, and that allowed me to settle into the position comfortably to start taking on and pursuing different types of initiatives.”

Asked about his achievements during his council term, Shoge said, “What I am most proud of was working on the digital infrastructure of the town. One of the things that I campaigned on was the fact that we really needed a new website for the town. The old website at one time served the town just fine, but as I was coming onto the scene and campaigning, its overall limitations became very apparent very quickly. So that was one of the things I was focused and committed on revamping once I got elected. I really wanted the town to have a platform that all the residents could come to to find the information that they needed very easily and very quickly.

Shoge added, “The events calendar is one thing I think was a huge step up because it empowered our local community to populate that calendar with all the variety of events that take place in the town. So you had a one-stop destination to go to to find out all your resources – the trash pickup and recycling pickup schedules, and to figure out what is happening in the town on the weekend, and to figure out the contact information for your locally elected officials. And that really led to ways to market the town in ways that we really couldn’t have done prior to that.”

Asked about unfinished business he would like to complete during the remainder of his term, Shoge cited the project to build a community park in the Washington Park neighborhood in his ward. “But this is going to be a multi-phase project,” he said. “I’m really happy that I was able to lay that foundation and get things started, but it’s going to be tough not being able to finish that task.” He said he hoped to ensure that the next person to represent the Third Ward understands the community’s needs and desires. He said he had spoken to one possible candidate to succeed him in the council seat, exploring ways to make the transition smooth and to make sure they could commit to working with the community.

Shoge said he originally became intrigued with local politics when, as a young boy, he found the computer game “Sim City.” “There was just something about that game – getting to be a mayor, getting to build a town – that just lit a fire in me. And that has stuck with me since middle school.” He said it was surprising to some people that a video game could inspire that kind of passion. While in high school, he interned with the Kent County Planning and Zoning department. Going on to college, he minored in political science and public administration and interned with the Alamance County local government. “All of these things kind of stuck with me,” he said. Once he was out of college and working at Washington College, he said, “I couldn’t shake the overall feeling that there was a better and higher way I could serve my town.” So when several residents approached him about running for the council, he described it as “kind of the perfect collision of my overall desire to serve Chestertown and their desire to find somebody young and energetic” to run for council.

Looking back on his council term, Shoge said he hoped his term would serve as an inspiration for other young community members to consider running for office. “This is in fact something that you can do,” he said. “You’re never too young to serve your community and to make a difference and to make an impact.”

Shoge, whose family moved to Chestertown in 1990, is a graduate of Kent County High School and of Elon University in North Carolina, After college, he accepted a job in the Admissions department of Washington College, where his mother Ruth Shoge is Dean of library and academic technology. He accepted the position with Talbot County in November 2016.

 

Gross Will Not Seek Re-election to Chestertown Council

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At the Chestertown Council meeting July 10, First Ward Councilwoman Liz Gross announced that she will not seek re-election.

Councilwoman Liz Gross

Gross, who is completing her first council term, said her husband’s health has recently deteriorated, leaving him “virtually blind.” and forcing the couple to adapt to their new circumstances. “So, as a result, I will not be a candidate for election this fall,” she said. “I say that with a great deal of regret. I love serving on town council; I find it challenging. I did not expect the huge diversity of issues that we deal with all the time and the diversity of people to work with in reaching compromise. I have found that really enriching and enjoyable. And I just encourage candidates to come forward to represent the First Ward and I hope that whoever is successful will enjoy it as much as I have.”

Gross’s announcement came at the same meeting as the release of the preliminary schedule for the municipal election, in which the First and Third Ward seats as well as the office of mayor are up for election. Town Clerk Jen Mulligan said the town will accept candidates’ petitions beginning August 31. All candidates must turn in their petitions by Oct. 6, which is also the date on which voter registration for the town election closes. Mulligan said she has candidate packets prepared for anyone interested in running for any of the three seats to be decided. For more information, and for the full schedule, visit the  Chestertown website or call Mulligan at 410-778-0500.

Write-in candidacies are not allowed in Chestertown municipal elections.

The other two council seats, currently held by Second Ward Councilwoman Linda Kuiper and Fourth Ward Councilman Marty Stetson, will be up for election in 2019.

Also at the council meeting, Mayor Chris Cerino gave an update on work at the Chestertown Marina. He said the most recent change is a decision not to move the boat ramp, due in part to the expense of digging in a whole new area. He said users of the ramp had also asked for it to be kept in the current location. Also, he said, the travel lift, which the town originally planned to get rid of, will be retained due to residents’ requests.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said he had inspected floating docks in Rock Hall that are similar to the ones planned for the marina. He said they would make the marina much easier for elderly or handicapped boaters to get on and off their boats.

Ingersoll said the town had removed two trees from Wilmer Park, one of which was diseased. The other was removed to make way for the Broad Reach sculpture, scheduled to be installed in the park Sept. 8, in conjunction with the Chestertown Jazz Festival. Ingersoll said the sidewalk in the area for the sculpture will also be moved to make room for it.

Ingersoll said the town will see only “a trickle” of tax revenues come in before September, when most residents pay their property tax bills. He said the town is awaiting grant funds designated for work at the marina, including one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and another for waterway improvements.

Town Utilities Manager Bob Sipes reported that he had prepared a final draft of requests for proposals for a project to map the town’s water and sewer lines. He said he would send them to council members for any last-minute adjustments before they go out to potential bidders.

Also, Sipes said, the town will be sending sampling kits to older homes with lead and copper pipes to comply with a state program to ensure the safety of their drinking water. He said the sampling has been done every three years “since before I got here” in some 20 homes. Most of the town has galvanized water pipes which don’t present a problem, he said.

First Friday – a Spy Guide

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First Friday in Chestertown is always a special occasion. Sponsored by the Downtown Chestertown Association, it brings in crowds to enjoy art, music and a variety of other happenings along the town’s main streets. Many shops stay open to 8 p.m. At many stops along the street there are enticing tables of free snacks and wine and other beverages – and of course, your favorite downtown restaurants are open for business.

But this month, the attractions have spread out beyond Friday – and even beyond Chestertown. Here’s a Spy guide to some of the happenings in and around town this weekend – there’s something for everyone!

And now the Downtown Chestertown Association invites everyone to their 9th annual “Independents’ Day” and July First Friday celebration on Friday, July 7, in Fountain Park from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

According to a DCA press release, local, independent businesses set the stage for this family-friendly celebration with fun food, entertainment, and patriotic giveaways. New to the event this year are a bounce house and free face painting. Food will be available for purchase from Papa Smurf and Lockbriar Farms Ice Cream. Downtown volunteers will be handing out free popcorn, lemonade, snow cones, glow in the dark bracelets, stars and stripes pinwheels, American flags and other festive accouterments, all generously sponsored by local businesses. Bring your lawn chairs and settle in for the live entertainment, featuring Music Life students and owner Bill Drazga, as well as Mayor Chris Cerino.

“Downtown Chestertown is more than a shopping and dining destination, says Kristen Owen, DCA President, “it is also a center for many activities that enhance our lives – the farmers’ market, festivals, theatrical and musical events, educational programs and art exhibitions. By extending our hospitality and inviting people to come experience downtown we hope they will feel an ‘ownership’ in its future.”

Bill Drazga owner of Music Life plays the keyboard as one of his music students sings. Instructor Chris Jones accompanies on guitar with Frank Gerber on percussion. At June’s First Friday. 

Independents’ Day sponsors include Cross Street Realtors, Bookplate, RiverArts KidSPOT, Twigs & Teacups, Spa Angels Skin Care, Figg’s Ordinary, Yerkes Construction, Main Street Historic Chestertown, She She on High, Town of Chestertown Ward 2 Council Member Linda Kuiper, Lemon Leaf Café and the Historical Society of Kent County.

Music fans can begin the weekend early with Washington College’s Riverside Concert series. This week’s show, “Guitarras Americanas,” features Fredy Granillo and Jonathan Stone, playing a variety of music with a strong emphasis on Latin American styles. The show, on the lawn behind the Custom House, begins at 6:30 and is free – bring a lawn chair or blanket, a picnic dinner, and enjoy an evening of guitar virtuosity.

Backlit Lilies, watercolor by Barbara Zuehlke

On Friday, the Artists Gallery at 239 High Street will feature the work of Barbara Zuelkhe, one of its member artists. Barbara’s show, “Shadows and Patterns,” was inspired by the dramatic colors, glow and shadows of landscapes often found in late daylight, and by the cast shadows that create contrast and drama in still life and floral paintings. Drop by and see this award-winning artist’s work – as well as a variety of other offerings by the gallery’s members. Refreshments will be available.

At the Carla Massoni Gallery, 203 High Street, the work of Marc Castelli will be featured through July 16. The exhibit will include five new watercolors of Chesapeake log canoes, as well as a generous selection of his portrayals of watermen and workboats. Castelli has long been recording the life of local watermen. You’ll want to keep an eye out for his new book of selected works due out this fall. In addition, works by Ken Castelli – Marc’s son – will be on display, including several of his much sought-after log canoe boat models.

Massoni’s is also displaying images by photographer Michael Kahn of 3 Class yachts in action, many from the recent St. Barths Bucket Regatta. Drop by at 5 p.m. for the First Friday reception and a chance to talk to the artists.

Hegland glass bowl in the Arrow series

Don’t forget to wander down the breezeway between Houston’s Dockside Emporium and Dunkin’ Donuts to see the Hegland Glass Studio.  Their glass art, both functional and decorative, are fabulous and would make a unique gift for anyone.  (Or just keep it for yourself!)  Then across the way from Hegland  is the RiverArts Gallery, which has a new exhibit every month plus a variety of wearable art by members – silk scarves, hand-made jewelry, and more.

The Garfield Center’s Short Attention Span Theater wraps up its run this weekend, with eight ten-minute plays to tickle your funny bone. Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. As a bonus, Friday and Saturday night, before the main show, check out the “Hey, Wait a Minute” festival of one-minute plays in the theater lobby at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. These are comedy sketches that range from a violin lesson gone wrong to a woman looking at shoes.

Brad Chaires gives a paleontology lecture at the Garfield Center’s One-minute Play festival.

For more music, take the scenic drive out Rt 20 to The Mainstay in Rock Hall. On Friday, the Pam Ortiz Band continues its series of “Songs for Our Future” concerts there. The theme of the concert is free speech, and the band will be joined by special guests, poet Robert Earl Price and bass player Tom Anthony. The concert begins at 8 p.m., and all proceeds go to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. Call 410-810-1400 for reservations. Suggested donation is $15.

Nicki Parrott, Rossano Sportiello, & Chuck Redd

Sunday afternoon at 3:00 pm, the Mainstay presents a jazz concert featuring Rossano Sportiello on piano, Nicki Parrott on bass and vocals and Chuck Redd on vibes and drums.

First Friday is just one wonderful evening in a long, event-filled, Thursday-Sunday weekend in Chestertown and Kent County. Don’t miss it!

 

Happy Crates! Sends Smiles While Helping to Fight Childhood Cancer

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The Leonards – Derrick, Darren (with Gemma the Giraffe), Mia, Lauren, Matthew

Lauren and Derrick Leonard know what it means to see a child’s smile.

They learned that important lesson when their oldest son, Darren, was diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after birth. Baby Darren was given only a few months to live. But he’s still here – still very much alive – eight years later.  As Lauren writes, walking the halls of hospitals in the days, months, and then years after that diagnosis, they learned “the true value of a smile.”

As a result of their experience, the Leonards have created Happy Crates, a company dedicated to bringing smiles to children with cancer. The idea is simple: whenever someone buys a “Happy Crate”, a box filled with toys, books, games and other fun items for a child, part of the proceeds goes to send another Happy Crate – free of charge – to a child with cancer. Another portion goes to fighting childhood cancer.  Everyone knows how excited  children can get when they receive a package in the mail – something just for them with their own name on it!  You can order a single Happy Crate or get a six-month subscription with your child receiving a different Happy Crate each month while you get the warm glow of knowing that somewhere another child, one with cancer, is also receiving a Happy Crate. Details are available on the Happy Crates website.

The Leonards – Lauren, Derrick, Darren, their two younger children Mia and Matthew, took part in a ribbon cutting at USA Fulfillment in Chestertown June 29, launching a partnership with the company to ship the crates nationwide. Both sets of grandparents were there. Lauren described the company’s origins and its mission, saying their purpose is to keep fighting and giving children something to bring a smile to their lives.

USA Fullfillment employees turned out in force, all wearing t-shirts with slogan to End Childhood Cancer. VP Jay Stamerro on right with microphone.

Ready, set, go!

And it’s Officially Open!

Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and USA Fulfillment vice president Jay Stamerro welcomed the family, their friends and supporters. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, everyone was invited to come into the USA Fulfillment building for refreshments.  There was a beautiful cake with blue icing, trimmed with blue roses and, in white icing, the words “Happy Crates – Smiles Delivered.  One Step Closer to a Cure, One Smile at a time.”  After the refreshments, everyone went upstairs for a tour of the distribution center where the colorful crates are filled and stored awaiting shipment. Quite a few have already been purchased and shipped since the website went live last week.

A sample of the crates’ contents was on display, along with t-shirts bearing slogans for the fight against cancer. The toys are all from smaller, upscale toy companies, Lauren said.  This is to help ensure that what the child receives is unique, special and not something they may already have in their toy box. So nothing from big box stores.

Sample Happy Crates

Lauren said she worked hard to get t-shirts that had interesting and stylish designs without losing the message.  She said it was hard to find attractive apparel about fighting cancer. The percentage that goes to their mission varies from 20-50%, depending on the item.  The sale of two t-shirts, for example, will support one Happy Crate for a child with cancer.  All items can be bought on the website and help support the Happy Crates mission to bring smiles to kids with cancer while helping the fight to end childhood cancer.

Sample Happy Crates

Talking Movies at Town Hall

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Is there another movie theater in Chestertown’s future?

That was the question on the table at a meeting Wednesday night in Chestertown’s town hall. Kay MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, the economic development coordinators for Chestertown and Kent County respectively, met with a group of about 20 residents to explore ideas for replacing the Chester 5 Theatre, which closed after the June 4 shows.

Among those present was Matt Hogans, the local rental agent for Silicato Development, owner of the Washington Square Mall where the theater building is located. Hogans said the owner is not opposed to putting another theater in the vacant space. However, he said, renovating the space and replacing the projection equipment would cost as much as $750,000, if not more. He said Silicato would be open to working with a prospective tenant to ease the cost of getting the business up and running.

MacIntosh said she has spoken to the owners of the Chester 5, who said the new movie theater in Middletown, Del. had drawn away theater-goers with a larger, more modern facility, She said he also cited the presence of big-box shopping and restaurants in Middletown as a factor, along with the availability of alcoholic beverages in the theater there. With the closure of Chester 5, Middletown is now the closest theater to Kent County.

Others at the meeting cited online streaming services such as Netflix as a factor in the decline in theater business. Bob Kramer of Kinnaird’s Point said that rather than going to a theater for date night, millennials will often order in a pizza and beer and watch Netflix at someone’s home. Theaters have to offer something more than the traditional movie experience to compete, he said. “There aren’t many people under 35 here (at the meeting)<” he added.

Eliott Furhman of Kennedyville suggested streaming live concerts as a way to attract audiences to a theater. He said there are services that stream concerts by popular acts, opera companies and symphonies that are unavailable on home TV. Those could provide a solid income stream in addition to movies, he said.

Williams and MacIntosh said they had been in touch with operators of other movie theaters on the Eastern Shore, including those in Easton and Cambridge. They said the operators showed interest in taking over the Chester 5 facility if the economics made sense. Williams said that the theater is in the county’s newly designated enterprise zone, so there would be incentives for the capital investment needed to renovate the property. She said she had provided that information to the interested parties.

MacIntosh said she had talked to theater owners who had rented part of their facilities to restaurants where theater goers could eat before or after the movies. Beer and wine sales were critical factors in attracting customers, they told her.

One audience member asked if selling alcohol in a facility open to children would create problems.

Loretta Lodge of the Kent County Chamber of Commerce said alcohol sales don’t appear to have caused problems at Middletown. “They must have a way to police it,” she said.

MacIntosh said she knows of other communities where an older theater, often of the size and vintage of the Garfield Center, has been converted to a pizzeria with movie showings, often of classic or art films. She suggested that as a possible model for a public-private partnership theater. Several other attendees offered examples of communities that have adopted a similar model.

John Schratweiser of the Kent County Arts Council said there is a theater in Baltimore that Johns Hopkins University helps operate as part of a community partnership.

MacIntosh said Washington College should have a vested interest in a local theater. “They might want to cooperate,” she said.

Kramer said theaters could also make a fair amount of money from birthday parties and other private affairs.

One audience member asked whether the owner of P&G Theaters, which operated the Chester 5 complex, had tried any of the strategies being suggested. “If the previous operator didn’t think they were worthwhile, why would someone else take the risk?” he asked.

MacIntosh said the former operator, who had been in business many years, probably didn’t want to reinvent his business at this point. Middletown was a last straw for him, she said.

Furhman said the community might be better able to support three screens than five, as the theater previously offered.

MacIntosh said theater operators prefer more screens because they don’t know which of the films will break out with their audience..

Phillip Rosenberg said in his experience the audiences at the theater were better for more artistic films than for the “blockbusters.” He said the blockbusters often stayed too long, drawing very little audience after the first week.

MacIntosh said local theater operators have little choice about how long a given feature will run. She said it might work to have one screen in a multiplex supported by a local film society. “It would need to guarantee a certain income,” she said.

Richard Rosenberg said the Garfield, which was built as a movie theater, might be an attractive alternative to reopening the Chester 5. If it had an art film program, it could attract audiences from a wide area – it would be the only art theater on the Eastern Shore, he said. It would also appeal to the Washington College community, he said.

Vic Pfeiffer, a member of the Garfield board of directors, said the theater is often in use for rehearsals or otherwise unavailable for public events. He said the board had not yet discussed the possibility of a regular film program. At present, the Garfield doesn’t have a professional-quality screen or projector, he said.

The meeting broke up after about an hour. Summing up, MacIntosh said the community needs to plan for the kind of population and economy it wants. She said the proposed Chestertown Business Park being planned by Dixon Valve at the north end of town could be the first step in an economic revival. A viable entertainment scene would be a logical part of that revival, she said, and an added attraction for prospective employees considering a move to the area.

Hogans said he would pass along the ideas put forward in the meeting to the mall owner, who he said wants to work with the community.

 

23rd Annual Chester River Health Foundation’s Golf Tournament Raises Funds for Medical Center

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Tournament Sponsors Malcolm Kram, DVM (l) and Mark Zwanger, MD, (r) are pictured with tournament awards’ reception emcees and Foundation Board members, Margie Elsberg (l) and Myra Butler (r).

After 10 straight days of rain, the sun came out for University of Maryland Chester River Health Foundation’s 23rd annual golf tournament.  Tournament participants and donors contributed more than $96,000 toward the purchase of 10 suites of patient room furnishings for UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.

One hundred twenty-eight men and women teed off, shotgun-style, in a “Step-Aside, Best-Ball” tournament, on Friday, June 2, at the Chester River Yacht & Country Club just outside of Chestertown. A light, southwesterly breeze made it a perfect day to play a round of golf in support of the local hospital.

“Over the next three years, our hospital will replace patient room furnishings with state-of-the-art hospital beds, mattresses, tray tables, nightstands, and chairs,” said Carl Gallegos, chairman, UM Chester River Health Foundation.  “The Foundation has committed to raising at least $138,000 for the first 10 rooms and this tournament was our premiere fundraiser toward our goal.  We are extraordinarily appreciative of the community-wide support of this event.”

Twenty-five volunteers, mostly current and former hospital employees, spent the day on the course, offering golfers refreshments and chances to increase their odds of winning prizes.  “We could not host this event without our small army of volunteers and the Foundation Board is enormously grateful for their help,” Gallegos said.

Prizes donated by local community businesses were awarded for 16 events on the course, including eight Closest-to-the-Pins; Longest Drive Not-in-the Fairway; and Most Accurate Drive.

Low gross winners, female team, with a score of 77 were (l to r): Jackie Phillips, Debbie Williams, Leah Northrup and Genie Wootton

Three foursomes took home Low Net prizes: mixed team with a score of 44 — Christine and Mark Kamon, Larry Ortmann and Sharon Somers; women’s team with a score of 48 — Karen Biggs, Bobbie Cusimano, Trish Mooney and Stephanie Murphy; and the men’s team with a score of 49 — Bruce Brown, Harry Burton, Alton Darling and Rodney Gray. The Low Gross award went to the team of Jeff Carroll, Bill Cooper, Bill Cording, and Chip Everett, with a score of 61.

No one made a Hole in One on any of the four par 3 holes to win $10,000 cash or Superbowl 2018 tickets, and the $1,000 prize for Closest-to-the-Pin within 12” also went unclaimed.  David Landskroener missed winning the Putting Contest by just a few inches, leaving the $10,000 prize for next year’s contestants to claim. We hope you’ll mark your calendars now for the 24th Annual Chester River Health Foundation’s Golf Tournament set for Friday, June 1, 2018.

Tournament winners with a low gross score of 61 were (l to r): Bill Cording, Bill Cooper, Chip Everett, and Jeff Carroll

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About UM Shore Regional Health: As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,600 employees, medical staff, board members and volunteers work with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.

Loads of Laughs at Garfield’s SAST

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Short Attention Span Theatre, the Garfield Center’s annual festival of ten-minute plays, is back – and if you need a few good laughs, this ought to be on your to-do list for the next couple of weekends.

Lovers quarrel in “Spirits,” one of the 10-minute plays in the Garfield Center’s Short Attention Span Theatre festival.

The format, as always, is eight short plays by various hands – this year, all of them are by authors with local connections — a great testimony to the talent pool in our arts community. The emphasis is on comedy, covering a range from outright slapstick to subtler satiric pieces. As the festival’s unofficial slogan has it, if you don’t like what’s happening at any point, just wait a few minutes and something different will come along.

The first offering is Steven Arnold’s “Spirits,” directed by Sarah Crump. Arnold was the former executive director at Church Hill Theatre. The play begins on Halloween, when a young man named Alan, wearing a Superman costume, walks into a bar called “Spirits,” where all the customers are in costume, and orders a drink. His girlfriend, dressed as Wonder Woman, follows him and a loud argument ensues before she stomps out. Poor Superman is left to commiserate with the bartender and one of the bar’s patrons. Imagine his surprise when he finds out the spirits in the bar are real spirits! This one is perhaps the most philosophical of the plays, a humorous look at issues of life and death and the decisions we all face at critical moments. Brad Chaires is well cast as Alan, and Mark Weining, playing a patron who died in the 1800s, is an effective foil to his angst. Cameos by Jacob Marley (Robert Note) and Clytemnestra (Jennifer Kafka Smith) add to the unworldly aura.

Adrienne Dawes’ “How to Talk to a Girl Wearing Headphones” is a slice of modern life set in a coffee shop, directed by Bryan Betley. The plot consists of two young men trying to get the attention of the title character. Betley, Kirby Powell and Georgia Rickloff play the three characters, and they do a nice job of capturing the scene – which one could readily picture taking place in one of the local cafes.

Getting your roommate out of the shower is sometimes a bigger problem than expected.

“Singing in the Shower” is a brisk absurdist piece written by Howard Mesick and directed by Jim Landskroener. David (Ian Ellison) and Pierre (Weining) are roommates; the plot crisis erupts almost immediately when Pierre tells David he intends to stay in the shower so he can keep singing. Of course, David needs to take a shower before work, but none of his arguments to get Pierre out of the stall has any effect – Pierre has brought along food and wine, and has rigged a lock so David can’t get in. Playwright Messick, who is also one of the area’s most versatile actors, brings a fertile comic invention to the situation, and Weining’s faux French accent and Ellison’s growing frustration ratchet up the humor. As a bonus, Weining has a fine singing voice, even with the comic accent.

George Smart’s “The Philosophy of Dogs,” directed by Diane Landskroener, is another gem. Dan Guidice and Chaires, wearing floppy ears and tails, play two dogs discussing the great issues of their lives – whether to chase a nearby rabbit, what it really means to be a dog, why they let humans have control of their lives. Guidice and Chaires do a great job of acting, giving a genuinely amusing physical rendition of their characters – twitching legs as they sleep, and panting with excitement when the rabbit appears.

Two dogs consider the meaning of life.

Mark Sullivan, one of the co-producers of SAST, wrote and directed “And That’s How I Met Your Mother,” in which a strange man (Weining) enters a train compartment occupied by a woman (Jen Friedman) and asks her to pretend they’ve been together the entire trip. The reason for the request becomes clear when a policeman (Guidice) enters the car searching for a fugitive – obviously Weining’s character. The interplay among the three as the interrogation continues is hilarious – Friedman is especially good – as Sullivan’s plot takes one improbable twist after another. Watch carefully at the end for the final comic twist – it could slip past you.

Hester Sachse directed “Guru of the Alps,” written by Keith Thompson, another local playwright. The play starts with a mountain climber (Powell) reaching an alpine peak to find a guru (Zachary Ryan) whose advice he seeks. But nothing turns out as expected – the guru’s wisdom is far from satisfactory, and the situation deteriorates to the point where the characters call on the director (Kafka Smith), playwright and stage hand (both played by Guidice) to unravel their plot and provide some kind of ending. The conclusion deploys one theatrical in-joke after another in rapid sequence – kudos to Guidice for keeping up the frantic pace of physical gags his role requires.

Thompson directed “Somewhere Tonight, The Washington Senators’ Last Game Plays On,” by Dwayne Yancey. Jim Landskroener plays a baseball fan who’s been arrested for breaking and entering by a local cop, played by Paul Cambardella. The fan unfolds his story, revealing how the legacy of the woeful Senators last game – which was interrupted in the 9th inning by fans rushing the field to grab souvenirs – lingers on. It’s a clever bit of historical whimsy, and Landskroener does his usual fine job of bringing the character to life.

Walter demonstrates his “super power” of seeing all his experiences as film noir.

The evening concludes with “The Maltese Walter,” written by John Minigan and directed by Diane Landskroener. Jim Landskroener returns as the title character, who’s come to a psychiatrist (Chaires) for help with his “super power” — the ability to turn every situation into a film noir scene. Walter’s fiancée, Vera (Melissa McGlynn) has threatened to cancel their marriage unless he abandons his power – as she explains, she’s a pure and simple girl who finds his dark fantasies disturbing. Landskroener switches periodically between the troubled patient and a wise-guy private eye commenting on the other characters. The combination of three strong actors and a witty script makes this one a good conclusion to the evening’s entertainment.

Playgoers who arrive early can enjoy a bonus presentation of one-minute plays in the lobby. Directed by Tia Glomb, the “Hey, Wait a Minute!” festival brings to the stage a violin lesson in an unexpected context, a lecture on strange prehistoric creatures, a woman mourning a dead cat, a commercial for a painkiller, an encounter in a shoe store and a look at an unexpected dimension of a pirate’s life. All but one of the pieces are by local playwrights, including Sullivan, Mesick, Yancey and Glomb herself. The cast members are Chaires, Ellison, Audrey Betley, Zac Ryan, Juanita Wieczoreck, and Severin Schutt.

As always, this year’s SAST offers something for every taste, and every theater-goer will find some offerings more to their taste than others. My particular favorites this year were “Singing in the Shower,” “The Philosophy of Dogs” and “The Last Washington Senators’ Game,” along with “Rosa’s Eulogy” from the one-minute plays, but others may be more to your taste. A couple of the selections ran longer than the premise seemed to justify – that’s the playwright’s fault, not the actors’. In fact, except for a couple of actors who still hadn’t gotten their lines down, the acting was consistently strong. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

SAST runs for two more weeks, through July 9, with shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sundays. On Fridays and Saturdays, early birds can catch the one-minute plays at 7 and 7:20 p.m. in the lobby. Tickets are $15 general admission and $5 for students. Call 410-810-2060 or visit the theater website for reservations or for more information.

Photos by Jane Jewell.