Council Asked to Fund Playgrounds

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Children using playground equipment at Louisa Carpenter Park in Washington Park

At the Sept. 17 Chestertown Council meeting, Nathan Shroyer offered suggestions for improving the town’s parks and playgrounds.

Shroyer introduced himself as a resident of Kent County, a parent interested in the progress of the town, and a small business owner. He is a city and urban planner by vocation, specializing in disaster management and mitigation.

“I live here because of the rural character and the people, and the quality of life is very important to me and my family,” Shroyer said, characterizing himself as a proponent of green space and public spaces who enjoys walking in Wilmer Park.  He said that in a recent conversation with several delegates in Annapolis, he was told that it would be easy to get up to $200,000 to build “a first-rate quality playground” in Chestertown. He said there is a new playground in Rock Hall that has families present every time he visits it, and it inspired him to do some research on the parks in Chestertown.

A view of the Chester River from Wilmer Park 

“First of all, I found out that you’ve been building parks,” Shroyer said. “This was big news to me.” He said the only Chestertown parks that show up on a Google search are Fountain Park, Kirwan Meditation Park on the Washington College campus, and Wilmer Park – “I know there are others,” he said, noting that he had made an effort to visit as many as he could and take photographs as part of his research. He said the pocket park near the rail trail – the former Ajax property – seems to have “a bunch of surplus equipment.” He said that a query on social media about the pocket park returned a lot of negative comments, such as people sleeping in the park, used condoms on the ground, and other problems.

Based on his experience as a planner, Shroyer said that a park functions better as the number of people and the variety of different groups using it increases. He said he had come to the council to explore ways to achieve that with the parks. Wilmer Park gets “consistent use,” while Margo Bailey park is heavily used by dog walkers, he said. But he has never found people using any of the other parks. Also, the playground at Bailey Park is “binocular distance” from the parking lot, making it difficult for small children to use.

And there are no signs to direct visitors to the existing parks. The only signs are those telling visitors the hours the parks cannot be used. Shroyer said the playground at Garnet Elementary School is only open from 4:30 to sunset, limiting the time it is available for small children to use, especially in winter. He  found in his research that people once considered the Garnet playground “a great town park in the middle of town for people to use.”

Mayor Chris Cerino said the current playground at the school replaced one built by community members a number of years ago. “That’s where I used to take my kids.” He said the Board of Education had removed the old equipment because of insurance issues arising from its dilapidated condition. Since it is on school property, the town has no control over it. Shroyer said the town needs a park with facilities for teens, especially with a climate-controlled indoor space for games. Shroyer said such facilities as restrooms, a barbecue area, and tennis courts would also be a plus. “It’s really about participation,” he said.

Nathan Shroyer speaking to the Chestertown Council about parks and playgrounds

Cerino said the county has such a park at the Clarence Hawkins Community Center in Worton. An audience member added that the Kent County Public Library runs a game night at the Chestertown branch, where all ages can play board games.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town worked with the county and the school district two years ago to upgrade the tennis and basketball courts at the Kent County Middle School. He said the facilities are “empty” most of the time.

Shroyer said the facilities should be easier to find on Google maps and other online sites. “Accessibility and outreach are key,” he added.

Cerino said the town website has a section that lists the parks. Shroyer said he eventually found that website, but that the most useful information he found was in minutes of the town Recreation Commission.

Shroyer said that he came to the meeting to request that the council apply for the grant money delegates told him was available from the state. He said the town should be going for “low-hanging fruit,” such as erecting signage to let people know about the park or to put bike lanes along the road between the middle school and Bailey Park. “You could have a trail going through town with markers to designate these really great spaces,” he said. “Why should families have to drive half an hour every time they want to go recreate?”

Cerino said that the town’s budget is primarily directed toward such services as police protection and public works like road repairs. With a few exceptions, the existing parks – including Gateway Park at the end of High Street, and the Middle School playground — have been built and upgraded with Community Parks and Recreation grants from the state. Such grants are very competitive, and the state expects a municipality to spend grants it has on hand before applying for more. He said the town currently has such a grant for refurbishing Louisa Carpenter Park in the Washington Park suburb, and can’t expect anything more for parks until that is spent. He said the Kent County government might be able to get additional funding on its own, but it generally invests its recreation dollars at the community center in Worton.

Cerino agreed that a top-quality playground would be an important addition to the town’s facilities. He said he had gone to the Rock Hall park –“It’s kind of cool,” Cerino said, adding that it was designed and installed by a playground designer located in Rock Hall, with the Rock Hall Recreation Commission playing a key role. He said that at present, Chestertown’s funding for new projects is largely tied up in the completion of upgrading at the Chestertown Marina, financed with state and federal grants plus some private donations.

Shroyer said he appreciates the town’s commitment to upgrade the marina. He said it is “a question of equity” in how limited resources are used. “You need to distribute resources so people can use them,” he said. “You need to take children as seriously as dogs,” he added, referring to the dog park facilities at Bailey Park.

Councilman Marty Stetson, who has been a strong advocate for the dog park, said the park has been built up largely with private donations, and that it attracts people from all over the Shore.

Town to Seek Vendors’ Input on Market Rules

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James Lockwood of Lockbriar Farms speaks at the Chestertown council meeting Sept. 17

The Chestertown Mayor and Council discussed new rules for the Chestertown farmers and artisans markets with an audience including a number of vendors at the markets at the Sept. 17 council meeting.

Mayor Chris Cerino began the discussion by outlining several “bullet points” he derived from the discussion of the market at the Sept. 4 council meeting as well as from emails received from the public:

Expand the space available for vendors

Expand the geographic area from which vendors will be accepted

Relax a rule requiring vendors to be non-commercial

Change or eliminate a requirement that non-profits have 501(c)(3) status

Allow prepared ready-to-eat foods to be sold

Allow vendors of seasonal items to have space for part of the year

Settle questions about insurance coverage for the market and vendors

Chestertown Town Manager Bill Ingersoll and Councilwoman Linda Kuiper

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, whose ward includes the Fountain Park area where the market is held, gave a summary of her research on the market rules, which she had prepared a revision of. She said there are some 25 types of 501 non-profit organizations, and she suggested expanding the market’s requirements to include all of them. She said the market already allows prepared foods, subject to inspection by the Kent County Health Department, and that vendors of seasonal items are already being accommodated. She said the suggested provisions in the 6-page draft she had prepared were already in a shorter version of the rules prepared in 2012. Kuiper also noted that vendors in the artisans market pay a $20 application fee, but no such fee has been imposed on farmers market vendors.

Councilman Marty Stetson said the pavement on the High Street side of Fountain Park was widened several years ago to make room for more vendors, but nobody currently uses it. He said the artisans want to be close to the farmers because that is where the most foot traffic is. He suggested moving some of the farmers, especially those who have sites on the inside of the park, to High Street, where they will be able to park their vehicles by their space and have more room than they now do. He said putting farmers on both sides of the market would benefit artisans because more customers would walk from one side of the park to the other, going past all the vendors in the middle. It might be necessary to close one lane of High Street to traffic on Saturday mornings when the market is on, he said.

Councilman David Foster asked if vendors would be required to move or be given a choice.

“Nobody will move voluntarily,” said Kuiper. However, she agreed that some vendors who don’t currently have curb space might make the move in order to park a truck next to their assigned site. The plan might also allow the market to add more vendors.

Cerino said the market could begin expansion by placing new vendors on High Street. He said the town should work with a new market manager, replacing the late Owen McCoy, to encourage other vendors to move. He said the town would also have to “step up” to ensure that the High Street side of the park is clear for vendors to use. He opened the floor to comments from the vendors in the audience.

James Lockwood of Lockbriar Farms noted that there were “a lot of experts in this room,” referring to the many vendors who sell both at Chestertown and other farmers markets. He said the market manager and vendors should work together with the town to decide on the rules.

Cerino agreed that the vendors should be more involved in the market rules. He said he would welcome an annual meeting with vendors to work out issues. He said the town has a stake in the market because of liability issues, since it is conducted on town property.

Other audience members had more specific questions. Bill Flook of the Kent County Democratic club, which sets up a tent in the non-profit area of the park, asked about the 501(c)(3) requirement.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town has never required non-profits to show such credentials. “Local and non-profit is all I ask about,” he said. He said the only problem would be with a “church-state issue,” with a religious group proselytizing on town property.

Ingersoll said the town should submit any proposed rules to the vendors using the market for comment and suggested revisions. “Let us know what works for you,” he said to the vendors.

Farmers market vendor Bill Bankhead makes a point to the Chestertown council at the Sept. 17 meeting

Vendor Bill Bankhead raised an issue with a rule against the idling of gasoline engines for more than five minutes, noting that he uses a generator to keep his produce at a safe temperature. Kuiper said the proposed rule was based on Maryland state law and intended to avoid exposing the public to fumes, but could possibly make an exception for small generators.

Cerino then went down the list of bullet points, asking the council for their take on each. Council members agreed that expanding the area of the market to High Street was worth exploring and that the geographic range should be expanded to include vendors for Cecil and southern Queen Anne’s counties. The 501(c)(3) requirement would be dropped, making any local non-profits eligible to operate in the park during farmers market. Vendors of prepared foods and short-term seasonal vendors will be permitted.

At the end of the discussion, the council unanimously approved a resolution instructing Ingersoll and Kuiper to work up a draft set of rules based on comments at the meeting and focusing on the bullet points Cerino identified. The complete draft will be forwarded to market vendors for their input.

Also at the meeting, Nathan Shroyer made several recommendations concerning parks and playgrounds in the community. Look for a full account in an upcoming Spy story.

 

Comfort Zones by Nancy Mugele

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From the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz as a young girl, I vowed never to get into a hot air balloon. I was more afraid of the balloon than the Wicked Witch of the West – or her monkeys. Why fly in an unsteerable aircraft subject to the whim of the winds, when you can simply click your heels together and find your way safely home. Seriously, hot air balloons truly frightened me. While I was not really afraid of the experience of “flying” – I became consumed with panic when I thought about the actual landing.

I was convinced that hot air balloons were not safe. After all, the heated air inside the balloon is propelled by an open flame of burning liquid propane. Seems like a recipe for disaster. And, then there is the woven wicker basket – the only thing holding you in, and holding you up. No, thank you.

Last weekend I snuck away to Napa with Jenna and Kelsy for the first of, I hope many, Mugele Girls Weekends. Yes, you guessed it. I was pressured to take a hot air balloon ride. Jenna made me do it, and she was the birthday girl who made the reservation, so I could not back out. I was petrified.

On a regular basis, we tell our students at Kent School not to be afraid to take risks. We push them out of their comfort zones with challenging academics, performing and visual arts exhibits, physical education and athletics, outdoor educational experiences on the water, overnight trips and class-bonding trust exercises. Now it was time for me to take the advice I give students and expand my own personal boundaries.

On the morning of the scheduled sunrise balloon trip, we arrived at the location in the dark. As a result, we did not notice the heavy fog sitting on top of the Napa Valley. Balloons cannot fly in fog so we were given the choice to drive 45 minutes away where the balloons would be able to fly. We decided to go, although it meant we would view the sunrise from large windows in passenger vans, and it also meant more time for me to obsess about the balloon ride and the subsequent landing.

Our balloon operator literally looked like Professor Marvel. He had been flying balloons for 28 years which was a comfort to me. Despite the fact that the basket did not have a door, meaning we had to climb into our compartment, all I can say is that the flight was magical. The scenery was breathtaking as we gently floated over the terrain. It was peaceful and the ride was silky smooth. The landing, well, that is another story. Thankfully there is no video. I may have screamed a bit, but I conquered my fear. I cannot describe the feeling of completing a task that I had never in my life ever expected to do. It felt incredibly joyful. There was an adrenaline rush I had not experienced in a long time and it was so exhilarating. I think my daughters were just as excited as I was that I went on the ride, exited the basket (with a little help), and was standing to tell the story.

I saw the same joyful expressions on my students’ faces this week in photographs from Middle School Chesapeake Bay Studies trips with Sultana Education Foundation and Echo Hill Outdoor School. There is truly nothing better than stretching yourself in a safe place. Whether in the classroom or in an outdoor classroom, research indicates that deeper learning happens when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

In Napa, I also popped a cork off a bottle of champagne by slicing through the bottle top with a saber à la Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously said, “In victory, you deserve champagne; in defeat, you need it.” I even received a certificate for mastering the art of sabrage, which I plan to display. Another out-of-comfort-zone experience I will savor for a long time. Cheers!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Spy Spotlight: Shore Exportations with Patrick Rogan

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Most of Patrick Rogan’s professional life is that of a designer of exhibitions for museums. His work, at that of his firm, assemble, works collaboratively with those institutions to tell compelling stories through images and other multimedia tools. The results of which can been seen in such nationally known museums as the , National Building Museum, Carnegie Institution for Science, or the Maryland Science Center, and more locally with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Horn Point Laboratories, the Talbot Historical Society, and Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area and Historic Easton.

But through the process of developing these installations, Patrick also saw that these techniques could also apply directly to the learning process of children. The act of gathering material, doing research, and designing presentations of findings fits exceptionally well in a new era for the modern classroom, where students can use the same tools to examine the past, present, and future of the Mid-Shore.

Drawing from the life and legacy of Talbot County’s Frederick Douglass, Rogan is working closely with Talbot County Public Schools, the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, and the Talbot Historical Society during his Bicentennial year on two week interpretive workshops with local sixth and seventh graders, and TCPS teachers Colin Stibbins and Kyndell Rainer, to lead them through an exploration of our history, ecosystem, and culture to seek a better understanding of their past, present and future on the Mid-Shore.

The Spy talked to Patrick at the Waterfowl Building last week about Shore Explorations one month studio where participants will be using the legacy of Douglass and some of the Talbot Historical Society’s remarkable photographs as essential tools in sharing their hopes for the future for our area.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. We have also added clips of a video that the students created this summer as another example of Shore Explorations special approach. For more information about Shore Explorations please go here.

 

 

 

Social Action Committee to Interview Kent County Candidates

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A meeting of the Social Action Committee at Sumner Hall

The Social Action Committee (SAC), a group of over 100 community members that came together in 2017 to address racism in our community, has invited candidates running in the Kent County elections to be interviewed by members of the SAC. The SAC is comprised of a number of subcommittees, each with a specific focus to actively dismantle racism in the community in areas such as education, jobs/employment, politics, and community social events/observances.

The SAC has invited each of the candidates running in 2018 for the Board of the Kent County Commissioners, the Board of Education, and the State’s Attorney’s Office to be interviewed this October. Each interview will be conducted by two members of the Social Action Committee, using a list of questions related to the topic of racism in Kent County, and specific to each elected office. The questions were developed jointly by the SAC and the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—Kent Branch. In order to document the candidates’ responses to the interview questions, members of the media have been invited, and youth members of the SAC will videotape the interviews.

When asked to comment on the importance of the Social Action Committee’s work and its interview questions to the candidates, Wayne Gilchrest and Airlee Johnson, members of the SAC, said the following:

The Social Action Committee, a group of citizens with diverse backgrounds, a wide range in ages and ethnicity, has come together for a dialogue with Kent County residents to bring a brighter future for our children. We would like to start that conversation with you. –Wayne Gilchrest

All information we receive from the candidates is very important as we make our voting decisions. Our community has a historical system of racism and community exclusion of our different groups of citizens. It’s important for the Social Action Committee and the public to understand how the candidates will work to dismantle this system. We chose a more informal approach to our candidate interviews in a very relaxed atmosphere. Our hope is to receive more relaxed and thought-provoking answers. The candidates will be talking to 2 or 3 people as compared to rooms in excess of 50 people. –Airlee Johnson

Sumner Hall

The Social Action Committee holds its meetings on the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00 PM, at Sumner Hall: 206 S Queen St., Chestertown. The next meeting of the SAC is Tuesday, October 9th. Meetings of the SAC are open to all members of our community and are sponsored by the Kent County Local Management Board (LMB). Contact Rosemary Ramsey Granillo, Director of the Kent County LMB, for more information: Office: 410-810-2673; Cell: 410-490-6168; email: rramseygranillo@kentgov.org. You are also invited to visit the SAC’s Facebook page.

Animal Crackers – A Laugh Riot at the Garfield

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Horatius Jamison, secretary, and Captain Spaulding, the African explorer, with Hives the butler and Mrs. Rittenhouse, the hostess. Landskroener is picture-perfect as Groucho Marx, voice, mustache and all.  (Ian Ellison, Jim Landskoener, Brad Chaires, Diane Landskroener)     Photo by Jane Jewell

Fans of the Marx Brothers–and of vintage comedy in general–have a treat waiting for them at the Garfield Center. The musical version of Animal Crackers – directed by Jennifer Kafka Smith – is one of the funniest shows to appear on the local stage in recent memory.

Animal Crackers began as a 1928 Broadway musical with a book by George S. Kaufmann and Morrie Ryskind, starring the Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont, Groucho’s long-time comic foil. It was the brothers’ second Broadway hit, running for 191 performances. It was also the brothers’ last stage show since the advent of talking pictures made it possible to transfer their fast-talking brand of comedy to film. The play has been revived several times, starting in 1982, with various changes – notably the substitution of some better-known songs for those in the original musical and the removal of material that today’s audiences are likely to find objectionable. The Garfield’s production is based on a 2009 version produced at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

The musical became the Marx Brothers’ second film in 1930, with most of the principals from the stage show reprising their roles. Lilian Roth took the role of Arabella, the romantic lead. The movie, which is probably the best-known version of the show, was shot in Astoria, New York, where Paramount Pictures had an East Coast studio. And with the film censorship of the Hayes Code still four years in the future, the film was much racier than later Hollywood productions – giving the Marx Brothers a chance to show off their zany brand of humor, including a fair quota of double-entendres. And while several characters and some subplots from the stage version were cut, the movie retained many of the best tunes from the stage show, including “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” which later became Groucho Marx’s TV theme song.   And in case you were wondering, “schnorrer” is a Yiddish word meaning moocher or con artist.

The cast of Animal Crackers in a dance choreographed by Kimberly Stevens.    Photo by Jane Jewell

The plot involves a large party given by Mrs. Rittenhouse, a Long Island society matron. The party features the appearance of Captain Spalding, an African explorer and international celebrity, and the first American exhibition of a famous French painting. Mrs. Rittenhouse is anxious for her daughter, Arabella, to meet a suitable husband. She also wants to reestablish her place in society, which has been eroding since the death of her husband. Guests arrive, including a rich New York businessman, Roscoe W. Chandler, and Mrs. Whitehead, a social rival.

At last Captain Spalding (Groucho’s character) arrives, followed by an Italian musician, Ravelli (Chico’s character) and the Professor (Harpo). And much hilarity ensues, including chases, wisecracks, slapstick, double-talk, puns, songs and dances – and oh yes, a couple of love stories and a plot to steal the painting. None of it makes much sense – really, did you expect it to? – and this production makes no attempt to tie it all together. It’s just one heck of a lot of fun.  Enjoy the ride and forget about the destination.

Capt. Spaulding and Ravelli examine the forged painting as the two lovers look on, Photo by Jane Jewell

With so little story, the play depends heavily on the casting, and the local theater community has risen to the occasion. Jim Landskroener takes the role of Captain Spalding, complete with a painted-on Groucho mustache, and he gives a brilliant performance. Whether he’s reeling off a string of nonsense, mugging at the audience, dancing, or delivering a patter song, he’s a thoroughly believable Groucho, right down to the accent. This role is the key to the whole production, and it’s right on target.

Kirby Powell is hilarious as the Professor, the Harpo Marx character. It’s a role that calls for a wide repertory of physical schtick, and Powell does it with verve – all without saying a single word.   In grand Harpo style, the Professor toots his little hand-held, squeeze-bulb horn and chases women up and down stairs.  And it wouldn’t be Harpo if he didn’t play the harp at least once.  This performance really has to be seen to be believed.

The Marx Brothers live at the Garfield!     Photo by Jane Jewell

Ravelli, the con man/musician of the play, is played by Zac Ryan. His character, originally played by Chico Marx, is a variation on an age-old comic theme, the conniving servant who lives by his wits. Ryan does a great job with the character, including the Italian accent and the physical schtick for some of his bits with the Professor. Very nicely done.

Diane Landskroener, a fine comic actress in her own right, has a juicy role as Mrs. Rittenhouse. A stereotypical social climber, this character gives the actress plenty of opportunity to mock the upper classes and their pretensions. And as a foil to Groucho’s absurdities, Mrs. Rittenhouse has a full platter of double-takes, sputtering outrage, and shocked decorum to deploy – and Landskroener does it all in fine style.

Another key role is Hives, the butler – well played by Brad Chaires, who deploys a formidable deadpan while trying to preserve decorum and delivering straight lines. And when he steps out of the role, it’s even funnier. A good bit of casting!

There are two romantic subplots, featuring Dan Guidice and Gretchen Sachse, and Natalie Lane and Bee Betley. The young lovers get to deliver some of the better songs in the show, including “Three Little Words” (Lane and Betley) and “Watching the Clouds Go By” (Guidice and Sachse).  All four have good voices that are showcased nicely by their duets and ensemble numbers.

Betley plays Wally Winston, the intrepid reporter cum gossip columnist who wants to get the scoop on the various celebrities and big-wigs at the party, with an eye to getting a raise and a promotion.  He teams up with Arabella (Natalie Lane), Mrs. Rittenhouse’s flapper daughter who is looking both for a fiancé and a way to raise her family’s social profile.  Wally, handsome and charming, is the perfect candidate for both!  Unfortunately, one of the scandalous tidbits about the various famous guests that she whispers to Wally instead of earning him a bonus puts his job in jeopardy.  But it seems that this romance of opportunity might even survive poverty and obscurity.

On the other hand, true love is the name of the game for Wally’s photographer colleague, Mary Stewart, played by Gretchen Saches.  She is secretly engaged to the struggling artist John Parker played by Dan Guidice.  Together they plot to substitute his painting for the famous painting on display at the party.  Of course, their plot goes astray in the most hilarious way.

The cast of Animal Crackers at the Garfield.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Mike Heffron is convincing as millionaire Roscoe Chandler, and Julie Lawrence displays a nice French accent as Madame Doucet, an art impresario. Mallory Westlund does a good job as Mrs. Whitehead, Mrs. Rittenhouse’s social rival, conniving convincingly with Grace (Brianna Johnson) to bring down Mrs. Rittenhouse. And Ian Ellison, as Horatius Jamison, Spaulding’s secretary, is one of the few characters who manages to fluster Groucho – in a role originally played by Zeppo Marx.

M.G. Brosius, Brooke Ezzo, and Robin Wood contribute solidly, singing and dancing in the ensemble and doing the occasional bit of stage business without a hitch.

Barbi Bedell outdoes herself with the costumes for this production – all period-perfect and all visually stunning. Likewise, the set, designed by Kafka Smith and built by Jim Landskroener, is both striking and functional. The grand double staircase completes the image of a mansion and the provides a perfect setting both for chase scenes and ensemble song and dance numbers.  Michelle Sensenig provides flawless piano accompaniment–with some help from Chico Marx. A couple of the singers/actors were hard to hear, even from the front of the auditorium; and there were occasional pitch problems with a few of the musical numbers but these problems do not spoil the overall performance.

Choreographer Kimberly Stevens deserves special mention for the energetic dance scenes in which the entire ensemble stepped and twirled in the Charleston and other authentic dances of the era.

The social-climbing Mrs. Rittenhouse (Diane Landskroener) greets her rivals Mrs. Whitehead (Mallory Westlund ) and Grace Carpenter (Brianna Johnson). Photo by Jane Jewell

Kafka Smith said she has been a Marx Brothers fan for as long as she can remember, with Animal Crackers a particular favorite. It shows in this production — everyone involved is obviously having fun, and the fun is contagious. She studied old Marx brothers films in order to flawlessly reproduce the various signature bits of “business” that the Marx brothers were known for.  You will love the bit with the cardboard table.

The show would be a good introduction to the theater for young playgoers; the raunchier bits of the movie version have been edited out, while the antics are fully intact – if anything, they’re funnier seen live on stage. This really is one of the funniest shows you’re likely to see any time soon, a laugh riot from start to finish.  Both kids and adults will love the slapstick while older teens and adults will appreciate the outrageous puns and the not-so-subtle mockery of social pretensions.  This show is hilarious. Go see it!

Animal Crackers runs through Sept. 30, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for seniors and military personnel; and $10 for students. For reservations, call 410-810-2060 or visit www.garfieldcenter.org.

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Night Work on Chester River Bridge Sept. 23-27

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The Chester River Bridge on Route 213.

Bob Rager, District Community Liaison with the Maryland State Highway Administration, announced in email Thursday that overnight mechanical repairs/adjustments to the MD 213 bridge over Chester River in Chestertown will begin this Sunday, September 23.  Hours will be Sunday through Thursday night, 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

This work follows the recent installation of new motors for the draw spans.  Occasional bridge openings lasting approximately 15 minutes each may be necessary during the overnight hours. Travelers who need to cross the bridge during those hours should allow for possible delays or plan alternate routes such as MD 290 through Crumpton.

 

Church Hill Theatre “Hitched” — A Play by Earl Lewin

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Let the Party Begin! The cast of playwright Earl Lewin’s “Hitched” – Front row – Amy Moredock, Howard Mesick, Jane Jewell, Christine Kinlock, Chris, Rogers, Back row – Charles Moore, Peggy Chiras, Steve Hazzard      Photo by Peter Heck

BC Productions proudly announces the premiere of Hitched, the latest script by Chestertown playwright Earl Lewin. “Hitched” is a slang term for getting married. The dictionary defines it as “loosely tied.” This is a family’s tale of pulling formality and informality into one uncomfortable knot. 

Hitched tells what happened when the widely dispersed members of a large family all return home for the “big wedding.”  Now they are all together again for the first time in years and staying in the same house! The mix is a clash of cultures and generations that will have you laughing and crying at the emotional relationships that make this crazy family care about and love one another.

The scene opens in the living room of middle-aged Millie Baker. Millie is 15-years divorced and looking forward to hosting family members at her home in Phoenix for her nephew Jim’s wedding weekend. Blow-up mattresses at the ready, her family (including the unexpected appearance of her ex-husband) convergences on her home and then on her comfort zone. Her brother Harry is several times divorced and living in Philadelphia with his current wife, Penny who is half his age. Jim–Harry’s son with his first wife Linda–is marrying into a socially significant Phoenix family. The wedding is supposed to be a dignified and formal affair. Only maybe not with Uncle Harry and Aunt Rhoda on the loose!

A heart-to-heart talk between mother and son in “Hitched” (Howard Mesick and Peggy Chiras)     Photo by Peter Heck

Among the house guests is Millie’s son Bruce. Millie is unaware that Bruce, a professor at Georgia State University, is gay. Bruce is bringing his partner, Spike, to introduce him to the family. Spike is a civil rights attorney practicing in New York City. Harry’s sophisticated cousin Brenda also lives in New York City. Millie’s outspoken, obnoxious Aunt Rhoda is among the guests. Millie’s ex-husband, now running a mission for orphan boys in New Guinea, shows up uninvited asking Millie to take care of him while he recovers from minor surgery.

Performances of Hitched will be held at Church Hill Theatre over two weekends beginning on Friday, September 28th and running through Sunday, October 7th. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 pm, and Sunday matinees begin at 2 pm.

The cast includes Peggy Dixon Chiras as Millie.  Chiras made her on-stage debut in Lewin’s 2015 production of Accidentally Wealthy and more recently starred in the 2016 production of Saint George’s Blues. Steve Hazzard portrays Harry, also appearing in Accidentally Wealthy and Saint George’s Blues. Hazzard first appeared at Church Hill Theatre in How the Other Half Loves and has acted in many roles in Michigan theater productions. Portraying Harry’s wife Penny is Christine Kinlock who appeared in Lewin’s Orlando Rising. Other recent credits include Rowena in Biloxi Blues; Rosalind/Ganymede in Shore Shakespeare’s As You Like It; the title role in Sylvia at The Garfield; and Hermia in Shore Shakespeare’s A  Midsummer Night’s Dream. Chris Rogers plays Millie’s ex-husband Spencer. This performance marks his sixth BC Production. Rogers is a well-known, local actor and co-founder of the Shore Shakespeare Company. He will next appear as Henry Lodge in Move Over, Mrs. Markham with Tred Avon Players in Oxford at the end of October.  

Howard Mesick portrays Millie’s son Bruce. Mesick is both a playwright and a familiar face on local stages playing lead roles with The Garfield, Church Hill Theatre, and Shore Shakespeare Company. Portraying Bruce’s partner Spike is Charles Michael Moore. He has acted in productions of You Can’t Take It With YouYou’re A Good Man Charlie BrownHurlyburly, Fugue In A Nursery, The Importance Of Being Earnest, Wit, Under Milk Wood, Woyzeck, and The Rocky Horror Show. He has also directed shows for both Washington College and Church Hill Theater. Amy Moredock portrays Brenda. Moredock has performed in many BC Productions including The Burgundy Wine Mob and Not Responsible which provided her with NYC experience. Other credits include Church Hill Theatre performances as Regina in The Little Foxes, Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Elvira Condomine in Blithe Spirit. Aunt Rhoda is played by Jane Jewell who is well-known to Eastern Shore audiences through her performances with BC Productions, Church Hill Theatre, The Garfield, and Shore Shakespeare’s 2016 summer production of Macbeth. Tom Dorman portrays Grimm. He has played a wide range of impressive roles at Church Hill Theatre and The Garfield. Dorman portrayed the title role in Lewin’s Orlando Rising. Rounding out the cast are Eddie Dorman (cab driver), Troy Strootman (Jim), Maya McGrory (Victoria), and King Kong and Yoda playing themselves. 

Assisting Lewin with the production is an equally experienced and accomplished crew: Kathy Jones (Stage Manager); Lewin (Set Design/Construction); Rogers (Sound Design); Doug Kaufmann (Lighting Design/Operation); Speedy Christopher (Sound Operator); Eddie Dorman, Bruce Smith, Kevin Chiras (Stage Crew).

At the wedding in “Hitched” (Steve Hazzard, Christine Kinlock, Amy Moredock)   Photo by Peter Heck

Lewin, a published playwright, having had two one-act plays published by Baker’s Plays, brings his extensive experience to directing his own script. Church Hill Theatre has a collaborative history with Lewin having provided a venue for Lewin’s original scripts including two musicals She Stoops to Conquer, The Musical and Celluloid both featuring musical scores by Dick Durham. Celluloid played Off-Broadway in 2010. His murder-musical The Burgundy Wine Mob also debuted at CHT to go on to an Off-Off-Broadway production in 2012.  Lewin’s Orlando Rising premiered at Church Hill in 2017, Saint Georges Blues in 2016, Accidentally Wealthy in 2015, and then Visiting Sam in 2014. Hitched marks Lewin’s fifth annual production to be staged at Church Hill Theatre in as many years.  Lewin’s short script entitled Not Responsible was also featured in the Short Play Lab’s MidTown Festival in New York City in 2013.

Please plan to join Lewin and his accomplished cast and crew as they unfold a family tale of love and fear of love, marriage, and alimony! Performances will be held at Church Hill Theatre September 28, 29, and 30 and October 5, 6, and 7 (Friday/Saturday performances at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm). For information: call 410.556.6003 or visit the Church Hill Theatre website. All tickets are $15 (cash or check only) and may be picked up prior to the performance at the box office. Reservations are suggested. 

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Meet the Author: Neal Jackson at the BookPlate

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Neal Jackson

Come meet photojournalist Neal Jackson Friday, Sept. 21, at the BookPlate, 112 Cross St., where he will discuss his new book, Market, with Marcie Dunn Ramsey. The talk begins at 6 p.m., and copies of the book will be available for purchase and to be signed by the author.

Public markets occupy a central role in every developed or developing nation in the world. They provide an avenue of economic entrepreneurship for large numbers of people, as the cost of entry is low and the marketing expense is minimal. They are often a critical source of household essentials food, clothing, cleaning supplies, even building materials and hardware. Finally, they provide employment for large numbers of people.

But beyond these economic functions, they perform a social purpose. People connect with their friends, exchange community information and gossip, and pass along political and social messages. At its core, however, it is the vendors who define the markets. Their personalities, interactions, goods, cries to customers and, yes, even the twinkle in their eyes, combine to create a market s atmosphere its soul.

Jackson set out on a worldwide odyssey to capture the personalities of these market vendors in portraiture. Via images taken on site in front of a portable backdrop, the sellers, their goods, and the market’s soul come visually alive. Have a seat and immerse yourself in the faces, clothes, and soul which each of the vendors brings to their particular market.

Jackson is a co-founder of Trauma Training for Journalists, a nonprofit volunteer organization providing safety and first aid training for hazardous environments to freelance journalists around the world. He has taught photojournalism at the International Center of Photography in New York City and around the world in the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop. Before going to law school at Georgetown University, he worked as a print reporter and editor. He served as chief legal officer of NPR from 1996-2008. He lives with his wife, Sandra Willett Jackson, in Queen Anne’s County.

For more information, call the BookPlate at 410-778-4167.