Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Every morning before going to the Opera House, my husband makes a sandwich for his lunch. And you if ask our roommate Zachary, those sandwiches are made exclusively for himself and it is only by cruel chance that he doesn’t eat every single one of them within minutes of their creation. But, perhaps he wouldn’t tell you this in so many words as he is a ten-year-old yellow Labrador.
Zachary is the loving companion of our gracious host, Nancy Dontzin, who has been kind enough to share her home with us for the entire summer while we work at Opera House. The fierce battle over the ownership rights of sandwiches between my husband and Zachary is just one of the many memories we will take away from our stay with Nancy this summer. I will remember eating everyday dinners by candlelight, a habit Nancy says she has held over from living with her grandmother as a young girl, a practice I would like to put in place in my own home. I will remember chatting with Nancy about family and politics and the great pleasure of conversation with someone who has seen so much of this world. I will remember playing “monster” with Nancy’s visiting twin grandsons which involved chasing the identical four-year-olds around the house and pretending not to know where they might have hidden...despite the tell-tale giggles from behind a piece of furniture. I will remember that when Joseph sprained his ankle, Nancy's neighbor, Pat Roth, who happened to be visiting, ran home to bring him an Ace bandage.
I will remember that for an entire summer we were welcomed into a home. These memories wouldn’t have been possible had we stayed in a hotel or rented a cottage. For theater people, staying in someone’s home during our brief residencies at the Opera House is not only a great relief to our struggling bank accounts but it also provides us with unique experiences and memories that feed us as artists. So to Nancy, and to all the wonderful Opera House hosts in Stonington and Deer Isle, I salute you and I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. This would not be possible without you.
In September my husband, Joseph, and I moved to New York City so that I could begin a graduate program in Performing Arts Administration at NYU. My goal is to arm myself with as much education and experience as possible so that we can follow our dream of launching a theater company in Rockledge, Florida, Joseph’s hometown.
One of the first pieces of assigned reading during my first semester was a 2003 New York Times article about the Stonington Opera House. I was thrilled to see that these women were successfully doing something very similar to what I hope to accomplish in Florida. I knew I needed to meet these women and come to Stonington and after a few emails, and a lunch we were on our way.
Neither of us had spent much time in New England before moving to New York and this was our first time venturing out of the city. Naturally, we were swept away with the magic of the island. It was a cold and dreary weekend but that only added to the depth of its beauty. And then there was the Opera House. Despite the cold and the wet, more than 100 people showed up to support their friends and neighbors for “All Shorts,” a festival of short plays written and directed by community members. The dawning realization that this place was so much more than a theater, so much more than just art, was invigorating. This is a community and it is important to people. We knew we could learn here if we could, for a short time, become a part of this community.
So here we are. Joseph, a scenic designer, has been working 12-14 hour days as he assists in creating sets for three full productions in just under seven weeks. I’ve been welcomed into the fold of the administrative office where I become exhausted just watching the unstoppable Linda Nelson work. We are learning more than we could have hoped for about make a theater company go in a small town. We are learning what it takes to “Incite Art. Create Community.”