I am making my musical theater comeback. Having last been on stage in 1972 (I had a role in Senator Al Franken’s original college production of *Nixon), I have accepted the role of Doctor B. (for Benjamin) Lake Noyes in the world premiere production of The Last Ferryman at the Stonington Opera House. As a board member, Debbie volunteered me and I was accepted without audition.
We are rehearsing five hours a day, six days per week, for a month. Then we have eight performances from mid to late August. Everyone regrets my participation except me. I can’t sing, I can’t dance and I can’t act, except to play the role of a stone-faced physician who knows how not to say “Oh, S**t” when something goes wrong.
Dr. Noyes (1870 – 1945) was a leading citizen of Stonington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a physician, a surgeon, a pharmacist, an occultist, an inventor, a surveyor, a genealogist, a geneticist (he studied inbreeding on the Island) and an antiquarian.
The teamwork, the focus and the commitment are a gratifying way to end the Gap Year. The schedule takes the focus of our days off of our many visitors and, ironically, improves the quality of our host/guest interactions.
The Last Ferryman is a musical about the events surrounding the building of the bridge over Eggemoggin Reach, between Deer Isle and Sedgwick, Maine. It explores the tensions between the progressive locals, the Island business community and the auto-borne tourists, who all wanted a bridge – and the insular locals, the rich “rusticators” and the well-to-do yachtsmen who were all opposed.
The music is written by a Grammy-winning musician, Paul Sullivan. The book is written by playwright Linda Britt and includes much of historical interest. Stonington Opera House Artistic Director Judith Jerome is directing with her deft genius.
During the 1930’s much of today’s highway infrastructure was initiated and many bridges were built (including the Golden Gate Bridge) as commercial transportation along the Coasts changed from shipping to trucking. The Deer Isle bridge (as it’s called on this side of the bridge) was finished in 1939 after two years of construction and many years of planning. Originally part of FDR’s WPA projects, the Federal plans were halted because of yachtsmen pressure. Ultimately the State picked up on the project and the structural compromise of the high, arching, bridge span muted the critics because even the tallest mast could pass beneath.
Working with the equity actors and watching them interact with the artistic directors to create something out of nothing is a marvel to behold. As a non-artist I had no real understanding of this process of creation through insight, imagination, hard work, repetition, inspiration and trial and error.
On a side note, I am growing a mustache in order to more authentically portray Dr. Noyes (see top). This involves growing a full beard with a plan to trim back to a ‘stache, an excellent exercise in narcissism.
My personal embarrassment of 1972 was to try out for Harvard’s Hasty Pudding show and then to drop out immediately when I realized I was overextended. This is a better show by far and when the eight-performance run is finished, my self-atonement will be complete. Then I am on to the Gap Year wrap-up.
* Al Franken’s Nixon play (written while he was at Harvard) presumably formed the basis for one of his most famous skits on Saturday Night Live, Nixon’s Final Days (1976).
More about The Last Ferryman
Birthday for Maine Bridge: an Opera by Maine PBN (great audio clip and article)
The Last Ferryman on stage in Stonington by the Portland Press-Herald