Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Movies, Theatre, Traveling

The Star Gatekeepers of Martha’s Vineyard are fading into the Menemsha Sunset

The recent death of Mike Nichols, well-chronicled in various newspapers, but most notably to me in a Vineyard Gazette article, reinforces a feeling I’ve had over the last few years.

Martha’s Vineyard’s celebrity gatekeepers – those who come to the island and value their privacy, aren’t intruded upon, but are also willing to stand up for community causes and events when they choose – are disappearing. In his passing on, Nichols joins Art Buchwald, William Styron, Mike Wallace, Katherine Graham, Walter Cronkite, Patricia Neal and others of the literati/glitterati set who were known for their visiting/residing and support of the Island.

To me as a lifelong part-time Island resident/visitor, these were all people who appreciated what the Vineyard has to offer. More importantly for the locals, they weren’t shy about using their cache to improve the life and resources of those who are there on the Island full – time, which was and is perhaps best seen in the long-running Possible Dreams Auction for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

But who will take their place? Others remain, with Carly Simon perhaps seen as the primary standard bearer.

But there aren’t really many people my age, or a little older than me, who are taking up the mantlepiece as the celebrity statesman. I don’t know if that’s a pro or con for an island that values its own individual community. But I do know that it’s a change that will continue to be subtly felt.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

WCW – Never Been Gone

I’ve never posted about the #WCW (Women Crush Wednesday) social media trend, but this seems like an appropriately random time to start. The natural starting point for me at least is the enduring appeal of singer – songwriter Ms. Carly Simon, whose music I grew up with, and was semi – fixated on for a time in my younger years. (I acknowledged that in a solo performance a few years ago and was surprised by the warm reaction.)

Anyhow, Simon recently posted a picture on her Instagram account that exemplified her continued aura of beguilement, at least for me. The picture shows her on Lambert’s Cove Beach on Martha’s Vineyard, not far from her home. That beach is also a favorite destination for my family members and I when we can get in – usage is generally restricted during the high summer season. In the picture, Simon seems to strike just the right pose of slight amusement and satisfaction, clearly enjoying the moment but not gloating in it. (It would be a perfect album cover shot for her if she had an upcoming release waiting in the wings.)

This picture perfectly fits Simon’s role in my current musical tastes – someone whom I “come back around again” to from time to time, to paraphrase one of her well – known lyrics, but don’t fixate on with regularity. Nonetheless, her music and persona continue to be emblematic of Martha’s Vineyard, the family homestead, for me, and presumably in a similar way for others. I didn’t shy away from occasionally watching her 1987 concert at Menemsha if I’m feeling homesick, and her song Never Been Gone remains the most iconic example of being home in Massachusetts. A handful of her songs have additional family or home region associations for me.

So that picture brought a brief resurgence in my appreciation of her work, which has been more on the periphery recently as she has maintained a lower public profile over the last several years. Her children Sally and Ben now take the lead in the family business, which she often supports during their Vineyard shows, and I last saw her join Ben onstage three years ago in Edgartown.

Her music remains emblematic of a certain special or cherished time and place, and I’m sure it will always be that way for my family members and I.

Movies, Theatre

The music brings me back to the Playhouse

As part of an extended stay back on my family homeland of Martha’s Vineyard, I was excited to attend a show at the Vineyard Playhouse, the island’s resident professional theatre, for the first time in several years.


This show, Search: Paul Clayton, took a historical docudrama look at an individual who was involved with Bob Dylan’s early career and genesis as a musician. Sadly, Clayton committed suicide in 1967 at the age of 36. He had humble beginnings here in Massachusetts (New Bedford) and then developed an affinity for the state of Virginia after attending school in the Charlottesville area. Later, he migrated for New York City and the early days of the folk music movement, where he remained until his untimely death.

The story focuses on Clayton’s music and some personal entanglements in a manner reminiscent of the recent film Inside Llewyn Davis. However, this story is ultimately told in a more upbeat way, in spite of Clayton’s personal difficulties and challenging social relationships. We meet his parents, briefly, a few of his New York acquaintances, and most importantly, the young singer Bob Dylan, played with winsome charm by Jared Weiss. Peter Oyloe as Clayton shifts back and forth between a narrator role and embodying Clayton. The show also includes a nod to the digital media age (I assume that’s how it was intended) in an early sequence using computer projected images and a digitized voice. The projection elements contribute to the story for about three-quarters of the show, most notably in a back projected road trip sequence.

While I sometimes have mixed opinions about musicals, this one moved right along, for the most part, and was carried by the commitment of its actors and uniqueness of the staging, with minimal props and a simple proscenium stage. It seems to be an excellent way for the recently renovated Playhouse to show off their new capabilities and facilities following a renovation.

I might have enjoyed it more if the songs all contributed to the advancement of the story (some did and some didn’t) and if the script chose to end at the downbeat suicidal moment, which is portrayed on stage. The ensemble demonstrates a tight cohesion in their musical performances, and some members slip in and out of different characters, which was entertaining if not always clear. Special credit must be given to Jaime Babbitt for a gusto-filled performance which she wasn’t shy of enlivening with a classic New York accent.


Music was also a central theme of the late – summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, which I caught with a friend in Maine at the beginning of this week. The film followed a familiar template origin story for its ragtag band of heroes, and it’s inevitable that a sequel will soon appear for the team. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a big studio film that took such an unusual approach to incorporating music into its plot, and I’m sure that will stand out the most in my memory of the film.


Crowdfunding and the Arts

Recently something had led me to believe that crowd funding had passed its moment, with sites like Kickstarter and its relations seeming to have lost their novelty – and more awareness about accompanying service fees or editorial challenges that the various sites might impose on their funders.

But, two current projects involving music have shown me that’s not the case, and so I wanted to give them a quick shout out here.

My longtime friend Christa has successfully funded a Kickstarter project for her second album generating support from 142 (!) backers including myself. (Her folk-based music is definitely worth a listen and can be heard here.)

Meanwhile, famous musical daughter – and versatile artist in her own right – Sally Taylor, whom I followed during her active musical touring career throughout my high school years, has launched a new Indiegogo campaign for an ambitious and unique-sounding multidisciplinary art project due to debut next summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

I am sure there are many more examples of crowd funding continuing to make an impact, but those are the two that have my attention right now.