Week’s Worth of Wit to Celebrate Bloomsday

Janet Lynch portrays Molly Bloom.

By Timothy Gillis

PORTLAND –This Saturday, June 16, is Bloomsday, an international day of literary tribute to James Joyce. The Irish author created some of the world’s greatest fiction. June 16 is the day that all the epic action takes place in Ulysses, his novel that usually appears as #1 on any “greatest books” list. The novel also counts as one of the least read, or understood, works on these same lists.

Local aficionados have planned several events to celebrate the writer, and help make his works more accessible. This past Monday night, Bull Feeney’s played host to the first event.

Seanachie Nights presented a Bloomsday program featuring storytellers performing pieces from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, as well as Joycean-flavored folktales and tunes. Lynne Cullen kicked off the evening by playing a few songs on her concertina. There were some sing-alongs to get the crowd involved, like the Spanish Ladies Chorus and the Finnegan’s Wake Chorus. (The song is possessive; the novel is not.)

Cullen then told a few folktales.
Sebastian Lockwood read passages from Finnegans Wake, and Janet Lynch portrayed Molly Bloom in a tour de force performance that had the crowd mesmerized. Her brilliant rendition featured one especially comic scene when she goes to the bathroom – which is actually a corner stool with curtain around it – when she realizes she’s having her period. It parallels an earlier scene from the novel when Leopold Bloom, the protagonist, goes to the outhouse in Chapter 4. Such scenes, and colorful language, caused the book to be banned.

The crowd loved it, and laughed as Molly, the Penelope character in this Odyssean tale, kept ranting while sitting on the toilet behind the curtain.

By the end of the performance, though, everyone knew this last chapter is a love letter, not some kind of bathroom humor.

At one point during Lynch’s portrayal, Lockwood laughed and looked outside when someone collecting beer bottles from Sunday’s old port festival dumped their cache, and the glass rolled down the cobblestones in perfect ambient background to Lynch’s lament of men and their drink.

The celebration continues Thursday evening, with a screening of the 1967 film Ulysses and a talk about Ulysses on film by USM professor Francis McGrath. This event will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Portland Public Library, room 5.
On Friday evening, AIRE (American Irish Repertory Ensemble) brings back its rollicking performance piece “Ulysses for Beginners,” using scenes, songs, slides, and humor to explain the storyline of Ulysses in one hour. This event is at Bull Feeney’s Pub, 375 Fore Street, at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, June 16, the party reaches full “bloom” with Poldy’s Perambulation, a Bloomsday walk from the Maine Irish Heritage Center (12 noon) to various spots in Portland: Brian Boru at 12:30 p.m., Longfellow Books at 1:30 p.m., Bull Feeney’s at 2:30 p.m. and Rira’s Irish Pub at 3:30 p.m. Actors will be performing selections from Ulysses at each stop.

Finally, on Saturday evening at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray Street, there will be a program featuring traditional Irish group Boghat and the actress Lynch doing a selection from Love’s Old Sweet Song, her one-woman show with music about Molly Bloom. The show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Quin Abbey Photography Collection on Display at Maine Irish Heritage Center

By Timothy Gillis

PORTLAND – The Maine Irish Heritage Center will host a photography exhibit on Friday, June 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Bill Finney, photographer of the Quin Abbey collection, will be there to discuss his work on this Franciscan abbey, built in 1402 in County Clare, Ireland. A wine and cheese reception is at 6:30 p.m., after which Ann Quinlan, a tour guide of trips to her native Ireland for thirty years, will introduce Finney, who was a commercial photographer for New Hampshire and worked for the governor’s office.

“I worked with people. I did an extensive project on New Hampshire agricultural fairs, including animals and people,” Finney said. “I settled on work for art galleries and the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.”
The photography exhibit kicks off a summer’s-worth of activities at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray Street, at the old St. Dominic’s church, and will be on view all summer. On Saturday, June 16, the Center is involved with Bloomsday celebrations, and will feature the traditional Irish group Boghat and actress Janet Lynch doing a selection from “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” her one-woman show with music about Molly Bloom. This show is at 7:30 p.m.

“The photographic opening is a perfect way to showcase the beauty of this Center,” said archivist and curator Michael Connell. “We are thrilled to be able to have Mr. Finney be with us to discuss his work.”

Finney, who has been taking pictures for nearly sixty years, spoke recently about his life in images.

“After the Abbey, I did mostly scenic-type things,” he said. “Most of my images in Ireland are landscapes. My wife Alden and I have enjoyed over two dozen trips to Ireland since the mid 1980s, and I became an Irish citizen in 1992 through my maternal grandfather from Trim in County Meath.”

Finney retired from his business of commercial/documentary photography in Hopkinton, New Hampshire in 2004, and is now engaged in fine arts photography. He has since moved to Great Diamond Island in Casco Bay. “I like to kid that this is as close as I could get my dear wife Alden to Ireland,” he said.

“The several times photographing Quin Abbey and staying in the Ryan’s bed and breakfast in the town of Quin gave me the opportunity of gaining several friendships in the village and getting a first hand experience of life in Ireland,” Finney said.

“I was photographing using silver prints then, but it is all digital now,” he said. “Both are interesting, but digital is a much simpler medium to work in.”

Death of Portland Poet Unites Two Camps

(family photo)

By Timothy Gillis

PORTLAND – The death of Michael Macklin, a Portland poet and editor at the Cafe Review, has united two sides of the poetic divide – page and stage. He was at Breadloaf writers’ camp in Vermont with students from Waynflete School, on May 19, when he passed away. The tributes to him have been pouring in, and both the page poets of the Cafe Review and the stage poets of Port Veritas are in accord: the man was a verse godsend.

Steve Luttrell, editor of Cafe Review, said an upcoming issue is going to be dedicated to him.

“We, at The Café Review, are planning a festschrift to our beloved late colleague, poet Michael Macklin (1949-2012) for the Summer 2013,” according to the Cafe Review website. “Michael served on our staff for nearly a decade, first as reviews editor then as a poetry editor.”

There were also spontaneous readings last week at Local Sprouts and Mama’s Crowbar. Wil Gibson, of the Port Veritas poetry slam team, joined the page crowd of Luttrell and former poet laureates Wesley McNair and Betsey Scholl, among others, at Local Sprouts, last Monday night. There were also representatives from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, of which Macklin was a board member.

“He was the first dude that made it seem like I could get published,” said Gibson. “Here was this Cafe Review editor, looking at my work. It was the first time I felt validated from that older literary crowd.”

Gibson said Macklin’s interest in his poems drove him to write more poems instead of performances, and to focus on the craft of rewriting.

At the regular “Poetry on Tap” at Mama’s Crowbar later that night, Gibson and other members of Port Veritas, read from the poems of Macklin to pay tribute to their poetic godfather. Gibson read “Life and Death of a Poet,” “Frame and Finish,” and “Before Coffee.”

“He read everything I wrote,” Gibson said. Macklin used to do the Tuesday night reading at the North Star. “He was there every time. He’d be in the front row, ready to talk with me when I was done. He’d accentuate the positive. He circled stuff I wrote and would rant and rave about it. Telling me what was good. Other people focus on the negative, and criticize – not him,” Gibson said. “This is the dude who edited you even when you didn’t want it.”

Ryan McLellan, host of Mama’s Monday reading and a member of Port Veritas, said he was the best editor he’d ever known. He read a haiku for Macklin that he had just written.

Nate Amadon, also of Port Veritas, said he has been reading poetry in Portland for thirteen years. When he came to Portland, the scene was down. “Everyone was mad about the piss and vinegar anger around slam poetry. He walked away from the scene. He wanted nothing to do with it.”

The slam scene now is much nicer, with audience members snapping fingers when a poet drops a line to encourage the sudden memory. In the old days, readers who faltered were often heckled and jeered. Michael Macklin was one of the rare types of people who was comfortable with either approach to poetry – the written or the spoken word. Amadon finished the impromptu tribute with “Resurrection,” the last poem Macklin had published in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Poets—including his former students—interested in contributing a poem or poems (up to five) written for Michael Macklin, about him, or with him in mind are asked to send their work to The Café Review, c/o Yes Books, 589 Congress Street, Portland, Maine 04101. Please include a short biography of 50 words or less with your poems and a S.A.S.E. (We are waiving the $1 reading fee for these submissions only.) E-mail submissions will not be accepted. Anyone with questions, or information to share, may contact us at portpoet@gmail.com, through our individual e-mail addresses on the Staff link, or at 207.775.3233.

“Driftland,” Macklin’s book of poems is available at Longfellow’s bookstore.

Naked Shakespeare Ends Five-Year Run at Wine Bar

Paul Haley flashes a sword at Naked Shakespeare’s final Wine Bar show.

By Timothy Gillis

Acorn Productions Naked Shakespeare ended its five-year run at the Wine Bar this week with a grand finale of scenes and soliloquies from the Bard. Michael Levine, producing director, said “There are 154 sonnets. Which one will we start with tonight?”

Paul Haley, as Don Armado from Love’s Labor’s Lost, grabbed the audience by its funny bone and led it forward into the evening. Haley was hilarious as the bawdy, “fantastical Spanish swordsman who tries and fails to woo a country wench, Jaquenetta.”
Randall Tuttle, as Edmund from King Lear, was asked before he began, “Have you always been a bastard? Were you born that way?”

Michael Howard as Dromio, from The Comedy of Errors, delivered lines in his trademark tirade: a high-pitched talking scream, lamenting a woman named Nell who possessed him. “She’s as big as a globe,” Howard intoned, offering Shakespeare a chance for his noted sexual puns. “I could find out countries in her. Ireland in her buttocks, Scotland in her barrenness,” he said, expressive in ways one would want good words to capture, especially as the actor forbids photography as a means to control images of him. “I will not look on low,” Howard said.

Yale Repertory Theater cast Paul Giamatti as Hamlet for the 2012-2013 season. “Short, fat, balding – he is the grumpiest Hamlet of all time,” said Corey Gagne, who then gave us the Hamlet he expects Giamatti to convey, a “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy more fit for a Woody Allen hypochondriac than a youth who was said by ex-girlfriend Ophelia to be the “glass of fashion and the mould of form”.

Eric Worthley was Richard II, Michael Toth was Richard III. Tucked in between the Kings was MacBeth and his Lady, played by Keith Anctil, director of children’s programming, and Laura Graham, respectively.

Joe Quinn played a more business-like Hamlet, in a suit and tie but still armed with the bare bodkin with which he contemplates taking his own life. Quinn changes “fardels” to the synonymous “burdens” because of the former’s scatological sounds.

In the next scene, from As You Like It, Levine plays Touchstone, a city-smart court jester who teases Corin, the country bumpkin shepherd played by Christopher Reiling.

Before Harlan Baker can read the Prologue from Henry V, someone from the audience calls out “How come we haven’t seen you in any plays lately, Harlan? Has all your creativity run dry?” An outsider might mistake the plant for a heckler, but everyone in the audience was a regular. Each had seen these scenes before.

Seth Berner read lines from John of Gaunt from Richard II. Before he began, someone called out to him, “Hey, John! What do you think of England’s chances in the14th century?” John of Gaunt was the influential uncle of Richard II, who ascended to the throne when he was ten.

The hit of the evening was Michael Howard as Bottom from Midsummer Night’s Dream. The meddlesome sprite Puck has placed the ears of an ass on Bottom’s head, and Titania, queen of the fairies played by Patricia Mew, has been drugged into falling for the first creature she sees. If Levine is the brains behind Acorn Productions, Howard is the heart. His presence is not just attributable to his physical size. His facial expressions, comic characterizations, and slurry tones make him well-suited to play Shakespeare’s fringe folk.

Howard finishes his hat-trick of comedic scenes as Falstaff, from Henry IV, part one. Falstaff is a companion to the young Prince Hal, who becomes Henry V, but he leads the young prince astray. In this scene, Falstaff is extolling the many virtues of sherry.

The company also sang the praises of the Wine Bar, their stage for the past five years. The troupe was asked with they were wrapping up the run here.
“When we first embarked on creating a performance format that would allow actors to perform their favorite selections of text in contemporary settings, we never dreamed that we would still be doing shows five years later,” they said in the playbill. “The reality of the creative process is that change is a necessary component if creative growth is to occur. This is not the end of Naked Shakespeare, just a change in format.”

They are offering a training program, touring productions, and the Acorn Shakespeare Conservatory, “a two-year tuition-based program designed to provide actors with voice and breath work, an understanding of the mechanics and syntax of Shakespeare’s language, the ability to create a strong visceral connection to the images, and performance experience in Naked Shakespeare shows.

The company also plans to produce The Four Hamlets, a touring version of their adaption of the classic play that features a cast of four actors, all of whom play different aspects of the title character. Trysts and Turns: the sonnet in performance is an “exploration of lust and desire” as revealed by Shakespeare’s best-loved poems.

So Naked Shakepeare drew the final curtain on their Wine Bar days, but the company still has several shows waiting in the wings.