(Cover Photo: The CAST of John Minigan's "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" presented by Gloucester Stage Company in Gloucester, MA. now playing through September 24, 2023. Photo Credit Jason Grow Photography)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“If you’re worried these tales are all true…Some say that they were, and some say that they weren’t…So, the truth’ll be left up to you."
- John Minigan
Written by John Minigan
Director Bryn Boice
Managing Director Christopher Griffith
Cast Includes: Katie Pickett*, Jaime José Hernández*, Sadiyah Dyce Stephens*, Paul Melendy*
Lead Puppeteer: Ryan Natcharian
Understudy: Kayla Armstrong, Mark Efinger
Additional Creative Team:
Production Manager - Claire Morese; Technical Director - Tori Oakes, Misfit Toys Theatricals; House and Company Manager - Fiona Kerr; Assistant Stage Manager - Miranda Gonzalez; Puppet Builders - Steven Doucette, Libby Schap; Production Electrician - Jessie Marasco; Assistant Production Manager - Dhruv Patel; Production Assistants - Alexis Armstrong, Eben McCarthy, Ryan Natcharian; Media Relations Manager - Tracy Davis, P.R.; Photographer - Jason Grow Photography; Grant Coordinator - Bethany Planton; Box Office Assistant - Iona Murray-Brown; Bookkeeper - Barbara Hargrove.
* Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester MA.
September 1, 2023 through September 24, 2023
(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)
Single Ticket prices range from $15 to $67 with discounts available for seniors, young professionals under 35, military families, college students, youth under 18 years of age, EBT Card holders, and Cape Ann residents.
For detailed ticket information visit www.gloucesterstage.com.
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS
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Gloucester Stage Company concludes its 2023 season with "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" - a show that is equal parts haunt, hoot and holler.
The show is a celebration of local folklore and preposterous legends of Gloucester, some quite ancient, some more current yet all with veritable "sea legs" - all acted out in a superbly silly manner by four performers: Katie Pickett, Jaime José Hernández, Sadiyah Dyce Stephens and Paul Melendy.
While not a musical, the play does have an "opening number" of sorts with clever lyrics which helps set the stage for what follows.
In celebration of Gloucester’s 400+ Celebration, Gloucester Stage commissioned local playwright John Minigan (whose adaptation of "Sleepy Hollow" was staged last year at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA.) to write "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" based on folklore from Gloucester’s 400-year history.
(Photo: Sadiyah Dyce Stephens, Paul Melendy and Jaime José Hernández in a scene from John Minigan's "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" presented by Gloucester Stage Company in Gloucester, MA. now playing through September 24, 2023. Photo Credit Jason Grow Photography)
Katie Pickett serves up a lot of laughs as “The Gloucester Translator” - bartender for the "BLACKBURN TAVERN."
Claiming to be a "townie" of Gloucester with not a lot of acting experience, the "Translator" is also the most inclined of the four to buy into the local legends...one in particular...rather than engage in the attempts by the other three to explain their respective origins. Yet the character is likable and welcoming, making the audience feel right at home.
Jaime José Hernández comes on strong as the “Skeptical Mansplainer” of the quartet. While the others tend to let their emotions get the best of them, Hernández attempts to bring them back to reality...but ends up letting these local mysteries get to him, occasionally, as well.
(Photo: The CAST of John Minigan's "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" presented by Gloucester Stage Company in Gloucester, MA. now playing through September 24, 2023. Photo Credit Jason Grow Photography)
As the actor described in the script as the "Velvet Sledgehammer," Sadiyah Dyce Stephens serves wonderfully as a "bridge" to the other performers, keeping things moving along and on an even keel, which can prove challenging, at times, once the fourth actor arrives onto the set.
“The Confident Craftsman” is played by Paul Melendy and this describes the actor quite well. Melendy is a true craftsman on stage, completely invested in how the part he plays is executed. The intense level of the actor's comedic physicality on stage is truly astonishing...and alarming, at times, if you are in the front rows.
Yes, audience participation is part of the experience. So, expect the unexpected and have a lot of fun in the process.
Under the direction of Bryn Boice, the camaraderie between the four performers is apparent from the outset and is maintained for approximately 90 sidesplitting minutes.
Together and portraying a multitude of characters, the cohesive cast hilariously enacts the "TALL TALES" of a "Ghost Army" fought off by early settlers, the long held secrets by the "Witches of Dogtown" to the foreboding mariner legend of the "Gloucester Sea Serpent."
(Photo: Jaime José Hernández, Katie Pickett and Paul Melendy in a scene from John Minigan's "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" presented by Gloucester Stage Company in Gloucester, MA. now playing through September 24, 2023. Photo Credit Jason Grow Photography)
One of the more revealing elements to the piece, as written by Minigan, is how some of the myths arose out of social intolerance or lack of secular thought by the original settlers.
We see how people in ancient Gloucester (or not so ancient) and its neighboring communities used to live, used to " lean into" unfounded rumors, myths and superstitions rather than combat them, and how they might have treated one another based on those rumors, especially those perceived as "different."
However, the play never gets too dark nor does it seem to seek to judge these people - it only seeks to amuse by shining a light on any past darkness.
What assists the actors in keeping things light is the clever use of shadow puppetry. It cannot be overstated how incredibly precise the timing was between the actors and lead puppeteer Ryan Natcharian.
Additionally, the above could not be executed as proficiently without the impressive single set design by Lindsay G. Fuori.
"TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" continues until September 24th and is the perfect way to conclude an outstanding season at the Gloucester Stage.
Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
A world premiere of epic proportions, this play brings to life the infamous Gloucester Sea Serpent, the unheard-of Ghost Army fought off by Ebenezer Babson, and the secrets from the Witches of Dogtown.
Employing projections and puppetry to tell these larger-than-life fish tales, audiences will revel in the magic of Gloucester’s oral history.
In celebration of Gloucester’s 400+ Celebration, Gloucester Stage has commissioned local playwright John Minigan ("Sleepy Hollow," "Queen of Sad Mischance," "Noir Hamlet") to write "TALL TALES FROM BLACKBURN TAVERN" based on folklore from Gloucester’s 400-year history.
Directed by award-winning director, educator, actor, and producer Bryn Boice.
ABOUT GLOUCESTER STAGE COMPANY
GLOUCESTER STAGE is a professional non-profit theater company, operating under a NEAT agreement with AEA, SDC, and IATSE unions, presenting contemporary plays and rousing classics that have moved on to commercial productions in New York and Paris. Located in a century-old brick warehouse on the oceanfront of Boston’s North Shore, the unique three quarter thrust stage provides an intimate experience for audiences.
GLOUCESTER STAGE COMPANY
267 East Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930