This weekend will mark the final five performances of the world premiere of The Whaleship Essex at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse on Church street in Vineyard Haven. These performances will represent a number of remarkable things, and not just for the playwright Joe Forbrich, myself and this wonderful cast made up of a mix of theatre professionals from New York and across New England as well as a few usual suspects from the Vineyard Playhouse of the past. For two of the cast members it’s their first professional production: Jarrod Allan from Hudson, a recent graduate from the Atlantic Acting School in New York, and Joe Carter, the former police chief of Oak Bluffs.
Even more remarkable is that The Whaleship Essex is the first production in the newly renovated theatre that now will be a beacon for the arts on the Island for generations to come. For those of you who remember the older theatre at all, this renovation is truly inspiring. Anyone who takes an interest in historical renovation will be blown away by it, and if you’re at all interested in theatre as well, you will find the new playhouse absolutely intoxicating. Six weeks ago I was making my way back to the Island on the ferry for the start of rehearsals and ran into Larry Greenberg, who was the sports trainer when I attended the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He asked what I was up to and I told him about the play and how excited I was to be in the first play in the new theatre. He had heard about it, but wasn’t too familiar with the renovations and remarked to me about how he used to donate to the playhouse every year. I told him that if he can, he should continue to support the playhouse. In fact, now that the theatre is open, they can use the support more then ever.
MJ Bruder Munafo, Gerry Yukevich and everyone at the playhouse have given a truly remarkable gift to the entire Island. In addition to their professional summer season, the new theatre will be a resource for the Island community all year long.
Opening the theatre after a two-year historical renovation that cost more than two million dollars is an amazing achievement, but only the beginning for MJ, Gerry and the playhouse staff.
They need to raise nearly the same amount to secure the theatre’s future on the Island as a resource for the community and a self-sustaining arts organization into the future. They need funds for the maintenance of the new facility, for professional and non-professional productions year round and to secure permanent housing for the technical and artistic staff during the summer, which will also give them the ability to host playwrights or artist residencies in the off-season to further benefit the theatre and the Island community at large. They’ve proven that they can raise this kind of money, and more important they’ve shown what they can do with it and how much it is worth to everyone who lives on Martha’s Vineyard.
All who live on the Island should consider giving support to the new Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, because the playhouse is giving a lot to everyone on Martha’s Vineyard.