The Bridge Project 75 Years Spanning the Reach

Here’s what’s happening with one of the Stonington Farmers Market‘s not for profit vendors:

The Bridge Project: 75 years of Spanning the Reach
Opera House Arts commissions new musical, year-long education program, parade
to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge

field_trip_bridge
{Students drawing at the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge in Fall 2013 as part of The Local Stories Project, an arts integrated learning project sponsored by Opera House Arts in conjunction with the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and Reach Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge in 2014.}

Prior to 1939, Deer Isle-Stonington were isolated fishing communities facing the sea. On June 19, 1939, the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge was completed and dedicated, connecting Little Deer Isle with the mainland. How did the building of this bridge change life on Deer Isle, and in the surrounding mainland communities? In this 75th anniversary year, Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House (OHA) is exploring that question in creative ways with students and adult community members on both sides of the bridge, and is hosting two community meetings the week of March 3 for ways additional organizations and individuals can participate in this project.
On Tuesday, March 4 at 3:30 p.m., a meeting will be held for all those individuals wishing to participate with OHA’s new musical, The Last Ferryman, commissioned from Grammy winning composer Paul Sullivan. At this meeting, director Judith Jerome and artistic director Linda Nelson will outline the project, talk about casting, and dream together with attendees about how the new performance might work.

circus_elephants
{Student drawing after hearing a story of the circus traveling to Deer Isle via ferry, pre-Bridge construction, as part of The Local Stories Project, an arts integrated learning project sponsored by Opera House Arts in conjunction with the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and Reach Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge in 2014.}

On Friday, March 7 at 2:30 p.m. OHA will host a community meeting for all groups and individuals interested in participating in a 75th anniversary Bridge celebration event at the bridge on Saturday, June 21. This community event will be organized around a parade across the bridge, and can include whatever celebratory events groups wish to host at Bridge End Park at the parade’s finale. Current collaborators on this event include the Bridge End Citizens Initiative, the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society, and the Deer Isle-Stonington Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and the Reach Performing Arts Center. All collaborators, existing and new, are asked to attend this organizational planning meeting.
Both meetings will be held in the Stonington Opera House. Please R.S.V.P. to Linda Nelson at lnelson@operahousearts.org, particularly if you are unable to attend but would like to participate.
The Last Ferryman will be given its world premiere at the Opera House August 14-22, 2014. This new musical, like OHA’s previous Dear Fish and Burt Dow performances, is based on historic research and oral histories about the creation of the bridge, materials gathered specifically for this project from community elders by students and adults. The musical is set on Charlie Scott’s ferry—the way to get across the Reach from Deer Isle prior to 1939—and features as characters Charlie, the last ferryman; Frank McGuire, to whom the bridge is dedicated; Raymond Scott, the treasurer of the original bridge initiative; and other historic community members. Individuals can participate in The Last Ferryman in multiple ways: as actors, singers, and dramaturgs: people with whom to think through the design elements, set, costumes–and events that might happen around the musical. OHA is also seeking additional objects and images to be used for the design and implementation of the musical’s set. Art Rotch, a native Mainer who is now the Producing Artistic Director for Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, is the scenic designer for the project. Rotch previously designed Women and the Sea and As You Like It for OHA, both in 2006. He is seeking additional historic images of the causeway before it was developed, and more general contextual photos from the 1930s: the towns, stores and merchants, goods, cars, steamboats, fishing boats, yachts on the Reach, ice on the Reach or the Harbor. Also people: Frank McGuire and his wife; Ralph Barter; Ray Small; families in general; the toll takers, passengers on the ferry or steamboats; farmers, the ferryman, bridge engineers, construction workers. Also objects from the era–or you may have other ideas of how to feed the design and story ideas! Photos can be sent electronically via email to info@operahousearts.org; dropped off at the Opera House box office on Main Street; or brought to the meeting on Tuesday, March 4.

bridge_drawing1
{A 3rd grade student’s drawing of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge from the visual journals students have been keeping as part of The Local Stories Project, an arts integrated learning project sponsored by Opera House Arts in conjunction with the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and Reach Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge in 2014.}

An important, year-long component of The Bridge Project is a Local Stories project currently underway at the Deer Isle-Stonington and Sedgwick Elementary Schools. Third and fourth grade classes are researching local history, and will create a permanent mural and a performance based on that research. Students are guided by classroom teachers Judy Rhodes, Tasha Brown and Sharon Longley in collaboration with OHA-sponsored visiting artists Laurie Downey and Gretchen Berg and island historians Tinker Crouch and Connie Wiberg in this multi-disciplinary, integrated arts project. Students have been interviewing local elders who have grown up, lived and worked in Sedgwick and Deer Isle and are sharing their firsthand experiences and memories. Connie Wiberg, Bill Haviland, Sylvia Wardwell, Clair Grindle and Allie Webb have all shared their stories with students and The Bridge Project. Students heard stories of circus animals coming to Deer Isle by ferry; the terrors of crossing the “dancing bridge” (pre-cables); and romances made possible by the bridge. The classes have also taken a field trip to the bridge and Bridge End Park, where they asked questions of engineer Ken Sweeney and Deer Isle resident Loring Kydd. Students are keeping a visual project journals, including both writing and drawings, based on the stories they hear and see.
During a residency with the visiting artist team beginning May 22, students will paint the mural and develop a performance piece based on these drawings and themes from their research. On May 30, the third and fourth grade students will unveil the murals, created with visual artist Laurie Downey, in a celebratory event open to the community along with a performance based on their research directed by theater artist Gretchen Berg. The murals will be hung as permanent installations in the hallways of both schools.

“The Bridge Project” is one of an ongoing series of Local Stories projects in Maine elementary schools. For more information on the Project, see http://www.lauriedowney.net/schoolmurals. This project is part of Opera House Arts’ arts integrated teaching and learning partnership with its local schools, and is supported in part by grants from the Maine Arts Commission, the Island Education Foundation, and the Quimby Family Foundation.
For additional information about any portion of OHA’s The Bridge Project, including the community meetings, the new musical, or the educational project, please contact Opera House Arts at info@operahousearts.org, or 207-367-2788.

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