Pontine Opens THE COMMON HEART 4/26

Pontine Theatre is celebrating its 35th Anniversary this season with a new production based on New England's Transcendental Movement of the 1830's and 40's. The Common Heart: A Transcendental Revue, premieres 26 April - 12 May at Pontine's West End Studio Theatre, 959 Islington St, Portsmouth NH. Performances are Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm, and Sundays at 2pm. There is an additional 8pm performance scheduled for Saturday 27 April. Tickets are $24 and may be purchased online: www.pontine.org.

Pontine's original works are based on the idea that the actor is the principal artist of the theatre and that, therefore, the actor should make the decisions for all aspects of the production. Pontine's two-person ensemble serves not only as actors but as playwright, director, and designer. The actors perform all the research for Pontine's original productions.

Each season, Pontine mounts an Annual Performance Season at their Portsmouth venue, the West End Studio Theatre where they present Pontine's original productions and those of Guest Artists
The company also presents their work on tour throughout New England. Pontine has a special interest in serving the cultural needs of senior citizens residing at assisted living facilities. The company also offers presentations through the New Hampshire Humanities Council's "Humanities to Go Program," at Libraries, Historical Societies and Museums.

The Common Heart: A Transcendental Revue, is about the New England Transcendentalist movement of the 1830's and '40's. Transcendentalism is often called the first truly American school of philosophy and works by its disciples are still widely read today. In researching the piece the company looked at both the literature of the time and at scholarly works by contemporary authors.

In compiling their original scripts, the company works exclusively from historical sources. These included essays and poetry by the transcendentalists themselves, as well as excerpts from their personal correspondence and journal entries. In addition, the script draws from a wide variety of essays and articles by people involved in the movement who later wrote reminiscences and memoirs which were either privately published, or which appeared in journals and magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly.

The resulting play, titled The Common Heart: A Transcendental Revue, is organized as a group of portraits of three different communities: the town of Concord, MA, and two different utopian communities -- one located in Harvard MA and the other on the outskirts of Boston in West Roxbury.

The play begins in Concord, Massachusetts, home of the most famous Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Born in 1803, he was a unitarian minister, educated at Harvard, who came to disagree with the church's methods. In 1832 he resigned from the ministry, writing in his journal: "I have thought that, in order to be a good minister, it was necessary to leave the ministry. The profession is antiquated. In an altered age, we worship in the dead forms of our forefathers."

After his resignation, Emerson toured Europe. He went to Paris where he visited the Jardin des Plantes. Emerson was moved by the organization of plants according to a system of classification. This gave him an insight into the interconnectedness of things which he described as a moment of visionary intensity.

When he returned to Boston in 1833, he made the first of what would eventually be some 1,500 lectures. In this lecture titled, The Uses of Natural History in Boston he set out some of his important beliefs and the ideas he would later develop in his first published essay Nature:

"Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word. I wish to learn this language, not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book that is written in that tongue."

In 1834 Emerson moved to Concord where he quickly became one of the leading citizens in the town; he was known as "The Sage of Concord." In 1836, He published his essay, Nature. He also began meeting with other like-minded intellectuals. This was the beginning of the Transcendental Club which served as a center for the movement.

Emerson believed that all things are connected to God and, therefore, all things are divine. His views suggested that God does not have to reveal the truth but that the truth can be intuitively experienced directly from nature. In his essay, Nature, Emerson says:

"In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, he is my creature and, despite all his griefs, he shall be glad with me. In the woods, man casts off his years and, at whatever point of life, is a child again. In the woods is perpetual youth. In the woods we return to faith and reason. There, I feel, nothing can befall me, no disgrace or calamity, which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed in blithe air and uplifted into infinate space, all egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of Universal Being circulate through me. I am part and particle of God."

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