Pontine Theatre Presents FAMILIAR FIELDS: THE COMMUNITY OF SARAH ORNE JEWETT, Now thru 3/16
Today, March 13 - 16, Pontine Theatre presents the final production of it's premiere Cafe-Lyceum Series. This program, FAMILIAR FIELDS: The Community of Sarah Orne Jewett, is based on the life and work of the 19th century South Berwick, Maine author. The presentation explores issues of community as reflected in Jewett's stories, and the ways in which her regional portraits speak about the essential New England character The presentation combines food, friends, and discussion along with excerpts from Pontine's original adaptation of Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, and Dunnet Landing Stories.
Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) was born in South Berwick, Maine, a town on the border of New Hampshire, The house where she was born is cared for by Historic New England and is open to the public during the summer months. Jewett's father was South Berwick's most distinguished doctor and, as a child, Jewett often accompanied him on his round of patient visits. Through her mother, Jewett was connected to the Perry and Gilman families of Exeter, New Hampshire. By way of the Gilman family, Sarah was related to two other well-known American women writers, the seventeenth-century poet Anne Bradstreet and the novelist Tabitha Tenney.
She began writing poetry at an early age and when she was only nineteen her short story "Mr. Bruce" was accepted by The Atlantic. Her association with that magazine continued, and William Dean Howells, who was editor at that time, encouraged her to publish her first book Deephaven (1877), a collection of sketches published earlier in The Atlantic. Through her friendship with Howells, Jewett became acquainted with Boston's literary elite, including Annie Fields, with whom she developed one of the most intimate and lasting relationships of her life.
The Country of the Pointed Firs, published in 1896, is considered Jewett's finest work, described by Henry James as her "beautiful little quantum of achievement." Because it is loosely structured, many critics viewed the book not as a novel, but a series of sketches; however, its structure is unified through both setting and theme. Jewett herself felt that her strengths as a writer lay not in plot development or dramatic tension, but in character development. Indeed, she determined early in her career to preserve a disappearing way of life, and her novel can be read as a study of the effects of isolation and hardship on the inhabitants who lived in the decaying fishing villages along the New England coast.
The group of stories known as the Dunnet Landing Stories, were published between 1899 and 1910. The relationship of these stories to The Country of the Pointed Firs, is an deepening of a world that is fully imagined and realized. Once it had come into being, this fictional world could be entered again, and so it is that the later stories are part of and extend The Country of the Pointed Firs. In the Dunnet Landing Stories, Jewett extends the map of her world. More importantly, Jewett gives greater density and richness to her world by introducing new characters and revealing new facets in the lives or traits of familiar ones.
Jewett died in 1909, eight years after an accident that effectively ended her writing career. Her reputation had grown during her lifetime, extending far beyond the bounds of the New England she loved.
Serving the Seacoast since 1977, Pontine Theatre has developed a sterling reputation for high quality performances and educational programs. With an impressive repertoire of innovative, original productions, the company serves both its home town, Portsmouth, NH and New England and neighboring states.
At Pontine's West End Studio Theatre, an at-home performance series showcases all of the company's premieres and the works of a national roster of guest artists. Two things unite the wide range of work presented in Pontine's at-home performance series: all use expression through movement as a primary dramatic vehicle and all are original works created by the artists who perform them.
Pontine's touring program brings the company to audiences throughout New England. The company offers performances, workshops, and residencies at community centers, historical societies, libraries, museums, and assisted living communites for seniors and the disabled. Last season, Pontine offered fifty-five performances in thirty-two communities throughout New England.
Pontine has become well known for a group of critically acclaimed productions which specifically reflect the history and culture of New England. These include a staging of Thomas Bailey Aldrich's 1896 novel The Story of A Bad Boy; an original adaptation of Brewster's Rambles About Portsmouth; Wallace Nutting's Old America, about the Colonial Revival Movement; Isles of Shoals: Eternal Sound of the Sea an original staging of the legends and lore of the Shoals drawn from the writings of Celia Thaxter and Nathaniel Hawthorne; Cornish Castles, based on the life and work of New Hampshire painter, Maxfield Parrish; Jouney to Heaven, based on the history, lives and beliefs of the Shakers; and Dearly Earned, about 19th century textile mill workers. These plays have been performed in venues throughout the region, including Canterbury Shaker Village, Currier Museum, Decordova Museum, Enfield Shaker Village, Museum of Fine Art-Boston, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Penobscot Marine Museum, and Strawbery Banke Museum.
Photo Credit: Andrew Edgar