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BWW Blog: Jesse Swimm of Goodspeed's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - A Trip to the Library and a Night at the Sea Shanty

A trip to the library and a night at the Sea Shanty....

The entrance.

So today I decided to take a little me time on my day off. It started out pretty uneventful as usual. A morning walk with the dog, some coffee to wake up, a bit of stretching, etc... Once that was all settled I headed out to the gym to feel like I had actually accomplished something on my day off. However once I finished I decided to take a little trip to the music theatre library here in East Haddam, Conn. Now for those of you who don't know, or have never been up here The Scherer Library of Music Theatre is of the most extensive music theatre research facilties in the country (In fact the only other one I know that compares is The Lincoln Center Library in New York City.)

"The collection boasts more than 70,000 items, providing an invaluable resource to academics and professionals around the world. Dedicated to preserving the rich legacy of the art form, the library carefully maintains a comprehensive collection of scores, sheet music, scripts, original cast recordings, programs, photographs, and theatre memorabilia in a facility located in East Haddam, Connecticut." (From Goodspeed Musicals)

As I made my way into the library I was overcome with such joy as it felt like it was my own personal playground. You see the last time I was here was in 2007 when I worked on "High Button Shoes" and to come back here again was such a treat. I wanted to get a couple scripts and some music to listen to for some upcoming auditions but I couldn't help getting lost in the vast amount of material they have. Seriously they have EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER WANT, lol. I introduced myself to Josh who is the head of the education department as well as the head librarian so that I could familiarize myself with the different areas of the library again as well as ask some questions about the library for you all reading this blog.

Joshua Seider Ritter; Education Director and Head of the Music Library

I was amazed at the amount of history and material that is there. As we walked Josh explained to me a few things that have been happening at the library since my last trip here. For one there was $60,000 grant from the Steinberg foundation to digitize some of the most important pieces of musical theatre history that they have on file. Over 500 pieces were chosen that were the most important to the library and they are currently working on an integrated library system that allow users in the future to access this material for research purposes.

I was like a kid in a candy store.

I was also amazed that every show that is ever done at The Goodspeed Opera House is cataloged and all the material from the show (blocking scripts, call scripts, even sign-in sheets, etc.) is kept and available for you to peruse. I managed to search out and find my production of "High Button Shoes" from 2007 and everything was there. It was a nice trip down memory lane and I hope that I will have the opportunity with another show.

Documentation of every show Goodspeed Opera House has ever done.
I even managed to find an old sign in sheet from '07 when I was in "High Button Shoes". They keep everything, lol.
This makes my inner musical theatre geek very happy!!!
Over 30,000 pieces of sheet music donated by NBC.
They have a few Playbills

As my journey continued I weaved my way through countless Playbills, numerous scripts & scores, as well as tons of CD's and Souvenir brochures. Towards the end of my trip I ended up in the Max Showalter Room. Max Showalter, also known as Casey Adams, was an American film, television, and stage actor, as well as a composer, pianist, and singer. Around 1984 Max retired from the business and moved to Chester, Conn where he fell in love with the surrounding areas. As part of his love for theatre and the arts Max donated $1,000,000 to the Goodspeed Education department so that they could continue their work with the future of musical theatre. In honor of him they have dedicated a special room with his original pianos as well as numerous signed pictures from the many stars he worked with during his very lucrative career. Sadly Max passed in July of 2000 from Cancer but his legacy lives on in The Goodspeed education department and library. It is because of his generous donation that Goodspeed can continue the work they do today.

The Max Showalter room
Max Showalter's pianos.

After my exciting trip to the library I headed out to Essex, Conn. with some of my cast to go to the Griswold Inn and Sea Shanty to listen to old songs of the sea as well as have a pint with friends. A little history about the Griswold Inn:

It is the oldest continuously run tavern in the United States of America.

Founded by three brothers in the late 18th century, it has been under the stewardship of only 6 families. The Inn was captured by British troops and used as a base of operations during the War of 1812 (from Wikipedia).

And on Monday Nights "The Jovial Crew" come in and give their best renditions of classic songs from the sea. The place itself is pretty small but extremely quaint and you can't help but get swept up in the joy of it all. Even if you don't know the songs, by the end of the night you are singing in full voice with the rest of the crowd songs from the sea. I have included a little clip from YouTube so you can see for yourself.

As the night continued on I marveled at the songs and the old building knowing that this tradition has probably been going on for many, many years and still remains as charming and spectacular in present day. If you ever get the chance I highly recommend you make a trip out Essex and The Griswold Inn. You won't be disappointed.

Till next time..... The Griswold Inn in Essex
The bar scene at The Griswold Inn for Sea Shanty night
The Jovial Crew leading the room with some old songs of the sea

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From This Author Guest Blogger: Jesse Swimm

Jesse, has spent the last 20 years working extensively throughout New York, Nationally, and Internationally. He was Action in Broadway choreographer Joey McKneely's hit international (read more...)