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Pontine Theatre Presents THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES

Pontine Theatre Presents THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES

11-27 October, Pontine Theatre's co-directors, Greg Gathers & Marguerite Mathews, bring their unique approach to literary adaptation to Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1851 Gothic Romance, The House of the Seven Gables. Performances are Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 3pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $27 and may be purchased online at Tickets may also be purchased at the door a half-hour prior to each performance, based on availability. Pontine Theatre is located at #1 Plains Avenue in Portsmouth's West End. Information: / 603-436-6660. This production is underwritten by Piscataqua Savings Bank. Pontine's 2019-20 performance season is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the story follows several generations of the ill-fated Pyncheon family, bowed under a curse dating from the famous witch trials, and trapped in the once magnificent, but now decrepit, House of the Seven Gables. Based on Hawthorne's experience of growing up in Salem, and interwoven with incidents from the history of the Hawthorne family, The House of the Seven Gables was an instant success, and remains a great American classic.

The House of the Seven Gables is, as Hawthorne puts it, a "history of retribution for the sins of long ago." Or, one might say, it is an prefiguring of Faulkner's line that, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." The saga starts in the 17th century, when Colonel Pyncheon, covets the land of one Matthew Maule. Colonel Pyncheon uses his influence to have Matthew Maule tried for witchcraft. As the convicted Maule stands on the gallows, he pronounces a curse on Pyncheon: "God will give you blood to drink!"

It is the working-out of this curse, through future generations of Pyncheon family that forms the essence of The House of the Seven Gables.

Pontine Theatre annually creates new work, adding to its extensive repertory of productions that explore the history, culture and literature of New England. Over decades of experimentation and innovation in the creation of more than fifty original works, Pontine has evolved a distinctive performance philosophy and style. The company's original works are enacted for audiences using a synthesis of period theatrical conventions, classical movement theatre, and experimental theatrical techniques. Their signature dramatic creations offer audiences an aesthetic experience of New England, its places and people, deepening understanding and appreciation of local landscapes and shared historical legacies.

Pontine has created dramatic interpretations of such classic 19th and 20th century New England writings as Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs; and Thomas Bailey Aldrich's The Story of a Bad Boy. Pontine has also created dramatic works interpreting aspects of regional culture: the textile mill industry (Dearly Earned); the Shaker movement (Journey to Heaven); the Isles of Shoals (Eternal Sound of the Sea); and the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Treaty ending the Russo-Japanese war (The Peace of Portsmouth). New England cultural icons brought to life in Pontine productions include Ogden Nash (Home is Heaven); e.e. cummings (Silver Lake Summers); and Maxfield Parrish (Cornish Castles).

Pontine is a two-actor company-yet each of its works is peopled with a full cast of characters. Roles may be enacted by articulated human figures, constructed by Mr. Gathers of wicker, wood and cloth, which the actors manipulate, speak for, and interact with. Mask performance is also employed, with the two actors often sharing masked roles as the action requires, as in traditional commedia dell'arte performance. Cut-out and projected shadow figures may also round out the cast, and may speak through the actors; a Victorian miniature parlor theatre may be set up with a flourish and plays-within-plays enacted, as the actors manipulate figures within the toy theatre and speak their roles. A Victorian "rolling panorama" may be unfurled as the actors narrate a dramatic incident. Finally, Pontine also employs striking transparencies and screen projections as set elements, which the actors move through and interact with. Through precise mastery and subtle deployment of these design elements, Pontine's original works articulate a distinctive creative and artistic vision. Audiences consistently describe Pontine performances as "magical", "enlightening", "inventive", "surprising", "absorbing" and "delightful."

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was a sea captain and descendent of John Hathorne, one of the judges in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. Hawthorne was educated at the Bowdoin College (1821-24). In the school among his friends were Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States.

From 1825 top 1836, Hawthorne worked as a writer and contributor to periodicals. Hawthorne's first novel, Fanshawe (1828), appeared anonymously at his own expense. He edited in 1836 the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge in Boston, and compiled in 1837 Peter Parley's Universal History for children. In was followed by a series of books for children, Grandfather's Chair (1841), Famous Old People (1841), Liberty Tree (1841), and Biographical Stories for Children (1842).

Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales (1837), was praised by Edgar Allan Poe in Graham's Magazine. "We know of few compositions which the critic can more honestly commend that these Twice-Told Tales," Poe stated. "As Americans, we feel proud of the book."

In 1842 Hawthorne became friends with the Transcendentalists in Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. That same year Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody, an active participant in the Transcendentalist movement. Hawthorne settled with Sophia first in Concord, but a growing family and mounting debts compelled their return to Salem. Hawthorne was unable to earn a living as a writer and in 1846 he was appointed surveyor of the Port of Salem. Once he wrote to his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "I have locked myself in a dungeon and I can't find the key to get out." He worked there for three years until he was fired. "I detest this town so much," Hawthorne said, "that I hate to go out into the streets, or to have people see me."

The Scarlet Letter, which appeared in 1850, told a story of the earliest victims of Puritan obsession and spiritual intolerance. The text was a critical and popular success. The influence of the novel is apparent in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady (1881), in Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899), and in William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying (1930).

The period 1850 to 1853 was Hawthorne's most productive, as he wrote The House of the Seven Gables and The Blithedale Romance, along with A Wonder Book (1852) and Tanglewood Tales (1853). During 1850 the Hawthornes lived at the Red House in Lenox in the Berkshire Hills, and Hawthorne formed a memorable friendship with novelist Herman Melville (1819-1912). The association was more important to Melville than to Hawthorne, since Melville was fifteen years younger and the much more impressionable of the two men. It left its mark in dedication of his Moby-Dick, and in some wonderful letters.

In 1853 Franklin Pierce became President. Hawthorne, who had written a campaign biography for him, was appointed as consul in Liverpool, England. He lived there for four years, and then spent a year and half in Italy writing The Marble Faun (1860), a story about the conflict between innocence and guilt. It was his last completed novel. In his Concord home, he wrote the essays contained in Our Old Home (1863). Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, NH on a trip to the mountains with his friend Franklin Pierce. After his death, Sophia Hawthorne edited and published his notebooks.

In a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, dated April 1851, his friend Herman Melville praises The House of the Seven Gables: "With great enjoyment we spent almost an hour in each separate gable. It has delighted us; it has piqued a re-perusal; it has robbed us of a day, and made us a present of a whole year of thoughtfulness.. Were we to particularize what most struck us in the deeper passages, we would point out the scene where the judge is left seated in his ancestral chair. Clifford is full of an awful truth throughout. He is conceived in the finest, truest spirit. He is no caricature. He is Clifford. There is a certain tragic phase of humanity which, in our opinion, was never more powerfully embodied than by Hawthorne."

Pontine Co-Directors, Greg Gathers & Margueriite Mathews, perform their original stage adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, 11-27 October in Portsmouth NH.

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