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Pontine Theatre Receives $3K Grant from The Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation

Pontine Theatre has been awarded a $3,000 grant from the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation to tour scenes from its original production, New England Christmas, to eighteen assisted and independent living communities for seniors located throughout New England. Touring activities take place between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.

Each season, Pontine Theatre's Co-Artistic Directors, Greg Gathers and Marguerite Mathews, create original stagings of seasonal stories by noted New England authors. This year Pontine's New England Christmas touring program includes The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, by "America's Master of Light Verse," Ogden Nash (1902-1971) and The Christmas Monks, by Mary Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930). Both stories are lively and full of fun and holiday cheer.

Pontine has a special interest in reaching senior audiences through performances at assisted living communities, nursing homes and senior centers. Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the New England population - and are also the most avid attendees of live performances - yet many are no longer able to travel, or have limited access to live professional theatre productions. By bringing the performance to them, Pontine addresses an important, though often overlooked constituency.

Programs related to New England subjects are of deep interest to these New Hampshire audiences. They engage both intellect and memory, leading to lively, stimulating discussions. They also have a deeper therapeutic value. Many seniors who reside at nursing homes and assisted living communities have lost family, friends and homes. They often battle depression and feelings of isolation. Arts programs help to keep seniors connected to the larger world around them by stimulating curiosity, bringing them together in positive and engaging activity, and reminding them of the value of their own heritage.

Cost is a serious challenge for many of these communities that serve the needs of New Hampshire's senior citizens. Without assistance many would be unable to afford cultural programs for their residents. Support from the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation helps fund Pontine performances in seven New Hampshire communities: Dover, Exeter, Glencliff, Hanover, Lebanon, Littleton and New London; four Maine communities: Kittery, Portland, Saco, and Topsham; four Massachusetts communities: Cambridge, Milton, Newburyport, and Salisbury; and two Vermont communities: White River Junction and Woodstock.

Pontine's touring program is also made possible by grants awarded to Pontine from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Pictured: Pontine Co-Director, Marguerite Mathews, chats with audience member following a performance.

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