About Dave Wheelan

The Kaleidoscopic Memoirs of Will Howard

While Will Howard should feel great satisfaction that he is able to document some of the great highlights of a life spent in Talbot County, it will be future local historians who will be the most grateful for his recollections.

Will’s memoirs, which starts in 1936, when his future parents first met at a boarding house on Harrison Street when Will’s father became the manager of the Avalon Theatre at the same time his mom became a public school music teacher, span over the opening of the family-owned bowling alley, the start of the fine dining movement in Easton with the opening of Chambers, the saving of the Avalon, all the way up to the present day.  But he also talks about the darker sides of living on the Eastern Shore with his early news reporting of the Cambridge riots in the 1960s and his own experience with racism in Talbot County when the bowling alley first opened its doors.

Scheduled for release starting this Saturday, October 21, with a book signing at the News Center in Easton, A Kaleidoscopic Memoir has over forty stories that shed a special light on a unique life well lived.

The Spy caught up with Will at Bullitt House last week to share some of those memories with us.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about A Kaleidoscopic Memoir please go here

Spy Eye: Twenty Years of Art, Faith, and Friendship on Harrison Street

What has a Russian name, a Christian foundation, just turned twenty years old, and represents over thirty of the region’s best artists? If you answered the Troika Gallery in downtown Easton, you are correct.

In fact, Troika Gallery Fine Art Studio has been one of Talbot County’s most successful art galleries for most of that time. Humbly started in 1997 when it opened up in the Talbottown Shopping Center (now where Jo-Jo’s Cupcakes resides), Troika has matured to the point where it now offers art from less than a $1,000 to over $50,000. It is a remarkable case study of working artists coming together to build what Laura Era, one of the c0-founders, has called a special ministry, combining the talents of professionally trained artists and sculptors with a clear spiritual component.

The Spy has always been interested in this landmark art center on Harrison Street for some time, and finally had the chance to sit down with Laura and Jennifer Heyd Wharton, two of three co-founders (Laura’s mother Dorothy Newland retired in 2012) to talk about some of the history and personality of this popular art showcase, as well as their profound sense of faith, after twenty years of showing art as well as using the space to create their own work.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Troika Gallery please go here

Grants in Action: Women & Girls Fund’s Impact at the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center

It is so easy to take the Internet for granted at this point. Whether we like it or not,  the use of the web to register your child for school, reserve a book at the local library, or find resources on a health issue are now found very quickly on the World Wide Web.

And yet a significant minority on the Eastern Shore are unable to access this everyday tool. Complicated by language barriers and educational gaps that many new Americans experience, the world of the web is mainly foreign territory for hundreds in our community who pay a very high price for this discrepancy.

In fact, without computer literacy, a single appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles cost $25 by a third party vendor to set up.

As a result of these unfair circumstances, particularly for women raising children, the Multicultural Center Resource Center and the Women & Girls Fund have worked together to develop a program for young mothers to learn and understand the web and social media.

The Spy talks to Matthew Peters, director of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, and Women & Girls Fund trustee, Anna Fichtner, about this early investment in empowering women.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. 

Editor’s Note:  This is the second in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

CFF Preview: Tom Horton and the Rising Sea Levels of Dorchester County

The Chesapeake Film Festival has gone out of their way this year to emphasize the important theme of conservation, and has consequently assembled a first rate collection of the most current documentaries on climate change, sea level rising, and other global warming issues to screen in the last weekend in October in Talbot County.

Ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio to short films on forestry and the fishing, the festival’s curatorial hand has carefully vetted out the the very best in international filmmaking, but it is suspected that the film that will have the most impact locally is case study of rising sea levels in Dorchester County.

The local dream team of filmmaker Sandy Cannon-Brown, photographer David Harp, and environmental author Tom Horton, who were responsible two years ago for the popular Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, a documentary inspired by William W. Warner’s classic book on of the Chesapeake Bay, have now reunited to tell the sobering tale of the disappearing landscape of Dorchester and the possible for the thirteen other Counties.

The Spy caught up with High Tide in Dorchester writer and narrator Tom Horton a week ago at Bullitt House to talk about the film and its mission to send an important warning to the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here

Theatre Review: Garfield’s “Sylvia” a Winner by Peter Heck

Cast of “Sylvia”: Bryan Betley, Christine Kinlock, Will Robinson, Jennifer Kafka-Smith              Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, opening this weekend at the Garfield Center, is a romantic comedy about a man, his dog, his wife, and his mid-life crisis. – and, once you get beyond the surface, about the role of love in the modern world.

Directed by Bonnie Hill, the play is set in New York City sometime in the early 1990s.

Sylvia had its Off-Broadway premiere in 1995, with Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie of Sex and the City) in the title role. It ran for 197 performances and received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Play. Parker was nominated for Outstanding Actress, and the costume design by Jane Greenwood was also nominated. Oddly enough, it was 2015 before a Broadway production took place, although it had a number of productions elsewhere – including one at Church Hill Theatre in 1999, also directed by Hill.

Reportedly, Sylvia originally had trouble finding a Broadway production because potential backers found the play’s main plot device – a young woman playing the role of a dog – objectionable. Gurney’s answer was that the play was about connecting in an increasingly impersonal, alienated world, with the dog Sylvia the means by which the other characters ultimately connect.

Sylvia is part poodle and all beautiful after Greg takes her for a grooming. – Christine Kinlock and Will Robinson      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The play begins as Greg, a middle-aged New Yorker, brings the dog Sylvia home after finding her in the park. Greg has left work – at a financial institution – early, and we soon learn that he is on the edge of burning out at work. Sylvia, who says at the outset that she loves Greg unconditionally, is a welcome relief from the cold business of commodities trading that makes up his day at work.

Sylvia the dog sits on the sofa with Greg – but only when Kate isn’t there!    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

But when Greg’s wife, Kate, arrives home, she makes it clear she has no interest in adopting a dog. Her career is just taking off, and the couple’s children are now in college, so they can begin to enjoy a more independent social life. Having a dog in the city would only burden them, she says. Greg convinces her to let Sylvia stay “a few days” to see how it works out. Of course, the few days extend to a much longer period – and the strain on the couple’s relationship builds, especially as it becomes clear that Greg is on the verge of losing his job.

Meanwhile, Sylvia goes about being very much a dog —  although a speaking dog who makes no bones about what she thinks and how she feels about things. Sylvia also tangles Greg up in the leash when they go for walks.  Kate sarcastically calls her “Saliva.”

The name “Sylvia” – imprinted on the dog tag that Sylvia wore when Greg found her – is particularly ironic to Kate as she teaches Shakespeare to teenagers.  She can’t help but be constantly reminded of the famous Shakespeare lyric, “Who is Sylvia?  Who is she/ That all our swains commend her?”

The relationship between Greg, Sylvia, and Kate soon takes on many aspects of a love triangle, although Kate is at first the only one who really understands what is happening. Her husband sees no problems with having a dog in a small New York City apartment.  She sees nothing but. Of course, in the end, as all romantic comedies should, love wins out. But it’s a close race in determining whose love for whom will win.

Jennifer Kafka-Smith as the wife, Kate –    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock, who recently appeared in Earl Lewin’s Orlando Rising at Church Hill Theatre and Shore Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, delivers an absolutely winning performance in the role of Sylvia. The role demands a good deal of the actor, with considerable use of body language to put over the character’s canine nature – tail wags, jumping up on furniture, and so forth. She makes good use of her voice to suggest barking, and her facial expressions are icing on the cake. Her reaction to seeing a cat on the street is hilarious, as is her “romance” with Bowser, a dog she meets in the park. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Will Robinson, one of the stalwarts of the local theater community, plays Greg. He puts across the character’s amiable nature – and his goofy infatuation with his new “friend” – with considerable warmth. He makes Greg’s half-understood bumbling through a mid-life crisis and ignoring his wife for “the other’ almost forgivable. A very good performance – as we always expect when we hear that Robinson is onstage!

Jennifer Kafka-Smith is the perfect pick for Kate, a sophisticated woman finding her way as an English teacher after spending her early adulthood raising a family. Her objections to bringing a dog into a New York apartment are in fact reasonable, and her frustration that Greg doesn’t’ recognize them is palpable. She creates a sympathetic, likable character out of a role that could easily be seen as a villain – not easy to do but she makes it look easy.

The marriage counselor Leslie – played by Bryan Betley,    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The fourth member of the cast, Bryan Betley, plays three very different roles – and plays them all well.  There is the fellow dog owner Greg meets in the park, one of Kate’s society friends (in a fabulous dress!), and an androgynous marriage counselor the couple visits.  Betley makes them all distinct and believable, using different voices and clothes to set the characters apart. A nice show of versatility!

The set, designed and built by Earl Lewin and crew from a concept and sketch by director Bonnie Hill, consists primarily of Greg and Kate’s apartment, with a wonderful view of the New York skyline projected on the back wall. The front corner of the stage doubles as Central Park, and the desk plays double duty as Kate’s and the marriage counselor’s offices. Simple but attractive – and with no set changes needed, it allows the play to move along briskly.

Set of “Sylvia” – ta contemporary living room with a view of the New York skyline.      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The play maintains a nice balance between laugh-out-loud comedy and a tender look at the importance of love in the modern world. While it could easily be played very cartoonishly, Hill’s direction brings out both aspects of the play, making for an unusually rich performance. With all four actors delivering excellent performances, area theater-goers should make every effort to see this one.

Sylvia is an adult comedy, with some sexual references and frequently salty language – mostly from the dog, who expresses herself very directly and without filters. Parents might want to leave younger children home. Hill said the Church Hill performance cut much of the saltier language, but here the original script is presented almost intact.

Sylvia opens Friday, October 13 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 22. Performance times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for the military or seniors aged 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets are available online on the theater’s website or by calling the box office at 410-810-2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is located at 210 High Street, Chestertown.

Photography by Jane Jewell

Greg warily eyes the marriage counselor as Leslie asks him “What gender do you think I am?” (Will Robinson and Bryan Betley)     Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Greg and a fellow dog-owner discuss pooches and their partners. – (Will Robinson and Bryan Betley)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia at the park – where she meets Bowser, another dog, (Will Robinson & Christine Kinlock)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Kate & Greg – He sees no problems with a dog in a small New York City apartment.  She sees nothing but. (Jennifer Kafka-Smith & Will Robinson)  Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Phyllis is the friend Kate confides in about Sylvia. – (Bryan Betley)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia after her session with the dog groomer. Isn’t she beautiful? Greg thinks so. (Will Robinson, Christine Kinlock, Jennifer Kafka-Smith)                    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

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Taming the Monster at St. Mark’s for Fifty Years with Dr. Bill Wharton

There are very few examples of a partnership that has lasted 50 years where one partner speaks of the other as a “monster.” But that’s what Dr. Bill Wharton says about the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church’s 1962 Tellers organ that he has worked to master since he arrived in Easton as the Church’s principal organist in 1967.

In Bill’s case, however, the use of the word monster is one of great affection and respect. In his interview with the Spy to celebrate his fifth decade not only playing the organ there but also a lifetime career in teaching music on the Mid-Shore, the Centerville native talks about harnessing the power that comes with this colossal instrument with its 2,437 wood and model pipes.

By his own admission, Bill does not put himself in the 1st tier of organists but is extremely grateful that he studied with some of them. The first being Clarence Waters, his college organ tutor and mentor at Trinity College. And it was through his relationship with Waters that he gained access to the famed Marcel Dupré in Paris, considered one of the finest organists of the 20th century.

Bill also talks about the exceptional spiritual connection that music provides a church and its congregation, as well as his personal experiences of sensing the divine when witnessing the masters perform in the World’s great cathedrals.

In celebration of Bill’s 50th anniversary, St. Mark’s has commissioned a unique composition that will be performed by Bill in late November one of a series of official acknowledgments by the Church of how valuable his service has been to the music on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about St. Mark’s and its music programs please go here.

Spy Eye: Looking Back at Habitat for Humanity Choptank at Twenty-Five

There was an exceptional and historical moment at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department’s meeting hall last Tuesday evening. A distinguished group of founding board members and volunteers of Habitat for Humanity Choptank gathered for an hour-long forum, moderated by Spy columnist and Habitat volunteer George Merrill, to talk about the organization’s extraordinary twenty-five years in building homes in both Talbot and Dorchester Counties for

This conversation was part of a much larger celebration that Habitat was sponsoring to mark the occasion when hundreds of volunteers and donors met to enjoy barbecue and fellowship to celebrate this extraordinary community achievement.

Founders and volunteers Ed Colaprete, Michelle Friend, Jo Merrill, Larry Neviaser, Phyllis Rambo and Winslow Womack, traded memories and anecdotes about the early years, recounting the challenges and successes of the organization after a quarter of a century of service to the community.

The Talbot Spy was there to share some of those precious memories.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about Habitat for Humanity Choptank please go here

TAP: Rocky’s Horror Comes to Oxford

To provide some historical context for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which the Tred Avon Players will be offering this October, the play is almost twice as old as Talley Wilford, the production’s director. The lead, Mike Sousa, who plays Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was born twelve years after the original started in London in 1973. You get the idea.

While one still thinks of Rocky Horror as a very contemporary piece of work, the fact is that it’s been around for almost five decades. That’s both the charm and the challenge when the classic is brought back to the stage year after year.

The exceptional charm comes with a story that has been told thousands of times on screen and in the theatre, and yet not only seems as fresh and humorously shocking as when it debuted but continues to attract new generations to sing along with the mad scientist and his servants.

The challenge comes to any director or actor who wants to take the ionic material and make it their own, and that is what Talley and Mike talk to the Spy about in our latest interview with the Tred Avon Players.

Talley and Mike also talk about how they first encountered Rocky Horror and the indelible imprint it had on their love of theatre and musical comedy.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. 

Performances for the  Rocky Horror Picture Show are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thurs., Fri. & Sat., Oct. 19, 20 & 21, & 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 22; and 7:30 p.m. Thurs., Fri. & Sat., Oct 26, 27 & 28, and 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 29.  And A special MIDNIGHT SHOW on Friday Night Oct. 27 Call 410-226-0061 or visit the Tred Avon Players website for more information and ticketing. 

 

One Remedy: The Chesapeake Bay Herb Society’s Special Garden

“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger than emperors.”
— Mary Cantwell  New York Times journalist

Mary Cantwell might have been thinking of herb gardeners when she talked about dreaming “bigger,” and could well include members of the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society when looking at the results of their thirteen years of hard work at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

Formed in 2002 by a small group of enthusiastic herb gardeners who placed a small ad in the Star-Democrat asking for volunteers, the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society’s membership now stands at fifty, with once a month gatherings to discuss the region’s remarkable herbs and their care.

But, as our Spy interview with some of the Herb Society’s founders (Denis Gasper, Spencer Garrett, and Dana McGrath) indicate,  it has always been their beloved herb garden at Pickering that has been the central focus of the organization’s mission and labor of love.

Drawn by the culinary or medicinal purposes that herbs can be used for, the Society has collected an extremely robust variety for the general public to observe and also take home with them. It also welcomes new volunteers to help with the weekly management of the site.

The benefits of both activities can be keenly felt by those that participate, but perhaps the greatest attribute for the CBHS’s garden is that of being a sort of remedy; a place to see, smell and taste some of the world’s wonders in a sanctuary setting that allows all those that enter a chance to “dream bigger.”

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Philip McMartin’s Remarkable Woodcuts at Trippe-Hilderbrandt

There is very little doubt that Philip McMartin (1930-2009) was a remarkable man. The deceased artist, photographer, and writer, whose stunning woodcuts now on display at theTrippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton, was very much the product of a different time in our country.

Self-educated, McMartin started his career as a small town reporter in Vermont right after high school, which would lead to being the new anchor of the state’s largest television station in Burlington for a good part of the 1960s.  And, along with his wife, artist Helen Lakis, and their four children, McMartin moved to Washington, DC to become a filmmaker for many years with the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association.

But, like many interesting men, the story does not end there.

As Philip McMartin continued to branch out with is photography, particularly focused on the Chesapeake Bay and working watermen, he found himself constantly frustrated that he could fully capture the essence of these powerful scenes through the use of a camera. And with no artistic training at all, he spontaneously shifted into making woodcut plates on the family dining room table for the next five years.

In all, he completed twenty blocks during that period.  In his spare time, this very independent and solitary man  would periodically sell some of them at small galleries in Annapolis, but in the end, storied his artwork away permanently, feeling he had completed his mission, and moved on hand build a 38 foot catamaran, and never returned to the art of woodcuts.

Fast forward some fifty years, well after Philip’s passing, and his son, Jim, along with Talbot County friend Kevin Garber, were clearing out space in Jim’s workshop in Wittman and rediscovered the woodcuts. It didn’t take them long to realize how remarkable the art was and began reproducing the work.  And the results of that labor, with Kevin making the prints and Jim making the frames, was a successful exhibitions at the Academy Art Museum and Salisbury University, and more recently, on the walls at Nanny Trippe’s popular gallery in downtown Easton.

A few weekends ago, the Spy sat down with Jim McMartin to talk about his father, his love of the Chesapeake, and his lifelong admiration for those making a living with their hands and knowledge of the sea.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the McMartin woodcuts, please go to Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery’s website here