Category Archives: Arts

The Show that Goes Like This

Village Theatre Spamalot Promo

Photo by ABB Photography

What do you get when you mix “Monty Python,” King Arthur, terrific music, and a tight-knit theater family? The Village Theatre Company’s side-splitting production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” (a 14-time Tony-nominated musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”).  We were recently saw a sneak preview of this new production and, without giving (many) spoilers, this may just be Village Theatre’s best production yet!

Featuring hilariously catchy songs such as “I’m Not Dead Yet,” “The Song That Goes Like This,” and the show-stopping “Find Your Grail,” “Spamalot” tells the story of King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail. And by “tells the story,” we mean “hilariously parodies the story of…in the silly, irreverent way that only Monty Python can.).

Musical Python humor aside, what makes “Spamalot” such a fun show is the environment of the Village Theatre’s home, the Laurel Grange in West Newbury, MA.  The intimate theater puts the audience close to the show; it’s almost as if the audience becomes part of the show and “in” on the joke (rather than being a distant observer separated by the invisible 4th wall).  The show is fun, the cast is having fun, so the audience has a lot of fun as well.

Part of what sets the Village Theatre Company apart is the fun that the cast has.  It’s infectious and is obvious the cast loves performing, loves show they’re putting on, and, most importantly, loves being together.  During the preview, we were treated to asides from the cast in between scenes – information on the Village Theatre, some background information on the show, and personal anecdotes.  The one theme that wove all of these asides together was “family.”  Everyone involved in the Village Theatre – from the board of directors to the actors, director, and light tech – is tied together by this familial bond.  Every show is put on by a group of people who genuinely enjoy working, playing, being together and, during each performance, the audience is invited into this crazy, fun, talented family. And who doesn’t want to be a part of a British-accented family of killer rabbits, knights who say “Ni,” and coconut horses?


Photo by ABB Photography


Photo by ABB Photography

“Spamalot” runs January 23-25, January 30-February 1 at the Laurel Grange (21 Garden Street, West Newbury).  Be ready for an evening of belly laughs, giggles, and general merriment – this is one show you do not want to miss! For more information on the show, please visit

Photos courtesy of Amy Brogna Baione, ABB Photography –

Taking home a piece of the beach…

Now that we’re moving into the colder fall and winter months, a trip to the beach seems out of the question. But why not bring the beach home to you?  The Lynn Museum is making this possible at the Artists at the Atlantic Auction this Saturday, November 15th!

Lynn Beach by G. H. Gay

“Lynn Beach” by G. H. Gay

Artists at the Atlantic is the newest exhibition at the Lynn Museum, a thriving time capsule at the heart of Lynn’s Cultural District that collects, preserves, and celebrates the city’s unique and fascinating history.  The exhibit features work by the Lynn Beach Painters of the past and present.  The Painters were inspired by the scenic Lynn coastline and Atlantic Ocean and the exhibit focuses on and explores their individual techniques, views, and interpretation of the coast.

You are able to take home a piece of Artists at the Atlantic at the auction this weekend.  Contemporary pieces from the exhibit will be available alongside museum memberships, tickets and gift certificates from local businesses, and so much more.  So why not brighten up your home this winter with a beautiful piece of Lynn Beach?

Lynn Museum & Historical Society, Lynn_credit ESSEX HERITAGE

Another one of our favorite pieces – the giant boot! (Photo courtesy of Essex Heritage)

Can’t make it to Lynn in time for the auction?  You can still enjoy Artists at the Atlantic through December and check out the museum’s other fantastic exhibits.  Learn about Lynn’s history as shoe-making hub and enjoy a wonderful array of textiles and vintage-shoe fashion in Shoes: A Step Back in Time or get to know some of Lynn’s notable historic residents such as Lydia Pinkham, Mary Baker Eddy, and Frederick Douglass in Lynn Legends.  The Lynn Museum has an outstanding collection that includes one of our favorite local historic pieces – a poster from an ill-fated Rolling Stones concert in the late 60’s (ecstatic fans, unable to control their excitement to see the band, rioted, causing the police to shut the concert down.  Did we mention that this was to be the Stones’ first stop on a huge American tour?  Not a great way to begin a tour…).

To learn more about the Lynn Museum and to find out more about their fantastic year-round programs and exhibits, visit their website –



Trains, dolls, and toys – Oh my!

Every year, thousands of elementary school students flock to Wenham for an exciting field trip.  Unlike other field trips full of “No touching” rules, buddy systems, soggy boxed lunches, and the dreaded trip-related homework assignment, this trip is one to look forward to.  It’s to the Wenham Museum, a North Shore gem whose amazing collection features an array of toys, dolls, games, and so much more.

DSC_0357This week, we made our own field trip to the Wenham Museum.  The museum strives to “protect, preserve and interpret the artifacts of childhood, domestic life, and the history and culture of Boston’s North Shore” and does so in a way that’s interactive and fun for kids of all ages.  The museum fosters and encourages every child’s desire to touch and play with their surroundings while managing to protect their priceless collection.  The museum’s current exhibit, The Art of the Artifact: Art Inspired by the Wenham Museum Collection (on view through August 24th), which features art by local artists inspired by the museum’s collections, features fun games for kids to play.  Families are also encouraged to make their own art inspired by the exhibit right in the gallery! 

Another exhibit, Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days: Summer Fashions (on view through September 14th), features a costume trunk full of dress-up clothes for children to make their own crazy summer fashions.


DSC_0368The Museum’s gallery space also features a world-renown doll collection featuring fashion, baby, and mechanical dolls from around the world.  At the center of the doll displays is the International Doll Collection, home to a collection donated by Elizabeth Richards Horton in 1922.  A former resident of the Museum’s Claflin-Richards House, Mrs. Horton would write to various celebrities, heads of state, and officials for donations to her growing doll collection.  Mrs. Horton’s dolls traveled around the world as a traveling exhibition (proceeds from which were donated to charity).  The collection, on permanent view in the Museum’s Osgood Gallery, features dolls from Queen Victoria, Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra, and many more notables from the 19th/20th centuries.  

DSC_0384The biggest piece in the Museum’s historical collection is the Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House, one of the earliest-built homes on the North Shore and the former home of Mrs. Horton.  The house features 4 rooms decorated to showcase how families lived from the First Period (1625-1725) to the Victorian Era.  We took a tour of the house and it was fascinating to see how family life changed throughout America’s early history as well as see the centuries-old architectural details.  Guided  tours of the Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House are available weekdays at 11am and 2pm and weekends at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm.  The House is also open for 17th Century Saturdays (the first Saturday of the month, June through October).

DSC_0375  DSC_0379

wefrgPerhaps most exciting at the Museum is the train room.  Located downstairs, the Bennett E. Merry Train Gallery features numerous miniature towns – all with trains that run through the towns at the push of a button.  The detail put into these model towns is astounding.  Every time we visit the Wenham Museum, we find a new little scene that we had never seen before: house fires, weddings, a little movie theater showing the Bogart/Hepburn classic “The African Queen.”  What scenes will you find when you visit?

Also located downstairs at the Museum is the Family Discovery Gallery, another interactive space for families.  Currently, the gallery features the exhibit Our Amazing Brains: How We Learn Our Whole Lives Through (on view through September 28th) which explores the different parts of the brain and how our brains develop through various games, puzzles, and activities.

A day at the Wenham Museum is not a day of looking at untouchables behind glass – it’s a day of adventure and play.  This play teaches children in a fun and interactive way while fostering a future interest in museums and history.  So what are you waiting for?  The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm* (6pm on Thursdays) through September 16th.  Be sure to check out their event calendar to learn more about the Museum’s fantastic events and programs.


The Secret Case of the Village Theatre Company

ABBphoto-4330 (2)Arthur Conan Doyle’s new detective manuscript is missing and young H.G. Wells only has an hour and a half to find it – what is he going to do? It’s up to novice detectives, Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson to find it.  Unfortunately, thanks to Wells’ new time machine, Holmes and Watson accidentally end up in the 21st century!

To make matters worse, our duo are not only two fish-out-of-water, but they end up in the Freudly Institute among fellow patients Marilyn Monroe, Tarzan, Lizzie Borden, Queen Victoria, Count Dracula, and George Washington!  There’s just one problem – the Institute is for people with grandiose delusions and the doctors think Sherlock is their newest patient (and Watson his personal doctor just playing along!).

As if that was not enough, a mysterious dead body is found outside and it’s up to Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery, find the manuscript, and prove that he really is the famous Sherlock Holmes in the Village Theatre Company’s hilarious new production, “The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes.”

ABBphoto-4171 (2)The Village Theatre Company began in 2009 with the goal to create a fun, creative, and positive environment for actors and crew alike to come together and feel comfortable and welcome.  Village Theatre lives by the proverb that “it takes a village” and successfully strives to put the community back into community theater.  Have a budding (or experienced) actor in the family?  All are invited and encouraged to audition for Village Theatre’s upcoming shows.  It’s a great experience for actors young and old alike.  Village Theatre Company is more than a theater group – they are a friendly, welcoming, tight-knit theater family always eager to assist each other, encourage individual expression, and help each other to grow.

“Sherlock” is a fun, witty show featuring a talented, clever cast.  Part of what makes the show so enjoyable is that the actors on stage are having as must fun performing as the audience does watching.  The show runs this Friday, July 18th through Sunday, July 20th.  There are two shows on Saturday, July 19th; a 2pm matinee and a 7pm evening show.  The shows are performed at the Laurel Grange (21 Garden Street, West Newbury, MA).  It’s the perfect show for the whole family to attend!

ABBphoto-4228 (2)We eagerly look forward to Village Theatre upcoming production “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” the hilarious musical “[lovingly] ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail'” which is set to hit the stage this winter.  Being familiar with the show and knowing Village Theatre’s excellent quality, we can say that this is one musical you don’t want to miss!

In the meantime, keep up with the Village Theatre Company on Twitter @VTCvillage or visit their website – and sign up for their e-mail list.


ABB LogoAll photos in the blog are courtesy of Amy Brogna Baione Photography – you can see more of Amy’s excellent photos at

Go west, young PEM!

All the leaves are brown.  And the sky is gray.  In the midst of this so-called “spring,” we’re “California Dreamin” along with the Mamas and the Papas.  Unfortunately for us, California is 3,000 miles (a 4-day drive or a 6 hour plane ride) away.  Or is it?

DSC_0162The Peabody Essex Museum’s newest exhibit, California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way (on view March 29-July 6)brings the West Coast right to us.  The exhibit, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), captures the essence of California in the mid-20th century – glamorous, modern, bright, relaxed, sleek, and functional.

It is the first major exhibition study of modern California design and influence and features a diverse collection of textiles, clothing, furniture, home decor, jewelry, toys, film and television clips, and so much more.

In the early 20th century, California experienced a huge economic boom.  Bolstered by the movie industry and post-WWII population boom (and development of surburbia), California became a hub of innovation and experimentation: it was a mecca for creativity and modernism.


Aerial view of intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax Boulevards, Los Angeles, 1922 (left) and 1930 (right). Population/economic boom, indeed!


En route to the party, someone left their 1964 Studebaker Avanti parked in the atrium…

Walking through the exhibit, you feel as though you’ve been invited to a mid-century Hollywood dream soiree.  You’re now in with the “in” crowd and surrounded by designer clothes and jewelry, modern furniture, retro home decor, and the obligatory film clips and Oscar statuette (hey, it’s a Hollywood party, after all!).  As you meander, you pass famous faces, such as Walt Disney, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, William Powell, Esther Williams, and Barbie.  All that’s missing are cocktails, canapes, and David Niven (because we’re pretty sure he was at every Hollywood party ever).

And like a dream, you can look and admire, but not touch (or take.  We asked).

For more information on this exhibit, visit


Academy Award of Merit statuette, 1927-28


R.M. (Rudolph Michael) Schindler. Armchair and Ottoman from the Shep commission, Silver Lake, 1934-38.


Barbir #1, Barbie Teen Age Fashion Model (1959) and Ken doll (1961)


Margit Fellegi, Cole of California. Woman’s swimsuit (1950-51). Replica of Esther Williams’ “Million Dollar Mermaid” swimsuit – made as a promotional item.

***As a quick fun fact, many of the items in this exhibit – the film clips, “Million Dollar Mermaid” swimsuit, Oscar, Adrian gowns, etc., tie back to MGM Studios.  Studio head, Louis B. Mayer (aka, the second MGM “M”) got his start in the film industry operating a chain of theaters in Haverhill.  In a way, part of this exhibit started in the North of Boston region – so, it’s only fitting that its final showing is here as well.***




Get into the ho-ho-holiday spirit

Be prepared to be shocked: We’re daring to break the taboo and discuss the holiday season before Thanksgiving.  Actually, we did that a week ago when we put up holiday decorations, but that’s another story for another time.

Please don’t be upset with us – we just love the holiday season  in the North of Boston region.  And at least we’re not starting our holiday shopping on Thanksgiving (we have the decency to wait until after midnight, when it’s officially Friday).  So, get into the spirit with us and check out these great holiday events!  (For more holiday events, visit

SleighBell2013ImagecopyWenham Museum’s Sleigh Bell Artisan Fair
November 22 – 23, 10am-4pm
Shop local and support your community this holiday season at the Sleigh Bell Artisan Craft Fair this Friday and Saturday. Silhouette artist Carol Lebeaux will be at the museum all weekend creating keepsake hand-cut portraits. Reservations are recommended and walk-ins are welcome. Pulitzer Prize author Paul Harding will be signing copies of his newest novel, Enon on Saturday at 1:00pm. Donate an unwrapped toy to Northshore 104.9’s 18th Annual Holiday Toy Drive. Artisans will be generously donating 20% of their sales to Wenham Museum.

samanthatreeSalem Holiday Happenings
November 29 – January 1, 2014
Celebrate, shop, and dine in Salem during the holiday season. Festival highlights include the annual Christmas in Salem Historic Home Tour, Christmas at the Gables, and Santa’s arrival atop the Hawthorne Hotel!


Sea Festival of Trees
November 30 – December 1
From trees filled with up to $1,000 in retail gift cards and concert tickets, to those decorated with original oil paintings, polar bears, angels, trains, music, beach and recycle themes, 85 sparkling trees will delight the senses at the 1st Annual Sea Festival of Trees at Blue Ocean Music Hall on Saturday, November 30 and Sunday, December 1.  Presented by The Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, the holiday wonderland fundraiser features Santa’s arrival by fire truck, a winter wonderland electric train display, music and dance performances, strolling characters, a candy shoppe, café and giant 10 foot high x 8 foot X 8 foot whimsical gingerbread house.  Proceeds from the event will benefit Anna Jaques Hospital and the Salisbury Beach Partnership.  All of the 6 foot to 10 foot high lighted trees are being donated by local businesses, organizations, elected officials, student groups and families.  Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets and enter to win the themed trees of their choosing.   Tree winners will be drawn on Sunday, December 1 at 5:00pm.


Christmas Tree Market SquareSanta Parade and Tree Lighting
December 1, 3:30-5pm
As the holiday season approaches, Santa & Mrs. Claus arrive in the most fitting way for this seaport town… by US Coast Guard boat! Welcome Santa on the Sunday after Thanksgiving as he and Mrs. Claus dock at the boardwalk and begin to parade through downtown Newburyport, then gather in Market Square for the annual Christmas tree lighting and carols.

North of Boston Literary Lexicon

A majority of the American literature canon is comprised of authors who lived in New England – Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few.  With the exceptions of Twain and Stowe, all of the aforementioned authors lived in this very state (Massachusetts, just in case you forgot).  

The 34 cities and towns that comprise the North of Boston region have an especially rich literary history highlighted the following three authors: Anne Bradstreet, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Robert Frost.

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet. Photo from

“If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee. 
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.”

(To my Dear and Loving Husband)

The first female poet to be published in the United States, Anne Bradstreet resided in the North of Boston for most of her life.  Bradstreet was born in England in 1612 and emigrated to America in 1630 where she landed in what is now Salem.  After residing in Boston and Cambridge for many years, Anne Bradstreet and her family moved northward to Ipswich and North Andover (where she died in 1672).   Her poem, Verses upon the Burning of our House, was written as an ode to the burning of the Bradstreet’s North Andover home:

“Then coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest his grace that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Photo from

But Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period not merely estranged, but outlawed, from society, had habituated herself to such latitude of speculation as was altogether foreign to the clergyman. She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness. . . . The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude!

(The Scarlet Letter (1850))

Salem’s most famous author, Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in the city in 1804.  A descendant of the notorious Judge John Hathorne (one of the lead judges of the Salem Witch Trials), Hawthorne added a “w” to his last name to distance himself from his infamous ancestor.  He died in 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Works such as The Scarlet Letter (1850)  and The Blithedale Romance (1852) have earned Nathaniel Hawthorne a secure spot in literary history but he is probably best-known locally for The House of the Seven Gables (1851), a fictional novel inspired by his cousin’s, Susannah Ingersoll’s, home in Salem.

“[T]hey . . . hinted that he was about to build his house over an unquiet grave. . . . The terror and ugliness of Maule’s crime, and the wretchedness of his punishment, would darken the freshly plastered walls, and infect them early with the scent of an old and melancholy house.”

(The House of the Seven Gables (1851))

The house is now a museum which offers daily tours.  Also on the property, among other historical homes, is the home in which Hawthorne himself was born.  For more information, visit

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Robert Frost. Photo from

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.”

(“Nothing Gold Can Stay”)

One of the most popular poets of the twentieth century, Robert Frost was born in California, but spent the majority of his life in New England.  A childhood resident of Lawrence, Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892.  He died in 1963 in Boston.

Frost’s contribution to Massachusetts was not only though his poems, many reminiscent of local scenes, but also through his indirect naming of this region – the North of Boston takes its name from Frost’s 1914 poetry collection of the same name.

“My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree 
Toward heaven still. 
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill 
Beside it, and there may be two or three 
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough. 
But I am done with apple-picking now. 
Essence of winter sleep is on the night, 
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off. 
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight 
I got from looking through a pane of glass 
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough, 
And held against the world of hoary grass. 
It melted, and I let it fall and break. 
But I was well 
Upon my way to sleep before it fell, 
And I could tell 
What form my dreaming was about to take. 
Magnified apples appear and reappear, 
Stem end and blossom end, 
And every fleck of russet showing clear. 
My instep arch not only keeps the ache, 
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round. 
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin 
That rumbling sound 
Of load on load of apples coming in. 
For I have had too much 
Of apple-picking; I am overtired 
Of the great harvest I myself desired. 
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, 
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall, 
For all 
That struck the earth, 
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble, 
Went surely to the cider-apple heap 
As of no worth. 
One can see what will trouble 
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. 
Were he not gone, 
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his 
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, 
Or just some human sleep. “

(“After Apple Picking” from “North of Boston” (1914))