AROUND CAPE ANN: Quartet of 10-minute plays look at life with Alexa

·7 min read

Oct. 21—Remember the days of the Jetsons and other television shows that imagined telephones in which you could see the person talking, and that seemed so unlikely? Well we now live in a world of artificial intelligence, with, as one example, Amazon's Alexa, which will tell you when it is time for an appointment, answer your questions and even tell you a joke or a riddle.

This new "reality" has been transformed into a performance for theater, comprised of four 10-minute plays in the production "The Alexa Quartet," which will be presented by Gloucester's Fishtown Players.

"This virtual assistant technology is making 'her' debut on stage," said Jay DiPrima, who wrote and directs this show.

"This is based upon the iconic Alexa AI Amazon device that dwells in many households. What is she doing there? Well at first glance she is there to help us answer questions, gather information, play our favorite music but we also find out that she is so much more — especially for these four unique older adults. She is our companion, our memory, our home aide and our watchdog — friendly, sometimes annoying and possibly insidious. This work explores all of these capacities in a humorous, yet provocative evening of theater," according to the synopsis.

The work was featured as a staged reading at the Fronterra Festival of Austin, Texas, and was a finalist of the 2020 Epiphanies Playwright Festival via Zoom.

This premiere takes place from Thursday, Oct. 21, to Sunday, Oct. 24, at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson St., Gloucester. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

The cast features Annegret Reimer, Michael McNamara, Lauren Ashly Suchecki, Heidi Wakeman, Pauline Miceli and DiPrima.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased via Paypal or at door. For details, visit https://fishtown-players.com.

Horror-comedy at the castle

The new production this Halloween season at Hammond Castle Museum, 80 Hesperus Ave., Gloucester, is "Creature Feature," which explores the science-fiction stories of John Jays Hammond Jr., a prolific inventor. "Creature Feature" includes a live performance of an adaptation of Hammond's story, "The Termite Monster," a sci-fi horror comedy written in the style of the classic "B-movie" genre. It is a tale about a brilliant-but-obsessed termite scientist, who experiments with a serum to enhance his physical abilities, but accidentally transforms himself into a frightening creature.

The event opens with a reading of Hammonds' story "The Pet," about a new species discovered by two explorers in the jungle. The entire program run approximately 45 minutes, and takes place inside the museum's Great Hall and courtyard. Performances are Saturday, Oct. 23, at 6, 7, 8, and 9 p.m.; and Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $18, and are available online at hammondcastle.org.

The museum is open daily through the end of October, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in November and December. Curatorial director John Leysath created an animation of the same play that is featured in a temporary exhibit, "Hammond & Horror," which will showcase some of Hammond's horror genre writings, during October. The centerpiece of the exhibit is the animated adaptation of "The Termite Monster" in the retro, 3-D movie tradition, for which red and blue glasses will be provided to visitors to enjoy the short film.

Celebrating a pioneering poet

The Gloucester Writers Center presents its annual Charles Olson Lecture this Saturday, Oct. 23, at 1 p.m. at Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St. in Gloucester. Ammiel Alcalay will speak in a program titled "The Hunger for Grandeur — Thinking with Charles Olson." The museum can only accommodate an audience of 35 people so to make it available to the public the museum will live-stream the event on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/630098426. The Writers Center hopes to attract an audience from around town and around the world, said director Henry Ferrini.

In addition to the Olson lecture, there also is an on-line auction, "Paintings for Poets." For more information and to register for the auction, visit gloucesterwriters.org.

Novel haystack at CAM Green

Gloucester artist Kim Radochia has created an environmental advocacy sculpture called "Heart in the Haystack" which is on view through Sunday, Oct. 24, at the CAM Green at 13 Poplar St., Gloucester. Hours are Thursday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Viewing is free to the public, but registration to visit is required. For questions and more details, contact info@capeannmuseum.org or call 978-283-0455 ext. 110.

The haystack, which Radochia built at her West Gloucester studio, is reminiscent of the iconic salt marsh haystacks that dotted the rural countryside dating back to colonial times. Those haystacks were often depicted in artworks. Radochia used salt marsh hay to weave between the frameworks of the haystack. The public can walk into and through the structure, where they are invited to hang a stick on the interior framework as a pledge to plant a native perennial. Small native plants are inside the haystack to take home free of charge. The artist also has included an educational index and images of native trees, shrubs, and perennials as well as resources about native plants which can be accessed through a QR code at the installation for people to reference.

"Here this historical form is reinterpreted as an interactive experience to learn about local ecology through plants," she wrote in an exhibition statement.

Radochia notes that the salt marsh haystack was a structure made to store food for working animals, adding that the plants of the salt marsh are vital for the ecosystem because they act as a buffer from the power of the ocean storms and rising seas. Furthermore, these native plants are an important part of the ecosystem that provide homes for migratory birds and insects.

The artist has combined her interests in sculpture with photography, drawing, architecture and science in her varied works. She has been working in New England for more than 20 years, and has worked on projects in France, Italy, and the Netherlands. Most recently she returned from the American Academy in Rome, Italy. She often creates large outdoor works with an interest in advocacy projects.

"I ask for your help in learning about these special plants. In the act of hanging a stick within this haystack, I am inviting you to become part of this project. By planting native species and converting lawns and properties to habitat, we are adding places for our local creatures to thrive and taking environmental stewardship into our own hands," she said. "Small steps you take can aggregate and make a big difference in the health of our future planet."

A love story

"Dostoevskaya: A Love Story" will be performed as a staged reading at Gloucester Stage Company, 267 E. Main St., on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m. This play, by Richard McElvain, will be performed by the playwright and M. Lynda Robinson. This work is a retelling of the love story between Dostoevsky and his second wife, Anna, according to a press release.

Trick or Treat at the castle

The Hammond Castle Museum, 80 Hesperus Ave. in Gloucester, presents a "Trick or Treat Meet & Greet" with more than a dozen Ice Queen Cosplay Princess Parties characters with timed sessions on Wednesday, Oct. 27, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The event includes five trick-or-treat stations throughout the castle and the opportunity to take photos with the characters. Tickets are available at https://www.hammondcastle.org/product/meet-greet-trick-or-treat. Adults are $10, kids are $20.

Around Cape Ann is a column devoted to events happening on Cape Ann and artists from Cape Ann performing elsewhere. If you would like to submit an item, contact reporter Gail McCarthy at 978-675-2706 or gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com at least two weeks in advance.

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