Theater is just doing magic as a team sport. YWAM
As a “has-bean” veteran of the Shelter Island Historical Society’s first theatrical offering, “Hill of Beans,” last summer, and having reprized for this year’s show, “The Prospect Looks Good,” j I was surprised when I was handed a poster fresh off the press – a beautiful cover photo of The Prospect Hotel under the title: “The Prospect of Summer”.
Whatever it’s called, I’m sure of two things. I’m always the last to know, and this show, Lisa Shaw’s second original, has everything but lima beans in it, including badass, cop spies, sleazy women, larceny lovers, bootleggers , hareleggers and Mrs. Raynor’s 100 proofs. “tea.”
Set in the summer of 1932, the action takes place in the magnificent Prospect Hotel, the jewel of Shelter Island Heights, rebuilt after its first fire a decade prior. As they wait for their guests to arrive, Mr. Myers, the hotel’s general manager, points out to his unenthusiastic staff that they only have 75 days to earn a year’s worth of income.
However, he’s not the only character interested in ‘means of income’, some mean being meaner than others, gambling and smuggling, among them – practiced by a guest gallery of thugs rubbing shoulders with teetotalers. of temperance, drunken and nice town leaders, all -American families.
If this sounds like a trailer for a new TV series, rest assured that this central broadcast setting did exist. Charity Robey, woman for all seasons, including theatrical, provided me with a thumbnail sketch of the prospect from the society’s brochure on the subject: “The Prospect House was built in 1872 on Shelter Island on the hill [overlooking] people as they arrive by the North Ferry. In 1922 it was renamed “The Pogatticut” to honor the Sachem of the Manhanset Indians of Shelter Island. In 1923, a fire caused extensive damage. After a year of repairs, it reopened as The New Prospect Hotel. [It] was incredibly grand and featured a formal dining room, beach club, tea service on the veranda, and a full orchestra in the ballroom. Tennis, dancing, fishing, swimming and sailing were among the many activities on offer.
Writer/director Lisa Shaw tells me she’s always wanted to do some sort of presentation on The Prospect. “It contains so many wonderful, funny and compelling stories that just needed to be told.” She swears that 95% of the names used on this show are those of people who absolutely existed on the Island during this extraordinary time. For example, Dr. Petit was the director of a girls’ camp at the Peconic Lodge (now the Perlman Music Center), Ms. House, a mainstay of community fundraising, organized the “Silhouettes” dance program, and Mrs. Raynor, the Prospect’s head housekeeper, was also the Dawson’s mother at Dawson’s Market on Grand Avenue.
Also based on real characters, Mr. Myers, Prospect’s general manager and Harold O’Hara, Long Island Railroad’s manager-cum-hotelier-cum-bootlegger, played by the Gable and Cooper of the offer of the last year, Bruce Leggett and Tim Purtell.
Lisa reports that there’s, in fact, about an 80% return rate from “Hill of Beans,” including her husband, Tom Hashagen, playing the likely apocryphal but nonetheless fascinating “food illusionist” chef Oscar.
There are, however, several fearless newbies in the cast. I spoke to a few of them a few weeks ago, when the flush of excitement was still on their cheeks. Nathan Cronin, who plays doorman-magic Walter, tells me, “It was fun and a great experience, and I learned a bit. Playing Theodora, the daughter of a long-suffering fake socialite, Donna Emma reports that “the community is very warm and welcoming, we laughed a lot while learning about acting.” Dan Berner, the mysterious Marscapone, says he realizes that “[Theater] is a team sport and it’s great to be a team player.
But it’s perhaps Wendy Turgeon, who plays the fearsome teetotaller, Ms. Pitbalddo, who says it most succinctly: “I love being included, but I feel like I’m in ‘Waiting for Guffman'” . And the entire cast, veterans and rookies alike, all seem to experience, to one degree or another, “Shaw-Awe.”
Small wonder. Like “Hill of Beans” last year, it’s also a musical. Once again, Lisa punctuated her original score with some period tunes such as “The Peanut Vendor” and “Crazy People”. And dancing? They will do rhumba, foxtrot and camel rides on the stage.
The word “prospect” has many definitions. The gerund “prospecting”, however, usually conjures up an image – gold panning. If you find yourself at the Historical Society barn at 6 p.m. on July 22, 23, or 24, that’s what you’ll be doing, and I think you’ll find you’ve hit the sweet spot.
For tickets and information, visit shelterislandhistorical.org. And, by the way, this is all just in time to celebrate The Prospect’s 150th anniversary!