We now seem, in some impossible way, to have gotten to the last day of the 2018 season. It has been an excellent one, by almost every measure. As though to add their own exclamation point, the weather gods have provided us with a magnificent August day for our various closing rituals: the annual USA vs. The World soccer match, featuring our best soccer talent in all age groups; messhall reprises of various numbers from this week’s Pinafore production (for more, see below); an afternoon of closely-supervised packing; the final Bean Soup, featuring the always serious and meaningful “Person of the Year” awards; the final camp fire of the summer; and finally individual cabin parties, which often end with all of the boys pulling their mattresses onto the floor and sleeping contentedly in a pile, like puppies.
Last night featured our Final Banquet, one of our best ever in terms both of the fare and of the warmth with which the community celebrated the various accomplishments and sterling character of their peers. One signal moment for a lot of us was when the winner of the Nature Program’s “What Is It?” Award in the staff category was announced. Garnering the prize for correctly identifying more items in the daily contest rotation than any other employee was Ned Roosevelt, best known at camp for his sunny and energetic personality (his nickname is appropriately “Rosie”) and for being a superb baseball and tennis player. Here, though, was a “jock” being recognized for the time he had put in each day of the season to learn more about the natural world in our little valley. It didn’t dampen the instructive impact that, the two nights previous, Rosie had also played a fetching Victorian lass in Pinafore, participating in our Gilbert and Sullivan show for the first time in his ten-year Pemi career. He’s always made it cool to thrash Tecumseh from the baseball mound or the tennis baseline, but now he’s made it clear that he thinks it’s cool to hang out in the Nature Lodge and even to rock a nineteenth-century dress and bonnet. We often pride ourselves on being a kind of Renaissance camp, but when a standout counselor like Rosie embodies true breadth of interest and commitment in as symbolic a venue as the banquet hall, that’s something special.
Let’s observe recent tradition and begin the body of this newsletter with Danny’s toast at the very start of last evening:
Danny’s Toast to 2018
Here’s to the summer of 2018 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 111th in Pemi’s rich and significant history. A summer that has come and gone, as it always seems to, in the blink of an eye, though in some ways it seems a lifetime ago when the Gloucester Six met in May to plan for the summer and also when the staff began to arrive in early June, back when campers and young counselors were still attending graduation parties, the Mess Hall tables were getting their shiny new coat of paint, and Russia (not the USSR) was readying for the start of the World Cup.
Truth be told, the summer of 2018 really began before that, way back in October when scores of our returning campers and families sat by their computers until the stroke of midnight on Oct 15th to apply for the present season. Congratulations, by the way, to Jacob Kunkel, whose application was the very first one we received that early morning. Who will be the first camper to apply for 2019?
Here’s to a summer that concludes as the leaves on Route 25A take on an autumn tint and Pemi boys are returning to their cabins for an 8:30 taps with barely a shred of day light left…a summer that by all accounts has been a marvelous success, although, in truth, every summer is filled with its own particular nuances, personality, and a fair share of curve balls.
Here’s to the 253 (exactly) campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from 28 states, more than half of the states in the Union, and from eight countries around the world. And here’s to the new Vietnamese flag we added to our array of international banners that grace the mess hall in recognition of Dahn Le joining the kitchen crew this summer. Here’s to the 75 campers who made the decision to attend sleep-away camp for the first time, the 26 who have, or will, collect their five-year bowls, and, yes—Kevin Miller, Jamie Acocella, Eli Brennan, and Will Ackerman—campers in their eighth summer.
Here’s to Pemi’s talented and dedicated counselor staff in 2018. What an exceptionally strong crew we have this summer! Thank you to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors, the young men who share such close quarters with their boys, and who, for some magical reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways even their own parents and we senior staff cannot.
Cheers to the incredibly hard working crew that Reed Harrigan leads each day with such vigor, dedication and love: Frank, Dennis, Aaron, Marcus, and Tess. Cheers also to our Office Managers extraordinaire, Heather and Kim, who organize all our lives. And here’s to Dottie, who always has time for us, attending to tasks both large and small and caring for our community with a heaping dose of maternal wisdom, grace, and love.
Big ups to the chefs and kitchen crew this summer (led by our Dining Service Director Tom Ciglar) who tackled the herculean task of providing a community of 275 with delicious meals three times a day and did so with a smile, a sincere desire to meet the needs of every soul, and with freshly baked bread each and every day. Was there ever a better summer for food at Pemi?!
Here’s to Kenny, our new father and fellow director, whose love for Pemi is so evident as he manages staff, campers, alums, transportation, the daily and weekly schedule, and so much more.
Cheers to Deb Pannell and all the creative endeavors down in Art World (Wow, what an Art Show!), to Charlie, our wise and big-hearted Athletic Director, and to all the coaches in the athletic program who always put Pemi’s values of sportsmanship, improved skills, and participation first. Boom!
Kudos to Dan Reed and the Trippies who sent scores of trips tramp, tramp, tramping over the mountains despite some un-cooperative weather…and thanks to them, too, for the quick thinking they provided in managing these trips and keeping our boys safe.
Here’s to Jonathan, Taiko, and Deb Fauver for another remarkable G&S performance and to Michaella, Donald, and their friends for another summer of beautiful music.
To Chloe, Charlotte, Nick, Will, and Molly and all the exhilarating, yet safe, fun we had in the water…to Brian for his “grateful” approach to running wood shop…to Chris on the tennis courts, Larry and Deb in the Nature Lodge, Steve on the archery range…and to all of the other instructors who brought major energy and mojo to occupation periods every day. And let’s not forget Head of Occupations, Dan Reed, and his understudy Wendy Young, for overseeing the schedule of 253 boys this summer with proficiency, thoughtfulness, and a positive vibe each and every day. Here’s also to Head of Staff Nick Hurn, who, despite his tender age, offered leadership and accountability at every turn.
And thank you to our wonderful nurses, Emily, Jamie, Billy, and Sabrina for the countless hours, Band-aids, doctor’s appointments, and TLC administered at all hours of the day and night!
Here’s to the things that were unique at Pemi in 2018: Winston Moore’s first (but far from last, I am thinking) summer at Pemi; Molly’s newly designed slalom course in water skiing; broad-brimmed straw hats on seemingly every head; a heat wave in July and another this week that tested our resolved and begged for a return of TRJR’s “Chillin’ with Lit;” X-Treme games at every turn; more dogs at Pemi than I can recall, and that one dog whose presence will always be a part of the Pemi landscape for me.
Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi: Bean Soup, when we laugh ourselves and anticipate “Things to Look For”; Campfire, when we treat ourselves to great acts some of the most majestic sunsets one will ever see; and to Sunday Meeting, when we hear about fabled Pemi horses like Prince Hellie and Mary Oooch, the gift of music therapy, and the adventures of the 2018 Allagash paddlers.
And here’s to the beauty of Camp Pemigewassett: the mist on Lower Baker Pond each morning; the stunning reflection we enjoy off of the lake each evening; the spectacular sunsets…and that mesmerizing sound of the water lapping up against the shore as campers fall into a warm and deep sleep each night.
Here’s to our twenty-four 15-year-old campers, to their combined 108 summers at Pemi (Yes, you heard that right!) and to the lifelong friendships they’ve created. I know from personal experience that someday they’ll participate in each other’s weddings, be godparents to each other’s children, and hopefully become the next generation of counselors at Pemi. The system works!
And of course, here’s to the Fauver Family and the Reed Family who, in their loving, wise, and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from each of us every summer and who see the stewardship of Camp Pemigewassett as their chance to make the world a better place, one boy at a time.
Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2018. Good Luck, Long Life, and Joy! ~ Danny
And now, as the customary second act of this tradition final missive, let’s turn to fabled backwoods theatrical critic Clive Bean’s review of this year’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore.
Clive Bean Reviews H.M.S. Pinafore
Those lucky enough to be vacationing in the Wentworth area last Tuesday and Wednesday were treated to a positively scintillating performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore. The maiden effort of Director Jonathan Verge, the production was as well received as any in recent memory. Knowledgeable theater-goers leaving the house were overheard saying that they had been as lucky to grab a ticket as they would have been had they scored a pass to Hamilton or The Band’s Visit.
Positively stealing the show was Braden Richardson as Little Buttercup. Despite the diminutive name, Braden’s performance was anything but small. Sporting a flowing, blond, Beyoncé wig and a costume that found the common ground between the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper gear and Scarlett O’Hara’s most thrilling gown from Gone with the Wind, Braden consistently wowed the audience with his stellar if-calculatedly-over-the-top acting and his sultry, sub-contralto crooning. Honestly, this guy could make it on Broadway, and his performance ranks with the best-ever by a Pemi camper. No surprise he was the hands-down winner of this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan Award.
Partnering Braden strongly was Nick Paris, as the Pinafore’s Captain Corcoran. His was a hugely demanding role that involved his being on set for virtually all of the second act, and Nick’s performance, steadily matured through the full season’s rehearsals, was unquestionably one of the highlights of the show, garnering him the camp’s legendary Johnnie’s Plaque for Dramatics. Balancing pathos with baffled incredulity, Nick handled the complex assignment with aplomb, garnering his best laughs with an understatement that was a joy to see. Perhaps his most brilliant invention was to signal Corcoran’s fall in social rank (following revelations about some bad choices at a Victorian childcare facility) by switching from a crisp BBC accent to a Cockney drawl that could have come straight out of a Geico commercial. Well done, Nick.
Speaking of Nicks, Nick Bertrand strode the Pemi boards for the first time as Ralph Rackstraw, the lowly deckhand who has the rank-defying chutzpah to fall in love with Captain Corcoran’s daughter, Josephine. Nick looked every bit the romantic dreamboat, as evidenced by the avid ogling and dreamy sighs he provoked amidst the female chorus. His acting was especially strong, as he delivered tongue-twisting lines about “plunging into the Cimmerian darkness of tangible despair” with the comfort you’d expect of someone ordering a hot dog at the ballpark.
Ralph’s love interest was played wonderfully by Michaella Frank, a veteran of Pemi’s shows who stepped for the first time into a lead. Her powerful soprano was entirely equal to the demands of a sophisticated piece of operatic writing, and her acting matched her pipes. Speaking of Scarlett O’Hara’s best gown, Michaella wore it—and she positively rocked the thing.
Rackstraw’s rival for Josephine’s hand, Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, was played by long-time camper Eli Brennan, veteran of countless Pemi shows. Rumors abound that Eli secured the services of Paul Manafort to bribe Tom Reed, Jr. to give up his wonted role, but those rumors are Fake News. Eli totally mastered the accent, the bearing, and the condescending diction of the British Born Elite, and his delivery of the justly renowned “When I Was a Lad” was flawless. His character may be a bit of a social drone, but Eli’s performance was a huge contributor to the show’s drive.
Scout Brink shone as Cousin Hebe, Sir Joseph’s constant companion whose only goal in life seems to be landing a beau who’s related just-distantly-enough to avoid legal repercussions. Scout played her to coy perfection. Also joyous to watch were John Kingdon, as the Pinafore’s staunch and dependable Boatswain, and Pierce Haley, as the Carpenter’s Mate.
Finally, Larry Davis reprised a role that he has been playing to perfection for the last forty years: Dick Deadeye, a man about as handsome as Shrek, as cheery as Eeyore, and as charitable as Voldemort. Larry spat out Deadeye’s bitter lines with the vitriol of a swamp adder, and his duet with Captain Corcoran (in which he rats on the Good Guys) was a masterpiece of musical maliciousness.
Pemi operettas are only as good as their choruses, and this year’s were superb—lively yet disciplined, supporting the leads to perfection and never hi-jacking the audience’s attention. Kudos to the Relatives’ Chorus of David Kriegsman, Oliver Giraud, Noah Anderson, Chris Ramanathan, Jake Landry, Elijah Dorroh, Ned Roosevelt, Cole Valente, Gray Klasfeld, Owen Wyman, Luke Larabie, and Finn Wilkins. Powerful praise is also due the Pinafore’s amply-tattoed crew: Nathan Gonzalex, Augie Tanzosh, Aslan Peters, Thaddeus Howe, Felix Nussbaum, Teo Boruchin, Owen Gagnon, Charlie Bell, Henry Moore, Nelson Snyder, Andreas Geffert, Ben Herdeg, Dexter Wells, Lucas Gales, Nate Broll, Will Menike, Jacob Kunkel, and Tom Reed, Jr. You’d never want to battle yard-arm-to-yard-arm—or sashay into a quay-side dance hall—with anybody else.
I’ve mentioned Jonathan Verge as Director. He may have been a Pemi rookie, but his unique combination of vision, high standards, realism, patience, organization, imagination, and fun vaulted him straight to the top. The players claim he was terrific to work with from casting to cast party, and the quality both of the singing and acting and of the pure physical look of the show testify heartily to his professionalism.
Speaking of professionalism, Taiko Pelick was equally stellar as Musical Director and Master Pianist for every rehearsal and both performances. Relegated to accompanying the show from an improvised orchestra pit that might have induced claustrophobia in a groundhog, Taiko continued to demonstrate the meticulous musicality that has made her one of the truly great additions to the camp’s 2018 staff.
Hats off, too, to Director Verge’s Crew: Emmet Kelly, Ailer Thomas, Will Haughton, Andrew Muffett, Ryder McCoy-Hanson, Simon Taylor, Quinn Markham, Max Blohm, Ted Applebaum, and Landon Burtle. The sets were gorgeous, thanks to the labors of Reed Harrigan, Frank Roberts, and TRJR (whose mother, Betsy, first painted them sixty years ago!) And a final shout out to Costumer Extraordinaire Deborah Fauver who, for yet another year, handled the prodigious task of measuring, outfitting, dressing, and equipping more than forty cast members with her always dependable grace and good cheer.
So, the set is struck, the house is dark, and another Pemigewassett G&S has gone into the history books. If you missed it, it’s not too late to order a DVD. Nor is it too early to book your box for the camp’s 2019 production—as yet undesignated, but sure to generate more buzz than the full complement of bees at the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Be there!
Well, that feels like a wrap. We’ll leave any further accounts of Pemi’s 111th season to your sons—to be delivered in your cars on the way home…or around the dinner table as you relish your first post-season meal together as a family…or perhaps muttered by your Pemi boys in their sleep, as you stand in their doorways just before you go to bed yourself, grinningly happy to have your summertime adventurer back under the your own roof. Do stay tuned, though, in the coming weeks for emails about the enrollment schedule for the upcoming season. (Yes, planning is already underway!) The sun is setting farther south with every evening, but that equator-approaching process is unlikely to keep going forever. So, to borrow a notion and a turn of phrase from Danny, here’s to Pemi 2019! Meanwhile, best wishes for a happy and productive Fall.