#8: Final Toast and Clive Bean’s Review

2019 Newsletter # 8

Pemigewassett Newsletter Number 8, 2019

Incredibly, Pemi’s 112th season is now officially out of the planning calendar and into the history books. It was a wonderful summer by any measure you care to apply, among our sentimental favorites being the verve and volume with which singing in the mess hall was regularly conducted, the moxie and mayhem of Bean Soup, the grit and determination of our sportsmen in the athletic arenas (dry and wet), and the number and unquestioned sincerity of tears shed as the boys said farewell to their counselors, each other, and the physical place on Saturday morning. Put as simply as possible, 2019 was a banner Pemi season.

As has been our custom in recent years, this number will be comprised of Danny Kerr’s toast at our final banquet, held Thursday, August 15, and Clive Bean’s review of The Mikado, whose blockbuster two-day run occupied the previous two evenings. So, with no further ado, Danny and Clive.

May I propose a toast?!

Here’s to the summer of 2019 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 112th in Pemi’s rich and storied history. A summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff (“We. . . all. . . got your back, yeah, we all got your back!”), nine weeks ago for those attending Clinic Week, and 12 weeks ago for the grey beards and D-Heads who met in Gloucester, Mass for our “May Summit”….. held this year in June, as we began sharing our dreams, designs, and visions for this Pemi season. How bittersweet to reflect back on the summer of 2019 and to think of bidding you farewell the day after tomorrow, as we all head back “from whence we came.”

Truth be told, the summer of 2019 really began months before then, way back in October of 2018, when scores of our returning campers and families sat by their computers until the stroke of midnight on Oct 11th to apply for summer Pemi’s 112th edition. And congratulations to Billy Murnighan, whose application was the very first one we received that early morning. Who will be the first camper to apply for 2020?

Here’s to a summer that concludes as late in the summer as it ever will, with leaves on Route 25A turning an autumn tint and Pemi boys playing roof ball in the evening with barely a shred of daylight left, a summer that by all accounts has been a marvelous success.

Here’s to the 253 (exactly) campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this year, campers from 25 states—half of the states in the union!—and from nine countries around the world. Here’s to the 74 campers who made the decision to attend sleep-away camp for the first time, to the 22 who have collected, or will collect, their five-year bowls. And yes, Isaiah Abbey, Gordo Robbins and Elliot Jones; here’s to campers in their eighth summer at Pemi.

Here’s to the talented and dedicated counselor staff of 2019. What an exceptionally strong crew we have this summer! Thank you to those cabin counselors and assistant counselors, the young men who share such close quarters with their boys and who, for some inexplicable reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways their own parents and we senior staff cannot.

And big, big ups to our Division Heads this summer, D. Bowes, Rosie, Andy, and Bert. What a “Dream Team” to have leading cabin life.

Cheers to the incredibly hard working crew that Reed Harrigan leads each day with vigor, dedication and love; Frank, Neven, Dennis, Barbara, and Judy; to our Office Managers extraordinaire, Heather and Kim (and to Kim’s perfect score on ACA Day!!!); and here’s to Dottie who somehow manages time for us all, even me, and attends to tasks both large and small as she cares for our community with a heaping dose of maternal wisdom, grace, and love. Oh! And there’s the guy she’s married to, leader of singing, writer of newsletters and Bean Soup articles, source of historical fact and perspective.

Big ups to our Dining Service Director Tom Ciglar and his crew, 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 everyone in the community, and with freshly baked bread each day, too.

Here’s to Mr. Moore, my 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. I wish I had a Mets’ victory for every question he’s answered this summer!

Cheers to Deb Pannell (and Hannah!) and all the creative endeavors down in Art World (Wow! What an Art Show!); to Charlie and Andy, our Athletic Directors, and all the coaches in the athletics program who always put Pemi’s values of sportsmanship, improved skills and participation first. Double boom!

Kudos to Sam Papel and the Trippies who sent scores of trips tramp, tramp, tramping (and paddling) out to the majestic mountains and the mighty rivers both near and far.

Here’s to Jonathan, Taiko, and Sabrina for another remarkable G & S performance, and to our magnificent music mama Michaella for another summer of beautiful harmony and song.

To Chloe, Charlotte, Hattie, Mark, and Mollie and all the exhilarating, yet safe, fun we had sailing, canoeing, and waterskiing on LBP; to Brian for his “Grateful” approach to running wood shop; to Coach Chris on the tennis courts, Larry (50 summers!) and Deb in the Nature Lodge, Steve on the archery range…and all of the other instructors who brought major energy and mojo to occupation periods every day.

And let’s not forget Head of Occupations, Wendy Young, who oversaw the schedule of 253 boys this summer with proficiency, thoughtfulness, and a positive vibe each day; or our dynamic dual Heads of Staff, Erik and Will, who offered leadership and accountability at every turn.

And thank you to our truly amazing Health Staff—Allyn, Rachel, Mary, Billy, Liz, and Dr. Sabrina—for bringing an expert level of care and professionalism I’ve never seen in my many years as director!

Here’s to Penny, bus driver extraordinaire, whose safe and dependable driving was matched only by her immediate love of Pemi.

Here’s to the things that were unique at Pemi in 2019: outside Vaudeville, times two; “victory” cheers in the Mess Hall; a clean sweep of events on “Moose Day”; more staff children running around preseason than I can ever recall; buffet lunches and dinners to combat whatever that was; an outdoor Sunday Service in front of the Shop; a last inning comeback win in a counselor baseball game for the ages; a mystery horse named Patch patrolling center field; and this splendid weather, unmatched in recent memory, so many stunningly beautiful days, with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons, and that peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s end that we never tire of admiring.

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi: Bean Soup, when we laugh at ourselves and anticipate “things to look for”; Campfire, when we entertain ourselves with story, song, poems and Devil Sticks; and Sunday Meeting, when we have an opportunity to pause and reflect on topics such as three legendary Pemi staff members of the past, the adventures of our Pemi Westers, 2019, and the certainty that we all have unique and distinguishing talent.

Here’s to our twenty-four 15-year-old campers, to their combined 102 summers at Pemi (yes, you heard that right!) and to the lifelong friendships they’ve created. I know from personal experience that someday you’ll participate in each other’s weddings, be godparents to each other’s children, and hopefully become the next generation of counselors at Pemi. And thank you, especially, for reminding us how cool it is to be the oldest boys at camp, in all of the best and the right ways.

And of course, here’s to the Reed and Fauver families who, in their loving, wise, and supportive ways, 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, 2019.

Good Luck, Long Life, and Joy!

 

And now for a review of this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan performance by celebrated Northwoods critic, Clive Bean. 

Clive Bean Reviews The Mikado

The Baker Valley’s hottest musical theater ticket this past week wasn’t Dear Evan Hansen or even Hamilton but rather Camp Pemi’s very own Mikado. Director Jonathan Verge was clearly inspired by the time-honored Bean Soup horse-beating joke and decided to whip the venerable G&S warhorse into an entirely new shape, re-kitting Titipu’s schoolgirls in contemporary plaid mini-jumpers instead of kimonos (not to mention their black, Sia hair-dos) and re-equipping their male admirers with iPads and iPhones to go along with their traditional fans. Gone were the traditional sets, lovingly created by Betsy Reed back in the ‘60s, replaced by sliding flats and hanging lanterns that turned the Lodge into a veritable Japanese tea house—or, considering the show’s frequent references to death by chopping, slicing, and dicing—into a veritable Benihana Steak House.

Larry Davis, Nick Gordon, and Sabrina Lawrence

Larry Davis, Nick Gordon, and Sabrina Lawrence

Anchoring a strong cast were Larry Davis, reprising the role he was born to play, the insatiably ambitious one-man cabinet and Lord High Everything, Pooh-Bah (this year looking frighteningly like recently-deceased French designer Karl Lagerfeld); Nick Gordon as Ko-Ko, the cheap tailor in the $300 suit, who finds himself as Titipu Town Executioner and bounces between romantic relationships as uncontrollably as Brad Pitt (and we should add that Nick, like Larry, had played his role before, clearly knowing it just as well as he knows the back of his own fan); and Sabrina Lawrence, whose acting captured to perfection the charmingly vain and flighty Yum-Yum, while her singing struck this reviewer as perhaps the best that the Pemi Opera House has ever witnessed.

Donald Turvill, Landon Burtle, and Bennet King (with bodyguards)

Stealing Yum-Yum away from Ko Ko was Donald Turvill, our itinerant Scottish showman/guitarist, typecast as the wandering minstrel Nanki Poo (Nanki Poo being, of course, Japanese for “Where’s the nearest pagoda?”). His relaxed and somewhat snide manner was a perfect counterpoint to Nick Gordon’s twitchy, OCD mannerisms, and made perfect sense of why Yum Yum opts for artful youth over semi-neurotic middle age. Landon Burtle sang the part of the town second fiddle Pish-Tush to perfection, while Bennet King charmed the audience as the blood-curdlingly dark Mikado himself. Not since Austin Powers’ Mini Me has so much evil been packed into such a small package—the chilling effect being amplified in Bennet’s case by his arriving on stage strapped to the back of Pemi’s own consummate Dr. Evil, Rosie.

Chris Ramanathan, Connor Queenin, and Scout Brink

Chris Ramanathan, Connor Queenin, and Scout Brink

Rounding out the female leads were Chris Ramanathan, a strong and convincing Pitti-Sing; Connor Queenin, as the self-proclaimed, trail-runner-wearing, bloodthirsty cougar Katisha (clearly inspired by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada); and Scout Brink as Peep-Bo. Scout’s comic acting in one scene positively brought the Japanese tea house down, while her elegant fan dance to Queenin’s plaintive “Alone and Yet Alive” recalled the time in the 1920s when Doc Reed persuaded Isadora Duncan to come to Wentworth to fire up the Pemi boys for Tecumseh Day, performing her infamous “Bloomer Girl” gavotte.

Both the male and the female choruses struck us as particularly strong and well prepared this year. We’ll refer you to the cast list at the end of this holiday season’s Bean Soup for all the staff names (in case you didn’t memorize them from your program and can’t find them on the back of your own fan), but campers Noah Andersson, Elijah Dorroh, Ben Herdeg, Nathan Gonzalez, and Henry Moore seemed born-to-the-manner nobleman, exuding arrogance and privilege. Meanwhile, Luke Young, Jon Ciglar, Jay Williams, Oscar Andersson. Andreas Geffert, Dexter Wells, Lucas Gales, and Lucas Vitale developed their entirely new roles as businessmen with all of the money-grubbing verve of long-time wolves of Wall Street. Meanwhile, camper Schoolgirls Austin Greenberg, Noah Littman, Jesse Orlow, Anders Morrell, Carter Glahn, John Poggi, Ethan Smith, Clay Johnson, Luke Gonzalez, and Oskar Lewnowski performed so convincingly in their plaid mini-dresses, white knee socks, and bobbed wigs that many of their own parents, sitting in the audience, completely failed to recognize them. Chris Johnson, though, did say that one of the cuter girls reminded him of pictures of his wife Ashley when she was in seventh grade. Oh, we should definitely mention that one Schoolgirl seemed to have suffered a major mishap in during the make-up process. That said, Cole Valente still looked pretty darn hot with an inverted fake eyebrow stuck to his chin.

We’ll refer you to Bean Soup yet again for the names of Katisha’s wonderful Security Detail (X-treme dudes to a man!) and those, too, of the clearly accomplished Stage and Light Crews. Quick mention, though, to Stage Manager Luke Larabie, accomplished actor from past shows who fulfilled the Pemi mantra of trying something new this season, and puppeteers Hannah Roadknight and Carmen Facciobene, who gave us a charming, backlit visualization of “The Criminal Cried as He Dropped Him Down.” It was clear that Carmen is every bit as good with a fake snickersnee as he is with real devil sticks.

Taiko Pelick

Finally, a nod to Johnny Saras for uncorking some true (and previously completely hidden) virtuoso work on trumpet—and huge, huge kudos to pianist Taiko Pelick, who followed up on six grueling weeks accompanying rehearsals with a truly majestic performance at the keyboard. Her capacity to play all of the score’s requisite notes and chords and, at the same time, to highlight the melodies for the occasional lead who needed reminding was truly remarkable. If a professional pit orchestra could ever be boiled down into ten fingers, it would be named Taiko.

We’ll leave it at that. It was a very good show. We hope you were able to be in the audience. And if not, be here next year when The Pirates of Penzance sail their swashbuckling way back into the Baker Valley for 2020’s G&S extravaganza. What better run-up to that November’s election than a show about dishonest men who are finally persuaded to become true patriots?

–Clive Bean

And with thanks to Danny and Clive, both, we bring this last epistle of the 2019 season to a close. We wish a happy and healthy autumn to all of you and look forward to sending out the holiday copy of Bean Soup in early December. Pemi parents of 2019, don’t be surprised if your sons disappear with the volume as soon as they tear it from its envelope, re-surfacing only after three or four hours of chuckling behind a closed door. From past experience, we know they’ll be willing to let you all have a look after they’ve read it, cover-two-cover, the requisite three times. For now, farewell, and thank you for your kind attentions.

                                                                                    Tom Reed, Jr