I was born and raised on a small island off the coast of Maine called Deer Isle. While it is known for being the highest grossing lobster port in Maine, and the place from which granite was quarried for structures including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Manhattan Bridge, and President John F. Kennedy’s tomb, it is first and foremost my childhood home. I lived the first eighteen years of my life entirely on the Island.
Inspired by the storytelling tradition deeply rooted in my Island’s culture, I became interested in creating a performance about Deer Isle. I decided to spend the following summer back on the Island archiving every moment of my time there, whether it was filming the tide slowly swallowing the sandbar of the Barred Island Preserve, capturing photos inside the abandoned granite storage shed of the defunct Settlement Quarry, or just sitting down and recording my conversations with “Grandma Tillie,” a 91-year-old woman who was born on the Island before the bridge was even built.
I also found myself taking this time to reflect on my childhood and the years I had spent growing up on this granite rock. I found myself tapping a deep well of complex memories associated with the place and people that I simultaneously loved. I began to remember the feeling I had had of wanting nothing more than to leave and never return, yet here I was back on Deer Isle.
After returning to Boston in the fall, I knew that I needed to clarify my concept for this production. While I had initially thought that the piece would encapsulate Deer Isle more broadly, I quickly realized from reading through my written reflections that it actually needed to be about my relationship to my family. I mean, how was I going to talk about Deer Isle without talking about my family? I’m related to at least a third of the island…
This project has become my love letter of sorts, or perhaps a eulogy, to my home and my family, aptly named DEAR DEER ISLE.
I have been working with my archived materials from the summer to begin creating DEAR DEER ISLE. I often start with a polaroid photograph of a friend or an audio recording of my grandparents to inspire new work. I also recently came into possession of nearly eighty buoys, several lobster traps, and a substantial amount of rope and netting from the Island, which I’ve been hoping to repurpose into art installations that will function as the set.
Being a show about an island community, DEAR DEER ISLE needed to be performed on the water. After reaching out to several boathouses along the Charles River, I received permission to perform this project in the Newell Boathouse, the current boathouse for the men’s crew team at Harvard College. We want to think about the performance space, built in 1900, as the final collaborator and are constantly thinking about how it can inform our performance through its own extensive history. We’re all quite excited that DEAR DEER ISLE will be the first production to ever take place in this historic boathouse.
DEAR DEER ISLE will be performed in April 2020 at the Newell Boathouse in Cambridge, MA.