See Madame Defarge at GSC Before It Goes to Broadway

By Tom Hauck

In the world of theatre there’s nothing more thrilling than attending a new work and, after the curtain falls and the applause dies away, you get up from your seat convinced the show you’ve just seen is destined for Broadway.

Such is the case with Madame Defarge, the new musical by Wendy Kesselman now making its world premiere at the Gloucester Stage Company. Directed by Ellie Heyman, this grand historical epic, based on the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities, packs a solid emotional punch while presenting themes of authoritarianism and state power that resonate today.

When entering the theater, the first thing you’ll notice is the jagged, multilevel set designed by James Fluhr. It’s an angular yet fluid space, penetrated by sharp arrows of light and given a sense of gloom by the ever-present haze in the air (absolutely safe to breathe, we’re reassured). In a bold choice, the orchestra—a superbly polished trio of piano, clarinet, and cello—occupies the middle of the space, around which the actors pursue their personal objectives and occasionally physically chase each other. The back wall of the stage is a set of prison bars—the dreaded Bastille, where Dr. Manette has been imprisoned for eighteen years and whose release ignites the story.

The cast of ten is outstanding. On the French side we find the revolutionaries Therese and Ernest Defarge (Jennifer Ellis and Benjamin Evett), the cruel and pompous Monsieur Le Marquis (John Hillner), and the lately imprisoned Dr. Manette (Rob Karma Robinson). Across the Channel reside the handsome nephew of Monsieur Le Marquis, Charles Darnay (Matthew Amira); the barrister Sydney Carton (Jason Michael Evans), who happens to look like the twin of Charles Darnay (this is key to the plot); Dr. Manette’s daughter Lucie Manette (Sabrina Koss); and her guardian, Miss Pross (Wendy Waring).

Meanwhile, expertly handling a total of five roles is John Shuman (to quickly know whom he’s playing, keep an eye on his costume changes).

While everyone on the stage shines, particular note must be made of Marissa Simeqi, who in the multiple roles of Little Lucie, Young Therese, and Street Urchin takes the spotlight with confidence.

The cast will be remembered for originating their roles, and justly so. Together they work through the complex plot with its many twists and turns, and make the emotional connections with the audience that bring the sweeping scale of the story down to a human level.

While the show’s program provides a brief introduction to the characters and setting at the beginning of the play, it’s probably a good idea to familiarize yourself with the intricate plot of A Tale of Two Cities. If you know the story before you take your seat, you’ll be able to focus on the outstanding performances without the burden of keeping a scorecard of who’s doing what to whom.

It’s easy to imagine Madame Defarge being scaled up to a full Broadway production with big sets, lavish costumes, and a full orchestra and cast. The story is solid and the characters are well developed. In short, you have a choice: See Madame Defarge now at our own Gloucester Stage Company where the talented actors perform up close up and personal, or wait and pay $100 a ticket for nosebleed seats in a vast auditorium on Broadway.

Congratulations to the Gloucester Stage Company for opening its 2018 season with a stunning gem. Madame Defarge is playing now through June 2. For tickets, go to or call 978-281-4433.


Just some of the paw prints seen on our local beaches this spring are Eastern Coyote, Red Fox, Skunk, Racoon, White-tailed Deer, and of course, a plethora of crows and gulls.

If you would like to see what wildlife traverses and scavenges Cape Ann beaches when we humans are not there, the best time to look is early, early in the morning, before the tracks are disturbed. Oftentimes the best days to look are after a rain storm, especially after the sand has dried a bit. Forget about tracking tracks on a windy morning. If you are not sure what you are seeing, take a close-up photo of the track, and then take a long shot, too, to see the pattern of the tracks.  

The Mass Wildlife Pocket Guide is the best handy track identification tool because it shows clearly the tracks, as well as the pattern of the tracks, and only shows wildlife we see in Massachusetts.

My favorite tracks to find are (no mystery here) Piping Plover tracks, which are wonderfully shaped, like a diminutive fleur de lis.

Piping Plover tracks showing courtship activity

I am waiting to see Black Bear tracks. Just kidding, although, the range of the Black Bear is expanding from western Massachusetts eastward. I imagine that within ten years Black Bears will, at the very least be frequent visitors to Cape Ann, or will be living in our midst. Just the thing Joey will be thrilled to know 🙂

Learn more about Black Bears here.


The Black Bears expanding range in Massachusetts.

Black Bear Cubs

Photo courtesy wikicommons media


GMG FOB Jennifer Cullen shares this beautiful drawing of our Young Swan by Amélie Severance. Jenn writes the following, ” I told Amélie (9-years old) the story of Young Swan and Mr. Swan and showed her a few of Kim Smith’s pics from GMG…next thing you know, she drew this for me. Well done, Amélie!”  


The members of St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee in collaboration with Buttieri Press are pleased to announce the release of an illustrated children’s book that explains the meaning behind the traditions of Gloucester’s St. Peter’s Fiesta.

Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? is the story of a young boy, Joey, and his cousins Amelia and Jacob who accompany their grandmother during the weekend festivities, learning as they go, about this annual celebration.

Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? is written through the eyes of children and aims to preserve an understanding of the values behind the tradition.

Every child has her or his favorite book, a book they want read to them again and again. As Joe Novello, Committee President, points out, “When they have a book they enjoy, they always pick that book to read and have it read to them. At some point there is a connection and the meaning of the book comes across, which is the intent. Then when Fiesta comes they can relate to it because the story has been read to them a hundred times. It’s embedded in them.”

The author, Laura M. Alberghini Ventimiglia, is a Gloucester resident whose family has a history of being involved with Fiesta. Even before the Fiesta began in the Italian neighborhood known as the Fort, relatives were living there and four generations experienced first hand the true meaning of Fiesta. This experience now extends through to the sixth generation with the author’s grandchildren.

Ventimiglia was inspired to write the book during the 2015 Fiesta. Participating with her children, grandchildren, and extended family members, she noticed that while everyone was having fun; the majority of people were enjoying the Fiesta as if it were a carnival. She realized that the further away from the original Fiesta, the further away participants are from knowing and understanding the meanings of the values behind the tradition.

She approached St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee members with her idea of a children’s book. They recognized the same dilemma of time. Committee members thought it was a great idea and decided to support the project because a children’s book could explain how the Fiesta started and what it was about. Anthony Cusumano, Committee Treasurer, described it appropriately. “So many years, generations have passed that maybe the younger generation had lost the original meaning. We wanted to bring it back to its roots. Help the young kids today know what the whole meaning of Fiesta is, what the meaning of the novena is, the greasy pole contest, the seine boats and so forth. We wanted to get back to the times when that’s what the Gloucester fishing fleet was about.”

Ventimiglia worked with Committee members for two years, gathering their ideas, and keeping them informed of the progress of writing, illustrating, and finally printing. She also spent months researching early Fiesta stories through microfilmed newspaper articles and interviewing people including Sara Favazza. Favazza is the youngest child of Captain Salvatore Favazza who commissioned the original statue in 1927 leading to the founding of the Fiesta tradition. “Sara was an amazing resource and infused her energy for the Fiesta into our work,” Ventimiglia says. “She was generous with her time, met frequently with me and even invited the illustrator, Maura O’Connor, and me to lunch. Maura dubbed Sara, ‘Fiesta Royalty’.”

Favazza describes Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? as “a beautiful book, a wonderful book that every child would love to have.” She says, “It’s marvelous. Every parent in Gloucester should buy one to read to their children to find out what the Fiesta is all about.”

Committee members say they are looking forward to this year’s Fiesta. They describe Fiesta as a time for family and friends, “a time for people to get together and reunite,” according to Novello. “As generations grew and spread throughout the country, Fiesta became a time when people return home, return to Gloucester knowing they will see people they haven’t seen in a year.” And, every year Committee members try to do something special. A special happening this year will be the release of Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta?

A family and friends release by the Committee for the 2017 holidays generated great excitement about the children’s book spurring tremendous anticipation for the upcoming sales to the general public.

Illustrator O’Connor, a graduate of Montserrat School of Art, lives in Beverly yet visited Gloucester often sketching the workings of its harbor. Diletta Ballati who lives in Italy and considers Gloucester her American home, translated the book into Italian, available online at

The book also includes a brief history of the Fiesta, photos from the initial years, and photos by Kim Smith and Bridgette Mathews of last year’s 90th celebration.

All proceeds from sales of the book go to The St. Peter’s Fiesta, Inc., a 501c3 organization aimed at preserving this Sicilian-Italian American tradition of Gloucester’s fishermen.

Scheduled to be released to the public on June 1, 2018, accompanying events throughout the month include:

June 1 to June 30 –The Bookstore of Gloucester – Artist of the Month, the original illustrations of the book will be on display.

June 2 – Sawyer Free Children’s Library kicks off events with the official children’s book launch from 10:00am to 11:30am with the author, illustrator, and Sara Favazza. The event is co-hosted by The Bookstore of Gloucester.

June 9 – Cape Ann Museum will host a CAM Kids program from 10am to 12 noon.

June 16 – Sawyer Free Children’s Library hosts a Fiesta Children’s Program from 10:30am to 11:30am with authors Laura M. Alberghini Ventimiglia and Alice Gardner with activities from their books Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? and St. Peter’s Fiesta: Gloucester, Massachusetts.

June 29 to July 1 – St. Peter’s Fiesta Kiosk by the Altar will have books available to purchase.

June 30 – The Bookstore of Gloucester will hold a book signing from 1pm to 3pm with the author, illustrator, and Sara Favazza.

Books are available at each of the above events and at the following:

The Bookstore, 61 Main Street, Gloucester

Harbor Loop Gifts, Building Center of Gloucester, 1 Harbor Loop, Gloucester

Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant Street, Gloucester

Buttieri Press,

 Sara Favazza unveiling the new Saint Peter, Saint Peter’s Fiesta opening ceremony, 2017.     

Cape Ann Shave to Save

Cape Ann Shave to Save held it’s annual event to support the St. Jude Children’s Hospital on Friday.   Neil and I stopped in for a shave…(ok well NEIL shaved…I just supported) and joined Jane Shaw and Dawn Burnham in their fight against Cancer.    Big thanks goes to their awesome stylists Dawn Toye, Tara Lovasco, Rachel Cawley from Ambiance Hair Design, Dan Coveny from DC Hair, and Alyssa Craigen from Highwave.


Pet of the Week- Gatolina


Gatolina is what I go by, but don’t worry, I’m not too attached to the name. I’m a super cute young lady with fluffy white and orange fur.

I am a rather petite gal, but don’t let my size fool you. My sweet personality more than makes up for what I lack in size. I take a little bit to warm up to you, but once I do I am a love.

I would most likely do better in a quieter household. I just want to spend my days doing the same old thing with the same old people. I like attention and petting on my terms, and will let you know when I’ve had enough by giving you a little love bite (it doesn’t hurt, I swear!).

I know once I get out of this stressful shelter environment my personality will really have a chance to shine. So what do you say, take a chance on me? To learn more about me or other animals waiting for homes, please come visit our shelter at 4 Paws Lane in Gloucester or check us out online at

Pet of the Week-Shasta


Hi my name is Shasta! I was a young mamma who had 6 beautiful babies. We all made our way here to CAAA to find homes of our own and they have all been adopted; now it’s my turn!

I am only about a year and a six months old, still have plenty of pep in my step. I would do well in a active home with a family that likes walks in the woods or adventures. I love to be around my people and I am sure to be a great loyal companion. I play with toys of all kinds and always have one in my mouth! One of my favorite games is playing fetch with tennis balls.

Stop in and visit me today if I sound like a good fit! To learn more about me or other animals waiting for homes, please come visit our shelter at 4 Paws Lane in Gloucester or check us out online at