If you’ve ever wandered the streets of Portsmouth wondering about the lives of the men and women who once graced the impressive mansions, sailed to foreign lands from the wharves along the river front, or traded in the shops around Market Square, you’ll find answers, insights and charming entertainment in Pontine Theatre’s original adaptation of tales from Brewster’s Rambles About Portsmouth. April 6 through 15, ramble through the history of Portsmouth at Strawbery Banke’s Tyco Visitors Center (14 Hancock Street, Portsmouth NH). This production is underwritten by Optima Bank & Trust. Performances are offered Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 4pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $24 and may be purchased online at — www.pontine.org . Tickets may also be purchased at the door a half hour prior to each show, based on availability.
Pontine Theatre, a resident company at Strawbery Banke Museum, is widely acclaimed for its extensive catalogue of innovative original plays that celebrate the history and literature of New England. This production is created and performed by Pontine Co-Artistic Directors, Marguerite Mathews and Greg Gathers. The script is drawn from the work of Charles Brewster, a 19th century editor of the Portsmouth Journal who had an abiding love for local lore. Over the course of many years, Brewster wrote an extensive series of essays based on “rambles” about town, recounting local legends and historical ˜anecdotes connected with Portsmouth landmarks. These stories — based on town archives, personal remembrance, and oral histories collected from the “oldest inhabitants” — were first published in the Journal, then compiled in two volumes which have become standards of Portsmouth history.
Pontine’s stage adaptation of Brewster’s “Rambles” includes stories of prominent events, such as the capture of Fort William and Mary which foreshadowed the Revolution and the triumphal visit of newly elected President George Washington. The play also features local folklore including the mysterious murder that gave the name to Frenchman’s Lane, and anecdotes of witches, wizards and haunted houses. Alongside these are vignettes of everyday life including school dramatic exhibitions at the Old Brick School House on State Street and tales of local eccentrics like Toppin Maxwell, who built an ill-fated windmill at his tanyard on the shore of the North Mill Pond.
Pontine’s actors bring these stories to life with an impressive array of acting and staging techniques, including storytelling, masks and toy theatre — complimented by period music and richly detailed sets and props. Charles Brewster’s stories are augmented by an introduction from Thomas Bailey Aldrich’s An Old Town by the Sea and poetry by Sarah Orne Jewett. The rich language of these local literary luminaries, coupled with Pontine’s innovative dramatic style brings the past vividly to life. Romantic adventure, tragedy, mystery and nostalgic sentiment await the audience in this fascinating foray into Portsmouth’s past. Brewster’s Rambles About Portsmouth is underwritten by Optima Bank & Trust. Pontine’s programs are supported by grants from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Art.