W hen you’re celebrating the 160th anniversary of a novel as epic as Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” you need nothing short of an epic celebration.
Therefore, not one, but three, major New Bedford cultural institutions — the Whaling Museum, the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park — have coordinated four months’ worth of events honoring Melville’s masterpiece.
“MOBY! On Stage, On Screen, In Community and In Art” is designed to heighten New Bedford’s profile as a cultural and historical destination by using Melville’s novel as an identifier for the city.
“This whole thing started by asking the question: ‘How do people come to know “Moby-Dick”?’ Because you know 90 percent of the public hasn’t read the book,” said Katherine Knowles, executive director of the Zeiterion.
“Moby-Dick” (1851) is largely considered one of the greatest works in all of American literature. New Bedford is not only the jumping-off point for the novel, but served as an inspiration for Melville.
“Moby-Dick,” part of the American literary canon, has also become a part of 20th- and 21st-century pop culture, showing up in everything from a Led Zeppelin song to “The Simpsons” to “Star Trek.”
“The fact is that ‘Moby-Dick’ has become iconic,” Knowles said. The cartoon character “Mr. Magoo played Ahab. Tom and Jerry played out the story; ‘The Simpsons’ have done the story. ‘Moby-Dick’ is now pop culture.
“‘MOBY!’ is looking at all the different ways this story has been told through many lenses. This is as in-depth as anything you could ask from any other community,” she said.
“MOBY!” includes a contemporary art exhibition, John Huston’s film interpretation, performances by Ireland’s Gare St. Lazare Players, walking tours, and a children’s cartoon festival, among many other activities. The project culminates with the “Moby-Dick” Marathon at the Whaling Museum on Jan. 7.
This evening at 6, the Zeiterion will hold a welcome reception for a dignitary, former mayor Oliver Casey from Youghal, County Cork, Ireland. There will be a screening of “Moby Dick” (1956) starring Gregory Peck and directed by John Huston at the Z at 7 p.m.
“This tiny town of Youghal is where they filmed the New Bedford scenes of ‘Moby-Dick’,” said Knowles. “So we’re flying the mayor out to introduce the film here at the Zeiterion.”
On Friday, the Whaling Museum hosts the exhibit opening of “Imagining Moby!” at 5 p.m. The exhibit includes original works by Leonard Baskin, Richard Ellis and Rockwell Kent demonstrating the ways artists have explored aspects of this great American novel. The artworks are drawn from the collection of Elizabeth Schultz, scholar, poet, professor emerita at the University of Kansas, and author of “Unpainted to the Last”: Moby-Dick and Twentieth-Century American Art” (1995). Dr. Schultz has been collecting art inspired by “Moby-Dick” for decades. A member of the Melville Society, she donated her collection of 20th-century paintings, prints, and other graphic works to the museum earlier this year.
Dr. Schultz noted, “the special joy of having the collection at the Whaling Museum is that, along with the Melville Society Cultural Project, I imagine working with many committed groups to develop new ways of using these visual images to present ‘Moby-Dick’ and the stories of whales to diverse audiences — children and adults, Americans and people from other cultures.”
A reception in the Jacobs Family Gallery in honor of Dr. Schultz will follow the exhibit opening.
Also on Friday, there will be a stage performance of “Moby Dick” by Gare St. Lazare of Ireland at the Zeiterion Performance Center, at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the “Moby! Cartoon Festival” will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater in the New Bedford Whaling Museum. This is a free children’s film festival of animated films inspired by “Moby-Dick,” including an animated puppet version, a Spanish version, and others.
The national park will offer a free walking tour, “Melville’s New Bedford,” at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday.
There will also be a matinee stage performance of “Moby Dick” by the Gare St. Lazare of Ireland at 3 p.m. at the Zeiterion and a “Moby! Memorabilia Exhibition” at the New Bedford Whaling Museum at 5 p.m. Saturday.
In addition, Casey will present his personal slide show of pictures taken during the filming of John Huston’s “Moby Dick” in Ireland in 1954-55, when Youghal was used as a stand-in movie location for New Bedford, at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Cook Memorial Theater at the Whaling Museum. Casey’s presentation will include many images of the production not seen before in New Bedford.
Nov. 14 is Moby-Dick Marathon Reader Call-in Day. Anyone may call in to request an 8 to 10 minute reading slot, beginning at midnight. Call 508-997-0046 x151.
The “Moby-Dick” Marathon Preview kicks off 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 6 with a pre-marathon buffet dinner and cash bar. At 7:15 p.m., there will be a free pre-marathon lecture: “Moby-Dick in American Popular Culture,” with Melville scholar, Dr. Timothy W. Marr. After Nov. 15, call (508) 997-0046 ext. 100 to purchase tickets for the buffet dinner. Admission to the lecture is free.
On Jan. 7, “Stump the Scholars!” will be held at 10 a.m. at the Cook Memorial Theater at the Whaling Museum. As a prelude to the “Moby-Dick” Marathon, the museum hosts a truly Melville-centric event along the same lines as National Public Radio’s popular program, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” Those in attendance will have the opportunity to quiz Melville Society scholars on all matters “Moby-Dick” and Melville. No questions are too tough. Free.
The 16th annual Moby-Dick Marathon will begin at noon Jan. 7 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. All are welcome to this 25-hour event commemorating the anniversary of 21-year-old Herman Melville’s voyage from New Bedford harbor aboard the whaleship Acushnet in 1841. Free.
“We’re hoping the shops and restaurants will get behind” the “Moby!” project, said Whaling Museum James Russell with a laugh. “Maybe people will start growing beards, and using white whales in their displays.”
“With ‘MOBY!,’ we’re working towards the common goal of making New Bedford a destination for cultural tourism,” said Russell.
“There’s a unique nautical tradition in the city, that’s what we want to leverage. By working together the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We hope that through various mediums, we’ll be able to engage a wide audience.”
Also, members of the Whaling Museum are invited to take a trip to California to see the critically acclaimed new opera by Jake Heggie, “Moby Dick,” at the San Diego Opera House. Join the Whaling Museum for three days of activities, VIP receptions, and a visit to the San Diego opera to see their premier of Moby Dick! Contact Alison Smart for more details: 508-997-0046 ext. 115 or email@example.com
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.
Photo and story courtesy:
By Lauren Daley
November 03, 2011 12:00 AM
Friday November 4, 2011