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Christopher Beebe

Some of the cast members of Guilford Center Stage’s upcoming production of “Nocturne Titanica” by Michael Nethercott.

The Arts

Icebergs and the first all-female jury

Guilford Center Stage launches its second season with two original one-act plays

Showtimes for “Nocturne Titanica” and “The Lace Jury” are Friday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 5, at 2 p.m., at the Broad Brook Grange, 3940 Guilford Center Rd., Guilford Center. Tickets are available at the door, but purchasing ahead of time is strongly recommended. To purchase tickets online, visit guilfordcenterstage.brownpapertickets.com, or call 800-838-3006.

GUILFORD—“Localvore” is the name of the game in southern Windham County, especially in the first weekend of June.

While Strolling of the Heifers brings local farms and food to the fore in Brattleboro, a few minutes south, in Guilford, is local theater.

Yes, complete with a local writer and local talent on a local stage.

Guilford Center Stage launches its second season at the Broad Brook Grange on June 3-5 with two original one-act plays written and directed by local author Michael Nethercott.

All the actors are from Vermont, Nethercott said.

Nethercott describes the first play, “Nocturne Titanica,” as “a mythological take on the sinking of the Titanic.”

The 17-member cast features a few characters based on real-life passengers, but most of the characters are fictional, Nethercott said.

“The Lace Jury,” about California’s first all-female jury, in 1911, is the evening’s second one-act play.

“In both plays, we have tremendous casts,” Nethercott said.

From the first table reading right through to dress rehearsals, Nethercott said, the actors brought impressive talent and work to the stage.

“I’ve always been drawn to the historical themes,” he said.

The 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic has captured Nethercott’s imagination for decades. He wrote the first incarnation of “Nocturne” almost 20 years ago for a playwriting competition.

The boat’s demise represents humanity’s hubris in its own ability to dominate the world and the power of nature, he said.

In Nethercott’s opinion, the Titanic and the more than 1,500 people who died served as one of the triggers that ended the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Members of the upper classes received obvious preference during the evacuation, he said.

Yet there was also the irony that, “unbending class distinctions dissolved as bodies were hurled together as the ship went down,” Nethercott said.

“It’s a great American tragedy,” he said.

Many who died in the frigid waters of the Atlantic were immigrants looking to start new lives in the United States, he said.

Nocturne is an epic retelling of the sinking and Nethercott utilizes techniques found in epic poems like Homer’s “The Odyssey” and William Shakespeare’s tragedies.

This play isn’t suitable for young children because of what Nethercott describes as a few intense and stressful scenes.

“The Lace Jury” is based on a 1911 obscenity case in California and the state’s first all-female jury.

California was one of a handful of states to grant women the right to vote in local elections prior to ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. It granted women the right to vote less than a month before the obscenity trial of A.A. King, editor of the Watts (Calif.) News.

According to a Nov. 3, 1911, wire service report that appeared in the Tacoma (Wash.) Times, King was on trial for “having circulated ‘an obscene and indecent newspaper.’”

King had quoted profanity used by a Watts city council member towards King. The wire service article didn’t reprint the quote, but wrote only, “These words cast aspersions on King’s parentage, with the condemnation of the Creator prefixed.”

The women of the jury found King not guilty.

Nellie Moomau, 22, the youngest juror, told the wire reporter, “Our verdict did not mean that we approved of such language. It meant that we believed the defendant was honest in his endeavor to aid the public when he printed the article.”

Moomau continued, “It isn’t half so shocking to read such language in the privacy of our homes as it is to hear it on the streets.”

Nethercott wrote “The Lace Jury” approximately 18 months ago. He is intrigued by putting 12 strangers (although for the purpose of the play, Nethercott has only six characters) together and make them come to a consensus.

He wondered about the women called for their first jury. The characters wrestle with how they will be judged, Nethercott said.

For the first time in their lives, “their legal official opinion matters,” he said.

He also wondered about the people who organized the jury. Did they bring the women together in hopes they would fail? Or did they hope that women were more “sensitive” and therefore, if the editor’s comments didn’t shock women, then he did nothing wrong?

Nethercott said the female cast members brought their experiences to their characters, which enhanced the entire production.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #359 (Wednesday, June 1, 2016). This story appeared on page B1.

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