Friday, October 20, 2017

“The Addams Family”: An unusual musical about life and love by Elizabeth Richards

"The Addams Family” isn’t your typical musical, but anyone familiar with the characters and television show it’s based on wouldn’t expect it to be. The themes explored are universal - family relationships, misunderstandings, reluctance to accept change and the conflicting feelings that arise as children grow and develop into their own people - especially when who they become departs from what is expected. The cast of odd characters highlights the emotions that arise from these themes in an amusing - and sometimes twisted way.
The Addams are not a “normal” family. They embrace darkness, misery, torture and death in a way unlike most - and that’s a lot for a wide-eyed family from Ohio to process when they arrive for dinner. Love itself is an odd concept for Wednesday Addams to process, and she, along with most of her family, has a hard time with the idea. Uncle Fester, however, embraces the idea of love and works with a large cast of dead ancestors to keep the two young people together. 

As you might imagine, there’s plenty of room for misunderstanding, deception, frustration and upset, which plays out in a series of scenes featuring members of the bewildered Beineke family, the Addams family and the young lovers. 

At the Sunday matinee on October 15, a large crowd gathered at Windham Center Stage Theater to support the community production. While the first act felt a bit disjointed, and the musical accompaniment often overpowered the performers’ voices, the second act brought everything back into focus. The band was quieter after intermission making the story much easier to follow. The action really picks up in the second act, and scenes move quickly toward the final resolution. 

Although only ten of the thirty roles were speaking parts - the ensemble of dead ancestors added a lively element to the show, and the full company numbers were engaging and entertaining. The amazing costumes highlight each ancestor’s unique personality, and the movements and expression of these cast members added interest and diversity to the show.  

The show is peppered with hilarious one-liners that sometimes take a moment or two to catch, particularly with the intentionally unexpressive tone the Addams family favors. The cast did a great job conveying the personalities and conflicting emotions of each character. 

A few members of the cast stood out. Rob Hatch as Uncle Fester brought great energy to the stage, a beacon of light in gloomy surroundings. Ali Gordon as Grandma added a great touch of humor to her scenes. John Ulmer as Pugsley convincingly conveyed the sense of jealousy and loss that comes from the prospect of a sibling leaving. And Ed Haibon as Lurch, though mainly silent, filled the stage with his presence.

This show is about family, and though the Addams and the Beinekes couldn’t be more different, both families face the same challenge - accepting the changes and transitions of life as children grow up - and adults grow apart. Each family has underlying issues that come to light, pushing the young couple apart in the process. Will love prevail? You’ll have to attend a show next weekend to see for yourself!

Upcoming performances of “The Addams Family” are on Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults, $10 students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

First Annual Art in the Park event showcases local artisans by Jennifer Davis

It was a beautiful fall day to find local artisans gathered together at the first Annual Art in the Park event on Saturday, October 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event was held by the Windham Parks and Recreation Department at the Windham Town Hall playground.
“The purpose of this event was to showcase the talents of our local artists and musicians,” stated
Artist Tori Leavitt shows off her drawings.
Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation Director, “and we certainly accomplished that.” 

This year’s Art in the Park event hosted eight local artists and crafters, bringing with them: fiber arts, quilted bags, photography, paintings, jewelry and other crafts and art.  “I love to show off my art,” stated Tori Leavitt, a 7th grader and Windham Middle School student, who featured her beautiful drawings at the event.  

To participate in this year’s event, each participant was required to register with the Parks and Recreation Department but there was no fee required to participate.  

Michael Shaughnessy, a University of Southern Maine professor, was asked by the Parks and Recreation Department to help create a collaborative community art project during the event which could be seen when walking the area near the playground where the event was held.  The best part was that people of all ages contributed to the project.  

Adding to the festivities were three local musical performers that included Lighthouse Jubilees, Stuart Gabaree and Windham Center Stage Theater performing selections from their production of Addams Family. The atmosphere was welcoming.

Although this is the first Art in the Park event, the intent is to host this event every year and to continue growing it by adding more artists and crafters each year.  “It is something to grow on,” said Brooks as she described this year’s event that followed the Annual Public Safety Fair.

The talent that surrounds us is amazing and the Annual Art in the Park event is a great way to display that talent. Those interested in participating in next year’s Art in the Park should contact the Windham Parks and Recreation Department.  

Keep an eye out for upcoming events held by the Windham Parks and Recreation Department by visiting their website. Halloween Adventure and Trunk or Treat on Saturday, October 28 and the Community Tree Lighting on Sunday, November 26 are a few of the events to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Picking the perfect pumpkin for carving and more byy Matt Pascarella

It’s that time of year! Halloween is less than three weeks away and a signature item of this holiday is the jack-o-lantern.
Whether you carve or paint your jack-o-lantern face, you need a pumpkin. Windy Hill Farm & Market on River Road in Windham have plenty to choose from. Owners Ron and Linda Winship, who have been running Windy Hill Farm & Market since 2000, have a variety of pumpkins and gourds. They also have a pick your own pumpkin patch.

“I grew up on the farm next door,” explained Ron Winship. “Then when my wife and I got married in ‘70, we took this lot [where the market is] off the farm and turned it into our business. We started with pumpkins - I love pumpkins. Years ago, when my daughter was a little girl, we’d raise a few pumpkins and she’d put them out on the lawn, maybe a few wheelbarrow loads and we’d sell them that way. After she was grown up we’d continue to sell them, but we’ve just grown. Pumpkins are a big time for us.” 

So, how do you pick the perfect pumpkin? Well, there really is no right answer. It also depends on what you want to do with your pumpkin; do you want to carve it up for trick-or-treaters, or use it for baking? 

“It’s different for everybody; some people like big pumpkins, some people like little pumpkins and there are lots of varieties like peanut pumpkins, white pumpkins,” began Ron Winship. “This year we had a lot of white pumpkins; people like white pumpkins . . . seems like every year [there are] different varieties [of pumpkins]. Some people like pumpkins that you leave part of the vine on when you cut it off the vine. Some people like different shapes, some like skinny and tall, some like short and fat . . . [there is] the Maine Sugar Pie pumpkin, which people use for pies.”

He continues to describe an important feature of the pumpkin, “Thumpkin pumpkins are short and big, but they have a huge stem, the stems are a really important thing for people; if they don’t have a stem they don’t want it,” Ron Winship explained. “And there’s a saying a friend of mine told me once, ‘a pumpkin without a stem is a pumpkin without a home.’ Stem is a very important part of the pumpkin.”

Winship didn’t know how serious people were about choosing a pumpkin. “Some people, decorating for the Fall, will spend as much time picking pumpkins out as they do Christmas trees. And I’ve seen people - they’ll pick some of the pumpkins they want and arrange them in different ways to see if that’s what they want; they mix up the different varieties. Some people like to go out in the patch, and pick their own.”

While pumpkins may now be symbolic of Halloween, Early Native Americans relied on pumpkins as a source of food that helped them survive long winters. Pumpkins could be roasted, baked, boiled, and dried, and they were eaten and used as medicine. Pumpkin blossoms were added to stews. The shells of the pumpkins could be dried and used as eating and storage vessels.

The following are a handful of additional ways this versatile fruit can be put to use:

Beauty regimen - Pumpkins contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals that can help replenish the skin. Pumpkin purée can be mixed with honey, aloe vera gel, olive oil, and a bit of cornmeal to create an exfoliating mask for the face or body. Pumpkin also can be used to rejuvenate dry or tired skin from cold weather. Additionally, honey, pumpkin and yogurt can be mixed together and used to condition hair. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out and shampoo.

Foods and beverages - Pumpkin purée is the basis for many tasty, pumpkin-infused treats. Purée can be used in pies, cakes, muffins, breads, and many additional foods. Pumpkin purée also may be found in certain beverages, such as smoothies and shakes. A bit of spiced purée may appear as flavoring in teas and coffees.

Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy treat. Foodies suggest using the seeds from "sugar pumpkins" or the ones best for making pies. Boil the seeds for a few minutes before draining. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and put the seeds in a single layer. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.

Pumpkin wines and beers are popular as well. There are many recipes for developing sweet, fermented beverages, which tend to be especially popular in the fall.

The "guts" of the pumpkin can be simmered along with aromatics and other vegetables to create a vegetable stock perfect for soups and broths.

Decorations - Pumpkins can also add to one's home décor during the fall. Aside from being carved, larger pumpkins may be used as natural flower pots for mums or other seasonal floral displays. As the Native Americans once did, pumpkins can be hollowed-out and used as bowls to serve favorite soups and dips.

Use a hollowed, small pumpkin as a natural aromatic candle holder. Cut holes in the sides to vent the exhaust. Rub aromatic spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla bean, on the inside of the pumpkin. Insert a beeswax candle in the bottom of the pumpkin and let it send inviting aromas into the air.

Add to compost bins - Pumpkins are rich in zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C, among other nutrients. You can add the discarded pumpkins to your backyard compost bins to further replenish the soil.

“I just love pumpkins, there’s nothing more exciting than to go out in the pumpkin patch and pick pumpkins. And sometimes you plant and you forget what you plant in a certain area and you find something you forgot you planted and [it’s] kind of neat,” Ron said.

Libraries highlight work from local artists by Elizabeth Richards

Community members can find more than a good book at the libraries in Windham and Raymond. Visitors can also enjoy exhibits of artwork by local artists in each locale. Through the month of October, the Windham library has paintings by Windham resident Josh Emerson on display, while the Raymond Village Library is displaying the work of Gray photographer Jesse MacDonald.

Artists are selected in a variety of ways, including recommendation, past experience with an artist, or the artist reaching out to the libraries. Sally Bannen, Technical Services Librarian at the Windham Public Library says, “While I prefer to have fresh faces in order to give a wider opportunity to as many artists as possible, I have allowed past artists to display again if they ask and the schedule permits. Our current artist, Josh Emerson, was recommended to the library and we have been pleased to give him the chance to display his artwork with the community.”

Emerson’s work has been on display since August, and all displays are scheduled in three-month time slots. Displaying and highlighting the work of local artists is important, because the library is a place for all community members, said Library Director Jennifer Alvino. “The library belongs to the community and by opening our space to this kind of display it shows that we are much more than a place for just books. We are a community space and offer all kinds of services and opportunities for the community to come together to educate themselves and find entertainment,” Alvino said.

Emerson said he began painting 20 years ago when he was in college at ASU (Appalachian State University) in North Carolina, where he received a BFA in fine arts. He paints every winter, he said, but while he exhibited on a regular basis until 2008, now he mostly paints for himself. He said he enjoys getting art out into the community, and is excited to see Windham increasing this effort through the library and other venues. 

MacDonald is a digital photographer, with the majority of his work focused on landscapes and scenery, which he has been shooting for approximately seven years. Recently, he has also begun to work on portrait and studio photography.  

When he was younger, MacDonald said, he enjoyed taking pictures while travelling with his family. On vacations, he’d use a phone or pocket sized digital camera, and although the photos weren’t top quality, he enjoyed bringing home photographic memories instead of knick-knacks from a souvenir shop, he said.  As he got older, he purchased a higher quality camera and taught himself, through reading articles and blogs and video tutorials online. His only formal photography training is an Introduction to Digital Photography class he took as an elective in college.

“It's exciting to see my artwork on display. Sometimes it feels a little unreal, I never thought of myself as an artist growing up,” MacDonald said. “I've always enjoyed sharing my experiences and images with my friends and family, but it's just as exciting to share them with the rest of the community.”  

Emerson’s work has been shown in Raymond once before, and at a few local small businesses as well. “I've always been fortunate enough to get great feedback from my showings. It's nice to make a sale or two during a showing, but the words of encouragement and positive feedback from those who see my work really keep me going and encourage me to continue doing what I do,” he said.

MacDonald has an online gallery at and his work can also be found on Facebook at Jesse MacDonald Photography.

The work of both Emerson and MacDonald will be on display until the end of October.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Taiwan to Windham - the story of how one woman made Windham her home by Lorraine Glowczak

Nini Bennett of Windham took a moment of her time a few weeks ago to share her story. A story of her journey to America; leaving her home of Taiwan 10 years ago and becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. and making the Sebago Lakes Region of Maine her new home.
Aspiring to provide her three children with a balanced educational experience, Bennett saw the U.S., and Windham specifically, as the perfect location to put that balance in their lives. 

Nini Bennett in the center with husband and mother
Briefly, the Country of Taiwan is a densely populated island off the coast of China and is home to an eclectic mix of successful enterprises and hardworking individuals. With a population of approximately 23 million people, doing and being one’s best is necessary to participate and flourish in a highly competitive job market. 

But not only is the market competitive for adults, children of all ages start their scholastic involvement young, studying long hours every day, in preparation for a future that will lead to 70-hour work weeks, if they are lucky.

“The students spend a lot of time studying and testing but little time thinking for themselves,” Bennet said. “There is no such thing as ‘what is your dream and what do you want to do with your life?’”

“Children begin classes at 6:30 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m.,” Bennett continued. “But their studies do not end there. After school, many students go onto an after-school program called a bushiban [pronounced ‘boo-she-bahn’] school and will study for another couple of hours before returning home later in the evening.”

Bennett was the owner and proprietor of a bushiban in Taipei City, offering a variety of afterschool studies that promoted the study of English. Her job involved the hiring of teachers, including an American from Windham, ME. His name was Nate Bennett. 

Obviously, Nini and Nate fell in love and married. Their partnership expanded to include the purchase of a bushiban school, together becoming co-owners of the academic afterschool program. 

They named their new school Katahdin English School, of which they both still own and operate from Windham, with the help of their office manager (and long-time friend) in Taiwan who manages the day to day operations. Together, Nini and Nate focused on teaching English studies in Taiwan for a decade, at levels ranging from kindergarten-aged children to college level programs.

The Bennetts are still actively teaching those students from their home here in Maine. During the summer months, the Bennetts host the students from the Katahdin English School, giving them an opportunity to travel from Taiwan to Windham, with the purpose of continuing their education in fun, hands-on experiential summer camp programs. The Bennetts collaborate with schools such as a Cheverus High School and Waynflete in Portland which both offer summer educational programming. 

“Students [from Katahdin English School] get to explore different subjects and activities while they are in Maine such as drama, computer studies, tennis and basketball,” explained Bennett. “And we always take time to travel to a number of places in New England that include Portland and Boston.”

Despite her busy entrepreneurial schedule, Bennett spends quality time with her two daughters, Eliza and Emma, and son, Jeremy, supporting them in their various educational and extracurricular activities.

“I love Maine and am very happy that I have made my home here in Windham,” Bennett said. “Moving here was a great choice for my children.”

Additionally, she enjoys the kindness she has witnessed since moving to Windham. “People here are very kind and are willing to stop on the road to help you if your car breaks down,” Bennett said. “And I love how the winter makes Mainers strong and tough. I really like their ingenuity.”

When asked if she had any advice she wanted to give to others, she shared a few pieces of wisdom she has learned in her 10 years of living in the U.S. “For immigrants, I would just say they need to be patient in their new homeland, doing their best to be openminded to the new culture they are in.”

For those who were born a U.S. citizen she stated, “You all are really lucky. You have so much freedom here. I think people need to cherish that more.”

For everyone, whether a new citizen or a citizen by birth – young and old, she reminds us, “Take chances and work hard. If you do, you can have everything you’ve ever dreamed of.”