Since 1977, Pontine Theatre has been an active particpant in the development of actor-based theatre, creating work that is engaging, innovative and original. Pontine's work is founded on the concept that the actor should function as a creative (rather than interpretive) artist, and that the name actor dictates action (movement) as a primary tool. Co-Artistic Directors, M. Marguerite Mathews and Gregory Gathers, have produced over 50 original works. Creating and performing these works, Pontine has introduced their unique form of theatre to audiences throughout New England, transforming audience interest in mime, puppetry, literature, and history into enthusiasm for this distinctive synthesis of forms.
The word pontine is derived from the Latin pontus - a bridge. In psychology, pontine is a process, a connection activated in sleep; a bridge over which dream images travel.
We fulfill our artistic vision by creating and performing intimately scaled original productions that celebrate the culture, history and literature of New England. We use an ensemble process which is based on the actor-centered philosophy integral to our movement theatre background and training. We personally research our subject matter in creating our scripts. We use text drawn entirely from primary historical documents: diaries, letters, poetry, novels and newspaper articles of the day. We design and craft all of our sets, props, puppets, and masks. We strive, through this holistic approach, to achieve a unity of vision in our productions.
Each season we premiere an original production in Portsmouth NH. After the premiere, we bring these works to audiences throughout New England. We perform in small, nontraditional spaces including libraries, museums, schools, town halls, and residences for seniors and the disabled. Our "chamber-theatre" approach is an excellent fit for the small audiences served by these community-based venues, most of which are located in rural areas.
We often collaborate with community organizations with an interest in the topic of the production we are developing. These organizations frequently become advocates and presenters of our completed works. For instance, Isles of Shoals: Eternal Sound of the Sea, a play about an archipelago off the New Hampshire coast, was researched with the assistance of the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association (ISHRA). We collaborated with ISHRA and Star Island Corporation, which owns the last Victorian-era hotel on the islands, to bring a special performance out to the shoals.
The Story of a Bad Boy (based on the 1869 novel by Thomas Bailey Aldrich) was produced in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Aldrich Memorial, which is on the grounds of Portsmouth's Strawbery Banke Museum. We worked with museum staff to create an auxiliary community arts project commemorating the memorial's 1908 dedication which was presented at Strawbery Banke and toured to area senior centers.
We have also collaborated with the New Hampshire Humanities Council to create four humanities programs based on our original productions, Familiar Fields: The Power of Community in the Work of Sarah Orne Jewett, New England Utopia: Transcendental Communities, Pretty Halcyon Days: On the Beach with Ogden Nash, and Silver Lake Summers: An E. E. Cummings Revue. These programs tour throughout New Hampshire through the NH Humanities Council's Humanities to Go program.
We bring the ideas embodied in historical texts to life onstage through storytelling, puppetry, shadow play, projected images, toy theatre figures, and oversize storybooks. As with text, we use historical sources for our visiual motifs: photos, illustrations and period art works--as well as historical staging conventions, including toy theatre, rolling panoramas and commedia dell'arte style masks. We aspire, through our focus on original source materials, to engage our audiences in the richness of New England's culture and history. Through the power and immediacy of live performance, we provide an intimate connection with our region's cultural heritage.