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Pontine Parses Ogden Nash Poetry

Ogden NashMARK YOUR CALENDAR

Pontine Theatre presents Pretty Halcyon Days: On the Beach with Ogden Nash. Pontine's Cafe-Lyceums feature refreshments and conversation along with scenes from one of Pontine Theatre's popular original plays based on New England literature. Events are scheduled for Thursday and Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 4:00and Sunday at 2:00. (Click headline for complete article)

Pretty Halcyon Days is based on the life and work of “America’s Master of Light Verse.”  Ogden Nash and his family spent their summers on Little Boar’s Head, in North Hampton, NH.  Using examples from Pontine’s original staging of his poems, this program explores the ways in which Nash’s life on the New Hampshire seashore influenced his poetry, lending insight into the man, his character, and his ideas about family, society, and nature. The presentation is created and performed by Pontine’s co-artistic directors, M. Marguerite Mathews and Greg Gathers.  

Tickets are $18 ($3 discount for seniors and students) and may be purchased online  - www.pontine.org.  Tickets may also be purchased at the door a half-hour prior to each performance (cash & checks only) based on availability.  Pontine's West End Studio Theatre is located at 959 Islington Street, Portsmouth, NH.  The theatre is not visible from the street.  Look for the big 959 on the signpost at the head of the drive.  Pontine's Cafe-Lyceum Series concludes 13-16 Marchwith Familiar Fields: The Power of Community in the Work of Sarah Orne Jewett.

Ogden Nash was one of America’s most widely appreciated and imitated writers of light verse.  Born in 1902 into a family that prized education, he was the next to youngest of five children.  His maternal grandfather was a renowned educator and Nash valued education throughout his life.  He had a  love of the classics, and languages, as well as writing.

He worked briefly on Wall Street, and as a schoolteacher.  Then, in 1925, he took a job in the marketing department with the publishing house Doubleday where he became an editor.  He enjoyed meeting and working with all the revered authors of the day, including:  Dorothy Parker, Stephen Vincent Benet, and P.G. Wodehouse.  It was here that his boss and mentor, Dan Longwell encouraged Nash to submit some of his light verse toThe New Yorker.  Much to Nash’s surprise, they were bought and published, the first appearing in 1930.  

In 1931 he married Frances Leonard and promptly had two baby girls, Linell and Isabel.  Nash stuck with the light verse that became his trademark.  He enjoyed seeing the humor of everyday life.  There are at least 1500 copyrighted works and no one is completely confident that there are not a good number more.  Nash was a populist.   He sold his verses to a great variety of magazines:  Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Readers’ Digest, Playboy, SaturdayEvening Post, and Vogue.  He also sold to Hallmark and did advertising verse for several companies.  

His poems had an intensely anti-establishment quality that resounded with many Americans, particularly during the Depression.  Nash was a keen observer of American social life, and frequently mocked religious moralizing and conservative politicians.  His work is often compared with other satirists of the time including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and H. L. Mencken.  Nash appeared regularly on radio and on television, and he drew huge audiences for his readings and lectures. 

Nash was the lyricist for several musicals.  He wrote the lyrics for ONE TOUCH OF VENUS (with Kurt Weill), and for  HE AND SHE, SWEET BYE AND BYE, TWO’S COMPANY, and THE LITTLEST REVIEW.   Nash also did the verses to accompany Saint-Saen’s CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS and for Ravel’s MOTHER GOOSE SUITE and PETER AND THE WOLF.  

Pontine Theatre’s Artistic Directors have woven together several of Nash’s poems which deal with family and summers by the seashore. Pretty Halcyon Days celebrates both the flavor of Seacoast New Hampshire and Ogden Nash’s unique, whimsical, and often idiosyncratic language and rhymes.

In “Modest Meditations On The Here, The Heretofore And The Hereafter,” Nash expresses the communion with nature he felt during his summers at the beach:

I didn’t go to church today,

I trust the Lord to understand.

The surf was swirling blue and white,

The children swirling on the sand.

He knows, he knows how brief my stay,

How brief this spell of summer weather,

He knows when I am said and done

We’ll have plenty of time together.

Founded in 1977, Pontine Theatre operates as both a resident and touring company offering artistic and educational programs for both Greater Portsmouth and New England.  In Portsmouth, the company offers an annual performance season at WEST  featuring original works by Pontine and performances by guest artists from around the country.  The works presented are united by two things: they are performed by the artists who create the work and they share a bias for movement as a principal component.  

On tour, Pontine Theatre offers performances throughout New England.  Pontine’s touring productions draw from the literature and history of New England and are often presented through partnerships with museums, libraries, assisted living facilities and community centers.

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