Hull and Distant Water Fishing, Part One: The Rise of the Sidewinders

Posted Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 4:04pm

Before you set foot onto the deck of the Kingston Jet, the James Joyce, and the Arctic Kestrel Museum in our North American Premiere of Under the Whaleback, check out this five-part series by Dramaturg Walter Bilderback about the rich history, maritime culture, and world-wide impact of Cod Fishing.


In the 16th Century, Europe fishing entered a “Cod Rush” after John Cabot’s discovery of the Grand Banks fishing grounds off Newfoundland. The only nation that didn't join in was England, although cod may be the origin of Britain as a maritime nation. "It was cod that had first lure Englishmen from the safety of their coastline in pre-Roman times," Mark Kurlansky writes. But the British fishermen could ignore the Grand Banks. The North and Irish Seas brimmed with cod. In addition, adventurous British fishermen had found good hunting further afield. "By the early fifteenth century, two- and three-masted ketches with rudders were going to Iceland and the Faeroes. Not only were these some of the best fishing vessels of the day , but not until the twentieth century would Icelanders have vessels of an equal quality for fishing their own waters." The British left Icelandic waters at the end of the 16th century after a brief confrontation with Norway, which controlled Iceland, but would return 3 centuries later with repercussions directly connected to the story of Under the Whaleback. Fishing remained a local industry until the 19th century, when a series of events would make the East Yorkshire towns of Hull and Grimsby the fishing capitals of the world.

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After the first week of rehearsals - thoughts from actor Pearce Bunting

Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 11:09am

Throwing  ourselves in, heaving our selves out, remembering

Just finished our 1st week of rehearsal. The space we rehearse in is an empty restaurant across the street from the theater. It’s got wooden floors and wooden booths and it feels strangely like a ship. Every day starts with a warm-up- stretching with staccato exhalations- fire breaths, every inch of our bodies from the head down or from the feet up- waking up the outside and the inside, making sound, sometimes into each other’s backs, chests, heads, and ears, the floor, the world, sound from breathing out, sound from breathing in, reaching for impossible things. Blanka is right in the middle of it with us, rolling around in the shit, getting messy, taking and being taken.

A little background- it’s been 17 years since Blanka and I worked on a play together- Quartet, by Heiner Muller- Merteuil and Valmont from Les Liaisons Dangereux (Janis Dardaris and I), fighting for power, playing nasty games in and around a big, deep bathtub. The Wilma was still on Sansom St. and I was a little too young to fully understand that part.

A year before, in 1995, we did Road, by Jim Cartwright. A play, set in Lancashire, England, in the remains of a decrepit, forgotten neighborhood, full of desperate, brutal, funny, completely human characters trying to hang on to their humanity. It was presented as a kind of circus and I played Scullery, the drunken, homeless, clown who was the ringmaster, your tour guide through the streets and lives littered with blood, piss, shit, and broken glass.

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Preparing for Under the Whaleback

Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 3:47pm

For our inaugural Under the Whaleblog post,  Whaleback actor Pearce Bunting shares a few pre-rehearsal thoughts.


Well, here we go.

I’ve never done a blog before and I’m not sure I want to. Something about the me that’s diving inside not wanting to inform the outside of what I’m up to…

That said, 4 days till I leave for Philly to begin rehearsals for Under The Whaleback and I’m in my man cave, my little subterranean deckie quarters, with the sound of the ocean playing on the computer, and surrounded by pictures, scripts, notes, dvd’s of Hull fishermen, cd’s of music to inspire me and a pocket digital recorder full of dialect sounds, (theh’s gorra be sumthin’ dodge-eh about thaht, an’t theh?). I’m wondering what my future deck mates are up to- are they huddled up in their own little holes like me, tired of all the reading and listening and watching and speaking and anticipating (don’t pronounce the “ing”), and ready to get to work? With some other human beings?

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The Rise of Women?

Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 5:43pm

An essay by William Steinberger

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, proclaims the Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin in her recent, controversial book. The Great Recession has intensified decades of change to the American workplace; almost 80% of the 8 million jobs lost belonged to men, owing to the evaporation of the manufacturing sector. In 2012 women surpassed men as the majority of the American workforce and now earn 42.2% of family income. They earn 60% of college degrees, too.

Women like Nora – single, urban twenty-somethings – earn more on average than their male counterparts, though as historian Stephanie Coontz notes, this trend evaporates when limiting this sample to those with equal education. And while women’s real wages have risen (as men’s stagnate or fall), they started from a drastically lower point. Of the overall economy, Coontz argues that “what we are seeing is a convergence in economic fortunes, not female ascendance,” disagreeing with Rosin’s assessment that “given the power of the forces pushing at the economy, this setup feels like the last gasp of a dying age rather than the permanent establishment.”

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Two Plays, Between Two Mediums

Posted Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 12:26pm

Leslye Headland is on a serious roll, generating buzz in theatre, film and TV. Assistance, slotted for TV adaptation at NBC, leaves audiences in stitches. The film adaptation of her critically-acclaimed play Bachelorette premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The film, which Leslye directed, was hailed by the New York Times as “viciously funny satire…with the crackling intensity of machine-gun fire.” Bachelorette received wide release in September and is currently available to rent.

Like Assistance, Bachelorette belongs to Leslye’s Seven Deadly Sins series; the former treats greed, the latter gluttony. Both plays take an unflinching look at Millennials, treating Leslye’s generation with her signature snark. Bachelorette follows a trio of single women (played by Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan) as they grudgingly play bridesmaids to their overweight friend, Becky (Rebel Wilson). The women arrange an epic bacchanal for Becky’s bachelorette party, but queen bee Regan (Kirsten Dunst) can’t resist instructing the male stripper to call Becky by her high school nickname – Pigface. Old tensions flare, spurring a series of events that includes the ripping of Becky’s wedding dress.

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