Globe North Arts

A 'Trying' time on stage in Gloucester

Becky Webber and Richard Mawe star in “Trying’’ at Gloucester Stage starting today. The play is about a young secretary working for the elderly Francis Biddle, attorney general under FDR. Becky Webber and Richard Mawe star in “Trying’’ at Gloucester Stage starting today. The play is about a young secretary working for the elderly Francis Biddle, attorney general under FDR. (Eric Levenson)
By Wendy Killeen
August 14, 2011

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Gloucester Stage presents “Trying’’ by Joanna McClelland Glass today and Wednesday through next Sunday.

The cross-generational play, set in Washington, D.C., from 1967 to 1968, is the story of Sarah Schorr, a determined young secretary from the Canadian prairie who finds herself working for the aging and imperious Francis Biddle, who served as attorney general under Franklin D. Roosevelt and was the chief judge of the Nuremberg Trials.

“Trying’’ is based on the playwright’s own experience as Biddle’s personal secretary from 1967 to 1968, as he recalls his experiences through the previous years of the 20th century.

The play was presented at Gloucester Stage last year and the team has reunited for this production, including director Eric C. Engel, and actors Richard Mawe as Biddle and Becky Webber as Schorr.

Performances are at 4 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 4 p.m. next Sunday.

A discussion with the artists follows today’s show.

Tickets are $37; $32 for students and senior citizens; $20 for Cape Ann residents on Wednesday and Thursday. Call 978-281-4433 or visit

JAZZ BY THE SEA: In the 1920s, Salem Willows had a vibrant jazz scene with Duke Ellington and others from the big band era performing at the seaside park.

The Salem Jazz and Soul Festival, which presents free concerts and donates money to music education locally, builds on that history.

The big event of its summer season is a two-day festival at Salem Willows Saturday and next Sunday.

Saturday’s musical guests include the New Orleans acts Boneroma, and Charles Neville & Harvey Diamond Quartet, as well as Nicky Egan, the Bobby Keyes Trio, and the Salem High School Jazz Band.

Performing Sunday are another New Orleans act, Big Sam’s Funky Nation; and Club d’Elf; Thaddeus Hogarth; Goldberg, Miksis & Langone with Scott Aruda on trumpet; and the North Shore Jazz Project Allstars.

Master of ceremonies is Henley Douglas Jr., cofounder of the festival. The event includes music education classes, a kids’ tent, artisan fair, and a beer garden for ages 21 and older.

Since 2007, the organization has provided grants of $19,550 to support local music education, ranging from programs in schools to those run by the Boy Scouts, the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, and Plummer Home for Boys in Salem.

The festival runs from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

AUTHOR’S CORNER: Dale Stanten of Swampscott is the author of the memoir “The Hooker’s Daughter: A Boston Family’s Saga.’’ In the 1950s, Stanten’s mother worked as a prostitute at home to support her family. At age 6, Stanten was answering the front door for her mother’s customers. Neighborhood children were forbidden to play with her, and she was asked to leave the Girl Scouts. Stanten said the book is a story of survival, driven by a strong will and an ability to take positive qualities from a dysfunctional life, punctuated by immoral and illegal behaviors. Stanten went on to become a psychiatric nurse and later CEO of the Destination Management Co., which for 20 years organized conventions and corporate events for local, national, and international clients.

IN LOCAL GALLERIES: “Books and Boulders,’’ an exhibit of children’s books and rockscape paintings by author and visual artist Pat Lowery Collins, is at the Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester through Aug. 29. The rocky shores and history of Cape Ann are the inspiration for much of the work. A native of California, Collins has spent most of her adult life in New England, where she and her husband raised five children. During that time, she studied art at the DeCordova Museum School and at Brandeis University. She began writing children’s books and poetry for publication about 25 years ago. She lives in Gloucester, where she has both a writing and painting studio and where her six grandsons visit. . . . “Summer Colors,’’ an exhibit of watercolor paintings by Edward Rice, is at the Marblehead Arts Association through Aug. 28. Rice captures the color and light of summer through his florals and landscapes. In several paintings, he embraces the challenge of capturing the subtle light and shadow of white flowers with watercolors. His landscapes are mostly of New England coastal scenes. Rice, a Xaverian brother, taught art at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers for 10 years. He now teaches watercolor classes at the Danvers Senior Center.

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