Artistic Director Roy Steinberg and the cast of Cape May Stage’s Time Stands Still answered questions from the audience, who sipped complementary Wawa coffee, during last week’s Coffee and Conversation event. Aleksey Moryakov
Dog Days In Cape May
LAST month, we posted a picture on our Facebook page of one of the Exit Zero puppies, April, in all her glory… it was taken right after she’d finished digging a hole in the sand at Higbee’s Beach. We weren’t thinking it would garner more interest than any other Facebook photo, but 341 “likes” later, we realized just how in love with cute canines you all are.
And yet, for such a “dog-friendly” city, Cape May isn’t a puppy’s paradise. The beach is arguably the best doggie playground on the planet, but in Cape May, pups aren’t allowed to set foot, or paw, on the main beach between the months of April and October, according to Ordinance 218-2010. And before this was passed, dogs weren’t allowed on… ever.
We called Linda Steenrod, owner of the dog-friendly Billmae Cottage, member of the Cape May Dog Friendly Association, and one of the people who helped secure the dog park on Lafayette Street in 2008. The motivation? “There is no grassy area where it’s okay to bring your dog,” she told us. And very few sandy areas, too.
We think it’s great how members of the community have come together to make this park a success. Linda used to buy bottles of water and leave them for other dog owners to use. Others donated pet dishes. Members of the Dog Friendly Association decorated with plastic hearts at Valentine’s Day and streamers on the Fourth of July. But the most impressive thing about the park is that it “polices itself,” according to Linda… you see, it’s mostly dog owners who take issue with folks not cleaning up after their pets. “I’m not very subtle,” Linda told us. “If I see it happening, I’ll say, ‘Do you need a bag to clean that up, because I have one for you.'”
Which is likely part of the reason Chief of Police Diane Sorantino told us complaints about people not following the rules about disposing of waste (as well as the rules about time restrictions and leashing dogs) are “not something we handle a lot of.” In fact, she said, “I can’t remember the last time someone officially complained.”
To be fair, of the 37 comments we received on our picture of April, one of them was an unhappy post about our having had a dog (even an absurdly cute one) on the beach, so there are naysayers out there. But here’s the thing… why should the people who don’t want dogs on the beach be the ones who have the last say? What about all the people who do? Surely, we can reach some type of compromise here.
We called the Borough of Stone Harbor, because we’d heard they’ve reached just such a compromise. Deputy Clerk Lisa Stefankiewicz told us that, at the urging of a group of dog-owning citizens back in 2008, the city designated three blocks of beach “dog friendly” during the summer months from 9am to sunrise and from 7pm to sunset. Eventually, they decided it would be better to allow dogs on every beach instead, but only after 7pm, and that’s the way it’s been for the last two seasons. “We haven’t heard any complaints whatsoever,” Lisa told us.
To ensure dog owners have access to the proper “waste disposal device,” that is a poop pouch, the Stone Harbor has installed bag-dispensing machines. We called one of the members of Stone Harbor’s Public Works Department, who told us that the machines are, in fact, easy to miss, which is always a concern in Cape May. “They look like little hand-wipe dispensers,” he told us. Sheila Williams, who was tasked with finding adequate bag dispensers for Cape May’s dog park, directed us to a Texas-based company, Great American, that would be a good fit for outfitting Cape May’s beaches. We called, and Cape May can purchase 15 of their Paw Pal dispensers — the most expensive “deluxe” model, no less — for a meager $56.85.
So why not increase the amount of time and months that dogs are allowed on the beach? Even if it’s only on a section of the beach. “This can be done by sectioning off a space with dune or snow fencing, so it’s easily removable,” Linda Steenrod explained, which sounds reasonable to us. And while we’re at it, why not increase the penalties for breaking the rules, to pacify those who might be concerned? Right now, the maximum penalty for violating any of the dog-related laws is a fine not to exceed $1,250, or community service not to exceed ninety days. We’re willing to bet the city wouldn’t receive any complaints about amping this up, because we’re also willing to bet that most dog owners in Cape May will not break the rules.
The Music Makers
CAPE May has a reputation as an older, quiet shore town, especially during the off-season. But those who write us off as a sleepy little seaside spot are missing another truth — there is a group of young (and young-minded) folks here who, at this very moment, are bringing fresh energy, more culture, and new ideas to Cape Island. We’ve profiled some of them in these pages: There’s Honnah Riccio, who left a fast-paced life in Manhattan to work the produce stand at Beach Plum Farm because she’s passionate about bringing organic food to Cape May. Gina Peterson, who saw a gaping culinary hole here and decided to open her own mobile gourmet creperie. The boys behind the Cape May Brewery, who started out with nothing but makeshift equipment and are somehow turning Cape May into a destination for beer aficionados. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Now we’d like to add the folks behind the International Exit 0 Jazz Fest to the list of driven people doing cool things for our “sleepy” little town. We went to the festival’s launch party last Wednesday, and left feeling totally reenergized.
“It was an incredibly great vibe, just great energy,” said Michael Kline, festival organizer, who used to produce live broadcasts for a community radio station in New Orleans during the famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, so he knows great energy. And what made it this way? “Everyone from the community came together,” he told us.
Came together, indeed.
The party was held on the Congress Hall veranda, but the hotel allowed YB, the Mad Batter, Louisa’s Chocolate Bar, and Empanada Mama’s to bring in the food. And all of this teamwork seemed to have an effect on the crowd. We overheard a conversation between Sue Lotozo of Flying Fish and Deanna Ebner of the Red Store, two women who had just formally met, brainstorming new T-shirt designs for Sue’s shop. We overheard Fran Wilson, of the West End Garage, throwing around ideas for new beers with Ryan Krill of Cape May Brewery (the same brewery that came to the rescue when Congress Hall’s keg stopped working mid-party). And we found ourselves tossing around ideas for this peppy periodical with enthusiastic readers over glasses of free wine and swordfish tacos. (You might have missed these delicious tacos if you didn’t arrive early enough… all 250 were gobbled up quickly, according to one of the festival’s producers Eliza Lotozo.)
Then there was the band, the UCC Royal Brass Band comprised of — get this — Camden city high schoolers. “The band contributed so much to the great energy of the party,” Eliza told us. “What’s really neat is to see how jazz is still affecting young kids.”
And affecting so much of the Cape May community, too, because even if you’re not into music, you’re going to want to be a part of this. The weekend of November 9-11, musicians from Chile, Brazil, New York, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, and Venezuela will gather in our “sleepy” little town, to put on a world-class show. We’re looking forward to experiencing the vibe of it all, and we hope to see you out doing the same.
For more information, check out exitzerojazzfest.com.
Secrets Of The Stage
THERE has been a lot of buzz about the newest show at Cape May Stage, Time Stands Still. The cast of four is all-star; their collective pedigree includes work on Broadway, As The World Turns, even Baywatch. And the writer, Donald Margulies, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Throw in the dramatic injury — a fractured shoulder — experienced by one bodysurfing cast member just a week before opening, as well as the mad-scramble to find his Emmy-nominated replacement, Jon Lindstrom, and yea… a lot of buzz. But what you read in the papers is the stuff everyone reads. The scoop everyone’s getting. If you want a true insider’s look at life behind the curtain, you’d do well to attend one of the Coffee and Conversation events hosted at Cape May Stage’s Robert Shackleton Playhouse. We attended last Thursday (along with 25 others) because the topic — how real life events impact artistic choices — was especially appealing to us as journalists. As were the homemade fudge brownies.
For those who hadn’t yet seen it, Artistic Director Roy Steinberg — joined on stage by the entire cast — gave a run-down of the play, which tells the story of Sarah (played by Princeton-educated triathlete Sandy York). Sarah is a photojournalist injured while covering the Iraq war. Back in their Brooklyn apartment, she and her boyfriend James (Lindstrom) are “confronted with the idea of a more conventional life” once Sarah’s ex-lover/boss/best friend (Jonathan Brody) turns up with his new, much younger girlfriend Mandy (Maggie McDowell.)
We’re a little biased, but we especially like all the shout-outs given to “heroic” journalists during this chat with the cast. “Reporting is inherently aggressive,” Sandy said. (Hear that, folks? Writing about the delicious baked goods served at these shindigs is trying.) Sandy and the others may not be journalists themselves but, in preparing for these roles, they did immerse themselves in Iraq war-related documentaries and newspaper clippings. “That’s part of the artists’ process you’d never get to see otherwise,” Roy told us when we called him later to ask what makes a Coffee and Conversation event so intimate.
We also heard a little bit about the rehearsal process in general… like, how are you supposed to fake being in love with someone you can’t stand, if a role requires it? “I give myself an acting exercise,” Roy told the audience. “I find something I can play. I might tell myself I’m in love with cotton, and so I become enamored with the cotton shirt she’s wearing.”
Our favorite part was the Q&A from audience members who weren’t afraid to put the cast in the hot seat. “I’ve heard many Oscar winners are egotistical asses,” said one gentleman after the actors had finished talking about how well they all get along, “so I don’t understand what personality has to do with good acting.” Then there was the man who took issue with the amount of profanity in the play… would these professionals really speak this way? “I think these characters love to curse,” Sandy responded. “This is New Jersey, after all.” (We’re happy to hear Roy didn’t take the advice of the theater-goer who suggested, after watching a previous Cape May Stage show, that each F bomb be replaced with the phrase “Oh, fudge bucket.”)
We haven’t seen the show yet, but we’re looking forward to it. We heard some ringing endorsements from the Coffee and Conversation attendees. “It’s the best play yet,” according to Dani and Roger Barnsby of Cape May. “Everything just comes together.” For more information about this show, or upcoming Coffee and Conversation events, call 609-884-1341.