New Face In Town
CAPE May Stage will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year… a time to look back on all that the professional equity theater has become. We can be proud of the 1853 church turned state-of-the-art venue that is the Robert Shackleton Playhouse, the Broadway talent which makes its way here every season, the education and outreach programs which immerse local children in the beauty of the arts, and the fact that all of this exists in our own backyard. With so many feathers in the caps of those responsible for this Cape May gem, it would be easy, one would think, for complacency to creep in. Not that we advocate for any organization resting on its laurels, but this non-profit does have a great deal of them on which to rest. And yet, the attitude at Cape May Stage is less nostalgia for the past, and more excitement for the future. This week, we sat down with Jon Wojciechowski, the new Executive Managing Director at Cape May Stage. Crossword-doer, zombie aficionado, and nationally-renowned expert on marketing and development, he’s got heaps of fresh ideas for this little theater by the sea, as well as the experience needed to see them through.
“It’s an honor for me to come here at this time,” Jon told us. “I really feel like I’m on the cusp of something great. I feel like this is my chance to prove myself.” But prove himself is something Jon has already done.
Beside the short stint where he wanted to become an astronaut, Jon always thought he’d like to be involved with theatre. As a child growing up in New York, he participated in community and regional productions. “ I was a terrible actor,” he said. “I had this habit of rocking back and forth. They used to have another kid sit behind me in rehearsals to hold my legs in the hopes of breaking me of the habit.” But when it came time for college, Jon’s parents forbade him from studying the performing arts. “They wanted me to get a job,” he said. So he went into business instead and, after graduation, joined the marketing department of a friend’s HMO. “That’s how I got into healthcare, which I’ve done for 19 years.”
At the beginning of his career, Jon worked for bigger healthcare systems and hospitals, but this proved frustrating. “I had a lot of theories about marketing and fundraising, but at a really large organization, you have to go through so many layers of approval, and it can take years to change tactics,” he said. So when an opportunity arose to move to Portland, Maine and become the VP of marketing for a much smaller organization, he seized the chance. “I saw it as a laboratory for all of my crazy marketing and development ideas.” Jon said. “In three years, we completely changed the place around. The town went from hating us to loving us.” And this was no small feat, considering his first week on the job, the hospital received a letter from just one of many disgruntled patrons, saying she’d rather “die en route to another hospital than ever be treated there again.”
Jon’s success did not go unnoticed; he’s won 55 national awards for marketing and development, he speaks countrywide on marketing and fundraising policies, and he’s written a book called Marketing Your Mission, slated for publication at the end of 2013. But even this wonderful response to his work could not help him suppress the nagging feeling that healthcare was not his forever job. “Two years ago, I went through an early mid-life crisis,” he said (adding that he’s 46, but doesn’t like to admit it, so his age varies, depending on where you look online). “I figured I’ve got at least another 20, 25 years of work and, actually, I’m not a person who can see myself retiring at all,” he said. “I thought: Why not switch careers?”
And that is how Jon ended up as Managing Director of Portland Stage in Maine and, after having to leave that job in order to deal for an extended time with his deceased father’s estate, at Cape May Stage. “I just want to build on all of the great work the board, the volunteers, [Artistic Director] Roy Steinberg, and the staff have done,” he said, explaining that this process will include more integration with the local arts community, greater use of social media, initiatives that will make the stage more accessible to young audiences, and the implementation of an “aggressive” intern program. “This is key for us,” he said. “Not only do we have a lot we can teach interns, but we have a lot we can learn from young, emerging theatre professionals. They are fresh out of college with fresh ideas, not yet biased by life. They want to know why you can’t just charge five dollars a seat, throw open the doors and have 10 shows a day. They’re coming in with a different perspective, and I find somewhere in the middle is where really great ideas are born.”
In the meantime, Jon is spending his time getting acquainted with Cape May, where he says everyone has been “incredibly welcoming.” He’s been pleased to encounter Bath Time on the Mall (“soap is one of my weaknesses”), but he’s equally happy spending time at home. “I’m a big nerd,” he said. “I like my crossword puzzles. I like to read. I love model railroading. And ghost stories, zombies, and post-apocalyptic stories are my guilty pleasure.”
Another interest? Carpenter’s Gothic architecture. “After Anderson Cooper bought his firehouse and converted it into a home, I thought that would be such a great idea,” Jon said. “So I started Googling, and I found this cute little firehouse that for some reason I thought was on the west coast. Turns out, it’s the one in town here; I stumbled across it my first weekend here, driving around trying to familiarize myself with town. I was stopped at a red light and I said, ‘That’s my firehouse.’ How weird is that? It’s like being here is meant to be.”
Something else that’s looking meant to be? A compelling 2013 season at Cape May Stage, which is currently looking into an additional seventh show. Buy your tickets, Cape May; we’re thinking they’re going to be even hotter than usual.
Getting Fit For The New Year
ACCORDING to the University of Scranton, 45% of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution this year. Because losing weight and staying fit are usually among the top 10 most popular resolutions (number one and five, respectively, last year), we figured we’d get you the skinny on getting skinny in Cape May. As for those of you who are looking to, say, budget your money better (number three), quit smoking (number seven), or fall in love (a veritable afterthought, coming in at number nine!), you’re on your own.
We contacted Mark Chamberlain — co-owner of North Beach Health Club, a level one certified CrossFit trainer, and a certified Olympic lifting trainer — who gave us the run-down on the classes offered at his gym. Or, at least, some of the classes offered here. “We have over 20; you know that, right?” Mark said when we asked him for an explanation of each. No, we did not know that. So here are some of the basics, and some of the misconceptions that surround them:
Yoga, pilates, and Zumba are all good places to begin for, well, beginners, Mark says. And if you’re one of those cavemen who thinks yoga would be an emasculating lady-fest, you’re wrong. “Men and women attend almost equally,” Mark said. “I direct everyone to yoga, even the burlier, stronger guys, right after the holiday.” Part of Mark’s own resolution? Yoga every Sunday. “It takes a lot of core strength.” Once you get a bit more fit, advanced power yoga is also an option.
Also important to know for beginners is not to be scared away by classes which have the same reputation as that bully who used to pummel kids in the schoolyard. “Every class is scaled to your ability,” Mark said. “Whatever’s going on, you don’t have to be stepping as high or kicking as high.” Even in CrossFit, we wanted to know? This is, after all, the class with the rap as the biggest pummeler. “CrossFit is the place I learned how important it is to bring people in at their own pace,” Mark said. “Recently, I had two 63-year-old people who’d just started and a 19-year-old girl in one class. Everyone got a killer workout. Everyone competes against themselves, but it’s a real team effort. No one leaves until the last person is done. It’s a culture of camaraderie.” The regular CrossFit classes are an even-split between guys and gals, but for women who don’t feel comfortable working out in the same room as men, Mark also offers two female-only classes. The focus in each CrossFit? Speed, strength, balance, agility, power, stamina, endurance, coordination, and accuracy, which is a lot of return for your resolution.
Despite what you may have heard, bootcamp isn’t going to be full of Schwarzenegger types, either. “It’s not meant to build tremendous strength,” Mark said. Set up as a circuit complete with 11 to 14 stations, this is a “very challenging cardio workout.”
But let’s say none of these appeal to you, and you’re also not into spin (“This is another world; it tends to attract a die-hard, passionate crowd”), interval training (“It’s a combo of step weights, bands, and functional body movements”), boxing (“This is taught by local professional Chuck Mussachio, and it’s a great way to get out extra aggression”), or the soon-to-be implemented classes geared entirely for larger men and women with a considerable amount of weight to lose. How do you stay trim without a gym? “You lose weight in the kitchen,” Mark said. “You can do all the working out you want to, but if you’re not eating properly, it won’t matter.”
Here are some important myth-busters:
1. “Stay away from anything that says low fat,” Mark says. “It just means the flavor has been substituted with something else, likely more sugar. And if a product says low sugar, look for substitutes like Nutrisweet or aspartame, which become toxic in your body over time. The only thing you can do to avoid sugar is stop eating it.” And you should stop eating it. “Sugar is a killer,” Mark says. “If you have a big belly, you’re eating too much of it.”
2. Restricting calories is “the worst thing you can do,” Mark says. “You should be eating plenty of food,” he told us, “high protein, good carbs, lots of veggies, some fruit. Eating crappy lean cuisines meals never works; you will end up putting the weight back on. Some people do it because they need to fixate on something… it used to be food; now it’s numbers. If you need the fixation, that’s fine. Otherwise, it’s stupid.” Mark instead recommends the Zone Diet or the Paleo Diet (otherwise known as the “caveman diet;” it involves eating nothing our caveman ancestors wouldn’t have had access to) as alternatives. And be sure to make your food ahead of time. “Otherwise,” he explains, “when you get home from work, you’ll be too stinking hungry, and you’ll opt for the bag of potato chips from Wawa.”
3. No need to go crazy with the water. Yes, it’s important, and the more you work out, the more you need, but for some people, Mark says, “it becomes a fetish.” The thirst mechanism is there for a reason.
Mark also recommends, if you’re not a gym rat, hiring a personal trainer who can work to your strengths and show you how to do things the right way, so you’re not wasting your time. (Mark just ran a half-marathon, which he trained for once a week. “If you know how to run properly, you can do it forever,” he told us.)
But no matter where you choose to get fit in 2013 — in the home or the gym — remember that it IS possible to reach your goals. Mark told us about a woman named Ruth, mother of six, who lost 109 pounds in one year, after making her own New Years resolution. “When she started out, she was able to do almost nothing,” Mark said. “She was in the senior class, and she’s only 35.” Now, she does CrossFit, spin, and “all kinds of training” regularly. She’s amazing.” And if this doesn’t inspire you to drop and give us 20, nothing will.
Exit Zero Burns Supper
THERE will be an exciting new twist to the hottest event of Cape May’s winter. On Thursday, January 24, we will be hosting the Ninth Annual Exit Zero Burns Supper at the Ugly Mug. This is our annual homage to the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, which is a sell-out every year. Why the Scottish theme? In case you’re new to this magazine (welcome!), EZ’s publisher is Scottish, so there you have it. It’s good enough reason.
We have people coming from as far as Pittsburgh for this event, and this year, there is even more reason to come. For the first time, we will be making our own haggis! Genius artist, and regular EZ contributor, Victor Grasso is also an excellent cook and he will be working with Ugly Mug chef Gary Romberger and his men in the kitchen to concoct a treat that even the most skeptical of Americans will HAVE to try. Listen folks, we will NOT be cooking it in a sheep’s stomach — that’s old school haggis. No, this dish will be made with ground sirloin from our pals at West Side Market, along with oatmeal and spices. It will be served with turnip freshly pulled from the Exit Zero garden in Cape May, and mashed potato. In other words, an absolute treat!
If you DON’T wish to partake, you can always have the fish and chips. For appetizer, choose from the ridiculously tasty Scotch egg (boiled egg wrapped in sausage and fried) and salad. There is whisky cake for dessert.
And then there are the festivities! As always, the men of the Irish Pipe Brigade will be there, treating us all to a bagpipe jamboree. There will also be poetry recitals and music from some of our favorite local artists.
More than half the tickets have already sold, so get on it! They cost $30 each and proceeds will be donated to the Exit 0 Jazz Festival. You can buy them by calling our store at 609-770-8479 (yes it’s winter, but we are open every single day, 10-5), or by going online to ezstore.us and clicking on Burns Supper. Tickets are the same price as they were the first year — just $30.
Finally, this publication has been very critical of City Hall this year (and in previous years). We will be continuing to hold our elected officials accountable in the coming year(s), but as always we will be working to do our best to promote Cape May. That’s why we’re here! But in the meantime, all we want to do is to wish everyone a wonderful 2013!