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February 7, 2013

Art meets life on city waterfront

Stage to feature piece rooted in fishing's fall

With the fishing industry in a deep, downward spiral, a fish packing plant on the Gloucester waterfront is shutting down, leaving a longtime workforce, largely female, high and dry in the docks.

That scenario, the focal point of a theatrical work by Gloucester playwright Israel Horovitz, could easily be playing out on the docks today, with Gloucester’s groundfishermen facing unprecedented limit cuts of up to 77 percent in Gulf of Maine cod for the new fishing year that begins May 1. Yet it was written by Horovitz in 1986, when his “North Shore Fish” made its world premiere at the Gloucester Stage Company.

This summer, art will once again imitate life, when – with the fishing industry again in crisis — Horovitz’s “North Shore Fish” will be played out at Gloucester Stage amid a season that also includes the classic “Driving Miss Daisy.” (see more coverage and full schedule, Page 9).

“It’s as Gloucester as Gloucester gets,” Gloucester Stage Artistic Director Eric Engel said of “North Shore Fish,” which will run over the course of three weeks from July 18 through Aug. 4. “It doesn’t – and couldn’t — get anymore Gloucester than this.”

Yet while Engel recognizes the social and economic relevance of the piece, he concedes that wasn’t the primary reason for choosing to present it this year — literally debuting 2 1/2 months into what many expected to be a dire season for commercial groundfishing and fresh cod being landed on Gloucester’s Inner Harbor.

“I chose it primarily because I think it is a really terrific play,” said Engel, who also serves as manager/director of Harvard University’s Sanders Theater/Memorial Hall in Cambridge. “The fact that is about what it is about is a bonus.

“It’s the piece from (Horovitz’s) cannon of work that’s deserving or revival,” Engel added, “and that’s what we’re looking to do — all the while presenting a work that is timely and relevant as well.”

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