, Gloucester, MA

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February 8, 2013

Relevance taking center stage

The announcement by Gloucester Stage Company of its summer schedule this week unveiled a banner 34th season for the company — especially with Annisquam’s own Academy Award nominee, Lindsay Crouse, starring in a production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

But surrounding that classic, two musical works and a Tony Award-winning piece, it’s especially fitting that Eric Engel, the theater’s artistic director, has chosen to present “North Shore Fish,” a 1986 play by Gloucester-based playwright Israel Horovitz set against the backdrop of a closing fish packing plant and the loss of jobs of the women who have worked there, in some cases, all their lives.

The play, pegged to run at Gloucester Stage from July 18 through Aug. 4, is likely to be playing out 2 1/2 months after the May 1 dawn of dire new catch limits on Gulf of Maine cod and other species — all clamped down by NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council based upon questionable stock assessments, thanks to more NOAA research drawn without input from any rank-and-file fishermen. So it will be showing while Gloucester’s fishing fleet and its related waterfront businesses will be grappling with a true “economic disaster” that could even make the existing one — recognized and largely created by NOAA and the Department of Commerce — seem like a relative piece of cake.

Engel says the play’s theme and backdrop were not the sole reasons for his choosing the piece; above all, he says, he chose “North Shore Fish” because he believes it’s a terrific play that should be revived. But the selection also further solidifies Engel’s and Gloucester Stage’s reputation for committing to theater that doesn’t simply entertain, but delivers thought-provoking works that are meaningful and relevant to its audience.

In that vein, the scheduling of “North Shore Fish” reinforces Gloucester Stage’s role not just as an entertainment venue, but as a true community resource. And it’s a resource deserving of widespread community support.

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