A Special ‘Harvest Moon’ Rises In Westfield
Seventeen dearly departed Westfield residents came home to talk about their lives and connection to Westfield thanks to Rick Mascaro’s production of Harvest Moon on Sept. 2 and Sept. 6 at the oldest church in Chautauqua County, the First Presbyterian Church.
Mascaro wrote and directed “Harvest Moon” taking the audience through the play as the Spirit Guide. Speaking of the sweet aroma of the Concord grape at harvest time he slowly waved his arms inward inviting the departed to enter the dimly lit sanctuary. Each spirit held a lantern as they appeared to tell their touching and personal life story. As the departed settled in, one by one, behind thinly fabric screens we first heard from Frederick S. Johnson portrayed by Rick Matthews. Mr. Johnson owned and operated the oldest winery in New York state, Johnson Estate Winery. His dogs, Porgy and Bess were always by his side in life as they are in death.
As the spirits shared their stories we came to know former residents or recall their presence on earth in our own lives. Included were Myrtle Stoofler portrayed by Natalie Rutter; Tony Caras portrayed by Mike Rutter; Bill Ross portrayed by John Daily; Kami Riscili portrayed by Alix Rutter; Mary Northup portrayed by Angel Busch; Johnny Foster portrayed by Demian Seger; Dr. Robert Storms portrayed by Ryan Bennett; Joel Hampton portrayed by Charlie Bryant; Esther Bernges portrayed by Carolyn Jayne Lunt; David Baideme portrayed by Isaac Rutter; Billie Dibble portrayed by Laurie Diehl and Chet Jarmolowski portrayed by Randy Henderson.
Joan Mascaro portrayed her beloved mother, Mary Leah. Friends and neighbors came to know Mary as “The Yellow Rose of Texas” being from San Antonio where she first met her husband-to-be, Bob Mascaro while he was stationed in Texas with the US Army. When Mary Leah learned of Westfield little did she know it was not full of skyscrapers and bright lights. Despite this she soon adjusted to her new home in Western New York to raise her family far away from the Big Apple along the shore of Lake Erie and among the aromatic grape vineyards.
In Act Two the audience heard and saw the original Deutschmeister Band portrayed by the entire cast through a black and white photo of original band members appearing on a large overhead screen. They raised their arms as if holding beer steins and sang together, in German … one more time.
Lucy Carlson portrayed by Libby Sciarrino gave the audience insight into the theatrical life of Linda Dunn’s mother. Libby chose to wear one of Lucy’s favorite black feather hats. It truly captured Lucy’s delightful personality.
A favorite memory for our Spirit Guide was remembering vanilla phosphates served at the Olympia owned and operated by Tony Caras who saw the good in all he served. Many of Tony’s “soda jerk” flavored drinks were enjoyed after seeing a movie at the Grand Theatre.
The architecturally beautiful Murray Hill was remembered after being lost to fire several decades ago. Our Spirit Guide reminded us in the written program of what we have done to preserve our historical buildings, but that we have done little to preserve the memory of the actual individuals responsible for who we are today as a town and village. Thanks to Mascaro, this preservation was accomplished through Harvest Moon and in future planned productions.
The final spirit to grace our presence was Joanne Nixon portrayed by Judy Einach who wore her braided hair as Joanne once did, in life, compliments of her daughter, Nancy Nixon.
Hallelujah was sung by Carolyn Jayne Lunt, In the Arms of an Angel by John Daily, Ave Maria by Libby Sciarrino and the entire cast performed We’ll Meet Again as they turned and faced the congregational audience asking all to join them, in song. The performance received a standing ovation.
A special Harvest Moon, indeed.
Harvest Moon was made possible by a grant from the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation.
For information on how the Lakeshore Center for the Arts, contact Rick Mascaro at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lakeshorecenterforthearts.com.