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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Washington's message on the Touro Synagogue

George Washington visited the oldest synagogue in this nation (founded in the 1600s) at Newport, Rhode Island.  His remarks on the Touro Synagogue are a reflection of, and support for, the new Bill of Rights.

“...every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

He wrote this in August 1790.
"For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."
He meant it.  We should mean it, too. 

Happy Hanukkah and blessings to all our countrymen of all faiths.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In the Spotlight 25th Anniversary - Springfield, Massachusetts

Congratulations to founder Shera Cohen and In the Spotlight, Inc., a non-profit agency and website showcasing performing arts reviews and previews, which began as Bravo newspaper, a monthly arts periodical, now celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Press coverage of theatre events is as necessary to the arts as the audience, and without which the performing arts would not have the benefit of thoughtful public discourse, a record of our culture, and a way to connect with the public for support.  In these days of dwindling numbers of newspapers and magazines, and the number of media outlets that provide theatre coverage, In the Spotlight is an important part of the theatre world in western New England.  May In the Spotlight and its staff continue to bring us news of the performing arts for many more years to come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Road to Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts

We're on the road to a new adventure, for the next several weeks at least.  This is an old illustrated postcard of Route 5 running north along the Connecticut River in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  We're on the road to Mt. Tom.

The mountain hosted on its wooded slopes an interesting variety of inhabitants over the decades: a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, a ski area, an amusement park, a series of summit houses...and a summer playhouse.

This theater and its various players from vaudeville, to operetta, to recent Broadway hits in drama and comedy, is the subject of my latest book: Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain - 70 Years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The book will be released in the coming weeks. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Front page news - in Westfield, Massachusetts

A close-up of two of my books on the shelf at Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield, Massachusetts, along with a notice about my upcoming visit to the bookstore on Saturday, December 3rd.

On November 16th, the local daily paper, The Westfield News, featured an article on my upcoming meet-and-greet at the store by Lori Szepelak.  That it made the front page of the paper was an special kick for me, for, as I mentioned in the interview, I used to write a weekly column for this newspaper over thirty years ago when I was a senior at Westfield State College (now Westfield State University).

I'm looking forward to meeting readers and shoppers at Blue Umbrella Books, where all my books will be available for sale and signing.  Blue Umbrella Books is located at 2 Main Street, Westfield, right in the center of town on the common.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Author at Blue Umbrella Books -- Westfield, Massachusetts

I will be signing books and visiting with readers and shoppers at Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield on Saturday, December 3rd from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Blue Umbrella Books, located at 2 Main Street, Westfield, Mass., right on the common, carries all my books, which will be available for sale and signing.  Please stop by and chat if you have the time.
Or start your holiday shopping.
Today I'll also be giving at talk on my book Movies in Our Time: Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century for the Women's Clubs -- Presidents' Club of Massachusetts in Worcester, Massachusetts.  I'm looking forward to visiting with these women who are dedicated to service to our communities.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Susan B. Anthony - Massachusetts Girl

Susan B. Anthony would have loved to have voted in this election.  She fought hard for the right for women to vote.  She was a Massachusetts girl.  Have a look at our previous post here on the Susan B. Anthony birthplace in the western Mass. town of Adams, now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Many leave their "I voted" stickers on her headstone at her grave in Rochester, New York. 

Go vote for president today.  She never got to.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ivoryton Playhouse - Play based on the life of Rosemary Clooney - Ivoryton, Connecticut

NOW PLAYING - a new play at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut, based on the life of Rosemary Clooney, called TENDERLY, THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL:

From the press release:

By Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman
America's favorite girl singer comes to life on stage in this exhilarating and inspiring musical biography. TENDERLY, THE ROSEMARY CLOONEY MUSICAL is not a typical "juke-box musical." It offers a fresh, personal, and poignant picture of the woman whose unparalleled talent and unbridled personality made her a legend. With signature songs woven in and out, we learn the story of her successes on film, radio, and TV, as well as her struggles in her personal life.

For tickets or more info, have a look at the Ivoryton Playhouse website here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Arsenic and Old Lace - A Connecticut Murder Mystery Plays Out - Windsor, Connecticut

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) is based on a true story.  In this season of Halloween, we note that the daffy and macabre comedy with malevolent roots was first a play, which still haunts professional and community theatre stages across the country.  It is an American theatre classic.  The true story is much more macabre, and only slightly less daffy.

It happened in the small town of Windsor, Connecticut, just north of Hartford.  One hundred years ago, a woman ran a private nursing home in her house, and was investigated for the murder of five of her residents, and was eventually convicted.  It’s possible she may have murdered more than forty people in all—with arsenic.

Born in the town of Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1873, Amy Duggan went to the New Britain Normal School in 1890, and taught at the Milton School in Milton, Connecticut.  She married James Archer in 1897.  In 1901, the couple was hired to care for an elderly widower in his home in Newington, Connecticut, and when he died in 1904, his heirs turned the home into a boarding house for elderly, with Amy and James Archer in charge.  They called the business “Sister Amy’s Nursing Home for the Elderly.”

In 1907, the house was sold, so “Sister” Amy and husband James moved to Windsor, bought another house and opened the Archer Home for Elderly People and Chronic Invalids.  Residents paid for room and board and also medical attention if they required that, frequently signing over insurance policies to Amy for payment, and so she could manage their final expenses when they died.

More than twenty residents died in the first four years of operation, most from gastrointestinal complaints that would kill them within days—or hours.  Poor Mr. Archer also succumbed suddenly, his death listed as kidney disease.  “Sister” Amy would discreetly have the bodies buried immediately so as not to upset the other residents. 

Dr. Howard King, the medical examiner for Windsor, was also the house physician for the rest home.  He apparently wrote out the death certificates and minded his own business.  Business was good. 

“Sister” Amy had a pattern of buying arsenic, nearly a pound at a time—to kill rats, she said— which was usually followed by the death of another resident.  When neighbors, and then reporters, started raising questions about all this, Amy declared she was the victim of a conspiracy.  Her righteous indignation was enough to quiet things down a bit, because she would not be charged with murder until five years later—after many more people died.

In the summer of 1913, Amy married a new resident to the home—Michael Gilligan, a 57-year-old man who was divorced and had a hefty savings account.  Early in 1914, her new husband drafted new will leaving his estate to her—and just in time, too, for he was dead two days later.   He died of “indigestion.”

The late Mr. Gilligan had adult children from his previous marriage.  They joined the growing ranks of neighbors, reporters, and eventually the state’s attorney, who were becoming suspicious of Amy’s home cooking.  More residents were killed, however, by May 1916 when the crime spree was finally ended by official investigation.

It had started quietly when a female undercover private eye working for the Connecticut State Police, moved into the rest home at the end of 1914.  She managed not to ingest any arsenic, and the evidence she gathered was enough to arrest Amy in May 1916 and bring her to trial.  Now, that lady private eye is a character that would make a great movie. 

Amy went on trial in June 1917 for the five murders that could be proven, when the bodies were exhumed and discovered to be full of arsenic.  Among them was Franklin R. Andrews, who was regarded as apparently healthy, but who fell ill on the morning of May 29, 1914, and was dead by evening.  His death was the only proven count of murder that convicted Amy Archer-Gilligan.  Her only child, her daughter Mary, testified that her mother was addicted to morphine.  The jury found Amy guilty of murder in the first degree.  She was sentenced to be hanged.

But, wait a minute.  The governor granted a stay of execution until her case could be heard by the state Supreme Court of Errors, and then a second trial was scheduled, but her defense team plea bargained, and Amy was found guilty of murder in the second degree by reason of insanity—the sentence for which was life imprisonment. 

First sent to the old state prison in Wethersfield (no longer in existence), in 1924 she was transferred to the Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, a state institution for the criminally insane.  She was assigned to work in the cafeteria.  One hopes she wasn’t allowed to season the food.  Amy Archer-Gillian died of natural causes at 89 years old in April 1962. 

In 2014, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that nearly 200 pages of documents related to the medical and psychiatric treatment of Amy Archer-Gilligan were to remain sealed, considering them not to be public records.  This hampered the plans of at least one writer to examine this material for a new book on Mrs. Archer-Gilligan and her infamous crimes.

Another writer, years ago, was equally fascinated.  New York playwright Joseph Kesselring, following the case as had a shocked America, rewrote the story into a comedy.  Arsenic and Old Lace was a smash on Broadway from 1939 to 1944, and then made into the popular 1944 movie with Cary Grant and Josephine Hull, who played Abby Brewster, recreating the role she originated on Broadway.

One of the features of the play—beloved by community theatre groups for this alone—is that many of the little old ladies’ victims emerge for a “bow” at the end of the show—these non-speaking roles are usually taken by members of the community, usually ten or so people.  Many a town mayor or favorite teacher has emerged from the “cellar” as a murder victim to take a bow.

Considering how many victims were probably actually murdered by Amy Archer-Gilligan, this bit of black humor is gruesome, indeed.

Note: The above ad for The Valley Players production of Arsenic and Old Lace is from my forthcoming book to be published later this year on summer theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts.  More on that to come.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blue Umbrella Books - Westfield, Massachusetts

A new independently owned bookstore has opened up in Westfield, Massachusetts.  You can find Blue Umbrella Books at 2 Main Street on the common, and you can find my books there as well.

Here's their website, and have a look here at their Facebook page.  The store is open Tuesday through Sunday, and is a great spot for author events.

I'll be featured on Saturday, December 3rd, for a meet and greet and signing and chatting from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.  More about that later.

Until then you can stop in and purchase my books, and find a great variety of other books in every genre.  Few bookstores are as welcome to independent authors and artisans--Blue Umbrella Books is a rare gem.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review of States of Mind: New England

My thanks to John Greco for his kind review of my book States of Mind: New England on his blog. Have a look here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Berkshire Theatre Group - New Play - Stockbridge, Massachusetts

The Berkshire Theatre Group has launched a new play called The Bakelite Masterpiece that will be at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for the next three weeks.  The subject matter (which, by coincidence, I used as a plot device in my mystery novel Whitewash in the Berkshires, published earlier this year) involves a fascinating art forgery in Europe at the end of World War II.  Here is the synopsis from the press release:

The Unicorn TheatreThursday, September 29-Sunday, October 23 

After a critically acclaimed World Premiere at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Canada, Berkshire Theatre Group and WAM Theatre are joining forces to present the American Premiere of The Bakelite Masterpiece

It's the end of World War II, and Holland is in chaos. The artist Van Meegeren is arrested. His crime? Selling a long-lost painting by the Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer to the Nazi Leader, Hermann Goering. His defense? It was a perfect forgery painted by him. His proof? In front of his prosecutor Geert Piller, art historian and resistance fighter, he must paint another flawless Vermeer to save his life. The Bakelite Masterpiece is a play that debates beauty, faith, memory and the reconstruction of a country.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Big E 100th Anniversary - West Springfield, Massachusetts

The Eastern States Exposition, or Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts, New England's Great State Fair is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  Above is just one blast from the past exhibit, but there's more.

And also on hand are a few of the usual suspects:

There's still another week to go! For more info, have a look at this website.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Books at the Library - Springfield, Massachusetts

Recently, a kind person made a comment on a Facebook post that she had requested her library to purchase a copy of my book on the career of actress Ann Blyth - - Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.  I am very grateful to her.

While many authors get a thrill from seeing their books on bookstore shelves, most bookstores around the country will not carry the books of self-published authors.  Sometimes those in the minority that do will require a fee from the author above their cut of the sale just for giving the book shelf space. 

But libraries, that most egalitarian bastion of learning in our society, do give self-published authors a place at the table.  It is an even bigger kick for some of us to have our book on the shelf of a public library among older, established, even worn books, knowing they are joining the ranks of a literary heritage to which we aspire -- than to have them placed in competition with current best sellers.  A competition most of us self-published authors lose.

These photos are books of mine to be found at the Springfield (Massachusetts) City Library.  The Ann Blyth book is in the biographies section.

Here in the fiction section is my novel, Meet Me in Nuthatch.

It's a kick to have three of them in a row.

I love libraries.  It's humbling when they seem to love you back.

My deepest thanks to the Springfield City Library, and to any public libraries that carry my books. 

For libraries interested in obtaining my books in paperback, please contact the printer, Create Space for a selection of my self-published books. They sell to the general public, but also offer a special rate for libraries and resellers.

Also available in paperback at Amazon.

It's a big book.  It sticks out.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


SPEAK OUT BEFORE YOU DIE - 2nd book in my "cozy mystery-noir-romance" series is currently FREE for the eBook, today and tomorrow, August 31st. Take at look over at Amazon and download your FREE copy.

The series is set in New England in the post-World War II era, a world in flux, where our centuries-old cities were being sliced through with super-highways, where city dwellers were moving to a place that used to be farmland and now was called suburbia.  Even in a place as old as New England, there was newness -- and it was sometimes very strange, especially for a guy like Elmer Vartanian, who had spent seven years in prison. 

The second in the “Double V Mysteries” series reunites wealthy Juliet Van Allen and ex-con Elmer Vartanian on New Year’s Eve, 1949. Guests are gathered in a snowbound Hartford, Connecticut, mansion for the wedding of Juliet’s widowed father to an elegant younger woman just after the clock strikes midnight. When Juliet finds what appears to be a threatening note directed at her father, she calls Elmer to pose as a hired servant to help ferret out the danger…but midnight is approaching and time is running out. There may be murder as the old year dies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Race Rock Light

Photo by J.T. Lynch

Race Rock Light is on dangerous reef southwest of Fishers Island, south of the Connecticut coast. New England has its share of dangerous waters, and our many lighthouses dotting the coast give testament to this area being one of the so-called “graveyards” of the Atlantic for the number of shipwrecks over the years.  In just one year alone, 1837, eight ships were lost on Race Rock reef, where the tide forces the current with great power.

Photo by J.T. Lynch

Some believe Race Rock Light to be haunted, which perhaps presents another kind of danger, but that’s another story.

Photo by J.T. Lynch

It was built in the 1870s, and just the rock ledge which forms its foundation took seven years to construct. The Fresnel lens was automated in 1978.  It is currently maintained by the New London Maritime Society.

Photo by J.T. Lynch

Have a look at this website for more information and some fascinating lore about the Race Rock Light.
Photo by J.T. Lynch

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Eugene O'Neill Statue - New London, Connecticut

JT Lynch Photo

The boy sits on the gray boulder by the City Pier, looking out into the harbor. A poignant figure immortalized as a statue, he will forever be a child on this spot.

He is Eugene O’Neill, and the spot is New London, Connecticut. One of America’s finest playwrights, and a Nobel laureate in literature, O’Neill spent his summers here until 1915.  His father, actor James O’Neill, took a house on Pequot Avenue, and called it Monte Cristo Cottage, a few years before Eugene was born in the late 1880s. 

JT Lynch Photo

The figure wears the lace-up boots, the diminutive cap of a child of the late nineteenth century. He is alone, a boy with much on his mind, who perhaps needs the solitude.

Much has been written of Eugene O’Neill’s troubled family—he wrote much of that himself—and there is a seriousness in the expression of the statue that indicates perhaps burdens too heavy for a child to carry, that the man will continue to shoulder the rest of his life.

JT Lynch Photo

It is believed that O’Neill wrote two of his plays here in New London, the rare comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, and the dark tragedy based on his own family, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Not only did he write them here, but New London is the setting for those stories.

JT Lynch Photo

What is he writing on the pad of paper in his lap?  Is he drawing the boats on the harbor, or as he looks beyond the mouth of the Thames River, does he seem some less bleak future out towards Long Island Sound?

Is he taking notes on his own future?  He is not at play.

JT Lynch Photo

The statue was unveiled in 1988, some 35 years after O’Neill’s death (Monte Cristo Cottage was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971).  The sculptor is Norman Legassie. The image is based on a photograph of young Eugene by Nikolas Mury.

Nikolas Mury Photo

The bronze has tarnished to green, but the compelling, enigmatic expression remains.

JT Lynch Photo

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Mass. - Calling for Interviews

Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain:

70 years of Summer Theatre on Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Massachusetts

By Jacqueline T. Lynch

1895-1930s: Vaudeville and operetta
1930s WPA Theatre
The Pioneer Valley Drama Festival - 1940
The Valley Players – 1941 – 1962
Casino-in-the-Park 1963
Mt. Tom Playhouse – 1964-1965

I'm currently writing a book on theatre on Mt. Tom - from the late 1800s to 1965.  I'd to interview anyone with connections to The Valley Players, or the Mt. Tom Playhouse -  actors, staff, ushers, or members of the audience with any memories they’d like to share.  I hope to have the book out by the end of the year.

Jacqueline T. Lynch at write to:

PO Box 1394

Chicopee, MA 01021.

I’d be happy to interview you in person (in the western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut area) , or over the phone, at your convenience.    You can also just drop me a note with anything you have to say, if you’d rather not be interviewed, but please include your name.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cape Playhouse Celebrates 90th Season - Dennis, Massachusetts

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts is celebrating its 90th season this year.

Founded in 1927, it was the workplace, and for many, a training ground, for so many famous stage and screen actors. 

Have a look at this previous post on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog on Ruth Gordon's impressions of performing at the Cape Playhouse in the 1930s.

Here is the remainder of the 2016 season:

Book, Music & Lyrics by Meredith Wilson
July 5-23, 2016

by Molly Smith Metzler
July 26-August 6, 2016

Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb
August 9-20, 2016

by Agatha Christie
August 23-September 3, 2016

Congratulations to this historic playhouse, with a fond wish for many more seasons to come. See their website for more info.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Big Band Swinging in Springfield, Massachusetts

JT Lynch photo

The joint was jumping on Saturday night at for the Springfield Armory Reunion and commemoration of  the 1943 Benny Goodman concert that was held on the Armory grounds. The war workers got a special treat that day in 1943, and so did the visitors to the Springfield Armory National Historic site when Dan Gabel and the Abletones recreated a 1940s Big Band concert.

It was fantastic.

Though inclement weather drove the concert indoors this year (it’s usually an outdoor celebration), and while unfortunately, band leader Dan Gabel was not in attendance, the show was a delightful success.

The orchestra delivered a variety of peppy ditties, slow romantic ballads, and jubilant jazzy hits of the golden age of the big band era that moved some to dance, some to sing, and all to marvel at the excellence of this tight group of musicians.

Their vocalist (in the old days it was “girl singer”) is Elise Roth, who looked the part in a period gown, rhinestone necklace and bracelet, bold lipstick, and her hair coiffed appropriately. More than illusion, the most exciting and charming aspect of her performance is that she sang in the style of the 1940s big band songstresses.  This is an attention to detail that is worth noting and marveling over; for this is not mere mimicry, but a demonstration of educated interpretation of a music genre that is intricate and complicated.  Ms. Roth has her roots not only as a jazz vocalist, but also as a classical vocalist, who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Dan Gabel, whose knowledge and appreciation of big band music is something wonderful, has gathered into this 18-piece orchestra colleagues, friends, and former students like a pied piper (he plays the trombone himself), and he clearly picks only the best. Craig Robbins, recent magna cum laude graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, plays jazz trombone and also sang two numbers, the lovely ballad, “The Way You Look Tonight,” and the swinging, “The Lady is a Tramp.”  Jim Gancarz, drummer, belted out the beautiful, “Berkeley Square” (“boy singers”), and did a mean Gene Krupa imitation throughout on the drums.

These three singers are young, as, indeed are most of this orchestra, and if the first surprise is seeing young people so gloriously talented, so knowledgeable, and so comfortable performing this music which has ceased to hit the popular music charts a couple of generations ago—the second surprise is suddenly realizing their age doesn’t matter.  It’s the music that matters, and they drew a standing ovation from the crowd last Saturday for their truly thrilling musicianship.

JT Lynch photo

John Clark on bari sax and clarinet took on the role of leader and emcee in Dan Gabel’s absence, and he provided humor, and a pleasant ease of guiding the audience, as much as the musicians, from one song to the next.

I was especially looking forward to this event because I’ve followed Dan Gabel and his bands (he also helms the High Society Orchestra which plays music of the 1920s), and always hoped to have an opportunity to catch one of their gigs—which play mostly in the eastern part of the state.  Having him come out to western Massachusetts and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site was a joy, and I was determined not to miss it.  I’ll remember it for a long time to come.

You can learn more about Dan Gabel and the Abeltones here at the website, and at the Facebook page. The orchestra has also produced some CDs.  Look for his upcoming events here.

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