Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ilona Shines in 'Advanced Style'

Ilona Royce Smithkin, a Provincetown treasure, appears in Advanced Style, a delightful documentary
about fashion, style and spirit among women who are turning heads even as they are turning older.
Provincetown's own Ilona Royce Smithkin, at the age of 94, charms the audience as she shares the screen with a number of other stunning women of a certain age, each creating their own fabulous look and sense of style, despite their advancing years. This upbeat documentary is the feature film debut of Lina Plioplyte, who one day discovered the blog Advanced Style by fashion enthusiast Ari Seth Cohen, and she became intrigued by the attitudes of the women she found in Cohen's photographs. The film debuted this past September and was screened in PTown several times during Women's Week.
Cohen's blog had taken shape when he began noticing stylishly dressed older women on the streets of New York City, and began photographing their spirited use of colors, hats, shapes and all sorts of accessories, each one creating an absolutely unique style for herself. He wanted to share his photos and show the individuality and self-confidence these women were exhibiting as they dressed exactly as they pleased, regardless of anyone else's opinions, and as he asked permission to take their photos, friendships began to form with a number of these very independent doyennes of style.
One of these women is Ilona, who divides her time between her Provincetown and New York apartments, spending her summers swimming in Provincetown Harbor and enjoying the view and the sea breeze from the balcony of her third floor, water front Commercial Street apartment in the East End, in the heart of Provincetown's Gallery District. Ilona's distinctive paintings and drawings can be found in the Karilon Gallery, at 441 Commercial Street, on her website Ilona and Friends, in the permanent collection of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and in a number of important private collections. Her work has included landscapes, nudes, still lifes, and portraits of Tennessee Williams, Ayn Rand and a host of other famous subjects.
A renowned artist, teacher, and in the last few years, a chanteuse, Ilona now performs in Eyelash Cabaret, the wildly popular annual PAAM fundraiser, sharing the stage with singer, songwriter and "band in a body" musician Zoe Lewis, who met Ilona many years ago, and wrote a song about her unique eyelashes.
Click this link to find "90 Is The New 40," a Huffington Post article on Ilona written by Ari Cohen in 2011, as Ilona was turning 90, and watch the four-minute video you'll find there. If you don't already know Ilona, you'll fall in love with her on the spot. You'll find out the story behind those eyelashes, too. See more of Ilona, and other strong, stylish women, when you watch Advanced Style, streaming on Netflix, and watch for the DVD to be released at a future date.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

PTown Holiday Displays

Provincetown's Christmas Tree made of lobster traps is built around the giant anchor at Lopes Square.

For a number of years now, the Popko family has been building, and lighting, the "Lobster Pot Christmas Tree" in the heart of Provincetown, on Lopes Square. The now-traditional annual lighting of this huge, festive holiday decoration draws more people every year. This "tree" even has its own Facebook page, and you can watch a video on the building and lighting of the Lobster Pot Tree. Related merchandise is available online, such as the Lobster Trap Pillow, as well as a Provincetown Holiday Photo featuring the "tree," and now there's even an illustrated children's book about it available on the Internet. 
This massive work of art is built around the giant anchor that sits in the center of Lopes Square, using 112 lobster traps, 120 red bows and 46 plastic lobsters. The "tree topper" is made from 58 different lobster buoys, each representing a different lobsterman. All of this is illuminated with some 3400 lights, bringing to life this annual holiday tradition and artistic endeavor that celebrates our seafaring heritage while it reminds us all just how unique Provincetown really is.
There are some wonderful lighting displays found around town as well. You'll want to take a spin down Commercial Street, of course, for all the shop decorations and the moving reindeer display at Seamens Bank, and there are some pretty extravagant spectacles of light to be found in yards on a number of side streets, as well. You'll want to visit Standish Street above Bradford Street, for example, with thousands of lights and over a dozen animated characters. Folks on Conwell Street have really gotten into the holiday spirit with their tremendous lighting displays this year, and a trip through the town will show you a number of others.
The weather tonight and over the next couple of days should be fair, warm and not too windy, so get out and enjoy these festive displays. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Shopping in PTown

Himalayan Handicrafts, a bit off the beaten path, offers lovely handmade items,
as do a number of unique Provincetown workshops, emporiums and boutiques. 
I thought I'd take a quick spin through Provincetown and see how many shops were open for holiday customers, expecting to find a couple of dozen or so. There were 74!
The actual number is probably well over 80, because even as I'm writing this, I can think of a number of others that I hadn't added to the count. For example, I didn't number every shop and artisan's studio in the Whalers Wharf, where you'll find photography, jewelry and all kinds of fetching items handcrafted by local folks, along with a fun assortment of curios, knickknacks and tchotchkes.
There are also many places in town where you can find a lovely gift in a shop that isn't exactly a boutique, like the Provincetown Fudge Factory. Besides their amazing fudge in about a dozen varieties, they also have beautiful handmade chocolates and treats. The Purple Feather comes to mind as well, and what about PAAM? The Provincetown Art Association and Museum has a wonderful array of prints, calendars, books and other things relating to PTown's rich artistic heritage. Great (and certainly unusual) gifts can be found at local thrift stores, like Ruthie's Boutique at 14 Center Street (actually on Bradford Street) or at the Methodist Church on Shank Painter Road, and don't forget all the shops that aren't right on Commercial Street...
A number of Provincetown addresses are confusing, if not downright confounding, like Himalayan Handicrafts, officially listed at 277 Commercial Street, which is one long building on the corner across from Town Hall, stretching all the way down what ought to be called Ryder Street, toward Fisherman's Wharf. Every shop in the building, from the photographer on the corner to the kite shop on the beach, shares that same Commercial Street address. So to find the ever-changing variety of beautiful imported clothing, masks, antiques, musical instruments, jewelry, prayer wells, meditation singing bowls and other treasures at Himalayan Handicrafts, you'll have to walk around the corner, and about halfway down the length of the building, near Cafe Maria, which also shares the address "277 Commercial Street."
The new Artist-Loft, listed at 135 Bradford Street, Unit F, filled with a huge assortment of artist supplies and tools at very reasonable prices, is actually found by walking around the corner, onto Standish Street, and then up the stairs on the far end of the building, to the floor above the dentist's office. Another wacky PTown address.
Just down the street is Recovering Hearts, to feed your more spiritual side, with beautiful gifts, incense, books, art and a lot more, at 4 Standish Street, despite the fact that they share the building with the ice cream shop and the T-shirt store, which each have separate addresses though they are in the same building, while Recovering Hearts shares the 4 Standish Street address with Art's Dune Tours, which is actually found in a separate building up the street, shared with a tiny convenience store. So that pretty much throws all the "rules" about PTown street addresses right out the window.
Anyway, look for terrific shops and boutiques that might be just around any corner, and especially for the ones in little alleyways, or on side streets, footpaths, or boardwalks, or maybe up or down a few stairs, just off Commercial Street. You'll find some wonderful treasures, unusual gifts and holiday delights, along with a number of sales. Be quick, since a few shops do stay open all winter, but many are open just Friday through Sunday at this time of the year. That leaves just enough time for a quick dash around the town to pick up some unique, last minute gifts. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Family Entertainment in PTown

Lewis Carroll's famous tale of a curious young girl called Alice, a Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, a houkah-smoking caterpillar and a waistcoat-wearing rabbit with a pocket watch comes alive on the stage of the Provincetown Theater in Alice in Wonderland, delighting families and audiences of all ages.
The story, adapted for the stage by Bragan Thomas and directed by Provincetown's own Anthony Jackman, follows Alice down the proverbial rabbit hole into a fantastical world of flamboyant characters who are at once outrageous and whimsical, both threatening and enchanting, leading her into a series of adventures becoming "curiouser and curiouser" as Alice chases after that white rabbit.
This terrific play features wonderful local actors, joined by Atte Kekkonen, who has come all the way from Finland to play the part of The Dutchess. Director Anthony Jackman, who's been involved in every aspect of theater production in Provincetown over the last 30 years or so, calls this production "pure community theater at its best." Jackman said "These are local actors, and we've involved as many children as possible. We're teaching children theater as we go."

Kevin Shenk, Paul Halley, Atte Kekkonen, Charlie Roye, Emma Fillion as Alice. Photo by Lynda Sturner.
There's a Sunday matinee today at 3 PM, and another on December 21st as well, with evening performances at 7:30 PM this Thursday through Saturday, the 18th through the 20th of December, 2014. Get tickets online, ranging from $15 (kids) to $25, or at the box office, open from 1 PM till showtime on any show day. A family of at least four people gets a considerable discount, with kids and adults alike admitted for just $12.50 each if you get your family tickets at the box office, at 238 Bradford Street.
Whatever your age might be, pick up your tickets early so you won't miss this great bit of entertainment, and help support family theater in Provincetown.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Outer Cape Chorale 2014 Holiday Season Concerts to be Held Dec 12th thru 14th

The Outer Cape Chorale's 2014 holiday season concert features music from and inspired by Africa.
The Outer Cape Chorale, conducted by Jon Arterton, will perform what I can safely say will be an exciting, amazing holiday concert in Provincetown and Orleans, December 12th through 14th, because this stellar 150 voice choir has never given a performance that wasn't both exciting and amazing! They've tackled musical genres ranging from classical to Broadway, from sacred to singer/songwriter, from Gilbert & Sullivan to the Beatles, and have delighted us at every turn.
Starting out basically as a small choir of friends in 2002, the group has grown to roughly 150 members who travel from all over Cape Cod to sing together and perform to packed houses who eagerly look forward to the Chorale's concerts, performed a few times each year, and tackling a different sort of music with each set of concerts. 
The music, rythms and stories of Africa, accompanied by percussion and keyboards,
will be featured at 7 PM on Friday, December 12th and Saturday, December 13th at Provincetown Town Hall, and at 3 PM on Sunday, December 14th at Nauset Middle School in Orleans. 
Outer Cape Chorale performing at Provincetown Town Hall. Photo by John Gullett, from OCC website.
One of the most remarkable things about these concerts is that each performance is free of charge. To make their music available to absolutely anyone who would like to hear it, the Chorale charges no admission fee, and everyone is welcome to attend. A good will donation will be taken, and part of the proceeds will benefit the Ebola projects of UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.
Make plans to attend at least one of these three performances, guaranteed to fill your heart and feed your soul.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Souper Saturday Benefits SKIP

This beautiful bowl of clam chowder is served at Mac's, and with any luck
we may find it among the choices today at Souper Saturday, at Tin Pan Alley.
One of the great annual events of Holly Folly is Souper Saturday, offering up a huge variety of splendid soups from some of PTown's favorite restaurants.
For a mere five bucks you'll get a terrific bowl of soup, your choice from a number of kettles, with a different variety wheeled out each time one of the choices sells out. So from 11 AM till 4 PM, today only, a bountiful array of bisques, chowders and soups of all kinds will be ladled out for us at Tin Pan Alley, our host for this year's event. They're at 269 Commercial Street, right across from Town Hall, in the heart of Provincetown.
"SKIP" stands for Soup Kitchen In Provincetown, serving delicious, hot, nutritious meals every weekday from November through April, at Provincetown United Methodist Church, 20 Shank Painter Road, from 12:30 to 1:30 PM. People from all walks of life gather to socialize and share a hearty meal, feeling a sense of community in a town where it's easy to feel a bit isolated in the off season. With the vast majority of PTown residents having no opportunity for employment during the winter, many depend on these substantial, tasty meals, and a bit of camaraderie, at the Soup Kitchen. Many folks come just to get out of the house, spend a little time among friends, or meet new people. Everyone is welcome. Volunteers cook and serve around 80 meals on any given day, with the kitchen open regardless of the weather.
Donations of food come from local businesses and individuals, and cash donations are also certainly welcome. The other day a truck from the Lobster Pot rolled up to the church, bringing a load of fresh seafood as they were getting ready to close down the restaurant for the season. So lunch that day was a wonderful soup made with succulent mussels, while shrimp, a few scallops, and a mountain of lobster were all blended with orzo pasta to make a great seafood casserole, served along with veggies and a green salad. Fresh cantaloupe, and a killer blueberry bread pudding, made great desserts.
You can help to support the mission of the Soup Kitchen with a tax-deductible contribution by visiting the SKIP website, and you'll certainly want to make Souper Saturday your destination for lunch today, at Tin Pan Alley. See you there!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Seals Abound in Herring Cove

Dress for a chilly breeze along Herring Cove Beach, where a nice hike might show you seals in the bay.
Race Point Light, and the old lighthouse keeper's cottage, make a great scenic backdrop for your stroll.
I've spent a good bit of time at Herring Cove Beach of late, watching the seals that have been swimming down the shoreline every time I've been there recently. They're tough to get on camera, since they often pop up for just a brief moment to get a breath of air, then dive again, swimming underwater in pursuit of a fat fish or other provender they may find beneath the surface. They may swim just a short distance, or a hundred yards before they bob up for another breath, so it's hard to guess where they'll pop up, and then get the camera zoomed in and focused before they dive again.
That tiny black oval in the center of this photo is the head of a huge seal traversing the length of the beach between Race Point and Wood End lighthouses with a couple of his buddies, who are under water just at this moment. The two companions strolling on the beach haven't seen the seals, but they are likely to spot them when these burly sea mammals surface again and again, looking rather well fed, as they swim toward Wood End on a quest for their supper. Every time I've seen the seals over the last several weeks, they've been swimming in that direction, popping up here and there along the way, sometimes less than 30 feet from shore.
So dress warmly for a walk on the beach, or watch from your car at Herring Cove if the wind chill proves to be too much for comfort. Take your binoculars along with you, and your camera if you're feeling lucky, and behold the seals that seem to be in appreciable abundance as the Provincetown winter draws near.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

PTown Decks the Halls, 2014

Holly Folly, Provincetown's gay and lesbian holiday celebration, is a fun festival for the whole town, with decorations, food, shopping, costumes and a full slate of special events and fundraisers taking place throughout our little village this Friday through Saturday, December 5th through the 7th. Last minute accommodations may be available.
I'll only mention a sampling of these great Holly Folly events in this column, but you'll find the complete Holly Folly schedule listed on the Provincetown Business Guild's website. For example, there will be a number of dance parties at various locations each night, and the annual Snow Ball, Friday night at 10 PM at the A House, will benefit the PBG.
•There'll be a gingerbread house decorating competition, with a $150 gift basket for the winning team.
•There'll be a food fair at Sage Inn, put on by producers of some surprising local specialty foods and treats.
•The Provincetown Art Association and Museum will host an open house with special exhibitions, and will offer small works, along with unusual and creative gifts for the art-lovers in your life.
•The Holly Folly Inn Stroll promises light refreshments and fabulous decorations at more than a dozen inns. One of several free events. Check the schedule for others.
Last year's participants in the first annual Santa Speedo Run. There's still time to register and gather pledges.
•The Santa Speedo Run, a mile along Commercial Street from Fanizzi's to the Crown and Anchor, benefits Cape Cod Firefighters - EMS Cancer Relief Fund. The runners will be treated to a champagne brunch by Barefoot Wines when they reach the Crown. There's still time to Register here and collect your pledges.
•A holiday concert by the Boston Gay Men's Chorus is always a highlight of Holly Folly. Get tickets now, or at the door at Town Hall, 8:30 Saturday night. It's a benefit for the Provincetown AIDS Memorial. A welcome party for the chorus on Friday night at the Shipwreck Lounge offers complimentary snacks.
•Holiday Drag Bingo will be Saturday at 3:30 PM at the Crown and Anchor, and that's bound to be a giggle. Benefits the Cape and Islands division of PFLAG and the PBG.
It's always hard to choose from all those
great soups, so I usually have two.
•The Souper Saturday benefit for Provincetown's excellent soup kitchen will be held at Tin Pan Alley this year, where $5 will buy you a bowl of soup of your choice, provided by a number of great Provincetown restaurants. Last winter, SKIP (Soup Kitchen In Provincetown) provided more than 10,000 meals for PTown and Outer Cape residents, so join us for a bowl (or two) of delicious soup, and get that warm feeling inside as you help out this wonderful nonprofit, and many others, during Holly Folly.