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INTERVIEW: Will Pomerantz On Bay Street Theater Presenting Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" Online Via "Literature Live!"

T.J. Clemente

Harris Yulin will star in Bay Street's adaptation of Moby Dick. (Photo: Courtesy Bay Street Theater)

Bay Street's Literature Live! returns this fall with an online theatrical production of Herman Melville's American classic Moby Dick. Literature Live! is a wonderful program for high school students to sample the performing arts, but all are welcome to tune into the virtual presentation. Moby Dick will premiere on November 17 at 8:00 p.m.

Will Pomerantz, the Assistant Artistic Director of the Bay Street Theater - who directed this project, said the 90-minute adaptation "is based on the seminal 1851 Herman Melville novel Moby Dick or The Whale." He explained that this Melville classic tale was skillfully condensed and theatricalized. The show features a versatile ensemble of actors who portray the book's unforgettable characters, including Ishmael, Queequeg, Starbuck, and Captain Ahab.

Pomerantz said, "Herman Melville's Moby Dick is an extraordinary piece of literature and we are going to do what we can do in 90 minutes. We get 90 minutes, that's our limit that we are allowed for this project. I will say, I am excited to work on it for the sake of the students who will get to watch it because I think it will serve as a really nice introduction to the book. They will be thinking about it because I really believe the adaptor, Allen O'Reilly, has really captured the major elements of the book, the feelings and the relationships of these interesting characters."

About the genesis of the project, Pomerantz explained, "For the last multiple years, we at Bay Street have had a fall production which is under the banner Literature Live!. It is meant for high school student who would come in via buses and watch matinee performances during the weekdays and then we would also do public performances in the evenings and on the weekends for the general public who really enjoyed the Literature Live! productions. We always got really nice feedback over the years. Given where we are now and that we can't have people in the theater, the discussion came up should we try to do this online? If so, how would that work? I believe even prior to COVID, Allen O'Reilly did a survey to all the schools we serve with a list of titles and asked the teachers which titles would you most be interested in your students seeing a theatrical adaption of? By far, the first choice was Melville's Moby Dick. We love being responsive so we all wanted to do that, but we all had a moment and asked can we do this? How do you do it? There have been a couple of stage versions done, not a lot, the most famous one is called Moby Dick - Rehearsed, that was created by Orson Welles."

He added, "Under these very challenging circumstances, I am excited that we are able frankly to tell this story in a way I hope will be engaging both to the young people and to our [Bay Street] general audience. I am just excited to have another offering for the people in the community. I am happy to keep making work, to keep being able to collaborate with different artists and give them opportunities. That's all very exciting to me. People are very passionate about the book, so I have no idea how people will receive this. I believe they will like it."

The exciting cast features celebrated actor and East End native Harris Yulin; Broadway and stage stars Dan Domingues, Wonza Johnson, Nehal Joshi, John Kroft, and Trent Saunders; and Bay Street's Director of Education, Allen O'Reilly. The production is adapted by Bay Street Theater Director of Education & Community Outreach, Allen O'Reilly, directed by Bay Street Theater's Associate Artistic Director Will Pomerantz, and features special video effects and editing by Mike Billings, an original score by Michael Holland, and costume design by Meghan O'Beirne.

For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.

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