Arts Quarter Sails
Award-winning actor Glenn Close was the star of the dedication of the William & Mary Arts Quarter, a massive reconfiguration of Phi Beta Kappa Hall into a half dozen buildings interconnected.
Before several hundred alumni and guests in the new PBK, Close expressed heartfelt gratitude for their support, tearing up at one point from the emotion of it. “I spent 17 years in a cult,” she said in her opening. “I arrived here at William and Mary at the age of 22 and blossomed. I learned what it’s like to be in a theater community.”
Close has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, most famously for “Fatal Attraction” in 1987. At 76, she is considered one of America’s most renowned actresses.
She recounted the joy of taking classes in acting, singing, set design and voice. “I was as high as I could possibly be. And then came Chemistry!” The audience roared with laughter. To convey that she got a well-rounded education in the liberal arts, she noted, “In an honors course, I found that for 30 seconds I actually understood the theory of relativity.” More laughter.
Close brought her small dog with her, and it upstaged W&M President Catherine Rowe by occupying her seat when Rowe spoke on stage.
The W&M Arts Quarter opening celebrates the Year of the Arts at the college. Rowe said the first stage production will be Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” which debuted PBK when it opened in 1957. She said W&M’s theater program is the oldest college program in the nation.
Rowe thanked the legislators in the audience for $128 million to help build the Arts Quarter. At least another $100 million came from private donors and alumni. The development effort led to the firing of Aaron DeGroft, who famously headed up the Muscarelle Museum and promoted two showings of DaVinci drawings.
The Arts Quarter was plagued by delays that included the firing of at least one contractor. PBK is the showcase theater. From the W&M website: “Theater and dance performance spaces in PBK include the 492-seat main stage theater, 250-seat studio theater, 100-seat lab theater and 60-seat dance recital theater. The building features spaces for recital, rehearsal and dance as well as scenic design and construction lab spaces, costume construction and conservation areas, media and design labs, dressing rooms and assorted acting labs, classrooms and seminar rooms. It also contains faculty offices and a departmental library.”
Then there is the Music Building: “Instruction, rehearsal and performance will all be greatly enhanced by the music department’s movement from Ewell Hall into the new Music Building. Amenities include a 450-seat concert hall, 125-seat recital hall, choral rehearsal space and a recording studio. The facility also includes an electronic music lab, keyboard lab and digital projects lab, as well as space for instrumental rehearsal, a specialized percussion studio, historic keyboards and a new pipe organ. Additionally, the building includes storage, faculty studios, classrooms and practice spaces.”
To recap the buildings: ‘The Department of Theatre & Dance will be located in PBK Memorial Hall while the Department of Music will be housed in the new Music Building. The growing Arts Quarter also will include The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Arts, which will open in fall 2024 and serve as the home to the expanded and renovated Muscarelle Museum of Art. The quarter’s existing Andrews Hall is home to the Department of Art & Art History and its Andrews Gallery.”
As big as it is, the Arts Quarter is not likely to offer space to any community projects. The Williamsburg Area Performing Arts Center spent 15 years organizing a grass-roots endeavor, but it never gained traction for construction.
A couple from Alabama went sailing while vacationing in Williamsburg. Jerry and Harlee Smith are technical writers, so we regaled each other over grammar gaffes, EM dashes and semicolons. Harlee has a PhD in English lit, and her dissertation was on the Oxford comma.
We transitioned the Coleman Bridge and tacked upwind to see the Navy sub in port. Afterward, we heard an open conversation on marine radio Channel 16 between the sailing vessel Moxie and the US Coast Guard Hampton Roads, in Portsmouth.
Moxie: Coast Guard, I’m calling to report flares.
CG: What is your position?
Moxie: Off of Mobjack Bay, near New Point Comfort.
CG: What do you have eyes on?
Moxie: Two flares, and people in the water, perhaps from a kayak. Wait, here comes a helicopter.
CG: How many people?
Moxie: Can’t tell, maybe two. I’m nearing the site, and there’s a motorboat arriving. Trying to reach the boat, but it doesn’t have a radio, or doesn’t have it turned on.
(Meanwhile, Sea Tow piped up that it was proceeding to the site to assist.)
CG: Do you have mobile phone we can contact you on?
Moxie: Wait. They’re telling me it’s an Air Force rescue exercise for downed pilots.
CG: We will contact them. Thank you.
With that, we arrived near the Navy sub at NWS Yorktown and took photos of the loading process.
On a brisk afternoon, we sailed with a couple getting married next July and their wedding photographer. The idea was to get shots in preparation for the big day.
Daniel Mullen and Clare Mundy looked radiant in the setting sun. She’s a newly minted pediatric physician in Portsmouth, and he’s a newly minted Navy pilot at Oceana NAB flying a C-40.
“That’s really a 747 to take passengers around the country,” he said before we got to the photos. Last week I had a busy time flying Navy SEALs out to San Diego, then more SEALs to Colorado, and then the support crew of the Thunderbirds back to the East Coast. We got a photo of the Thunderbirds with me in it to show my mom.”
The SEALs consisted of two chocks or teams of eight each, plus equipment. “We loaded up several tons on pallets and rolled them right into the freight bay.”
Dan spent ten years flying Navy helicopters, amassing 2,200 hours in the air. “The toughest part is landing on a Navy ship because it’s moving forward while pitching and yawing at sea. We rush to get 8 or 10 feet off the deck and then slowly try to come down without crashing.”
Women enjoy sailing today more than ever, and particularly a romantic cruise. Couples get to enjoy a romantic getaway as they sit up on the bow for privacy, and Let’s Go Sail provides professional photos for free. First-time or skilled mariners are welcome to sail a modern-32-foot sailboat in a unique setting of wildlife and Fall foliage or Spring bloom. It makes for an extraordinary anniversary idea.
Big Wind Sail
A couple from nearby West Point took her parents sailing while they were visiting from Utah. We sailed across to Yorktown to see an American Cruise Line ship that pulled in the previous evening. Without any prior training, Lynzee Spesert did a magnificent job on the helm as she navigated in 15-18 mph winds under the bridge and out to the Navy sub. On the way back, we opened up the jib to halfway and surfed home.
Pat and James said their little city of St. George is growing too quicky. “People are fleeing California in droves. We’re building 8,000 homes without the infrastructure to sustain it. Not enough water, since we’re in the tenth year of a drought. Not enough schools or roads, either. The local government is led by developers, and they just want to built out and move on.”
I casually asked Lyn’s husband Kelly what he did for a living. “I drive a monster truck – bus actually. It’s part of an attraction in Clermont, Florida. We load up 30-35 people and drive them through the orange groves and swamps to see the countryside. And the alligators. The tires are six feet tall, so we can go just about anywhere.”
From the website of the Monster Truck Adventure: “The Showcase of Citrus’s Park Rangers drive guests aboard monster trucks into the vast Florida Outback. Guests will explore Native Woodlands, Citrus Groves, and Bigfoot territory. Be sure to keep a sharp eye out for Giant Bigfoot, Wood fairies and Friendly Gnomes! Passengers who purchase animal feed buckets will also get to feed exotic animals, like zebras, bison, water buffalo, and others.”
Let’s Go Sail the Arts Quarter
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The best Williamsburg boat tour offers safe “social distance sailing” daily for up to 6 people. It’s an extraordinary experience for couples. Leave your worries behind. Enjoy the thrill of moving with the wind without a care in the world. Put life back on an even keel with a romantic experience for a birthday or anniversary. 3-hour sailboat cruise as a semi-private yachting charter lets you exhale and relax as you enjoy comfort, stability and speed.
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