Volume 12, Issue 49 ~ December 2 - December 8, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Fade to Black in Chesapeake Country
Chesapeake Music Hall Takes Final Bow

When the stage lights go down at Chesapeake Music Hall December 26, tears will flow along with applause.

No one is happy when a show closes. But on the night after Christmas the lights dim not only on the show but also for the Music Hall itself.

Chesapeake Music Hall’s 10-year life spanned thousands of nights with 42 major shows plus children’s productions, jazz, piano and Elvis nights.

“We had good times and bad times,” said Music Hall owner Sherry Kay of her decision to end her dinner theater company’s decade-long run. “It was a roller coaster.”

In many ways, recent months were a good time.

“Our shows were excellent, our marketing and group sales were doing the best we could, we had [perennial favorite actor] David Reynolds and a new chef in kitchen,” Kay said.

But it was always a struggle to finance the company that was for many years the area’s only professional theater.

“I didn’t take pay for several years,” Kay says. “I made sure everyone else got paid.”

“Chicago could have run for a year” at Chesapeake Music Hall, said the theater company’s owner Sherry Kay, pictured at left from Hello Dolly. “In hindsight, I wish we’d kept it.”
Only ticket sales paid the bills. Finally, Kay said, “Not enough people came to see our shows.

Why Chesapeake Music Hall’s audience failed them, nobody knows for sure.

“Performing arts is a risky business,” explained Linnell Bowen, executive director of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. “If you don’t bring in new audiences, you fail. But what the public wants to see? You never know.”

That was Kay’s experience.
“Chicago could have run for a year,” she said. “In hindsight, I wish we’d kept it. But for Joseph And His Technicolor Dreamcoat, people stayed away in droves.”

The losses of that show, which played in May and June of 2004, helped close Chesapeake Music Hall doors.

So, perhaps, did the drawn-out repairs on the Bay Bridge. “It could be location,” Kay surmised. “With the bridge under construction, cars were backed up to Annapolis some nights.”

Larger forces also played their parts.

“In this day and age of electronics, kids sit in front of their Play Stations,” Kay said. “Do people come out for live theater anymore? I don’t know.”

Bowen agreed that audiences are increasingly hard to draw.

“Audiences are aging,” she said. “Orchestras are going out of business all across the country. Youthful audiences are one of the things we’re going for.”

Kay wanted shows that would draw younger audiences, shows like The Full Monty, but licensing agreements stood in her way.

“It’s frustrating to not be able to put your thumb on what it is,” mourned Kay the week of the decision to close. “Finally, the cogs did not fit in the right slot.”

With this drama’s ending, more passes than a dinner theater — or even the dreams of Kay and her stalwart troupe.

“We’re diminished as a community,” Bowen said. “A healthy community has lots of art.”

—Louis Llovio

All’s Fair in Love, War and Football

Army and Navy renew their 105-year-old rivalry on the gridiron

Rivalries are the lifeblood of college football, and as rivalries go, none is bigger than Army versus Navy, who face off for the 105th time Saturday, December 4.

As often as these teams have met and as similar as the paths their students follow after graduation, the two programs are headed down different roads.

Army, under first-year head coach Bobby Ross — who led the San Diego Chargers to a Super Bowl in 1994 — stumbles into Philadelphia 2–8. The upstart Midshipmen — enjoying their second back-to-back winning season since 1978-’79 — come in at 8–2, headed toward their second straight bowl game.

A Navy victory in the game will mean the Commander in Chief trophy — awarded to the winner of the Army–Navy–Air Force Academy series — will reside for a second year in Annapolis. What’s more, beating Army would give Navy its first nine-win season since 1963.

As big as the victory would be for Navy, it would be bigger for Army.

Navy coach Paul Johnson, a coach-of-the-year candidate, understands that despite their record, Army can make this game the launching pad for future success.

That’s what propelled Navy out of its slump in 2002. “We got our second win in the last game,” Johnson says of his 2002 team that beat Army to close out his first season as head coach. “There’s no question we had momentum and built on it.”

Navy Coach Paul Johnson, top, hopes to topple rival Army at Saturday’s 105th matchup between the two military academies. Leading the Mishipmen’s charge are quarterback Aaron Polanco, opposite, second in the nation for rushing yards and touchdowns, and fullback Kyle Eckle, above, a top NFL draft candidate.
Since that fateful day in 2002, the Mids have gone 16–7. In the last two meetings with Army, Johnson’s Navy squads have outscored their archrivals 92–18.

Navy’s recent success means a bigger target for Army to shoot at. Derailing a rival’s season can mean as much to a program as winning nine games.

But it won’t be easy.
“They have very good passing attack and good skilled people,” says Army coach Ross. “Kyle Eckel is one of the premiere fullbacks in the entire country.”

Eckel — a five-foot-11-inch, 240-pound senior from Pennsylvania — is considered by NFL scouts as the best fullback prospect in the nation.

Still, Johnson isn’t planning on an easy win.

“It’s the biggest game of the year for us, as it is every year,” he says. “I know that’s the coaching staff’s point of view, and that’s the way we are approaching it.”

The game is important for the players, as well.

Quarterback Aaron Polanco is playing in his fourth Army–Navy game, but it’s his first start.

“I almost feel like this is going to be my first Army–Navy game,” says the six-foot, 208-pound senior from Texas. “It’s a lot different when you’re starting and making an impact on the outcome.”

Polanco is tied for second in the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns.

For Army, win or lose, they hope this season does for them what 2002 did for Navy.

“We’ve just started climbing the mountain,” says Army coach Ross. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Considering Army’s road, Johnson says, “I’m sure there are some similarities, but honestly I have enough to worry about with my own team.”

—Louis Llovio

Bay’s Health Hovers at Bad Report card time for the Chesapeake

Bringing home a report card can be harrowing, especially if the grades aren’t good.

Again this year, Chesapeake Bay’s scores weren’t good.

Delivering the bad news: Chesapeake Bay Foundation president William Baker with shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows like a man who meant to get to work. For Chesapeake advocates, there’s plenty of work to do. The Bay again this year earned an overall score of 27, equivalent to a D, according to the foundation’s scientists, who gathered data on pollution, habitat and fisheries.

“A health score of 27 represents a Bay that is suffocating to death,” Baker said. “Existing environmental laws are not being enforced.”

Since 1998, when the foundation began keeping score, the Bay’s health has dropped by one point, to 27 last year and this year. The scoring scale starts at 100 for the pristine waters Captain John Smith encountered in the 1600s; any score below 20 fails.

Oysters scored worst, with a measly 2 again this year. The best score was earned by another fishery, with rockfish earning 73, despite environmental stresses and disease. Other areas of concern include the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, and dissolved oxygen — all got failing grades.

Photos by Carrie Steele
Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist Beth McGee hauled water samples from Oyster Creek and from just off the Bay Bridge. “I don’t really see anything living here,” McGee said as she surveyed one location’s mud.
For the first time this year, the foundation paired grades with its scores, report card style. This grade curve gives an A+ for scores above 70; the Bay’s current score of 27 earns a D by foundation standards.

The foundation’s goal for the Bay is to score 40 by 2010, ultimately rising to at least 70 in the more distant future.

We’ve seen worse years. In the foundation’s past projections: 1983’s Bay earned a sickly 23. The best score on record is just one point up from this year, at 28.
Even if we’re not quite failing, we don’t earn an A even for effort.

For that A, Baker said, “the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council needs to bring forward a plan and implement it. They have not only the responsibility but the authority to act.”

Backing up the report card, the foundation let the Bay’s muck speak for itself. Foundation scientist Beth McGee hauled up two samples from the watery depths: one from Oyster Creek, near the foundation’s Bayside office; one from just off the Bay Bridge.

“The presence of animals in the mud is a good indicator of water quality,” McGee said. In other words, finding a lot of different critters in a mud sample means you’ve got healthy water. At Oyster Creek, the bottom grab, a large brick-sized contraption, yielded milk-chocolate-brown, oxygen-rich mud with amphipods and tiny clams.

The second site in the main waters of the Bay, where oxygen-poor ‘dead zones’ occur, produced only black goop.

“I don’t really see anything living here,” McGee said as she surveyed the goopy mud.

Despite the bad report card and the lifeless muck, Baker beamed optimism about Maryland’s new Flush Tax, which will upgrade state sewage treatment plants, reducing nutrient levels in the Bay.

“The Bay is resilient,” Baker said. “We may see improvements rapidly.”

—Carrie Steele

Ask the Plant Professor

Winter Ground Covers

Q My builder is planning to install sod this month, and I’m concerned this is too late in the season. Your publications say the best time to seed is late summer or early fall. What about sod?

A With sod you have a wider window of opportunity. You can plant sod anytime during the year as long as the ground is not frozen, and chances are good that your sod will become established. To root, soil temperatures need to be in the 50s. If ground is frozen the sod will not take.

Q What is used to dye mulch? Is it okay for gardens as it decomposes? Does it harm the environment?

A Mulch production is an unregulated industry in Maryland, and therefore there are no standards as to how it is produced. Manufacturers state the dye is non-toxic but offer no further information. There is no research by the nursery industry or universities on the affects of using dyed mulches. We do suggest caution when dyed mulch arrives still wet: It can stain sidewalks, clothes and hands until dry.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.
Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

Way Downstream

On Poplar Island, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to lure snowy egrets with a duck-hunter trick: decoys. Last March, biologists placed 24 plastic egrets in the 1,100-acre restoration project near Tilghman Island. By late spring, they counted more than two dozen nests, the Fish and Wildlife Service reported last week. The snowy egrets are among 125 bird species spotted since work began to rebuild the vanishing island with dredge spoils …

In the Netherlands, a new study concludes that church-going can be hazardous to your health when there’s excessive burning of candles and incense. The study by scientists from Maastricht University found more air pollution in a church than on a busy road.
The researchers added that priests and church workers, not worshippers, were the ones at risk …

n Canada, they’re frowning on the notion of disgruntled Democrats moving north because of the election. PRWeb reports that on the day after the winner in the presidential election was known, 115,015 people — a 500 percent increase — logged on to www.cic.gc.ca for information on emigrating across that border …

Our Creature Feature comes from South Africa, where a grieving gorilla will get a mate, thanks to the matchmaker Studbook International.

Lisa, 33, was widowed when her mate, Max, died in May. But zookeepers in Johannesburg found Makoko, a youthful 19-year-old male, at the Munster Zoo in Germany thanks to the Studbook gorilla mating service. That’s it as far as humans playing Cupid. “How they get on is up to them,” zoo manager Jenny Gray told Reuters.

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