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EHS pushes the envelope in 'Cry-Baby'

Shakespeare meets leather jackets meets 1950s rockabilly in Essex High School’s (EHS) fall production of Cry-Baby. Based on the cult classic John Waters film of the same name, the risque musical follows a central teen love story set in post-war Baltimore to the tune of tongue-in-cheek rock and roll numbers.

EHS Drama Director Aly Perry described the show as having a “no holds barred attitude,” with an undercurrent that “challenges notions of class, race, and gender.”

It’s 1954; rock and roll has burst onto the scene and lovebirds, Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker and Alison Vernon-Williams, are from opposite sides of the tracks. Cue Romeo and Juliet style chaos, with the addition of teen pregnancy, schizophrenia, and polio vaccines.

The EHS cast is decked out in ruby red lipstick, winged eyeliner, leather jackets, polka dots, plaid—the works. They even have an in-house student rock band providing musical accompaniment.

“EHS has a reputation for doing shows that expand the notion of what high school theater can be,” Perry said. Cry-Baby is definitely an example of this.

When the show made its debut in 2007, audiences and critics were split between love and hate. Many criticized the show’s writing as crass—an empty story built upon shock-value; others loved its satirical bent and praised the show’s comedic prowess. Now, the show has somewhat become a cult-classic. For Perry, Cry-Baby is about breaking people out of their comfort zones and addressing social issues.

“It’s a knife in the belly for the current political moment,” Perry said. “It hits you hard in the beginning. It comes in waves, but if you decide to stay, you’re in for a special treat.” While she wonders if shocked audiences could miss what she sees as the true message, Perry hopes that the cast’s professionalism and dedication to the show will win audiences over.

The show’s ode to 1950s rockabilly creates feelings of nostalgia, but with a twist, said Perry.

“It makes you remember what it was like to be a teen, with all of those raw emotions,” she said. The show reminds viewers of a time, “when the boxes we thought we needed to fit in were so pronounced”—then tests those boundaries.

Ryan Poulin who plays bad boy Cry-Baby described the show as an, “examination of interpersonal relations and how they intersect with class, race and sex.

“How do we deal with these emotions?” Poulin asked himself both as an actor and a young adult in studying the role. “Digging through those emotions helped me process my own. The beauty of it is that these are real people.”

Emma Blatt plays Cry-Baby’s love interest, the “square” Allison Vernon-Williams. For Blatt, the musical “challenges your thoughts” on social issues and notions of good and bad people. “Everyone’s just trying to fit in,” said Blatt.

Blatt also noticed, “how strikingly the same some of the issues are and how it ties back to issues we deal with today,” she said.

Much more than a Grease knock-off, EHS’s production of Cry-Baby asks audiences to step outside of their comfort zones and challenge societal norms alongside a rebellious, hormone-charged group of kids. While students croon about kissing with tongue and venereal diseases, the show ultimately points a satirical finger back at the audience.

The EHS production of Cry-Baby will run from Nov. 21-24. Shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday begin at 7 p.m., and on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for students, $10 for general admission, and can be purchased at the door or in advance at EHSCryBaby.brownpapertickets.com.

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Local businesses create shared office space

As a working mom with her own accounting business, Essex resident Stephanie Mack has worked out of her home office for most of her career. But with a new baby, a puppy, and teenage boys at home, she decided to set out in search of a quiet office to rent.

The search proved harder than she expected. “There’s no available office space beyond Five Corners,” Mack said, and as a working mom, she couldn’t afford to rent space in Williston or further towns due to the commute.

Instead, Mack turned to the rising movement of shared office space and rented a large office with two other small business people, Mike Grobman and John Jacob. One year and some change later, the renters have since dubbed the space, Essex Office Share (EOS) and have opened up their conference room and empty desk spaces for other local small business people and freelancers to potentially rent.

“It’s very convenient as a mom and a working parent. I’m meeting so many more clients than when I was in my office space at home,” said Mack. “Plus it’s nice to come into an office and have some camaraderie with other business people.”

Mack likes working alongside other business people in her community, while maintaining her own flexibility. With her home office, Mack often found herself working diligently but having no interaction with other working people. For her, EOS is a happy medium. Plus, sharing the office space with more people also has the perk of a low monthly rent.

The EOS conference room has seen some local groups and meetings, but Mack hopes to expand the number of renters in the space. “I’d really love some more humans in here,” she said.

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Essex selectboard approves purchase of new fire engine

The Essex Fire Dept. will be getting a new engine.

The selectboard approved the purchase at its meeting on Monday, which also included a review of the damage sustained by the town during the October rain storm. In addition, the board took in its annual report from the Winooski Valley Park District, deliberated on the issuing of two liquor licenses, and voted on a pair of human services proposals.

About midway through the meeting, Chief Charles Cole of the Essex Fire Department made his pitch for a replacement fire truck. Cole gave a brief history about EFD’s Engine 3, the Department’s oldest engine, which has recently become decommissioned. Among the many differences and improvements Cole noted about the prospective machine was that the new model will be a six-person cab compared to the two-person cab that was in use before.

Asked by Vice Chair Max Levy about when Engine 3 was due to be replaced, Cole said that the timetable lists it as July 1. However, Cole explained the sale and delivery of the new truck would take about 10 months--meaning that EFD would not actually get the vehicle until after that mid-year mark. Thus, the chief made it clear that it was imperative the board approve the funding now in order to obtain the Pierce Manufacturing Fire Engine as soon as possible.

Cole said the price of the new truck was a little over $750,000, but the seller is willing to offer a discount for full payment. Pierce would subtract $21,209 from the original cost if Essex can pay a sum of $729,139. The selectboard seemed in full agreement that the new engine was necessary and voted to approve the funding.

When asked about what the department will do with the current Engine 3, Cole said that the market for an old truck is mostly non-existent and that he and his staff are discussing various options as to its future.

Unified Manager Evan Teich asked Cole to stay at the microphone to discuss damage caused by the Halloween storm and subsequent cleanup. The torrential downpours, combined with intense winds, caused numerous power outages and road closures.

Teich said that there is no exact figure as of yet, but he estimates the damage from the storm to top $100,000 on local roads alone. He says that Essex has reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance, but the town is still yet to hear back from the organization.

The unified manager pointed out that this year’s issues were uncommon and a result of unusual rain and flooding patterns. Teich said that there normally isn’t as much rain, or significant rain events, at that time of year in this area. The main issue with timing, he said, was that leaves did not have the chance to decompose and were left whole to clog road drains.

Teich wrapped up the section of the evening by stating that he is okay with pedestrians quickly moving aside leaf piles that might be blocking storm drains to help ease the flooding problems if they see one and don’t mind doing so.

Nick Warner, the executive director of the Winooski Valley Park District, gave a digital slide presentation as part of its annual report to the Selectboard. The WVPD has a vested interest within the Essex borders as it maintains both the Woodside Natural Area and the Essex Overlook parks.

Warner included slides which mentioned the many environmental efforts his organization has made throughout the year--including tree-planting and the removal of invasive plants. He noted that a great deal of the work was done by volunteers from the community, many of them children, who relished the opportunity of making a noticeable impact on their local nature.

Warner also wanted to make it known that the WVPD is currently seeking someone to fill the Essex void on its board of trustees--a position which recently opened up.

During the night, there was the approval of third-class liquor licenses for a pair of town establishments. The Valley Vape Company, doing business as ‘The Food Bar,’ and Sour Hall Foods, LLC, doing business as ‘Wicked Wings,’ both had their applications reviewed by the board. The Food Bar, a yet-to-launch enterprise, was looking to obtain a third-class license while Wicked Wings was attempting to upgrade its offerings from first to third-class status.

In the onset of discussion, Deputy Town Manager Greg Duggan explained that the State has recently made a change which makes the Selectboard, acting as the Board of Liquor Control, be responsible for granting third-class licenses. He then went on to detail that a third-class license allows businesses to sell liquor as well as beer and wine while a first-class license permits just the latter two of those options. A motion to approve the license for both entities was offered before the board approved with a resounding amount of ‘yeas.’

Lastly were two items that the board decided to talk about as one--but ultimately voted on as two separate motions. The first was altered to be labeled as the “Essex Human Services Funding Distribution Policy,” while the second was agreed upon as “Human Services Focus Areas for FY20 Distribution.” These initiatives aim to help those in need throughout the Essex area, but they also include an application process which ensures that the funding is doled out properly.

There were multiple mentions throughout the night to the potential merger, but each was subdued in conjunction with a mention that there will be a separate meeting on Tuesday to discuss that issue.