A play written by Erica Funkhouser premieres this weekend at The Gloucester Stage Company.  “Christmas, 1956” tells the story of a family from Concord, MA that takes in three refugees on Christmas Eve.

One of the many things I love about Essex is that you truly never know what you might find just up the road. While meeting with an artist who lives nearby (which is a marvelous story unto itself) I came to learn that, also nearby, lives a poet. I had heard whispers that a writer lived down the way but I had never seen so much as a glimpse of this person.

Later that day while waiting for my son and enjoying the fire at the Manchester library I googled the poet. Two minutes later I pulled a book of poetry from the shelf; So began my introduction to Erica Funkhouser.

I am not remotely qualified to speak of her poems in any sort of critical way. But I will tell you that I find them to be mesmerizing. They are at once delicate and raw. One in particular, entitled “Owl Pellet” is just this. Her poems are right there, concerning themselves with items that are at hand, commonplace and familiar. The natural world is often the universe from which she draws with a soulfulness and power that is stirring.

Erica Funkhouser’s most recent book of poems is Post & Rail (2018). This is her sixth book of poems to be published. Among these is Sure Shot And Other Poems (1992) which includes three dramatic monologues in the voices of Sacagawea, Louisa May Alcott and Annie Oakley. Her poem “Standing Up” has been sand-blasted into the wall of the Davis Square MBTA station in Somerville, MA. She is currently working on a novel and teaches writing at MIT.

While I encourage you to discover her poems, this weekend brings a chance to see a different side of her work: a play written by Funkhouser will have its world premier at The Gloucester Stage. Christmas, 1956 tells the story of a family from Concord, Mass. who take in three refugees on Christmas Eve. This act of kindness changes all of their lives for years to come. The play debuts on Saturday, December 7th and runs for only one night.

As I write this, perfect snow is swirling outside my window. I cannot help but wonder if, just up the road, marvelous words are finding their way to paper at the hands of the remarkable Erica Funkhouser. I hope so.

Kris McGinn writes features and columns on local life around Cape Ann. In 2020 she won two national writing awards from the National Newspaper Association. She can be reached at