Fish Tales … The Local Kind


It’s the evening of Thursday, May 26, and Rocky Neck is quiet as the sun begins to set — quiet everywhere except for inside the Gorton Theatre on East Main Street, the home of Gloucester Stage. 

Locals wait in the lobby for the show to start, some sipping beverages, others engaged in conversation.  The evening’s performers are mixed into the crowd; they are locals like the audience members.

This is Fish Tales, a collaboration between Gloucester Stage and the Gloucester Writers Center that is now entering its tenth year.  The uniqueness of the production turns real Cape Ann residents into entertainment, highlighting true stories told straight from their own mouths.  The production is similar to the popular public radio mainstay, “The Moth Radio Hour,” where stories are told by real people, without notes, in person. 

Fish Tales is in person, and real people, but this this evening is about a local, Cape Ann vibe.  No replicas here on Rocky Neck.  And tonight, the assigned theme for the night’s stories is “alchemy.”

Inside the theater, a microphone stands on a carpet in the center of the room.  The six performers won’t need set pieces to bring their stories to life.

After an introduction by Laila Goodman, performer Terry Weber Mangos stepped up to recount a vivid dream that changed her perspective on life.

Next, Josh Israelsohn told an eccentric tale about unconventional dating, love, and tradition with multiple unexpected twists.

Virginia McKinnon, a 92-year-old Gloucester resident, told the same story she told in a Fish Tales production ten years ago about growing up as the daughter of a fisherman.

Dan Sklar, a creative writing professor at Endicott College, detailed his serendipitous road to a professorship at Endicott.

Mark Wagner chronicled his journey as a research subject for a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Finally, Gab Watling recounted her experience being an ex-wife and interacting with one.

All six performers had a different take on “alchemy,” but each story pondered the peculiarity of life in some way.  Every performer was greeted by a warm audience before telling stories with rich local detail, and in this way, the Gloucester Writers Center fostered a special kind of alchemy that’s likely to last for many more years.

fish tales, gloucester writers center, gloucester, josh israelsohn, terry weber mangos, gab watling, virginia mckinnon, dan sklar, laila goodman, mark wagner, cape ann