Doing the Steps: Edward Gorey and the Dance of Art

A centuries-old sea captain’s home in Yarmouth Port became the final dwelling place for a quirky, but reclusive artist when he moved from New York in the 80s. It was there that he spent his remaining 14 years of life with his curious assortments of oddities, over 26,000 books, and most importantly his “people” as he endearingly referred to them, his cats. Edward Gorey’s work as an author, illustrator, and designer spanned nearly 50 years, earning him a Tony Award for Best Costume Design for his work on the Broadway revival of Dracula, and a cult following for his exquisitely gothic style of illustration and macabre surrealism.

“I must say, I don’t always understand Ted’s books, but I do like them.”Edward Gorey’s mother, Helen

In 1953 Edward Gorey self-published his first book, The Unstrung Harp, thus beginning a cascade of literary nonsense with distinctive pen and ink lines depicting the delightfully dreadful in over a hundred more books, and by the time of his death, several more unpublished manuscripts stashed neatly, (and haphazardly), around his home. His work became the inspiration for Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline for which Gaiman lamented was written after Edwards’s death, thereby missing its chance for his illustration. Edward himself wrote his books using both his given name and its anagrams, such as Ogdred Weary, Raddory Gewe, and D. Awdrey-Gore. As private as he was popular, Gorey preferred to avoid the spotlight. Very much an animal lover and advocate, he usually had up to 6 cats, the perfect number according to him. Before he died he established The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust to manage his legacy and estate, and to support his favorite animal welfare organizations locally and afar. The upstairs of the house continues to be occupied by cats, keeping the spirit of the home authentically charmed.

Today, 22 years after his death, The Edward Gorey House stands as an archive for his admired collections of rocks, trinkets, books, and the grotesque. Cheese graters are casually displayed with skulls. A preserved Belgian waffle and a mosaic of checks from his favorite dining spot, Jack’s Outback II, are framed together on the kitchen wall. Handmade puppets and dolls adorn the rooms and halls amongst his characters and illustrations. One hapless child’s legs and feet protrude from a rug. A collection of old matches is stacked on the mantle. A bottle of lye on the windowsill.

Past year’s exhibits have included He wrote it all down Zealously: Edward Gorey’s Interesting Lists in 2020, and Hapless Children: Drawings from Mr. Gorey’s Neighborhood in 2021. This year’s Exhibit is Doing the Steps: Edward Gorey and the Dance of Art, which shares with us the influence Edward’s passionate infatuation with the New York City Ballet had on his art and life.

 “Gorey once said that he could visualize that progression of ballets in his head, like a movie he could play forward or backward, decades of form and movement and story—literally, at his fingertips.”

The Edward Gorey House is open from early April through the end of December each year.

8 Strawberry Lane • Yarmouth Port, MA 02675

508-362-3909 • edwardgoreyhouse@verizon.net

Click here to see house visiting hours, tour times, and admission info. Reservations are encouraged due to limited capacity. Admission is free for members.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)

Things to Do Over Spring Vacation 2022

April 18th through the 22nd is the official dates for Spring Break in Massachusetts public schools, meaning that in just a few short weeks households on Cape will be teeming with energetic kids and teens chomping at the bit for something fun to do, and well-caffeinated parents who may be underprepared to fill that void. Spring Break isn’t just for the littles however, we grown-ups need to unwind too! Luckily there is something for everyone just around the corner to banish the school-free boredom and maybe even (gasp!) learn something!

For the Kids

The Cape Cod Gymnastics’ mission is “to encourage and provide any child a beginning in athletics and start them on the road to a healthy and fit future.” The center offers a Vacation Week Program from Monday, April 18 to Friday, April 22. Kids ages 3.5 and up will be kept entertained and on their toes with activities such as gymnastics, ninja, games, and challenges. Register for classes online, by email at tumble@capecodygmnastics.com, or by calling 508-744-7751!

The Cape Cod Natural History Museum in Brewster is providing interactive play and crafts to celebrate Earth Day during school vacation week, including daily 90 minute Guided Family Field Walks on the trails outside the museum, a daily Littles Lab, geared toward children ages 3-7. Other activities include building a butterfly house, creating a birdfeeder, and nature journal art. Have fun with Interstellar Explorations complete with your very own “Nebula Spin Art”, Moon Adventure, a hands-on science-based challenge game for small groups of (up to 8) people. Interstellar Explorations and Moon Adventure are best suited for kids ages 8 and up. The activities are free with museum admission, but space is limited so be sure to register to save your spot!

For the Grown-Ups

Ritual, a cozy metaphysical shop bursting at the seams with crystals and gems, walls full of tarot decks and new-age books, canisters of ethically sourced herbs and potions, and handmade witchy wares by local artists, is also the host to otherworldly classes and events on a regular basis, and April vacation week is no exception. Visit the events calendar on their website or visit the Facebook page and sign up to nourish your chakras with Energy Healing or get a glimpse into your soul with private psychic or tarot readings. Learn to develop your own mediumship skills or get your Reiki Attunement and Certification.

The Music Room Gallery & Wine Bar claims to combine “a wild passion for music of all genres,” and invites us to “soak in fine art, fine wines, and rare craft beers with an infusion of the creative magic that lives only with live performances.”  Join an event at the West Yarmouth’s own  Music Room and enjoy craft beers, craft cocktails, and wines while attending an open mike with Jason Violette & Friends, or live shows by teenaged prodigy and piano player Veronica Lewis, The Empty Pockets, and more!

For the Whole Family

Taylor-Bray Farm tucked away just off 6A in Yarmouth Port, is considered a local gem to nature lovers and families with kids, and is home to goats, donkeys, sheep, and chickens. Among the animals, you may meet is Chloe, a magnificent Scottish Highland Cow who can often be found lazing about in the pasture.  A boardwalk leads into Black Flats Marsh where generations of osprey have nested on the platform 100 miles north, and then you can enjoy a short walk with the kids along the Don McIntyre Trail.  The website boasts amazing recent archaeological evidence that the area has been “seasonally inhabited for as long as 10,000 years! The barn is currently under renovation, and they ask that visitors park in the area near the farmhouse to avoid the work area. There is a farm store on location offering clothing and hats, shopping bags, prints, and stickers. There are no fees at the farm but donations are greatly appreciated. Taylor-Bray Farm is located at 108 Bray Farm Road North, Yarmouth Port, MA, and is open “daily from dawn to dusk.”

Whydah Pirate Museum boasts the “largest collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world!” Open Friday-Sunday from 11 am – 4 pm, (last admission at 3), guests are invited to survey the museum’s multiple exhibit wings and explore the “world’s first discovered pirate ship” as hundreds of thousands of patrons have since its opening its doors in 2016. This family fun event is rich with history and will captivate peg-legged parrot lovers of all ages. Make sure to check out the treasures in the gift shop, and make off with pirate booty of your own! Walk-ins are welcome, but entry tickets can be purchased in advance online or by calling the box office at 508-534-9571.

Ten Pin Eatery, located in the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis, is a favorite spot for kids and adults of all ages. Open 7 days a week until midnight, it is the perfect way to spend a vacation day when the no-school honeymoon period winds down and boredom begins to take root in restless children. Choose from a riveting game of laser tag, bowling, virtual reality, escape rooms, or spend some time in the arcade. With a full-service restaurant and bar on-premises, there is something for the whole family.

This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.

(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)