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Playhouse Poetry Series Renamed to Honor Arnie Reisman

by Louisa Hufstader, Vineyard Gazette

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse is renaming its monthly off-season poetry readings in memory of the event’s longtime organizer, former Island poet laureate and playhouse board chair Arnie Reisman, who died on Oct. 4.

“He was the perfect host,” recalled playhouse executive and artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo. “No one can really take his place.”

Now called Arnie’s Poetry Café, the playhouse series will continue in Mr. Reisman’s honor, Ms. Bruder Munafo said, with a different guest poet hosting invited readers each month through April. The first event is scheduled for Jan. 19.

The playhouse has also created a video tribute to Mr. Reisman, with 16 Island poets reading his work. The tribute film is posted on the playhouse website.

The poetry café dates back to 2014, when Ms. Bruder Munafo enlisted Mr. Reisman — then a playhouse board member, as well as the Vineyard’s poet laureate — to help start the winter series, which normally begins in November.

“We decided to have a cafe so we could [serve] treats — baked goods, coffee, tea,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said. When local baker Pie Chicks came on board, Mr. Reisman dubbed the series Poetry and Pie.

“He quickly got into the swing of it,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said. “I just had to cut the pie and make the coffee.”

Though the pies, coffee and tea have been suspended since the fall of 2020, Mr. Reisman continued to host poets online last season.

“We kept it going during the pandemic,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said.

Following his death, the November and December readings went unscheduled. “It felt too soon,” Ms. Bruder Munafo said. Instead, she called on other Island poets to record themselves reading their favorite verses by Mr. Reisman for the tribute video.

“It’s really quite moving,” she said.

Several of the readers will also serve as guest hosts for Arnie’s Poetry Café this winter, including Michael West, Clark Myers and Fan Ogilvie. The readings are slated to take place in person in the playhouse lobby café, Ms. Bruder Munafo said, although food and drink remain off the menu for the time being due to Covid-era health concerns.

Masks are a must and proof of vaccination may also be required for the series. Mr. West will host the Jan. 19 reading, Ms. Bruder Munafo said, and Mr. Myers will host the Feb. 16 event.

Other off-season events at the playhouse include the Monday night film series, co-curated by former Island Entertainment film maven Jamie Alley, which continues Jan. 10 with In a Lonely place, starring Humphrey Bogart.

From Jan. 10 through Jan. 16, the playhouse website will stream 12 short plays by a dozen commissioned playwrights, inspired by the months of 2020

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