MeredithMay2017

Photographer of galaxies - Jon Secord, Lakes Region's luckiest photographer

Pittsburg MilkyWay

A 20 second exposure of the Milky Way above Lake Francis in Pittsburg, NH. Probably the darkest area of the state, however you can still see some light pollution along the horizon.

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

CENTER HARBOR — When someone compliments Jon Secord's photography, he often deflects the praise, saying he's "lucky." It's not that there's anything accidental about the photograph – he studies geography, weather patterns and even astronomy so that he can be in just the right spot at just the right moment.  The reason he says he's "lucky" is because he is alive and in control of his life.

Secord, 28, lives in Center Harbor and was raised in Meredith, graduating from Inter-Lakes High School in '06. He said that he was never a good student, except when it came to photography. He took a photography elective, where he found himself working with black-and-white film.

"That's where I fell in love with it," he said. When he went on to Southern Vermont College, in Bennington, he chose to major in business, thinking that photography wouldn't be lucrative enough to figure into his career. Before he could finish his undergraduate degree, though, Secord's youthful indiscretions had gotten the better of him. What started as an enthusiasm for partying had led him to hard drug use, and by his junior year he was addicted to opiates and was kicked out of college.

Without school to attend, Secord's addiction gained more power over him. Until, one morning, he woke up and decided to change – and that is why he feels lucky. Some of the people he knew from those days have since died, or are still ruled by the addiction.

"I got sober five years ago, that was definitely a catalyst for major change," said Secord. He was one of the first residents of the Riverbank House, a drug detox and rehabilitation center in Laconia. And, he rediscovered photography.

Today, Secord's sobriety isn't a defining aspect of his identity – he doesn't even think about it on most days. Instead, he focuses on the beauty of a world that has always been right in front of him, yet he was unable to see while he was using.

"You live a pretty dismal lifestyle for a period of time – things are pretty tough (when using drugs). When you get over that, you rediscover life."

Secord's photography is the work of a man doing just that: discovering beauty that anyone could see, if they knew when and where – and how – to look for it.

He describes himself, in general terms, as a landscape photographer. Secord picked up a camera as a way to occupy his time and energies when he stopped using drugs, and remembered the fascination that he experienced as a high schooler. 

Through his camera – Secord shoots with a Nikon D750 – he has been able to record images that few have taken the trouble to look for, and some images that aren't possible to see with the naked eye.

Secord began his career in photography at a time when camera sensors became sensitive enough to capture photons of light from stars in galaxies so far away that they aren't visible to the casual observer. The technological advancement revolutionized astrophotography, and allowed photographers to capture rich images of the Milky Way's galactic center using only a tripod, camera and lens.

To do so, though, requires some forethought. Secord generally uses a 20-second exposure to photograph the Milky Way, and if his camera is sensitive enough to see light from distant stars, it is also sensitive to light sources much nearer. In New Hampshire, Secord said only the North Country is dark enough to get a clear picture of the galaxy.

"It's not dark enough around here – the light pollution is a huge issue in most of the state," he said.

Secord also photographs during the periods at either end of the night sky – sunrise and sunset, when the light is warm in tone and low in angle. His favorite place to be to capture such a moment is at a mountain peak – but being there is easier said than done.

"You wake up at 2 (a.m.), hike five miles in the dark, it sucks," he said, but, "You get to see the world come alive. It's amazing."

Photography doesn't pay all of his bills just yet. Secord works as a house painter when he needs to, but is working toward a day when he can devote all of his attention to photography. His business education, it turns out, is helpful after all.

Five years ago, photography was a means to keep himself busy. Today, it gives him purpose and a means to greater understanding.

"It gives me a reason to wake up in the morning. It's a teacher," he said. In the pursuit of photography, Secord has studied geology, biology, meteorology and astrology. "To really get great photos, you have to understand the world around you. I'll never get rich from this, but the life experiences I'm getting from this are worth more than any mount of money ... The world is a pretty amazing place if you just stop to look around."

"When I'm up on top of a mountain and watching a sunrise, I feel lucky because I'm seeing something that most people don't get a chance to see."

MtPercival

Thick fog blankets Squam Lake on a Fall morning from Mt. Percival

Simon's 'Biloxi Blues' performed in Wolfeboro

WOLFEBORO — The Lakes Region is fortunate enough to have two Neil Simon plays being performed this weekend. In addition to "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers," being staged at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, the Village Players community theater in Wolfeboro is in the middle of its presentation of Simon's semi-autobiographical "Biloxi Blues," which was inspired by Simon's experience as a Jewish boy from Brooklyn going through the Army's basic training in the deep south.

The Village Players will stage "Biloxi Blues" at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8, at 8 p.m.; and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 9. For ticket information, visit www.village-players.com.

Red hot revolutionary

04-06 RedHotLover 5Apr17338181 1

Leigh Martha Klinger as Elaine Navazio and Marc Willis as Barney Cashman rehearse for "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" with Winnipesaukee Playhouse on Wednesday afternoon. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

'Red Hot Lovers' is Winni Playhouse's first professional show of the year

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — During the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s, people entering adulthood enjoyed much greater freedom in regard to romance, relationships and sex. But, what about their parents' generation? Would a married, middle-aged man have the right to indulge in libertine pleasures? Would he even have the skill and expertise to do so? Those are the questions that drive the plot of "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," the first professional production of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse's 2017 season, which will be staged from April 7 through 15.

Though the play, written by Neil Simon, is anchored in a specific period of history, director Keith Langsdale said the script speaks to issues that will resonate with audiences of any era. And, like any Simon play, it's terrifically funny.

"First of all, Neil Simon is arguably the best comedy writer of the 20th and 21st Century in America," Langsdale, who lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, said when asked why he wanted to come to Meredith to help produce "Last of the Red Hot Lovers."

Simon delivers more than just laughs, though. As Langsdale said, Simon's humor grows naturally out of characters that are relatable – they're not clowns or food, they're real people with fears, anxieties and shortcomings.

"The humor is grounded in the reality of people's lives," said Langsdale. The characters are "unheroic, but have a basic decency to them. They're not evil or nasty characters ... it reflects the lives of most of us," he said.

The play is written in three acts. The main character, "Barney," is a successful but overworked businessman who is worried he is missing out on life. Each act features Barney's attempted seduction of a different woman. Langsdale said Barney gets something out of the experience, though not exactly what he was looking for.

"The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" opened on Broadway in 1969.

"I think it's astounding that this play is running (nearly) 50 years later. It's a testament to how funny it is, how well-written it is," said Molly Walsh, from Shelburne, Vermont. Walsh is playing "Jeanette," the final of Barney's would-be paramours.

Elizabeth Nestlerode, from New York City, plays "Bobbi," who appears during the second act. Some of the language and attitudes exhibited in the play would be improper in contemporary society, she said. But they're not foreign, either.

"There are references to things that give you the time period," she said. "We've been surprised at how many things still ring true today... My character has some political views that aren't acceptable today, but they're still views that you hear."

Through the play, said Nestlerode, "We get to see how far we've come – and how far we haven't come."

Lesley Pankhurst, marketing director and one of the founders of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, said the 2017 schedule is filled with plays that have also been motion pictures. "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" was adapted for screen in 1972, with Alan Arkin playing "Barney."

The Winnipesaukee Playhouse staging of the play will have one intermission, scheduled between the second and third acts. Other notable titles among the 20 productions include "The Rocky Horror Show," "The Graduate," "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance," "Deathtrap," "Lord of the Flies" and "Mash."

For details, visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org.

• • •

‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers’
• April 7-9 and 13-15
Th-Sat at 7:30 p.m.
Sat-Sun at 2 p.m.
• $16-$27
• Winnipesaukee Playhouse, 50 Reservoir Road, Meredith
• 603-279-0333 or http://www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org

Mind play – Putnam Fund bringing mentalist Jon Stetson to Laconia

new jon stetson

(Photo courtesy www.stetsonmastermentalist.com)

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Jon Stetson has performed around the world, for three U.S. presidents, the King of Sweden, the royal family of Monaco, for tycoons such as Warren Buffett, as well as for television networks and corporate functions. On April 7, Stetson's unique show will kick off the 2017 season of the Laconia Putnam Fund.

As with all Putnam Fund events, audience members will be admitted at no charge, on a first-come, first-seated basis. The show will take place at the Laconia High School Auditorium and will begin at 7 p.m.

Stetson is billed as a "mentalist," though his performances also include comedic and motivational elements. He prides himself on connecting to the audience's hearts as well as minds in his shows. His work has been described as either "mind-blowing comedy," or "the most fun mind-reading has ever been."

A native of South Boston who lives in Fairhaven, Connecticut, Stetson is a third-generation performer who has been a mentalist for nearly 50 years. A student of the history of his craft, his skills combine the abilities of comedian, hypnotist and magician.

Stetson said he hopes his show "allows people to broaden their minds a little bit," yet his first objective aligns with that of Richard Potter, the first magician to gain prominence in the United States, who said that his performances are "An evening's brush to sweep away care."

"My ultimate goal is to engage people, entertain and make them feel good," he said. "What I really want people to do is to escape all of their thoughts and cares of the day ... I want people to be entertained and have a wonderful experience. And if they think they've seen something like this, well, not exactly."

His performance in Laconia will include audience participation for those that so choose, live situational comedy, and what he calls "games of mind-to-mind contact."

"I believe that everyone in the world, at one time or another, has had the ability to perceive if not influence the thoughts of other people. This is a light-hearted demonstration of just that kind of thing." He added, "It's all done with consideration, care and kindness for my audience."

Stetson was the inspiration behind the main character of the CBS television show, "The Mentalist," which aired from 2008 until 2015. For the first two seasons, Stetson served as a consultant to the program.

Charles Bradley, a member of the Putnam Fund Committee, said Stetson was recommended by another local performer.

"Larry Frates recommended Jon Stetson," said Bradley. "We have found that our audiences have thoroughly enjoyed prior shows of this type of entertainment. So we are truly grateful to Larry Frates for what will prove to be a magical evening for Laconia."

"We like to create a variety for our audiences," said Betty Ballantyne, another of the Putnam Fund Committee members.

Within the past year, the Putnam Fund has brought performances that include the Boys of the St. Paul's Choir School, the illusionist Adam Trent, Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits, and, playing old-fashioned rock and roll, Pauly and the Goodfellas.

The performances can accommodate 450 audience members at the Laconia High School, 750 when held at St. Andre Bessette's Sacred Heart Church, or 1,200 at Laconia Middle School. Bradley said that audiences have neared capacity at recent shows, but that organizers haven't had to turn anyone away within the past two years.

The Putnam Fund Advisory Committee uses the proceeds from the Perley and Ellen Putnam Free Lecture Fund to provide free entertainment for the citizens and visitors of Laconia.