I have always been a voracious reader, primarily fiction, and a healthy mix of genres with the notable exception of romance, unless the heroine had four feet, that is. To this day, even when picking digital books for my Kindle, I avoid anything with the “ripped bodice” style of book jacket design. I have always like mysteries, however, which I found applies well here at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC).
March is the month of mystery as Sherlock Holmes, accompanied by Dr. Watson, of course, stalks the streets of Cape May in our annual Sherlock Holmes Weekends (if you miss him now, he’s back in again in October and early November). Sherlock Holmes is such a natural fit for Victorian Cape May, since that is very much the great detective’s era. Over the years, I read a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock and watched a few of Basil Rathbone’s great interpretations on screen, but my familiarity with the Victorian setting was not what it is today, naturally.
There has also been a rebirth in interest in Holmes thanks to recent movies and TV shows, which have run the gamut from the traditional Victorian Sherlock, albeit sometimes a pretty dark version of the original, to more modern interpretations, a sort of Sherlock meets CSI. We can all agree, I think, that the original Sherlock never needed DNA to get the bad guy.
Sherlock Holmes, thanks to generations of visualizations, immediately conjures up the mysterious and aloof figure with a pipe, wearing the traditional deerstalker hat. Of course, no matter how cold it was in Victorian England, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with the ear flaps down.
There are some aspects to Sherlock’s personality which we were not as familiar with until more recent cinematic interpretations, such as his dabbling in addictive substances. Thank goodness for Dr. Watson! I admit I did a little more research into his personality than what I remembered from my own readings and found another tidbit that hit my funny bone, because it sounds so much like someone I work with. Apparently, Holmes could not bring himself to destroy documents, and his home décor included stacks of manuscripts and other papers. He might be a candidate for a “hoarders” TV documentary today!
Our group of local actors, led again this year by John Alvarez, do their best to blend the traditional, almost dour, Sherlock with a bit of humor thrown in. This year’s early Spring weekend begins March 16 as cast and participants gather to solve the mystery of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of a Siren’s Call. The entire weekend event includes a Friday night performance, where you meet the cast, then on to your own detective work with a Search for Clues Tour on Saturday, concluding with a Sunday morning get-together where the dastardly culprits are revealed. For those who prefer a smaller dose, you can just do the Search for Clues alone on Saturday, and still find out if you’re detective material or a clueless wonder.
So, if you’re looking for a weekend or just an afternoon to help you forget about winter, it’s elementary what you should be doing. Check out www.capemaymac.org for details. Just think what Sherlock could have been if he’d had Google.
Jean Barraclough is manager of publications & website at MAC