By Carol McCracken (Post # 742)
“I have tremendous respect for the crews and that’s why I’ve written this play,” said Cullen McGough recently. “They don’t have access to power brokers. There is no cohesive forum for their issues to receive the attention they should,” McGough said at the Hilltop Coffee Shop last week. He was speaking of the crews on trawlers who go to sea to make a living under extremely harsh circumstances. Men get hurt all the time, said McGough.
McGough, a Hill resident, worked as a subcontractor for the National Marine Fisheries Service, “NMFS”, for almost a year as an at sea monitor. About 20 days of each month he went to sea with the crews of deep sea trawlers in the area – monitoring the number of fish caught and then reporting those figures to his now former employer. In mid-January, McGough returned from a particularly hard 10 day fishing trip. (Trips lasted anywhere from 1 to 10 days at sea.) There were big seas and the crew and Captain on the trawler were not on the same page – it was a bad trip in every way.
McGough saw a poster calling for entries for the 10th Annual Maine Playwrights Festival presented by Acorn Productions. He’d really had it with his job, and although he’d never written a play before, he decided to give it a try. Within hours, this Boston University liberal arts graduate, had a manuscript ready to submit to Michael Levine, Acorn Productions. It was accepted. It’s a 30 minute play with four male actors in it and it takes place on the deck of a trawler at sea. “It’s about the tensions for fishermen between growth and sustainability,” said McGough.
This topic is an important one in the press these days. Ever since the implementation of the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Act, fishing has become so much harder, partly because there are so many more rules to follow. Because of his work as an at sea monitor, for the NMFS, McGough wasn’t very popular with the crews either, which usually were composed of 3 – 5 men. An intelligent and personable young man, the job was really getting him down. “No one liked me because I’m an employee (subcontractor) of the NMFS,” he said.
“The Last Fish in the Sea” is directed by Michael Levine and is part of Schedule A in the 10th Annual Maine Playwrights Festival for 2011. The Festival is at the St. Lawrence Arts Center and can be seen on Thursday, April 14th at 7:30 pm – following which there will be a “talkback” with McGough. It can also be seen on Saturday, April 16th at 8 pm; Friday, April 22nd at 7:30 pm and Saturday April 23rd at 5 pm.
For tickets, please call 207 854-0065 or www.acornproductions.org