One-woman play about Christa McAuliffe premieres in Framingham

By Brad Avery

March 06. 2016 7:15PM

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Judith Kalaora presented the life of Christa McAuliffe as part of the History at Play series on Sunday afternoon at the Historic Village Hall in Framingham. Here she portrays Christa’s career as a teacher.

FRAMINGHAM – From inventors to suffragettes, actress Judith Kalaora has portrayed many historic women in her educational one-woman performances. But on Sunday, she premiered her riskiest show to date when she took on the role of Christa McAuliffe at the Framingham Village Hall.

Kalaora, herself a Framingham native, admitted she was nervous and afraid before beginning her self-written show, “CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa,” for an audience consisting largely of people who knew and remembered McAuliffe, the teacher and astronaut who has become an iconic piece of Framingham and American history.

Kalaora’s play comes 30 years after McAuliffe died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and coincides with the opening of the new Christa McAuliffe Branch Library building in Nobscot. In writing the show, Kalaora wanted to make sure the focus was on McAuliffe’s life and not her death, showcasing who she was as a person as she lived her childhood and college years in Framingham and her life as a teacher in Maryland and New Hampshire.

“When you’re portraying someone so close to people’s hearts you have an immense responsibility to uphold their memory in a way that represents who they were and what they were trying to achieve,” Kalaora said. “Even though it’s recent history, it’s old enough now and has to be revisited. This is an important woman and her death should not be what marks her legacy, it should be her life.”

“CHALLENGER” begins with McAuliffe as a 15-year-old Girl Scout and moves through her life in stages – from her politically active college years during the late ‘1960s to her time as an inner-city school teacher in Maryland and finally her months with NASA training to become the first teacher in space. Using multimedia, news clips and recordings of McAuliffe underline the most iconic moments of her story.

The show was well-received by the audience, many of whom were former classmates, teachers or friends of McAuliffe or her family.

“We went to church with her family, Christa was my daughter’s Girl Scout leader,” said Framingham resident Ceil Wohler. “It was very well done, very well researched.”

Others said the play was marvelous, although bittersweet. Former Framingham teacher Quent Sewell, who said he knew McAuliffe’s mother Grace Corrigan, called it fantastic and was taken with Kalaora’s performance.

“Not only did she present it so you believe she was Christa, but I learned things I didn’t know,” Sewell said.

It was important to premiere the show in Framingham, Kalaora said. With both a library and a middle school named for McAuliffe, Kalaora wants young kids to know more about the person behind the name.

“My goal is to ensure this wonderful person is not just remembered, but that she is known,” Kalaora said.

“CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa” will play again at the Amazing Things Arts Center on April 3. Tickets are available at www.amazingthings.org. For more information on Kalaora’s one-woman shows, visit her website www.historyatplay.com.

Brad Avery can be reached at 508-626-4449 or bavery@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradAvery_MW. 

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Christa McAuliffe’s Life and Legacy Focus of Framingham History Center Program

Judith Kalaora, of History at Play, celebrates Christa McAuliffe’s legacy with a journey through her life on Sunday, March 6.

Historic interpreter to portray Christa McAuliffe in Framingham show

Christa - JudithBy Danielle Ameden
Daily News Staff
Posted Feb. 25, 2016 at 9:02 PM

FRAMINGHAM – Thirty years after her death in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Christa McAuliffe’s story is coming alive thanks to a performance by historical interpreter Judith Kalaora.

Kalaora, a character actress who, like McAuliffe, grew up in Framingham, takes the stage at historic Village Hall on Sunday, March 6. The show, “CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa,” celebrates McAuliffe’s lasting legacy as a teacher, explorer and educational pioneer.

“We’re very excited because it’s the debut of this woman’s program and she’s a wonderful actress and we always love reenactments and living history,” said Annie Murphy, executive director of the Framingham History Center.

Murphy said people are always impressed to learn that McAuliffe, whose maiden name is Corrigan, grew up in Framingham and attended local schools.

“We’re all going to learn a lot more about who she was through this program, her teaching methods and her spirit,” Murphy said. “She went to Framingham State, she went to Marian, her mom is still in town, so deep roots in Framingham.”

The performance starts at 2:30 p.m. in the hall at 2 Oak St., Framingham. The snow date is March 20.

Kalaora, of History at Play, is known for taking on many roles, including 19th century women’s rights activist Lucy Stone at a recent performance at the Ashland Historical Society.

Murphy said she hopes for a large audience to hear McAuliffe’s story.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to come and see this teacher and what she was hoping to accomplish with her mission,” Murphy said.

McAuliffe, who lived in Concord, N.H., was a schoolteacher. She was selected out of 11,000 applicants to participate in NASA’s Teacher in Space Project. After completing months of training, she died when the Challenger shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986.

Murphy said Kalaora’s performance will be educational for teachers, parents and kids. It is suitable for children 9 and up.

She said the tribute coincides with the opening of the town’s new Christa McAuliffe branch library on Water Street in Nobscot.

Tickets for the performance are $5 for Framingham History Center members, $10 for nonmembers and $5 for children ages 9 to 15.

Reservations are required. For more information, visit www.framinghamhistory.org.

Danielle Ameden can be reached at 508-626-4416 or dameden@wickedlocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @damedenMW.


MetroFest coming to Framingham June 25

By Danielle Ameden
Daily News Staff

Posted Feb. 26, 2016 at 11:01 PM

MetroFest will be back at Bowditch Field in Framingham for the third year in a row, but in the summer, instead of fall.

The arts, music and food truck festival, MetroWest Visitors Bureau’s signature event, will take place Saturday, June 25, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Executive Director Susan Nicholl announced the date to a crowd of 200 people Friday at the bureau’s 5th annual breakfast at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Westborough.

Area lawmakers and representatives from businesses and cultural attractions throughout the region came together to celebrate gains the bureau has made with its MetroFest and work to promote all that MetroWest has to offer.

According to Nicholl and state Sen. Karen Spilka, the effort has paid off as visitors to MetroWest pumped $931 million in direct spending into the local economy in 2014.

“One billion in revenue, that’s amazing,” said bureau board member Richard Tomanek, general manager at Embassy Suites in Marlborough.

Tomanek said it’s yeomen’s work that Nicholl and the regional tourism council are doing to draw visitors here and encourage them to open their wallets.

Spilka, D-Ashland, told the crowd that revenue tourists generate is a “bright spot in our financial forecast” and provides a boost to cities and towns.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, MetroWest Regional Transit Authority Administrator Ed Carr, Massachusetts Special Olympics athlete Beth Donahue and others joined Spilka in highlighting the importance of the four-year-old visitors bureau.

In this global economy era, Eric Morse, senior vice president of Needham Bank, said it’s vital for people who live in MetroWest to also spend their money here.

He said his community bank is an example of the “power of localization.”

“We see local bakeries, we see local restaurants, local hardware stores, local hospitals, all flourishing,” he said. “We see the power of shopping locally, the power of localization.”

The breakfast gave Kenneth Rendell a chance to tell the crowd about his Museum of World War II in Natick.

Donahue, 25, an athlete leader and global messenger for Special Olympics, shared that the organization, which has its Massachusetts headquarters in Marlborough, will host the state’s Special Olympics Tournament of Champions in the city this August.

More than 1,500 athletes will come from all over Massachusetts to compete in bocce, golf, softball and cycling, providing a mini-boon for the region’s economy, she said.

From a tourist standpoint, Spilka said MetroWest competes with other regions of the state, including Cape Cod and the Berkshires, but is an economic engine all its own.

She said MetroWest is often lucky to attract many international tourists, who come for recreation and shopping opportunities, and business travelers who visit the corporate headquarters here. Nicholl said the bureau has totally redesigned its website, www.metrowestvisitors.org, to better show off what the region has to offer.


Framingham’s TB Study 1916-1923 — Paving the way for the Framingham Heart Study (1948)

Thursday, March 24, 2016 (World TB Day)
7:00PM
Historic Village Hall*
2 Oak St, Framingham, MA
Framingham Children's Health Camp

Framingham Children’s Health Camp

Framingham’s “TB Study” was the first community based participatory health study in the world.  It was a model for preventing TB cases and deaths as well as saving funds related to treating this disease. Read more >>


The Haunted Beach – and the Pirate’s Buried Treasure

(Learned Pond Beach at the intersection of Brigham Road and Shawmut Terrace)

 learned pondMany New England towns claim to have treasure hidden in secret places by the famed pirate Captain William Kidd.  Framingham not only makes the same claim, but also boasts a legend and a poem written by a local writer of romantic novels and flowery verse.  In 1897, Main Street resident Clara Augusta Trask published the Legend of Learned’s Pond, detailing the sinking of a chest of gold by the notorious Kidd. According to the legend, if you want to recover the treasure, all you have to do is come back here late at night with two other people, form a triangle with your bodies, then, in perfect silence, after moving in a straight line towards the chest as it rises from the water, lay an iron key on it.   But, the task is only for the strong of heart, for

Captain Kidd, who sailed and sailed, and spied three ships from Spain

Is watching still his treasures hid on land and on the main,

And if you break the magic spell laid on this chest of gold

The pirate’s ghost will drag you down in Learned’s waters cold.

Framingham does lay claim to one pirate, Joseph Bradish, who was born near Sudbury in 1672.  At age 26, Bradish found himself a Pirate captain of the ship Adventure after the crew mutinied off the island of Borneo. Bradish sailed the ship back to New England where its valuables were sold and the ship was scuttled.  The law finally caught up with Bradish and he was thrown in jail in Boston in April, 1699.  In true pirate fashion he escaped with the help of his cousin, who was the jailer, his cousin’s beautiful maid, and his one-eyed companion Tee Witherly.  The trio was caught near Saco, Maine and returned to Boston.  There Bradish’s cellmate was the legendary Captain Kidd, which may explain how the Learned’s Pond legend  came about.  Bothe men were brought to London to meet their fate, death by hanging.


The tale of Edgell Grove Cemetery, Grove Street, Framingham

Edgell Grove Cem

Entrance to Edgell Grove Cemetery c. 1905

The cemetery was built on land once owned by Colonel Moses Edgell, who gave thousands of dollars for the construction of the cemetery’s memorial chapel. It was laid out as a “garden cemetery,” modeled after Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.  Garden cemeteries were lavishly landscaped and designed to provide a peaceful resting place for the dead, as well as a contemplative setting for mourners.  The story of one such mourner appeared in the Framingham Gazette in December of 1891 under the headline:

A sad, uncommon story is that of the death of Elbert Hemenway and Elven, his brother.

Elbert, the younger brother had passed away at the age of 73.  Several days later, brother Elven, his wife by his side, was driving the family carriage to the Hemenway plot in Edgell Grove for the burial.  Without warning, he gasped, dropped the reigns, and fell back in his seat, dead.  The first person to respond to Mrs. Hemenway’s anguished cries was Mr. Thomas, the undertaker, who was waiting at the grave for the arrival of the mourners.  Elven was loaded onto the same wagon that had just brought his brother to his own grave, and transported to the undertaker’s. There are those who say that the unfortunate Mr. Hemenway can still be seen on these roads, desperately driving his ghostly carriage in an attempt to make it to his beloved brother’s funeral.