One possesses an A-list acting pedigree, while the other built a stage career from the ground (or, rather, dance floor) up. Lindsay Crouse and Nancy Carroll both fell for Cape Ann in their youth and have made themselves at home on the North Shore and at the Gloucester Stage Company.
Like most accomplished actresses, Lindsay Crouse has the chameleon-like ability to disappear into her characters. Her diverse roles have ranged from an Academy Award-nominated turn as a spurned wife in Places in the Heart to a seven-year stint as a judge on “Law & Order.” But here on the North Shore, where she has been summering since childhood, Crouse not only disappears into the dramatic roles she takes on at The Gloucester Stage Company, but she also plays a crucial part in the community itself.
The daughter of renowned playwright Russell Crouse, the actress grew up in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles, but she spends each summer on Cape Ann. “My mother and father had friends in Annisquam (the actress Jean Dixon and her husband, Ted Ely), and they invited my parents for a visit. Of course, my mother fell in love with the area and went looking for a house nearby. The rest is history,” she says.
Like her mother, Crouse fell in love with Cape Ann for several reasons. “It’s an amazing combination of things,” she says. “Of course, there is the extraordinary air, light, and water, but also marshland and woods and rock. And it’s a place that has soul.” Lots of caring souls, to be exact. “I’ve heard the word ‘community’ used a lot, but this really is one,” she explains. “It is so sweet that you feel surrounded by people who genuinely care about you. And we help each other and have fun doing it. It’s extraordinary,” she says.
A large contributor to that close-knit atmosphere for Crouse is the Gloucester Stage Company. “It’s a true community theatre. When I started working there, I wasn’t sure what kind of audience it had. I had been to productions, but didn’t know what to expect when we put on a couple of really serious plays there. When I did Going to St. Ives, which is about a white woman and a black woman with a lot to say about race and culture, I thought we played to one of the most sensitive, intelligent, and extraordinary audiences I have ever played to. The audience was so aware and involved.”
The actress is quick to point out that community theatre is anything but small. “The thing about doing any theatre—if you know how terrifying acting is—is that it means there is no small theatre. You still get stage fright, and you’re always hoping you’ll do a good job. And no matter how many times you’ve done it or done it well, the next time is always the first time,” she explains.
Although her name, Lindsay Ann Crouse, was chosen in homage to her father and his partner, Howard Lindsay, who made up the famous Broadway playwriting duo “Lindsay and Crouse,” she says she didn’t think it was her destiny to be an actress. “I’m very proud to carry the two men’s names, but growing up, I wanted to be a dancer, and I spent many years dancing. I realized much later on that what had really gotten into my blood was all the discussion at the dinner table of what was going on at [my father’s] rehearsals,” she explains.
Nominated for an Oscar in 1985, Crouse says, “I’m not a person who cares much about awards. The most incredible thing about being in the theatre is the amazing diversity of talent. So while I’m really happy for people who win them, I don’t really take all that much interest in awards. I just love being part of the process, and that’s all I need.”
In addition to acting, Crouse has expanded her repertoire of talents over the years to include teaching. For the past 14 years, she has been a Tibetan Buddhist teacher to the North Shore community.
Crouse at her Gloucester home.
“When I found Lama Marut, an extraordinary Tibetan Buddhist teacher, I realized that there had always been a teacher in me. And [Buddhism] was helping me so much in my own life just in terms of being a happy person that I felt compelled to share it. So I brought my teacher to Cape Ann, and out of that grew this wonderful summer retreat,” she explains.
Crouse and her husband, Rick Blue, started a weeklong Buddhist retreat in Rockport nine years ago called The Summer Retreat. Now, it takes place in August at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield and accommodates about 140 guests who want to come together and practice meditation, yoga, and tai chi while learning from a world-renowned Buddhist teacher how to balance their lives.
“The thing I love about [the retreat] really is that people from all walks of life come. There is no class barrier, no religion barrier—it’s not a religious retreat. People are searching for some kind of guidance because times are different now than when the world was smaller and families were tighter. I think people need good advice about how to live their lives,” Crouse says. “There is so much coming down around us with the Internet, phones, and email, and the quality of life gets lost. So people are very, very grateful to get teachings like this and just to be with like-minded, good folks. People make friends for life there. It’s a truly sweet event.”
Nancy Carroll at home in Rockport.
In addition to actress, mother, wife, and Tibetan Buddhist teacher, perhaps one of the easiest roles Crouse has taken on is that of a grateful neighbor. “I came here every summer of my life, and I love the North Shore with all my being. I’ve very rarely been to a place in the world where, every day, people express appreciation for where they live. And people do that here,” she says.
For more information on The Summer Retreat, visit thesummerretreat.org. Information about The Gloucester Stage Company, including Lindsay Crouse’s appearance in Driving Miss Daisy from September 5-22, can be found at gloucesterstage.com.
Nancy Carroll has plenty in common with actress Lindsay Crouse, not the least of which is that they both star in summer productions at the Gloucester Stage Company. Both actresses started their performance careers with an interest in dance, and Carroll also spent her childhood summering in Cape Ann because her parents had loved the area.
Although she grew up in Ohio, Carroll is now a Rockport resident and an involved member of the theatre community. “It’s great fun and wonderful to work at what I consider my hometown theater,” she says. “I got involved with Gloucester Stage about 10 years ago, when the artistic director at the time asked me to audition. Ever since then, I’ve been connected delightedly to Gloucester, and I am thankful that we are fortunate to have a great theatre in our own backyard. [Residents] really are so lucky.”
Carroll started out in ballet, but when she got to her late teens, she explains that “[my] body wasn’t going to hold up to that kind of punishment, so when it came time to choose a college, I chose a conservatory where I could have dance, singing, and drama all in one place.” After college, the actress got a summer cottage on Cape Ann. “Once you live near the ocean, forget it; you’ll never leave,” she says.
Carroll also enjoys Gloucester’s restaurant scene. “It has become an amazing place for dining,” she says. “For those of us who work at Gloucester Stage, the roof deck of the Franklin Cafe is great for a drink or appetizer after the show.” And when she’s not soaking up the sun at area beaches, Carroll can be found in Rockport at Roy Moore’s fish shack, likely enjoying the shrimp cocktail.
Of her acting experience on Cape Ann, Carroll says, “The Gloucester Stage Company is a total collaborative experience. [Media Director] Heidi Dallin’s connections are amazing—she knows everybody. She works so hard to keep the theatre in the news throughout the year, and I think she and everyone over there does a terrific job.”
Carroll most recently starred in the Israel Horowitz play North Shore Fish at the Gloucester Stage Company. As for Lindsay Crouse appearing at the same venue, Carroll says, “It’s amazing. You never know who you’ll see up here!”