70LBS OF BOOKS is a play based on the life and letters of Loring Bailey, Jr., a graduate of the Pomfret class of 1963. It was written by Chip Lamb, Chair of the Arts Department and Theatre Director at Pomfret. The cast and creative team included students, faculty, alumni, staff, and guest artists who came together to tell a compelling, barely-known page out of Pomfret’s history, a local story with global implications.
70lbs of Books was performed in Hard Auditorium at Pomfret School May 9 -11, 2013. Thursday night’s performance was attended largely by members of the school community; Friday night’s was scheduled as part of alumni reunion weekend—particularly for those returning from Bailey’s class to celebrate their fiftieth. The Saturday night performance was open to all members of the school community and to the public. The performances were free of charge.
Loring M. (“Ring”) Bailey, Jr., the subject and main character of 70lbs of Books, was a native of Stonington, Connecticut. He was a graduate of Pine Point School, and a member of Pomfret’s class of 1963. He went on to Trinity College, where he majored in English, and was awarded the college’s prize in fiction. In 1968, already an aspiring writer, he enlisted in the army. He was killed in Vietnam in March of 1970; according to school records, he was the last Pomfret student to die in the line of duty.
For Chip Lamb the idea for the play began with Veterans Day 2010, during lunch in the Pomfret dining hall. An announcement was made about recognizing and remembering our soldiers in uniform, and it became clear to Lamb that there was no connection between the students and the human toll of the two wars our country was fighting at the time. “I wondered,” he says, “how might our students come to a deeper understanding of the sacrifice that was being made on their behalf?” He knew that in Clark Chapel, several plaques bore the names of students who have died for their country. Loring Bailey’s name appears over the name of another boy, Geoffrey Rowson. The research for the play started with these names and a computer.
Ring Bailey wrote many letters during months of training and while he was deployed to Vietnam. After his death, his family and friends collected these letters with the intention of publishing them. Sadly, their plans never came to pass. The play uses Ring’s letters to capture the experience of the 1960s and the Vietnam War from the point of view of a literate and expressive young soldier who was also a loving husband and son.
Chip Lamb directs the theatre program at Pomfret School. In addition to 70lbs of Books, his other plays include Headshot, The Pilgrimage, No Time, Undistinguished Americans, and Access. In 1994, he was commissioned to research and write a play about the founder of Pomfret William Peck, considered a nineteenth-century educational innovator. That play, I’m a Master, I Believe was performed in Clark Chapel as part of the school’s Centennial celebration. Lamb teaches acting, playwriting, improvisation, and puppetry.
70lbs of Books was brought to life by a group of dedicated students, faculty and staff. The role of Ring Bailey was played by Bill Wong ’14, who started rehearsing the role in November. Ring’s wife Maris was played by Madeleine Hutchins,’14. The cast includes thirteen other students, ranging from seniors to freshmen.
The design team included sets by guest artist David Regan, costumes by Beth Jacquet, and lighting by Bob Sloat. The sound design was created by Tim Peck ’00, who also directed the music for the show. Painting and Drawing teacher JP Jacquet lead his art class in creating the environment of the sixties for the lobby of the auditorium.
While 70lbs of Books does not include formal dance, Pomfret choreographer Tony Guglietti created stylized movement for the show and assisted with the training and action sequences.
Though not a musical, 70lbs of Books
uses music as an integral part of telling Ring Bailey’s story. The original score is composed by Paul Erik Lipp, ’99. Paul is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who currently records and performs under the name Evening Man. His most recent album is In Space
. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, poet Michelle Chan Brown, and their two cats. Listen to a sound bite from the play here
THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER
for 70lbs of Books
was created by Junko Pinkowski, a member of the Digital Arts faculty at Pomfret. Lover “of all things design-related,” she has been enjoying the challenges and joy of creating posters and other design projects for many Pomfret productions and beyond."THE CLASS OF 1963
As part of the 50th Reunion fundraising effort, members of the Class of 1963 made gifts to support the production of the play. They have also raised money for an established scholarship in Ring’s name, a fund that honors another classmate, and a faculty fund in honor of a beloved teacher.
You can participate in 70lbs of Books!
Did you know Ring Bailey at Pomfret? Do you have stories or anecdotes about him or Pomfret in the 1960s? Have you served in the military and/or have thoughts or questions about the project? Feel free to email us