In May, John Wulp of Vinalhaven turned 85. In casting about for some way to celebrate his birthday, North Haven Arts & Enrichment, under the instigation of executive director Christie Hallowell and board member David Hopkins, decided to mount a fully professional production of the musical version of “Red Eye of Love.” Thanks to the generosity of many of Wulp’s friends, admirers and former students, this dream is becoming a reality. There will be five performances, from Aug. 1 through 4, at Waterman’s Community Center, including one matinee.

Waterman’s is a community center built on North Haven in 2004, the construction of which Wulp’s involvement was instrumental. It will be done in the Islands Theater, which is dedicated to Wulp. The scenery, as designed and created by artist Robert Indiana for the straight play version done on North Haven in 1998, will be reproduced for the musical version.

“Red Eye of Love” by Arnold Weinstein has long been a favorite play of Wulp’s. Originally discovered in the 1960s by Sam Cohn, it was produced in 1961 by Wulp and Cohn, in association with Julia Miles, at The Living Theater in New York City; Wulp also directed and designed the scenery. It was the first professional production Wulp had directed, and he won an Obie Award for the 1961/62 season as Best Director. Cohn went on to become a legendary theater agent, while Miles founded The Women’s Project.

In 1998, Wulp revived the play for North Haven Arts & Enrichment with a student cast.  Vinalhaven artist Indiana did the scenery for this production, which proved to be one of the most popular Wulp had done during his time as a drama instructor for the North Haven Community School. Revenue from the sale of the Indiana’s scenery, through Christie’s, contributed to the building of Waterman’s Community Center.

Doing “Red Eye of Love” on North Haven reminded Wulp of a musical version of the play he and Weinstein had worked on for a number of years. In 2006, Weinstein died. Cohn called Wulp to say that he wanted to revive “Red Eye of Love.” Wulp, by now retired, agreed, but he said that he wanted to do the musical version.

Thus began a long quest to get the play up on the boards. Sam Davis was commissioned to write the score. Davis most recently worked with Susan Stroman on “Big Fish,” a musical scheduled for this fall on Broadway.

Over a series of workshop productions (and years) and a trial run at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Festival in Waterford, Conn., the play has slowly assembled a creative team of some of the finest talent in the American musical theater. Ted Sperling has agreed to direct; Sperling was the musical director for “South Pacific” and “The Light in the Piazza,” both at Lincoln Center, winning a Tony Award for the latter.

Alex Sanchez, a former Bob Fosse dancer who has branched out on his own, has agreed to come on board as the choreographer. Last year, he choreographed “Giant” at The Public Theater. Before that, he choreographed “Where’s Charlie?” for “Encores!”

Nantucket, another island where Wulp has lived, decided that it also would honor Wulp’s birthday this summer. On Aug. 14, the Nantucket Theater Workshop, under the direction of John Shea, an actor who got his first professional job from Wulp, will revive the Edward Gorey production of “Dracula,” a show Wulp first produced on Nantucket 40 years ago. It went on to Broadway success and won a Tony Award as Most Innovative Production of a Revival. Gorey won a Tony award for his costume design in the same production. On the same day, a retrospective show of Wulp’s paintings will open in Preservation Hall on the island. Closer to home, a show of Wulp’s paintings runs through Sunday, July 21, at the North Haven Gallery.

To complete the celebration, in February, the Nantucket Theater Workshop will present “Islands,” a show about North Haven that Wulp wrote with composer Cindy Bullens and took to Broadway two weeks after 9/11.

All this is happening at a time when a play by John Guare, a former student of Weinstein and one of Wulp’s long time associates, has just opened at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York. It features a painting by Wulp of Elzbieta Czyzewska, the subject of Guare’s play “Elzbieta Erased.” The play was presented on Vinalhaven two summers ago, with the same cast — John Guare and Omar Sangare — in the Windy Way Barn of the New Era Gallery.

All in all, quite a busy year for someone who just turned 85.  It is Wulp’s hope that “Red Eye of Love” might duplicate the commercial success of “Dracula” and thus endow Waterman’s Community Center. Those who wish to make a contribution to this birthday celebration are invited to make a check payable to North Haven Arts & Enrichment and mail it to Waterman’s Community Center, North Haven, ME 04853.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or