In 2011, the Portsmouth Athenaeum expanded its community offerings to include programs featuring local speakers on many different subjects.

Ann Beattie, chairman of the Program Series Committee since its inception, said the choice of topics has "traditionally had a historical bent and we wanted to honor that with this year’s theme."

"As the Athenaeum was originally created as a membership library for the 'mutual edification of its members and to elevate the educational resources available in the community,' we share a love of words, language and writing in many forms," Beattie said.

"Scripting the Seacoast with Words, Beauty, Learning and Laughter" begins March 20 with Brendan Dubois, an award-winning mystery-suspense writer. DuBois is a former newspaper reporter and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.

"His publications include 11 books in the intriguing Lewis Cole mystery series, loosely set on the New Hampshire Seacoast," Beattie said.

DuBois is also a one-time "Jeopardy!" game show champion.

On April 17, Rebecca Rule will share some of her store of humorous New England tales. Her books include “Live Free and Eat Pie: A Storyteller’s Guide to New Hampshire.” Rule also conducted an interview show, “The Authors Series,” for 10 years and currently hosts “Our Hometown” on NH Public Television.

On May 15, journalist Rachel Forrest will reveal insights from the hundreds of columns she wrote about food and drink for the Portsmouth Herald for over a decade. She has also authored more than 2,000 feature stories, including interviews with authors and musicians, and pieces about science, music, interior design, architecture, tattooing, theater and classic cars.

On Sept. 18, the photographs and prose of Alexandra de Steiguer are featured. For more than 20 years, she has worked as the winter caretaker on Star Island, where Beattie said she revels in its beauty. De Steiguer’s book “Small Island, Big Picture: Winters of Solitude Teach an Artist to See,” captures her intense love of the natural world.

On Oct. 16, meet playwrights, actors and puppeteers Marguerite Matthews and Gregory Gathers. "They have created more than 50 original works that have been presented both at their venue, Pontine Theatre in Portsmouth, and in hundreds of communities throughout New England," Beattie said.

On Nov. 20, spend the evening with John Perrault, balladeer, poet, lawyer and teacher. A musician and former Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, Perrault has written many songs about historical people and events and is the author of “Jefferson’s Dream,” “Here Comes the Old Man Now” and “The Ballad of Louis Wagner.”

Each program begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Athenaeum's Research Library. Reservations for each program are required, as seating is limited. To reserve a spot, call (603) 431-2538, Ext. 2.

Attendance at programs is free for Athenaeum Proprietors, subscribers and friends. Guests and members of the public are welcome to attend the entire series by becoming a Friend of the Athenaeum for as little as $25 per year, payable at the door. Admission to an individual program is $10.

Beattie said the Program Series Committee is made up of talented and hard-working people who not only choose the theme and book the speakers, but also get the word out about the events, set up the Athenaeum's research library for the programs and tidy up afterward.

"We then enjoy a round of discussion and banter as we clear the library for the following day’s visitors," said Beattie, who after a career as an academic with a doctorate in social psychology and professorships in marketing, said she found her passion in studying the history of the Isles of Shoals.

She is a former president of the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association and has served as a board member of the Portsmouth Athenaeum. She leads tours of the Shoals, hosts several week-long history programs on Star Island and serves as a Smuttynose Steward.

For more information on the Athenaeum, a nonprofit membership library and museum at 9 Market Square founded in 1817, go to

At the Athenaeum appears on the second Sunday of each month.