Singin’ at the Guthrie

Today’s post comes from three members of the Baboon Congress, Barbara, Lisa and Sherrilee.

The Set-up (by Barbara in Robbinsdale)

My little Showtime Chorus is one of the many Twin Cities choruses that have been participating in the Guthrie’s production of The Events,   a rather heavy duty one-act play that follows the journey of a choir, and especially its leader Claire, as they seek understanding in the aftermath of a mass shooting in their own community.

According to the Guthrie, the play was written as “… a response to the 2011 Norway attacks in which the lives of 77 people were…[lost]… at a summer camp, this internationally acclaimed production delves into faith, politics and reason.”

A presentation of the Actors Touring Company of the UK, the troupe shares the stage with a different local choir each night.  In our “land of 10,000 choirs” I counted 22 different choirs on the Guthrie’s website, including not just my choir but also the First Universalist Church Choir that Lisa and Verily Sherrilee sing in.

Think of the logistics of getting all those people in the right place on the right day, knowing what they need to know! After rehearsing on our own, we attended a 3-hour music rehearsal at the Guthrie with other choirs who would be on deck that week. On the day of our performance, we attended a 2-hour rehearsal with “blocking” instructions – where to be when, who to watch for cues.

The Show (by Lisa)

We were well taken care of by Guthrie and ATC staff and the script, which outlined the scenes and cues (though without details so we could still be surprised as the tale unfolded). The intro to each song made our starting notes very clear (no having to pull them out of the air).

We were more involved than we might have first imagined. Two people were volunteered for somewhat lengthy speaking parts (but they could read them without shame – no memorization needed). A number of people were given lines of a few words.

Our only improvisation came when the character Claire decided to lead us in a Shamanic ritual to try to restore her lost soul. She instructed us to move off the risers and come to the front of the stage, and then to melt. I was near the front of the stage so I am not sure what other people did, but I did my best candle and ended up almost flat on the floor. We were then instructed to touch at least one other person and finally to vocalize and jump up as if struck by lightning, shouting, “Charge!!”

We have a blind choir member with a lovely yellow lab guide dog. I heard later that when J was on the floor, D thought it would be helpful to lick J’s face as it was at a convenient height. The improvising actress asked him, “How do you say “melt” in Dog?” The audience thought it all pretty hysterical.

It was good to have some lighter moments as the whole play was dealing with an extremely disturbing subject without any easy answers. The positive message, though, was that community (such as found in community choirs) is our greatest hope for responding to these tragedies.

The Songs (by Verily Sherrilee)

There were six songs assigned for The Event plus each choir started out their show with a prepared song of their choosing.

We started with the Norwegian Coffee Song as a warm up, each time through a little faster than the time before.  Hopefully there weren’t too many Norwegians in the audience to hear how bad the pronunciation gets when you sing that fast.  Soul was a very short piece that we did during the main actor’s monologue about losing her soul.  Ohm.  Soul.  Ohm.  That was all but it was amazing the amount of work put into hitting those four notes and growing the sound.

The third piece was Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal.  This was a big hit in the U.K. a few years ago although our version was slower and “more epic” according to the musical director.  The lyrics pointed to a life in chaos and depression but had a beautiful resolution at the end.  Then there was How Great Thou Art.  As part of the play, Claire was having trouble with the song, since she was struggling with her faith.  So she stopped us midstream, asked us to hum, asked just the altos/sopranos to hum and eventually let everybody sing but quite softly.

If there was a production hit, it was Gavrilo Principe, a high energy song about making your mark on the world.  We were encouraged to rock our air guitars, throw in a lot of movement and clap.  The final song was We’re All Here with a repeating chorus that the audience was encouraged to sing along. After 90 minutes of a tough subject, it was soothing and hopeful.

The songs were all really different and without the play to anchor them, they initially seemed a little bizarre.  But with the dialogue and movements of the actors, they made more sense and contributed to a powerful presentation.

Tell us about YOUR 15 minutes of fame?

52 thoughts on “Singin’ at the Guthrie”

  1. Remind me what it’s called when your worlds collide? Sang a song about Gavrilo Principe at the Guthrie last weekend and this morning on the way to work listening to Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, I heard this:

    “And so for some, the Serbian gunman, whose name is long gone from my memory, had one hundred per cent individual responsibility: take him out of the equation, and the war would never have happened.”

    I yelled “Gavrilo Principe” out loud! Luckily there wasn’t anybody next to me at the stoplight!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. we were at Disney world in Orlando and in the Epcot world thing when the people in the uk grabbed me and said I was to be king in there parade which would begin in 3 minutes.nthey gave am a cloak and a crown and put me in front of the royal carriage to lead the parade, they had lines to throw out to the adoring masses which lined the streets and my Joey was to be regal make pronouncements ( whispered in my ear as we drove) and wave to the royal subjects
    15 minutes may be stretching it but it was fun

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Good morning. Thanks for telling us about your participation in the play at the Guthrie, Barbara, Lisa, and Sherrilee. I’ll bet the three of you never expected to be part of a Guthrie performance. I am sure that was a great experience.

    I have stayed away from doing anything remotely artist on a stage. I have been in front of audiences making presentations about sustainable farming, The closest I come to having a moment of fame probably was the time I accepted an award for my work supporting sustainable agriculture.

    I accepted that award because I was member of the sustainable farming group that gave out the award. I think giving out awards is usually a bad idea. However, I didn’t want to turn my back on taking an award from a group that I had put a lot of effort into supporting. I did get a chance to make a short speech when I accepted the award and I received some applause.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jim – you may think you’re not artistic, but just last week you gave us an incredible description of your seed cleaning/sorting technique. If you did this in front of an audience, sounds artistic to me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My 15 minutes (well, closer to 25) was when I was on The Story with Dick Gordon. I’m sure I have told that story before – it was during the recent recession and a friend and I were interviewed as part of a series they did about how people were affected by and were working through the recession (we met at a job seekers group and formed our own sub-group called The Dung Sisters…the naming is one of those “you had to be there” stories, stress-relieving laughter was involved). Never mind knowing that I was going to be on a national program, there I sat in the booth at MPR, engineer behind me where I couldn’t see him, my pal next to me, a clock where I could see it (I think we chatted with Dick for close to 90 minutes, which got edited down quite a bit, clearly), and a view of the newsroom. All those faces connected to voices that brought me the news – smart, articulate people, and there I sat talking about being treated like I had typhoid when I told people I had been laid off. Crazy. it was great fun, though – and Dick Gordon is a great interviewer. It really felt like a conversation with an old friend who you only heard in your head (since he was only in my headphones in his studio in North Carolina). I did hear from a couple of folks who heard our piece (one who is now a friend – she was local and looked me up on LinkedIn) about how much they appreciated what we had to share. The woman who worked in California who was afraid to tell her friends that she was out of work because of the stigma (and then spiraling increasing inability to get new work) about broke my heart – still feel like if she was the only person I helped by letting her know she wasn’t alone, then my 25 minutes of fame was well worthwhile.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Haven’t had it yet… unless I was secretly videoed doing something stupid in my backyard or somewhere else where I thought I was alone, and that video went viral on YouTube.

    One of my life goals is to remain as anonymous as possible to as many people as possible for as long as possible. Don’t get me wrong–I’ll take the money. just don’t want the fame or notoriety. 😉

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My fifteen minutes was more like a minute. In 1990 I published a book about sandhill cranes. Every spring there is an incredible massing of sandhills on the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska. People come from all over the world to view the thousands of birds staging there as they make their way north to nest and bring forth a new crop of sandhills. It is an awesome thing to see and hear, and I recommend it to any Minnesotan in February who is sick of winter and ready to witness signs of spring.

    I arranged to do a book signing during the big festival they throw when the birds are there. I drove down to Kearney with several boxes of my book and a few pens. When I walked into the room where I’d be doing the signing, a woman approached me with an air of unendurable anticipation. She looked at me intently and said in a sort of stage whisper, “Do you know what is going to happen here? The man who wrote that book on sandhills is going to be here today!”

    I held both of her hands, stared into her eyes and said, “I . . . am . . . THE MAN!” I remember reflecting sadly that nobody who actually knows me was ever that excited about seeing me.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    This is such a great thing to experience–all three of you. “I appeared on the Guthrie Stage in 2015.” Can I have your autograph?

    In 1997 I had a professional article published in “The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.” It was about non medication treatments of ADHD and Chemically Dependent adolescents using Occupational Therapy Techniques.

    I received the last call “of interest” on the techniques about 10 years ago. It made a splash. The Rise and Fall of the 15 minutes passed quickly.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Singing on the Guthrie stage, what an experience. Thanks for giving us the inside scoop, Barb, Lisa, and Sherrilee.

    As to my own 15 minutes of fame, it’s a tossup between my short career as a radio host of “Getting to Know You,” a weekly half-hour show on the base radio in Søndrestrømfjord, Greenland, and the lead article and front page photo of husband and me in a Danish tabloid. Ugh! Mercifully neither had long lasting effects.

    I was in every school play while at the boarding school, and I had the starring role in my high school’s senior play. That play was about an unruly class of seniors, and I played the teacher’s pet, the model student. Some people claimed I was the only one in that play who was required to do any acting besides Marie Louise Lyng who played the teacher. Now why do I suddenly remember this? Haven’t thought about that in decades.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I’ve written about it before, BiR. Essentially, it was a Danish journalist who was visiting the US and was trying to recover some of his costs by writing pieces along the way that he hoped to sell to Danish magazines when he got back home. He found us through the White Pages where husband’s furniture making business was listed under Danish Woodworks. It was a fluff piece with several photo of Hans and me, and our “huge American house” (at the time we lived in Inver Grove Heights in a nice, but very modest house).

        We never thought anything would come of it, and had forgotten all about it until we started getting letters from friends and relatives back home. Somebody actually sent us a copy of the magazine, which I’m sure is still around here somewhere; we were both embarrassed by the whole situation. Essentially the “young Danish couple made good in America” story. Well, for 20 years Minneapolis was the world headquarters of Danish Woodworks, so there.


  9. I’ve had modest moments of fame — newspaper articles when we liquidated my father’s 40 year-old retail store, directed and acted in community theater plays. I don’t suppose notoriety counts as fame…or does it? I have my share of that in my wild and wooly youth.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I should think that notoriety counts, especially on this blog. Like my mink caper, sometimes notoriety makes for a better story. So please, cynthia, don’t hold back.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Exactly! At our age, chances are the statute of limitations have longs since expired, and our friends already know.


  10. You have fulfilled my lifelong dream — to perform onstage at the Guthrie! As a U of MN alumni with a BA in Theatre I’ve been onstage a few times. My most memorable was in a high school production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and I was Snoopy. At one performance that my family attended, there’s a showstopping number that Snoopy sings called “Suppertime”. I performed this number full out with high kicks, etc., and got a standing ovation. My family was astounded that I was even onstage talking as I was (still am) a profound introvert.
    But alas, I have neither the real talent nor the stomach for rejection to perform professionally. But that was certainly memorable for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I played Anne in the Diary of Anne Frank in my junior year of high school. Somewhat more recently (2002), husband and I were featured in a color photo, above the fold, on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Our accomplishment was moving into the first owner-occupied condos in downtown St. Paul since Galtier Plaza opened in 1986. It was a very slow news day. I think I’ve mentioned all this before…

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Hey there–

    A few of us here love the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. Or, as is more likely in my case, a smattering of applause.

    I’ve been in my share of plays. Started in 4H with one acts and share the fun skits. In high school I found the backstage tech people. And then community has been a mix of both. However the last 12 years they hesitate to put me onstage because then they lose me backstage.
    Back in 1986 I had the lead in Woody Allens ‘Play it Again, Sam’. I was ‘Alan Felix’; a neurotic character trying to find a girlfriend. Pretty much just like Woody himself. Kelly and I had just started dating and she played the young beauty who came in at the end as his actual love interest. 🙂
    I remember a couple nights where everything clicked and the audience was with us and the applause was wonderful.

    Flip side of that is Townboard news and. We only make the news when there’s a controversy. I’ve learned to be very careful what I say to the press.

    I was nominated for a local artist award last fall. I was nominated for ‘Outstanding Artist’ (for lighting design) but I didn’t win so it was only a couple minutes of fame.

    I much prefer standing in the back in the dark.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It was more a general award… nothing specific.
        But I was very happy with my lighting designs for a really neat production of ‘Oliver’ at the Rochester Repertory Theater and ‘Rent’ at the Rochester Civic Theater.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Well, the summer after high school I played the bass clarinet in a concert band made up of high school players from all over the country, and we played concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall and other venues in Europe. I wish I had paid better attention about what it looked like back stage at Carnegie Hall and appreciated better then who had perfomred on that stage.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Put me in the not-famous-and-I-like-it-that-way camp. The closest brush with fame I’ve had was that Guy Clark offered to buy me a drink once.

    I was very gratified to be a part of The Events at the Guthrie as an audience member.

    Liked by 2 people

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