Category Archives: Theatre

Casting Call

Well, we have had non-stop national drama for the past four years,  and I am so looking forward to a respite.  I was imagining the other day what political figures I would cast in plays by Shakespeare, imagining who on the national scene would make a good Lear, Lady Macbeth, or Beatrice. The possibilities are endless and amusing, so go to it, Baboons!

 What roles would you cast current national or international political figures in plays, movies, musicals, or operas? Don’t limit yourself to Shakespeare.  What are your favorite  political dramas or comedies?

New Operas

I am not typically a big fan of opera music, but I love the stories they tell. The other day I heard a selection from Nixon in China  by John Adams on MPR. I think it was The Chairman Dances.   I remember seeing a televised performance that opera, and I found the costuming, with all those drab Mao jackets very amusing.

Operas do a good job of immortalizing important moments in history,  and I suppose that Nixon’s breakthrough with China was monumental.  I wonder what the opera repertoire  will be like fifty years from now?

What recent events would you like to see made into operas?  What is your favorite opera?

Legal Eagles

I read with relief and joy the Friday decision of the Supreme  Court to dismiss the Texas suit to invalidate Biden’s win.  I know the suit was doomed from its inception,  but a person worries about these things (or at least I do).

I don’t have any lawyers in my immediate family,  although my paternal grandfather had two uncles and a cousin who were lawyers and judges.  I have always enjoyed  court room dramas, and I sometimes enjoy doing expert witness testimony in real life. It is interesting to see the games and maneuvers that occur to settle things.

I suppose that Gregory  Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch is the most wonderful exemplar of a good attorney.  I have fortunately not needed much personal legal help aside from wills and such.

What are your favorite court room dramas?  What are your experiences  in court and with lawyers? 

Putting On A Show

I was the assisting minister in church yesterday. That required me to sit up front with the pastors and read aloud a selection from the Old Testament, read the Psalm responsively with the congregation,  and then read a selection from the New Testament.  This week I read from Jeremiah and Romans. I really love reading the lessons, and I try my best to convey the meanings in them to the congregation.

Last year we hired a new Worship and Music director.  It is a lay position.  She has done a nice job revitalizing our worship services. I must confess, however, that I find her presentation more than a little disconcerting .  She really, really, loves the Lord, and during services she beams with this beatific glow from her head to her toes.  The problem is that she expects those of us assisting in the worship services as well as musicians to exude the same joy she does. I was raised in a more somber tradition, in which you don’t show much emotion in church, and public displays of religious fervor are highly suspect.  This passage from Matthew sums up what was deeply ingrained in me growing up:

And when you pray, be not like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by men. . . But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Our services are now in person (we are all masked), as well as broadcast over a live Facebook feed and over the local radio. The other Sunday after Husband was the assisting minister, our Worship and Music Director emailed him to  chide him for looking too serious and glum during the service. Husband always looks glum. Moreover,  it is hard to exude joy in a mask, or when you are reading something gloomy from the Old Testament.  We just ignored her email.

Yesterday as I sat in front and read the assigned verses, I couldn’t help but smile surreptitiously behind my mask as I thought about this number from The Producers.

I imagine the Worship and Music Director wouldn’t think it was very funny, but it really sums up her idea of putting on a church service.  Her tenure is limited, as she and her family have moved to another state. She brought us some good ideas to enliven worship, but I am relieved I won’t be chided for not putting a sappy look on my face as I assist or provide music.

When have you had to put on  a show?

A Different Point of View

I thought about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on our recent trip to Brookings, SD, as we drove through Edgely, ND and Aberdeen, SD on our way.  Frank Baum lived in Aberdeen around the time he wrote the book, and the girl he used as a model for Dorothy was his niece who lived on a god forsaken farm near Edgely.  (That girl’s daughter became the first woman senator from ND). The area is pretty swampy and remote, in the James River Valley, close to the Red River Valley, but without the good soil. I confess I never read Baum’s  book, but I really liked Wicked, which was the story told from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.

I liked Jane Eyre as a teen, but I really liked Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which is the story told from the point of view of the first Mrs. Rochester.

I suppose one could argue that writing a story from the point of view of another character from an established novel or story is an easy way to make a buck, but I think it is so interesting  to consider. I also don’t know how they figure out copyright and royalty issues, but it must be doable.

What novel or story would you like to see written from another character’s point of view? What novel or story would you like to see written from the point of view of a character from a completely different novel or story?

Buttering Toast Is Hard

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

Buttering toast is hard

It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it is. In order to butter your toast properly, you need to get the butter on IMMEDIATELY after it comes out of the toaster so it’s still piping hot and the butter will soak into the bread. But also, when doing that, depending how soft your butter is, it will disappear before you’ve covered much of the bread and you may end up using more butter than is really healthy to use to butter your toast.

I remember my father in law being at our house. There was maybe 2 tablespoons of butter on the tray and I was getting another stick out of the fridge. He pointed out the butter on the tray and I said that wasn’t going to be enough and he had quite a fuss about that. To which his daughter pointed out if we were at their house, he would have used a lot more butter than that too.

But ever since, I’m very self-conscious about how much butter I’m using on my toast. (The whole issue of whether butter is good for you or not set aside for the moment.)

Because we don’t have AC in our house and the butter stays on the counter next to the stove, the consistency of the butter changes by season. Winter it’s nicely firm, but soft enough to spread on bread or pancakes or whatever. Summer it’s generally soft, but it might be right on the verge of melted – if not actually softened into a puddle. And trying to butter your toast with that is just a mess.

Course if you keep your butter in the fridge, well, that’s a whole nother story. And if frozen, all bets are off. Then it’s just a mess with slivers of butter and randomly spotty buttered toast.

Ever tried to soften butter in the microwave? We have the button to do 30 seconds, which I use often, because you don’t have to do the full 30.

I’ve tried just a few seconds and then roll the stick over to a new side. I’ve tried higher power and turning more… There’s a very fine line between cold, soft, and melted. A line of about 1.5 seconds.

Does your toaster toast evenly? Ours does one of the two slices fairly evenly but the second slice toasts one side but not the other. So when the first piece is done I flip the second around and toast the other side of the second piece while I butter the first. But that’s only the first two pieces of toast. If I make 2 more pieces, side Two of the second will be a little more brown. But don’t forget to turn the level down or piece One will burn.

There is a play called ‘True West’ by Sam Shepard. Part of the show involves one character breaking into homes and stealing toasters. What we see onstage is the next morning with a dozen toasters spread around the kitchen. When I worked on that production, part of the issue was toasters take a lot of power and simply having enough power to run all the toasters involved extension cords from all over the theater. Well, not to mention, finding a dozen toasters. But for several years after that, no one involved had to purchase a toaster; we just went and got another one from the props room. And it gave me a line I’ve never forgotten when another character finally says “What is this bull**** with toast!?”

Waffles or pancakes for you?

Melodic Mystery

The other day, Husband played a CD of Borodin’s 2nd String Quartet. We have been listening to a lot of chamber music lately, and this is a CD we had for a while but hadn’t played before.  I had never heard this quartet before.  When the 2nd movement, (Scherzo) of the quartet played, I knew I had heard the tune before, and exclaimed “That is that is Buttons and Bows”!  I am somewhat prideful of the fact that I have a really good auditory memory, and once I hear a tune I rarely, if ever, forget it.  This is what it sounds like:

Husband protested, saying that Buttons and Bows was a very different tune. Being a Boomgaarden, (someone who is never wrong), I set out to solve the mystery. and turned to the internet  to prove my point.

Well, Husband was right. This is Buttons and Bows:

What, then was I remembering? I found that the 2nd movement of Borodin’s 2nd String Quartet was used in the song Baubles, Bangles, and Beads from the musical, Kismet. I never in my life saw that musical.  The song from the musical was quite popular in the 1950’s, however,  and was recorded by Miss Peggy Lee and by Frank Sinatra. I assume I heard the tune on some occasion as a small child and it stuck with me.

Well, Husband allowed that since the titles all were replete with B’s, I could be forgiven for confusing them. I am glad the mystery is solved.  I really like Borodin and think he is a seriously underrated composer.

What have you researched lately? What are some of your earliest musical memories?  How do you deal with being proved wrong? Ever seen Kismet?

Felix or Oscar?

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

The Odd Couple was a popular play that then became a hit movie and then became a television series that ran for five years. The original play, written by Neil Simon, features conflict between recent two divorcees who room together. Felix is a neat freak; Oscar is a slob who is comfortable being a slob. Essentially, the two characters are defined by their very different positions on the OCD scale. I particularly liked the movie. In it, fussy Felix was played by Jack Lemon, an actor who could do crankiness well. Oscar was played perfectly by Walter Matthau.

One reason I found the jokes appealing was how they mirrored my relationship with my favorite hunting and fishing partner, Bill. Bill was Felix; I was Oscar. Bill used to wear suspenders and a belt to keep his pants up; by contrast, I’ve been known to wear neither, with predictable results. We have been pals for over fifty years. Bill has gradually grown less uptight, while I have become somewhat more prepared. It has been the best friendship I ever had.

I was shocked to learn, when I was in my sixties, that I had slight OCD tendencies. One night I sat behind a woman during a small theatrical production. The tag on her blouse was sticking out. I found myself seriously tempted to tuck the tag out of sight. I didn’t, of course. Men who rearrange the clothing of women they don’t know might suffer harsh consequences. I couldn’t wait for that play to end because that loose tag was like a bit of grit in my eye.

When I moved to Michigan, a family friend helped set up in my new apartment. She donated glasses, silverware and furniture so the place would be livable when I arrived. To my disgust, I found myself freaked out by having “mixed” flatware. I lived for 48 years using nothing but the lovely Dansk flatware my erstwife and I got when we were married. After Nancy’s intervention, my elegantly stylish flatware shared a drawer with all kinds of alien forks and spoons from Walmart or who-knows-where. Every time I opened the silver drawer I was disgusted by the clash of styles. When I moved back to Minnesota I secretly dumped all the alien utensils.

So I’m still Oscar, but have a carefully hidden streak of Felix that only my best friends see.

How about you? Are you more slob or neatnik? Do you have enough OCD in you to be slightly bothered by it from time to time? Sitting in the doctor’s waiting area, did you ever straighten up the stacks of magazines?

Worth Doing

Gustav Holst is reputed to have  said, in reference to church music and musicians, that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. I know I have reported this on the Trail before, and it was once again brought home to me last evening at our Lessons and Carols service.

It went quite well, actually, given that the new music and worship director had never done a service like this before, and that the bell choir director was miffed because she thought she and I should have planned it. I helped to smooth things out between the two of them and found as many readers for the lessons as I could. We had two 8 year old girls read lessons, and they did a great job. I also enlisted a very theatrical guy from the Episcopal church to read, as well as with our family lawyer and me and Husband. (I tried to get the UCC pastor to read, but she was having 16 people over for dinner last night).  We had an impromptu children’s choir for the first time at this service, along with a flute player, a clarinet player, our assistant pastor on trumpet, and  a violin player.  Husband sang a solo from a Finnish folk hymn Lost in the Night.  The choir sang and the bell  choir rang.  All the music was appropriate for the service, and the director curbed her tendency for evangelical  praise music.

We never had a dress rehearsal, but it all fell together. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked and everyone left in good spirits.  The bell choir director and the worship and music director  embraced after it was over. I hope as you read this you can think back to programs and pageants from your past.

What is the most elaborate thing you have planned?  Any stories from past pageants or programs?


Calendar Cuties

I just received the December 5th edition of the Rock County Star Herald, my home town newspaper. I was delighted to read a story about Generations, the local senior citizens center. The center started an ambitious campaign to raise 2 million dollars for a  building for senior activities which will provide meals and social activities for community seniors as well as for residents of all ages in the low income housing tower to which it will be connected.

The newest fund raiser is a calendar featuring,  each month,  a local  senior posed in a scene from an iconic movie. Costumes were borrowed from the local community theatre company, and a local photographer volunteered to take the photos. So, on the front page of the paper, there she was, Neva, the mother of one of my high school classmates, posed like Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music,  clad in that black dress with the white apron, standing in front of a mountain in the middle of the alpine meadow with her arms held out, ready to belt out The Hills are Alive.  George, director of Generations and a retired horticulturalist, posed as Forrest Gump sitting on the bench with a suitcase and a box of chocolates.

They got the idea from the Winona Friendship Center. It seems like they had a great deal of fun doing it. They are making plans for next year’s calendar.

What iconic film scene/character  would you like to pose as for such a calendar?