Posts tagged ‘Guthrie Theatre’

ARTS ADVOCACY DAY at ST. PAUL – Feb. 28, 2017

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Sue and I spent Tuesday down in St. Paul at the state capital as participants in the annual Arts Advocate Day. With a head count of 800 or so art supporters, our day went like this:

8:00 am – Rally, learning about the study done about the impact of the Arts in Minnesota, hearing from a few legislators who are on the Legacy committee, an award given, and then meeting in our teams that would head together to visit legislators.

Some things we learned from the study of arts in Minnesota:
Information is from the report prepared by that group. You can see the whole report at their website

Minnesota artists and artistic organizations have an economic impact in Minnesota of 2 BILLION DOLLARS.

 This generates a total government revenue of 222 MILLION DOLLARS

Minneapolis is the second best rated place for the arts in the country, behind only New York

 There are over 62,000 volunteers in the arts in Minnesota, provided over 2 million hours of their time.

Minnesota’s population is 5.4 million, but the head count at arts events is 18.9 million. 77% of these people are from households that make less than $100,000 – so much for the arts being something the rich people do.

Of the nearly 1 million students in the state, they see, hear and learn from the arts about 3 times a year from outside their own schools – either visiting artists or field trips.

10:00 am – our appointments begin. We met with Representatives Kresha, Heintzeman, Layman, and Poston. Then over to the senate building where we met with Senators Eichhorn and Gazelka. We had others scheduled but they were tied up in committee meetings – and that happens.

2:00 pm – back on the road, headed for home. Tired, but satisfied in knowing we were part of a big day.


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In the theatre at the Minnesota History Center – there are about 400 in this shot – the other 400 couldn’t get into the theatre.

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Our group (Group E – People from Little Falls, Long Prairie, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Walker and other communities in this part of the state…. (I’m not sure I have the names right – nor were all the people in our group in this photo . . . please send corrections ….)

Back Row – Charlie Johnson, Joe Haj, Sam Grigsby
Middle Row – Millie Engisch, Mariko Yoshimura, Hannah Novillo Erickson, Kate Henricksen-Benes, Patty Norgaard, Scott Lykins
Front Row – Sue Johnson, Luan Thomas – Brunkhorst , Mark Turner, Chelsey Johnson, David Marty,

In this group, we had Five Wings Arts Council members, people who work for the Walker Art Center, The Guthrie Theatre, The HennepinTheatre Trust,The Reif Center in Grand Rapids, the MacRostie Art Center of Grand Rapids, the Lakes Area Music Festival, the Long Prairie Chamber of Commerce We were just one of well over 25 groups that visited all the state legislators that day.

Here’s our full group with Representative Sandy Layman

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Week 35 – Chanhassen’s HELLO DOLLY Reviewed

Reviewing HELLO DOLLY at Chanhassen.

HELLO DOLLY is a show that many theatres do – and that is so very well-known. It has been done before at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Wilma and I headed down there for the matinée this past Saturday to take in the show and have a nice dinner.

Let’s start with the dinner. We both had the lasagna, which we thought was quite good. The presentation was quite ordinary, though. No sprigs of parsley, nothing to dress up the plate. We kept it pretty simple as far as drinks went; coffee and water. We each got a piece of garlic bread, which was a bit disappointing – I thought there would be more bread offered. We followed up with dessert at intermission. I enjoyed a nice warm piece of triple berry tart, which went well with the coffee – and of THAT, there was plenty. Wilma had a turtle chocolate cheesecake, and in her words, it was “to die for”. The food, overall, quite good, but maybe a bit less in presentation than Chanhassen used to do…. And I do think we got our money’s worth for the food. The service was fine – quick and efficient, main course delivered quickly before the show and then a quick appearance of our desserts at intermission.

The facilities have been around since 1968 when it opened. The main theatre has had a few facelifts over the years – and the last time we were there, we noticed it was looking tired and in need of some new carpeting and stuff like that… and they’ve taken care of that. The lavatories were plentiful and clean. We took a walk through the complex when we were done eating; there are several shops connected to the theatre, as well as the usual box office and gift shop for the theatre itself. The main theatre, where HELLO DOLLY was staged, is a large venue. The seating (we were at a table for six, with none sitting in the middle seats) are ample enough but would have been rather tight if they had been there.

And so now to the show itself – after all, it is the main reason for heading down there.
HELLO DOLLY is based on the play THE MATCHMAKER by Thornton Wilder (more on that later…) and tells the story of one Dolly Levi, she of the optimistic plans and abilities to make things happen, among which are marriage arranging… and in this story, she is to find a mate for Horace Vandergelder (and that likely candidate is hat shop operator Mrs. Milloy) but her ultimate goal is to catch Horace for herself. On the way, we meet Horace’s employees Barnaby and Cornelius, who get themselves entwined as well with Mrs. Milloy and her employee Minnie.

The cast is vastly experiences and contains some fun surprises for Wilma and me. A while back we saw Tyler Michaels as Freddie in MY FAIR LADY at the Guthrie, but here he is as Cornelius. Longtime cast member Keith Rice plays the gruff Horace Vandergelder – we’ve seen him at Chanhassen as Curly in OKLAHOMA and Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN, to name a few. Cat Brindisi plays Mrs. Milloy, who had a part along with Tyler Michaels in MY FAIR LADY … and the fun thing here is that her mother plays Dolly…. And her dad? Michael Brindisi, who is very active in the Chanhassen theatres as part owner and as producer and director – he wears many hats indeed.

And that mother is Michelle Barber. She has been a strong presence in the theatre world of the Minneapolis area, having appeared on other stages in town as well as many appearances at Chanhassen. She plays Dolly as an upbeat lady who will not let conditions run her desires. Ms. Barber commands the stage when she is on, delivering lines with optimism and flowing across the stage in her marvelous gowns. Strong voice and great acting chops are always there for Ms. Barber, so she delivers a fine, fun Dolly for the audience. More on her later in a personal note.
Keith Rice also brings a strong presence to the role of Horace. He played it soft as Curly when he did in OKLAHOMA, but here in DOLLY, he is a gruff and no-nonsense man of the 1900s who runs his business and his social dealings with the usual effrontery of such men of the era. His big song is “IT TAKES A WOMAN” in which he leads the men of the office (and others) through his concerns about womanhood of the time.

Tyler Michaels plays the bumbling Cornelius – and is again a joy to watch as he uses his youthful appearance to give the part an innocence and childlike joy – until things get ridiculous and out of hand. Cat Brindisi, plays Mrs. Milloy, which is usually played by a somewhat older actress – but she hides her 22 years of age (or else the makeup department did) and she gives Mrs. Milloy a more saucy and sassy attitude – in other productions, the part is played as a bit prissy, so it was fun to see a new look at the role.

Dancers all over the place… the entire ensemble appears in so many of the songs… PUT ON YOUR SUNDAY BEST is one of the best, and of course, the big showstopper HELLO DOLLY is full of kicks and prancing and costuming and so much fun.

Costumes are period-perfect. Ladies in their long gowns and ribboned hats, men in their suits or their waiter’s outfit at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant … the only truly odd moment of the show is the choice of costumes used for the ‘band members’ in the song “BEFORE THE PARADE PASSES BY”. Dolly sings a great song, but it has been directed to be almost a dream sequence as the band members dance around in their grey/blue body suits – as if they had escaped from a Bob Fosse piece. It didn’t work for either Wilma or me.

This show opened the night before, so there were still a few technical slipups – the first word of some of the songs and dialogues were missed as the sound operator missed several cues, leaving the audience not hearing the first words of such instances. The lighting was fine and the sets were moved quickly within the context of the show, so there was no time lost for set changes.

On that personal note: Wilma and I were married in 1983 – and we honeymooned in Bemidji, where we took in a play at the PAUL BUNYAN PLAYHOUSE. The show? THE MATCHMAKER by Thornton Wilder, which I mentioned is the basis for HELLO DOLLY. And in that version those 31 years ago, the part of Dolly was played by – well, yes – Michelle Barber! Wilma and I remember her fondly for that part, and it was fun to find her doing THIS Dolly.

A good time at Chanhassen for DOLLY and her audience.

Week 30 – My Fair (Change that to Stupendous) Lady, My Sub-Mediocre Twins

This weekend Wilma and I traveled down to the Cities to join our daughter and her hubby at a Twins game, then a night in the downtown Radisson, and then taking a shot at getting rush tickets for My Fair Lady.  Let’s take them in that order.


We  checked into the Radisson in downtown Minneapolis and then picked up the kids at the state fairgrounds, where they were having a ball at the BMW motorcycle rally – yes, our daughter rides!  She and her hubby have become real adventurers, which I find fun and interesting to watch.  Wilma, however, requests that they not tell her when they’re going on a ride until AFTER they’ve returned home safely.  we parked back at the hotel and started the short 3 block walk to Target Field

My dinner    Zoomer Heidi and Zinger Jon

Supper, you ask?  We got ourselves a table in THE DEPOT TAVERN just a few blocks away from Target Field.  I had a REAL corned beef Reuben sandwich… very interesting taste in the beef; I liked it.  Then of course, there’s a beer or two to be had over such a meal.  The meal offered us a chance to sit and visit.  It was casual, it was nice – it is always so good to be with them….


Then to the stadium, section 220, front row.  Unfortunately, the game started with the Twins pitcher (Kevin What’s His Name) giving up a single, a single and a homer…. Twins are down 3 – 0 and there’s not even an out registered…. hence my choice of headline for this week’s blog…. the Twins – and I am as deep and steady a fan as anyone, so I hesitate to say this – are in sad shape.  Two Twins errors, weak bats that seemed to send little to the outfield, and some real lackluster defensive play.  So henceforth, considering how much tickets cost for a ballgame  ( we went with mid-range cost for the tickets) I shall in all intents and purposes not attend a game in person unless they have a .500 record or better.  One plus:  my nephew and his wife surprised us by showing up in our section to say hello….what a nice surprise!   We endured the entire length of the game (and boy, did I ever consider leaving at about the 7th inning….) and took the kids back to the fairgrounds – where they were camping with their cycles….  At the conclusion of the game, we walked back to the hotel, loaded up in the car, and took the kids back to their bikes at the fairgrounds.

Surprise visitors

Back at the Radisson – and it was okay.  We were a few doors away from the elevators, but we still heard them.  The coffee pot had some grounds in it…. a bit disappointed, but I slept well, so there you are.

And then off to the Guthrie to try to score some tickets for MY FAIR LADY.  We got there quite early, so we walked through the Mill City Farmers Market and grabbed a bite to eat at the little bistro in the Mill Center museum, not to mention buying a few books in the museum store — we are such suckers for those places!

And so — into the rush line we went.  at 12:30 (we got in line at 12:00) the tickets went on sale for $35 — we got two tickets, one in row J, one in row M, center section …. great seats!

Wilma and I have enjoyed several good theatre shows in the Cities… and this was one of the best productions we’ve seen.  Consider this:  MY FAIR LADY is one of those plays from the late 50s/early 60s that has become somewhat of a warhorse.  Preconceived ideas abound that find the audience (at least Wilma and I) sitting there and expecting the same interpretation of the same old show of the same old script of the same old songs of the same old bits… well then, why did we go?  My good buddy Dave Vieths gave us a rave review – and he’s not exactly Mr. Musical, so when he says so…. off we go.  Anyway, we were partly expecting the same old things ….  (photos are from the Guthrie website…)

ows_140474513279548                             MyFairLady


I cannot tell you how so very, very wrong we were.  This production brought us such a fresh approach to the whole show — no imitations of the Rex Harrison role and yet plenty of male bravado from Jeff McCarthy as Professor Higgins… a good, bright Eliza from Helen Aker (of English lineage herself — but just an aside fun thing: she has done OKLAHOMA in England.  Wouldn’t you just love to hear that show with an English accent?)…. the humorous optimism of Alfred P. Doolittle by Donald Corren, and oh how nice it was of Tyler Michaels to give us a Freddy who wasn’t a sappy love-swooning fop — he gave us a semi-silly goof with a whole new way to approach ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE.

What’s that?  You say it was a six piece pit orchestra?  Yes, it was… and all those licks and notes that we’ve all heard from the soundtrack recording are there… kudos to Andrew Cooke for his work there, and for assembling a well oiled group of musicians…

Dance – Costume – sets — it all worked superbly.  We were also tickled to see some familiar faces from Chanhassen Dinner Theatre (Tony Vierling and Kat Brindisi) doing their thing.

The show is directed by Joe Dowling — and it runs until August 31.  To borrow a line from the show,

“Move your bloody arse and get to this one!”



Week 38

Step right up and get your annual physical – first thing Monday morning, there I was, sitting in the clinic with my doctor.  I’m basically okay – blood pressure was good, cholesterol in the ‘normal’ range for the first time in a long time… gotta lose a little weight if I know what’s good for me … ok, can do.

Things sure have changed, though, over the years.  No more stethoscopes or palpating the abdomen – and I only had my ears checked because I mentioned I had some weird sounds going on in my left ear… (gunk-ectomy was successful …eeeewwww.)  But mostly, we talked.  I guess I don’t feel it’s as good physical as I used to get – but the way things are, I will leave it at that.

I attended a class at the local art center (thank you THE CROSSING and KRISTA SOUKUP) on marketing yourself as a writer.  I learned a good lot of useful information.  I need to just get off my duff and submit a few things that I have…. An ongoing process for sure…..

What do you say …and who really cares… if you have the best bowling day of your life?  I mean EVER, I mean bowling as if possessed by the soul of Earl Anthony – and he was  a lefty ….  After all, it was just a Wednesday afternoon in a small bowling facility in a small town in the middle of fly over America… but by golly, I DO care….My scores?  210, followed by a much weaker 132, and then 212 – for a total 554 series.  My previous best series was like 536, and usually I bowl two games over that magic line of 200 A YEAR!  And two in one day?  Get real! I do hope I can match the feat a few more times … but oh my, what a fun afternoon.

Wilma sent me up to the next town to what she said was a HUGE rummage sale at a church up there – and let me tell you, she wasn’t kidding at all!!  I got there an hour after it opened and it was jam-packed.  It was raining a bit, so the stuff outside wasn’t all that attractive to check out, but inside, there was everything a person could want… furniture, books, electronics, clothes, chairs, lamps… and since it was at a Lutheran church, there were bars and coffee.  I picked up a bedstand for our son, visited with some folks I knew, and even ran into a former student who I probably hadn’t seen since the late 80s … a nice gig….

That afternoon, Wilma and I headed out to our friend Ruthie’s house… she of the costumes that were used in the opera in August… Ruthie’s 60th birthday party will be tomorrow, and she’s invited several folks over – the twist is that everyone would be fitted from Ruthie’s stock of costumes, all in a GATSBY theme… well, lemme tellya folks, it was one jolly affair… we got our costumes on Friday  – the party was Saturday night, and as the saying goes, a good time was had by all!

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Sunday morning found the wheels of opportunity grinding in my general direction.  My good buddy and fellow retiree form Pillager school called me and invited me to the Guthrie Theatre to take in UNCLE VANYA, the play by Anton Chekhov.  He picked me up in his orange VW, driving down to the cities as we caught up on each other’s recent news and all … and then saw a very interesting play … I am such a neophyte at theatre that I’m a bit short on understanding Russian plays, but I sure am glad to have the opportunity…. Thanks to Dave for getting me there…