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“Theatre demands different muscles and different aspects of one’s personality.” ― Victor Garber

After about ten minutes into each theatrical production at Centerville High School, I tend to forget I am watching high school students – not college or professional – performing, and running the technical aspects of the show.

They are always THAT GOOD.

I look forward to theatre at Centerville High School as much as I do productions at two other outstanding educational institutions, Wright State University and Sinclair Community College.  I never wonder, “how will Centerille pull off this show?”  That’s a waste of time to even consider that question; CHS does it better than any other high school in Western Ohio.  I am always confident I will leave the auditorium a lot more excited than when I entered – and I always enter CHS’s lobby with a good deal of excitement because I know I am set for a damned good production.

Tonight, my theatre directing friends, Suzanne Grote and Aaron Jacobs, along with Suzanne’s niece, Erin, and my son, Quintin, joined me for AVENUE Q.  This quartet is always at my side for Centerville productions, and we never fail to marvel at the tremendous efforts and talent engaged at this high school theatre program.

I like it when the curtain is open upon seating in the auditorium because I have more time to absorb (marvel, shake my head, chuckle at little touches, and appreciate) Mike Cordonnier’s set designs.  Mike, like several of his Miami Valley contemporaries – Terry Stump at Sinclair Community College, Bruce Brown at nearly every other venue in town and beyond, the Wright State University crew – never fails to impress and surprise me with his creativity.  Mike’s superbly trained brigade of blossoming technical talent  can run a show with ease.

Joe Beumer’s clean, creative, and concise stage direction is a perfect marriage to Mike Cordonnier’s set designs and technical leadership.  There is an incredible amount of magic when you have Joe and Mike  charting the course.  And since Ben Spalding’s arrival as CHS’s choral director, the vocal talent, often accompanied by the instrumental direction of either Brandon Barrometti or Joshua Baker, has soared to new heights.

Centerville High School’s theatre program is outstanding in every way!

I had never seen a stage production of AVENUE Q, originally conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who also co-wrote the lyrics and music with Jeff Whitty’s libretto.  The school edition is not watered down to the point of dull-dom, as other school musical editions tend to be.  My colleagues who accompanied me tonight assured me this version was just as great as the original.  And the students – on stage and beyond – lifted this production beyond my already high expectations!

If the creators had been able to see this production, I am certain they would have appreciated, and enthusiastically applauded the phenomenal talents of these high school students, and their exceptional mentors/directors.

This Winter, CHS is set to present, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, and will conclude their 2012-2013 season with the Spring musical, SWEENEY TODD.

I am not joking when I say, “Centerville High School has one of the best, if not the best, high school theatre programs around.”

Go see their shows, and see for your self!

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Hey Gang!

I have a high school senior voice/musical theatre student from Kettering’s Fairmont High School here in Ohio, who is writing her senior research paper on the musical theatre industry.  Her thesis statement is centered around:

How musical theatre has affected the American culture between 1920 to the present.

If you have any:

  • personal/professional thoughts on this topic
  • any sources to which she might turn

please feel free to share.

Her rough draft is due Monday, October 29th.

Thanking you all in advance…  Darin

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This Saturday morning had a nice little twist to it.  We were up, showered, dressed, and out of the house by 9:45am, and eating breakfast at Panera in downtown Centerville where we were joined by Amy Kress, and her youngest daughter, Sarah, 6.  We moved next door to Town Hall Theatre to watch an 11:00am production of Disney’s adorable stage musical, LITTLE MERMAID, starring my piano student, Katie Kress, as Scuttle.  Katie was hilarious, cute, and did an amazing job with her terribly wordy patter song, “Human Stuff.”  Many other stage performers around could learn a thing or two about perfect diction from this 10 year old!  She rocked her consonants!

Quintin and I did the meet and greet following the show, and then hurried to the newly opened Mernards on OH-741, South of the Dayton Mall  where the original Walmart once stood.  It was incredible, but horribly crowded.  We loaded up on a few things and checked out.

At 2:00pm I attended a funeral of a student’s grandmother.  I will probably have two more this week: the grandfather of a student, and the mother of a former student who has been moved to Hospice.

I managed a quick nap upon my return home, and then we were out the door again.  We grabbed dinner at China Buffet, a shower curtain from Big Lots, and then purchased movie tickets at The Greene for FINDING NEMO in 3D.

With time to kill before the movie, we ventured over to Books & Company.  I quickly found a book on President Lincoln, LOOKING FOR LINCOLN: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN ICON.  Despite finding two errors in the book within five minutes, I still decided to purchase the photo-filled book.

FINDING NEMO was a delight!  Quintin and I laughed, and laughed a lot.  We marveled at the beauty of the 3-D effects, and were caught up in the journey of a father searching for his son.  Very neat.

The movie was followed with some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.

This day was absolutely perfect!  Quintin and I laughed so hard throughout the day, and by dinner our conversation incorporated our Russian accents.  There were times when we were both doubled over with laughter, and tears filling our eyes.  This reminded me of when I was 17, and all the fun times I had, and still have, with my own mother, and my grandparents.  Humor, and even plain silliness is a great form of glue!

It was a swimmingly good day!

Quinny checking out the new Justin Bieber calendar.

 

Quinny sporting his new hat from Menards.

GFYJG

[Hit the play button on HOUNDS OF SPRING; listen as you read, and then, sit back and enjoy this fantastic piece of band literature by Alfred Reed.]

A beautiful day it is!  It is only 50-degrees this tenth day of March, but you could not ask for a more glorious day of sunshine, and Spring in the air. And tomorrow, those of us who get to set our clocks forward one hour will get to enjoy even more lovely days such as this.

Quintin was out the door to work in the office for the OMEA site until Noon. I satisfied any cravings shared by the office workers with a box of Bill’s Donuts.

I returned home to work in the front yard with the weed trimmer, and the leaf blower! Their electrifying sounds were music to my ears. How I love time to work in the yard, and that season is rapidly moving upon us.

I relaxed the afternoon away, watching some television, reading, and napping. I will now do some house work, and then get ready to go see CHILDREN OF EDEN with Quintin at the very close Playhouse South.

Tomorrow is percussion with MEPA at Centerville High School, and the arrival of Jeffrey Carter, friend/godfather, who will pass through Dayton for a few hours before heading to Cincinnati to see MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, starring Daniel Jenkins.

I am sitting in my study, as I do four days a week, writing.  Each afternoon through mid-evening I teach private lessons. But prior to teaching, I have three-scheduled hours of writing time, cheerfully followed by errands, and household chores. I am fortunate to spend my mornings, somewhat leisurely, writing, simply because one lady told me I could write, and then, she showed me how to write.

Darren Paquin

Although my younger siblings cringed when Darren Paquin pulled out my high school essays, written nearly a decade earlier, they also expressed some pride that their eldest brother was still remembered in the classrooms, and hallways, of Elwood Community High School. They often razzed me for my writing skills, but they never realized how much effort, time, and work, I put into writing, and especially, depending on the topic, research, and outlining.

Since the fall of 1982, I have continually used the “rock of writing” learned in Mrs. Paquin’s classroom: an outline. I can remember the encouragement, and insistence, that was her daily mantra, “Outline.” I always knew, when I ran into writing issues, the first question I would be asked, “Where’s your outline?”

One day, Mrs. Paquin hovered over my shoulder as I struggled with a particular paragraph in an essay. “Let me take a look at your outline.” It was such a casual request, yet one I was dreading that morning. I had no outline. I admitted that I had skipped a procedure in the very thing I now promote as a teacher: PROCESS. Mrs. Paquin straightened, looked down, and just stood there with a ‘are-you-kidding-me-? smile. For several seconds, she said nothing. Finally, using her red flair-tipped editing pen, she tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “You know I expect more from you.” And with that, she moved on to the next student, but turned to reaffirm her statement with a smile, punctuated with a wink.

For my sons, former students, and current students, who are reading this, I am sure there is a breeze, accompanied by the sound of a flock of fleeing birds, as they shake their heads, and roll their eyes. “I expect more from you,” an oft used phrase in The Haasienda, runs a close second to our family motto: “Always do your best – always!” That morning in Mrs. Paquin’s advanced composition class seemed to add a new element to my life’s journey, and future career. Through the years, the phrase became ingrained in my soul as a constant marker, reminding me to continually challenge myself to do better in all areas of my life.

My favorite photo of Mrs. & Mr. Paquin

Several years after I graduated from high school, Mrs. Paquin began a new chapter of living as she began her own process of survival. Her heart specialists prescribed an outline for living, and this outline included a transplant from a heart donor. As you can see from the posted video below, she kept to the outline.

I always tell my sons that I will never be their friend, nor they, mine. I explain that my mother will never be my friend.  She is my mother. Yes, we have had a wonderful relationship for the past 47 years, but I could never reduce her status as anything other than the very reverent title,  Mother. The same holds for Mrs. Paquin, and several other Elwood teachers who have had a tremendous impact on my life. Yes, in many ways, Mrs. Paquin, has been a valued friend, but as she was thirty years ago, she still is, today, my beloved Teacher.

I continue to learn from this wonderful lady through the inspiration of faith, hope, and perseverance she demonstrates. I am so grateful that when God was designing Mrs. Paquin’s life-outline, I was included as one of the many subheadings.

And I must be honest… I did not create an outline for this particular blog-post. Sometimes, the heart has it’s own outline.

Mrs. Paquin, know you are loved…

25 Years of Heart Transplant at St.Vincent Heart Center

Note:  Mr. Gordon Paquin was my high school principal, and one of the best role models for a fatherless teenager. Mr. & Mrs. Paquin have two children, Dawn and Derek, who attended high school with me. 

I am finishing up the writing of a musical on the Wright Brothers, and in one particular scene, I recreate the concept of the hobble skirt when a modesty cord is tied around a young lady’s long, voluminous skirts prior to a flight with Wilbur Wright. A fashion designer happened to be in the crowd, watching these famed flights of 1909, and captured a new fashion design when the lady scooted away from the areoplane with the modesty cord still in place. In my research, I discovered the young designer was from Paris’ famed, The House of Paquin. You can bet The House of Paquin is mentioned in the musical!

Producer:

  • Leaps Tall Buildings In A Single Bound
  • Is More Powerful Than A Locomotive
  • Is Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
  • Walks On Water
  • Gives Policy To God

Director:

  • Leaps Short Buildings In A Single Bound
  • Is More Powerful Than A Switch Engine
  • Is Just As Fast As A Speeding Bullet
  • Walks On Water If The Sea Is Calm
  • Talks With God

Playwright:

  • Leaps Short Buildings With A Running Start
  • Is Almost As Powerful As A Switch Engine
  • Is Faster Than A Speeding BB
  • Swims Well
  • Is Occasionally Addressed By God

Actor:

  • Makes High Marks On The Wall When Trying To Leap Buildings
  • Is Run Over By Locomotives
  • Can Sometimes Handle A Gun Without Inflicting Self-Injury
  • Dog Paddles
  • Talks To Animals

Orchestra:

  • Runs Into Buildings
  • Recognizes Locomotives Two Out Of Three Times
  • Is Not Issued Ammunition
  • Can Stay Afloat With A Life Preserver
  • Talks To Walls

Chorus:

  • Falls Over Doorsteps When Trying To Enter Buildings
  • Says, Look At The Choo-Choo!
  • Wets Self With A Water Pistol
  • Plays In Mud Puddles
  • Mumbles To Self

Stage Manager:

  • Lifts Buildings And Walks Under Them
  • Kicks Locomotives Off The Track
  • Catches Speeding Bullets In Teeth And Eats Them
  • Freezes Water With A Single Glance
  • Is GOD

Today was the first time I’d ever seen the musical, THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE.   One of my voice students, Heather Barker, portrayed Logainnr Schwartzandgrubenniere, and Heather was absolutely hilarious! 

Heather began studying with me when she was in high school, and I had the pleasure to serve as the music director/conductor for Beavercreek High School’s production, THE PAJAMA GAME, in which Heather played the lead, Babe Williams.  Heather, then a senior in high school, was so impressive during the rehearsal process – always well-prepared, attentive, mature, and very professional in her manner, and behavior.  She ventured on to Arizona State University, and is now returned to Ohio to study theatre at Cedarville University.  It is a joy to be reunited with Heather as student and voice teacher, and to be a part of her continued growth as an actress.  Today’s performance as Logainne was re-confirmation that Heather is a very capable, talented theatre student.  I am so proud of her!

I was also very impressed with the quality of this Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre production!  It was class from the parking lot to the curtain call.  The facility, located on Miami University’s campus in Hamilton, Ohio is a very nice venue.

I would like to see more productions by this company!  It is definitely worth the drive!

And, again – KUDOS, Heather!!!

I’ve never had the opportunity to see this musical, but have always been fascinated with it.  The music is incredible, and the arrangements for the musical are invigorating!

Go see it!  Enjoy it!                                            (For you, Mr. S___ with great thanks!)

About JERSEY BOYS… (from Wikipedia)

Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. It is a documentary-style musical, based on one of the most successful 1960s rock ‘n roll groups, the Four Seasons. The musical opened on Broadway in 2005, and has since had a North American National Tour, along with productions in London’s West End, Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, Sydney and Philadelphia. Jersey Boys won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Synopsis

The story dramatizes the forming, rise and eventual break-up of the original four members of The Four Seasons. The musical is separated into four “seasons”, each narrated by a different member of the band. Act 1 comprises Spring (Tommy DeVito) & Summer (Bob Gaudio); Act 2 comprises Fall (Nick Massi) & Winter (Frankie Valli); each member has a different perspective on the band and his contribution to it.

Act I

Spring

The show opens with a performance of “Ces soirées-là“, a modern pop-rap song that was released in 2000. Tommy DeVito then enters the stage, introducing himself and explaining how the song is a cover of The Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)“. He offers to tell the story of the band, explaining how he started out with the group “The Variety Band” with his brother Nick DeVito and friend Nick Massi, eventually discovering teenager Frankie Castelluccio and taking him under his wing, teaching him everything he knows. (“The Early Years: A Scrapbook”) During these early years Nick Massi helped train Frankie to sing, Tommy went in and out of prison, Frankie changed his last name to Valli, Tommy and Frankie developed a good relationship with mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, and Frankie fell in love with and married Mary DelGado. Musically, the band was still struggling and kept changing their name and sound but without any dramatic success. One day friend and fellow Jersey boy Joe Pesci comes up to Tommy and says that he knows a singer-songwriter who’d make the perfect fourth for their band: Bob Gaudio.

Summer

Bob Gaudio takes over the narration, starting by telling the audience that no matter what Tommy says, he wasn’t plucked from obscurity by him, since he already had a hit single with “Short Shorts“. Bob goes with Joe Pesci to see the band perform, and is immediately impressed by Frankie’s voice. Bob performs a song he’d just written: “Cry for Me” on piano, which Frankie, Nick Massi and then Tommy joining in with vocals, bass and guitar respectively. They negotiate an agreement, though Tommy is at first skeptical that Bobby (then still a teenager) will be good for the band. The band eventually gets a contract with producer Bob Crewe but only to sing back-up (“Backup Sessions”). Crewe insists that the band has an “identity crisis” and needs to make a firm decision on a name and a sound. The band name themselves after The Four Seasons bowling alley, and Bobby writes them three songs that finally propel them to stardom: “Sherry“, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man“. In the wake of their success, Bob also chalks up a personal first by losing his virginity. (“December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)“) The band’s success means that they tour a lot more, along the way discovering the girl band The Angels (“My Boyfriend’s Back“). Unfortunately, the constant touring strains Frankie’s marriage to Mary, and they eventually divorce (“My Eyes Adored You“). The band continues to enjoy chart successes (“Dawn (Go Away)“) until after a concert the band is approached by a loan shark out to claim money owed by Tommy (“Walk Like a Man (reprise)”).

Act II

Fall

The second act opens with “Big Man in Town“. Nick Massi explains that Bob was so focused on the band’s musical success and future that he couldn’t see that the band had been in trouble for some time. Tommy’s been racking up debts, and a forgotten bill during a previous tour lands the band in jail over the weekend, which strains things between Tommy and Bob. Nick observes that Tommy became jealous of Frankie’s success and closeness with Bobby, and attempted to seduce Frankie’s new girlfriend Lorraine. The two never confronted each other about it, but the old friendship was not what it used to be. When the loan shark approaches the band for the $150,000 owed by Tommy, Frankie approaches Gyp DeCarlo for help despite Tommy’s insistence that he doesn’t need it. (“Beggin’“) The band, Gyp, and the loan shark come to agreement: Tommy is to be “sequestered” in Las Vegas where the mob can keep an eye on him, and the band will willingly cover all of Tommy’s debts. The band continues for a while as a trio until Nick declares that he wants out. (“Stay/Let’s Hang On!“)

Winter

Frankie takes over narration, explaining that though he owes Tommy a great deal, he’s aware that their relationship wasn’t ideal, and he never understood why Nick decided to leave. Frankie and Bob find replacements to keep the band a quartet (“Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me)“) until Bobby announces that he’s never been comfortable in the spotlight and that Frankie should be a single, i.e. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In his personal life, Frankie’s relationship with his daughter Francine is strained and he breaks up with girlfriend Lorraine. (“Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)“) Frankie continues to have success thanks to Bobby’s songs, and hits jackpot with (“C’mon Marianne“) and the almost-never-released (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You“) which Bobby fights to get airplay for. Along with the success of “Working My Way Back to You“, Frankie and Bobby finally finish paying off Tommy’s debts, and Frankie’s life is good until his daughter Francine dies from a drug overdose. (“Fallen Angel”)

Finale

The final scene is The Four Seasons’ 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, announced by Bob Crewe and reuniting the original four members on stage one last time. (“Rag Doll“) Each member takes a moment to address the audience one by one, explaining their pride of being with the band and what they did after. (“Who Loves You“)

The weekend was a delightful world-wind of activity, all centered around music and friends!

Friday evening after teaching, Quintin and I headed for Beavercreek High School where I served as a judge for the show choir’s invitational.  Friday was middle school show choir night.  Five competing show choirs and two exhibition show choirs from Beavercreek.

Saturday morning at 8:30am I was heading back to Beavercreek High School where I spent sixteen hours judging soloists, judging show choirs, eating a delicious lunch and supper, and catching up with colleagues, fellow judges, show choir parents, and friends.  I always enjoy Beavercreek’s weekend, but this seemed to be an exceptionally fun year.

Sunday morning was filled with house-activity of playing catch-up with items.  At 12:10pm we were out the door to UNO’s pizza downtown before heading next door to The Victoria Theatre to see Muse Machine’s production, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

I was seated next to three adorable elderly sisters who could easily have been USO girls during The War Between The States – they had me howling!  As I nestled into my seat I looked at my neighbor, and said, “I can tell you are gonna be trouble the whole time.”  She slapped her knee, and said to her companions, “He’s already got my number!”  The one sister had brought her fellow octogenarians to see her granddaughter perform, and each time the young performer was located in the mass of young folks on stage, they pointed, and without whispering, loudly exclaimed, and explained to one another where the girl was.  At one point, the lady next to me (who was slightly deaf) asked, “Are you enjoying this?”  I smiled, nodded.  She responded to my silent response with, “I am, too.  I saw the movie as a girl.”  She then turned to her sisters, and loudly said, “He likes the show, too,” accompanied by more verbal interaction.

Normally, I am usually irritated by loud talking during a show, but these ladies were so adorable that I did not mind.

After the show, we burst through the crowd to hurry home for three evening lessons – just making it in time.

Quintin and I closed out the weekend with a meal at Taco Bell, and spent a good 45 minutes chatting about life.

Back at home, I finished up some items and was sound asleep by 10:00pm.

A wonderful, wonderful weekend!

‘1776’ – John Adams: “One useless man is called a disgrace; two are called a law firm; and three or more become a Congress.”

This afternoon, my 16 year old son, Quintin, and I drove 35 miles to Wilmington, Ohio to see Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre‘s production of  ‘1776.’  One of my Ball State University friends, Timothy Larrick, was to perform as Roger Sherman – “the simple cobbler from Connecticut.”

I was slightly hesitant when I read it would be a concert version, that several women would portray the delegates, andthat the director was also performing the role of John Adams.  I am always slightly leery of productions where directors involve themselves in the actual production.  Actually, I find it a tad bit on the tacky side.  Either direct the production, or perform in the production – do not attempt to do both as it seldom works, nor plays well.

The concert version was outstanding!   The focus was on the delightful script and music!  It was refreshing, to say the least.  I did not miss the costuming, the lighting, the scenic designs, etc..  The limited staging was most effective, and kept the show moving.

And the women?  Fantastic!  They blended in with the male ensemble, and carried their male-roles very well.  Stephen Hopkins, portrayed by Claudia Fowler, was not less funny, or growling.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Steven Haines’ performance, and directing of this production which I found to be even more powerful, and poignant in the staged-concert setting.  Mr. Haines never once let me down for a second in his portrayal of one of my favorite presidents, and musical theatre roles.  As for directors performing in their own productions on purpose, Mr. Haines is a rare exception.

There were so many memorable performances…

Timothy Larrick as Roger Sherman…  Tim Brausch as Benjamin Franklin…  Wayne Dunn as John Dickinson…  Dean Feldmeyer as Richard Henry Lee…  J. Wynn Alexander as Thomas Jefferson…  Jack Filkins as Charles Thomson, secretary…

Bryan S. Wallingford mastered the role of South Carolina’s, Edward Rutlegde, so well, that I was actually despising the character as he attempted to squelch the movement.

Tricia Heys gave Abigail Adams an incredible multi-dimensional quality, and by the time we arrived as “Yours, Yours, Yours,” I was a tad damp around the eyes.  Her voice was lovely, and powerful to match John Adams’ mainstay, and her acting and beauty pulled you even closer to the patriotic-duo that helped lay the foundation of this country.

The last two-quarters of Scene Seven – the ending of the show – were incredible.  When the delegates had abandoned John Adams at the eleventh hour, I was on the edge of my seat with my stomach in a knot.

This is damned good theatre!  It was like seeing TITANIC… I know how the story ends, but if the production does what it should, I am pulled into their moment on the stage while abandoning any knowledge of history.  ‘1776’ certainly did the job!

As we were leaving, I told one of my friends, Aaron Jacobs, that this production had given me a fine dose of Vitamin-T (theatre) that I’d sorely been missing.  I felt rejuvenated, fulfilled, appreciative of the creators, appreciate of the WCCST, and most certainly, grateful for those true founding parents who stepped into treasonous roles knowingly fully well they were merely experimenting with a belief that they could succeed.

Ironically, I recognized a number of similarities between the portrayed Continental Congress, and our current Congress.  Nothing is ever accomplished quickly, and without agendas.

I wish there was a second weekend of WCCST’s “1776” as I would be shooing folks from The Miami Valley down to Wilmington this coming weekend.  And I would be returning, myself, to enjoy this production – again!

The company is listed as a community theatre; however, they were quite a notch above typical community theatre.   This was not community theatre.

This was DAMNED GOOD THEATRE!

Please be sure to check out Wilmington College Theatre Department and WCCST on Facebook.

What an incredible evening!

Dinner at UNO’s with Quintin was loaded with good humor, and great food.  I love eating at UNO’s prior to a show at The Victoria Theatre, or The Schuster Center, because there is that familiar electricity in the air that is not only energizing, but comforting, as well.  I absolutely love that feeling I get before a production begins.

Quintin’s eyes devoured the expansive, imposing lobby of the Schuster Center.  While at the ticket center, I personally met someone who had just written me that morning about my posts on Facebook.  It was such a nice surprise.

We took our seats – four apart – and the families began pouring into the auditorium.  Yes, it looked like a sea of young sprouts ready to watch Disney On Ice, but I love seeing the little peeps at the theatre, or in concerts.  Seated next to me was a plump little thing not older than 8 years, who had no control over her body, whatsoever.  Within a few minutes I had dubbed her Princess Bounce A Lot!

We were up in the upper balcony, and could not see the incredible dome which, to me, is one of the most gorgeous memorials to The Wright Brothers.  The dome is the constellation’s configuration above Dayton the night before the Wright Brother’s first flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903.  Every time I see it I am quite touched.

I don’t believe I have ever attended a production where giraffes simply walking across the stage received an ovation; however, I don’t think I’ve ever seen giraffes on stage… well, perhaps in some productions of Children of Eden.  The opening number continued to build, and build, and build until there was this enormous wall of sound, and a scenic moment of set, costumes, lighting that was breathtaking.  I kept thinking how famous scenic & lighting designer, Jo Mielziner would have reacted to this moment – and the many more that were to follow.

I had thoroughly enjoyed the animated motion picture, The Lion King, when it first appeared on the scene years ago, tonight the story’s line came to life in a much richer expanse.  I love the themes where the protagonist has no idea when it is his time to step up the role for which he is truly intended.  I saw some Hamlet peek through, but more of Moses and Lincoln.  Good always triumphs over evil.

Several times I looked down the row to see how Quintin was taking in this epic experience.  I know I probably teared up a little as I watched him bounce to the music, his head toss back with laughter, and a smile remain on his face.   Following intermission, Princess Bounce A Lot and her mother were escorted to different seats, so Quintin joined me.  I could tell he was loving every minute.  After the show we walked over to Riverscape, and he cheerfully pointed out his favorite moments.

As I sit here, several hours following the production’s close, I cannot decide if I watched true musical theatre, or something beyond legitimate musical theatre.  At times, the beauty on stage seemed to be living scenery choreographed to music.  And, it truly does not matter.  All that matters is that I was fortunate to share this experience with a new son.

Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?

December 31st is always a day for reflection, and this day seems particularly meaningful… several additions to our family… several farewells… wonderful students and their families… several students moving on to college while many former students moved to New York City or into teaching positions… and always, more personal growth.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

The first four months of 2010 were difficult.

Just a few days into the new year a dear cousin, who had been somewhat of a hero throughout my childhood, passed away with pancreatic cancer. Steve Daughterty was an incredible individual, and is sadly missed.

Life brings on a natural drama, but often, people prefer to create drama.  Those are the individuals with whom I can do without, and through the course of this year, I have distanced my self, and my family, from those who prefer to infest their poor life choices and hideous personal drama into my family’s life.   The events of the first four months strengthened us as a family, and secured the understanding that our family does come first.  And life has been grand!  However, we were greatly aided last April by several loving, caring, and dedicated family friends.

Every man has his daydreams
Every man has his goal
People like the way dreams have
Of sticking to the soul
Thunderclouds have their lightning
Nightingales have their song
And don’t you see I want my life to be
Something more than long….

Sadly, I cannot remember much about this past Spring and Summer.  I know we had a ton of fun going to musicals, concerts, visiting family in Indiana, spending time with family friends here in Dayton, and kicking off Jose’s fourth, and final year of marching band.  We enjoyed visits to  Carillon Park, as well as many hours of hiking, and canoeing at Old River Park.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

June and July were somewhat busy with graduated students prepping for college.  I was also updating my home study through ACTION Adoption, half-heartedly, as I was not as hopeful of finding the right son to adopt.  Those roads seemed hopelessly closed.

The first of August I delivered Jose to his final marching band camp.  It was a tad bit wistful, but I also knew that the fall would bring on several more endings… so this was just the first.  Mother drove over to Dayton to celebrate the end of band camp with the parents’ show.

Then tragedy struck… August 24th, our beloved dog, Flyer, became gravely ill, and was suffering from pancreatitis.  We were told she would only have a few days with us, but through combined determination from our family, dear family friends and students, and tons of nursing, Flyer pulled through it.  By Labor Day she was acting as though nothing had ever happened.

The annual Labor Day Haasienda Celebration had adjustments due to my sister-in-law having three weeks remaining in her pregnancy.  Still, Mother made the trip, and Monday we enjoyed the parade and what has become our traditional potluck at the Lockharts’ home afterward.

With the start of school, the marching band season kicked into full gear. There were football games on Fridays and competitions on Saturdays through November.

The highlight of September came on the 21st and the 24th.

September 21st, my sister-in-law, Stacia, gave birth to a beautiful niece, Carolyne. Fortunately, that Saturday, my 46th birthday, was marching band contest-free, so Jose, Mother and I spent the day in Fowler with Destin, Stacia, Parker, Freddie and Carolyne.

September 24th, I spoke with a case worker from New Mexico who wanted to consider the prospects of matching me with a 15 year old Navajo boy on whom I had sent an interest form.

So many men seem destined
To settle for something small
But I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all
So don’t ask where I’m going
Just listen when I’m gone
And far away you’ll hear me singing
Softly to the dawn:

Marching band and adoption took over my life throughout October and November.  As marching band began to wind down, the adoption process began to wind up.

October 22nd, Jose and I, along with several other matching band parents of senior members, walked across the football field for senior night.  Two Fridays later, I was fully matched with Quintin, and two hours later, with my full support, Jose was enlisted with the Ohio National Guard.

Life was changing, and what blessings these changes were becoming.  A new son was joining our family, and Jose was establishing the start of a childhood dream – to be in the military.

The following week, Jose performed in his last marching band competition at Lucas Oil Stadium, and completed his last band concert.  Thanksgiving was spent with Mother, and then on to Fowler for Freddie’s birthday celebration.

Within five days, Jose and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet Quintin, his foster family, and the wonderful folks at Red Mountain Family Services.  We had one of the most remarkable, and memorable trips.

December 10th, Quintin and his foster dad, Jun, joined us in Dayton for the weekend.

And then December 20th finally arrived… Mother, Jose and I drove to Dayton International Airport to bring Quintin home.  We had a beautiful candle lighting ceremony led by New Mexico worker, Janis Melendez, witnessed by family and members of our god-parent team.

The past eleven days have been so fulfilling with the arrival of Quintin, many kindnesses shown our family by my students and their families, Christmas in Indiana, fun times with family friends here in the Miami Valley, and now, our final day of 2010.

Our family is finding its own corner of the sky as we journey into 2011.  I am thrilled for the prospects of this coming year, and am eager to get it started.  I have my own personal goals, and corners of the sky I will establish, and will continue to assist my sons in establishing their own corners.  Jose will graduate and leave for basic and advanced training with the military.  Quintin will start a new life entirely with many promises of new adventures.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

So here is to a new year… a continued journey with many opportunities and thrilling adventures… the continuation of my family… the continuation of my brother’s family… and many more wonderful experiences – those anticipated, and those unexpected.

Many blessings to all our wonderful family and friends…

Love,

Darin, Jose & Quintin

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I found a great article in The Dayton Paper that lists all the upcoming shows but they were listed under the various companies. I made up a list of shows by their dates.

Keep in mind that I only entered the starting date for some productions, and there may be more performances.

For more information, please visit the following websites for each individual theatre company. Remember that many of the companies listed below can also be located on Facebook and Twitter.

Centerville High School Theatre

Sinclair Community College Theatre

Dayton Theatre Guild

Wright State Theatre & Dance

University of Dayton Theatre

Playhouse South

Cedarville University Theatre

La Comedia Dinner Theatre

The Seed Theatre Project

Human Race Theatre Company

Springfield Arts Council

Springfield Stageworks

Beavercreek Community Theatre

Dayton Playhouse

Don’t forget to support the various Children’s Theatre programs in the area, as well.

For outstanding high school theatre productions, be sure to check out Centerville High School’s theatre program – one of the finest student production companies in Ohio!

09/08/2010 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels LaComedia
09/17/2010 The Spitfire Grill Beavercreek Community Theatre
09/23/2010 August: Osage County Wright State University & Human Race Theatre Company
09/28/2010 Blue Man Group Victoria Theatre Association
09/30/2010 The Importance of Being Earnest Cedarville University
10/02/2010 Forever Plaid Springfield Arts Council
10/08/2010 Die Mommie Die! Dayton Playhouse
10/15/2010 Once On This Island Sinclair Community College
10/15/2010 Moon Over Buffalo Playhouse South
10/21/2010 The 39 Steps Human Race Theatre Company
10/22/2010 The Diviners University of Dayton
10/22/2010 The Sugar Witch Dayton Theatre Guild
10/28/2010 Anything Goes Wright State University
11/02/2010 Spring Awakening Victoria Theatre Association
11/04/2010 White Christmas LaComedia
11/05/2010 Grey Gardens The Musical Seed Threatre Project
11/10/2010 Drumline Live Victoria Theatre Association
11/12/2010 All Shook Up Centerville High School
11/12/2010 Wit Dayton Playhouse
11/12/2010 Dark Lights of Broadway Playhouse South
11/13/2010 An Evening With Sutton Foster Springfield Arts Council
11/26/2010 Precious Heart Dayton Theatre Guild
12/02/2010 8-Track Sounds of the 70’s Human Race Theatre Company
12/03/2010 A Christmas Carol Beavercreek Community Theatre
12/07/2010 The Wonder Bread Years Victoria Theatre Association
12/17/2010 Christmas Belles Dayton Playhouse
01/07/2011 Ravenscroft Dayton Theatre Guild
01/20/2011 Jeckyll & Hyde Wright State University
01/21/2011 Betty Buckley’s Broadway Springfield Arts Council
01/21/2011 I Hate Hamlet Playhouse South
01/27/2011 Diary Of Anne Frank Centerville High School
01/27/2011 Twelfth Night Human Race Theatre Company
01/28/2011 The Octette Bridge Club Beavercreek Community Theatre
01/28/2011 The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Dayton Playhouse
02/01/2011 9 to 5: The Musical Victoria Theatre Association
02/02/2011 Fiddler On The Roof Springfield Arts Council
02/04/2011 True West University of Dayton
02/10/2011 The Last 5 Years Springfield Stageworks
02/11/2011 Fat Pig Dayton Theatre Guild
02/11/2011 Almost, Maine Seed Threatre Project
02/17/2011 Picnic Wright State University
02/18/2011 The Foreigner Sinclair Community College
03/03/2011 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers LaComedia
03/04/2011 The Wizard of Oz Springfield Arts Council
03/04/2011 Little Women Wright State University
03/04/2011 Golda’s Balcony Dayton Theatre Guild
03/11/2011 Mid-Life The Crisis Musical Beavercreek Community Theatre
03/11/2011 Beyond Therapy Dayton Playhouse
03/25/2011 Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Playhouse South
03/28/2011 The Drowsy Chaperone Victoria Theatre Association
04/01/2011 Smoke On The Mountain University of Dayton
04/01/2011 Bill W. & Dr. Bob Dayton Playhouse
04/01/2011 The Boys Next Door Dayton Theatre Guild
04/05/2011 All Shook Up Victoria Theatre
04/14/2011 Permanent Collection Human Race Theatre Company
04/15/2011 An Enemy of the People Seed Threatre Project
04/21/2011 Titus Andronicus Springfield Stageworks
04/22/2011 Blackbird Dayton Theatre Guild
04/28/2011 Hairspray LaComedia
04/29/2011 Hello, Dolly! Centerville High School
05/06/2011 A Piece of Heart Playhouse South
05/12/2011 42nd Street Wright State University
05/13/2011 The Women of Lockerbie Sinclair Community College
05/13/2011 La Cage aux Folles Dayton Playhouse
05/13/2011 Mauritius Dayton Theatre Guild
05/19/2011 Monty Python’s Spamalot Springfield Arts Council
05/26/2011 right next to me Human Race Theatre Company
06/03/2011 Barnaby Rudge Wright State University
06/10/2011 The Mystery of Edwin Drood Beavercreek Community Theatre
06/10/2011 Anyone Can Whistle Seed Threatre Project
06/14/2011 Disney’s The Lion King Victoria Theatre Association

This has been an amusing several days for news.

  • Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to jail and rehab…
  • Mel Gibson has been acting up, again…
  • Touch Down Jesus will be rebuilt – full body from Indiana limestone…
  • The Barefoot Bandit has alluded authorities several times this past week…
  • And the big item this week… Lebron James…

Hmmm….

First off, I had no idea who Miss Lohan was. In fact, I almost thought they were talking about J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I did a quick search and found out she was a supermodel, an actress and a singer. OK… cool.

For several days I read, or heard about this mysterious announcement to be made by Lebron James. Since I do not follow sports, and only half listen to television news I figured someone was getting ready to announce their candidacy for the 2012 Presidential Election. I mean, isn’t it about time for the campaigning to begin?

The comments on Facebook, and Twitter, are downright hilarious to me! You would have thought this young guy was discovered to be one of the ten spies returned to Russia yesterday. It reminded me of the night the Baltimore Colts were whisked away in a bus to Indianapolis – fans appeared furious that a sports team leaving their community! You would have thought Michigan and Ohio State University had switched fight songs (if you are from Ohio, you would understand the blasphemy, and severity of such an action!).

The Barefoot Bandit, whose real name is Colton Harris-Moore, now has his own Wikipedia site, and has 55,587 followers (as of this Saturday afternoon) on Facebook. Darling Facebook fan, Eddie Smith of England, who could probably stand to gain from a basic grammar class, writes, “Man your a legend, your story is everywhere in England… Everyone thinks your great!….. Keep going man never let them catch you!!!”

These items seem to be plastering the media landscape, and I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why the hell should any of this really, and truly matter?”

People are furious with Lebron James for switching to tennis, or marrying Tiger Woods future ex-wife, or trying to steal Morgan Freeman’s contract for the upcoming Broadway production, DRIVING MISS DAISY, or whatever it is he does (yes, I know he is a basketball star from Ohio).

I don’t know why THE TODAY SHOW was so concerned with talking to doctor’s, psychologists, lawyers, and fellow celebrities to dissect Ms. Lohan’s ordeal. Are ya serious, Meredith Viero? An Oregon boy is missing, we have a major oil spill, people are suffering from the heat wave hitting the East Coast, and so many other items of greater importance – and yet the focus is on a celebrity’s legal battles. So what else is new?

When it was announced in The Dayton Daily News that Touchdown Jesus would be rebuilt with Indiana limestone, the critical, even cruel, comments began pouring in! People are furious that Solid Rock Church is spending their OWN money for a blasphemous structure (like cathedrals throughout Europe and here) to glorify God.  “But we don’t even know what Jesus looks like?” wrote one complaining comment. Well, neither did Leonardo da Vinci nor Michaelangelo, or so many other great artists. Should we paint over their masterpieces, or chisel away at the sculptures? I am certain the complainers have

  1. attended, or still attend churches with Christian icons, or set dressing
  2. never attempted to do as much for charity as the parishioners of Solid Rock Church
  3. have no church affiliation, or
  4. a new GPS so they no longer need TDJ as a landmark to tell them when they are closer to Traders World or Kings Island

Why are these particular topics so valued by the masses?

Why is the nineteen year old Barefoot Bandit more an international focus and Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda groupies are not?

While waiting to put some groceries on the conveyor belt at Kroger last night, I glanced over at the Rag Mags, and learned:

  • Laura Bush is divorcing George W. Bush because he is having an affair with Joan Rivers
  • Justin Bieber really has begun puberty
  • Billy Ray Cyrus is a much better actor than many believe, and will be cast in the title role of HAMLET in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
  • Will Prince Charles have to pin back his ears to wear the royal crown when he becomes king?
  • Television’s Sister Angelica is secretly carrying Pope Benedict’s love child
  • Donna Summer has been cast to play Michael Jackson in the television rock-u-drama about his life?
  • Broadway’s newest production of LES MISERABLES welcomes Great Britain’s star, Susan Doyle, to play Young Cosette

OK, those were actually headlines I made up, but we all know that those do seem to be genuine from the Rag Mags on shopping store racks.

I wonder how many readers will read the above items and take them to be true?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Teaching only three days in the summer means long days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; however, having the additional two week-days – plus the weekend – to work around the house, write, and spend time with my are wonderful.

This morning I was wide-awake at 5:45am – which seems to be my inner alarm wake-up call – and decided to go ahead and water the plants on the deck. I did my morning routine, and decided that at 7:15am it was way too early to pull out the hedge trimmer. So, I read some emails, watched some of THE TODAY SHOW, followed by WILL & GRACE, and about fifteen minutes of ALL IN THE FAMILY. At 8:00am I was restless, so I tackled some indoor items, and ate breakfast.

I just finished watering the plants in front, greatly increased in their beauty thanks to Valerie Lockhart’s gifts the past two weeks. I cleaned the front door and mailbox – having painted the fence yesterday morning. The mail box may need some painting, too.

I have a full schedule of what I wish to accomplish today, mostly having to do with the yard. Jose has a work meeting at 1:00pm, and then works from 4:45pm-8:00pm, so I will plan my writing time in those chunks.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and promises to be even more so today. The cool, non-humidity nights, so rare for the end of June in Ohio, were a welcome relief after the sufferings of the past several weeks. The rains came in torrents, briefly cooling off the air, but soon were followed by the steam.

This weekend promises to be fantastic for the July Fourth festivities – which are many here in The Miami Valley. I am sure we will canoe several times, maybe catch one or two firework shows, a parade, and hopefully time with some friends.

Other than that, there is just not much to report.

Although I am a passionate historian, I must admit that I was rather lazy in my study of Dayton history. Normally, I am on top of my historical surroundings, and learn as much as possible. However, when I moved to Dayton, Ohio in 1990, I was not at all certain I would remain here more than 3-5 years. I anticipated moving to New York City, or even to Virginia near Williamsburg, or Washington, DC. Perhaps I had an unaddressable fear of learning too much about the Miami Valley for fear of it gluing me here.

Twenty years later, I still feel slightly negligent in knowing Dayton’s history. I seem to know more about the Wright Brothers than I do most of Dayton, and the surrounding area. Still, it was not until the summer of 1999 that I even gave the Wrights a second thought. I had been to the Air Force Museum when my parents visited in 1992, but I found it agonizingly boring. My dad had to stop and read every placard, and photograph nearly every plane. Mother, still with tints of red in her hair at the time, was photographed in front of the plane painted with the title, “Strawberry Bitch.” Each visit to the museum still prompts a photo with a family member standing in front of the plane.

Seven years later I was on my three week vacation that took me to:

  • Niagara Falls (ugh… another story)
  • a drive through the Adirondacks
  • a pass through Schroon Lake
  • Stowe, Vermont to visit the Trapp family members (THE SOUND OF MUSIC) at the Trapp Family Lodge
  • Manchester, Vermont to visit Robert Todd Lincoln’s home, Hildene
  • FDR’s home/grave in Hyde Park, NY
  • Val-Kil, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home & retreat near Hyde Park
  • New York City
  • Flushing Meadows – the site of the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs
  • Teddy Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill
  • Montauk Point Lighthouse at the tip of Long Island
  • Assateague Island to see the wild horses because my fourth grade teacher, Diana Lane, read us the book, THE MYSTERY OF ASSATEAGUE ISLAND in 1974
  • A brief trip through DC – only driving and looking, no stopping
  • A trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel
  • A visit with my aunt and cousins
  • The Outer Banks
    • Wright Memorial (merely drove around it and left)
    • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (which had just finished its hydraulic move the day before)
    • Ocracoke Island
  • A visit with my grandfather and family at Grandpa’s mission program in Southeastern Kentucky
  • Gatlinburg for three days with family
  • Lexington, Kentucky
    • Mary Todd Lincoln
    • Henry Clay home
    • ice cream at Cheapside
    • Lexington Cemetery

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I took advantage of this East Coast vacation, packing as much in as possible. I knew that once I began adopting children, this kind of vacation would be on hiatus.

The memorial at Kitty Hawk meant absolutely nothing to me. I drop past it, only to return since it had a Dayton connection. I took a photo, and drove on not wanting to indulge any time in listening to a (biased) NC park ranger talk about airplanes.

September 1999, while roller blading in Centerville’s Stubbs Park, I was resting on a rock when I noticed a tiny sparrow hopping in the parking lot, picking at some food dropped by patrons from the previous evening’s concert. I had always been terrified of birds growing up, so I had never considered how they got their bodies into the air, supported by seemingly fragile wings.

As I watched the sparrow my eye caught a jet floating through the sky as it prepared to land at Dayton International.

“How did that thing get into the sky?”

As I continued to watch the bird and the plane (no Superman), I heard voices of two young boys arguing. I even turned around, expecting to find two lads arguing.

Nothing.

The voices continued.

Finally I heard the one boy call the name of the other, and there was no doubt as to who they were, and why I was privy to their aggravated conversation.

The next day, I returned from the USA Air Force Museum with nine books on the Wright Brothers. I had received “my mission” while resting in the park.

Prior to that September day, I had never given the Wrights much thought. By April 2000, I was finally sketching out plots, scenes, and characters.

July 2000, I drove to Kitty Hawk, stood on the Wright Brothers’ Memorial and flew a kite to toast the start of what would be a fascinating journey for the next decade.

My goal was to finish the musical, then titled, TWELVE SECONDS TO THE MOON, for the 2003 anniversary.

Gail Whipple - lyricist-composer

In 1998 I got a new saxophone student, Lucas Whipple – a neat 10 year old boy with a wonderful personality. I eventually began teaching his sister, Andra, piano and voice. Their mother, Gail, a fantastic musician (vocalist, pianist) was teaching music at South Dayton Preparatory School and asked if I’d please teach beginning piano there.

In January 2003, Gail and I were chatting about the Muse Machine musical we had just seen. Her husband, Tim, was the Muse board president. Gail and I began discussing musical scores, and she played a few of her own songs that were clearly “musical theatre.” I promptly asked her to assist me with TWELVE SECONDS TO THE MOON, and she agreed.

Leslie Merry, Composer

A month later, I hosted the first read-thru of the book with approximately 20 theatre friends at my town house. Gail attended, and brought her friend, Leslie Merry, introducing her as “a musician friend of mine.”

Within a few days, the trio of Gail, Leslie and Darin were embarking on our collaboration. Other than directing, this was my first collaborative effort, and I did not know what to expect with our first work session. I had tossed out ideas for styles on several songs. Quietly, Gail and Leslie tossed them back, presenting something completely different from what I was hearing… and it was magnificent. Throughout the years, I continued to toss to them what I was hearing in my head, and they provided something different… entirely different, and much more clever, and exciting!

As with any project, it evolved. The history of flight anniversary flew by and we knew that we still had a product. However, the Wrights’ story had changed. Their sister, Katharine, was now an integral part of the story, and it now began five years after they first flew at Kitty Hawk. We had uncovered more drama, and depth to their story – the story after the story with most are most familiar.

The working title soon changed to THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and the underlying theme was about “control.”

  • The secret to flight was in “control”
  • There was an international race to “control” the sky
  • There were battles over financial “control”
  • There were internal issues of “control” within the family circle

It was the right path for this musical.

Now, the 99.5% completed project is a grand mixture of our theatrical forefathers’ creations… there are hints of RAGTIME, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE SECRET GARDEN, EVITA, SUNDAY IN THE PARK, CAMELOT… the musical is dramatic, comedic, filled with suspense, interwoven with political intrigue (well, nothing that would arouse the interest of James Bond, but remember, it is 1908-1945)…

I was blessed to find a lyricist (Gail) who could arrange lyrics as wonderfully as Hammerstein, Lowe, and Rice, and a composer (Leslie) who could immediately whip out a strong melodic line rivaling Rodgers, Lerner and Webber but with a heavy flavor of Sondheim. And the score is, perhaps, more Sondheimesque. The lyrics, in many places, are simply too good to be true due to the clever, concise arrangement of thoughts and words. I would hand Gail a paragraph of thoughts, and she would return lyrics that made my jaw hit the floor. The lyrics and music, together, are outstanding, and I honestly believe their contributions to this project far surpass my work on the book. The three of us, each being musicians, have also contributed to one another’s individual assignments – which has been a splendid delightful process for we each trust one another, and are, too often, like one mind.

I humbly bow to my two collaborators, and will always be grateful for their magnificent contributions to the future success of this musical.

My personal journey with this project began a decade ago. The three of us were also working professionals, raising children, involved musicians, busy volunteers, and confronted with personal, and professional experiences that sometimes kept as from moving ahead on the project consistently. Before Gail’s family moved to California, we had many fantastic work sessions, and reading sessions (about six, in all). Now, Leslie and I will work together, and collaborate with Gail, using all the modern technologies.

What a thrilling journey it has been!

4:00am found me wide awake this morning, but I managed to return to two more hours of sleep.

After feeding Logan and Flyer, I settled down to write the morning’s entry on this blog site, and by 9:30am I was finally preparing my presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln for the Lincoln Society of Dayton. For several weeks I had been storing away items in my brain but had not committed any notes to paper. Everything flowed easily, and within an hour I had the entire presentation completed.

I was amazed at how easy it all fell together, but then, I have been studying the Lincoln family for nearly forty years.

At 1:00pm Bob & Sarah Koogler arrived, and after a few minutes of conversation in the house, we set out for the Patterson Family Homestead near the University of Dayton.

I was excited to spend time with Bob & Sarah, and was equally surprised to see Bill & Kay Hetzer, and Geary & Jennifer Biggs.

The crowd was very kind, enthusiastic, and surprisingly eager to learn about Robert Todd Lincoln! The presentation went smoothly, even when I said “Robert Lincoln became a captain in the army under General Lee” – instead of General Grant! The audience roared even more when I tossed the comment off with “I guess I am rewriting history.”

The question/answer segment was filled with some great questions and comments.

After the presentation, the Kooglers, Hetzers, Biggs and I drove over to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream, and had the best time laughing.

The Kooglers dropped me off, and I hurried over to pick up Sophie Lockhart for her lesson. I spent a good hour talking to Valerie and Sophie before heading back home for Soph’s lesson.

Jose and I grabbed Subway for dinner (I deserved to have someone else prepare food today), and ate dinner. I settled down in my bedroom to type, and watch The Tony Awards. Slightly uneventful… and disappointing with some of the performances.

The evening is slowing down nicely, and with some relaxation after the whirlwind weekend.

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

And the weekend continues…

After leaving Wright State University’s production HELLO, DOLLY (see previous post), I chatted with Mother en route home. By 6:00pm, Jose and I were to two of our scheduled grad parties for Megan Weyrauch and Ryan Crouch.

We had a blast at both parties!

I got to spend time with the Weyrauch family and their guests – 95% of which were Fairmont band students.

They had a dunking tank in the back yard which was gathering much interest from the teens, as well as the trampoline, volleyball and food.

Megan was quite involved in the Fairmont music department – alto saxophonist, choir, show choir, and musicals.

This past marching season, Megan served as one of the marching band’s field commanders.

Megan is a beautiful young lady, and when you know her parents, Jim & Sherrie, and sister, Kaitlin, it is obvious why  this young lady is so special.

Megan will be heading to Wright State University this fall to study nursing.

You can visit her this summer at Kettering’s popular family joint, Magic Castle.

We left the Weyrauch home around 7:00pm and ventured back to our neighborhood for the Crouch party. Whereas the Weyrauch home was filled with band students, the Crouch yard was bulging with choir students – a completely different mix.

Ryan, like Megan, has been a super duper music trooper at Fairmont. Ryan was primarily involved with the choral program, but was also a noted piper! Ryan was in symphonic chorale – where he served as section leader and sometimes, student conductor; Fusion (vocal jazz) in which he sang, arranged, and often led rehearsals; show choir; and the musicals.

At graduation this coming Thursday evening, Ryan will conduct the senior choir in their final choral salute to their high school careers.

Ryan will be attending Bowling Green State University this fall, major in music education – choral.

I chatted with Ryan a bit – which is funny because I see him for 90 minutes each week, and we always have plenty to chat about.

I finally sat at a table with choir students to chat with Ryan’s girlfriend, Alex, and continued to give Bobby “Booby” Symes a difficult time.

Jose joined me at this table, and the Haas men proceeded to entertain their perspective halves of the long table.

Around 9:00pm, I joined several of the adults – John & Felicia Crouch, the Parretts, Tracey Witten, and a new couple I did not know – Rich & Bonita Palmer. Bonita looked familiar to me, but I could have passed her in the frozen food aisle at Kroger and still remember her face.

FINALLY… it was discovered that the three of us had not only been at Ball State together, but we three had been in the music department and marching band! We sat there for a good hour laughing about so many of our antics, and fun from BSU school department days. Rich had gone to school with Warren Central HS friends, Troy Allbright, and Shelley England – friends from Mid-America Music Clinics, and BSU, and Bonita had gone to high school with David Hall, another Mid-America camper and BSU music buddy! It was such a blast!

After the Palmers left, I sat chatting with the choir parents, and had a great time. However, I was appalled when I checked my watch and it was 1:00am!

Once we arrived home, I began preparing the potato salad for Sunday’s 2:00pm cookout at the neighbors. By 3:07am, I was finally in bed.

7:00am hit like a led pipe across the head, and I could not sleep. After the morning ritual, I prepared the potato salad, chatted with Jose, and sat down briefly to write this post.

At 12:30pm we will head to Delco Park in Kettering for Jill Cordonnier’s graduation party.

Jill began studying piano with me when she was six years old. Her feet did not touch the ground.

Around her fifth grade year she began studying saxophone along with piano, and developed into a fantastic threat to those in the Centerville Bands.

However, Jill’s main goal was to serve as field commander for the Centerville High School Band… and this she did for two successful seasons!

Jill has also been quite involved with the high school’s musicals – working on sets, or crew, and playing in almost all the pit orchestras. Jill’s dad, Michael, is the technical director, and manager for the Performing Arts Center at Centerville High School.

Jill, like Katie O’Neill (from previous post), has been like a daughter I never had.

This fall, Jill will enter Bowling Green State University, majoring in environmental management.

By 2:00pm, we will have returned home to join the Moore-Parker family for their annual cookout, along with our neighbors directly behind us, Bob & Chris Stephens. I always look forward to this gathering, as much as I do any Hoosier family gathering.

Around 4:00pm, or so, we will walk to the other side of the high school for a graduation party for Christina Suther, a marching band pal of Jose’s. Christina’s older sister, Vic, was one of my social studies students at Kettering Middle School.

Now, this is where the schedule becomes a little murky.

At some point we will end up at Old River Park for some canoe time, and then on over to Carillon Park for the Carillon Park Band, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the fireworks! I just am not certain of the time we will venture the 3 minutes north to the south edge of Dayton!

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46 years ago, Ball State’s Emen’s Auditorium opened…

46 years ago, the Ball State Singers were born…

46 years ago (this September), I was born…

46 years ago (this September), BEWITCHED premiered on television…

and…

46 years ago, HELLO DOLLY premiered on Broadway!

This afternoon, I was reminded of why I love the show so much! Wright State University’s theatre department produced another Stuart McDowell masterpiece with two so many outstanding performances by individuals, and a tight ensemble.

Of course, I was exceptionally proud of Will Hutcheson who played Barnaby…

…and Katie O’Neill who played Dolly Levi!

These two talents have evolved into incredible performers, and I cannot wait to see their careers flourish when they hit New York City this fall!

I have never thought of the main production number, “Hello Dolly” as a tear jerker, but it hit me this afternoon… much clapping and wiping away a few tears because I was so proud of these two future stars!

Thank you, Stuart McDowell, and the entire company of WSU’s HELLO DOLLY, and much love to Katie and Will!

The day seemed to drag… I felt drained, and exhausted for no apparent reason. I accomplished little until it was time to teach – and that perked me up, greatly.

Jackson Lockhart came to pick up Sophie from her lesson, and we shared some great laughs.

After teaching, Jose and I ran to Lowes to check out stone for some border work in front of the house, then to Walmart and Meijer, and Chinese for supper. We picked out some movies at Family Video and returned home by 9:00pm.

Our neighbor boy, Kelley, joined us for the remainder of the evening, and is spending the night with Jose. I retreated to my bedroom with my three DVD set of HBO’s mini-series, JOHN ADAMS. I finished the first two parts (at 2:00am), and I cannot wait to finish the remaining four parts. What an incredible man, and even more, what an incredible lady – Abigail Adams! Wow!

Tomorrow I will accomplish some items around the house, then see HELLO DOLLY at Wright State University @ 2:00pm, and then hit two high school graduation parties – Megan Weyrauch and Ryan Crouch.

I cannot believe I have slipped into my old pattern of not blogging! I was so good about blogging, and then the past few days I have been lazy – an for no good reason.

It has been a typical week at the Haasienda – teaching, watching documentaries, walks, gym time with Jose and the neighbor boy, Kelley, and playing with Flyer and Logan. I have been battling low energy, again, this week, and it is driving me up the wall.

Tonight is the Fairmont concert at the Fraze Pavilion for the bands. Since my Beavercreek students have all rescheduled this evening’s lessons, I will be free to attend this concert.

Thursday, there is nothing major on the docket.

Friday, after teaching, I plan on going to see HELLO, DOLLY at Wright State University. Several former students are leads in this production, and they are seniors. Hopefully, my friend, Suzanne Grote, will be able to sneak away from family to see the show with me.

Saturday will be busy – two graduation parties, and a canoe expedition at Old River Park with several family friends.

Sunday is the annual cookout next door with the Moore-Parker household – one of my favorite events of the year! We may try to work in some more canoe time, and then the fireworks later that night. Generally, downtown Dayton offers fireworks, as well over the Memorial Day weekend.

Other than that, it is a typical Spring day at the Haasienda.

Yesterday afternoon, I took Jose out to the front yard to help me measure the length in front of the shrubs where I want to put a little stone wall just a foot or so off the ground. I handed Jose the end of the tape measure, and walked to the opposite side. I then asked Jose what the measurement was.

He looked down, searchingly, looked up at me questioningly, and re-examined his end, and realized, I had the measurement on my end. I was howling to see his expression!

Last night I finished teaching around 8:00pm, and Jose and I went to Hothead Burrito for supper.  Ahh… I love their burritos. They are not that different from the famed Chipotle – but the prices, and discounted coupons are certainly different! We returned home, and I settled down with what I had taped of THE MIDDLE and MODERN FAMILY – they are two of my new favorite shows.

This morning, after another three hours of being wide awake from 4:00am-7:00am, I met my friend, Bill Hetzer, for breakfast at First Watch behind Towne & Country Shopping Plaza. From 8:30am until 11:15am, Bill and I, discussed politics, religion, family life, military life, our sons, house projects, music (current and past), musical theatre, and anything else that seemed of interest. This is my best therapy – meeting Bill for breakfast! Now, I just need to figure in a time to meet Kay, as her laughter and smile are both infectious, and I do tend to behave myself much better when I am with this Hetzer family member. With Bill, all behavioral bets are off.

We finished inside First Watch, and then moved outside to finish our conversation in the parking lot by Bill’s car. Grant it, lunch time at the feeding trough was upon us, but some of the incoming diners were quite rude as they prepared to park. Some would drive up, put their car into neutral, grip the steering wheel and lean forward as though to urge us on our merry way. Bill, or I, would wave them on, or indicate we were still chatting.

One gal drove up in her maroon limousine-esque vehicle, and was quite disgusted that Bill and I were talking. For some reason, she was intent on parking where Bill’s car was currently resting. Several times she even nudged us with a toot of her horn to which we waved her on. Had it been winter, or raining, we would have quickly ended the conversation for those more advanced in years, or mommies with children. However, it is the most gorgeous day – and it was already nearing 70-degrees. This lady drove around several more times, and would pull up behind where we stood. Finally, she decided that a parking space, directly opposite, and slightly closer to the door, would suffice. I began to wonder if for some reason she had scattered a late husband’s ashes where we were standing. Eventually, the aggravated lady un-wedged her supple girth from the driver’s side (without the “pop” sound trapped air makes upon release), and moved toward the door, calling to her waiting friend that “those two guys…” I had to chuckle… I am sure her frame had been the model for the 1939 World’s Fair sphere that served as the exposition’s centerpiece, later the seed for Disney’s EPCOT symbol for the world.

Bill and I, while inside, had just been talking about the things in life that matter to us, as well as the minute items that simply waste too much time on our individual journey. I told Bill that the offended/offensive woman would probably be exasperated the remainder of her day, and complaining about “those two guys who…” to any one who wished to share in her misery.

After departing from one of my favorite souls on this earth, I ventured on to CVS to pick up my prescription. As I entered the pharmacy section, there sat a lady who I guessed to be in her late seventies, or early eighties. By seeing her walker, and the way she was seated in the chair, I could see she was not in the best of physical health – but her spiritual health, and attitude toward life appeared to be Olympian! I smiled, and was greeted by the most generous, welcoming smile that could make a bishop forget his prayers. Several times our eyes met, and I attempted to match the warmth in her smile.

Some day, in forty years, I hope I am just like that darling soul in CVS – not an old lady on a walker – but an older gentleman with a healthy attitude, and healthy spirit – and hopefully, a healthy body and system. As I was leaving Kroger next door to CVS, I saw the lady scooting across the parking lot on her walker. Her car was not parked in the handicap space in front of CVS, the pet store, or Kroger – but out in the middle of that huge parking lot. As she maneuvered her walker, taking careful steps, she smiled at people passing by her – some not even noticing – as well as the air around her… her life’s composition was sung silently, but the depth of her joyful melody thundered for all who could feel the vibrations.

This CVS lady made my day!

Read PLAYBILL’s article on the collaborative direction about Hal Prince and Susan Stromman…

Prince and Stroman Unveil New Musical

Originally published in PLAYBILL.

By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson
11 May 2010

Doris Eaton Travis
Doris Eaton Travis

Doris Eaton Travis, the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who inspired 21st century audiences with her pluck, good will — and fancy footwork — at 12 of 13 annual Easter Bonnet Competition performances for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, died May 11 at the age of 106, according to Tom Viola, executive director of BC/EFA.

Ms. Eaton was thought to be among “the last of the Ziegfeld Girls” — as were known the bejeweled ensemble of women who graced the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre (and elsewhere) in producer Flo Ziegfeld’s revues in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Eight decades after her initial bout of fame, she again found an audience on the stage of the New Amsterdam. She danced for a 1998 audience when she appeared with four other graying Ziegfeld veterans in the first Easter Bonnet fundraiser at the theatre, then newly restored, on West 42nd Street.

“She was truly our good luck charm,” Viola told Playbill.com. “In 1998, at 94, she was in incredible shape — in amazing shape. We brought her back every year, and she would dance in the opening number. She taught Sutton Foster how to dance ‘The Black Bottom,’ she danced with the ‘Cagelles’ from the previous revival, we celebrated her 100th birthday on stage, she appeared with the cast of Billy Elliot.”

Ms. Travis had lived recently with her nephew Joe Eaton and his wife outside of Chicago. She previously lived in Norman, OK, where she ran a horse ranch with her husband for 40 years.

Viola told Playbill.com that she took ill Sunday and was taken to the hospital to be rehydrated and was released, but was brought back to the hospital on May 11. She was reportedly talkative in the car, then chatting with the nurses about being a Ziegfeld girl and having just returned from the Bonnet Competition in New York City.

She slipped away quietly, without incident, at the hospital. Viola said, “I’ll bet the sound of the extraordinary ovation she received on stage at the Minskoff just two weeks ago today was ringing in her ears.”

Doris Eaton was born March 14, 1904, in Norfolk, VA. Four of her seven siblings would eventually go onto the stage, including sisters Mary and Pearl, who were also Ziegfeld Girls, and brothers Charles and Joseph, though Joe, disliking show business, left the theatre at a tender age. For a short period in the early 1920s, the three Eaton girls were famous enough that their heart-shaped faces graced the covers of celebrity magazines.

Mama Eaton encouraged the stage ambitions of her children early on, and ambitious older sister Evelyn pushed her brothers and sisters to achieve. Mary, the family’s greatest beauty, was the most famous, headlining the 1926 musical Lucky and receiving top billing with Eddie Cantor in Kid Boots. Pearl split her time between acting and choreographing, becoming quite accomplished at the latter.

Doris Eaton took her first step on Broadway in the 1917 play Mother Carey’s Chickens. She got her big break in the serendipitous manner often seen in Hollywood films. Her sister Pearl had been employed to rehearse a group of dancing girls for a road show of the Follies for producer Ned Wayburn. Doris tagged along to watch.

“During the break, Mr. Wayburn came over to give Pearl some instructions and he kept looking at me. He finally said, ‘Who’s this?’ Pearl said, ‘It’s my youngest sister, Doris.’ ‘Can she dance? I’m looking for somebody to understudy Ann Pennington on the road.’ Pearl knew Pennington’s routines and knew my capacity and she said, ‘She could do that. But, Mr. Wayburn, she’s only 14 and I don’t think her mother would let her go on the road.’ He said, ‘You tell your mother I want Doris to do this and she can travel with her and I’ll pay her mother’s way.'”

Young Doris was the youngest girl featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918. She also appeared in the 1920 edition of the Follies.

“Florenz Ziegfeld, to us and our family, was just a delightful person,” she told Playbill.com in 2004. “My sisters Mary and Pearl, my brother Charlie and I all worked for him, and he treated us just beautifully, almost like a father. When I went with my mother up to his office, he was always gentlemanly and kindly. He was sort of a quiet person. He was always well-groomed, sort of natty.”

Ms. Eaton modestly admitted she was never the star of the family. Still, she had her moments. She executed a rhythm tap dancing routine in the 1928 musical Cross My Heart which stopped the show cold every night. In the 1929 show The Hollywood Music Box Revue, she introduced the song “Singing in the Rain,” months before Cliff Edwards would deliver it in the film “Hollywood Revue.” And then there was that love affair with Nacio Herb Brown, the composer of “Singin’ in the Rain” and many other standards.

The Eatons’ heyday was short. Offers from both Broadway and Hollywood dried up with the arrival of the Great Depression. Suddenly, the fabulous family business was finished. The clan didn’t handle the reversal in fortunes well. Charlie, Mary and Pearl all battled alcoholism. Glamorous Mary married “three drunks in a row,” as her brother Joe put it, and died of severe metamorphosis of the liver in 1948.

“Ballet dancing and the theatre was really my sister’s whole life,” remembered Doris when discussing Mary in 2004. “It was something inward with her. With Pearl, she liked it but it was a job. With me, it was just a job. I never had stars in my eyes about the theatre.”

Pearl also ended badly. She died in 1958 in her Manhattan Beach apartment, the victim of a bizarre murder which remains unsolved. The sturdy and cheerful Charlie fared best at carving out a long career, often joining Doris as half of a dance team. He died in 2004.

Asked why she survived the seeming tragedy of being shut out of show business while still in the bloom of youth, Ms. Eaton said, “I reached the age of 32 and I took a good look at myself and said ‘What’s going on here? This is nothing. This is not life.’ I went back to church and began to study and find myself. I got some inner strength from that.”

Ms. Eaton left show business, but later became the owner of 18 Arthur Murray dance studios in Michigan, which she operated for 30 years. She also ran a horse ranch in Oklahoma with her late husband, Paul Travis, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma at the age of 88.

In 2003, she published “The Days We Danced,” a frank biography of her family’s history on and off the stage—a tale replete with glory and heartbreak in even amounts.

Ms. Eaton took her last bow April 27, during the opening number of the 2010 Easter Bonnet show. She rode onstage in a giant Easter basket, giving the initial impression that she could no longer walk. But Ms. Travis brought the audience to its feet when she rose to her own feet and took center stage. Steadied by two shirtless young male dancers, she executed a kick or two and thanked the audience for the love they had shown her over the 12 years of her appearances at the Bonnet event. She then headed into the wings under her own power.

This is a really neat article about Broadway producers.

Take time to read What does a Broadway Producer do? Over 100 Producers respond.

The article can be found at THE PRODUCER\’S PERSPECTIVE

A producer is a rare, paradoxical genius: hard-headed, soft-hearted, cautious, reckless, a hopeful innocent in fair weather, a stern pilot in stormy weather, a mathematician who prefers to ignore the laws of mathematics and trust intuition, an idealist, a realist, a practical dreamer, a sophisticated gambler, a stage-struck child.  That’s a producer.

– Oscar Hammerstein II

My dear friend in St. Louis, Jeffrey Carter, is always a few steps ahead of me with technology (and a score of other things that raises my admiration and respect for him), and I figured out how I can write a blog post on my Word Press account and get it to post simultaneously on my Facebook and Twitter sites!

So much easier!

The lilac bush, which offered more than 140 large bouquets given away, was still full. The lovely blooms have finally died off. However, the clematis is blooming around the front yard corner-fence.

I am hoping to paint the front yard corner-gate, wagon wheel, bench, and mailbox. We have some nasty weather approaching, so this paint session will have to wait.

This has been a particularly long week. Not a bad week, mind you, but one that just felt terribly long – one that dragged.

The doctor suggested I split my medication in half as I have been battling extreme fatigue. Hopefully the half dose will help me maintain the usual amount of energy that carries my full day.

I have done little this week that amounts to what I would call a successful week, but I do feel rested. I have walked nearly two miles each day, and am hopefully with renewed energy, I can at least accomplish 10,000+ steps each day, or 5 miles. My waist does seem to be reducing, and I am wearing shorts I have not worn in several years… progress. The medication does seem to reduce my appetite which is a blessing. My meal portions are much smaller, yet I do feel full!

Tonight, after teaching private lessons I will teach a pre-adoptive course at ACTION Adoption.

Saturday I will hopefully accomplish some work, and attend one of the two productions of [title of show], produced by some students at Wright State University. If the weather permits, I would like to hit Old River Park’s canoes with Jose.

May 8th would have been my grandmother’s 86th birthday, and each Mother’s Day I always remember her fondly by playing, “Red River Valley,” one of her personal favorites.

I have no idea what Sunday holds beyond a Mother’s Day call to Mother.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and please don’t forget to wish all the mothers you know a “happy Mother’s Day.”

(Written in September 2002)

Thursday evening I was in the middle of teaching private voice, piano and saxophone lessons when I received Emails from my mother and sister telling me that Mr. Brugger had passed away.  Though not terribly surprised by the news, I was still quite sad. As my student continued playing through her lesson, a kaleidoscope of memories began turning.

My first memory of Mr. Brugger was at the T-Way parking lot as a very small child. My grandmother, Donna, Barmes, use to ride me on her bicycle a good deal, and one of our favorite jaunts in the summer was to watch the Panter Band practice.  The early images must have had a strong impact on me as I later served as the Panther Band Drum-major throughout my high school career.  It was during those years in the late 1960’s that I first heard Mr. Brugger sing “Old Man River.”

In 1975, two phenomenal teachers entered my life – Garnetta and Clifford Brugger.  Mrs. Brugger was my fifth grade teacher, and Mr. Brugger, having retired from the high school, came into our music class each week to teach songs and tell stories.  He would lead us in several favorite American folk songs, and then stop to tell us a joke or a story, complete with various voices and theatrics.  One day, someone asked why we sang “those old songs.”  With a reassuring smile, Mr. Brugger explained that in other countries around the world, folks songs were vital to the people’s history because they told stories of the people of their land.  He felt, that as an American, we should all value our own musical heritage.   To this day, American folk songs are a part of my teaching repertoire.

Toward the end of the year, I wrote a note to Mr. Brugger with a special request, and sent it home via his wife.  His last day he was with us at Washington Elementary School, he honored my request.  I can remember the school secretary, Jan Helpling, slipping in through the coat hall… Diana Lane, the fourth grade teacher (and also one of my favorites), joined her… Mrs. Brugger, holding a cup of coffee slipped in beside them… Mr. Brugger’s voice filled the entire building with the rich strains of “Old Man River.”

Throughout my junior high and senior high years, Mr. Brugger was one of my biggest supporters.  Whether attending an Elwood HS Variety Show – his own legacy and gift to our community – or giving me a nod along the parade route, he always made sure I knew how proud he was of my work.  The crowning moment came when he saw me after a performance of OKALHOMA! and compared my performance to that of Gordon MacRae who portrayed “Curly” in the motion picture.

Upon my return visits to my family over the years, I knew that if we went to Jim Dandy for breakfast, I would get to see Mr. Brugger.  He never failed to recognize me, and always insisted I tell him everything I was doing with my own music career as a band & choir director, and performer.

My last student this evening came into my studio and announced that he had decided to go to Ball State University next fall to major in music education. Although he is not my first student to go into music, his timing was perfect.  As Brian warmed up on his saxophone, I was so happy Clifford Brugger made such an impression me twenty-eight years ago.  I was even more appreciative that he also had an impact on his own student, Paula Simmons, who was my junior high and high school band and choir director.

When my student left, I sent my newly adopted thirteen year old son outside to walk our dog.  I sat down at my piano and began playing and singing.  It was a tender moment without great emotion.  It was a moment of thanksgiving, and celebration.  The lyrics flowed easily…

“Ol’ man river, that ol’ man river,

He mus’ know sumpin’ but don’t say nuthin’

He jes’ keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’ along.

He don’t plant taters, he don’t plant cotton

An’ dem dat plants ‘em is soon forgotten,

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

I git weary an’ sick of tryin’

I’m tired of livin’ an’ skeered of dyin’

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

Our beloved maestro has laid down his baton at last, yet his music “keeps on rollin’” within our memories, and our hearts.  Where ever you are, Mr. Brugger, thank you, and God bless.

[April 2003, Paula Simmons invited me back to Elwood Community High School to perform, “Old Man River,” in honor of Mr. Brugger.  This was, and will always be, one of my greatest honors.]

Darin as Panther Band drum-major

Darin performing "Old Man River" - 2003

Originally published: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d29-Butlers-Coleman-Hemsath-marks-his-30th-production-with-Singin-In-The-Rain

Hemsath - Head shotEight years. Thirty productions. This averages to 3.75 shows each year. Most of these thirty productions, however, were accomplished within the past five years.

This incredibly busy rehearsal and performance schedule has been maintained by Coleman Hemsath, a Butler High School junior who is a familiar face in Vandalia Youth Theatre and Muse Machine productions.

Some children do not listen to their mothers, but it is a good thing Coleman listened to his.

“My mother was looking for something for me to do over the summer in 2001. She found the Vandalia Youth Theatre and enrolled me in it. I think I fell in love after that. It’s something I couldn’t shake off.”

That first year he played the role of Cockroach in the Vandalia Youth Theatre children’s production, Bugz. Not a very auspicious beginning for the young man who would portray Javert in the 2009 Vandalia Youth Theatre production, Les Miserables. Nonetheless, it was Coleman’s start in theatre. The following year, his stage character vastly improved with the role Big Jules in Guys & Dolls.

Most of Coleman’s roles have allowed him to engage his comedic timing; however, this past summer, he was challenged to spread his dramatic wings as Javert in Les Miserables.

“This character had to be real and deep because of the choices and situations he endures leading to a final decision of suicide. My favorite part of the role was actually committing suicide. This was incredibly hard and for the longest time it was lacking emotion. But one day at rehearsal I remember literally breaking down in tears after singing the song leading up to the suicide. Something clicked. It was definitely the most challenging and yet, most gratifying role I’ve played.”

The seventeen year old thespian credits the cast’s dedication as a reason for the show’s success, and succeeding with his initial trepidation tackling his huge, dramatic role.

Thoroughly Modern Millie was Coleman’s first performance with Dayton’s Muse Machine. Like most first time performers with Muse Machine, he was in awe as he walked on to the dazzling Victoria Theater’s stage. Being in a show with tremendously talented teens he had admired in previous years from the other side of the lights was a moment he will always remember.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie just seemed to have a spark to it.”

This coming January, Coleman will once again join his fellow Muse performers on the Victoria stage in Singin’ In The Rain. Coleman will play the tightly-wound Diction Coach, as well as understudy to Don Lockwood, the character popularized in the 1952 movie by Gene Kelly.

Following his 2011 graduation from Vandalia’s Butler High School, Coleman plans on majoring in musical theatre or vocal performance, and one day hopes to play either Max Bialystock or Leo Bloom in The Producers. If performing is not enough for this jovial thespian, he dreams of someday opening his own theatre company.

Keep your eye on the Miami Valley’s own – Coleman Hemsath!

Originally published: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d28-Wayne-High-School-senior-Tray-Shelton-shines-in-Moon-Over-Buffalo

Shelton 6“I have been interested in theatre for as long as I can remember. I think the main reason the stage has always been appealing to me is because in a small town like Huber Heights, you don’t have many opportunities to express yourself and I knew that high school theatre would be a sort of creative outlet for me.”

And finding his creative outlet in high school theatre is exactly what Wayne High School senior, Tray Shelton, has done.

Tray first got a taste for the boards during his sophomore year when he stepped into the role of James Keller in Wayne’s production, The Miracle Worker, for which he received a Floorboard Award for “best newcomer.” Since that first appearance he has enjoyed lead roles in Anything Goes, The Importance Of Being Earnest, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

Being in front of an audience and seeing the reactions to events on stage explains why Wayne’s Thespian Society/Drama Club president is enthusiastic about performing.

“My favorite thing to hear is laughter because it means I’m doing something to make the audience happy and that makes me happy.”

Tray claims that his favorite show is The Miracle Worker, which was his first production. Playing the role of Helen Keller’s older brother introduced him to character development while learning how theatre functions.

The third weekend of November will find Tray in what he believes to be his favorite role, portraying George Hay in Ken Ludwig’s 1995 Broadway hit, Moon Over Buffalo.

“It’s a challenging role because George spends the entire second act intoxicated. I am enjoying working on the differences between ‘drunk George’ and ‘sober George’. It’s almost like playing two characters at once which is a fun and unique experience. I also love the fact that I am an actor playing an actor. It’s fun to play into all of the stereotypes associated with actors.”

When preparing for a role, the Wayne thespian admits that memorizing blocking comes rather naturally. However, line memorization is often difficult due to spending countless hours after school each day.

Still, cramming lines and life into the busy schedule of a high school senior has not dampened his spirits. Tray’s future plans include studying at Wittenberg, or Wright State, pursuing a degree in theatre. One day, he dreams of playing Angel in Rent.

Feeling as though he got a late start in performing, Tray encourages younger students to get involved earlier than high school by seeking performing opportunities in school, church or community venues.

“I waited until my sophomore year to join the drama club and while it has still been a wonderful experience I have always wished it could have lasted just a little bit longer.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Tray Shelton and fellow Wayne performers in Moon Over Buffalo, November 19, 20, & 21, 2009 in the Wayne High School Auditorium. Thursday & Friday curtains will rise at 7:00pm, and Saturday’s matinee begins at 2:00pm. Wayne Sporting Goods will begin selling tickets two weeks before the show. Tickets can also be purchased one hour prior to curtain. Admission for preferred seating are $8, and general admission is $5. International Thespian Society members can get tickets half price with a valid membership card (one per card).
 

 

Originally posted: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d26-Fairmont-grad-Phil-Drennen-launches-new-writing-career-following-Altar-Boyz-tour

PhilThis 2002 Fairmont graduate, now a performer living in New York City, was known in the Miami Valley for cow roping, singin’ and dancin’ in the rain, gambling, and dancing in pajamas. Now, having completed a national tour of Altar Boyz, Philip Drennen is settling into a new phase of his youthful career. However, he still credits his theatrical experiences as a high school student in the Miami Valley as the foundation of his success and still new horizons.

“Literally all my best memories from high school, in general, are from doing shows and playing in the band,” said Philip. “All of my best friends from that time, who still are my best friends, I met in a performance group.”

When not playing flute in a Kettering concert band, or serving as the marching band’s field commander, Phil, was on Fairmont’s stage, performing the lead roles in Oklahoma!, Guys & Dolls and Singin’ In The Rain. Away from the Fairmont stage, he was a familiar favorite on the Muse stage in My Fair Lady and The Pajama Game.

His favorite high school role is, perhaps, the most memorable to many as he sang and danced his way through a rain shower in Singin’ In The Rain, a production that packed Fairmont’s auditorium each night.

“Of all the shows I did I’ll always talk about how it rained on stage during Singin’ in the Rain. The audience gave the rain wagon a standing ovation. Legendary!”

While a student at Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, where he received his BFA (bachelor of fine arts) in musical theatre, Philip performed in William Finn’s Elegies, Crazy For You and Working. From CCM it was on to the professional world of musical theatre where Mr. Drennen glided right into his professional life.

“I have many interesting stories from the last few years. I’m so, so grateful I was encouraged to go into theater. And to be honest, I wasn’t encouraged by everyone. I’ve gotten to see shows in London’s West End, climb the Great Wall of China, and even recently got to perform with Mickey Rooney! All from doing theater.

Aside from performing with 1940’s teen star, Mickey Rooney, Phil landed roles in a world premiere, For The Glory, which debuted in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and starred in the national tour of Altar Boyz.

Soon after arriving in New York, Phil learned that performing on Broadway is a great goal to pursue, but it should not be the only goal guiding young performers. There are natural facets of growth in the performing arena – something that many professionals refer to as, “process.”

“Many people get really down on themselves when they don’t get a huge show right out of school. But some people don’t peak until later. I’d always been told that I was a ‘leading man’ who hadn’t grown into himself and that I’d have to wait until I’m 30 to really break through. Instead of waiting, I’m taking things into my own hands and anyone can.”

And taking a pen and musical score paper into his own hands is exactly what Philip has done.

While on the road touring with Altar Boyz, Phil, and fellow performer, Dan Scott, who played “Mark”, began writing songs to pass the time. As soon as they returned to New York, the former Boyz were immediately at work co-writing songs. Within a few months, they recorded their first EP, One Of These Days.

This November, the newly formed duo, now popularly known as Astoria Boulevard, will throw their first CD-release party at Santos Party House in NYC.

Despite branching out in a slightly different direction in his still young career, Phil believes that he would not have discovered his voice for writing music had it not been for his years involved with high school theatre at Fairmont High School, and with the Muse Machine productions.

“There are many, many facets of performing that aren’t singing on Broadway.”

This grateful thespian that began his performing career here in the Miami Valley is eager to see other young performers reach for their own futures.

“If you’re goal is only to sing on Broadway, then tell yourself you WILL do it. If you’re a young person who wants to do this for a living and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, try it!”

To learn more about Astoria Boulevard with Philip Drennen and Dan Scott’s, please visit their website: http://www.astoria-boulevard.com

Originally published:  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d23-Jack-Gallagher-lights-the-way

Friends - GALLAGHER Jack“The shear difference from a plainly lit stage before the show, and the last little touch – lighting adds to a production that truly takes you to where the show takes place.”

This is why Centerville High School senior, Jackson “Jack” Gallagher, loves lighting design.

Following a Kettering Rec Center production of Pinocchio when Jack was three years old, the future thespian was hooked on theatre. In the years to come Jack was immersed in classes and summer camps that focused on dancing, singing, and acting while investigating the entire store of technical theatre.

Since his first production as a third grader at Washington Township’s Town Hall Theatre to Centerville High School’s recent production of Lucky Stiff, Jack has covered nearly every aspect of a production’s offering. By fourth grade he was involved on tech crew for the first time and has since become one of the Miami Valley’s most gifted high school theatre-tech students, garnering impressive awards for lighting design at the Ohio State Thespian Conference, The International Thespian Festival, and the International Tech Challenge.

Initially, Jack’s passion was in sound. In fact, for his 7th birthday he asked his parents for a sound board. However, he was soon to discover the radiant world of stage lighting that would launch him on a successful, award winning path.

“I worked with several lighting designers at Town Hall. Darell Porter was probably the most influential. He sat me down several times and taught me the basics about lighting design. However I didn’t start really getting into lighting until I came to CHS.”

The past three years, Jack has served as CHS’s lighting designer for Lucky Stiff, The Importance of Being Earnest, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Rumors, and Once Upon A Mattress for which he received a DayTony Award. In July 2009, Jack visually transported audiences to lush islands in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic, South Pacific at Beavercreek High School.

Jack Gallagher steadfastly follows his own regimen of advice that he thoughtfully shares with fellow students who wish to pursue theatre technical studies during their high school tenures by reading numerous articles, talking to professionals, getting involved in community theatre, and by simply being himself.

“The theatre world is about the size of a penny, and everyone knows everyone. Connections can mean more than your skills sometimes, so having good people skills and meeting the right people is invaluable.”

June 2010, the award winning student lighting designer will take leave of the CHS stage to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“I’ve applied for early decision at Carnegie Mellon and I have an interview on November 8th. So if everything goes well I might be accepted as early as then and would major in theatrical design.” 

Even at 18, Jack has a firm vision for his future, balanced with the philosophies instilled by CHS theatre instructors, Joe Buemner and Mike Cordonnier.

“Theatre is an ever changing market and I don’t want to have too much of a set plan because I probably won’t end up following that idea. People, friends, relationships, constantly change and they affect what you can do and jobs you can get. So I’ll major in theatre and see where life takes me. Maybe further down the road I would like to teach at a university and settle down and have a family. But who knows what tomorrow will hold.”

For more information on upcoming events at CHS’s Performing Arts Center, please call 937-439-3535, or visit their website http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/index.php?section=61

Every September 1st, I think of this beautiful song by Weill & Anderson.

The first time I heard “September Song” was in the mid-late 1980’s when Mr. Logan played a recording of it. I cannot remember who sang it but it seems like it was Ray Bolger’s voice in my mind. The lyrics are beautiful, wistful…

SEPTEMBER SONG

When I was a young man courting the girls
I played me a waiting game
If a maid refused me with tossing curls
I’d let the old Earth make a couple of whirls
While I plied her with tears in lieu of pearls
And as time came around she came my way
As time came around, she came

When you meet with the young girls early in the Spring
You court them in song and rhyme
They answer with words and a clover ring
But if you could examine the goods they bring
They have little to offer but the songs they sing
And the plentiful waste of time of day
A plentiful waste of time

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you

God, how many times have I written that title over the past few years I have blogged. My cousin, Dana, and my friend, Jeff, are tremendous, faithful bloggers. I always try to use these two as role models with cooking, household items, and other creative things, but manage to fall short. I have concluded I am just not a cook, nor do I enjoy it. I have also concluded that home decor, and even gardening is not my arena, either.

Therefore, blogging shall be mine!

So, for starters…

SOUTH PACIFIC, the little show that had so many derailments from outside sources, and even school administration, bounded into the auditorium with success, and much cheering from the audiences. The cast was just right, and the orchestra was wonderful. The technical component was saved by two brilliant Centerville students, Jack Gallagher and Ryan Grant, and my former student, Andrew Stroud, took over the sound board. And I had three of the most wonderful ladies as producers: Sandy Focht, Suzanne Grote, and Joyce Carter. Joshua Logan’s son, Tom, and his granddaughter, Kate Harrigan, offered wonderful, touching telephone calls to the cast, as well as voice overs prior to curtain. It has been nearly a month since the show and the magic of its journey still lingers.

In some ways, it was a very fun summer, and in others, it was not. Due to the grueling episodes from some outside individuals who wished to work against the productions, it made for a very trying summer. Still there were many pleasant events with visits with the family, a three-day trip to Indiana Beach, Kings Island, and a ton of gatherings at the Carter home in Beavercreek. Jose was present for almost all the SOUTH PACIFIC cast adventures, and seemed to make some good friends.

Today is August 25th, 2009. In one month I turn 45 years old. This is kind of strange as I remember when my grandmother, who was only 40 at my birth, turned 45.

Next door at Fairmont, the freshmen and sophomores are in class – the juniors and seniors join them tomorrow. In some ways I am glad school is starting back up, and again, it heralds the end of summer. I will be directing the Beavecreek Show Choir Band this year, and doing several other things at BHS which I cannot disclose at present.

This summer has been interesting in other ways… people entering my life, people exiting my life… some with whom I care to share a life-long friendship, and others I know are only momentary.

Now, it is on with my day. Teaching, some writing, and then a band booster meeting. Jose begins the evening marching band rehearsals tonight – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-9:00pm. So, I will have free time to write, walk, and do whatever needs my attention.

Sunday, May 17th, we held auditions for SOUTH PACIFIC.

I was so impressed with so many of the teenagers, and there were a few that blew me away – I had not seen that level of performance from them.

I have been tearing into all the preparation on the schedule, and all the fun things that accompany it. I have also been doing the customary research that makes me happier than anything else in the world.

I wake around 5:30am, read; at 7:00am I sleep until Jose comes in at 7:45am to leave for school; I feed the animals, water plants, take sugar count, eat my breakfast (on the deck in nice weather), check email, and then generally do house work or yard work… today I mowed, trimmed, and planted flowers… then, I am seated at my desk at 9:00am to work until Noon when I take lunch on the deck; at 1:00, I lounge in my bed, reading and researching; at 2:00pm, I break for an hour of BEWITCHED, and then get ready to teach lessons. Somewhere in this time, I also manage a 20 minute walk, and play time with Flyer. After teaching, Jose and I often run errands, and then I am in bed with my laptop at 10:00pm until after midnight…

I love this life!

The music of Rodgers & Hammerstein is always with me. I seldom need to turn it on because it is always going through my brain.

This week has also been filled with concerts, breakfast with dear friends, and more concerts. Friday, if Jose goes to play sand volleyball with some friends, I will elect to have dinner with some of my friends. I also plan on taking Jose to see NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM which comes out this week. Last week we saw th 12:01am showing of ANGELS & DEMONS, and it was incredible. It did make for an extra long Friday since we had the Fairmont choral concert, but it was so worth it!

I would also like to try to see TITANIC this weekend.

My neighbors always have a Memorial Day cookout, but I have not heard anything about it, yet. If it is still on, it is one of my all time favorite gatherings… I love this cookout!

Well, last night the production team officially met for the first time to prep SOUTH PACIFIC for Beavercreek High School’s new summer stock production company, Summer On Stage. This production team is on fire, and over the past three weeks, has done an enormous job of planning, and most of all -visioneering.

This Sunday, May 17, we hold auditions, and the response from students has been great. My goal is to have tons of men for the Seabee numbers. “Nothin’ Like A Dame” will rock!

Unfortunately, we have little fires to constantly put out due to stagnating issues from the past, and this has infiltrated down to a handfull of students. One particular student, who will be attending a podunk school that has a very mediocre musical theatre (but she clams it is the best in the Midwest even when she could not get into the schools of her choice… [insert laugh here]), has been saying SOUTH PACIFIC will fail because I am a bad vocalist. However, she is all smoke… no substance. A few others have been on the attack, but again, no substance.

It’s sad that some of the students have basically been “bought” with empty promises. In some ways, I do not blame them for their attacks on the previous production, THE PAJAMA GAME, nor now with SOUTH PACIFIC. The students have had these insidious thoughts planted in their minds, and in the minds of some of their parents. How sad they have been used for unethical reasons.

But their small-mindedness shall not chip away at what we will produce this summer. The tidal wave is rolling.

An announcement for orchestra members went out this morning, and a ton of other items were accomplished by the team!

Next week we will interview potential technical directors.

There are so many neat plans for this production, and I cannot wait until we start rehearsals.

Sunday afternoon, the production of THE PAJAMA GAME at Beavercreek High School ended.

I am generally a little teary-eyed following a production, but this time I was relieved.

April 14th, the orchestra conductor was fired and I was handed the position, along with the current duties of vocal director.

Suzanne, the director, and I had so many storms to weather throughout this production – Suzanne more so than myself. Mine was very confined to a week or so, where hers was on-going. My predecessor had 57 students sign up for the orchestra – students thinking I was to conduct (I thought I was to do it, originally, as well). Within 30 minutes, over 30 students had walked out on his first meeting.

Monday morning I had not orchestra. Thanks to the band director, and several of my music friends, I had one of the best orchestras BHS has had – and was told so by MANY faculty and parents, and those who have known the program for many years. I heard the video the other evening and I was so proud of the sound coming from the pit.

We had 3 rehearsals, a sitz probe, and two tech rehearsals before the shows began – and those orchestra members plowed through the difficult score as though they were each born to play a musical theatre score.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to bring as much normalcy back to life as I could. I had a yard to mow, flowers to plant, yard to clean up, laundry, and tons of other things. Jose had done a tremendous job of helping me while I was in production, but there were so many things that I prefer to do – and all was waiting for me.

Monday and Tuesday nights were heavy with teaching – and a number of make-up lessons. Wednesday night was the cast party, and Thursday was a four hour class for part of my teaching licensure.

While wading through all the above, I was also launching the production of SOUTH PACIFIC for this summer.

Auditions are May 17th @ 5:00pm.

The audition announcements are out, and I am swamped in preparation. I think this is when I am happiest – preparing for, and directing a show. The performances are always somewhat dull for me – my heaven, and haven is being in a rehearsal.

I am hoping to write more on preparations for SOUTH PACIFIC… I am in heaven, despite some of the garbage already pouring from some of the preceding issues at the school.

This afternoon, Mother will arrive to spend the weekend with us. At 5:15pm we will head to Beavercreek High School to watch the Friend’s Show Choir’s FINALE – a very moving evening to celebrate the end of the year.

I feel as though I am finally catching my breath for the first time in a month.

Where do I begin?

Well, I am vocal director for Beavercreek High School’s production, The Pajama Game. The director and I are up against a few “waves” to pull this production off. Due to some items beyond our control, the students’ morale was been sinking. Finally, two weeks ago, I began vocal rehearsals, and I managed to bring the cast up in spirits, as well as song.

I have also been working WGI (Winter Guard Internationals) and MEPA (Mid-Eastern Performance Association) competitions. For the hours we work, money is applied to our child’s band fees. By the time I have finished with this season, I believe I shall be slightly over what I owe.

Last summer, Jose was not planning on doing marching band, and therefore, I did not attend the processing day. A bill was never sent to me, and it was not until Rita was doing my taxes that she inquired about last year’s marching band fees. There was a balance of $397, and then I knew I would have $415 for this coming season’s fees.

I have actually had a blast working with the different band parents. For three different MEPA competitions I worked at Centerville High School selling T-shirts and raffles for a Yamaha marching snare. I took my lap top, and plenty to work on, and actually accomplished a good bit of writing and editing. These were fun events.

On top of this, I have been working on the Wright Brothers’ musical, and after sending it off to a local director who expressed interest in reading it for a possible production, I pulled out the musical I began writing in 1986, Love Is Eternal – Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln.

I have truly enjoyed working on these two musicals. I have always loved the musical on Mrs. Lincoln, and am enjoying bringing it back to life.

This past Sunday, after leaving Centerville High School, I hurried to Yellow Springs to meet the Lockharts and their family at Young’s Dairy to celebrate Mike and Valerie’s 25th anniversary. It was such a wonderful time with my adoptive Ohio family.

So, today was actually the first day of spring break. I fell asleep last night by 11:30pm, and was wide awake at 4:00am. I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and then fell back asleep until 7:00am. I fed the pets, took my sugar, ate breakfast, swept the first floor, did a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and my desk tops – and was settled at my desk by 9:00am to write on the Lincoln musical.

By 1:30pm I was drained. I thought I’d take a quick power nap so I could watch Bewitchedat 2:00pm. However, I slept until 4:00pm. Jose went to work, and I worked. Flyer and I walked over to One Lincoln Park and walked home with Jose where the neighbor boy was waiting on Jose. Since they were playing XBox, I worked some more.

Tomorrow, I shall teach for four hours, and plan on taking Jose and his friend, Michael, to see a movie at Danburry.

Wednesday I have the entire day off but Jose works – so that shot any chance of us going out of town.

Thursday and Friday I will work at Trent Arena from 6:45am – 11:00pm for the WGI contest. Ugh! But it is a ton of money towards Jose’s band fees.

Saturday morning we will drive to Indiana to meet up with other family for Mother’s birthday dinner. We will spend the night at Mother’s and return home so Jose can work.

Then, Monday, April 6th (Mother’s birthday), I will hit everything full speed – The Pajama Game vocals, writing and editing on Love Is Eternal, perhaps some work on The Bird Let Loose, teaching, and trying to find extra time to spend with Jose during this very busy period. I suppose my weekends will be taken up with rehearsals for Beavercreek’s musical, with the exception of mid-April when I will work one last WGI competition. The production goes up the first weekend of May, and then it is on to all the concerts and events that pile into the last four weeks of the school year.

Ahh… time to rest and enjoy some television…

There is a fascinating young man in college. I never had him as a student, but saw a good deal of his set designs while he was still a high school student. They were incredible.

He posted something in his Face Book status that indicated he is terribly frustrated. I Googled a poem I was given in 7th grade by my band director, and found this inspirational video.

Enjoy!

http://www.thedontquitpoem.com/

Who are they, and where are they today? Some current photos of a wonderful group of performers from Theatre Under The Stars 1995 production, WEST SIDE STORY.

andy1   ann-marie   beth-raey

betsy   carla   ernani

jason-ruckman   kevan   jeff-ryan

michael   ryan   tom-lehman 

torie   weldon   mike-n   doc-becky

 

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

bewitched

Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

westwing-cast-2001-2002

Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

percussion

At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….

The long, long weekend is over…

If parents work shifts at the Winter Guard International (WGI) or percussion contests, money will be applied towards your child’s marching band account. So, I volunteered for Saturday. Kathy Symes, the parent coordinator, and one of my favorite band moms (I haven’t forgotten you, Jill Chabut!) asked me earlier in the week if I could work all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.

Sure!

Saturday morning  I left the Haasienda at 8:30am to walk to Trent Arena on the other side of the high school, while chatting with Mother briefly on the telephone.

trent-arena-ext

Trent Arena on the Kettering Fairmont High School campus.

Saturday, from 9:00am until 7:00pm I worked the admissions table. The couple who assisted me on the first shift, Steve and Lorie, were an absolute blast. They both grew up in Fairborn. Steve was in the military, and they lived in multiple locations before moving to Kettering.  Their daughter is a trombone player, and a sophomore. Steve and Lorie could not be more adorable!

The afternoon shift flew by – though, my partners at the admission table were not as exciting. However, I got to see several friends from Ball State, and by the day’s end my stomach muscles were sore from holding them in every time I ran into someone from college!

I joked around with the guests coming in for the day – putting on their paper bracelets – alot more fun than handling money which I hate (instant math!). I got tons of laughs from the people as I explained the paper wrist wraps were compliments of James Free Jewelers, and that everyone from a one hundred mile radius was flocking in to buy one. The winter guard students assured us that you could wear the bracelets in the shower for three months before they rotted off.

Now, if you have never been to a WGI event, you are missing some fun experiences. They are so different than show choir contests. Winter guard and percussion ensembles seem, to me, to be completely made up of a different type of teenager. Many guards have teen boys in them, and the open or world class guards have a number of guys in them. There were a ton of male choreographers in attendance, both as staff, and in the audience. And perhaps 90% of the men in attendance for these events are gay, or heterosexually challenged.

Now – having set up the flavor of the event…

This one lady entered the lobby, and she was dressed To The Nines! Sharp. She unbuttoned her coat, revealing an ample bosom. However, the ample bosom was quite exposed as the neckline descended in a long “V” ending just above her navel. As she paid her money I could not stop staring at how freely they seemed to dangle, apparently unaccompanied by a sturdy undergarment. After paying for her entry fee, she moved to my end of the table, offering her wrist for me to wrap the paper bracelet. Upon closer inspection it was terribly obvious that she was not wearing a bra, as “Twirly and Whirly” were about to Samba right on out of her sheer, black blouse (which, come on… not appropriate for this type of event!).

The mother sitting next to me waited politely until the woman had left the table, and then grabbed my arm with the most astonished look on her face. Thank heavens I was not the only one to have witnessed “the twins.”

“Why would she wear such a top to a high school function?” my admission table partner asked.

“Well, if you ask me,” I replied, “if she is here to pick up a man, this is the WRONG place to find one in this crowd!”

Botticelli or da Vinci could have taken their easels and made a day out of it with some angel or Madonna painting!

Jose worked from 2:00pm-7:00pm, and by the time I arrived home Saturday night I was dead to the world – but could not rest. I remember TWO AND A HALF MEN coming on at 11:30pm, but I don’t recall anything after that until I woke up at 4:30am. I coaxed my self back to sleep until 6:30am.

Sunday, I walked back to the high school at 8:15am (while chatting again with Mother) and was in an entirely different position. Instead of sitting and enjoying people, I was inside Trent Arena at the very top, coordinating all the judges’ score sheets and the hand-held digital recorders. I had two students to work the balcony and floor, but I still managed to climb up and down the bleacher steps a good 60 times. There were a few times I just did not know if the heart was going to keep up with me… but with some encouragement, and some medication, we made those steps look carefree.

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The shows were interesting, and incredibly delightful. I managed to squeeze in one restroom break between 9:30am-3:30pm. I know, from years of experience, to pack items on which I can work when board, and snacks. I was a good little boyscout. And I ripped through some chunks of the Wright Brothers’ musical.

Towards the end, an elderly couple entered – he looked every  bit the grandfather, and she was dazzling. The WGI staff was making quite a stir about them, reminding me of Len Thomas and Brian Breed tripping over themselves to get to Virginia Waring – the wife of Fred Waring – when we were having a cocktail party at Penn State in 1984 prior to the television taping of Fred Waring’s America. Eventually, the couple moved near me, taking seats set up on the indoor track around the arena balcony.

The lady turned, looked at me… smiled. I returned the smile. She looked familiar but I was so tired that I could not place where I knew her.

During a break between guards, she smiled again, and then I recognized her!

Marlene Miller.

Fred J. Miller, and his beautiful wife, Marlene, have one of the number one band clinic organizations, and band uniform/equipment companies in the nation, and headquartered right here in South Dayton. They are co-presidents of their family run business, and their three children are the vice-presidents. The Fred J. Miller drum-major clinics are fantastic, and they also provide many of the same clinics as Smith-Wallbridge Clinics with which I was associated in high school and college.

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Fred & Marlene Miller, and their three children.

As Mr. & Mrs. Miller and I chatted, I discovered they were good friends with one of Elwood’s most prominent choreographers, Tudy Smith. Tudy was one of the nation’s foremost baton twirlers, and her daughter, Selita, was Purdue’s Golden Girl. For many years, the Elwood Variety Shows sparkled under the brilliant designs of Mrs. Smith, and her musical companions, Clifford Brugger and Rex Jenkins, band legends in Indiana. Tudy was also the choreographer for the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City for many years. A sweet, beautiful and wonderfully classy lady!

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Tudy Smith

Fred J. Miller, and Tudy had also served as presidents of the United States Twirling Association (USTA) throughout the years. Mrs. Miller told me that Tudy had just been inducted to the Twirling Hall of Fame.

I had the best chat with the Millers, who delighted in sharing that they were celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and that they had met, and fell in love at Smith-Wallbridge Drum-major Camp in Syracuse, Indiana. We discussed all the familiar names of Dr. Charles Henzie, Merl Smith, Margaret Smith, Gary Smith… great teachers in my drum-major days!

By 3:00pm the contest was completed, and the awards were given.

I stayed to help with tear down, and clean up, and then dragged my very tired, aching body home.

However, by 6:30pm I was sweeping the house in preparation for the teaching week, folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping my weekly calendar. I received a note from Valerie Lockhart – Mike’s father passed away this morning. Just after reading her email at 7:30pm, Jose called from work so I could pick him up and drive him to SIGNS youth group.

While he was at SIGNS, I ran to Dollar General to get paper items, and then to Meijers to get groceries. By 8:30pm I was back at the YMCA (where SIGNS is held), and home by 9:00pm. We unloaded groceries, and I baked a cake for my neighbor lady’s birthday, some brownies for the Lockharts, and prepped some food for this week since it will be a BUSY week.

Monday thru Thursdays are my busiest days as I have 12-14 students each day, and only 8 on Fridays. My Friday students have been squeezed into the other four days this week since we have school off this Friday for the long Presidents’ Day weekend. Tuesday night I will cut out slightly earlier than normal to work with Beavercreek High School’s show choir.

And on top of all this… a theatre director has indicated interest in the Wright Brothers’ musical to see if it might be something a local, and reputable theatre company could produce. So… while it is so nice to have this nibble, there is certainly no assurance of a production. But, I am hopeful, and working like the Devil to tie up some loose ends.

Hopefully, Friday Jose and I will be able to fully celebrate his birthday which was January 14th. With show choir contests, youth group events, WGI contest, and other items, we have not been able to celebrate his 17th birthday.

This week our weather is expected to be in the 40’s and 50’s… beautiful! I am hoping to squeeze in some walking time… just where is yet to be determined. I do some of my best writing while walking!

It is now 11:18pm and I am signing off and heading to bed… I WANT MY BED!!!

Much love to all!

PS. Just as I was ready to sign off, Jose came in to show me he had been upstairs working on homework. He realized that he had forgotten a biology assignment of 69 questions. He said, “I was so exhausted and was wanting to go to bed, but I knew the right thing was to get the assignment done.”

YES!

So, for nearly 45 minutes, we talked about academics, life, adoption, and how far he has come these past five years. My son is finally kicking in to the academics, and realizing his great potential!

And though I am still terribly tired, I have an energy surging through me that is nothing more than the knowledge of the blessings I feel at this moment…

Last night I saw the stage musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and began wondering if the Sherman Brothers had penned some of the new songs. Yes, indeed! They are still living, and still writing music!

Sherman Brothers are Academy Award-winning American songwriters who specialize in musical films. They are Robert B. Sherman (born December 19, 1925) and Richard M. Sherman (born June 12, 1928).

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The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history,[1] working for Walt Disney during the last six years of his life. Film scores of the Sherman Brothers include Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats.

Robert and Richard Sherman began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman. The brothers wrote together and with different songwriting partners throughout the rest of the decade.

In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company Music World Corporation, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney’s BMI-affiliated publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with “Tall Paul,” sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet on the Surf Records label and then covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. The success of this song yielded the attention of Walt Disney, who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. The first song they wrote on personal assignment by Walt Disney was “Strummin’ Song” in 1961. It was used in the Annette Funicello made-for-television movie called The Horsemasters.

While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. They also wrote what is perhaps their best-known song, “It’s a Small World (after all)” for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Since then, some have claimed that this has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is largely justified by the fact that it is played continuously at Disney’s leisure park rides of the same name.[2]

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In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes the songs “Feed The Birds,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Since Mary Poppins’ premiere, the Shermans have subsequently earned nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, and an incredible 23 gold- and platinum-certified albums.

Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live-action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney’s death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brothers have worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme-park exhibits, and stage musicals.

Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli‘s motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award Nomination.

In 1970, the Shermans returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs & Broomsticks. The latter film garnered the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar Nominations, respectively. 1972 saw the release of Snoopy Come Home, for which the brothers received a Grammy nomination.

In 1973, the Sherman Brothers also made history by becoming the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer, for which they also authored the screenplay.

In 1976, “The Slipper and the Rose” was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year. The performance was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, “Slipper”, also featured songs, score, and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. Two further Academy Award nominations were garnered by the brothers for the film. That same year the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” directly across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

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The Sherman Brothers’ numerous other Disney and non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte’s Web (1973) , The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992).

Outside the motion-picture realm, their Tony Award-nominated smash hit Over Here! (1974) was the biggest-grossing original Broadway musical of that year. The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top selling songs including “You’re Sixteen,” which holds the distinction of reaching Billboard’s #1 spot twice: first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then with Ringo Starr fourteen years later. Other top-ten hits include “Pineapple Princess,” “Let’s Get Together,” and more.

In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for the Disney film The Tigger Movie. This film marked the brothers’ first major motion picture for the Disney company in over 28t years.

In 2002, Chitty hit the London stage, receiving rave revues. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century-old theater’s history. On April 28, 2005, a second Chitty company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Hilton Theatre. The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions. A successful third company of Chitty is currently touring throughout the United Kingdom.

In 2003, four Sherman Brothers’ musicals ranked in the Top 10 Favorite Children’s Films of All Time in a British nationwide poll reported by the BBC. The Jungle Book (1967) ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The Aristocats (1970) ranked at #9, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.

In recent years, with Robert’s move to London, England, United Kingdom, the brothers have written many new songs for the stage musical presentations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, produced collaboratively by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh.

For their contributions to the motion picture industry, the Sherman brothers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Blvd. and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005. On November 16, 2006, Mary Poppins premiered at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway.

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On Saturday, October 4, 2008, Richard Sherman appeared as a surprise guest on stage at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles during The Swell Season‘s’ sold-out concert and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with the band.

The Sherman Brothers receive the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon artists from the United States Government. (left to right Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and U.S. President George W. Bush at The White House, November 17, 2008.

  • In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the award winning score to The Tigger Movie which achieved number-one status in both theatrical box office and video sales.
  • The Sherman Brothers’ classic motion picture Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was adapted into a London West End Musical in 2002 and premiered at the London Palladium on April 16, 2002, featuring many new songs and a reworked score by both Sherman Brothers. It was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Musical. The Sherman Brothers each received the Musical Theatre Award from the Variety Club of Great Britain that year as well for Chitty, which finished a record breaking three-and-a-half-year run at the Palladium, becoming the longest running show in the theater’s century long history. In 2004, the premiere of Mary Poppins arrived on the stage. In 2005, Poppins was nominated for nine Olivier Awards. In 2005, Chitty went to Broadway and was nominated for nine Tonys and also began its nationwide (UK) tour.

Since 2002, Robert Sherman has lived in London, England. He moved from Beverly Hills, while Richard Sherman remained in California. Surprisingly, however, the separation did not impede the brothers’ collaborative process; they have credited this to the technological advents of fax machines, e-mail and low-cost international telephone service. Also, both brothers travel between Los Angeles, New York, and London frequently, which also facilitates their work. Since Robert’s move, the brothers have continued to collaborate on various musical plays as well as a feature-length animated film musical that incorporates an original story, song score and screenplay[4].

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IT WAS TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS!

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“It was more than spectacular – to use the vernacular – it’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

Forty years ago, I opened a Christmas present, and to my delight was a cast iron model of the car from the newest musical motion picture, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG starring Dick Van Dyke.

Tonight, my dear friends, Bill & Ann Impson, and I went to see the musical stage version of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG at Dayton’s Schuster Center of the Performing Arts. This production was “phantasmagorical!” The new songs were blended well, and though the story’s plot was slightly different than the beloved movie, it was still “uncategorical.”

It was fun!

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It was not a heady, deep thinking show – but one that returned me to the age of four or five, when life was so innocent and splendid. Though the car was barely warmed up by the time I returned home from the seven minute drive, it made no difference because my mind and mouth were focused on the music of the title song – not the temperature of 14 degrees!

The songs are still whirling through my head. 

And the car lifted into the air, turned, tilted toward the audience, and landed… although I figured out the mechanics of the hydraulic wench, it was still magical.

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I had the best time with Bill & Ann, and am so glad I could share a moment of one of my favorite musicals, and cherished childhood memories.

“You’re sleek as a thoroughbred.
Your seats are a feather bed.
You’ll turn everybody’s head today.
We’ll glide on our motor trip
With pride in our ownership
The envy of all we survey.

It’s uncategorical,

A fuel burning oracle,

A phantasmagorical machine.

It’s more than spectacular,

To use the vernacular,

It’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

 

Wednesday morning I drove to Columbus to attend the funeral mass of a friend’s father. I met Katie Pfister-Musick in the late 1980’s and absolutely fell in love with this incredible actress. Despite the various moves between the two of us, and me losing my address book, I managed to reconnect with Katie, and her husband, Mike, via Internet research. I found them living in the Kansas City, Kansas area, and have enjoyed communicating with them the past several years – and that includes a hiatus where my email addresses were wiped out.

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Last summer, I received a note that Katie’s mother had suddenly passed away. Katie had been sharing with me that her father was seriously ill with cancer and was not expected to live much longer. Her mother’s death was quite a surprise.

I attended her mother’s funeral and was overjoyed to see Katie and Mike, again. She is still just as beautiful as she was when she was a girl (and you know what, Lincoln said that about his wife when they were living in the White House! “My wife is just as lovely as she was when she was young. I fell in love with her then, and what is more, I have never fallen out.”)

Christmas night, I received message from Mike that Katie’s father had left in time to spend Christmas with his wife. 

Wednesday morning, December 31st., the last day of 2008, I drove to Columbus to share in the fond farewell with Katie and her family. I arrived at St. Christopher’s and was struck by the beauty and warmth of the church, decorated for the Christmas season. The candles, the nativity, the poinsettias and greenery was absolutely beautiful. As I was washing my hands in the rest room, I stopped… my chest began swelling with excitement.

I could hear Katie singing!

I walked back into the sanctuary, and immediately teared up… Katie was singing a responsive psalmody.  Her voice is still as beautiful as I remember it from when I heard her in the role of Anna Leonowens in THE KING & I.

I found a seat, and just absorbed the beauty, and the passion of each note she offered up – a musician offering up glorious beauty, a daughter bidding farewell to her father in song.

The service was beautiful. The violinist provided a beautiful prelude with “Amazing Grace,” and it set the mood – touching, but with great rejoicing for a life lived fully by this particular Irishman. The description of Don’s life, by both the priest and family, made me proud of my Clary & Daugherty clans! What truly touched me was that his children each offered something, and I can think of no greater tribute than to hear words and music from one’s own children at their funeral.

The closing hymn that accompanied the pall covered casket down the aisle was “Silent Night.” When I read prepped my hymnal before the service (that’s my German-Irish grandfather in me!), I first thought the final hymn to be too mild to send off this larger than life Irishman that I had never actually met. However, by the time the gentle strains of the introduction began, I knew just how fitting this tune was. It seemed to pull together not only the love for Don from his  family and friends, but it reminded me how much I missed, and still loved so many of my own family members who are no longer with us – especially my grandparents.

As the casket was wheeled past me, an elderly gentleman across the aisle saluted, the tears streaming down his face. I don’t know the relationship this gentleman had to Don, but for me, it was one of the most touching moments from the service. A tribute. A farewell. A salute. Only a soldier and a former drum-major can know the sanctity of a salute.

As the second verse of “Silent Night” began, the church bells began pealing. And throughout the song, they continued.

Bells have always held a special place for me. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has one of the most tender scenes when the bell on the tree rings at the end – an angel received its wings. Also, my grandmother collected bells, and I now possess all the bells I gave her, some from Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Germany, Austria, and of course, New York City. And the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” also one of my favorite carols, has always been a favorite.

And here, on the last day of 2008, while singing “Silent Night,” the world resonated with the ringing of bells.

I bid farewell to Katie and Mike, and walked outside into the brisk December morning. The bells were much louder outside. One elderly lady covered her ears and looked up towards the sound of the bells. I stood for a moment, watching my breath swirl away from me, and hearing the bells.

Don had probably just received his wings…

My grandmother told me that she was still with me…

And the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded me that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…”

I got into my car. I could still hear the muffled bells. I rolled down the window and listened, thinking they would not ring much longer. As I drove away, I could still hear the bells. I turned on to Grandview Avenue, moving away from the church. Finally, around 3rd Street, the bells began to fade – but only in sound.

Those bells were not pealing “farewell.”

The ringing of the bells were an announcement, and reminder of God’s love.

The ringing of the bells were a fanfare of the blessings to come for 2009.

The ringing of the bells were a reminder that it is, indeed, a most wonderful life!

What a past few weeks – confined mostly to bed for rest, and battling a nasty sinus infection. My asthma kicked in and since it settles in my throat, I have been robbed of my voice. Finally, the end of this week I could talk for more than ten minutes without the hoarseness coming on. The voice tires quickly, tiring me in the process.

Thursday night was a concert at Fairmont. Tuesday was scheduled for the choirs and orchestras, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM. However, the ice storm canceled that concert. So, Thursday, the bands performed, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM which was outstanding. 250 orchestra and choir students for this performance! Wonderful!

After the concert, the Lockhart and Haas families met at Friendlys and as always, it was the best time. I always enjoy my time with the Lockharts as they are as much family as my blood relations. Jackson and Jose are both sophomores, and Sophie is in 7th grade… so our days for after-concert celebrations are numbered. The kiddies are growing up fast!

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Jackson, Jose & Sophie

Friday I breakfasted with my neighbors, Kay Moore, and her daughter, Laura Parker. We try to work in a breakfast every month or so, and it seems we grab the Friday before winter break begins as our one set date. As always, it was a treat of complete laughter.

I went to The Bird’s Nest – the school operated store inside the Trent Arena next door – to buy some items for Jose. Five items and I only spent thirty dollars.

I taught a few lessons, and after Jose returned from work at 7:30pm, we ran to ACTION Adoption for a Christmas get-together with other adoptive families and the staff.

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My friend, Bill

This morning I busied myself with some projects, and then showered. Bill Impson arrived and we headed downtown to Uno’s for lunch, and then to the 2:00pm performance of RAIN at the Victoria Theatre.  http://www.raintribute.com/   It was a fantastic tribute to The Beatles! A friend gave me the tickets, and I cannot begin to tell how much I was delighted by this concert. The visuals on the screens were incredible, and you certainly relived history.

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After the show, Bill and I came back here and talked for about 90 minutes. Jose left for work, and I am trying to get some laundry completed.

Jose gets home around 7:45pm from work, and we will run a few errands, and then I will rest. I am hoping to catch Robert Schuller’s HOUR OF POWER this evening so I can sleep in, or rest more tomorrow.

Sunday, I will rest, teach a few lessons, take Jose to Youth Group for their annual scavenger hunt – which is a riot! Jose loves this event!

At 12:05am the five buses carrying the marching band passed in front of the house. I was standing on the front steps smoking my pipe and letting Flyer explore the symphony of smells in the front yard when they passed. Bringing up the rear was Mike Berning, the band director, and his family, honking as they passed.

This week was just incredibly busy. I worked my butt off, but always seemed to be behind in accomplishing all I wished. My email is backed up a mile long, but the study and rest of the house is organized and efficient.

Today I woke after a semi-restful sleep, and plowed right into writing and researching on the Wright Brothers’ musical. I took some time out during lunch to read up on the economy and some of the boiling political issues. At 2:00pm my first student arrived, and at 5:15pm my last student was leaving – an early night with one student ill, and another on a college visit.

I ate some rice, broccoli and cheese casserole, and green beans, and relaxed with two episodes of TWO AND A HALF MEN – one of my favorite shows.

At 8:00pm I dove into the musical writing, and edited a good deal. 11:15pm, I was trying to tackle one particular scene with no success. An email from my lyricist, Gail, who now lives in California, arrived, offering some suggestions to the very scene that had been giving me fits for over an hour. With a few more emails, I knew which direction we should take and by midnight I was sending off the latest draft through the miracle of the internet.

Gail Whipple – another Oscar Hammerstein II

Around 12:20am I walked Flyer over to the performing arts wing and met up with Jose. It is a beautiful evening, just a little chilly – but still nice.

Tomorrow we will run some errands and try to find something fun to do together until it is time to head over to the stadium for the marching band invitational hosted by Fairmont. We will probably be tripping in after midnight.

In two weeks the marching band season will conclude, and Jose and I shall hopefully have more time together. I so enjoy my time with him, and his humor and cheery disposition is a great comfort. In a few years, it will just be me, Flyer and Logan, unless I adopt more sons.

Today is Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday… what a great lady! Even Jose has one of her quotes posted above his bed.

Today is the 100th birthday of my hero in directing, Joshua Logan.

Joshua Lockwood Logan III (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Logan was born in Texarkana, Texas. His father died when Logan was only three, and his mother remarried six years later. He was reared in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish and the largest city in north Louisiana. He attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, where his stepfather served on the staff. At school, he experienced his first drama class and felt at home. After his high school graduation he attended Princeton University.

At Princeton, he was involved with the intercollegiate summer stock company, known as the University Players, with fellow student James Stewart and also non-student Henry Fonda. In fact, James Stewart was an architect major when Logan recruited him for a bit part in a production he was directing. Stewart became hooked on acting and the two remained life time friends. During his senior year he served as president of the Princeton Triangle Club. Before his graduation he won a scholarship to study in Moscow with Constantin Stanislavsky, and Logan left school without a diploma.

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan (daughter of Ned Harrigan), in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, who is most remembered as Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in GONE WITH THE WIND, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

At his best, Logan’s direction was distinguished by a deep insight into character and a remarkable fluidity, the latter especially evident in his staging of often cumbersome musicals. He was sometimes criticized in his later shows and films, however, for too heavy a touch. Autobiography: Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life, 1976.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

JOSHUA LOGAN’S OBITUARY…

Published: July 13, 1988

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Mr. Logan frequently served as co-author and producer or co-producer as well as director of plays. He was also that uncommon phenomenon, the theater director who was also successful in films – with such hits as ”Sayonara” and ”Paint Your Wagon.”

While he attempted the classics only once, with ”The Wisteria Trees” – his own version of Chekhov’s ”Cherry Orchard” – and did not seek out innovative or avant-garde drama, he was a consummate theatrical craftsman, possessing great emotional force that he was able to transmit to the actors he directed.

His long string of successes really began with the musical ”I Married an Angel” (1938) and included ”Knickerbocker Holiday” with Walter Huston the same year, ”Annie Get Your Gun” (1946), ”Picnic” (1953), ”Fanny” (1954), ”The World of Suzie Wong” (1958) and the movie of ”Camelot” (1967). Some Failures, Too

He did have his failures, notably ”Miss Moffat,” a musical version of ”The Corn Is Green,” starring Bette Davis. It closed in Philadelphia before reaching New York, when Miss Davis withdrew from the cast. Another was ”Rip van Winkle,” a 1976 musical for which he wrote both book and lyrics as well as provided the direction. It closed before its New York opening. ”Ensign Pulver,” a 1964 film, was not a success, nor was ”Look to the Lilies,” in 1970.

Mr. Logan was notable for his candor in discussing manic depression, the mental illness in which manic elation alternates with profound depression. He had the condition for many years before it was discovered that it could be controlled by the drug lithium carbonate.

It had been rumored for years that Mr. Logan’s ups and downs of mood were occasionally excessive, and that he required hospitalization for extended periods, which in fact he did on two occasions.

After January 1969, when he learned of lithium and began taking it as a preventive, Mr. Logan decided, he wrote in ”Movie Stars, Real People, and Me,” that he would talk about it. Telling What He Knew ”I had been ignorant all my life about such things,” he said, ”at least I could tell others so they would never be as ignorant as I was.”

He took part in medical seminars, appeared on television and talked and wrote about his illness. But he also made it clear that he felt its manic phase contributed to his creativity: ”Without my illness, active or dormant, I’m sure I would have lived only half of the life I’ve lived and that would be as unexciting as a safe and sane Fourth of July. I would have missed the sharpest, the rarest and, yes, the sweetest moments of my existence.”

Joshua Lockwood Logan was born Oct. 5, 1908, in Texarkana, Tex. His father died when he was 3 years old; six years later, his mother married an Army officer who was later on the staff of the Culver (Ind.) Military Academy.

It was when he was 8 years old that Joshua saw his first professional play, ”Everywoman,” in Shreveport, La. It was, he wrote in his autobiography, ”Josh,” a case of ”love at first sight.” It was during his five years at Culver, Mr. Logan wrote, that he entered his first dramatics class and ”felt my life swerve and suddenly steady itself.” Studied With Stanislavsky.

He chose to go to Princeton because of its Triangle Club show that toured the country, and he entered the university in 1927. The previous year, he recalled, he saw his first Broadway play, ”What Price Glory?”

TRIVIA…

  • Won seven Tony Awards:
  • two in 1948 for “Mister Roberts,” with collaborator Thomas Heggen as Best Authors and as writers of the Best Play winner
  • four in 1950 for “South Pacific,” as Best Director, Best Authors (Musical) with Oscar Hammerstein II, Best Producers (Musical) wirh Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein and Leland Hayward, and as writers, along with Rodgers and Hammerstein, of the Best Musical winner
  • and one in 1953, as Best Director for William Inge‘s “Picnic.”
  • He was also Tony-nominated on two other occasions:
  • in 1959, as co-producer of Best Play nominee “Epitaph for George Dillon,”
  • in 1962 as Best Director (Musical) for “All American.”

What a short, but long week.

Recovery from a three day weekend is always a little tough, but this year was a little easier. I set up a new system with my private teaching studio: if there are five Mondays and Tuesdays in the month, I only teach four. So, Monday and Tuesday were my days off for September. I did not accomplish as much as I hoped, but I did catch up on some much needed rest.

Wednesday and Thursday flew by, and though our schedules are packed in the evening, I did get to spend time with Jose, and worked with him on German and social studies. His teachers report a great deal of effort, so far.

Friday I hit the Wright Brothers’ musical pretty hard, trying to tackle one particular song that has been a struggle.

I taught for four hours, and then headed to ACTION Adoption since Jose was with the marching band at an away game at Lakota West High School, just north of Cincinnati.

I thought it would be a night in the big room with support group, but Cissie, one of the staff, asked if I would please teach an independent study to one of my favorite couples. I almost did not go to ACTION, but am so glad I did. Bill & Ann Impson are the neatest couple, and I love every minute I get to spend with these two. They are finishing up their home study, and I cannot wait until they are deeply involved in the search for children. These two just make my day.

Saturday, Jose will have band from 9:00am to 3:00pm, and I am hoping to write as much as I can. In the evening, I will take Jose to dinner, and then maybe grab a movie.

Sunday, nothing until the early evening when I teach two lessons.

Not much to report…

For the past several months, or so, I have been experiencing a feeling – as John Adams called it in the musical 1776 – “discontentment.” As I was writing a good friend earlier this afternoon, I feel like all these major musical theatre characters singing about the excitement festering within.

Here are some examples:

Tony in WEST SIDE STORY:

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Jekyll in JEKYLL & HYDE:

This is the moment!
This is the day,
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way!

Every endeavor,
I have made – ever –
Is coming into play,
Is here and now – today!

This is the moment,
This is the time,
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme!

Give me this moment –
This precious chance –
I’ll gather up my past
And make some sense at last!

This is the moment,
When all I’ve done –
All the dreaming,
Scheming and screaming,
Become one!

This is the day –
See it sparkle and shine,
When all I’ve lived for
Becomes mine!

For all these years,
I’ve faced the world alone,
And now the time has come
To prove to them
I’ve made it on my own!

This is the moment –
My final test –
Destiny beckoned,
I never reckoned,
Second Best!

I won’t look down,
I must not fall!
This is the moment,
The sweetest moment of them all!

This is the moment!
Damn all the odds!
This day, or never,
I’ll sit forever
With the gods!

When I look back,
I will always recall,
Moment for moment,
This was the moment,
The greatest moment
Of them all!

Something is festering inside – a burning desire to be doing something else. The past month I have had some strange “reminders” about the Mary Todd Lincoln musical… why? Who knows…

I am so ready for this next great adventure – whatever it is. The signs continue to herald that the time is near. Perhaps it is already here and I am not recognizing it… maybe there is nothing to recognize. Maybe I am supposed to just dig in and work…

For some reason, Mary Todd Lincoln has been resurfacing this past month in a variety of connections. I had begun writing a musical on Miss Todd in 1986, and put it away in the mid-1990’s. And here she is again, beckoning me to finish her story.

This is an op-ed piece from the NY TIMES, written by one of my favorite authors, Samuel A. Schreiner of Darien, Connecticut. Mr. Schreiner wrote a fantastic book, THE TRIALS OF MRS. LINCOLN. I adore this author for being such a great champion of this oft over-looked, vilanized first lady.

Truly, Madly, Deeply

 

PRESIDENTS’ DAY is generally reserved for honoring our presidents. But how about the wives of our presidents? And how about presidential wives who have been unfairly maligned over the years? In this regard, there is no better candidate for rehabilitation this holiday than Mary Todd Lincoln.

For years, authors and scholars have claimed that Mary Lincoln was insane. This is simply not true, and a file of documents found in 1975 in a closet in the Manchester, Vt., home of Mary Lincoln’s son Robert proves it. In 1875, Mary Todd Lincoln was declared insane by a jury, and remanded to an asylum. The charge was brought by Robert, and he must have nursed a guilty conscience about it to keep a file, which reveals that the trial was a sham.

The proceeding was nevertheless an international sensation. Although another, little-noted trial a year later set that verdict aside and declared Mary Lincoln sane, the damage had already been done. A mad Mary Lincoln conveniently validated the tales circulated by her enemies and critics, mostly men, from the time she arrived on the national stage as the vivacious consort of a sorely tried president and on through her years as the neglected widow of a martyr.

Of course, the first lady was an emotional volcano, prone to fiery eruption at sometimes inappropriate moments. An attractive woman with expensive tastes, she could be easy on the eye but hard on the budget. With a well-stocked mind and the nerve to speak it, she persuaded her husband to follow her advice in matters like coveted appointments, and this infuriated the men around the president.

Out of fear of or respect for Abraham Lincoln’s power, comment on his wife was muted until the assassin’s bullet removed him from office and Mary Lincoln became fair game for the gossip mongers, who claimed that Lincoln’s bouts of depression were caused by a lost love and a miserable life with a crazy woman.

Creator of the miserable marriage myth was Lincoln’s longtime law partner in Springfield, Ill., William Herndon. In a lecture he gave shortly after the president’s death, Herndon said that Lincoln had never loved his wife because his heart belonged to Ann Rutledge, a neighbor who died at the age of 22 and whom some historians believe was courted by Lincoln. To claim, however, that her death would have rendered a man of Lincoln’s will and intelligence unable to have a loving relationship with another person is absurd. The untimely loss of loved ones was such a common fact of life in the 1800’s that people simply had to learn how to cope with it to carry on.

In any event, Herndon is not a believable witness to what went on between the Lincolns. Because he was too fond of the bottle and, in Mary Lincoln’s view, too uncouth, he wasn’t welcome in the Lincoln household. As a result, he developed an abiding hatred and jealousy of Lincoln’s wife.

Herndon was also probably put off by what he undoubtedly regarded as the unmanly ways by which Lincoln helped his wife. Lincoln was known to have greeted callers still wearing an apron, and he was often seen shepherding a trio of rambunctious young sons through the streets to his office to give his wife respite. Herndon found Lincoln’s office visits with children in tow especially annoying. Lincoln let them get into everything, as he evidently did at home, and even Herndon would agree that the Lincoln marriage was compatible in one respect: neither husband nor wife believed in disciplining their children.

People who were intimate with the Lincolns did not buy the Rutledge story or the rest of Herndon’s charges. Emily Todd Helm, Mary Lincoln’s half-sister, who lived for months in the couple’s Springfield home while she was a teenager, considered them love birds. She reported that Mary Lincoln would run out to the street to greet her husband as he returned home, and they would enter the house hand-in-hand. Their differences in temperament — she, for instance, was punctual and he careless of time — could lead to clashes, but Helm was impressed by the way they were resolved. Once when Mary Lincoln let loose her anger at her husband’s arriving late for supper, he simply scooped her up in his arms and kissed her.

A frequent guest in the Lincolns’ Springfield house was the Rev. James Smith, Mary Lincoln’s Presbyterian pastor. Although Lincoln was not a churchgoer, he and the minister would spend hours by the fireside discussing religion and everything else under the sun.

When Lincoln went to Washington, Smith was appointed to a consulate in Scotland where he read in a newspaper an account of Herndon’s Rutledge lecture. Incensed, he wrote an open letter to Herndon that was published in The Dundee Advertiser. Reprinted in this newspaper and The Chicago Tribune, the letter made the point that a law office was not a good vantage point from which to judge a man’s home life. Declaring himself fortunate enough to have known the Lincolns well, Smith wrote that the president was a “faithful, loving and affectionate husband” who “was utterly incapable of withholding” love from his wife.

Mary Lincoln’s enemies may have discounted Smith’s testimony on the grounds that he was paying off a debt or piously upholding the sanctity of marriage. They would have a harder time shrugging off an address by Charles Sumner, the worldly and sophisticated senator from Massachusetts, during a debate in Congress about Mary’s pension. After establishing himself as well acquainted with the couple’s home life in the White House, Sumner said, “Surely, the honorable members of the Senate must be weary of casting mud on the garments of the wife of Lincoln.” The president “had all her love,” he continued, and Lincoln loved her “as only his mighty heart could.”

Unquestionably high-strung, Mary Lincoln was under a great deal of stress while she was living in the White House, especially when her son Willie died in 1862. After so many other stresses — the death of another son, Eddie, 12 years earlier; attacks on her extravagance; doubts of her loyalty because she had relatives fighting for the Confederacy — Willie’s death was almost more than she could take. According to people who question her sanity, she wailed so hard and so long that Lincoln led her over to a window, pointed out an insane asylum in the distance and threatened to take her there if she didn’t stop.

The story is probably true and totally in character for Lincoln, who often tried to tease or startle his wife out of her funks. That it did no damage to the marriage was attested by a couple who took a carriage ride with the Lincolns on April 14, 1865, just hours before their fatal visit to Ford’s Theater. The war over, the president and the first lady were talking as happily as newlyweds of plans like trips together to Paris for her and to California for him.

Lincoln’s patience with his wife was apparently reciprocated by her patience with him when he slipped away from her into one of his periods of melancholy or preoccupation with affairs of state. Lincoln suffered recurring episodes of what would now be called depression from early childhood onward. In light of what we know today, an effort to link them to emotional disappointments rather than to a chemical imbalance seems quaint rather than scientific.

Mary Lincoln may have been difficult to live with, but she was not insane and there’s no question that the president loved her dearly. “My wife was as handsome as when she was a girl,” Lincoln once told a reporter. “And I, poor nobody then, fell in love with her, and what is more, have never fallen out.”

This Presidents’ Day, let’s finally acknowledge that truth.

I am watching a delightful A&E documentary on Shirley Temple. What a fascinating lady! And the wonderful child star of the 1930’s turned 80 this year!

Shirley Jane Temple (born April 23, 1928) is an Academy Award-winning actress and tap dancer, most famous for being an iconic American child actress of the 1930s, who enjoyed a notable career as a diplomat as an adult. After rising to fame at the age of six with her breakthrough performance in Bright Eyes in 1934, she starred in a series of highly successful films which won her widespread public adulation and saw her become the top grossing star at the American box-office during the height of the Great Depression. She went on to star in films as a young adult in the 1940s. In later life, she became a United States ambassador and diplomat.

Family

Temple was born to George Francis Temple (1888–1980), a businessman and banker, and Gertrude Amelia Krieger (1893–1977) in Santa Monica, California. She has two brothers, Jack (b. 1915) and George, Jr. (b. 1919). Her mother loved dancing and this directed Temple towards performing. Gertrude was a constant presence on the lot during Temple’s childhood acting years, helping her learn her lines, and controlled her wardrobe. Biographer Anne Edwards said Temple’s famous hair style, known as the “Shirley Temple Curls,” was also under the control of Gertrude, who ensured there were exactly 52 ringlets in her hair for each take.

At the age of 17, Temple was married to soldier-turned-actor John Agar (1921–2002) on September 19, 1945. They had one daughter, Linda Susan Agar (later known as Susan Falaschi), born on January 30, 1948. Temple filed for divorce in late 1949, with the divorce becoming final on December 5, 1950. In early 1950, while vacationing in Hawaii, Temple met and fell in love with California businessman Charles Alden Black (1919–2005). They married on December 16 that year. Together, they had two children: Charles Alden Black Jr., born April 29, 1952, and Lori Black, born April 9, 1954. They remained married until Charles’s death from myelodysplastic syndrome (a bone marrow disease), at age 86, on August 4, 2005.

Temple has one granddaughter, Teresa Caltabiano (b. 1980), Susan’s daughter. She also has one great granddaughter, Lily Jane Caltabiano.

Movie career

In Temple’s earliest films, she danced and was able to handle complex tap choreography. She was teamed with famed dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Just Around the Corner. Robinson coached and developed her choreography for many of her other films. Because Robinson was African-American, the scenes of him holding hands with Temple were cut in many cities in the South, as a consequence of the segregationism common at the time. Shirley Temple once tap danced all the way down a staircase singing a line of her song on every single one of the 45 steps.

Temple made pictures with Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou and many others. Arthur Treacher appeared as a kindly butler in several of Temple’s films.

At the age of three, Temple began dance classes at Meglin’s Dance School in Los Angeles California. Her film career began when Charles Lamont, a casting director from Educational Pictures, visited her class. Although Temple hid behind a piano in the studio, she was chosen by Lamont, invited to audition, and eventually signed to a contract with Educational.

Temple worked at Educational from 1931 to 1934,[2] [1] and appeared in two series of short subjects for the studio. Her first series, Baby Burlesks, satirized recent motion pictures and politics. In the series, Temple would dress up in a diaper, but would otherwise wear adult clothes. Because of its depiction of young children in adult situations the series was considered controversial by some viewers. Her second series at Educational, Frolics of Youth, was a bit more acceptable, and cast her as a bratty younger sister in a contemporary suburban family.

While working for Educational Pictures, Temple performed many walk-on and bit player roles in various films at other studios. She was reported to have auditioned for a lead role in Hal Roach‘s Our Gang comedies (later known as The Little Rascals) in the early 1930s, although various reasons are given for her not having been cast in the role. Roach stated that Temple and her mother were unable to make it through the red tape of the audition process, while Our Gang producer/director Robert F. McGowan recalls the studio wanted to cast Temple, but they refused to give in to Temple’s mother’s demands that Temple receive special star billing. Temple, in her autobiography Child Star, denies auditioning for Our Gang at all.[

20th Century Fox

After appearing in Stand Up and Cheer! with James Dunn, Temple was signed to Fox Film Corporation (which later merged with 20th Century Pictures to become 20th Century Fox) in late 1933. Later, she was paired with Dunn in several films, notably her breakthrough film Bright Eyes, produced by Sol M. Wurtzel. This was the film that saved Fox from near bankruptcy in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression. It was in Bright Eyes that Temple first performed the song that would become one of her trademarks, “On the Good Ship Lollipop“. This was closely followed by the film Curly Top, in which she first sang another trademarked song, “Animal Crackers in My Soup“. In 1936, Temple was paid an unprecedented amount of money for her work on Poor Little Rich Girl: $15,000 per week. It was during this period, in the depth of the Depression, when her films were seen as bringing hope and optimism, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is reported to have proclaimed that “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”

In 16 of the 20 films Temple made for Fox, she played characters with at least one dead parent. This was part of the formula for her films, which encouraged the adults in the audience to take on the role of her parent.

Temple became Fox’s most lucrative player. Her contract was amended several times between 1933 and 1935, and she was loaned to Paramount for a pair of successful films in 1934. For four years, she was the top-grossing box-office star in America. Shirley’s birth certificate was altered to prolong her babyhood; her birth year was advanced from 1928 to 1929. She was not told her real age until her “twelfth” (actually her thirteenth) birthday.

Temple’s films were not always seen in a positive light. The novelist Graham Greene wrote in a review for the magazine Night and Day of her appearance in Wee Willie Winkie:

Her admirers – middle-aged men and clergymen – respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire.

Temple, via her studio, was the successful plaintiff in a British libel case in 1938 against Greene’s review. The damages awarded were enough to close the magazine.

In 1940, Temple left Fox. Working steadily, she juggled classes at Westlake School for Girls with films for various other studios, including MGM and Paramount. Her most successful pictures of the time included Since You Went Away with Claudette Colbert, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer with Cary Grant, and Fort Apache with John Wayne. She retired from motion pictures in 1949.

Film career highlights

Temple was the first recipient of the special Juvenile Performer Academy Award in 1935 for recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment in 1934. Six-year-old Temple was and is the youngest performer ever to receive this honor, or any Oscar. She is also the youngest actress to add foot and hand prints to the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was originally meant for Judy Garland. However, MGM executives were concerned with Garland’s box office appeal. Temple was considered for the role, although she was unable to appear in the film when a trade between Fox and MGM fell through. However, Terry, who played Temple’s beloved dog Rags in Bright Eyes, was cast in The Wizard of Oz as Toto. In 1940, Temple starred in The Blue Bird, another fairy story with plot similarities to The Wizard of Oz. It was her first box-office flop. Temple was also rumored to be the inspiration for Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone with the Wind and was one of the early contenders for the role in the motion picture, but was too old by the time the film went into production.

Temple appeared in her first Technicolor film, The Little Princess, produced by Fox in 1939, near the end of her contract with them.

Temple returned to show business with the television series Shirley Temple’s Storybook, which premiered on NBC on January 12, 1958 and last aired December 1, 1959. Shirley Temple Theatre (also known as The Shirley Temple Show) premiered on NBC on September 11, 1960 and last aired September 10, 1961. Both shows featured adaptations of fairy tales and other family oriented stories. Shirley Temple was the hostess and occasional narrator/actress in both series.

In later years, Temple made occasional appearances on television talk shows, especially when she promoted her memoirs.

Political, business and diplomatic career

Temple ran unsuccessfully for Congress against retired Korean War veteran Pete McCloskey in 1967. She ran on a platform supporting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Temple went on to hold several diplomatic posts, serving as the U.S. delegate to many international conferences and summits. She was appointed a delegate to the United Nations by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969. She was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (1974–76). She became the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States in 1976, which put in her charge of all State Department ceremonies, visits, gifts to foreign leaders and co-ordination of protocol issues with all U.S. embassies and consulates. She was United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989–92) and witnessed the Velvet Revolution. She commented, about her Ambassadorship, “That was the best job I ever had.” She was designated the first Honorary Foreign Service Officer in U.S. history by then U.S. Secretary of State, George Shultz in 1987.

Temple served on the board of directors of some large enterprises including The Walt Disney Company (1974–75), Del Monte, Bancal Tri-State, and Fireman’s Fund Insurance. Her non-profit board appointments included the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Council of American Ambassadors, the World Affairs Council, the United States Commission for UNESCO, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the United Nations Association, and the U.S. Citizen’s Space TaskForce.

Temple received honorary doctorates from Santa Clara University and Lehigh University, a Fellowship from College of Notre Dame, and a Chubb Fellowship from Yale University. Temple now lives in Woodside, California.

Breast cancer

Temple is often remembered as the first celebrity to publicly discuss her involvement with this form of cancer. In an interview published on the web page of the American Cancer Society, actress Barbara Barrie is quoted as saying:

Shirley Temple Black was the first person who said, on national television, ‘I have breast cancer.’ It wasn’t Betty Ford, it was Shirley Temple, child star. One of the greatest stars of the world ever. And, she was so brave to say that, because first of all, people never said “cancer” and they never said “breast”, not in public. She said it and she set the whole ball rolling. People don’t remember that, but she did it.[8]

Temple appeared on the cover of People magazine in 1999 with the title “Picture Perfect” and again later that year as part of their special report, “Surviving Breast Cancer”. She appeared at the 70th Academy Awards and also in that same year received Kennedy Center Honors.

[edit] Recent activity

In 1999, Temple hosted the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars awards show on CBS, a special list from the American Film Institute and part of the AFI 100 Years… series. She was also ranked #18 in the list.

In 2001, Temple served as a consultant on the ABC Television Network production of Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story, based on part one of her autobiography.

In 2004, Temple teamed with Legend Films to restore, colorize and release her earliest black and white films, as well as episodes of her 1960 television series (originally shot on color videotape), The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection.

On September 12, 2005, Screen Actors Guild president Melissa Gilbert announced that Temple would receive the Guild’s most prestigious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Gilbert said:

I can think of no one more deserving of this year’s SAG Life Achievement award than Shirley Temple Black. Her contributions to the entertainment industry are without precedent; her contributions to the world are nothing short of inspirational. She has lived the most remarkable life, as the brilliant performer the world came to know when she was just a child, to the dedicated public servant who has served her country both at home and abroad for 30 years. In everything she has done and accomplished, Shirley Temple Black has demonstrated uncommon grace, talent and determination, not to mention compassion and courage. As a child, I was thrilled to dance and sing to her films and more recently as Guild president I have been proud to work alongside her, as her friend and colleague, in service to our union. She has been an indelible influence on my life. She was my idol when I was a girl and remains my idol today.

In April 2008, Shirley Temple Black broke her arm just before her 80th birthday in a fall at her suburban San Francisco home of Woodside.

References in popular culture

  • In 1965-1966, a popular main character named Curley Dimples (Gael Dixon), was a regular in the Australian children’s TV show, Magic Circle Club. Curley’s appearance and voice spoofed the iconic young Shirley Temple.
  • On The Jacksons Variety Show, Janet Jackson did a skit with brother Randy to “On the Good Ship Lollipop“.
  • New York band Interpol mention Temple by name in their song ‘The Specialist’ with the line, “put a lid on Shirley Temple.”
  • Temple was mentioned in Weird Al Yankovic‘s song “Confessions Part III”, in which the singer/comedian states that “in private, I really like to dress up as Shirley Temple and spank myself with a hockey stick.”
  • Carol Burnett occasionally performed an impression of “On the Good Ship Lollipop”, exaggerating the concentration in Temple’s face to look angry or scowling.
  • Towards the end of the Phish song “The Wolfman’s Brother,” the name “Shirley Temple” can be heard numerous times.
  • In the episode, “Last Tap Dance in Springfield,” of the animated television series, The Simpsons, a former child-star turned tap-instructor, ‘Little’ Vicki Valentine, is featured. This former-child star appears to be modeled after Temple. Also in another episode of The Simpsons entitled, “Treehouse of Horror III,” King Kong (portrayed by Homer Simpson) eats a child actress similar to Temple.
  • On the animated television show Family Guy, Stewie Griffin sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to get the attention of airport security when his backpack full of concealed weapons goes through the x-ray.
  • When Temple first ran for public office, a poster was published showing her in one of her earliest movies; a caption read, “Vote for Me or I’ll Hold My Breath.”
  • “Shirl” has been the nickname of two famous blond, curly-headed Australian males: Mike Williams, the (often on-screen) floor manager of the The Mike Walsh Show daytime television variety program, and rock singer Graeme Strachan of the band Skyhooks, who later became the TV host of the children’s TV show Shirl’s Neighbourhood.
  • In the animated feature film Shrek the Third, the Gingerbread Man sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to himself after seeing his life flash before his eyes.
  • Temple is the only person, besides The Beatles themselves, who appears more than once on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. She appears as a cut-out in the last row and a Shirley Temple doll is featured on the right side, wearing a shirt saying “Welcome The Rolling Stones“.
  • The African-American stereotypes in some of Temple’s films has been parodied on MADtv; specifically the scene from The Littlest Rebel when Bill Robinson teaches her to dance up and down the steps.
  • There is a non-alcoholic drink named after Temple. It consists of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda with grenadine (pomegranate syrup) and a whole cherry added. Consequently, a similar drink substituting cola for the ginger ale (usually referred to as a Roy Rogers) is known as a “Shirley Temple Black” in some regions.
  • In the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled The Arsenal of Freedom, Riker says during his interrogation that he serves aboard the USS Lollipop, stating that “it’s a good ship.”
  • Temple is one of the celebrities caricatured in Donald Duck‘s The Autograph Hound.
  • Temple is mentioned on the song “(The legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs” from the musical Hairspray, on the line “Childhood dreams/for me were cracked/ when that damn Shirley Temple/ stole my frickin’ act.”
  • In the 1997 movie Cats Don’t Dance, Darla Dimple is a spoof of Temple; her name was also taken from another child star of the thirties, Darla Hood.
  • In the 1997 movie Tower of Terror, Sally Shine, a child movie star, is killed in the elevator in 1939 along with four others. With her curly blonde mop, sweet demeanor, and short, flouncy dress, (and her own doll modeled after her), she appears to be modeled after Temple.
  • In the Gilmore Girls Episode Rory’s Birthday Parties, Lorelai is drinking a Shirley Temple Black and references the Good Ship Lollipop
Lorelai: (sighs, hands Rory a drink) Here.
Rory: What is it?
Lorelai: A Shirley Temple.
Rory: What are you drinking?
Lorelai: A Shirley Temple Black.
Rory: (sniffs at it) Wow.
Lorelai: I got your Good Ship Lollipop right here, mister.
  • In an episode of the hit TV show Full House, Jesse and Joey dress up as, what appears to be, Shirley Temple, and they sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” together at the end of the episode.
  • In the episode called the snooper star from the Brady Bunch Cindy believes that she is going to become the next Shirley Temple and sings one of her songs in front of one of Mikes clients.
  • In the Pilot Episode of Mork&Mindy, Mork temporarily performs an impersonation of Shirley Temple, using “Good Ship Lollipop” as an example.
  • In Toni Morrison’s famous book (set in Lorain, Ohio, 1941), The Bluest Eye, Shirley temple was the primary evidence used to show that the ideal beauty was a blue eyed white girl.
  • In an episode of That 70s Show, Hyde, Jackie, Eric, and Donna sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to cover the sound of Fez peeing in a mobile home bathroom.

By Andrew Gans
24 Jul 2008

Performances have yet to begin, but box-office demand is so high that the Guthrie has extended its upcoming world premiere of the musical version of Little House on the Prairie.

Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on NBC’s long-running “Little House on the Prairie” series, will play Ma in the musical version of Prairie, which begins previews at the Minneapolis venue July 26. The Little Mermaid‘s Francesca Zambello directs.

Originally scheduled to run through Oct. 5, the production will now play an additional two weeks through Oct. 19. Opening night remains Aug. 15.

The cast will also feature Steve Blanchard (Beauty and the Beast, Frankenstein) as Pa, Carnegie Mellon graduate Kara Lindsay as Laura, Jenn Gambatese (Tarzan, Is He Dead?) as Mary, Sara Jean Ford (The Phantom of the Opera) as Nellie and Kevin Massey (Big River, Tarzan) as Almanzo Wilder.

The ensemble will comprise Tori Adams, Mathias Anderson, Lexy Armour, Robert O. Berdahl, Kurt Engh, Shawn Hamilton, Caroline Innerbichler, Norah Long, Ryan McCartan, Addi McDaniel, Mary Jo Mecca, Patricia Noonan, Prince Michael Okolie, James Ramlet, David L. Ruffin, Gayle Samuels, Amy Schroeder, Tony Vierling and Jordan Young.

It was producer Ben Sprecher, who is attached to the project, who contacted Gilbert about appearing in the musical. Gilbert told Variety, “I’m very careful about the way the legacy is handled. My primary concern was that the material was done the right way.”

The new musical features a book by Rachel Sheinkin, music by Rachel Portman and lyrics by Donna DiNovelli.

The Guthrie describes Little House as such: “Though their DeSmet, South Dakota, farmstead comes with many new challenges, the Ingalls family perseveres through the hardships of pioneer life to find hope, love and the promise of a new beginning in a land of endless sky and open prairie. As Laura struggles to overcome a lifelong loathing of school and frequent battles with a town rival, her older sister’s sudden blindness and a harsh winter blizzard test the independent spirit of this young pioneer. Forced to grow up quickly, she follows an unexpected calling, becoming a teacher and finding love on the prairie.”

The creative team for Little House also includes set designer Adrianne Lobel, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Mark McCullough, sound designer Scott W. Edwards, choreographer Michele Lynch and musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell.

Little House on the Prairie is being produced at the Guthrie by special arrangement with Global Prairie Productions, Inc.

The Guthrie is located at 818 South 2nd Street in downtown Minneapolis.

Three friends of mine lost their mothers within this week… all three died suddenly.

Duneen DeVore lost her mother last Friday. Duneen sang in my church choir at Normandy United Methodist Church, and along with her son, Erick, now 21, was in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Bonnie’s services are private.

Heidi Anderson, my all time favorite costumer for shows, lost her mother, Peggy Straughen. Peggy sang in my church choir at Normandy United Methodist Church, and was also my librarian. Peggy fell and was unresponsive. I will attend Peggy’s services Saturday morning.

Kathleen (Katie) Pfister-Musick, one of my favorite musical theatre stars from our NYC days, lost her mother. Sadly, the family has been most worried about her father who is battling an agressive cancer. Katie and her husband have been living in Kansas City, but will move shortly to Illinois where MIke will be teaching theatre.  I will drive to Columbus, Ohio for Mrs. Pfister’s mass/funeral Thursday morning.

 

Today is an anniversary for two of my heroes… one died, and one was born….

JOSHUA LOGAN – (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Broadway

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan, in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

Hollywood

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II – (July 12, 1895August 23, 1960) was an American writer, producer, and (usually uncredited) director of musicals for almost forty years. He was twice awarded an Oscar for “Best Original Song“, and much of his work has been admitted into the unofficial Great American Songbook.

Rodgers and Hammerstein

Hammerstein’s most successful and sustained collaboration, however, came in 1943 when he teamed up with Richard Rodgers to write a musical adaptation of the play Green Grow the Lilacs. Rodgers’ first partner, Lorenz Hart, was originally going to join in the collaboration but was too deeply entrenched in alcoholism to be of any use. The result of the new Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration was Oklahoma!, a show which revolutionized the American musical theatre by tightly integrating all the aspects of musical theater, with the songs and dances arising out of the plot and characters. It also began a partnership which would produce such classic Broadway musicals as Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me & Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music as well as the musical film State Fair (and its stage adaptation of the same name) and the television musical Cinderella, all of which were featured in the revue A Grand Night for Singing. Hammerstein also produced the book and lyrics for Carmen Jones, an adaptation of Georges Bizet‘s opera Carmen with an all-black cast.

Oscar Hammerstein II is today considered one of the most important figures in the history of American musical theater. He was probably the best “book writer” in Broadway history – he made the story, not the songs or the stars, central to the musical, and brought it to full maturity as an art form. His reputation for being “sentimental”, is based largely on the movie versions of the musicals, especially The Sound of Music, in which a song sung by those in favor of pacification with the Nazis, No Way to Stop It, was cut. As recent revivals of Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The King and I in London and New York show, Hammerstein was one of the more tough-minded and socially conscious American musical theater artists. Oscar Hammerstein believed in love; he did not believe that it would always end happily.

Death and honors

Hammerstein is the only person named Oscar ever to win an Oscar (Academy Award). He won two Oscars for best original song—in 1941 for “The Last Time I Saw Paris” in the film Lady Be Good, and in 1945 for “It Might As Well Be Spring” in State Fair. In 1950, the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein received The Hundred Year Association of New York‘s Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York.”

Hammerstein died of stomach cancer in his home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania at the age of 65, shortly after the opening of The Sound of Music on Broadway, thus ending one of the most remarkable collaborations in the history of the American musical theatre. The final song he wrote was “Edelweiss” which was added during rehearsals near the end of the second act. To this day, many think it is an Austrian folk song. Sadly, he never lived to see The Sound of Music made into the 1965 film adaptation which became internationally loved, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and became perhaps his most well-known legacy.

Universally mourned, with the lights of Times Square and London’s West End being dimmed in recognition of his contribution to the musical, he was cremated at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, and later buried at Southwark Cathedral, England. He was survived by his second wife Dorothy Blanchard Jacobson and his three children, William and Alice by first wife Myra Finn and James by Jacobson.

Kenneth Jones Playbill On-Line Thu Jul 3, 9:44 AM ET

She was a founding member of Chicago Musical Theatre Works (CMTW), a collective of Windy City musical writers who sought to establish Chicago as a place where musicals were developed. The group’s efforts included public readings of new works. Recently, an offshoot group would meet for critique sessions of their dawning works.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Ms. McKenny was born in Dayton, OH, in 1951, where she attended Alter High School and was a co-founder of Summer Youth Theatre Company (SYTCO). At Northwestern, she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Oral Interpretation. She liked to say that she majored in “reading aloud,” friends said.

While at Northwestern she wrote her first play, Chautauqua, seen at the university, in a local professional production and at other colleges. At the time of her death she had just completed her first draft of a play about the Greek goddess Psyche.

For 30 years, she collaborated on industrials, plays, musicals and other projects with writing partner and fellow Northwestern University grad Doug Frew, who is now executor of her writing. They shared book and lyric credits and worked with various composers over the years.

For three seasons, Ms. McKenny, Frew and David Roe wrote for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

McKenny and Frew’s musical about George Sand, Becoming George, with composer Linda Eisenstein, was chosen for the Pages to Stages development program at the Kennedy Center and premiered in spring 2006 at Metro Stage in Alexandria, VA.

Their musical 90 North, written with composer Daniel Sticco, won ASCAP’s 1997 Outstanding New Musical Award, was nominated for the Sammy Cahn Lyricist Award, and helped launch ASCAP’s “In the Works” new musicals program at the Kennedy Center in 2000 with artistic director Stephen Schwartz.

Her other works include Lady Lovelace’s Objection (with Doug Frew) and a 1920s Chicago-set play, Towertown, completed in 2007.

With Frew and Andrew Hansen, she won the After Dark Award and was nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for incidental music and lyrics in She Stoops to Conquer at Northlight Theatre.

In addition to narrative musical theatre works, she wrote standalone songs with many composers, and her songs were sought by Chicago cabaret performers, including Kat Taylor.

In a note that was distributed to members of the group Chicago Cabaret Professionals, Taylor reflected on Ms. McKenny: “She was a writer a story teller, a lyricist, a playwright, songwriter, freelance corporate communications writer, voice over performer, oral interpreter, producer, director, a networking business woman, an organizer extraordinaire with a work ethic astounding to behold. She was the glue that held her many friends and acquaintances together, a true and loyal friend, a loving sister and the best aunt. She was and is an inspiration. And we will miss her.”

Cheri Coons, a Chicago lyricist and librettist, told Playbill.com, “Patti was driven by the idea that, in her words, ‘It takes a village to raise a curtain.’ She was the driving force behind Chicago Musical Theatre Works, and lived to see her dream realized of the first Disney ASCAP Workshop in Chicago, largely because of the efforts of CMTW. She was a true connecter a committed community-builder, a magical writer, and an inspirational friend.”

Ms. McKenny was a co-founder of Studiomedia recording studio, a member of Chautauqua Preservation Society, a member of the Dramatists Guild, and an active member of Chicago Women in Publishing.

She is survived by her brother Don McKenny and his wife Diane, her nieces Trish and Molly and nephew Sam, and a countless extended family of friends across the country. Her parents Donald and Martha McKenny predeceased her.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

I love these photos of the Wright family taken in June 1909 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds during the Dayton Celebration. Behind the delegation’s grandstand are bleachers holding several thousand school children forming a “singing American flag.”

Below…Bishop Wright is delivering the invocation.

Behind him are: Governor James Cox; Leontine (niece of Wright Brothers; wearing white dress); Wilbur; Orville; Netta Wright, sister-in-law (dressed in white); Lorin Wright, older brother of Wrights.  

 

 Photo below…

(Front Row) Wilbur; Orville; Bishop Milton Wright (father of Wrights); Milton Wright – nephew of Wright Brothers.
(Back Row) Leontine (niece); Ivonette (niece); Katharine (turned around); Netta, sister-in-law
 
 
 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

This is, perhaps, my favorite photo… Katharine is being social, and chatty. But what I love most is Bishop Wright chatting with his eldest grandson, Milton – his namesake. Grandfather and grandson obviously have a great rapport, engaged in conversation. I love the way Bishop Wright is turned in his seat, devoting his attention to younger Milton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orville, Katharine & Wilbur Wright. 1909

It was August 1999 that I was on the tale-end of a three week vacation when I ended up on the Outer Banks.  The previous weeks I had been to:

  • Niagara Falls
  • through the Adirondacks
  • Stowe, Vermont to visit with the surviving von Trapp children
  • down through Manchester, Vermont to visit Robert Todd Lincoln’s beautiful estate, Hildene
  • Hyde Park to visit FDR’s home
  • Manhattan to visit friends and race taxi cab drivers (um… no joke)
  • Long Island to visit Teddy Roosevelt’s home and Montauk Lighthouse (I also sat and chatted with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her daughter, Tatiana
  • Assateague Island – because in 4th grade Mrs. Lane had read us The Mystery of Assateague Island
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel
  • Jolliffe Road & Methodist Church
  • and down to the Outer Banks – one of my sanctuaries
    • Currituck Lighthouse
    • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
    • Ocracoke Island

I drove by Wright Memorial, but gave it little thought. Big deal. When Mother and Dad came to Dayton, we went to the Air Force Museum. Dad loved it. I was bored.

As I drove past the huge pylon on top of the hill from which they flew, I glanced, but continued on. As I passed it again, I decided to at least get closer – after all, I was now a Daytonian. What would others think of me if they discovered I had not paid homage to the Miami Valley’s most popular brothers?

That following September, I was roller blading through Centerville’s Stubbs Park. As I sat on a rock resting, I watched a little sparrow flitting about the parking lot, nibbling at food dropped from some event.

“How did that little fellow get his body up into the air, and maneuver to another location?”

I had never really considered this… well, I had never really cared.

I looked up to see a huge plane jetting across the horizon, heading for Dayton International Airport.

“How does that big thing get into the air?”

My eyes went back and forth between the sparrow and the plane… and then… from somewhere came the voices of two young boys. I looked around.

I was alone… or was I?

Again, the voices began – and after a few minutes it was clear I was listening to a conversation between Wilbur and Orville Wright.

But why? And furthermore, why me?

And then it was clear: a musical!

The following day I was in the book store of the Air Force Museum, purchasing books on the Wright Brothers. When I research projects, I always buy books as I like to make notes and have them at my disposal 24/7.

Wilbur Wright

It has been almost nine years since I began researching the Wright Brothers, and their remarkable sister, Katharine. In January 2000, I set down in my own handwriting the first few scenes. Within a year, I had the book completed. The Wrights had become an obsession, and I scoured Dayton for every piece of information.

One day I tripped into The Kettering-Moraine Museum, and was met by the director, Melba Hunt. A fascinating, somewhat eccentric lady that knew her Wright history. In the museum, I was introduced to many relics belonging to the Wright family. A year later, after a friendship had developed, I was invited behind the velvet ropes…

  • I touched the quilt made by Susan Wright, the mother
  • I held Bishop Milton Wright’s spectacles
  • I glanced through the family Bible with all the notes pertaining to births, marriages and deaths
  • I held several of Bishop’s canes
  • I touched Orville’s bed
  • I sat at Katharine’s desk
  • Melba handed me a jacket to hold while digging through a closet; the white dinner jacket, covered in a clear plastic cleaning bag had a note: “Orville Wright wore this jacket to a dinner at the White House with Franklin Roosevelt, 1942.” I reached up under the plastic and held the jacket’s sleeve
  • and then, Melba handed me a little box which I opened… I pulled out two relics – a sliver of wood and a swatch of material from the very first Wright flying machine that flew at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. The one that hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum has been completely restored, and most of the wing covering is now at the Dayton Air Force Museum.

What a great day!

In 2003, two wonderful ladies joined me as my co-writers: Gail Whipple, my lyricist, and Leslie Merry, my composer. These two have been the most marvelous colaborators, and I cannot say enough for what they’ve brought to this project.

Orville Wright

So, here we are in June 2008. It has been a long haul. In the mean time I have continued to teach, raised two sons, shared my home with five foster sons, endured countless trials with all these boys, performed in several shows and major concerts, directed ten shows, worked with show choirs, traveled, buried two grandparents, welcomed two new nephews, and countless other moments in life – joyful and trying.

The past three weeks, my youngest son has been with my brother and his family in Indiana, and I have tackled one of the most amazing experiences withthis project. I completely isolated myself, with the exception of two ball games for the Lockhartfamily, and a movie night with Sophie Lockhart. I would teach all day, Mondays through Wednesdays, and then work until 2:00am. Thursdays through Sundays were spent working in the yard, spring cleaning, and writing. No matter what errand was at hand, the Wright project consumed me as I battled so many moments where I just could not budge anything.

Katharine Wright

Finally, something clicked earlier this week, and everything began falling into place. The past few days have been intense, exhilarating and fulfilling. I completely rearranged the outline, deleted a few characters (gulp), cut one of my favorite scenes, and strenghtened the musical for what may be the final rewrite.

Over the past nine years, I have become so fond of Wilbur and Orville Wright, and their sister, Katharine. What an interesting family, an inspiring family. One of my favorite places to visit is Woodland Cemetery and the Wright Family plot containing the remains of Bishop and Susan Wright, Wilbur, Katharine and Orville, and the remains of twins born between Wilbur and Orville, Ida and Otis (they died shortly after birth). There were two other brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, both older than Wilbur.

Katharine entertaining crowned heads of Europe, 1909.

Katharine is the most fascinating. She graduated from Oberlin College in Northern Ohio, and taught Latin and Greek at Steele High School in Dayton. Katharine was the only Wright child to graduate from high school. In fact, neither Wilbur or Orville graduated from high school.

 In September 1908 (nearly one hundred years ago), Orville was injured in a crash while demonstrating a flyer for the United States Army. Katharine left her teaching position to nurse him, never returning to her career. Instead, she served as her brothers’ social secretary, and accompanied them throughout Europe, charming kings, queens, princes and other notable figures. Spains’ King Alphonso said she was the “ideal American woman.”

Katharine & Wilbur – Katharine’s first flight – note the modesty cord on her skirt.

One day, Wilbur took Katharine on her first flight. Her voluminous skirts were tied with a “modesty cord.” With the flight completed, she scooted away from the plane, the modesty cord still in place. Katharine’s playful moment had surpassed her charm and wit. A fashion designer from Paris’ House of Paquin captured the moment – thus was born, the Hobble Skirt!

Wilbur died in 1912, and Orville was devastated. He did not possess Wilbur’s understanding with business, and especially, the ability to tackle the endless court battles protecting their patent. Katharine was at his side. They retired to a beautiful home, Hawthorn Hill, in Oakwood (less than a mile from where I live).

Katharine Wright Haskell

In 1925, Katharine fell in love with Harry Haskell, a fellow graduate of Oberlin. Harry and his wife, Isabelle, were both great friends of Katharine, and had Harry asked her, Katharine would have married him. In 1923, Isabelle died from cancer. Katharine, always the true friend, sent endless letters and gifts to Harry, now the editor for The Kansas City Star. Within a few years, they had fallen in love.

However, Katharine was terrified to tell Orville of her engagement. Orville imagined this unspoken, unwritten pact that they would always remain together. Finally, Katharine and Harry told Orville, and he exploded, refusing to speak to Katharine. 

On Nov. 20, 1926, Katharine, 52, and Harry, 54, were married in the Oberlin home of friends. Katharine moved with Harry to his home in Kansas City. She told friends that her new life as a wife was a fairy tale come true.

The Wright sister would never see her brother again – until he came to her bedside the day before she died.

Orville Wright lived until 1948, but Katharine and Harry Haskell had just two years and three months together. Despite a bad cold, Katharine was planning a trip abroad with Harry in the winter of 1929. It had been 20 years since Katharine’s first trip to Europe, when she had flown in her brothers’ magical flying machine and met King Edward VII of England, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

A couple of weeks before Katharine and Harry were to board a ship for their trip abroad, her cold turned into pneumonia. The death watch began. Harry asked his wife if she wanted to see Orville.

 

Orville arrived on a Saturday. Harry asked Katharine if she recognized her brother.

“Yes, of course,” she whispered. She died on Sunday, March 3, 1929. She was 54.

Katharine Wright had been revered by kings and presidents. She had been to the White House – walked right up to Presidents William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge, and shook their hands boldly. Like the royals in France, the presidents were charmed.

Katharine Wright might be just a footnote to history, but author Richard Maurer said she was far more than a footnote to the lives and achievements of her brothers.

“You can take the airplane out of the lives of the Wright brothers, and they would have been pretty insignificant and uninteresting people,” Maurer said. “That’s not true of Katharine. She did not let the airplane define her.”

If the life of the Wrights were a movie, Maurer said, the sister would be the star:

“Katharine has a bit part, but she’s the character you remember. In the story of the Wrights, she gets the Academy Award for the best supporting actress. Katharine Wright steals the show.”

 

In March 1929, Orville received word that Katharine was dying from pneumonia. He was finally convinced to visit her, arriving the day before she died. Katharine was 53. Orville requested her body be returned to Dayton where she now rests between Wilbur and Orville – a fitting place for the sister who gave so much of her self to the brothers who taught the world how to fly.

Orville Wright. 1945

In 1948, Orville suffered a heart attack and died. That following December, the original Kitty Hawk Flyer was installed in the Smithsonian following a thirty-three year battle which finally resulted with the institution’s recognition that the Wrights were indeed, the first to fly.

So, my journey with the Wright family is nearing an end. There will be additional re-writes, eventual rehearsals and performances, but my intimate work with the Wrights will be over. Once a director steps in, it is much like sending your child off to school for the first time… the acorn can not be closed once the oak begins to grow.

I have several projects on deck, crying to be written:

  • The Mink Story
  • finishing Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • King Edwards VIII & Wallace Simpson
  • a musical on the ghosts of five first ladies, The Sorority
  • and so many more…

But in the meantime, I am enjoying this time with the Wrights… they have been wonderful companions these past nine years.

 

Footnote: Katharine’s husband, Henry “Harry” Haskell, went on to marry a third time, outliving his third wife. Harry received three Pulitzer Prizes for his editorials – one of which warned the world about the new German chancellor, Adolph Hitler.

Getting ready to shower and head to training for the update of my adoption license.
 
I finally hit a point last night where I could just write no more on the Wright Brother musical.  Normally I can go strong until 1:00-2:00am. But my brain just gave out. I had completely changed the entire format, and spent all of Thursday and Friday ripping it apart and putting it all back together. I eliminated one character and had to go through the entire script deleting his name, and reassigning his lines that were important to the story. So, around 9:00pm I brought my laptop and everything inside, and came to the bedroom with a DVD on Ronald Reagan – the PBS series. Great movie.
I woke at 7:00am, but have had trouble stirring… dark and gray outside, but the sun is struggling to peak through.
 
Logan, my cat of 14 years, seems to be slowing down in so many ways. Getting up onto things seems to be tougher for her. In the morning, each pet gets a little dish of moist food, and I set Logan’s up on the kitchen table because Flyer always goes after it. Normally Logan would hop right up, but now I lift her to the table. I’ve noticed, for some time, how she calculates getting up to tables, rail on deck, etc. She has even been forgoing  napping or sleeping on my bed, and remaining on the floor. When my alarm goes off each morning she is always up in my face meowing and bugging me to get my butt into the kitchen for her moist food. This morning, I had to call her into the kitchen. She came running and yapping, but she is definitely slowing down. Amazing how youthful and sprite she appears when there is a baby bunny to chase and kill.
 
Tons of stuff in the news: 
  • Obama & Clinton now a team on the trail
  • Nelson Mandela celebrates his 90th birthday
  • and Wal-Mart will now be spelled Walmart and have a burnt orange background.
 
Time to shower and head to training…. ugh. Not one of my favorite things. Material is stuff I have been teaching the past five years.
 

Here are several of my favorite videos from some musicals…

Josh Groban singing “Anthem” from CHESS (rehearsal)

Julia Murney and Sutton Foster singing “I Know Him So Well” from CHESS (rehearsal)

Sutton Foster singing “Someone Else’s Story” from CHESS (rehearsal)

And my absolute favorite…

Lea Salonga singing a tune written for MISS SAIGON, but with different words – “Too Much for One Heart” but known as the duet “Please”. “Too Much For One Heart” was originally in the show, but was cut…

In my research on the Wright Brothers, I have often come across references to Darius Green and his Flying Machine (1868), and finally took the time to read this delightful tale.

The chief rival of the Wrights, Glenn Curtiss, considered the father of naval aviation, grew up in Hammondsport, New York on the banks of Lake Keuka. Glenn’s grandmother was a good friend of John Townsend Trowbridge (1827-1916), the author of Darius Green and his Flying Machine. I am currently pulling in some references for the musical to be sung by the character of Glenn Curtiss.

Darius Green and his Flying Machine

If ever there lived a Yankee lad,
Wise or otherwise, good or bad,
Who, seeing the birds fly, didn’t jump
With flapping arms from stake or stump,
Or, spreading the tail
Of his coat for a sail,
Take a soaring leap from post or rail,
And wonder why
He couldn’t fly,
And flap and flutter and wish and try –
If ever you knew a country dunce
Who didn’t try that as often as once,
All I can say is, that’s a sign
He never would do for a hero of mine.

An aspiring genius was D. Green;
The son of a farmer, age fourteen;
His body was long and lank and lean –
Just right for flying, as will be seen;
He had two eyes as bright as a bean,
And a freckled nose that grew between,
A little awry – -for I must mention
That be had riveted his attention
Upon his wonderful invention,
Twisting his tongue as he twisted the strings,
And working his face as he worked the wings,
And with every turn of gimlet and screw
Turning and screwing his mouth round too,
Till his nose seemed bent
To catch the scent,
Around some corner, of new-baked pies,
And his wrinkled cheeks and his squinting yes
Grew puckered into a queer grimace,
That made him look very droll in the face,
And also very wise.

And wise he must have been, to do more
Than ever a genius did before,
Excepting Daedalus of yore
And his son Icarus, who wore
Upon their backs
Those wings of wax
He had read of in the old almanacs.
Darius was clearly of the opinion
That the air is also man’s dominion,
And that, with paddle or fin or pinion,
We soon or late shall navigate
The azure as now we sail the sea.
The thing looks simple enough to me;
And if you doubt it,
Hear how Darius reasoned about it.

“The birds can fly an’ why can’t I?
Must we give in,” says he with a grin,
“That the bluebird an’ phoebe
Are smarter’n we be?
Jest fold our hands an’ see the swaller
An’ blackbird an’ catbird beat us holler?
Doos the little chatterin’, sassy wren,
No bigger’n my thumb, know more than men?
Just show me that!
Ur prove ‘t the bat
Hez got more brains than’s in my hat.
An’ I’ll back down, an’ not till then!”
He argued further: “Nur I can’t see
What’s th’ use o’ wings to a bumblebee,
Fur to git a livin’ with, more’n to me; —
Ain’t my business
Important’s his’n is?
That Icarus
Made a perty muss —
Him an’ his daddy Daedalus
They might ‘a’ knowed wings made o’ wax
Wouldn’t stand sun-heat an’ hard whacks.
I’ll make mine o’ luther,
Ur suthin’ ur other.”

And he said to himself, as he tinkered and planned:
“But I ain’t goin’ to show my hand
To mummies that never can understand
The fust idee that’s big an’ grand.”
So he kept his secret from all the rest,
Safely buttoned within his vest;
And in the loft above the shed
Himself he locks, with thimble and thread
And wax and hammer and buckles and screws
And all such things as geniuses use; —
Two bats for patterns, curious fellows!
A charcoal-pot and a pair of bellows;
Some wire, and several old umbrellas;

A carriage-cover, for tail and wings;
A piece of harness; and straps and strings;
And a big strong box,
In which he locks
These and a hundred other things.
His grinning brothers, Reuben and Burke
And Nathan and Jotham and Solomon, lurk
Around the corner to see him work —
Sitting cross-legged, like a Turk,
Drawing the waxed-end through with a jerk,
And boring the holes with a comical quirk
Of his wise old head, and a knowing smirk.
But vainly they mounted each other’s backs,
And poked through knot-holes and pried through cracks;
With wood from the pile and straw from the stacks
He plugged the knot-holes and caulked the cracks;
And a dipper of water, which one would think
He had brought up into the loft to drink
When he chanced to be dry,
Stood always nigh,
For Darius was sly!
And whenever at work he happened to spy
At chink or crevice a blinking eye.
He let the dipper of water fly.
“Take that! an’ ef ever ye git a peep,
Guess ye’ll ketch a weasel asleep!”
And he sings as he locks
His big strong box: —

“The weasel’s head is small an’ trim,
An’ he is little an’ long an’ slim,
An’ quick of motion an’ nimble of limb
An’ ef you’ll be
Advised by me
Keep wide awake when ye’re ketchin’ him!”

So day after day
He stitched and tinkered and hammered away,
Till at last ’twas done —
The greatest invention under the sun!
“An’ now,” says Darius, “hooray fur some fun!”

‘Twas the Fourth of July,
And the weather was dry,
And not a cloud was on all the sky,
Save a few light fleeces, which here and there,
Half mist, half air,
Like foam on the ocean went floating by
just as lovely a morning as ever was seen
For a nice little trip in a flying-machine.
Thought cunning Darius: “Now I shan’t go
Along ‘ith the fellers to see the show.
I’ll say I’ve got sich a terrible coughl
An’ then, when the folks ‘ave all gone off,
I’ll hev full swing fur to try the thing,
An’ practise a little on the wing.”
“Ain’t goin’ to see the celebration?”
Says brother Nate. “No; botheration
I’ve got sich a cold – a toothache – I
My gracious – feel’s though I should fly!”
Said Jotham, “Sho!
Guess ye better go.”
But Darius said, “No!
Shouldn’t wonder ‘f you might see me, though,
‘Long ’bout noon, ef I git red
O’ this jumpin’, thumpin’ pain ‘n my head.”
For all the while to himself he said: —

“I tell ye what!
I’ll fly a few times around the lot,
To see how ‘t seems, then soon’s I’ve got
The hang o’ the thing, ez likely’s not,
I’ll astonish the nation,
An’ all creation,
By flyin’ over the celebration!
Over their heads I’ll sail like an eagle;
I’ll balance myself on my wings like a sea-gull:
I’ll dance on the chimbleys; I’ll stand on the steeple;
I’ll flop up to winders an’ scare the people!
I’ll light on the liberty-pole, an’ crow;
An’ I’ll say to the gawpin’ fools below,
‘What world’s this ‘ere
That I’ve come near?’
Fur I’ll make ’em b’lieve I’m a chap f’m the Moon;
An’ I’ll try to race ‘ith their ol’balloon!”
He crept from his bed;
And, seeing the others were gone, he said,
“I’m gittin’ over the cold ‘n my head.”
And away he sped,
To open the wonderful box in the shed.

His brothers had walked but a little way,
When Jotham to Nathan chanced to say,
“What is the feller up to, hey!”
“Don’o’- the’s suthin’ ur other to pay,
Ur he wouldn’t ‘a’ stayed tu hum to-day.”
Says Burke, “His toothache’s all ‘n his eye!
He never’d missed a Fo’th-o’-July,
Ef he hedn’t got some machine to try.”
Then Sol, the little one, spoke: “By darn!
Le’s hurry back an’ hide ‘n the barn,
An’ pay him fur tellin’ us that yarn!”
“Agreed!” Through the orchard they creep back
Along by the fences, behind the stack,
And one by one, through a hole in the wall,
In under the dusty barn they crawl,
Dressed in their Sunday garments all;
And a very astonishing sight was that,
When each in his cobwebbed coat and hat
Came up through the floor like an ancient rat
And there they hid;
And Reuben slid
The fastenings back, and the door undid.
“Keep dark!” said he,
“While I squint an’ see what the’ is to see.”

As knights of old put on their mail –
From head to foot an iron suit
Iron jacket and iron boot,
Iron breeches, and on the head
No hat, but an iron pot instead,
And under the chin the bail,
(I believe they called the thing a helm,)
Then sallied forth to overwhelm
The dragons and pagans that plagued the earth
So this modern knight
Prepared for flight,
Put on his wings and strapped them tight
Jointed and jaunty, strong and light —
Buckled them fast to shoulder and hip;
Ten feet they measured from tip to tip
And a helm had he, but that he wore,
Not on his head, like those of yore,
But more like the helm of a ship.

“Hush!” Reuben said,
“He’s up in the shed!
He’s opened the winder — I see his head!
He stretches it out, an’ pokes it about,
Lookin’ to see ‘f the coast is clear,
An’ nobody near; —
Guess he don’ o’ who’s hid in here!
He’s riggin’ a spring-board over the
sill!Stop laffin’, Solomon! Burke, keep still!
He’s a climbin’ out now — Of all the things!
What’s he got on? I vum, it’s wings!
An’ that ‘tother thing? I vum, it’s a taill
An’ there he sits like a hawk on a rail!
Steppin’ careful, he travels the length
Of his spring-board, and teeters to try its strength.
Now he stretches his wings, like a monstrous bat;
Peeks over his shoulder; this way an’ that,
Fur to see ‘f the’ ‘s any one passin’ by;
But the’ ‘s on’y a caf an’ goslin nigh.
They turn up at him a wonderin’ eye,
To see — The dragon! he’s goin’ to fly!
Away he goes! Jimminy! what a jump!
Flop — flop — an’ plump
To the ground with a thump!
Flutt’rin’ an’ flound’rin’ all ‘n a lump!”

As a demon is hurled by an angel’s spear,
Heels over head, to his proper sphere —
Heels over head, and head over heels,
Dizzily down the abyss he wheels —
So fell Darius. Upon his crown,
In the midst of the barn-yard, he came down,
In a wonderful whirl of tangled strings,
Broken braces and broken springs,
Broken tail and broken wings,
Shooting-stars, and various things;
Barn-yard litter of straw and chaff,
And much that wasn’t so sweet by half.
Away with a bellow fled the calf,
And what was that? Did the gosling laugh?
‘Tis a merry roar from the old barn-door.
And he hears the voice of Jotham crying,
“Say, D’rius! how do you like flyin’?”

Slowly, ruefully, where he lay,
Darius just turned and looked that way,
As he stanched his sorrowful nose with his cuff.
“Wal, I like flyin’ well enough,”
He said; “but the’ ain’t such a thunderin’ sight
O’ fun in ‘t when ye come to light.”
I just have room for the MORAL here:
And this is the moral — Stick to your sphere.
Or if you insist, as you have the right,
On spreading your wings for a loftier flight,
The moral is – Take care how you light.

 

 

 

This is what my writing area looks like on the back deck. I generally “hit the deck” around 7:00am, setting up my work area, checking Email, and attending to other business while listening to THE TODAY SHOW from the small television on a shelf behind me.

The umbrella, purchased for the Outer Banks’ beaches last summer, has made a wonderful table umbrella, and also serves me in organization – I must have an organized area. Sometimes, I have 4-8 papers or items clipped to the umbrella which functions as a Lazy Susan. The base which holds the umbrella is filled with sand from the beach directly across the road from where the Wright Brothers first flew in 1903, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Flyer, the dog, and Logan, the cat, are always nearby. Logan generally rests on one of the deck rails so she can survey anything that walks, crawls or flies through the yard. Flyer always chooses to be near the door should I decide to move inside for any reason – she will seldom let me out of her sight. Now, when Logan spies something and goes into pounce-mode, Flyer stealthily moves to the steps to join Logan in her reconnaissance mission… and if it is worth it, they will both jump into the yard for the merry chase.

Today the humidity is already beginning to rise, and by Noon I will probably move inside and remain through the thundestorms we are expected to receive.

So this is my space when not teaching. It is a lovely, relaxing setting, and I could not be happier. A space in which to write, and spending time with my friends, Wilbur, Orville and Katharine Wright.

 

 

THURSDAY
  • Logan, my cat, has been with me fourteen years, today.
  • I called the dentist about my temporary crown, and they got me in at 11:40am. To save on gas, I took the bus to the Dayton Mall area. The one thing about the bus is that it forces me to walk! I logged in some great walking time. Following the dentist, I strolled through the mall – a place I generally avoid – and then went to Wal-Mart for some basics.
  • I arrived home a little after 2:00pm and took a nap, and then read my Glenn Curtiss books for three hours, taking notes. I received an email from Valerie Lockhart that Jackson did have a game, afterall, at the high school’s field. I decided to remain home until I received a last minute email from Val – Jackson learned he would be pitching… Uncle Darin could not stay home. I spent a great time with Valerie – Jackson was on the field, Mike was taking stats in the dug out, and Sophie was at camp.
  • After the game I drove to Kroger, and then home to work until 2:00am.
FRIDAY
  • Darin Jolliff is 43 years old – still. Today, Darin Jolliffe-Haas is twenty-four years old. Anniversary of my adoption.
  • Woke at 6:30am, took tea on the deck while working on studio emails. Read more on Glenn Curtiss, and then began making long, detailed notes on how to insert some new material regarding Curtiss and Alexander Graham Bell.
  • Drove to ACTION at 5:00pm, and ate salad while talking to Pat Hill. Taught a wonderful new group of prospective parents on “discipline” which I entitle “creative discipline.” After class ended at 10pm, I talked with Pat, Cissie and some others until 11:30pm.
  • At home I was wide awake. I watched a little TV, and then read, hoping to fall asleep. The last time I coherently saw the clock, it was 4:15am.
SATURDAY
  • Woke at 7:30am – wide awake. Drank my tea, ate an egg white omelet, and worked on Wright Brothers notes. At 9:00am I mowed the lawn, trimmed and raked. I took Flyer on a walk, and then returned to the deck for more scene sketching. 
  • After showering at 1:30am, I drove to Carillon Historical Park which is filled with Dayton History! Good stuff!
  • En route, Jose called me from Wal-Mart. With some of his earned money he purchased Guitar Hero. I will never see the boy once he returns home unless I venture into the basement. Again, he sounded happy and recounted all the work, and fun he has been having with Destin, Stacia, Parker and Fred.
  • Just before entering the park I ran into Ross Cali, one of my favorite musicians of all time. Ross came to the USA from Italy at the age of 17. He joined the Air Force and was in the Band of Flight. Ross married, and started Mita Copiers out of his garage. He built a wonderful little empire which he passed on to his son, Tony. Ross has played clarinet with some of the finest musicians, and best professional concert bands and orchestras all over. Ross was my principal clarinetist when I was conductor of the Centerville Community Band for seven years. Ross is just about the best there is – both as a musician, and as a person.
  • I slowly walked through the Wright exhibit – a replica of their famous cycle shop, the museum wing, and then the memorial hall where the 1905 Wright Flyer III rests – a national historical landmark. I went to the other sites, but absorbed as much Wright stuff as I could.

Newcomb’s Tavern – 1796 – original structure

 Replica of Wright Cycle Shop

  • I left the park and went to the Wright Brothers’ neighborhood – took some photos of their old home’s site.
  • Memorial structure on the original home site of the Wright’s home on Hawthorn Street.

  • Came home, ate supper, and worked until 12:30am on Wright Brothers.
SUNDAY
  • 8:00am I woke, grabbed my tea and called Mother. Watched a little of MEET THE PRESS – I know I should be open-minded, but Tim Russert made me want to watch his program. Even Dr. Schuller didn’t hold my attention.
  • I moved to the deck to work until 3:00pm when dark clouds began hovering, looking as though they would burst at any moment… they did not. I napped until 4:00pm, took care of some emails, and while typing this I have supper in the oven.
  • The rest of the evening will be filled with actual writing…
  • Tomorrow starts another teaching week of three days – but lightly filled! Over half my students are at clinics, camps, or on vacation! I am looking forward to this writing opportunity.

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