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      What the heck is the Shaw Festival? I'm writing this on the bus on the way back from the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. There are so many elements of this trip that are on the 'pro” side of the ledger.

      Let's see. As I said, I'm writing this on the bus. BIG pro here: I don't have to drive! We take a coach from Benedict's Bus Service. I just have to get myself to Benedicts in the morning and then I can sleep, read, talk, blog on my new lap-top, listen to music. I don't have to worry about parking or keep my eyes on the road. Big pro.

      I've been diagnosed with Lyme disease. It's been a fairly long time in coming—the diagnosis—but not nearly as long as others that I know of who have waited for years trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with them. So I guess I'm lucky.

      As I walked to the Infectious Disease department of the Strong Memorial Hospital, I had to pass a number of other departments. The waiting rooms/reception areas were bright and open and sun-lit. The people behind the counters were all helpful and communicative. But the people sitting in the waiting area  arrested my attention.. A look of despair, of sadness, of weariness. A look devoid of hope.

      We're offering a chance to hear 50 young people doing something creative, constructive, positive. Today at 2:30 at Steadman Theatre the four HG Children and Youth Choirs will sing a whole host of songs, the result of 9 months of focused often exhilarating work. Each of the song titles contains a person's name.

      The noteworthy persons in these titles range from folk characters like Old Dan Tucker and Old MacDonald, to Biblical characters like Moses and Daniel, to whimsical persons whom we know nothing about except in their song—people like Joan and Johnny and Tom.

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      I was reminded of gifts that are considered “in kind” recently as a number of objects and services were offered to HG and to this production of WEDDING BELLES in particular. Jim Reifer re-arranged his schedule to come down and help with some set-issues—like hanging a door, and affixing clapboard to Laura Lee’s porch. Linda Young spent three half-days creating a back-yard feel with bricks and dried lawn, in addition to house-painting the afore-mentioned clapboard. Noyes Lawton shored up some wobbly walls. David Thomas offered thousands of flowers and greens to create the feel of an overgrown gardener’s back-yard. Michele Comes assembled costumes appropriate for 1942. Pat Balons hauled in over 100 bricks and real flowers and dead weeds to give the garden an authentic look. Three un-named people dropped off paint. (We are always open for donations of those paints that are cluttering up your closet or garage.) Nate Wilcox did computer magic assembling the sound effects and inter-scene music.

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      There’s a line in WEDIING BELLES that always catches me off guard. It comes at a tender moment in the second act when the young Ima Jean gently, but clearly, reminds the older women of the incredible importance of interpersonal connections and commitment to friendships. Ima Jean refers to her life growing up without these connections: “Back at the orphanage, I was one of many, many, many. Nobody paid no attention to me. I’ve always been like a piece of torn newspaper caught on a barbed-wire fence, blowing lonesome in the wind.”

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