We Sing the Songs That Peter, Paul & Mary Sang by Barbara Biddison
On this past Sunday afternoon we music lovers gathered in the Coolidge to listen, and to add our voices, to this fine afternoon of music. It was a benefit for the HG Treble Choir and their performance tour in May. But, in actuality, we in the audience, all benefitted by singing along with the kids, and the Gmeiner Open Mic Group, and Chris Eckert, and Pine Pitch. I'm also led to believe that the choir kids did not know who Peter, Paul and Mary might be, so the show served an educational purpose as well. We elders learn something too when we discover that "our growing up familiarity" with, say, the Beatles or Peter, Paul and Mary, does NOT mean that our grandchildren have the same memories. Or that they even know what these "Beatles" things are. So what we've for decades fondly remembered has no recognition factor for them. We must fix that!!! We must have them sing songs that will teach them!!! And in the process we bring pleasure to the folks who lived through that time period.
Some of the songs that we remember from our past are "'Blowin' in the Wind''' and "Early Mornin' Rain" and"Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and, of course "This Land is Your Land." All those years ago when our sons were about 15 and 18 we spent a sabbatical semester in England, and when we were ready to leave for home some friends of theirs came to our little rented house and sang for them/with them John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Another one of the Peter, Paul and Mary songs. So, it was good for me to revisit these songs in the Coolidge in 2024.
A real bonus for this afternoon full of singing was the audience itself. We were invited to sing along with these Peter, Paul and Mary songs. And this invitation actually worked because the audience had
amongst us people who are old enough to remember the songs. And so we sang, and we were surrounded by others who were singing. And the Coolidge filled with song. I can still hear and feel that space so richly full of music..
HG THEATRE ARTS CAMP IN ELKLAND by Barbara Biddison
Every year Hamilton-Gibson starts the winter season by taking this theatre arts camp to Elkland. The Deerfield Charitable Trust makes it happen financially and the HG staff headed up by Thomas Putnam puts it on the Clark Wood Elementary stage. Some of us Wellsboro folk carpool over there to see the stage full of kids and the audience full of parents and grandparents and sisters and brothers and neighbors and, of course, Trust Board Members. It is a joyous sight to behold. One of the happiest staged opportunities I've ever seen. You walk right in to find your seat, and you feel it in the air.
I counted the cast members listed on the program and came up with a total of 57. That's alotta kids!! The show is called Junie B. Jones Jr. The Musical. It really does involve everybody....some solo, some in small groups, and often, of course, the whole group singing and performing together. The best part for me is seeing these young people loving being on stage, acting and singing and moving as they have practiced (in a very short rehearsal time).
I know that this is the first and last time some will ever be on stage like this, but I have heard many still talking about a similar experience years later. And some will go on to be in more plays and musicals. I have seen arts camp still listed in the "Who's Who" part of the program for a show a decade after the the elementary show. Itcarries a life-long memory for many.
AND SO ANOTHER YEAR BEGINS by Barbara Biddison
What better way to begin than with an invitation? For dialogue REGARDING BASIC HUMAN RESPECT. That is what we did on Martin Luther King Day in the Wellsboro HS Auditorium on January 15, 2024. We who sat there, facing a stage full of speakers and musicians, were glad that we had braved the wintery night to be inspired and affirmed. We noticed at once that it was not Thomas Putnam who introduced the program, but all seemed to move forward without him. (We learned that he was stranded in an airport, so we settled back to appreciate the evening.)
We had a fine evening of variety, spoken and sung, and I especially appreciated the addition of three county commisioners. These men are newly elected, I'm guessing not well known to all audience members, and they spoke individually and appropriately (and briefly) for the occasion. Others spoke to the "basic human respect' thoughts of the evening. Pine Pitch sang "Because All Men Are Brothers" and HG Treble Choir sang "Hold On to Dreams" and we all learned and sang "Jordan River" and I still feel the sense of community and warmth of that
It was a lovely generous time. in an auditorium peopled with folk who wanted to be there. I wanted to be there, and I was. Those who couldn't come missed something special. Another year begins.
IT BEGINS WITH “COMFORT YE” AND ENDS WITH “HALLELUJAH!” by Thomas Putnam
I grew up hearing G. F. Handel's MESSIAH, a lot. My parents were both music teachers and soloists and conductors. The solos and choruses of this work were simply old friends that were a part of our household. Every year now when I finally sit down after all the preparations, and hear a young tenor offer the amazing, embracing sound and words “Comfort ye,” I know where I am...and it's a good place to be.
Along with faithful sponsors Bob and Marsha Chesko, we once again offer a rare opportunity for area residents this Sunday. The Christmas portion of this great choral masterpiece is presented as an opportunity for audience members to sing the choruses and to hear vocalists from Mansfield University singing the solos.
I have experienced such “sing-a-long” events in large cities and found them enormously thrilling.This year Dr. Peggy Dettwiler, director of choral activities at Commonwealth University Mansfield will be directing the event. Marian Miller will be at the keyboard, with string players from the PSU Graduate String Quartet including Allison Smith, Vinicius Vierira, Zephyr Wills, and Ruth Stokes. Soloists are recent graduates or current students from Mansfield University including Rachael Karwowski, soprano; Jessica Strouse, alto; Carter Route, tenor; and Carson J. Witherite, bass.
Audience members are encouraged to sit in vocal sections of soprano, alto, tenor, bass and sing on the choruses. We can provide scores of the work, or you can bring their own. Many audience members choose to sit back and listen to the glorious sounds in the acoustically fine St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
The event began and continues as a benefit for the HG Children's Choral Program. Fittingly, when the MESSIAH was first presented in London in 1743 it too was as a benefit for the newly-opened Foundling Hospital, a home for unwanted children. The HG Treble Choir will present three selections at the beginning of the program. The proceeds help to purchase music and defray expenses for the choir operations. The event is a Pay-What-You-Can event with donations gratefully accepted at the door. Checks can be made payable to HG CHOIRS. No reservations are required.
Comfort ye. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low. Hallelujah!
THIS IS A SHORT AND SWEET BLOG by Barbara Biddison
For those who have been paying attention to what goes on with Hamilton-Gibson Women's Project, I offer this blog inspired by my presence at rehearsals for this show. HOLIDAY SHORTS AND SWEETS, which plays December 8 and 9 in the Warehouse Theatre.
There are three short plays, two of them written by our local women. In one, "A Christmas Tamalada," they make tamales, an annual pre-Christmas family activity--and one that our family participated in some years ago. So, even though my own history centers on the Swedish smorgasbord, I appreciate the value of such a tradition. The other locally written 10-minute play has the engaging title, "The I-Hate-the-Holidays Support Group," And, even though I personally love the holidays now. I find the six who gather for support to be engaging and believable. And the one that was not written by a local woman, features "Rosie the Retired Rockette" and her daughter and her two granddaughters. It is the Women's Project, after all!
And there is music. Nancy Laudermilch on piano here and there throughout. And duets and solos and Pine Pitch A Cappella. Everything from "Baby It's Cold Outside" to "Feliz Navidad."
And I've already written about the "letters." The Christmas letters that tell you more than you need to know, and even one written by the dog.
I can't name everyone that gets credit for this Christmas show. All the directors, and actors, and singers, and writers, and producers, and backstage manager, and lights and sound operator and more. This Womens Project was created because there were so many women who wanted to be part of Hamilton-Gibson. Well over 20 this time. It seems to be working! .
Jean Sings: Rosie Dances by Thomas Putnam
In HGWP'S holiday offering called SHORTS AND SWEETS this weekend, there is a short play called "Rosie the Rockette." It's short, maybe just 10 minutes, and there really isn't much that happens. That being the nature of a ten-minute play, the slice of life that is portrayed is packed with stuff which at first appears to be of no consequence but upon consideration is packed with stuff worth thinking about.
There are three generations: a grandmother Rosie, her daughter, and her two granddaughters. Rosie was a Rockette, a precision dancer. And here she is now, moving in and out of present day consciousness, being visited during the holidays by her daughter and grandchildren. Rosie has dementia.
My own mother, Jean Helen Webster Putnam, had Alzheimers. We kept her at home as long as possible, but finally had to move her into a nursing home, at which she died four months later. On her last night, she sang. She could not carry on a conversation or even speak clearly enough to be understood. She appeared to not know present realities. But she sang. That night in May we sang the songs we used to sing in the car on family trips or when we sat on the front porch of the cottage on summer nights long ago. She sang.
Rosie dances. It's her reality. Ten minute plays can't develop a character much, but in this little play we get a taste of this slice of life quite clearly, and simply. Kathryn Sheneman's Rosie moves in and out of the present that is at times painful for us, as it certainly is for her daughter, and confusing for her grandchildren. There are some funny moments that help us to swallow the difficulty of such a family situation, that for many of us is all too familiar.
SHORTS AND SWEETS if filled with some songs, some readings of holiday letters, and a few other short ten-minute slices of life. From what I've seen in bits of rehearsals, the production is just what it is titled: a bit of this and that, of some sorrow and lots of joy and mirth, of nostalgia and hope. You have just three chances to enjoy this holiday confection so don't tarry in calling for your tickets (570.724.2079.) Friday night at 7:30--with an opening night reception immediately following; and two shows on Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 all at the Warehouse Theatre. (And don't forget the MESSIAH Community Sing on Sunday at 2:30 at St. Paul's which will round out HG's 2023 Season.)
The Birth of the HGWP Holiday Letter by Barbara Biddison
A group of women and a few men gathered some months ago at the Warehouse to consider what might be put together for a Holiday Program in early December 2023. How about three 10-minute plays with some vocal and instrumental interludes? Oh! and some "Holiday Letters" like the ones that some people send out (full of way too much detail about family doings and challenges and pets and so forth). So, we offered "Holiday Letter Writing Workshop" for HGWP's "Holiday Shorts and Sweets," and got our people to write such letters just for fun, and then we chose the best ones for our December show. We did all that, and now we are rehearsing six (6) holiday letters with six readers who did not write the letter they read aloud. Sometimes you might even think that the family dog wrote the letter. Sometimes pets do that you know. I once had a dog that could have--his name was Chance, and all 80 pounds of him rode in my convertible with the top down. He probably had many stories to tell. But back to the Holiday Letter.
We did have auditions, and those that seemed to relate to the letter of the moment were cast as a reader. We were auditioning for three 10-minute plays at the same time as we auditioned for letters. Somehow a few women and one guy were cast in both play and letter. So far everything seems to have worked out well. I don't see the play rehearsals, but I'm "directing" the six letter readings. We have managed to keep the letter and play rehearsals moving forward without anyone having to be in two places at once.
You might think that just reading a letter out loud would be easy. But it actually requires practice and thought. So we practice, and try different ways of expressing thoughts, and we try to figure out what importance there might be to certain references. For example, in one letter there is reference to Christmas ornaments made here. We discussed the value of knowing that is historically true. Another letter, actually written by a Jewish woman, is read aloud by a woman who is not Jewish. So the writers (on paper) are never the same person as the actor reading aloud that piece. It is a very interesting acting experience as the reader takes on the writer's identity which is never quite the same of course. And then the whole thing can get more complicated as the letter writer appears to be the family dog!
Our most recent. rehearsal, when five of the six were present in the same room, was quite lively. All five "read" their practically memorized letter to four listeners plus me. I was so pleased with their listening skills as expressed in comments/suggestions for the reader. Lots of smiles and genuine laughter too. They were great audience members as well as good readers. And all were willing to offer feedback, and look at possible clothing choices, ranging from "hmmmm" to "the color is right" to whether or not a dog collar would be appropriate. These readers have varying degrees and different types of theatre experience, and whatever they have they bring to this project. So we'll be reading these letters aloud as each reader gives life to the person inside the letter. Keep your eyes glued to the stage right side of the stage where our small table and chair will mark the letter-reading spot.
[Note: HGWP's Holiday Shorts and Sweets runs December 8 at 7:30; and December 9 at 2:30 and 7:30PM at the Warehouse Theatre. Sponsored by Larry & Marian Miller; Hilma Cooper; and Deb & Greg Calkins.]
OPENING NIGHT at ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
By Friday afternoon it was "sold out!" for opening night. I was ushering for this performance, and therefore I arrived at the Coolidge an hour before curtain time. The space where the doors would eventually open was already crowded with reserved audience members
(Not reserved in the sense of quiet and proper; but reserved in the sense of having called ahead for tickets and thus been assured of a seat.) There was excitement in the air. I quietly let myself in to the performing/theatre area, and there I found the cast of 24 sitting in the front rows There was a feeling of excitement mixed with calm as director Jessie Thompson focused their attention on what they were about to do. Most of these people were "students" and, though I could guess they were excited, all the cast sat in relative quiet. Then they were released to their backstage area. And at 7 PM on the dot the doors opened and the folks waiting were allowed to enter. It was so much fun to watch them come in. It's not often that we get to see so many children at a show!
I watched to see how many children there were amongst the adults. A goodly number. I watched to see how they would choose where to sit. Of course some asked if they could sit anywhere. In this particular theatre there is no "curtain" and the stage with its "set" is in full
view, so some seemed to be trying to figure out where they could best see the action. And then there was the upstairs bedroom with stairs that led up to this little space, and everyone would be able to see that! This perfect little bedroom that would be Anne's.
Of course "the kids" are the story that pulls us in and the energy that holds us there. They range from preteen to post high school, all genders and all distinct in character on stage. I was truly impressed by their ability to stay in character and act and react amidst what was often chaos! (Remember that this cast of 24 is mostly kids!) And I loved that there were a couple mother/kid combinations and one father/kid. June Roth is a really believable and lovable and human girl as she is Anne. This Anne as written goes through a full range
of emotions during the show, and June Roth takes us there with her.
But I won't forget the actual adults. There's Lilace flying across the stage as Mrs. Spencer And David Gordon who graduates from barking pig to "doctor" in this show. And Rebecca Charles hilarious as the bossy/nosey neighbor. Then there's Herb Johnson as Matthew, the sweetest and most compassionate man on earth. And Sarah Duterte as Marilla who grows to move from resisting the taking on of a girl to being a believable caring support for the orphan Anne. There's some real acting going on here!.
Thanks to Cody Losinger, choir director in the play and assistant director overall. And to Gary Citro at the piano, without which there wouldn't be much singing goin' on. And, especially, Jessie Thompson whose subtle touch as director has created such a moving and human and
GREEN GABLES MEETS THE COOLIDGE by Barbara Biddison
I wanted to see Anne of Green Gables in rehearsal. and of the choices that director Jessie Thompson gave me I chose "first time in the Coolidge." It's always interesting to see what happens when the actors move to the actual space where they will be performing in front of an audience. In this case for this show and this rehearsal, it was mostly kids and it was cold in that space. (The outside temperature was hovering around the freezing point.) So I wore an extra coat, knowing that they would have it warmed up by opening night for show-time. The wondrous part about that theatre space now though is that the feel of Hamilton-Gibson's Elephants Graveyard, with its sadness and grief, is swept aside by the young voices and a story that most of us know. And, of course, the kids are wonderful to watch.
Anne Shirley, the title character is played by June Roth. I don't think I've known her before, but she is so at ease on the stage. And the couple that takes on Anne, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, are known to all HG followers as Sarah Duterte and Herb Johnson. I found it really interesting to watch the director/assistant director duo as they seamlessly shared duties with this crowd of actors in ths "first time in the Coolidge" rehearsal. Jessie calmly gains attention as she reminds a young person at a given point. "You remember how we had you put that down right there, before you walk away." And later Cody directs a song while he moves the singers into place. The point here is that both of these things can be happening at more-or-less the same time. And if any part of the singing gets off-pitch or mixes up rhythm. Cody is right there and Gary Citro at the piano pounds out the correction on the piano. To see this kind of intuative cooperation in a new space is a joy to observe.
As Anne arrives, "Anne with an 'e'" as she insists, riding in a carriage with a horse, we hear her respond to her first sight of Green Gables. In this rough rehearsal. Still, it actually gave me goosebumps. And when they got there, what does Martha say but, Where is the boy??" And goosebumps turn to tears. Even in this preliminary telling of the tale, these actors portray the emotional beginning of Anne's story.
At this point I find myself wondering if the set will have an upstairs. That's where Anne's bedroom is. The line in the play says so. And it set me to remembering the "upstairs" part of Madwoman of Chaillot and how it transformed the entire Coolidge. Whatever they do
for Anne, I'm sure it will evoke Green Gables. We are always taken into a new and wonderful world when we enter the Coolidge,
The Kids (and I) are Alright by Jessie Thompson, director of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
This year, thanks to HG, I helped out a bit with the HG kids theater camp, and now am directing ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, a story about a particularly intense and struggling kid who happily does find her place in the world. There is also a fun and feisty group of school kids in this show who play Anne's friends and contemporaries. For me, working with kids is mostly new. It has not been perfect. The classes I led at the kids camp this summer had their successful moments, but not all my lesson plans went over as fantastically as I imagined. Sometimes at rehearsals for ANNE OF GREEN GABLES I think, "Should I know more about working with kids to be doing this?" I didn't raise any kids, nor have I really spent much time with them in general. Do I really know what I am doing?
But when I look around, it seems like we are doing alright. There are smiles and a healthy amount goofing off and giggling. I remind myself that I was, in fact, a kid myself, once upon a time, so I know plenty. This kid has been around the block, and she was also lots of fun. Back in the day I would happily spend all day at the theater rehearsing a show, sniggering with my show-friends, and loving being onstage, and I think these kids are having a good time too. They will wow you with their beautiful voices and the creative approaches they are taking with their roles.
Scene by scene, I encourage them to add more layers to their characters. Last week we went around the circle and talked about each character's personality - we've got a "class clown", a "hopeless romantic" a "bully" a "know-it-all, some "mean girls" a girl with "something to prove", a "gossip" and many other personas. We are playing with the dynamics of how they interact with each other, and coming up with both fun and funny moments, as well as some truly moving ones.
It is very satisfying to see how it is all coming together - and that we are all getting along just fine - despite my lack of kidsperience. I can't say at this point that I've found my calling, but the kids and I are perfectly alright. Don't miss their wonderful performances!
And the adults in this show? Well they are quite spectacular too...including the talented musicians offering pre-show Celtic music!