NEVER AGAIN. NEVER FORGET by Thomas Putnam
Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There was a saying following World War II regarding the extermination of 6 million Jews, 15,000 people who identify as homosexual, and nearly a million people who were formerly known as Gypsies and now more accurately identified as Roma. That saying is/was “NEVER AGAIN.” And yet, the intolerance for those who are different from ourselves seems to be increasing rather than never happening again.
HG has some ties with the Holocaust. The HG Choral Program began as a result of a production of I NEVER SAW ANOTHER BUTTERFLY with lyrics by children of Terezin in what is now the Czech Republic. We produced it, we sang it; we took two busloads of singers and their families to The Czech Republic and visited Terezin. We visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. shortly after it opened. We produced a play called AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME about Jews in The Netherlands who are imprisoned during WWII.
When we hear of anti-Semitic attacks recently, the resolute “NEVER AGAIN” doesn't make sense. How can we be going backwards? How can people continue to believe that Jews and Roma and Gays and any who people who are different from ourselves are a threat or inferior or dangerous simply because they are different? Where is the simple exercise of kindness, of welcoming, of acceptance?
In the past year I've seen two theatre productions regarding persecution of people who are Jewish. At Chautauqua I saw Paula Vogel's INDECENT and was simply blown away by the power and beauty of this exploration of antisemitism and homophobia. In NYC I saw the incredible production of Tom Stoppard's LEOPOLDSTADT; three generations of people who are Jewish and the devastatingly tragic effects of antisemitism.
I've quoted playwright Lauren Gunderson a number of times in the last few years. Something like “Theatre's superpower is empathy.” Empathy. Exercising empathy. Oh, what a dream that is where empathy is manifest. Can—should—HG exercise empathy? Is there anything that HG could do to further the resolute hope of “NEVER AGAIN?” Let us remember. NEVER FORGET.
LOOKING BACK at the CHORAL CELEBRATION of the MISSION OF MLK by Barbara Biddison
It certainly was a celebration on January 16 at the Wellsboro HS
Auditorium. Six local choirs/choruses/ensembles, and soloists, as
well as five individuals presenting "The Radical Legacy of MLK" in
spoken word. The auditorium was nearly full. And the audience joined in singing familiar songs from "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to "Blowin' in the Wind." Informative, inspiring, appropriate--all of it.
We do love to sing here in Wellsboro! The youngest HG children looked to be maybe 9 or 10, and I won't guess at ages for the Women's and Men's Choruses but some of them aren't 50 anymore! And we love to
speak too, as evidenced in the spoken word sections. This may be the only time during the year that we get to sing together, on the same stage. So who do we get to thank for all this reminder and celebration and annual attention to Martin Luther King Jr. It all runs so smoothly that we don't even think about "Whose idea was this?
and how did all these singers have something so appropriate to offer?" Well, of course the singing groups rehearse on their own, and that demands a commitment. But it's Thomas Putnam who starts it up, gets the ball
rolling, has new ideas (such as the spoken word component this year) and of course rehearses his own choirs who will sing.. It is a noble reminder that we all appreciate and benefit from each year.
There are many reasons to love living in Wellsboro, This Choral Celebration is one of them. It's way at the top of my list!
[Many thanks to all the directors and accompanists of the choral groups, all the singers and instrumentalists, all the tech folk, all the behind the scenes folk, all the readers, and Ashley Wilson. It takes a village... twp]
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, MARTIN? By Thomas Putnam
Remember the movie and the song from 60's “What's It All About, Alfie?” Dionne Warwick sang the title song; and we heard it over and over on the radio. It became one of those running lines that seemed to work its way into many conversations: What's it all about...?" The song continues: “Is it just for the moment we live? ….are we meant to be kind?...I believe in love Alfie...Without true love we just exist.”
What's it all about, Martin? We are having a recognition of the mission and legacy of Martin Luther King next week and I've found myself asking “What's it all about, Martin?” As coordinator for this annual event, I wonder where we are, now nearly 60 years after MLK was assassinated, and coincidentally the movie/song mentioned above. Is setting aside one evening out of the year to sing a few songs that might have something to do with a black man who worked hard to make sure our country treated all citizens with respect.
Is there more? What else could we possibly do in almost monochromatically white Tioga County? Aren't all the citizens in Tioga County treated with respect? There really aren't any differences in the way people are treated due to their color or economic level or religion or political leaning or place of origin, are there? What's it all about, Martin?
The exploration this coming Monday night will hopefully provide some questions. I've long since realized that questions are a whole lot more meaningful and enriching and challenging and nourishing than answers. Join us on Monday night at 7:00 at Wellsboro High School auditorium and let's ask some questions together.
2023 BEGINS! by Thomas Putnam
We are delighted to begin the 2023 Season with two wonderful productions: a Winter Theatre Arts Camp for students in the Northern Tioga School District, and an hilarious adult comedy. The camp for fourth-tenth grades will run from January 12-February 4 and will culminate with a dazzling production of the
wildly popular musical CATS (Student Edition) by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Information and registration form can be obtained by contacting the Hamilton-Gibson Productions office at 570.724.2079 or email@example.com, or viewing the hamiltongibson website, or the individual school offices. Registrations are due no later than January 6. The camp will be held at the Clark Wood School Auditorium in Elkland and costs only the commitment to the camp, due to a generous grant from the Deerfield Charitable Trust.
EXIT LAUGHNIG by Paul Elliott is a laugh-out-loud fun-filled story of three middle-aged women who
are all feeling lost when the fourth of their bridge club has up and died on them. For nearly three decades
the three of them have supported and encouraged each other and life just doesn't seem complete without
their fourth. One of them has the bright (and illegal) idea of “borrowing” their friend's ashes—from the
funeral home—and bringing them to the weekly bridge night. What ensues is a wild ride of an evening as
the three bare their hidden souls and explore a whole new way of approaching life—while they have it.
Add a distraught daughter who has been stood up one too many times by a boy friend, and a visit from the
law, and plenty of beverage therapy, and the night is one they—and you—will never forget.
Auditions for this welcomed bit of sunshine in the midst of a grey winter will be Friday, December 30, 1:30PM Warehouse Theatre Wednesday, January 4, 6:30 Warehouse Theatre Thursday, January 5, 6:30 Warehouse Theatre No experience is required to audition. Three middle-aged women and one college-age woman; one
college-age-looking man. All races and creeds and political persuasions are encouraged to audition. All
must be comfortable in their own bodies; the man must be in excellent physical shape (the “buffer” the
better.) Performances are March 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12 at the Warehouse Theatre.
THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY CHILDHOOD By Thomas Putnam
Many infants learn nursery rhymes or a parent's favorite pop song at a very early age. I learned Handel's MESSIAH. And not just the Hallelujah Chorus. I learned it all. It was part of the air in our household. And not just at Christmas time. Pretty much from early October through May I was baptized in the choruses and solos of this great work of art.
My dad was a bass soloist. He was also a choral conductor. So a huge community men's chorus, and a large church choir, and a huge high school choir under his direction all sang portions of MESSIAH. And since he was a soloist, I heard all of bass solos almost as many times as I ate grilled cheese and tomato soup watching Walt Disney on Sunday evenings.
Mom was an alto soloist. She directed a large community women's chorus, taught in elementary schools and was part of weekday music group. Those solos were simply part of the soundtrack of our childhood. How many kids absentmindedly sing “He Shall Feed His Flock” whilst in the bathtub?
I wouldn't change that childhood soundtrack for anything. When the tenor first intoned the words “Comfort Ye” I settled in for musical soulful massage for a few hours. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” filled me with a sense of mystery that I didn't experience anywhere else. A kid woudn't have to understand or even believe the words in a Christian perspective, but this kid knew that something really great was going on, and much of that something was mystery and an awe of creation. How does a musician come up with this stuff? It's a mystery.
You can experience some of that mystery this Sunday at 2:30 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro. You can listen or you can sing along on the choruses. You can let the rich voices of MU students sing the solos. You can open yourself up to the joy and strength of community. Bring your infants and toddlers and let them be baptized in this glorious work. “Comfort ye...”
THE ADVENTURES OF AN USHER by Barbara Biddison
I signed up to volunteer my time in the Deane Center Coolidge Theatre
where Hamilton-Gibson's A CHRISTMAS CAROL was playing. There were three performances on that "Dickens of a Christmas" day, and my noon to 2:00 slot included the 1:30 show. "So, what's so adventurous about that?" you may ask. I say it all depends on how a person views
I started out maybe 45 minutes before the show began, and it was then that the people began lining up. What to do with a couple dozen folks, ages ranging from infant to those as old as I am, as they waited, and waited, for the theatre door to open. I decided to give them programs "to read a bit in good light," as they stood patiently.
As soon as they were allowed in, a few decided they needed to know, "Do I have time to go to the bathroom?" They did, so out they went and back in again, as more joined the line..
Then as the line grew longer and fatter, it began to rain HARD. And there is a door to the outside where the line had formed. So the decision was made,to quickly bring the "costume judging" event inside. And, of course, they needed to bring all their dripping wet equipment and a few costumed people in that very door. We did a little "hallway dance of sorts" and managed all that in good spirits.
Finally we opened the door to the theatre to all who stood in line, and we had plenty of time to spare. Except that there were some who had tickets who had not shown up yet. The preshow singin' dancin' group of young people, under Thomas Putnam's direction, filled some more time before the announced !:30 beginning of the actual "Christmas Carol." With moments to spare a lovely woman with an adorable infant in arms came out and asked if she had time to "change the baby." She did as the baby continued to smile. And back she went to her seat. This is a "family show" after all.
When I left the Coolidge I walked down to the Methodist Church where Wellsboro Women's Chorus was scheduled to sing at 2:30.On the way I saw Putnam with his crowd of kids joyfully moving up Main Street!
singing and adding to the spirit of the day. After all these years the Dickens spirit shines through, snow in other years and rain and threats of rain up to this year. But I've seen smiling faces on people who live here and those who visit....since the Dickens event began. Thanks to all groups and individuals who put it all together, and to HG's Tara Gordon who is newly serving as volunteer chair for Hamilton Gibson's events.
I'M THANKFUL FOR … by Barbara Biddison
It's time to make a list again. I had a birthday a day ago, and Thanksgiving is coming soon. So, I spent some time thinking about how fortunate I am that I get to be old.
When I was 11 we moved to south Texas where my parents began a new venture and opened Flavor Isle, and I spent time after school and on weekends singing with my mother in this ice cream shop. We harmonized.
I was never part of the "popular" group of girls, but I had a few really good friends. A couple of them lived just down the street from me, and they (sisters) had horses and rode them. They also had a pet bird that flew freely around the house. Another was also my debate partner. Yet another had older brothers which I didn't have, and I loved being part of their family too. So, there were good times even though this Minnesota girl didn't understand 90 degrees on Christmas Day! Wellsboro life began for my family (husband and sons) in 1969. At last, familiar winters!
Fast forward to now. I get to be old enough to have adult sons and their wives and to have grandchildren, and to have them actually want to visit a few times a year. (And to NOT have them live ",right next door," thus being able to admire how they have found their own
lives which they live admirable well.)
Thirty-some years ago I found Hamilton-Gibson as it was just beginning. And I am old enough to have seen its growth and its connection to the community where I live. In 1993 I was present for the beginnings of the HG youth choirs as children performed in "I Never Saw Another Butterfly." I saw "Driving Miss Daisy" in '95. and HG has not so far been able to cast that play since then--we've tried! I saw the first "You Can't Take It With You" and the first "Quilters" in 1998. And in 2000 I was one of 3 sisters in "Goodbye Howard," an hour-long one-act. I think 2001 was the first time for HG and the Red Garter Review. My first year to act in a full-length regular play was 2005 in which Thomas played "The Foreigner" in the play by that name. We were still in the Don Gill all-purpose room then for all "mainstage shows." In 2007 HG toured a children's show, "Once Upon a Shoe," in which I was Mother Goose and my husband was Mr. Smith, and the touring 8 children played children for 30 performances on gym floors and cafeteria rooms in surrounding counties.
I've been cast in lotsa plays, and there are no favorites. Except the “Our Town/Laramie Project” combination. Most of us were cast in both and we alternated shows night after night in a 3/4 round arrangement that has since become something else. That's probably a good place to stop this ramble There are many things that have become something else! It is good that they were what they were when they were that. And I'm thankful for now, and here comes Thanksgiving!
MERMAIDS LEAVE EARLY by Barbara Biddison
Their on-stage friend had to go away, and mermaids are such faithful creatures; they just couldn't go on without him. They had planned to stay for a second weekend, but that was not to be. We are left with good memories.
Coffee brewing at the Sea Hags B&B and a snowstorm brewing outside. A floundering bed-and-breakfast back to life and a mermaid rescued, too. True love found, and a surprise pet dog. A new mermaid on land meeting old, really old, ones. We all got to decide whether the old ones were foolish or not!
Women in tech and production positions: Director, Producer, Prop and Costume finders, Lights-and-sound runners, Backstage ins-and-outs of theatre production, graphics/poster maker. And thanks to set-building help from two guys. And nothing like this ever happens without promotion and sponsors, which for this production happen to be almost all women. Well, there we are.
We're sorry for those who are unable to see the show this weekend, but if we've learned anything the past two years, we realize that anything can happen and plans can be changed in a moment. Onward. We move on to December filled with Dickens and A Christmas Carol, and The Messiah...and we keep the good memories.
My New Friends, The Mermaids by Barbara Biddison
I met some new friends last night. Thomas's last blog encourages me
to let them "take up residence for as long as they'd like to stay."
Well, these mermaids seem to have ended up on dry land, and on the HG
Warehouse Theatre stage where I found them rehearsing for FOOLISH
FISHGIRLS AND THE PEARL. That made for a fun evening.. So, I'm going
to let them take up residence for a while.
The cast has some familiar faces (and acting history with HG). So
I'll smile remembering a few from past shows: Anne Acker as the
sister in THE LAST ROMANCE, Judith Sornberger in CALENDAR GIRLS,
Lexa VanDuesen as the dog in SYLVIA,, Pat Balon in WEDDING BELLES. and Titus Himmelberger as Pierre in THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT. So in this FISHGIRL show they are all somebody else, including
not-yet-mentioned Robin Gaige and Brett Kennedy. (That's what happens in theatre--you get to be somebody else.). And, Linda Young, whose stage set/construction we have all admired before, is directing this show.
I saw this rehearsal on November 2nd. The show opens on November 11th. During those ten days is when all the extra bits and pieces come to life. I love seeing rehearsals at this point. No scripts in sight. Lines are there, except for a few flubs sprinkled throughout. Character interactions are clearly developing. The old mermaids and
the new are revealed to be what they are and how they got to be there. The newest mermaid has the sweetest "chirp" you've ever heard. Floyd starts out as a real pain, demanding his breakfast and such, and turns
out to be not quite what we thought. The audience should come prepared to laugh AND to pay close attention as this mermaid story develops. It is a fun show for sure, and still the story has more depth than you might expect from mermaids.
And now to end with my expression of gratitude for the HGWP (Hamilton-Gibson Women's Project). In 2016 Thomas Putnam expressed the need for "more opportunities for women" to participate in the HG family "We
have to do something." Linda Iseri looked at me and said, `` I guess that's us." Almost immediately thereafter Lillace Guignard joined in to make the initial trio. Soon Clare Ritter and then Jessie Thompson ....and if I try to go further with names I will leave someone out. Now it's all of us with room for those who "just want more" and for those who want to "give it a try." Even mermaids.
Muddy Pants Can Spark by Thomas Putnam
I was able to sit in on a rehearsal of the upcoming production of Foolish Fishgirls and the Pearl the other night. I sat there wondering what this playwright does in her spare time and what was the event or thought or item that might lead a person to come up with the idea of three women of a certain age...who just happen to be mermaids. We've read that “there's nothing new under the sun,” but I think maybe there is something new here.
Besides my curiosity about what sparked the idea for such a story (Remember Faulkner's spark for The Sound and the Fury was in one of his short stories, "Twilight." He had created the character of a little girl, Caddy, in this story. In a scene where Caddy has climbed a pear tree to look into the window where her grandmother's funeral is being held, her brothers are looking up at her and they see her muddy pants. Faulkner claimed he loved the character of Caddy so much that he felt she deserved more than a short story. And that lead to The Sound and the Fury!) I thought about the two main characters and the women who were playing them. It's one of the great perks of being involved in a small-ish community theatre to not only see the wide variety of sets that appear on the same stage, but even more to see people playing completely different characters in completely different plays.
Pat Balon and Anne Acker inhabit the little inn in which the story takes place. They're sisters. I wondered when the HGWP decided to produce this play who might show up for auditions and who might be cast in these roles. I was delighted upon discovering that these two had auditioned and were cast.
I first worked with Pat in a play called Wedding Belles. She had auditioned for Driving Miss Daisy, along with a number of other women, but we couldn't produce that one because we could not find a Hoke. So we substituted Wedding Belles and were able to cast nearly everyone who auditioned for Daisy, which has only one woman character. Pat was great in the play and my admiration for her dedication and talent began. A few years later we took the risk of scheduling a two person play, one man and one woman, and Pat auditioned and once again demonstrated her talent and commitment in a role in which she never leaves the stage. And did I mention that she's fun? She played in two of our short plays we produced during a Covid summer and again was delightful to work with in two very different roles.
I had heard about Anne for years before actually finally meeting her. She was in a number of productions in Coudersport where she then lived and I kept hearing about this talented singer and actor. She ended up moving to Wellsboro and I'm sure she did so she could be in HG plays! In The Last Romance she played an elderly bossy, hovering sister to her even more elderly brother. Every time she walked on stage one could sense the audience ready to welcome her, this lovable, funny old woman. You may have heard Anne sing in a variety of venues around the area, too!
Both of these women had never worked together, but it's clear they are working together in this play. It's great fun to see them in these roles. I wonder if the playwright had two aunts or two neighbor ladies who talked and yelled and loved and were just plain funny. And they probably had funny names...and maybe muddy pants... and they were endearing. and needed more than a short story. Sounds like a spark to me.