WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU HEARD PAUL MCCARTNEY DIED? By Thomas Putnam
I can remember when the news broke about Paul McCartney's death. I had this huge wave of despair and emptiness and heavy sadness. I can remember where I was, lying on the couch in our living room. Somehow, however, I seem to remember it in the living room of my childhood and not the one of my high school years; somehow the dates don't match up. I know I couldn't have imagined such news, but how do the dates not match up? The rumor began, I think in '66 and really gained speed in '69.
Radio and records were not really a big thing for me when I was growing up. The Beatles were certainly part of the landscape, and I clearly remember watching the Ed Sullivan Show in '64 and wondering why everyone was screaming, but thinking “Oh, that would be kinda cool to have everyone screaming for me.” Yeah...well...at that point I couldn't play guitar or drums or write songs; though I wasn't particularly thrilled with “Yeah, yeah, yeah” as anything of much worth.
A whole host of forgotten memories have been flooding back the past few months as the HG Choirs prepare for an “All Beatles” concert on March 18 and 19. I'm not sure how the idea came about, but one morning as I was slowly waking up (slowly seems to be the operative word these days for my mornings) the thought kept wafting through my brain that there are so many incredibly good songs written by the Beatles that our HG kids ought to sing some of them.
A REALITY CHECK hit me when I realized that some of these songs are nearly 60 years old. These kids weren't born yet. Heck, some of their parents and grandparents hadn't been born yet. I'm seeing this as an educational experience for these kids who love to sing. As I began to introduce the songs to them, a few kids admitted they had never even heard of the Beatles, let alone such haunting tunes and lyrics found in “Eleanor Rigby” or “Yesterday.” I asked them a few weeks ago what was the appeal of the song “Blackbird” and one of them said “It's comforting.” One said they could identify with Eleanor Rigby, “...wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” And “Ob La Di Ob La Da” sure is a lot of fun to sing. And what is the back story to these characters: Jude and Eleanor and Lucy and Desmond?
Yeah, I remember when I heard that McCartney had died, but I'm so glad he didn't and I'm so glad that I can explore these songs with cool harmonies and haunting melodies and challenging lyrics with the HG singers. (Well, maybe not “yeah, yeah, yeah.”) Hope you can join us and Penny Eckman and Houston Baker and his band on March 18 and 19 at the Coolidge.
WHERE WE ARE, TWO WEEKS OUT by Thomas Putnam
So, two weeks from tonight we're opening a show. One of my sons (now mid-30s) has always said that the few weeks prior to a show opening I was a total nut case, a mess, a distracted lack-of-a-father. He's still talking to me, so I guess he survived a multitude of “the few weeks prior.” At first I rejected his assessment, but I've come to realize that it's a true one.
So where are we, two weeks out? Well... The set is getting close to being finished: walls are painted, most of the furniture has been located and now inhabits the stage, lights and sound still need some very focused attention. Costumes are contemporary, so not a big concern...except a few novelty items, but they've been ordered from eBay and are on the way. And the cast?
We're at the place where I sit back and admire my casting ability. Actually, it's more like overflowing with gratitude that these folks auditioned and are perfect for their roles. The process of the whole production is probably the most fulfilling for me. To begin with five people—actually we began with three of the five cast members and just recently secured the other two—who had not worked together before and who have a wide variety of acting experience and who have lives that sometimes don't allow them to be present for rehearsals and who slowly begin to memorize lines and find a character, and who now, two weeks before opening are cracking me up with their easy repartee with each other and their delivery of lines and engagement with the scene...well...it's glorious.
Last night we had a very cool rehearsal. We're digging into a portion of the play that has been less visited than others and slowly worked through it. To take those words on a page and turn them into something alive and fun and meaningful and honest is something wonderful.
Two weeks out? We're at the place now where I can hope everyone will see this production. There's plenty to chew on and admire and appreciate, and there's plenty of laughs to help you through these gray days of late winter. EXIT LAUGHING...wouldn't we all like to. See you in two weeks.
MIDDLE SCHOOL PRESENTS THE LION KING JR by Barbara Biddison
The Wellsboro High School auditorium was packed with little kids and adults and big kids, and there was an excited buzz in the air on the night of February 10th. It was Opening Night!! Sixty-some names appear on the program as cast and ensemble as well as staff and crew and interns. A few of this number are adults and high school interns, but the great majority represent the middle school.
This was an extraordinary opportunity for so many to participate in live theatre. Of course there were lots of lions. But I think I was most enchanted by the girafes. And this brings me to costume making which was clearly an important part of this show. There is so much more than acting when a school puts on a production like this.
Parents and school teachers and cooks and backstage and technical production staff, and I'm sure adults in charge of getting all these young people fed here and there along the way. And making arrangements for rehearsal space, and figuring out all the technical aspects It's a grand learning experience.
Wellsboro schools have been good at trying to offer this experience over many years In the
time between now and 32 years ago there was no Hamilton-Gibson to fill in and provide an even broader experience. When the now Middle School was a Junior High, Pat Davis managed to produce THE WIZARD OF OZ with 7th through 9th graders. And around the same time the same high school auditorium that we have now offered my older son the
opportunity to play Frank Butler in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and, a few years later, my younger son the role of Tevya in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.
Now HG offers multiple theatre experiences for our area youth, including drama camps for the whole surrounding area. And the Wellsboro schools continue, when they can, to offer theatre and chorus and band. and all those good fine arts activities.
KUDDOS to all those who make this happen right here where we all live!!!!