Archive | July, 2014
31 Jul

Saw this on Facebook today. Not sure how true it is. If it is, it’s sad.

Callithump at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in WInona, MN

30 Jul
Rating:


out of 5 cowbells.

What does Callithump mean? Who knows? The closest entry on Wikipedia was for Calathumpian, which is a term used to describe a religion or philosophy in its infancy. According to Wikipedia, it comes from the Latin “calathus”, which is the term for rubbish bin. This definitely did not describe last night.

Callithump at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN is a variety show put on by the cast and crew of the Festival. Its primary purpose is as a fundraiser for the Festival. I think it also gives everyone a chance to blow off some steam and have fun. The costumes were primarily Festival t-shirts, especially the Callithump t-shirts. The slogan was, “Let the sky rain potatoes,” a reference to Merry Wives of Windsor. Winona National Bank handed out cowbells to everyone to make noise. It almost reminded me of the Saturday Night Live sketch, “We need more cowbell!”  It started with an opening song featuring the entire cast. Other acts were a conversation between Shakespeare and another writer trying to edit the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet. There was also a sketch called “John and Robert are Dead,” a parody of R&G are dead, using Mrs. Ford’s servants from Merry Wives. Other sketches were a discussion of the poison scene in Hamlet, which turned into an Abbott and Costello routine, There was also a routine called “Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroines,” based on “He Had It Coming” from “Chicago.” A sketch with an audience member, a magic show, slam poetry, and musical numbers completed the evening. There was also an Accessories Parade, where cast members made up costumes and paraded them across the stage. In between, there was Seat Swag, where

The whole evening was a lot of fun. Thanks to Winona National Bank for sponsoring the evening. Special mention to Lauren Smith, Kate Ocker, and Brian White for pulling this off, and to Jonelle Moore for being the accompanist. The one minor issue is that sometimes the music drowned out some of the solo singers. That’s a minor fix, though, for next year. Also, great job by all the performers. They were Benjamin Bocvalt, robert Montgomery, Bryan White, Steve Hendrickson, Gerrad Taylor Will Koch, Greg Ivan Smith, Michael Fitzpatric, Catie Osborn, Jenni McCarthy, Ted Kitterman, Emily Kurash, Leslie Brott, John Maltese, Andrew Carlson, Chris Mixon, Oriana Lada, Caroline Amos, Emily Hawkins, Allison Morse, Jess Shoemaker, Sigrid Sutter, Tarah Flanagan, the casts of the shows, the Interns, and the Young Actors. If I left anyone out, it’s only for space.

All in all, a great show. By the time the closing number, a parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, came around, everyone was waving their glow sticks, and celebrating. This definitely did not belong in the rubbish bin. My rating: 5 of 5 cowbells.

For more information on the Great River Shakespeare Festival, go to www.grsf.org.

For more information on Winona, MN, go to www.visitwinona.com.

For the Wikipedia article, click here.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare, performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

28 Jul

The TempestThe Tempest by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s last plays. Prospero, exiled Duke of Milan, lives on a island with his spirit Ariel, his slave Caliban, and his daughter Miranda. He has the ability to control everyone on the island by use of his staff and his books. A ship carrying Prospero’s brother Antonio, his other brother Sebastian, Alonso, King of Naples, Ferdinand, Alonso’s son, Trinculo and Stephano, the king’s servants, and Gonzalo, a kindly courrtier, is shipwrecked on the island, with a storm caused by Prospero himself. Ferdinand is separated from the group, then meets and falls in love with Miranda. Prospero gives Ferdinand several tests to prove his love to Mirands. Meanwhile, Trinculo and Stephano encounter Caliban, get him drunk, and persuade him to serve Stephano as his new master. Prospero eventually joins Ferdinand and Miranda in marriage, and forgives the wrongs all of the others have done. Prospero then asks the audience to release him so he can go to Naples.

This is one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays. Some have suggested that Prospero is actually Shakespeare himself, saying goodbye to the theater. (He wrote Henry VIII and collaborated on The Two Noble Kinsmen, so we know that’s not true.) It has some classic lines, such as, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” and “O brave new world, which has such creatures in’t.” (This is where Aldous Huxley got the title for his novel, Brave New World.) It’s also been suggested that the island is actually a reference to America. This was written in 1610-11, so some of the reports from the Jamestown colony in what is now Virginia would have fascinated the audience. Another culture reference is Ariel, which is the name Disney gave to The Little Mermaid in 1989.

The production was by the the Shakespeare for Young Actors and Designers program of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN. This program is for students in grade school through high school. They had 3 weeks to put the performance together. Some worked on acting, some on design, both of costumes and set dressing. The basic set was that used for Hamlet.

The play was condensed to fit in a 90 minute time frame, with no intermission. Since mostly girls had signed up for the program, most of the parts were played by girls. Given that in Shakespeare’s time, all of the parts were played by men, this is an interesting role reversal. The actors did well. There were so many actors this year, some roles were played by 2 or 3 different people. (If I leave names out, it is only for space limitations.) Special commendations to the following:

Lauren Callahan and Emma Dalen as Prospero. They switched off in the middle of the play, and got back together at the end.
Raelynn Peter as Miranda. In the play, Miranda is 15. She’s probably about that age, so it worked out perfectly.
Anna Scholz-Carlson as Ferdinand. She was able to play the part convincingly.
Emma Bucknam, Olivia Templeton, and Emma Wilson as Ariel. They played Ariel as a group of 3.
Violet Richardson and Eva Scholz-Carlson as Caliban. They switched off in the middle of the play.
Emma Wilson as Iris, Haley Donnal as Ceres, and Qiana Norris as Juno. They had relatively brief parts in this play, but they did well.
Stephanie Shaw as Alonso, Emily Schwermer as Sebastian, Jordon Prochnow as Antonio, Alayna Merchlewitz as Gonzalo, and Emma Wilson as Adrian. Extra commendation to Emma Wilson for taking on 3 roles.
Jackson Mixon as Trinculo and Jake Carlson as Stephano. The only 2 boys in the cast, they provided the comic relief.
Haley Donnal as the Boatswain and Qiana Norris as Master of the Ship. Again, small roles, but effective.

The program was started 4 years ago by Andrew Carlson, who plays Hamlet this year, as well as Dr Caius in Merry Wives of Windsor. He serves now as one of the instructors. This year, the lead instructor and director of the play is Tarah Flanagan, who plays Mrs. Ford in Merry Wives of Windsor. It is a tribute to her dedication and effectiveness that she makes time for this while taking on her other roles in the play. I would also like to recognize all of the other cast members who assisted in the instruction. They are Greg Ivan Smith, Gale Childs Daly, Michael Fitzpatrick, Christopher Gerson, John Maltese, Jenni McCarthy, Robert Montgomery, Sigrid Sutter, and Brian White. They helped make this play excellent.

For the designers, Lauren Smith was the primary instructor, assisted by Megan Morey and Jenn Oswald. They exhibited their work in the lobby of the theater. It was interesting to see the designs they came up with, then to see how they translated into real life. Special notice to Lauren Smith, who is also the education coordinator for the Festival, and has a lot of other duties. Again, the quality of the production is a testament to their dedication.

All in all, a great performance. I look forward in the coming years to seeing many of these actors and designers on the Main Stage at the Festival.

For more information on the Great River Shakespeare Festival, including the Shakespeare for Young Actors and Designers programs, visit www.grsf.org.

For more information on Winona, MN, visit www.visitwinona.com.

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Troilus and Cressida, performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

24 Jul

Troilus and CressidaTroilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Troilus and Cressida is not one of Shakespeare’s better known plays. In Shakespeare’s time, it was a box-office flop. When the play was later published, it came with an introduction that said it was “unsoil’d by the stage,” which scholars believe is not true. The introduction was a way to salvage its reputation.

The play takes place during the Trojan Wars. It starts 7 years in. Paris, a Trojan, has kidnapped Helen, and fallen in love with her. Helen of Troy is “the face that launched 1000 ships.” A narrator (shades of Henry V) gives us the basics of the action. Troilus, the king’s son, is in love with Cressida, whose father has joined the Greeks. Pandarus, Cressida’s uncle, tries to persuade Trolius to marry Cressida, even as they prepare for war. On the Greek side, generals Agamemnon and Ulysses prepare for war against the Trojans. They receive a notice from Hector, the Trojan warrior, that he will call out one of their warriors. The seemingly obvious choice is Achilles, who is a famed warrior, but very arrogant. Ulysses devises a plan to have Ajax, another good warrior, but not as vain, battle Hector. Meanwhile, Pandarus arranges for Troilus and Cressida to meet. They get married that night, and go immediately to the bedchamber (shades of Romeo and Juliet). Cassandra, daughter to the king, has a vision that Hector will be killed, and urges him not to go. Just when the romance heats up, Troilus and Cressida learn that she is to be exchanged to the Greeks for a Trojan warrior. She leaves, though not voluntarily. In the meantime, Ajax has now started to become as vain as Achilles was. He is set to fight Hector, but Hector discovers that Ajax is half-Greek, half-Trojan, so the battle is called off. Ulysses takes Troilus to see Cressida, only to find that Cressida is romantically involved with Diomedes. In the ensuing battle, Achilles kills Hector. This becomes the mourning cry of the Trojans. The play ends with Pandarus asking for medicine for his aching bones.

This play was the intern/apprentice project at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN. Interns from all over the United States are auditioned for a role at the Festival. The interns work tirelessly throughout the Festival, whether it is in the box office, at the concession stand, and many other roles. The acting interns will understudy for the Main Stage Players. This actually happened last year, when one of the Main Stage Players lost her voice, and another actor needed to be with his sick wife. One of last year’s interns became a Main Stage Player this year. This production is their time to shine.

This play is not staged often, so there is no other comparison for the performance. It emphasizes the erotic side of the relationships. There is a bedroom scene with Paris and Helen, where Helen is wearing only a bra top and panties, and starts to get into it with Paris. Pandarus breaks in to generate some humor, but we know what has happened. There is also the scene with Troilus and Cressida the morning after their wedding, where Cressida is wearing only the bedsheet. There is also a homoerotic relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, which is played with great intensity

The play itself is disjointed. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a comedy, romance, drama, or history. This may be why it wasn’t well received in Shakespeare’s time. That said, this production is a good one. It was stage in the Black Box Theatre, a smaller theater with seats around the edges of a large open space, and the action taking place in the open space. It is similar to theater in the round, but rectangular.

It was a bit jarring to see women cast in the roles of Agamemnon and Ulysses, and have them portrayed as women. (Shades of Xena, the Warrior Princess, a TV show popular in the 1990s.) Jessica Shoemaker (Agamemnon) and Emily Hawkins (Ulysses) manage to pull it off. They make it believable that, were they not playing actual historical figures, could be generals.

Robbie Love (Patroclas) at times plays his part like Jack on Will & Grace, with the over-the-top behavior. At other times, he shows off the erotic side with Achilles.

As for Silas Sellnow as Achilles, he is made up to look like Brad Pitt. He effectively conveys the image of someone who is full of himself, and has no time for anyone else, including the generals.

Caroline Amos as Thersites provides much comic relief. She also provides the drum, which punctuates the scenes. Sbe is also the chorus part, commenting on the action and at times moving it along.

Oriana Lada does double duty as Helen and Cassandra. As Helen, she flaunts her sexuality, and makes it clear why Paris would want her, and why she is the face that launched 1000 ships. (see the bedroom scene I described earlier) As Cassandra, she wails her prophecy, such that you want to yell out to Hector, “It’s a trap! Don’t go!” Both are effective. If I hadn’t seen it in my program, I wouldn’t have believed they were both played by the same person.

Riley O’Toole is great as Pandarus. He often provides comic relief, as he is primarily focused on his own needs.

Ted Kitterman as Ajax does well, first portraying Ajax as humble, then as a proud warrior, ready to take on any opponent, real or imagined.

Last but not least are Rob Glauz (Troilus) and Allison Morse (Cressida). At first, Troilus is portrayed as a shy lover, who is afraid to talk to Cressida, even at the insistent urging of Pandarus. Eventually, though, he breaks through, and becomes her lover and her husband. Cressida is more certain of her love for Troilus, and weeps at first when she is required to leave. She is conflicted about meeting up with Diomedes, but eventually gives in. Both of these actors portray this well. You believe that they belong together.

If I didn’t mention anyone here, it is only for lack of space. All did well, and I look forward to seeing them in their other roles soon.

For more information on the Festival, including the intern/apprentice project, go to www.grsf.org.

For more information on Winona, go to www.visitwinona.com.

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Dick Vitale’s Living a Dream

19 Jul

Dick Vitale's Living a Dream: Reflections on 25 Years Sitting in the Best Seat in the HouseDick Vitale’s Living a Dream: Reflections on 25 Years Sitting in the Best Seat in the House by Dick Vitale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from an Express Employment seminar.

Yo, it’s Dickie V, baby! He beat the ziggy and became a PTPer at ESPN! It’s awesome, baby!

Anyone who understands that statement has heard Dick Vitale call games on ESPN and ABC. He first came on the network in 1979, and has been there ever since. He wrote this book in 2003 to celebrate his 25th anniversary on ESPN. Even he recognizes that he wouldn’t have been hired by any other network. He didn’t fit the mold. Ironically, he probably wouldn’t be hired at ESPN today. Everyone is buttoned down. Dick Vitale is an entertainer. Someone once said, “I didn’t talk to Dick Vitale for 6 months. I didn’t want to interrupt him.” Reading this book 11 years later, I noticed some things that were very prescient. He has an entire chapter on LeBron James, talking about what kind of an impact he would have on the NBA. As I was reading this, ESPN had 2 networks simultaneously discussing his decision to return to Cleveland. (It might have been 3, but I don’t get ESPNEWS.) Dickie V got that one right. He wasn’t so good at predicting other things, though. On page 219 he says, “[T]he greatest role models are those who have done things the right way an made good decisions their entire lives–baseball stars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez[.]” If he were writing that today, A-Rod wouldn’t be on there.

He also laments a lot of the changes in college basketball, especially players who opted to skip college and go straight to the NBA. He wrote this before the one and done rule, which states that a player can’t enter the draft until after his first year in college. This was also before the lawsuit by Ed O’Bannon and other former college players saying that they are owed money for the NCAA’s use of their names and likenesses in video games and other marketing materials. He would have a lot to say about that. He does talk about his personal life, and how things have worked out for him and his family. A bit dated, but all in all a good book.

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E-mail subscriptions

9 Jul

I now have e-mail subscriptions my blog. Just enter your e-mail on the right side of my blog, and you’ll get an e-mail when there’s a new post. You can also follow me on Networked Blogs, GFC, and Bloglovin.

I Will Never Forget

8 Jul

I Will Never Forget: A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous and Humorous Journey Through DementiaI Will Never Forget: A Daughter’s Story of Her Mother’s Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia by Elaine C. Pereira
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

I had an aunt who had Alzheimer’s. She used to watch my brother and I while my mom was at work. My cousins started noticing small things that she was doing that didn’t add up. She’d forget things too easily. They had to take her checkbook away and get her on direct deposit for Social Security, since she had forgotten to deposit some checks. They had paid $5000 for a hearing aid, but she didn’t wear it, or wore it without turning on the batteries. The big moment was when my uncle died. He was a World War II veteran, so they had the flag ceremony at the gravesite. When the honor guard presented my aunt with the flag, she was confused. She didn’t understand that she was supposed to take the flag. It was then that everyone knew she was having problems.

I couldn’t help think of that when I read this book. The author recounts elements of her childhood, how happy it was, and some of the mistakes. Such events as Christmas time, graduating high school, raising her twins when they were little, and other normally mundane events. Fast forward to Christmas of 2009, and she starts to notice some things about her mother that don’t seem right. Her mom used to be meticulously dressed, but she packed stained clothes, and forgot to pack socks. Her mom also tried to write out checks, but the letters and numbers were indecipherable. The author had to repeat things over until her mom understood. At first, this just seemed like random things, but in reality was the start of her mom’s decline. They took her mom’s checkbook away, and consulted with a financial planner about the rest of her investments. Her mom had a cochlear implant to help with her hearing. She had a processor that she kept losing. Gradually, over the course of the next year, the author had to move her mom first to assisted living, then to memory care. Her mom got considerably more agitated and frustrated, and didn’t understand changes. The author had 1 daughter living in Colorado, and the other in Germany, both with kids of their own, so they could only help so much. The author also had an older brother, but he died about 6 years before his mom started to decline. It finally reached a head when her mom went outside in the middle of winter and stayed there for 4 hours in the cold. At that point, she had to go to Memory Care, a special unit for patients with Alzheimer’s. (Heads rolled at the nursing home, since they didn’t do things to keep her mom inside.) Finally, her mom passed away in May of 2011, just a shadow of her former self.

The worst thing about Alzheimer’s for the family is that the rest of the family has to watch the affected family member decline, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. There are some medications that can slow the progress, but the decline is inevitable. That’s what this book reflects. The author didn’t recognize the symptoms at first, but then most people don’t. It usually gets attributed to old age, or simple forgetfulness. All the author and her family can do is to try to make her mom comfortable, and not get too frustrated with her memory loss. Normally I like my story linear, but I found the back-and-forth timing to place this in even more context. First we see how things were, but then we jump ahead to see how far things have declined. The author kept a detailed notebook of everything that happened with her mom, which I believe was part of the basis of this book. The author isn’t afraid to detail her frustration with her mom, as well as admitting that she didn’t see signs until too late. Anyone who has had a family member with Alzheimer’s will definitely relate to this book. Anyone who suspects a relative isn’t quite who they used to be should definitely read this. It will give them an idea of what’s coming.

I will note that the author is donating a percentage of the proceeds of the sale of this book to Alzheimer’s research and support programs. For more information, go to www.alz.org.

As I write this today (7/8/14), there is news that scientists have identified 10 proteins in blood that can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s. The prediction method had an accuracy rate of 87%. They hope that, by identifying the proteins, they can develop drugs that may halt its progression in the early stages. Maybe then, stories like this one wouldn’t need to be written. Link to the article: http://time.com/2963692/alzheimers-di…

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http://fireandicebooktours.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/non-fiction-book-tour-giveaway-i-will-never-forget-a-daughters-story-of-her-mothers-arduous-and-humorous-journey-through-dementia-by-elaine-c-pereira-62314-72114/

Virtual Book Tour Dates: 6/23/14 – 7/21/14

Genres:  Non-Fiction; Memoir; Aging






Blurb:
I Will Never Forget is the incredible true story of the author’s talented mother’s poignant and often humorous journey through the mystifying haze of Dementia. Through superb stories of Elaine’s childhood, from her controversial name, tales of smoking’ dragons and the feisty teenage years, her mother Betty Ward’s wonderful character is revealed.
Over time, as their relationship evolves and a new paradigm is formed, Betty begins to exhibit goofy actions, uncharacteristic verbal assaults and bizarre thinking. Although clearly mystified by her mother’s irrational behaviors, Elaine does not appreciate the extent of Betty’s mental decline. Her amazing ability to mask the truth clouds Elaine’s vision and prolongs her denial until one cataclysmic explosion of reality over an innocuous drapery rod launches a waterfall of destructive events.
As her mother’s brilliant mind is steadily destroyed by Dementia’s insatiable appetite for brain cells, Elaine accompanies her mother on her journey. She witnesses Betty’s fascinating visions of her own mother, masterful Houdini-like disappearances and finally a stunning rally to take control of her own destiny.
I Will Never Forget is a heartwarming, humorous, honest and deeply moving story pertinent to everyone touched by the insidious effects of Dementia. Learn from Elaine’s unwitting mistakes as she weaves her way through her mother’s unpredictable disease to capture insightful and effective intervention strategies.

Chapter 28: The Ugly Truth:

But as the adult, the nebulous abyss of being a parent to your parent is a delicate responsibility. Balancing respect and autonomy and naturally expecting them to be accurate when they tell you, I’ll be fine is a daunting challenge. Somewhere deep down, you know it’s not true. They are no longer fine.


Connect With The Author:


Elaine Pereira retired as a school Occupational Therapist with more than 30 years experience in pediatrics and a decade in adult home care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Wayne State University in OT and her Master’s in Liberal Arts. Pereira maintains her OT licensure and holds Certifications as a Dementia Caregiver and Practitioner. She and her husband Joseph live in southeastern Michigan with their two big dogs Bailey and Maddee and Snoopy the cat. Together they have five adult children, Elaine’s twin daughters and Joe’s three sons and five grandchildren.
I Will Never Forget-A Daughter’s Story of Her Mother’s Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia is Elaine’s first book, a memoir in tribute to her amazingly talented mother. Pereira writes for MariaShriver.com, Alzheimer’s Reading Room, Endear For Alzheimer’s and a variety of guest blog posts. She has been featured in four television spots, Fox 2 Detroit, Living Dayton and Fox 45 Dayton and The Best of Aging magazine, April 2013 edition.
Her hobbies include golf, sewing, hand-craft projects and gardening. She has traveled extensively throughout the United States and world wide including Europe; Madeira, Portugal; Australia; Seoul and Hong Kong.
Now she networks extensively to advance Alzheimer’s awareness and donates from each book sold to Alzheimer’s research.


Author Links:

Giveaway:
Win one of thirty print copies of I Will Never Forget. Entry is restricted to the USA! Enter through Goodreads.

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          by Elaine C. Pereira     

     

         
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