Mark your calendar now, before you forget.
The Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown will present their next production Feb. 13-15, 19-20 and twice on Feb. 21. All performances begin at 8 p.m., except for two matinees which begin at 2 p.m., on Feb. 15 and the earlier of the two Feb. 21 performances.
What's the show? They're doing a delightful musical version of an award-winning novel by author Katherine Paterson. It's called ''The Great Gilly Hopkins.'' The plot has been adapted for the stage and put to music by David Paterson and Steve Liebman.
Young Gilly Hopkins (rear) played by Allison Hendrick, listens in while her new foster mother and her social worker discuss her many problems. Jennifer Brightman and Matt Smith are the adults. At right: Sisters Lauren (l.) and Allison Hendrick play schoolmates in the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown's production of “The Great Gilly Hopkins,” by David Paterson and Steve Liebman.
Robert John Terreberry will direct.
The matinee on Feb. 21 will be a special children's performance, with reduced prices. Admission to that performance will be only $5 for children and $10 for adults. Regular admission is $10 for children and $20 for adults. The performances will take place in LBLTJ's own performing space, on E. Second St., near the intersection of Pine St., in downtown Jamestown.
For additional information about the local production of the play, phone 483-1095.
I recently was lucky enough to spend an evening watching the talented cast of nine at rehearsal, and to do brief interviews with three of them. Let me tell you a bit about the plot, then what I've learned about the local production. Then I'll share some things I've learned about the author and the background to it all.
''The Great Gilly Hopkins'' serves as something of a Chapter II to the great social experiment which produced a generation of ''Flower Children'' or ''hippies.''
It tells the aftermath to the life of a young woman named Courtney Rutherford Hopkins, who left home when her only brother was killed in the Vietnam War, who experimented with drugs and free love, who made her own clothes and grew her own food, and now she has a daughter and no way to feed, clothe, and provide for her.
She's named her daughter Galadriel, after the 7,000 year old Lady of Light, a royal elf in J.R.R. Tolkein's classic ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy.
Our central character is the daughter. Abandoned at an early age by her mother into the foster child system of the State of Maryland, she is first seen at the age of 11, as she is about to enter the latest in a long line of foster homes. The child has learned in the school of hard knocks that just having a name like Galadriel can turn a child into an object of ridicule, so she mostly chooses to be called by her nickname: Gilly.
The new foster mother who is about to learn the challenges of dealing with Gilly, is named Maime Trotter. She is a very heavy, middle aged widow, not wealthy nor outstandingly intelligent, but full of love and common sense. Also staying at the house is William Ernest Teague, a younger child whose response to the slightest noise is to hide.
Gilly is very bright and extremely resourceful. She has decided that the state is involved in a plot to keep her from her biological mother. She believes that her only hope is to escape from the Trotter house and get to San Francisco, where she believes her mother lives, and where she is sure she will be loved and welcomed.
In Gilly's young mind, Trotter is ''a hippo,'' her well lived-in home is '' a dump,'' her fearful step-brother is ''a retard,'' and she herself is a heroine from a children's story who needs to fight and lie and steal for her own salvation, if she is ever to know salvation.
One experience which this unhappy child carries with her is a severe race prejudice. But Trotter's next door neighbor is a blind, elderly African American, for whom the foster mother cooks dinner every day. And worse, to the child's way of thinking, her new sixth grade teacher is a young, self-possessed African American woman.
''I think the audience is going to enjoy seeing how Gilly tries to deal with the world, and how she grows and learns,'' said the director.
I'm sure they will, as well.
The Lucille Ball Little Theatre
I attended a very early rehearsal of the play. It was still in what was always the most challenging stage of production for plays in which I participated: blocking. That's when all the actors still hold their scripts in their hands and they progress very slowly through the play, while the director seeks to bridge the gap between real life and the needs of a performance on stage.
In real life, if you're having a conversation with someone, you stand and face them. On stage, when you have that same conversation, you have to both face out toward the audience and turn their faces in the direction of the other person.
In real life, you say your own words, because that's what you have to say. On stage, you say words which were written for your character, not for yourself, by the playwright, and you might not always understand why you would say such a thing, or how it should be said.
With enormous patience, Terreberry was guiding his talented cast toward making the words and actions suit the play.
The play's title character will be played in this production by Allison Hendrick, a sixth grader at Bemus Point Elementary School. Allis on told me she's enjoying this play because she's always been a good student and a well-mannered girl, so it's kind of fun to let go with Gilly's abusive language and temper tantrums in a situation where it's O.K.
Her parents are Leigh-Anne and Dave Hendrick, and she's joined in the cast by her younger sister, Lauren, who is portraying Agnes Stokes, a classmate at Gilly's school who needs a friend so badly, she's willing to endure being called names and used as something of a stooge by the ambitious Gilly.
Allison has done theater at school and at the Bemus Point United Methodist Church, but this is her first on-stage experience at LBLTJ.
Jennifer Brightman will be donning the aprons and housedresses of the long-suffering foster mother. When we talked, she wasn't certain how far costume and properties crews would be going to try and turn her into the heavyweight character described by the script.
She told us this will be her 15th production at the local community theater. Her career began in February of 2003, in a production of ''Speaking of Murder.'' She said she prefers musical shows, but she auditions for all kinds of scripts, and she's never afraid to tackle a character whose age and appearance doesn't match her own, which is certainly the case here.
The third cast member with whom we talked was a newcomer to our community. Jaala Fish is a very attractive young woman from New Castle, Pa., who came to Jamestown about a year ago, for a job. She works at Key Bank, almost directly across the street from the front doors of the Little Theatre where she is head teller.
She told us she was attracted to the character of Gilly's teacher, because Ms. Harris is a very competent and professional person, and one who doesn't just complain or feel bad about problems, but who puts herself out to make things better.
Among her many accomplishments was participation in the 2007 Chautauqua Lake Idol competition, and she is taking classes at an on-line college in addition to her job, her community theater role, and a second job as a D.J. at Sky Bar.
In addition to these actors in this production, expect to see Jared Dahlberg as the chronically frightened William Ernest, Jon Johnson as the blind, elderly neighbor, and Matt Smith as the social worker who needs to struggle to find time in his crushing case load to deal with the problems caused by Gilly's plots and tricks.
Also in this production, Ann Eklund, a frequently-seen face at LBLTJ, will play Nonnie Hopkins, the mother of the errant Courtney, while Marge Fiore will play Courtney herself.
Lucille Miller is Music Director for the production, while Wayne Buvoltz is Technical Director.
Background of the play and author
''The Great Gilly Hopkins'' is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Katherine Paterson. The book received a number of awards, including the 1979 National Book Award for Children's Literature, a Jane Addams Award, and a Newberry honor.
Ms. Paterson has written a number of other works, including her most famous creation: ''Bridge to Terebithia,'' which also won many awards.
According to her web page, she was born Katherine Womeldorf, in Qing Jiang, China, in 1937. Her parents were Christian missionaries, although unlike many missionaries in those days, they lived in a Chinese neighborhood, ate typical Chinese food, and immersed themselves in Chinese culture.
When she was five years old, the Japanese invaded China, and her family was forced to flee for their lives. When World War II ended with the Japanese defeat, they attempted to return to China, but soon needed to flee again as Chairman Mao and his communist forces overthrew the Chinese government.
In the first 18 years of her life, her family lived in 18 different places. She grew up, always feeling like an outsider and as though she needed to fight her way to be accepted. She often wrote plays and stories as a way of dealing with her loneliness and boredom.
She graduated from college, summa cum laude, in 1954, and became a teacher. She spent 4 years working as a missionary and a teaching assistant in Japan, which was as close to China as it was possible to go, in those days.
In 1962, she married a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. John Patterson. They settled in Maryland, where they had two biological sons, and adopted two daughters.
Her writing style usually involves children who are alone or abandoned, who have few or no friends, but who learn to triumph, through self-sacrifice. Although the subjects of her writing are on the grim side, she always manages to inject humor and hopefulness. Surprisingly, a number of her works have been banned, because she believes it is important to explain negative situations truthfully and to use the kinds of language which would actually be used by the kinds of people about whom she writes.
In a section of the web site devoted to answering frequently asked questions, Ms. Patterson says that she wrote ''The Great Gilly Hopkins'' after a period in which she tried to be a foster mother, and felt that she hadn't done a successful job of it. ''I tried to imagine how it might be, to be a foster child. How would I feel if I thought the rest of the world thought of me as disposable?'' she said.
Asked how she feels when people try to censor or ban her books, she responds, ''Gilly is a lost child, who lies, steals, bullies, and despises those who are different or who she perceived to be weaker. A child such as this does not say ''fiddlesticks'' when she is frustrated. I couldn't duplicate the real speech of children whom I've known who are like Gilly, but I had to hint at how she would speak. She would not be real if her mouth didn't match her behavior.''
The film rights for ''The Great Gilly Hopkins'' were purchased in April of this past year by a Hollywood studio, and a film is anticipated within the coming year.
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An exhibit opened yesterday at the KOA Art Gallery, in Blaisdell Hall, on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
More than 40 photographs by Ward Roe, of the university's faculty, will be displayed through Feb. 27. Subjects are landscapes, iconography, pop culture, and the human figure.
Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. through 8 p.m. Friday opening time is the same, but the gallery closes at 6 p.m.
For information about the exhibit or about the arts programming of the university, phone (814) 362-5271.
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If you love classical guitar music, and enjoy hearing it in acoustically-ideal circumstances, note that the Eden-Stell Guitar Duo will perform in St. Barnabas Anglican Church on Queenston St., in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, on Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
The internationally-known British duo has been called ''One of the best in the world,'' by Gramophone Magazine.
St. Catherines is located on the Queen Elizabeth Way, just past the exit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the Shaw Festival performs.
Admission is $20 for the general public and $10 for students and senior citizens. For additional information, phone (905) 682-1240.
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As associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Fredonia - Aimee Nizhukumatathil - has been named a 2009 Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Her fellowship is one of only 42 for the entier united states. Her published books of poetry include ''Miracle Fruit,'' and 2007's ''At the Drive-In Volcano,'' and her work appears in a number of anthologies.
The poet attended Gowanda Junior-Senior High School, and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Ohio. She teaches creative writing and environmental literature.
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Speaking of the University at Fredonia, a performance of the Art of the Guitar Series - Composers Alive! will offer a concert at 8 p.m. tonight in Rosch Recital Hall. Featured will be Marcus Wolf and Dennis Repino.
Tuesday and/or Wednesday, attend a lecture/presentation sponsored by the ETHOS New Music Society, featuring violist Aurelien Perillot at 8 p.m. in Rosch Recital Hall, both evenings.
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Last week, the Shaw Festival, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, held their Annual General Meeting. The festival announced that despite the current economy and despite the challenges faced by American visitors to the festival, they finished 2008 with a surplus of approximately $222,000.
The Festival had net revenues of $24,272,000 and expenses of $24,050,000. Approximately 70 percent of their income came from ticket sales.
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Niagara University throws tradition to the winds, staging a rock and roll production of Shakespeare's ''Romeo and Juliet'' with an all-female cast.
The production will be held at the performing space known as ''the Church,'' at 415 Plain St., in the nearby town of Lewiston, N.Y. There will be one preview performance at 7 p.m., Feb. 19. Regular performances will continue through Feb. 28, Thursdays through Sundays.
It is well known that when Shakespeare wrote his plays, laws forbade women to perform on stage, and all roles were portrayed by male actors. This production seeks to connect universal ideas to traditional writing, and to offer a previously unknown point of view to familiar literature.
Ticket prices range between $7 and $10. For specific ticket prices and curtain times, or for other questions, or to reserve tickets, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a phone message at 286-8685.
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Toronto's modern dance troupe Michael Trent and Dancemakers invite the public toa new work titled ''It's About Time: 60 Dances in 60 Minutes.''
Performances will be at the Enwave Theatre, in Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, 255 Queens Quay West, on the city's waterfront. See them Feb. 11-13 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 14 at 3 or 8 p.m.
Tickets range in price from $32 to $38, in Canadian funds. The company's web site is at harbourfront.com/nextsteps/. Phone them at (416) 973-4000.
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The national tour of the Broadway musical ''The Wizard of Oz'' will be performed by professional performing artists at Buffalo's Shea's Performing Arts Center, Mar. 17-22.
The company will choose and train one group of 12 area children to perform the roles of the Munchkins. Auditions will be held Feb. 22, beginning at 9:30 a.m. No individual auditions will be heard and no group will be heard without a previously-made appointment. Participants must be engaged in an ongoing study of acting, music, and/or dance.
For complete information, go to the company's web site: www.wizardofoztour.com. Download and complete the registration form and fax it to (866) 422-3081.