Sunday, May 15, 2016
Brilliance on Stage
He looks like an unmade bed.
That's what my longtime friend Gil said to me yesterday about Garrison Keillor.
Gil came to Sandpoint High School 35 years ago as a student teacher in the social science department. That's how we first met.
We've always enjoyed visiting while bumping into each other numerous times over the years, and we've have even written columns for the same newspaper, The River Journal.
Then yesterday at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane, as I turned to my left, the man next to me said, "They'll let anyone in here."
It took a second or two, and then I realized the smarty pants next to me was my friend, Gil.
Gil must have bought his ticket for "Prairie Home Companion" a nanno second after or before me. We both had waited months ago for the clock to strike 10 a.m. that day to go online and purchase our tickets.
Yesterday's show was a Christmas gift for Bill, and when the program was ending yesterday, he turned to me and said, "Well, thanks for the gift."
I knew he was sincere because "Prairie Home Companion" and Garrison Keillor have been staples for my husband through all the years I've known him.
Back to the unmade bed.
Gil was referring the photo of Keillor that accompanied a promotional feature story in the Spokesman-Review this past week. The show did not need to be promoted. It was sold out.
I agreed with Gil's assessment of Keillor in a good way.
After all, this unmade bed puts his audience in a comfort zone almost immediately as he suddenly appears on the stage in his white suit and red tenny runners and unruly hair, softly singing "My Country Tis of Thee," encouraging the audience to join along.
They do as he moves on to "Home on the Range," "Amazing Grace" and a Beatles classic. Then, for a moment the familiar songs end, but Keillor continues singing his thoughts: assumptions that maybe the audience singing is a little cautious and probably because some audience members have good singers on either side of them.
So, he implores the good singers to tone it down and welcome the bad singers. After that, the volume does increase, and the comfort zone for the program ahead goes off the charts.
This tall, laid-back performer makes it all look so easy, often speaking seemingly unscripted but always with a purpose.
The live radio show begins a few minutes later, and the relaxed atmosphere continues on stage with musicians, singers, actors and even stage hands moseying in an out or moving from one instrument to another.
Yet, precision and timing are impeccable. Along with phenomenal instrumental sounds, amazing, often satiric writing, fresh off the week's events infused with singing and short skits keeps the audience enthralled for two hours.
Yup, the unmade bed guy did okay yesterday, as did every other performer on that stage.
Both before and after the program, we saw several folks we knew and heard about several others from the area who attended the event.
While crossing the street on our way back to the car, I turned around and saw my veterinarian Celeste and her husband Eric and their friend and mine, Laura, along with more of their friends.
As we walked toward our cars, we learned about another Sandpoint group who were in the audience for a very good reason.
The Hastings, owners of All Seasons Floral, had come to watch John's niece, a singer and actress on the stage who served as a stand-in yesterday. BTW, John teaches at Sandpoint High School.
They had every reason to be proud because both her singing and her acting were phenomenal.
On the way home, I said to Bill, "Well, that pretty much fulfills a bucket list item, definitely a life event." He agreed, simply lamenting that he wished he had gone other times when "Prairie Home Companion" was in the area.
It will come again with its new principal character, mandolin player from the Nickel Creek band, Chris Thile who is set to take over in July when Keillor retires.
I don't know if he'll wear red tennis shoes, but I do suspect that he's got BIG shoes to fill as he replaces Garrison Keillor.
Throughout the show, we witnessed several segments of brilliance at ease, especially as he strolled around the stage, sharing the unscripted news from Lake Wobegan where it snowed this week and the Catholic priest found out he was half Jewish.
The news about Lake Wobegan and its famous commentator this morning from the Lovestead is that Bill and I truly enjoyed the unmade bed and figured that the show yesterday wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if the bed had been made.
Fun experience. Happy Sunday.