Friday, December 19, 2014

Oliver, Presented by the Troy Civic Theatre

The Troy Civic Theater's production of Oliver was a big hit with the area theater goers. Most performances were  sold out or close to sold out.

Not as many people are free to see a play on  Thursday evening but a less crowded theater is better for Tom who sits in his scooter.  Even on Thursday the theater was more than half full which I think is a good showing..

 The director was Barry Van Kirk.  This is the third year that he has directed the theater's holiday musical.

Unfortunately, my house is piled high with "stuff".  I can't find the playbill so I don't have a list of all the actors and actresses.  As the next best thing, I cropped portions out of the two cast photos that I took.  Here they are.  If you had a family member or friend in the play I hope you can find them.  If you were in the play I hope you can find yourself.

 First row on the left

The Artful Dodger did a great job.  This is the best photo of him.  You can see his top hat in his hand and his spikey hair behind the boy with the blue shirt and cap.  I am sorry I didn't get a better photo.

Best section of the younger cast members

This photo is better for showing some of the people in the second row.

The people on the bridge.

The cast meshed well.  Oliver had a very expressive face which conveyed inner feelings well.  I could have listened to the woman singing the part of Nan for an hour.  She has a lovely sweet voice.  Fagin clearly displayed his craftiness and his dedication to the life he had chosen.  Bill Sikes was  a powerful villain.

The set was interesting. Below is a portion of it.  The center section of the "brick" wall behind the tables folded back to display an impressive gate making another entry spot for actors and serving as a quick way to remove props as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Drama Workshop's Presentation of Putting It Together, Words and Music by Stephen Sondheim

 After the play, I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  All the songs were unfamiliar and there was very little plot.  But this is a play which is sticking with me the way a good book does.  I continue to remember bits and pieces that made me feel this is right, exactly the way life is, exactly the way people feel.  As I told Ray after the play, I would like to see this play again.  There is too much in it to be able to grasp it all the first time.

From left  to right...Robin Baker as The Husband, Bree Hunter Sprankle as The Younger Woman,  Stephen Cox as The Younger Man, Cynthia Mottel as The Wife, David L. Radtke as The Observer.

This play does not have the kind of plot that is usual in a traditional musical. It is a revue featuring Sondheim songs from various plays  The songs are loosely held together by the theme of a cocktail party held in the home of The Husband and The Wife.  The audience are guests along with The Younger Man and The Younger Woman.

The Observer, David L. Radtke, introduces the play, provides one or two word transitions as the evening progresses and also fills in as an extra who can be whatever the situation requires, even a household maid with a little white apron.  He gets his moment in the spotlight to dance as he sings "Buddy's Blues" from Follies.

What I noticed most about the songs in the revue was that they are purposeful.

Some are thought-provoking commentaries on life such as "The Road You Didn't Take" from Follies.  The Husband, (Robin Baker) in a pensive mood, sings this one.  The Husband and The Wife also sing an amusing true to life conversation about buying a "Country House" (from Follies).

Other songs are focused on attitudes."Rich and Happy" from Merrily We Roll Along sung by the entire cast comes to mind.

The Younger Woman, Bree Hunter Sprankle, sings a wonderful  blues song, "Sooner or Later".  It's   from the movie, Dick Tracy.  Her dancing as well as her singing shone in "Bang", also from Dick Tracy,  a number which includes the Younger Man and The Observer.

The Wife, Cynthia Mottel, amazed me, never missing a beat on songs with rapid fire lyrics on a variety of topics women can relate to. Housework, homemaking and everything associated with both are satired in the song, "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  "Ladies Who Lunch" from Company lampooned  things women do  when gathered together.

What I remember most about The Younger Man, Stephen Cox, is his pensive rendition of "Marry Me a Little" from (Company).  He and The Younger Woman, Bree Hunter Sprankle, sang a lovely duet, "Unworthy of Your Love" from Assassins.

"Putting It Together"  sung by the entire company, is  from the play, Sunday in the Park with George which uses the painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, as its inspiration.  Seurat was a noted pointillist who used small dabs of paint to create his works.  And the play is just that, putting together songs to create a completed work.

There are three more performances of this play, December 19,20, and 21, 2014.  For more information, contact The Drama Workshop.

The website address is

You can also call 513.598.8303.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Changes at Charleston Falls

For years this has been the view from the Charleston Falls overlook.

But in in early November I was surprised to find concrete footers with metal uprights behind caution tape.

For several years, I have been hearing rumors that the park administration was planning to rebuild the overlook.  You can see how close to the edge the old fence posts are.  Every year for twenty years the posts have been moving closer  to the edge...or, more scientifically, the rocky cliff has been eroding.

By mid November, posts had been attached to the metal uprights.  The cliff will be eroding a few  more years before the abyss  claims these posts.  Will they be here twenty years from now?

On December 1 I walked in late afternoon.  The workmen were back.  They were finishing up fitting metal fence sections between the posts.  The viewing area is also more enclosed because of added fence sections at both ends.

I took this photo from the bottom of the ravine.  For a day both barriers were saving viewers from a long fall with a rough landing.

The next day, the old fence posts had been sawed off and workers were installing a slanted board for visitors to lean their elbows on.  You can see that the rock is eroded quite far back.              

I hiked via stairs up to the top of the ravine where workers were finishing up.  One said they expected to be finished by the end of the day.

One more day.  One more hike at Charleston Falls with a stop at the overlook.  Here is the finished overlook, finished just in time.

The Park Christmas Open House is Saturday evening.  The trail to the falls will be lit by luminaries.  The falls will be lit by colored lights.  In a clearing in the small prairie beside the parking lot, visitors can warm themselves at a bonfire and sing songs accompanied by a guitarist.

If the visitors continue to walk they will come to a large tent set up beside the old farm house which now houses the Education Department.  Inside the tent there will be cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, crafts for the children to make and more singing accompanied by a keyboard player.  Inside the house will be tables holding John,(Spirit of Thunder) DeBoer's collection of native American flutes and Touch Tables with a variety of natural objects to feel.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Drama Workshop Presents One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The Drama Workshop's presentation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is an awesome production.  The actors work together flawlessly.

One critic calls One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest a Comedy-Drama.  After seeing the play I think it could also be called a Comedy-Tragedy. It reminds me of the traditional two masks that symbolize theater, the happy one and the unhappy one.

The action takes place in a state mental hospital in the Pacific Northwest in 1965. The cast which include patients, visitors, and hospital staff is large, sixteen actors, all of whom are significant in creating the mental hospital atmosphere of the 1960s and in advancing the action.  Joseph Penno, Jr. did an admirable job in directing this strong cohesive presentation.

The Patients:  Chris Bishop as Cheswick
                      Geoffrey Hill as Billy Bibbit
                      Bill Keeton as Dale Harding
                      Ray Lebowski as Martini
                      Ron Samad as Chief  Bromden
                      Kent Smith as Ruckley
                      Jim Waldfogle as Scanlon
                      Steffen Whorton as R. P. McMurphy                 

The Visitors: Julia Hedges as Candy Starr
                      Amy Mirlisena as Sandra

The Staff:     Clint Bramkamp as Dr. Spivey
                     Gretchen Gantner as Nurse Ratched
                     Jody Hart as Nurse Flinn
                     Kevin Noll as Aide Turkle
                     Scott Unes as Aide Williams
                     Doug Tumeo as Aide Warren

The following scenes were staged so Elaine Volker could take photos.  The photos were not taken during a performance.

 Gretchen Gantner as Nurse Ratched  and Steffen Whorton as Randle P. McMurphy, a new patient, pit themselves against one another in a battle to the finish.  They have declared war and neither will accept defeat.

The results of their clashes lead to lots of funny moments in the first act.

McMurphy decides that there should be more entertainment than card playing.

He talks the patients into a basketball game.  Nurse Ratched is not amused.

The silent Indian Chief is a challenge for McMurphy.  Here he learns some surprising things about the chief.

The patients and nurses react to McMurphy's visitor.  Nurse Ratched is not pleased.

Candy and her friend, Sandra,  come for a late night visit by way of an opened window.  This is the high point of McMurphy's hi-jinks and the beginning of the end.

Nurse Ratched decides to take stronger steps.

By the end of the first act it is clear that the antics and retaliations will lead to tragic results.

The second act calls up complicated emotional responses in viewers.  If drama is not your cup of tea, this might not be a play you would like.  But, still,  you would  find plenty to laugh about during the first act. The play contains profanity and strong language which may also offend some people.

However, if you like to see plays that stretch your understanding of life, this is a play you won't want to miss.  The play works on a surface level but it also works on deeper levels.  It brings up questions about how individuals can exist as themselves in conformist-loving society.  Power... who should have it, and how to deal with those who have it... is also brought up.

The play reminded me of a quote from E. E. Cummings that I keep on my refrigerator.

"To be yourself in a world that is doing its best, day and night to make you like everyone else is  to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

As always, I checked sources on the Internet for more information about the play.  The play has won several Tony Awards.   It is annually produced world-wide, generally about 300 productions each year.

The book from which the play was created is recognized as one of the great books of the twentieth century.  It was written by Ken Kesey in 1962.  The book is still critiqued by book clubs and in college classes. seeking the deeper meanings behind the words on the page.  If you are interested in these deeper insights, look for articles on the Internet.

The now classic  play was written by Dale  Wasserman.

Little extras that I liked about the presentation include the actors wandering about on the stage before the play piquing audience curiosity.

As always, the refreshments at intermission reflect the place and period of the play.  For this play, the lobby is the mental hospital's canteen.

Hostesses at this section of the canteen are Marsha Grant and Vickie Greco.  Vickie is the Usher Coordinator and Marsha is an usher.  They are examples of the many hats that members of The Drama Workshop wear.

Below is a list of the crew  who contributed to making this presentation possible.  To make reading easier, click on the photo.

Two of the earlier performances sold out.  There are three more performances this coming weekend, November 21, 22, and 23, 2014.  For tickets, order online at

or call the TDW ticket line at 513-598-8303.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dining Room and Living Room Renewal

Our grandson, Eric, started  painting the walls for us.  Then Tom painted the ledges.  And I finished up the rest of the painting.  Last week the task was completed.

Here is a section of the dining paint, new chandelier, clean draperies, and new switch plate..

The new gold color on the walls is between the two  colors below.  Varying lighting throughout the days makes the color look different as do the shadows that move about with the lighting. It is noticeably more gold than the original color but still fairly light.

Tom made the red oak switch plate.  Our old switch plates were the originals for this 1960s era ranch.  The clear plastic covers were crazed from age,dried out and unsightly.

Tom replaced all of the switchplates in the living room and dining room.  First he cut the blanks.

After mitering the edges, he cut the necessary holes in the sample plate and laid it in place on the switch in the dining room.  That's when he discovered he would have to router out the underside of each plate because the switches were on  raised metal plates.

He made the red rubber-covered pusher to press on the switch plate as he made passes with it over the router bit.  He didn't want to risk cutting his fingers with the router blade.

After he routered out the underside, he used one of the original switch plates to mark the placement of the screw holes and switch holes.

He cut out the switch holes with the scroll saw.

He finished the switchplates with stain, followed by clear satin polyurethane. the next improvement replacing some of the old, old furniture?  Maybe.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lilian Nichols, October Class, Purple and Gold Leaves

Lilian has been encouraging us to try unusual combinations of colors. Here is a Skinner Blend she made using Gold and Purple.  Before she began blending, she mixed a little white into the purple so it would show as purple after baking, not dark brown.

She showed us several ways to stack it .  For this stack she kept the blend in a single sheet and folded it back and forth.

A few days ago I decided to make a Gold and Purple Skinner Blend and see what I came up with.  i started in the usual way remembering to fold the purple to the purple and the gold to the gold..

After I blended the colors,  I made a stack and started experimenting.  I added a few extra layers of gold and purple to the stack to get a little more contrast.  The completed leaves are in the middle of the photo.  To the right is the bead skewer I used to poke holes through the stem ends so I can string them on a necklace.  At the bottom are scraps which I made into a cane and then cut it into a Natasha bead.  The Natasha technique is the one that we used to make carolers and angels in an earlier class.

Part of the stack I cut into triangles and made leaves in which the layers mimicked  veins in the leaves.

Here are the leaves and the Natasha bead after baking.  That's when I realized I had forgotten to add a bit of white to the purple.  The purple looks more like burnt umber.  Oh, well.

I put together another array using the leaves I had just made and the leaves I made in September.