I started this reflection several weeks ago. Tonight it's Halloween and the air is crisp and cool and the moon is in crescent. It's still relevant.
It's October. It's raining outside, which I love. There's something singularly peaceful about a fall rain. It presages the coming snow but also settles in on the falling leaves and the drying world and seems to say, "don't worry...you'll grow again."
Meanwhile, Carrie The Musical is moving through its final dress rehearsal in the theatre, and logistics and plans are moving apace for the remaining performances of the 2022 season. It is a peaceful setting.
I am moved to do a musing, which happen rather rarely these days, by the many elements of our work out here in Tisch Mills that are flowing forward on a wave of positive energy. Sales are good, the community is robust, new projects are sprouting from the rich ground that we have tilled and nurtured over the first five years. So, I wanted to share some of that positive energy with our community.
The most obvious and tangible of these bright lights is the wave of strong sales that we are currently enjoying. Cabaret set records for sales which Carrie The Musical is obliterating. While we had some very successful shows in our first years after opening in September, 2017, much of this was a function of what friends in the industry refer to as the freshman burst. Curiosity and nostalgia brought many patrons back out to Tisch Mills to see what was happening at a venue that had strong memories for them. That energy was exciting and energizing, but it was followed by an expected lull (the sophomore slump)...and then...Covid.
Of course, as important as attendance may be, it's also exciting to have a growing community of artists contributing to our work. This year, we had five directors present exciting performances. Meanwhile, an incredible community of folks are improving the space, creating performance opportunities, and generally taking ownership of the mission of The Forst Inn Arts Collective. It is both unique and ubiquitous. The world is filled with spaces like this where talented people apply their commitment to their passion in ways that build and inspire. We are no different.
People come into this space. They perform. They absorb. They color on paper in the pub and decorate little mini pumpkins. They are a part of the community. I have a growing number of folks who come to me during an event and want to know how they can be a part of this amazing effort. Perhaps you are one of them? It's a shared understanding of collaboration. We grow because we are all a part of the growth.
Enjoy you harvest season and join us as we harvest the amazing fruits that come from having a space of shared joy. Blessings to you all!
Last night we closed Tuesdays With Morrie, ending a run of performances designed to gradually bring our audiences back and to gently test the edges of what is safe, appropriate and celebratory. Our recent theatrical productions featured a one person show by Kevin Sievert, a two person comedy with Carrie Counihan and Ian Wisneski and most recently the return of Bill Fricke and Zach Lulloff in the dramatic favorite, Tuesdays With Morrie. Concerned about large casts in the transition out of Covid restrictions, these small cast shows turned out to be a wonderful vehicle to return to something like normal. It has been spectacular.
At the same time, this spring has created some room for new experiments with outside groups taking advantage of our smaller venue for their events. Both the Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra and The Masquers brought performances to The Forst Inn Arts Collective stage in May.
It has been a delight welcoming back our patrons, both new and familiar. One of the conversations many of us are having as we exit the long year of retreat in the face of the pandemic is what, exactly, is normal? Many of us have changed our routines and are considering the ways that we might want to change our routines as we return to a post-Covid world. The following is a little recap of some of the amazing things that both retreating and returning from Covid has allowed us to do here at The Forst Inn Arts Collective.
2020; A time to work on ourselves.
In the same way that many of us took the time to consider self-care and improvements (at the same time we looked at core elements of survival!) the Forst Inn was the beneficiary of some amazing facelifts and infrastructure work in 2020. An ensemble of volunteers too numerous to list were involved in projects that resulted in the refurbishing of the lounge, the pub, the sitting room, the booth, the kitchen, and the exterior of the building (although we would be remiss if we didn't mention Jim and John Stangel, Phillip Jindra and Nannette Macy). Briefly, we...
And 2020 wasn't a complete loss in terms of performances. Although attendance was necessarily limited we had some strong performances on the stage.
Tuesdays With Morrie opened on March 14 of 2020...and closed on March 14 of 2020. We brought it back for a few performances in June but we're delighted that it's returned to strong attendance this year.
The Dixie Swim Club also opened for a one day run in August of 2020, and it is coming back in August of this year to finish what it started!
Miracle on South Division Street miraculously managed to complete its six performance run in September though, again, attendance had to be very limited.
After that we were locked down tight. The Mistletoes had fun producing a new version of their holiday show that allowed video versions of its music in a range of interesting locations.
2021; A season of renewal
2021 has brought a renewed energy and vigor to the activities at The Forst.
An interesting development as a consequence of Covid has been a change in the options for food with our shows. The ways in which The Forst Inn shows are dinner theatre has a unique history. Ron Kaminski established The Forst Inn as a Little Sandwich Theatre and provided a light meal with the shows here. When the shows returned in 2017 we experimented with a range of catered and prepared appetizer offerings in a buffet format. With the elimination of buffets last year, we returned to the days of the Little Sandwich Theatre, offering an optional light meal with the purchase of a ticket for most events. Discovering that many patrons prefer the lower ticket price that comes with opting out of the meal, we are continuing that approach for 2021 while constantly seeking ways for the light meal to be attractive. Recently we've added a Charcuterie Board option for our shows and this has been very popular as it provides a more interesting food option for those that are interested in that option.
Starting off with three great shows!
Music is back as well!
The calendar wouldn't be complete without musical events both large and small.
The Forst Inn Sings series continues to grow and develop, and in May the singers performed music of the Beatles in two heavily attended performances. Layne Yost returns next weekend to finally perform their cancelled dates from May, 2020 and Hardbean and McHonzik opened the 2021 season with their St Patty's day extravaganza!
A new series of events kicked off on May 28 with the Roaring 20s Jazz night. This music series events features jazz, casino games and an appetizer buffet. Our next entry into this series is on July 30 and features the Water City Jazz Orchestra with vocalist Erin LaFond playing swinging 40s tunes.
We have also established Open Mic Mondays. These events start at 7:00 on the 2nd and 4th mondays of the month and our last night have almost 2 1/2 hours of music. We're hoping to expand the night with more variety including stand-up, poetry and story-telling.
One thing we are very excited about this year is having introduced a series of opening musical acts in the pub before events. For most of our shows we have a musical act playing for an hour before the performance. So far we've featured Erin LaFond, Joey O'Connor, Kyle Seidl, Dave Ehlert, Janiessa and Colin, Ethan and Sam, and Tessa and Phil.
The Future is Bright!
So, there it is; it was a hell of a year but we made it! 2021 is going to be fantastic and we have a long list of things we are looking forward to yet this year. Here's a few of them!
I almost forgot!
2020 brought Frances to the Forst. A stray from Green Bay, Frances was skeptical of all the people and activity in the building, but after a year of getting settled and claiming her territory, Frances has abandoned her reclusive ways and now can be found appearing after the shows in the pub to claim affection and attention. On Thursday night she contributed some improvised howling to the end of the climactic finale of Tuesdays With Morrie.
So, be well, get vaccinated, and come on out and visit us in Tisch Mills!
After just four days Frances is no longer impressed with my presence here at The Inn. No longer does she pound down the stairs upon my arrival at the pub door. Of course, I'm not arriving at the pub door any more, so that's a factor. I guess I should buy some catnip.
Things are quiet here in Tisch Mills. Ann across the street is still open doing takeout, which I enjoy and appreciate. The post office is open its normal two hours per day and the new yoga studio across the street seems to be holding some of its sessions, though it may just be the owners puttering around.
We are, if you haven't noticed, closed through late May. It's a weird state of affairs after a really super opening earlier in March. Our Zoofunkyou event was fun for all and we had over 50 folks here for the opening of Tuesday's With Morrie. it's a nice show and if you didn't see it we got a great review from Warren Gerds.
Zach and Bill did a fabulous job with the show and Nannette Macy dressed the set to perfection. We'll be performing the show the last two weekends of May, so if you didn't see it you'll still get a chance. I have posted more information about the schedule changes at the end of this musing.
Moments like this have an amazing capacity to shift our thinking about what is essential and what is optional. Suddenly, employees at grocery stores seem to be extraordinarily important. It's amazing the number of people who provide services that we depend on and are only paid the lowest kind of salaries (okay, that's as close as I'll get to political!) Of course, its no surprise that health care workers and the many folks caring for those who need more support are as essential as they ever were. Bless them for their ability to be caring and giving.
Meanwhile, here we are in the arts and hospitality industries left twiddling our thumbs. In the short run, no one really needs to go to the theatre, the movies, out to dinner, or what have you. Stay at home. Enjoy a little time of peace and retreat. These are good things. This isn't to say that we're irrelevant in the long run. A favorite quote that is attributed to Churchill (inaccurately) is that when asked about the arts he responded, "The what are we fighting for?" He never actually said this, though he did say "“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”
The arts are central and critical to being whole, civilized and healthy. So are family, productive work, time for reflection, physical health. There are many things that make us complete. Perhaps an added value of this time is that we might have a little space to reflect on what it is that we each, individually, most value in our lives and to consider ways to ensure we attend to that aspect of life.
In any event, here we are. The following is some information about The Forst and our plans for the balance of 2020.
See you soon!
Greetings Friends of The Forst Inn Arts Collective!
Frances the Cat (our newest volunteer) and I have been monitoring the world from our unique vantage point here in the valley of Tisch Mills. It’s a strange moment in the world and I hope that you and yours are managing to keep safe and maintain a good perspective on the many challenges that we face now and are to come.
Along with other performance venues across the country, we are currently closed. It’s a bummer as we were off to a great start this spring with a fun blues/funk event and a strong review for Tuesdays With Morrie. So it goes!
It is difficult to predict when the situation will change sufficiently for us to freely open our doors again. We hope that current social distancing strategies are loosened as mitigation efforts are clarified and implemented, but it is hard to know where the other end of the journey lies.
In the meantime, in the interest of creating some kind of structure, we are rebuilding our schedule on the assumption that we will be able to resume operations in late May. It may be optimistic, but some kind of plan is in order.
So, a new tentative schedule is listed at the bottom of this message. Basically, we are taking our current schedule and compressing it with a restart on May 21.
If you already have tickets for an event: Your reservation will be automatically moved into a comparable date in the new schedule and you will receive notification of that change. If that date does not work for you, you can move the reservation to a date of your choosing from the new schedule. If, in the end, we are not able to complete your reservation we will refund your tickets. Refunds will be distributed after operations resume.
In the meantime, here are some things you can do to support The Forst Inn Arts Collective. Like many businesses and non-profits, while our cash flow has come to an abrupt stop, our creditors and basic expenses still need to be attended to.
Buy tickets! Our events have been moved to accommodate our new schedule and tables may be reserved. We have limited seating for all events in the belief that even if we can open there will be a need to provide some level of social distancing. This means that there will be fewer tickets available. Secure your seat and help support our events!
Contribute To The Cause! There are a number of ways you can help with our finances in ways that fit your budget. Make sure we weather the storm along with you.
Whether you can help us now or not, we look forward to seeing you all soon. Stay safe with yourself and your loved ones, focus on the opportunities this might bring, and be thankful for everything you have.
Tuesdays With Morrie
May 22, 23, 29, 30 & 31.
Three Days of Rain
Preview: June 12, 13
June 19, 20, 21
Previews: July 3, 5
July 10, 17, 18, 24, 25, 26
Dixie Swim Club
Previews: August 7, 8
August 14, 15, 21, 22, 23
Miracle on South Division Street
Previews: September 4, 5
September 11, 13, 18, 19, 20
Layne Yost John Denver: June 26, 27
Forst Inn Sings Flip The Script: July 16
Forst Inn Sings Jagged Little Pill: August 29
Forst Inn Sings Beatles: October 3
Doo Wop: July 11
Shades of Blue: September 12
Music will be announced as rescheduled.
2019 was an amazing year for The Forst. We presented twelve different theatrical events along with numerous musical events as well as performances in our Music in the Pub series. From Layne Yost's tribute to John Denver to our challenging presentation of plays like Rabbit Hole and Death of A Salesman...to great music in the pub from Laurelei and others...to the raucous fun of Tony and Tina's Wedding, 2019 provided something for everyone.
At the same time, 2019 was a year of challenges. It was our sophomore year as a revitalized/new project, which, as many folks have told us, is the hardest year. We're no longer new and nostalgic, but we're not yet completely established. Lots of folks came out to see our projects and yet lots more need to fill the seats in order to make this a viable enterprise.
Significantly, we obtained our 501(c)(3) designation as a non-profit and began our first fundraising campaign. We are looking to raise $150,000 to underwrite activities through 2021 and we're well on our way with almost $50,000 in pledges and donations to date. It's a long journey but it's going well! Our growing patron base ensures that we are paying our bills and directing important resources to new and existing programming.
Most importantly, 2019 was a year in which our artists and volunteers stepped up and began to take ownership of the Forst Inn Arts Collective. Our board is becoming more and more active and everyone is pitching in and making our events shine like they should shine.
We anticipate maintaining the many things you love about coming to The Forst, but it's worth noting some new opportunities and changes.
Perhaps most importantly, our volunteers have really taken ownership of the space and the operations of The Forst. In January, almost 40 different volunteers have spent time cleaning, organizing and arranging the spaces here.
To see more of what they did, check out the photo album on facebook. If you want to join them, let us know and we'll include you in work day communications.
Along with the cleaning and sparkling, we are endeavoring to transform the dining area (between the pub and the theatre) into a warm and comfy lounge with intimate seating. Check it out at our first event on February 29!
Meanwhile, we are pleased to announce that Jeff LaFond is the new Technical Director of The Forst and we have added the House Management team of Erin LaFond, Shannon Floyd, Vanessa Guillen and Elmer Dvoracheck. Kevin and Alicia Harris are bringing their group, Music Without Boundaries, to ensure that The Forst offers quality musical events along with its theatre and other activities.
As a special part of that new partnership, Music Without Boundaries is arranging for musical guests for our theatrical opening nights. We are featuring Christopher Gold at the opening of Tuesdays With Morrie and Chris Darby for the opening of Three Days of Rain. These opening nights will also include featured cocktails and appetizers. Check it out at our theatre page.
We are happy to report that we have met the first 25% of our Music in the Pub goal of $4,000. This has allowed us to begin the process of scheduling three Music in the Pub events for April and May, which will be announced shortly.
There are a range of other new opportunities coming in 2020.
Of course, we will be continuing our efforts to support all of this activity through our Forst Future Fund. 2020 goals include increasing the number of monthly donors, identifying sponsors for our theatrical and musical events, and finding sponsors for Music in the Pub. If you haven't become a patron yet, we encourage you to do so at our website.
No doubt there will be more to report and more to do, but we are very excited to be looking forward to a fabulous new year in 2020. We look forward to seeing you soon!
This musing started out as a little reflection on the challenge of operating a performing arts venue deep in a rural area in an old building in a part of the country that embraces the four seasons with a vengeance. Then I realized that we hadn't done a "Meet The Cast" musings for The Shape of Things...so that is included as well. Kind of a two for one for your later winter amusement.
As far as the first notion goes, this is a bit of a follow-up on the mid-winter reflection that I posted back in January. At that moment, things were quiet here at The Forst and we were deep in the grip of winter's howl. Today, almost two months later, winter is loosening its grip, which is creating all kinds of new challenges that we're sharing with pretty much everyone else who lives in the upper-midwest. All that lovely white snow is now slowly re-creating the inland oceans of bygone epochs. Beware that you don't find yourself the victim of some unexpected fossil creating event!
Visitors to The Forst generally comment favorably on the history and charm of the old building and its construction. It is a neat and rare example of nineteenth and early-twentieth century hospitality. The enormous wooden beams and ubiquitous wood trim come from timber long since vanished from the forests. Along with that you also get a building lacking some of the nifty construction benefits of modern infrastructure. It can be a challenge.
I mention this because last night, as I was enjoying the final dress rehearsal of The Shape of Things, I was struck by how unimportant some of those inconveniences are. When we heat the place up, turn on the lights, set out the food and drink and fill the place with energetic patrons, a little water and ice suddenly doesn't seem so important.
So, if you were wondering what we are up to out here, be certain that there is music and theatre in abundance waiting for you to emerge from your winter hibernation, daring the raging waters of Spring to enjoy a bit of the arts again. (Although you might want to park across the street if the lake in front of the building hasn't receded!)
Meet The Cast of The Shape of Things
The Shape of Things opens tomorrow (Friday, March 15). This project is another example of one of those shows at The Forst that is happening because of a passion for art within the community. Actor Thomas Moore came to me some time ago looking to find a place to stage this show, and we were all too happy to oblige.
It's a fascinating script with some unexpected twists. Don't do too much research on the plot...it's more fun if you don't know what's coming. In this modern dramatic work, Neil LaBute asks a range of interesting questions: How far would you go for love? For art? What would you be willing to change? What price might you pay? A young student drifts into an ever-changing relationship with an art major while his best friends' engagement crumbles, so unleashing a drama that peels back the skin of two modern-day relationships. It's a great ride and we hope you find the time to come and see it!
Elizabeth Szyman (Evelyn) has performed and studied theatre and film in Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin. She is thrilled to be participating in “The Shape of Things.” This is Elizabeth’s third performance with the Forst Inn Arts Collective, other roles include playing Beth in “Dinner with Friends” and Molly in “Smell of the Kill.” Previous local highlights include Rachel Ann in “Exit Laughing,” Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” and Sarah in “Company.” She is grateful to her family and friends for all their T.L.C. as well as the support and hard work of the cast and crew.
Thomas Moore (Adam) is very excited to finally make his physical appearance on stage at the Forst Inn. His previous credit would include voicing three male characters in "The Smell of The Kill". Other local credits would include Bobby in "Exit Laughing", Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby", Robert in "Proof", CB in "Dog Sees God", Paul in "A Chrous Line", as well as many other Masquers productions throughout the years. After spending a few years studying theatre at UW-Parkside, he loves to help bring great theatre to the lakeshore. He'd like to thank friends and family for their support as well as Michael and The Forst Inn specifically for making this show a reality as it has been very close to his heart for a long time.
Katie Schroeder (Jenny) is thrilled to be back on the Forst Inn stage with some of her favorite people. Previous shows at the Forst Inn include “Dinner with Friends” (Karen) and “The Odd Couple (female version)” (Vera). She was most recently seen in Green Bay for Evergreen Theater’s “Sense & Sensibility” (Elinor Dashwood) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (Mary Hatch Bailey). When not playing with her theatre friends, she can be found slinging coffee, attending classes, or planning her next international adventure. She is honored to be included in a production that holds so much meaning to Thomas and Elizabeth. She hopes you enjoy the show!
Darrick Bruns (Phillip) is happy to be making his third appearance on stage at the Forst inn. He was last scene on stage as “Riff Raff” in the 2018 production of “The Rocky horror show” at UW Manitowoc. He last appearance on this stage was in the 2018 production of “Hello Again”. Darrick is a long-time performer in the Manitowoc area, appearing on stage over the years in productions with the Peter Quince performing company, Masquers, and UW Manitowoc.
A native of Manitowoc, Claran LaViolette (costumes) has been designing and collecting costumes since her college days. She has served as costume designer for Masquers, UW Manitowoc, KB Productions, St. John’s Players and Treehouse Theater. Though she feels that costuming is her forte, Claran has been on stage (favorite roles: “Grandma” in the Addams Family and “Abby Brewster” in Arsenic and Old Lace), in the director’s chair ( Suite Surrender, Miracle on South Division Street, The Savannah Sipping Society) and produced shows for Masquers and St. John’s Players. She is also the current president of The Masquers Inc.
We hope you're staying warm out there. It's been a crazy week for weather and we're looking forward to a little bit warmer February!
One thing that the January weather has done is allowed us to spend a little time getting ready for some of our artist driven upcoming events. We're excited that as a part of our mission here at the Arts Collective we've been gathering projects that are near and dear to the artists who have been collaborating with us this past year.
In February alone we have two interesting events. On February 16 we'll be doing a staged reading of the Eugene Ionesco play, The Bald Soprano. This project comes courtesy of Phillip Jindra and Tessa Komorowski and features a number of our regular performers. Its a free event and after we finish the reading we'll discuss the play.
On February 17 we're presenting Haley Ebinal's production titled Riot Act: A Feminist Manifesto. First produced at the UWGB, this show is a performance art piece featuring 4 monologues by Franca Rame and a devised play. Riot Act shines a mirror on society's epidemic objectification of women, exploring why and how we've let it happen. Haley performed in our production of The 39 Steps and we're excited to have her show on our calendar.
Other artist driven projects this year include Hello Again, Becky's New Car, Always Patsy Cline and a series of musical evenings being organized by Kevin James Sievert under the title "The Forst Inn Sings...". A lot of our music events happen because musicians contact us looking for a place to do their art as well, and Catherine is busy collaborating with those folks and making sure the pub and the stage are hopping with great musicians.
Do you have a dream project that you've always wanted to make happen? Contact us and start the process. Who knows? Stay warm!!
Our upcoming production of November opens on February 22. We've assembled a great cast for this show with a mix of Forst Inn favorites and new faces.
Leading off the cast as the embattled Commander In Chief, Charles Smith, is Jeremy Pelegrin. Jeremy has a challenging task ahead of him filling the shoes of Nathan Lane, who originated the role on Broadway back in 2008. Jeremy returns to the Forst Inn after appearing in 2018’s Hello Again and Putnam County Spelling Bee. In the Green Bay area, Jeremy has enjoyed performing with Daddy D Productions, Birder Players, St. Norbert Music Theatre, Theatre Z, and Evergreen Productions, where he was last seen in the title role of Lombardi. Jeremy earned his Theatre Arts degree from UW Stevens Point and went on to perform at dinner theaters and theme parks around the country. His Florida credits include Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Mark II Dinner Theatre and The Golden Apple. Some of Jeremy’s favorite roles have been in They’re Playing Our Song (Vernon), Into the Woods (Jack), You’re a Good Man...(Charlie Brown), The Baltimore Waltz (Carl), Annie (Rooster), and Monty Python’s Spamalot (Sir Galahad).
Filling the role of Charles' intrepid sidekick, Archer, is Forst Inn favorite Sean Stalvey. Sean was in our first production, “The Glass Menagerie”, and played the lead in “The 39 Steps”. Sean began his interest in theatre in high school and with the Peter Quince Performing Company, playing Flute and Piccolo in the pit orchestras. He started to pursue theatre on-stage at UW-Manitowoc, where he earned the 2018 UW-Manitowoc Fine Arts in Theatre Award. Having graduated with an Associate of Arts and Science Degree at UW-Manitowoc, Sean is currently a student at UW-Green Bay pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Theatre. In his free time, Sean enjoys astronomy and watching movies.
Laurie Conrad is a new face at The Forst and is playing the determined speech writer, Bernstein. Laurie is a recent transplant from Madison, Wisconsin and now resides on the shores of Lake Michigan. She is elated to be with The Forst Inn. Laurie is affiliated with The Collective Writers Group and The Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum. Laurie is an avid writer, and heads the Cool City Writers Group at the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Laurie has performed with the Isadoora Theatre Company and Third Avenue Playhouse.
Margi Diny plays "The Turkey Gal"...we'll let you imagine what that means. Margi is well-known to audiences in the Green Bay Area and beyond, having performed onstage for several years. She particularly enjoys acting and volunteering at the Forst, where she played Agnes in “I do, I do!”, Mickey in The Odd Couple female version, and other roles. You may have even seen her bussing tables or seating patrons. When not helping at the Forst, Margi is a commercial actor, appearing on billboards, print ads, and film. She also keeps busy playing the violin with the Civic Symphony of Green Bay and for weddings and other events.
Rounding out the cast in the peculiar but exciting role of Dwight Grackle is Kana Coonce. Kana was recently seen on the Forst Inn Stage in a number of productions including Mistletoe Musings, Black Patent Leather Shoes and The 39 Steps. When it comes to biographical details, Kana leans toward whimsy and tends to leave all summary to outside and mystical forces. For this particular show and character, that would probably mean that you'll need to look to the Native American spirit world to learn anything useful about Kana's experiences or plans.
The show itself was written by David Mamet in 2008 and was well received by the reviewers in New York. It depicts one day in the life of a beleaguered American commander-in-chief. It's November in a Presidential election year, and incumbent Charles Smith's chances for reelection are looking grim. Approval ratings are down, his money's running out, and nuclear war might be imminent. Though his staff has thrown in the towel and his wife has begun to prepare for her post-White House life, Chuck isn't ready to give up just yet. Amidst the biggest fight of his political career, the President has to find time to pardon a couple of turkeys — saving them from the slaughter before Thanksgiving — and this simple PR event inspires Smith to risk it all in an attempt to win back public support. With Mamet's characteristic no-holds-barred style, November is a scathingly hilarious take on the state of American politics (today, yesterday, forever) and the lengths to which people will go to win.
We have kept the time frame the same rather than attempting to update it. The setting is the final days of a fictional presidential candidate and this lovable commander in chief bears no resemblance to any of our recent occupants of the office. Rather, Charles Smith is created as a broad representative of politicians writ large...with an extreme nod to the way that the exigencies of politics can cause them all to lose sight of their more serious and idealistic values. Mamet takes a shot at just about everyone on both sides of the aisle and manages to offend just about everyone along the way. You should be able to see all your least favorite politicians in his desperate antics, but also some of the lovable traits of your favorite politicians as well.
The show is definitely rated R, with Mamet's usual employment of adult jokes and liberal use of words that start with "f".
"This is satire with a scorpion's sting" - Variety
"A professional skeptic and an inspired word jockey, David Mamet can lay claim to the same connoisseurship of human folly as H. L. Mencken, who once observed that, in America, 'only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night.' Mamet's new Oval Office satire, November... is a hilarious demonstration of the fact that we live in an age of equality: all classes are criminal... Broadway comedy is generally a testament to Twain's maxim that honesty is 'the best of all the lost arts.' On the boulevard, laughter is meant to distract, not galvanize, to enchant, not disenchant. Into this weak hand, David Mamet has dealt an ace." - John Lahr, The New Yorker
"Ferociously original... and crisply performed, [November] rollicks from one politically incorrect punch line to the next." – San Francisco Chronicle
"Vaudeville meets current events... David Mamet just couldn't resist the bully pulpit of satire." – San Jose Mercury News
"Remarkable... one of the most profoundly laugh-out-loud plays that I have seen in many years." – BeyondChron.org
"The big, explosive laughter that starts early in David Mamet's November is of a kind I haven't heard in decades." – The Village Voice
"November gets my vote! Like an expert marksman in a shooting gallery, the playwright takes aim at just about every hot-button issue of the day, scoring a bull's eye every time." –Backstage East
"Sublime! One of the first breezy and intelligent comedies of substance we've seen in a long time" – The Villager
"Extremely funny" – The New York Times
It’s snowing today. Light fluffy stuff that’s easy to move around and looks pretty on the trees. Although I like having distinct seasons, I find that every year gives the arrival of spring more weight and relief. The lifting of the dark of winter is a palpable physical and emotional moment that I anticipate with growing passion each year. Meanwhile, I find that I am more interested in hibernating each year as well. No doubt this is a widely shared outlook.
With that in mind, we elected to close down The Forst for the month of January. This has the benefit of giving Catherine and I some needed time to recharge, plan and renew. As a part of that planning process, we are looking forward to our first board meeting of the year and the introduction of some new board members. We are also enjoying the involvement of new voices in creating plans for many aspects of what we do. This is all much needed and good. Still, it is strange to sit in the pub looking out at the winter in a building that is largely cold and still. Over the past year and a half it has been such a vibrant hub of activity and energy.
The quiet does provide some time for reflection. We have gone a long while without posting new musings…it’s hard to muse when you are neck deep in the intensity of the doing. So, while the cold and dark might inspire melancholy at times, it is also a fertile space to ponder and reflect and, voila, a musing emerges.
There is much I could muse upon; the challenge of doing so much with limited resources; the joy of seeing audiences enthused and inspired; the satisfaction of the slow and steady growth in attendance; the relief of receiving important patron support at year’s end; the growing community of artists and volunteers…it’s all worthy of consideration.
Gratitude and hope come to mind as obvious things to reflect upon. A little cliched perhaps, but still these are the two strongest threads in this morning’s thinking. The scope and nature of gratitude is pretty obvious here. I am grateful for the good fortune that has led to this moment, to the hard work of those around me, to the dedication of Catherine Egger in joining in this crazy adventure, to the support of the community, to the positive events that have allowed us to manage to pay the bills as we go…all of these things have allowed me to immerse myself in an adventure that I can be nothing but thankful for having. I am thankful.
Hope is more complex. While the first phase of the project has gone well, there is much to do in order to ensure the continued survival of this newest incarnation of The Forst Inn. Attendance needs to keep edging higher, more and more people need to be plugged in to more and more tasks to ensure that the place runs smoothly and that our audiences have amazing experiences, new patrons and sponsors are needed to help pay our artists and make much needed improvements in the facility…it’s a long list and fear rather than hope stands out as a rather substantive emotion. Which is where the gratitude comes in.
Because it is all of the things that I am grateful for which give me hope for this next year. Success for The Forst Inn Arts Collective will come not because of what I do, but because of what you do. It will be the moments when volunteers, artists, sponsors and patrons own the success of this magical place that will create hope and, ultimately, ensure its sustenance. That’s a pretty cool thing to get to be part of.
When I taught in the public schools a colleague and I shared a phrase that we would toss to each other in challenging moments. We would simply say, “twig in a stream”; invoking the Buddhist notion of acceptance and release of control. Some things are bigger than you are, and one must accept and trust. There is a path to success and it is a stream that cannot be easily directed. In the quiet dark of winter it is good to embrace that stream, float to the surface, and savor being carried along in its power.
Of course, the stream has to thaw first! :-) Happy Winter!
Forst Inn Underground Has Its First Moment
In one of my favorite musicals, the Baker's wife, having had a mind altering experience in the woods, observes that life cannot consist of nothing but moments of significance, or one would never have a sense of the import of those moments. So, of course, as we have endeavored these past months to continue with the ongoing adventure of staging shows and presenting music one loses the notion that there are things to muse about. And so, it's been a bit since I've posted a musing.
But today, as I sit in the pub writing this, our first Underground production, put together by a young and energized company and stretching the boundaries of what we are able to offer on the Forst Inn Stage, is performing for a cherished preview audience. It is a moment and it is worth taking note of.
Of course, that is not to say that the previous months have been without moments. Lots of cool things have happened along the way. But for myself, musing tends to come with change...or growth...and this feels like a moment of that kind. A moment in the woods.
Although I dearly love directing our shows, it is wonderfully delicious to know that over time more and more of our work will be the creative outcome of the visions of many different people. That in our work of restoring and invigorating this space comes the promise of a diverse community of artists of all kinds who seek a home...a platform...a nest in which their creative work can settle and bloom.
It's a good moment.