"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, July 7, 2014

How about songs, skits for Sesquicentennial?

Twig Webster
I had the pleasure of watching the movie "Waiting for Guffman" the other night. This movie came from the same creative crew that gave us "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind." They do warm-hearted parodies that make you appreciate the subject matter even more.
"Best in Show" paid homage to dog shows. The dogs came across as more level-headed than their owners! Really, a humorous treatment of this subject will make light more of the owners than the dogs.
"A Mighty Wind" paid homage to the flowering of folk music in the 1960s. Eugene Levy played a singer who "went solo" in his career and became increasingly eccentric, to where he appeared on an album cover in a straitjacket, an album entitled "A Cry for Help." The '60s were like that.
The best parodies respect their subject matter. OK, so let's shed light on this "Guffman" production, which makes us all think about that community theater group which had such a wonderful run in Morris. Too bad it has gone into mothballs. Certainly there's still lots of talent among our citizenry.
Watching "Waiting for Guffman" makes me think of an ideal proposed project for Morris. How about an original musical production honoring Morris for our Sesquicentennial? Our what? Get used to the word, its spelling and pronunciation. Del Sarlette says "Sasquatch-tennial" in mock recognition.
The magic year is coming up in 2021. Really that's not far off. Think of the creative stuff that could be penned based on Morris history. Imagine a lively musical production with skits and locally tailored songs, all presented over a series of 2-3 nights at our public school concert hall.
I suppose someone would have to get paid. How about someone like Twig Webster and his wife Shaune, wherever they are now? They live and breathe theater. Twig is a Morrissite to the core, in spirit I'm sure.
Maybe someone could prepare one of those "grant applications." That's a world that exists outside my sphere. Money seems to just appear magically. Can't beat that! Maybe one of our local "grant masters" could concoct something. The creative juices could flow.
Research for the production could be done from the souvenir publications for the Diamond Jubilee (in 1947) and the 125th anniversary (in 1996). I know, the Diamond thing should have been done in 1946, not 1947. The Diamond Jubilee publication makes note of that without giving a reason. I suspect the adjustment following World War II was a preoccupation for many in the community. We held off 'til 1947, at which time a quite fine celebration was held.
I do not recall a souvenir booklet for the Morris Centennial in 1971. I find that strange. Couldn't Ron Lindquist at the paper get his butt in gear and sell the ads?
The 1970s weren't the most idealistic decade in U.S. history. War weariness from Viet Nam cast a pall. I remember that at the time of the U.S. Bicentennial, in 1976, a cynical mindset seemed to prevail - kind of defeatist, not at all what it would be today. Today there would be an eruption of patriotism.
In the 1970s we had economic inflation and eventually "stagflation." We can forget today the kind of dragging-down of our collective attitudes. I was in college and got a heavy dose. I got a heavy dose of what might be called "deconstructionist" thinking. It penetrated into architecture. That's how we got the UMM science auditorium with its disregard for 90-degree angles. We couldn't do things the standard way. That's how we got into Viet Nam, right?
  
History and characters, onstage
It's fun to read about vignettes from history and try to imagine how they might be represented in skits and songs. In the "Guffman" movie, the narrator is a pioneer seated at his campfire. Our local production might show someone at his campfire along the Wadsworth Trail. The trail was the epitome of the pioneer spirit and ideals, the risk-taking and adventuresome instinct of those 19th Century folks.
The fellow in the movie was heating up some baked beans. If you remember "Blazing Saddles," you'll smile.
The Wadsworth Trail was chapter 1 in civilization coming here. I have always heard there were no permanent Indian settlements here. Del and I found it amusing that the Centennial program in 1971, held at the fairgrounds, began with acknowledgment of the Indians. The P.A. person said something like "no, we were not the first here." Well, I think "we" actually were.
The program in 1971 was organized by an outside consultant. Morris legend has it this outfit, headed by someone whose last name was Horner, had a stock script that was taken town to town. A wave of Centennials was obviously happening at that time.
I have a friend in Cedar Rapids IA where the Sesquicentennial was marked quite some time ago. So, I got used to the term. I remember being on the phone with the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce where the person complimented me on being able to pronounce "Sesquicentennial" so smoothly! I considered making a trip but did not.
I also have a female acquaintance in neighboring Marion IA who plays in the Eastern Iowa Brass Band. That band is quite the operation, more formal and intense with its business than our Morris Community Band. Google it.
A brass band like the Iowa group would be absolutely perfect for our bandshell at East Side Park. First the city needs to rip up that cement or asphalt at the park. That surface reflects the sun and gets uncomfortably hot. It's always very discouraging to see so many onlookers at the park way off to the side, looking for shade in their lawn chairs.
I remember when Governor Al Quie was here and everyone retreated off to the periphery. I chatted with our Chamber of Commerce executive, a chap last name of Beckman, who said "I was very embarrassed." I tried using that quote in the Morris newspaper but it got scrubbed. Too negative.
The paper today is providing such superficial coverage of that thing involving the high school principal. I have never seen so many carefully massaged quotes. We are left with nagging questions that don't get answered in the paper. I wonder if Twig and Shaune could put together a skit about the notorious episode? No, I don't think they would be so inclined. "Look, the bowling alley is closed!"
"Waiting for Guffman" would have no inhibitions. Fred Willard might play the role of the principal. Seems to me Fred got in trouble for some notorious episode of his own in his private life.
I have felt since day 1 that there's no way the high school principal will work another day here. If I'm wrong I'll stand corrected, but I think the community will demand that our school leaders set an example with their personal lives. Go to bed by 9:30 p.m. Go to church on Sunday. That's just how I look at it. I suppose if I were so smart, I'd still be with the paper.
  
Grant $ for creativity, history?
Let's see if the "grant people," the people well-versed on getting that magical money from the pipeline, can get something going for our Sesquicentennial celebration in 2021. After all, these gnome-ish folks were able to get underwriting for that "green community" blueprint, right? The "green community" was planned for the old school property. The blueprint won an award. We are learning there's a big difference between a blueprint and reality. William F. Buckley once wrote a book entitled "Did you ever see a dream walking?"
I'd like to see that Sesquicentennial program become total reality. Whether the baked beans might become meaningful, we'll see.
BTW Twig Webster is a 1971 Morris High School graduate. So is Del. That class recently lost Eddy Manska.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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