Wednesday, May 09, 2007

John Ohler Presents Lincoln Carving to Library at OFTA

John Ohler a painter, designer, architect, carver, and a publisher of fine embroidery patterns (Puckerbrush Needlework Company), gave the program at the OFTA (Old Friends Talk Arts) meeting in the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth, IL on Wednesday, May 9th. He displayed a full range of his work in several media and talked about his philosophy of art and the creative process. Ohler, who is seventy-nine years young and still going strong, graduated from Monmouth High School in 1947 and just received a Distinguished Service Award from the Monmouth-Roseville Public Schools. Well represented among the almost fifty people attending his talk were several members of his high school graduating class.

At the end of his remarks Ohler and his wife presented a carving of Abraham Lincoln to the Lincoln Collection at the Warren County Public Library. This collection of Lincoln books and memorabilia was started some years ago by Ralph Whiteman. The gift was formally accepted by Jan De Young, current President of the library board of directors.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Monmouth Meets Minneapolis (and wins)

What's the connection between Monmouth, IL, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages?
The connection resides in a very special theatre just off Broadway at Monmouth College. Does that sound a bit confusing? Let me enlighten you. Last Tuesday there was be a panel discussion at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Two of the "internet phenoms" on the panel, David de Young and Mike Fotis have Monmouth connections.

Mike Fotis attended Monmouth College and studied with Dr. Jim De Young of the theatre department. Both De Young and Bill Wallace, his Theatre Arts colleague, have PhD's from the U. of Minnesota and always recommended warmly the theatrical climate in the Twin Cities. Neither of them ever recommended the actual climate in the Twin Cities, but that is another story.

Mike Fotis and his partner Joe Bozic, who also graduated from Monmouth, had starring roles in DeYoung's production of Tom Stoppard's ARCADIA when they were in school. A reference to that play now provides the title of Dr. De Young's blog called Stirringthepudding. Things now begin to get a little incestuous. Though Fotis is currently single, Bozic married another Monmouth College graduate, who just happened to be the business manager of the Monmouth College Theatre. She is alluded to in the recent article in the Star Tribune as the social worker who studies kick boxing on the side. It gets worse since Fotis Mike has a younger brother Fotis Matt, who is a budding playwright and also attended Monmouth College and appeared in theatre productions directed by De Young and Wallace. Brother Matt also married a Monmouth grad. She is a nanny and part-time actress, but not as far as I know a student of kick boxing. She just appeared in a play in Chicago called DEVILED EGGS by Nick Ryan--A Minneapolis playwright by the way. That play was directed by her husband Matt. Two other people in that Shantz Theatre cast (Vickie Kunz and Becky Duncan) and the Technical Director (Kyle Anderson), who just married Ms. Duncan last year also have Monmouth College Theatre connections.

Meanwhile in another parallel universe David de Young (who insists on the small "d" as a mark of independence from his Monmouth parents, settled in Minneapolis to do computer work for the Honeywell Corportation. Computers provide the "jack" but David 's long time love has been popular music and five years ago he started a web site called How Was the that has become a major chronicler of the Twin Cities music scene. David met the Fotis boys when his Mom and Dad came to town to see a play of Matt's that was done, quite successfuly I might add, at the Minneapolis Fringe Festival.

We are now almost to the final connection. Mike Fotis/Joe Bozic of the Brave New Workshop and David de Young of How Was The are both recipients of a "Best" from the Minneapolis/St. Paul city pages.

Winner: Brave New Workshop
It finally happened. In See Dick Shoot, a night of sketch comedy loosely based on our light-hearted jokester of a vice president, BNW artistic director Caleb McEwen's head exploded. Sure, he was playing a spelling bee competitor hopped up on steroids, but we knew the folly of the world was going to make his cranium pop open one of these days. If the BNW is taken for granted here in town, it's the victim of its own consistency. For those who make its cozy confines a regular stop, it's a night that guarantees smart laughs from a crack rotating cast. (We're partial to the panic-prone Mike Fotis, the twisted Joe Bozic, and the clearly mad Lauren Anderson.) Probably the troupe's best show was Saturday Night FEMA, which somehow managed to extract laughs while offering a clear-eyed denunciation of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. While every show has a theme, each is actually a series of sketches and songs that always seems filled with promise—in other words, if the one you're watching is a stinker, there's another one right around the bend. Much credit goes to McEwen, who's never encountered an idiocy he can't scorn. If the Guthrie is the aircraft carrier on the waters of local theater, BNW is its resilient tugboat—with a pirate flag bearing a defiantly raised middle finger.

How Was the Show
Tireless local-rock evangelist David de Young and his hardy band of contributors (most notably Cyn Collins and Karla Ludzack) have created a nearly comprehensive guide to local live rock. The sheer number of shows they witness and write about is flat-out remarkable. In February alone--a month in which even the most devoted music scenester is tempted to huddle on the couch with a blanket and a bottle of wine--they managed to chronicle 18 different gigs, ranging from the 23rd Annual Battle of the Jug Bands at the Cabooze to art-metal veterans Queensryche at First Avenue. The site also provides a comprehensive set of links to local music venues and resources, as well as de Young's immensely informative (if sporadically updated) blog. The write-ups can occasionally be clunky and overly reverential, but that's certainly understandable. As de Young noted in a recent pan of Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience, "If a show is horrendous, we often don't write about it so we can save precious writing and editing time for the awesome shows we live to share with you."

So there! Back here in Monmouth the retired De Young sits looking at a "plastic Plautus"* and is proud of them all and waiting to see what will happen next! *A reference that can only be deciphered by knowing Tom Stoppard's ARCADIA.