Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two Historic Buildings

Over the past couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of performing in some amazing historic buildings, The Briarhurst Manor and the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company.

On June 13 Red Herrring performed one of their public shows at the Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs. It was the premier of a rewrite of one of our westerns. We had a night where the stars aligned and all was well with the world. The audience was wonderful and the actors were hitting all the right notes in their performances.

As I walked through the various rooms, I could feel the sense of what it might have been like for the Bells' whose home this had been. The house is elegant and the current owners have done what they could to preserve the ambiance of the golden age of expansion that was Manitou and Colorado Springs. Although our story took place in Texas, the time periods were very similar. What a joy to not only have fun with a show, but to eat and wander the halls of history.

That was followed by a show on June 22 at the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company located in Colorado Springs. This building at Pikes Peak and Cascade Avenues is very close to the depot for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. It is my understanding that this building used to house the rail workers. The third floor, were we were again performing a western, used to be divided up into numerous small rooms for the workers. I am sure that their work was strenuous, but looking out the windows, the view of the mountains is spectacular. Perhaps they also were able to enjoy those brief moments of contemplation.

To have a job where I can not only honor my desire for performing and history is a gift I am truly grateful for. To walk where others have walked and to try to place myself into their world. Over the past two shows I went from high society to common worker, all by being in the space that they had occupied. It makes you want to dig even deeper and find out more.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Books/Stories/Plays: A trip worth remembering pt 3

This is the final part of my trip down memory lane and the books, stories and plays that have had a affect on my life.

When I went away to college I took my love of reading with me. That is not to say I truly enjoyed reading text books, I didn't. In fact as long as I attended class and the professor tested on what he/she spoke about I didn't have to study. I usually remembered what was said. Still I continued reading for pleasure. The one book that stands out from that time is Mario Puzzo's 'The Godfather'. I had started it on a Friday night, woke the next morning and continued reading until finished. That means I missed all meals except dinner. Hey, it was Saturday steak night and I was hungry. Actually, if I had not finished in time for dinner I would not have cared. The story had me so engrossed.

The other book that made an impact on me was 'Siddhartha' by Herman Hesse. I read that rather quickly over Thanksgiving break. The book actually allowed me to see a different view of the world, or conceptualized the new thinking I was experiencing in college.

When I moved to Colorado the west did not fascinate me. In fact, I had not even planned to live here. I came because Illinois had nothing for me , so I came west with some friends. They have all gone, but I am still here.I fell in love with the area. Probably the two books that started my desire for studying history and the west were Gwen Bristows 'Calico Palace' and Louis L'Amour's 'The Quick and the Dead'. Those are the first Westerns I remember reading. I don't consider a child's version of 'Have Gun Will Travel' to really count.

I picked up 'Calico Palace' from the library because I liked the cover. Once I started reading I could see the characters, their loves and life choices. The other book,'The Quick and the Dead', was lying around when I was working the graveyard shift at a psychiatric hospital. I read that in about 3 hours between checks and have continued reading fiction about the west since.

The final 'nail' in the foundation of my desire to tell the history of the west through fiction was writing and performing a one-woman show based on the stories of my family and the stories of Colorado Springs. From that point on, history and storytelling were indelibly linked.

From a love of stories and reading to a life of sharing that love and history. I guess all that I have read, even those I don't remember have made me the person I have become today. What a gift those authors and their works have given me.

To read more about history click the second 'edit me' on the side bar to read Joyce Lohse's interesting blogs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Books/Stories/Plays: A trip worth remembering pt 2

As I stated in the last post, I am taking a trip back to the works that have made a difference in my life. As I remember, when I moved from the three room school to a larger one, (grades 1-8), my reading took a turn. I moved to books by Phyllis Whitney and Mary Stewart, I love "The Moon Spinners". One of the librarians in Carthage, Illinois , where the library was located, did not want to let me check those books out. She said they were for adults. I argued with her and when she wasn't looking checked them out with another librarian. I did not see that there was any issue. The words were there and I chose to read them.

In high school I made the switch to plays. I became enamoured with reading any and all I could find. I would check out the 'best of' plays for each year. That is where I read "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' so Sad". Big title, but an interesting read. I did not like "Romeo and Juliet", but loved "MacBeth". I would say however the work that seemed to make the most lasting impression was the one act play "The Valiant". The line.."a coward dies many times before his death, but the valiant dies but once." has stayed with me for ever so long. In some ways I would say that line and one from a television show got me through all the 'tough' teen years. To paraphrase the TV line it was, ' there are four groups of people who react to you in life. The ones who like you for who the right reasons, the ones who hate you for the wrong reasons, the ones who like you for the wrong reasons and the ones who hate you for the right reasons. Of all these the one you need to worry about are the ones who hate you for the right reasons.'

Coming from a smaller school and not being one to 'follow' the crowd, it was sometimes tough. Still looking back, the books and plays I read allowed me to be myself and make the transition from high school to college without much stress. In many ways because of my reading I was a bit more mature than most of my contemporaries. In a small town that is not a bad thing. It also instilled in me the power of thoughts that words inspire. That was probably the greatest gift I received for those growing years.

Join me next time for college and beyond.