Happy Birthday Brazosport Center Stages. We are 75.

Tonight is the 75th annual meeting of the membership of the community theater group now known as Brazosport Center Stages, located in Clute, TX. It began as the Little Theatre in Freeport and moved, along with a sister organization, Brazosport Music Theater, into the new Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences facility in 1976. Twenty years later, the two theater groups merged to form Brazosport Center Stages in 1996. 

Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences

Brazosport Center Stages and I were both born in 1943. We only got to know each other after our family moved to Lake Jackson from Houston in 1982. Gradually over the years we became integral parts of each other’s lives.

I have an album of old proof sheets of film photos going back to the late 1980s when I first asked DeDe Dunn if she would allow me to take some rehearsal shots of “The Nerd.” She opened the door to me and the theater folks have always since welcomed me with my camera and I have been able to store up a lot of memories over the years of our relationship.

I love theater photography. Other people take care of lighting, posing, hair, makeup, costuming, movement and all I have to do is hit the shutter button. And – surprise! – actors almost never mind standing in the light and having their picture taken. After years of having subjects turn their backs to my camera and never apologizing (mostly my children), I now had a source of interesting and enthusiastic subjects. In all the years of photographing actors at BCS I have had exactly one get angry and tell me to get the camera out of her face. She was older then than I am now. She was entitled.

You can spend as much time as you would like viewing some of the later digital files on my Flickr site. There are thousands of theater shots. I am an amateur photographer and I have learned a few things over those years. I have also spent a little on cameras, lenses and software. I hope there is some improvement in the photos as a result of my learning and investment.

But BCS has meant so much more than a place to practice my photography avocation. I have even ventured onto the stage in a few roles over the years.  I had the privilege of presenting the role of FDR, I hope with some dignity, in this Republican bastion in Annie, 2001. Then I was the somewhat shy racist, Karl Lindner, in Raisin in the Sun somewhere in the 2000s. Then I had the experience as a septuagenarian of taking a role with a large number of lines in Camping with Henry and Tom, 2013.  I felt absolute terror at every performance knowing that so many of my friends were watching. I had never even heard of flop sweat before and suddenly I was producing it in buckets. The difficulty of trying to remember and say all of Thomas Edison’s many lines in that play cured me of further attempts at acting. 

Here is Thomas Edison in “Camping with Henry and Tom” trying to rest at a camp site in the woods after Henry Ford wrecked one of his Model Ts on the way to our site. You can’t see it, but my mind is racked with misery trying to remember the list of choice hardwoods for a making a good campfire. Harding and Ford, the dolts, didn’t know much about nature and the outdoors. This photo is by Katie LeFave, a real photographer.

Yet, for all the joy I have taken from Brazosport Center Stages, I really value it most for what it contributes to our community. I have watched generations of young people move through their own activities and then out into our nation and the world to apply the things they learned about planning, communication, teamwork and how to respect themselves and others. At an early age, they were able to have friends who were adults and share peer responsibilities with them. I have seen it in my own kids and I have seen what a valuable experience theater was in their lives.

So, happy birthday Brazosport Center Stages and many happy returns. What you add to the education of our young people – and old people for that matter – makes all of us a little more civilized, reasonable and loving. I am looking forward to celebrating with you tonight and some of the friends we have shared over the last 35 years. You are a treasure in all our lives.

At Brazosport Center Stages: Shrek, the Musical

If you have dropped in here since last Tuesday (July 9) you have been seeing photos of a Brazosport Center Stages rehearsal of the summer show, Shrek, the Musical in the righthand column. (Note: The photos still appear at this writing but will move on as I post more photos on my Flickr site. To see tham any time, click this link and to go to the album.)

I am am pretty much one of the leaders on the pop culture illiterati so I did not look forward to the show and I had not intended to take archive photos. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I would attend a performance. Cartoon characters put to the stage never appealed to me. All I knew about Shrek was what I learned from doing crossword puzzles. I knew he as an ogre and that is really about all I knew.

Donkey, the Three Blind Mice, Shrek and Princess Fiona (all grown up)

Seeing the show on its opening night this Friday, however, reminded me again how much talent we have in this community and how much is required for a production of this kind. The people on the stage were simply amazing. And there were so many behind the scenes: artists who took care of makeup, props, lighting, sound, choreography, set designers and builders, painters, costumes, stage management (a major challenge with such a large cast in our venue), making music in the pit, and dozens others who did everything from serving coffee at intermission to corralling the many children in the cast and to keep order in the green room. Congratulations to Craig Fritz and Cindy Gernand who team-directed this very big show.

They were rewarded with a full house and an energetic, attentive audience. The attention of kids and families was riveted by the superb performances they were seeing. The theater boiled with excitement the entire evening.

Tickets are disappearing fast. When I checked about an hour ago, there were four scattered seats left for next Sunday’s final performance. There are more for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances but very few of them are in the center section. To see what is available and nail down a reservation go to the link provided here.

Lord Farquaaad and the Duloc singers. The prince was not short on vocal talent.

And the last photo shows an incredible dancer, singer and choreographer at work. Lyssa Rumsey is a very special talent. She was everywhere in this show.

Lyssa treads the boards with more than the usual energy. She sings, she dances, she acts, she choreographs. You will keep seeing her among the shows many characters.

And did I mention the sound effects? Well, buy a ticket, go and listen for yourself. Allow your inner teenager to have a laugh or two.

Good show, friends. You make this theater a special place.

A Lovely Family Could Use a Helping Hand

If you know this family, please consider giving them a hand right now. Our community has benefited so much from their presence. They have given us much in the way of both creativity and service. Now they are fighting an enemy most of us will never have to confront. Your assistance would be well invested.

www.gofundme.com/lefave-family-cancer-defeating-funds

Burying Bodies in the Basement Has Never Been So Much Fun

Brazosport Center Stages opened Arsenic and Old Lace last night in the Dow Arena Theater. To be sure, it’s an old play and every community theater has offered it several  times in the time most people spend in a single community. But these are days of mobility and rootlessness. Things like “A&OL” given to you by friends of such superb talent is a gift that is settling to the soul.

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Abby and Martha Brewster fuss about in the foreground while Mortimer Brewster places a frantic call to his editor.

Wes Copeland, who doubles as executive director of the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences, assembled and directed a cast of experienced players who share a love of theater, a lot of talent, a joy in giving it to their friends, and . . . well, that’s about it. Beyond those qualities held in common, they represent the spectrum of businesses, trades and professions that make up a village like ours.

In addition to the wonderful performances by Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha, you will be able to see the results of Dr. Einstein’s somewhat sub-standard plastic surgery and you can follow the political and engineering exploits of the brother who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt. Don’t miss it.

 

Reservations are available for performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons through May 5 at this link. Laughter is very necessary to your health and well-being. Works better than elderberry wine.

More photos from the dress rehearsal may be viewed on the Flickr site. If you buy a ticket you will see completed costumes, makeup and set.

Opening Tonight at Brazosport Center Stages: “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”

If you were coming of age in the Fifties and Sixties, the music you heard every day on the radio still lives in your head. “Yakety Yak,” “Searchin’,” “Charlie Brown,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Hound Dog” – to name a very few – are songs that never go away. But do you have any idea who wrote them? Probably not.

Brazosport Center Stages opens “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” tonight in the Freeport LNG venue, aka, the large theater. Directed by Jean Warren, it is really more of a musical revue than a play. It consists entirely of songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller performed by excellent musicians from our area. Just a few of the singers you will hear are Elon Coates, Lizzy Conger, Amber Crawford, Jacob Aguilar, Cameron Losoya, Mason Rod, Chayton Herbst, Maurice Williams, and some new folks whose names I can’t recall to tell you right now. But they are all good. (Send me a tip if you identify them in the photo below.) More photos are posted to the Flickr site here.

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Lest you think this is a show for old timers, I can tell you that when I finished shooting photos of the invited dress rehearsal last night, I spotted some high schoolers on the third row and I asked a young man if he knew someone in the cast.

“No but I love this music,” he said.

“A gift to you from my generation,” I said.

“Wow. Thanks,” he said.

“Fee, fee, fi, fi, fo, fo, FUM, I smell smoke in the audi-tor-i-UM … ” I said.

It’s a great show. Come out, listen, and re-live to the birth of rock and roll – back when you could make out the words in the songs.

Maybe you can even learn how to shimmy.

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Reservations available online at The Center web site. The remaining shows:

Saturday, Feb 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb 3 at 2:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb 8 and Saturday, Feb 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb 10 at 2:30 p.m.

Four More Performances of the Brazosport Fine Arts Council’s Elizabethan Madrigal Feast

The Flickr feed in this chronicle’s righthand column has been revealing photos from rehearsals and performances of the Brazosport Fine Arts Council’s Elizabethan Madrigal Feast, 2018.

Once again, area talent has gathered in The Center to slip a Shakespeare comedy by an audience that may have been expecting something a little more tinsel-themed and Toyland oriented. Sorry, there is way too much talent around to waste it on the ordinary fluff of a commercial Santa Land production. This is an assembly of talented singers, dancers, instrumentalists, actors, artistic designers, foodies, theater techies and costumers who muster and present a big city show with Broadway brilliance in the beautiful little chemical burg of Clute, Texas.

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Petruchio sweeps Katharina off her feet in the scaled down version of “The Taming of the Shrew” inserted into the Elizabethan Madrigal Feast 2018 edition.

It’s one of those little Texas secrets — like where to get the best barbecue or hear the best live country music— that you hope Texas Monthly doesn’t discover any time too soon so that you will still be able to get tickets.

That’s not really true. There are mixed feeling about the event becoming well known, but to be honest, we need people from around the state to start coming into Clute to experience the Feast first hand. The financial well being of the Center for the Arts and Sciences would benefit greatly from a statewide reputation that would appeal to foundations and other donors able to offer large gifts.

And, while we are at it, why not raise the ticket price, too, to make the cost align more correctly with the quality of the production? I contend that it would be a $200 ticket (drinks, tips and coat check not included) in a major urban center. It would probably run higher than that in NYC where people expect to pay the performers they wish to keep in town. Bottom line, The Center needs revenue to maintain and expand facilities for its program of education and entertainment in the arts and sciences.

The place is bustin’ at the seams, well-used and scheduled to the hilt. The lines for restrooms during the EMF intermission pretty well illustrated the need.

There are four more performances as I write this. Reservations are available at the Center box office web site.

Hurry and get your reservations. There is no better way to say “Welcome Yule”.

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The Earl of Warwick, the Queen and other of the Earl’s guests join in the message: “Welcome Yule”.

 

 

Another Madrigal Feast; Another Madrigal Book

It is time for another edition of the Elizabethan Madrigal Feast at the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences in Clute. Performers are coming in from Angleton, Lake Jackson, Richwood, Freeport, all the communities West of the Brazos and beyond. The performers, stitchers, set designers and builders come from all around.  It is probably too late for tickets but it can’t hurt to try. Online ticketing (if seats are still available) would be here.

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Marc Davis performs in the 2016 Elizabethan Madrigal Feast at the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences. He will be back this year in a Shakespeare role. The young dancer is Summer Hughes.

This is no longer a strictly local event. You have to compete with people from all over the state for your tickets now. Good luck.

And of course, I have put together another book of photographs from the last performance in 2016. You may preview the book here. It is a 13×11 in hard cover edition with quality paper and beautiful color. Check it out. Maybe it would be a nice gift if you know a someone who performed in it. (I do it for the costumer.)

Now, here’s the problem. It’s a little pricey at $95. But all the profits go to the printer (Blurb.com) except for the $5 I add to the printer’s price to help me buy a lens now and then. (The slight surcharge also allows me to know if any of the books are being purchased. Otherwise, I have no idea. I will happily refund you the $5 but you have to look me up in order to collect.)

But, if you attend EMF 2018, you may use one of your raffle tickets to try to score one for a mere $20. Good luck with that, too.

If you are wondering what in the world there is to be thankful for in 2018, take a peek at the Elizabethan Madrigal Feast. If you can’t get a ticket, buy the book.

A friend from Chapelwood reminded me this morning that God still makes beautiful things. I try to take a few pictures and it’s more than I can keep up with. I am always thankful for that. Happy Thanksgiving South-of-Towners.