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.

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

I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt

If you procrastinated like I did, then you will be spending your weekend thinking about taxes and tax returns. There could not be a better time to have a visit from the patron saint of accountants. This is long. And you may find it boring. Accounting, after all. In any case, it’s purely fictional and any resemblance the characters may have to persons living or dead (or both – the saint, presumably) is purely coincidental.  

THE FINANCE COMMITTEE WRESTLES WITH SPENDING ON BIG TICKET ITEMS

Theology is thought to be a arcane subject by the religious and the non-religious alike. Church people think of it as “overthinking” the simple love of God and the easier and more beautiful intellectual demands of worship. The non-religious are, of course, mystified by miracles, prayer, and how church people reconcile the Trinity with the monotheism that is clearly commanded in the Decalogue.

But if theology is difficult, accounting is even more of a mystery for most United Methodists. I have been treasurer, finance chair, or volunteer amateur internal auditor for the better part of the last fifteen years in a United Methodist Church inhabited by men and women with excellent educations and careers in science, engineering and academics. I assure you most of them will explain the Trinity, reconcile evolution with the Book of Genesis, or enjoy a discussion of substitutionary atonement with you before they will tell you the functional difference between a balance sheet and an income and expense report. And while it may be fully expected that most members would not be able to go into much detail on such a thing as depreciation, you would think they would quickly grasp the meaning of the idea that income should ordinarily exceed expenses in a healthy organization. Alas, red ink is often taken only as a sign that we need to pray harder.

At our most recent meeting we spent the better part of an hour discussing whether we should pay for a $15,000 air conditioning condenser unit for the sanctuary from the operating budget or from our “rainy day fund,” which no one seemed to understand the reason for its creation and why it had been so named in the first place. Borrowing was not one of the options considered since we have been fortunate in being able to save up a little money over the last few years.

So it occurred to me after that meeting, where we agreed on a budget to propose to our church council, that maybe I could wrap some accounting ideas up in the more familiar spiritual language of theology. Red ink could be sin, for example. That would be easy enough and since we could all agree that it should be avoided, it wouldn’t need a lot of discussion. After all, this is deeply Republican country.

But what about the more difficult ideas like capitalization and depreciation of equipment? Too formidable to even consider after such a long meeting, I thought. Tomorrow. I will think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day. For now, some welcome rest.

 

I FALL INTO A DREAM; I MEET THE PATRON SAINT OF ACCOUNTANTS

But, alas, as I fell off to sleep that night, a gentleman appeared to me in a dream. In my dream I was at Chapelwood’s altar all alone and praying about my difficulty getting fellow Methodists to understand basic accounting concepts. Few things have ever brought me to my knees like this problem. Continue reading “I Meet the Patron Saint of Accountants: A Visit from St. Matt”

My New Favorite Player

Some friends asked me if I would take a few pictures of their son during his senior year at Brazoswood.  (If you looked in here around the middle of March, his photos were running on the sidebar from my Flickr site postings.)

Graydon Hill pitched for the Brazoswood High School Bucs until this summer when his doc pulled him and sent him to the showers. A medical condition eliminated pitching from the things he would be able to do during his senior year. Doc said he could still bat, run bases and play at first base occasionally.

So I went around town Wednesday with Graydon and his parents to take some shots. It was a cloudy, muggy day, the only time he had available due to tournament play and work during his spring break. I enjoyed taking pictures and he tolerated it pretty well. He gave me some great photos and I did my best to catch them.

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Graydon simulates his pitching motion for the camera. His doc won’t allow him to pitch anymore.

Graydon was expected to be one of his team’s starting pitchers this year. But disappointment is a temporary condition when you are as able with the bat as he is. The role of DH seems to suit him well. The day after our photo shoot he was 3 for 4 with three RBIs. In one day he surpassed my lifetime stats in Jacinto City teen play.

Graydon had no intention of making a career of his beloved game. Sorry, Astros. He has been accepted into Texas A&M’s very competitive engineering program. So, no more Aggie jokes. They were smart enough to pull this kid in. They are doing a lot more than playing football and cultivating maroon veggies for H.E.B.

Graydon is one of our graduating seniors at Chapelwood this year. I understand that he has also graciously accepted the job of unofficial team chaplain. He must be doing a good job. They won their Thursday game 18-4.

So, you ask, what happened to my old favorite player? She graduated and went to University of South Carolina to play softball with the rest of the best. The two of them, Anna and Graydon, give me hope for the world we live in at a time when hopeful signs seem hard to come by.

 

 

We Give Texas a Speaker: Dennis Bonnen

When my daughter came home during a break in her first year in college in 1996, she drove up to Angleton one day to meet me at work and have lunch. We headed over to the Texas Rose, an establishment run by a British expat who made the best hamburger in Brazoria County at the time. As we left the Texas Rose, young Dennis Bonnen followed us out the door and stopped us on the sidewalk.

“Mr. Fowler, I sure would appreciate your vote in the runoff next month.”

Dennis was pretty fresh out of college with a political science degree, a boatload of energy, and presenting for public office for the first time. He had barely made it into the runoff by edging out Beaver Aplin (yes, that Beaver) by ten votes. I had to tell Dennis that I was not qualified to vote in his runoff since I had voted in the Democratic primary.

The rest is history, of course. Beaver Aplin invested his free time in his gas station business and went on to develop the regionally famous “Buc-ee’s” brand. Dennis, won the runoff, served the next twenty-two years in the Texas House and on January 8 of this year was elected Speaker by unanimous vote of the membership.

Continue reading “We Give Texas a Speaker: Dennis Bonnen”

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”.