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.

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.

46471458765_0284a1a54f_k
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.

 

 

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.

30496958333_d183de2f15_k
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.

 

My Camera Captured the S&L Bubble about to Deflate in 1984. Really.

See the savings and loan bubble go down, down, down.
In March, 1984, American Savings and Loan Association did a little promotional activity in Lake Jackson hoping draw a few more depositors. Five years later they were insolvent.

About a year ago I was going through some old family photos and slides picking out a few to scan for a digital collection. This one caught my eye because of its colorful depiction of a nice spring day in Lake Jackson when the local S&L flew a hot air balloon over town. When I saw that they were using the Shy Pond as a take off and landing area, I headed that way with my 35mm camera that was already loaded with Kodachrome, one of the best films ever made.

The photo also caught my eye because it is symbolic of the fate of S&Ls in America that was due to befall them over the next five years. Do you remember the savings and loan bubble and how quickly they fell from their high-flying, money-making ways and deflated for all the world to see? This S&L held the original mortgage on the home we bought in Lake Jackson in 1982. Rates were sky high but due to plunge like the pretty balloon in the picture.

Ours was one of American S&L’s good mortgages at 13%. So, of course, we refinanced it at our first opportunity as did most of their other borrowers. By spring of 1989, just five years later, American Savings and Loan was insolvent and its chairman was being charged with financial misdeeds which earned him a little time in jail.

I remember standing in line to withdraw a CD they were holding for our United Way. The ten per cent yield was a good deal, of course, but I have never trusted high interest rate offers since then. Outliers are sometimes outlying (or maybe out lying?) for a reason that ought to be easy enough to understand: they need your cash more than you need the security and return they are offering. Sometimes the return exceeds the security. It took something called the FSLIC to make that CD good. I’m glad I got there before the FSLIC went under, too.

I wonder who got the hot air balloon in their insolvency settlements?

 

“The Music Man” Opens to Full House at The Center

28505179667_1a79d0f24a_k

Close to four hundred packed into the Freeport LNG Theater at The Center for the Arts and Sciences last night to see Brazosport Center Stages’ production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” Director Wes Copeland tried his hand at a summer musical for the first time and did himself proud.

There were the usual outstanding music and acting performances that you can always expect from Brazosport Center Stages’ productions. What pushed this one over the top was dance. Melodie Steiner took a few trained dancers and a lot of other people who seldom even try a two step on a Saturday night and brought the stage to life with the art that doesn’t get much mention in community theater productions. Of course, there were a few really good ones, dance majors who are off from college for the summer. But most of the folks on stage learned their steps during the last few weeks from Melodie, a local dancer and dance teacher. Now you should call her choreographer, too.

43324205002_2acce4c665_k

Of course, there was the music man himself, Tony Stewart, an Angleton ISD choir director. And would I ever be able to convince you that Angleton ISD librarian, Rachael Welsh, played the role of Marian, the librarian? They were exceptional.

43374303511_ab09f4a4bd_k

And no report on this show would be complete without noting the comic talent of the Pick-a-Little Ladies and their own dance instructor, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, played by the inimitable Judi James. She was suitably imperious for her role as the First Lady of River City and plenty funny for the folks who came to see The Music Man do his magic with the children of River City.

42469947455_154ddd2768_kJudi is second from left in the above photo. You won’t want to miss her performance.

There are five more shows: tonight at 7:30, a Sunday matinee (July 15), and another round of three performances next weekend.

Make your reservations at The Center ticketing website.