by Rick Brown
wife Yvonne and I attended the final performance at 2Co’s
Cabaret on February 25th. It was an “invitation only”
affair that I was flattered to be a part of. I saw their final
blues themed show ... for the third time ... and loved it as much
as the first. Maybe even more. With the room full of avid, loyal
supporters the show became a “command performance”
for the audience as well as the performers. Manager Tom Cardinal
did the opening monologue for the very last time. And when he
said the familiar lines “2Co’s is a theater
that serves drinks ... ” the crowd finished his trademark
line by shouting “ ... not a bar that has theater. So be
good or be GONE!” without missing a beat. Ditto for Tom’s
cell phone spiel as the audience affectionately chimed “So
turn those fuckers off!!!” The actors acted with inspiration.
The musicians of Downtown DFN played as if it was their final
gig together. And even with the optimistic talk of playing out
together again sometime ... it may very well have been.
Immediately following the show, Shadowbox Cabaret grand boompa
Steve Guyer said some very nice things about the troupe, the crowd,
and the intimate relationship between the two. He called Mr. Cardinal
back onstage for a champagne toast ... which Tom understandably
struggled to get through. Mr. Guyer then invited everyone to the
upstairs gallery space for a reception.
Rick & Tom Cardinal
Both of us enjoyed milling around chatting ... hugging ... sometimes
choking up with our friends. But it wasn’t exactly the weepy,
huggy affair I had envisioned. While there was that, I noticed
a sort of grieving I hadn’t anticipated. Many expressed
frustration in losing 2Co’s because it was a perfect place
for people with a day job ... actors and singers who were beginning
to raise a family. 2Co’s afforded them the opportunity to
use the talents they had worked so hard and long to hone while
still live a “normal life”. This saddened me. And
reminded me of bands I’ve been in with the same struggle.
Of course there was talk of “what if” and “maybe
if”. I expected that. I willingly participated.
Ernie Cordy & Yvonne
I learned ... and in some instances re-learned ... things about
“show business” this night. Like how performers and
musicians ... some of the best of them ... are really kind of
shy. How someone with the superb singing and acting talent of
Stephanie Shull appreciated the accolades I at times wrote about
2Co’s. Stephanie quietly ... modestly ... said to me, “Thank
you for all the very nice things you said about us.” Us
... collectively. I could not have been more flattered.
Young keyboardist Dane Terry showed me a practical wisdom some
people twice his age don’t have. He told me this. “Keyboardists
get guitarists laid”. And I don’t doubt him for a
minute. I thought back to the only band I’ve ever played
guitar in that had a keyboard player ... a woman keyboard player.
Of course there was also a woman bass player who happens to be
my wife. So both realities certainly put a damper on any wisdom
gathering I might have experienced in this area.
& Pam Callahan
to have a seemingly macho guy like Joseph Lorenzo hug me because
he appreciated the support I’ve given them all. I didn’t
know what to say really. To learn what I wrote in Naked Sunfish
about their performances was genuinely important to these people
... to have them tell me it’s because I “get it”.
Well ... I couldn’t be paid a higher compliment. And I can’t
begin to explain my quietly sad satisfaction in this moment. All
the joy these actors and musicians gave to me and the people I
know and they are thanking me. Pam Callahan, Carrie Lynn
McDonald, Chris Lynch, the Rev, Ernie, Gabe Smith ... I’ll
miss them all as both entertainers and friends.
Gabe Smith & Yvonne
Coming to a knowing of all this made the evening that much more
bittersweet. A bittersweet epiphany for sure. It’s the feeling
that you know life will go on ... that you really do appreciate
and care for each other ... yet knowing full well ... from this
moment on ... it will never ... ever ... be the same.
Etiquette in a Bank Line
by Andrew Wood
everyone knows that there’s a specific way to behave when
you’re in line at the bank. Most people patiently wait their
turn, or make polite conversation with others who are waiting
instead of, say, hitting them with a sack of hundreds. Not doing
that and then saying, “Yeah baby, those were huns!”
is obviously a mistake, as is not doing the following:
you first enter the bank, make sure to point at the tellers and
say that you’re coming for them, but it’s still anybody’s
guess as to who the lucky one is. Make sure that while you say
this, you are also drawing your name into the air with a sparkler.
This way they will be able to pull up your account well before
you arrive at the desk. This saves everybody time, and will allow
you more opportunity to siphon gas out of cars in the parking
I said before, while you’re standing in line, make sure
you’re hitting anyone around you with a sack full of hundreds
or, if you’re feeling generous, thousands. They’ll
appreciate the feeling of coming that close to that much money.
And, if you don’t feel like saying the words suggested above,
just go ahead and start eating a few bills. This will show everyone
that not only do you not mind waiting, but that you don’t
really care where your money is stored, and that the bank better
treat you well, or you’ll take your business elsewhere.
by Ted Kane
Less is not More,
is More; generally, though,
Enough is Enough
by John Bennett
Path of Least Resistance (Part I)
by Patrick O'Malley
part of the human condition and instinct to fear that which is
new to us or that which we do not understand. It’s perfectly
natural and has served us well as a species through thousands
of years of evolution. In some cases, fear is still warranted
as a first impression/reaction and that which causes fear is not
always unreasonable. This is the exception, not the rule. More
often than not what we fear as a knee-jerk reaction is unworthy
of the serious and taxing condition that is fear. Additionally,
we are often coerced or conditioned to fear that which is not
worthy of fear, or is only worth paying a tinge of fear to.
was a brief respite from these tendencies during the scientific
revolution, but unfortunately it wasn’t for everyone and
wasn’t for very long. The remedy to almost all fears that
are exaggerated, irrational, or simply made up is science. Not
even scientific proofs or thought processes necessarily but let’s
just say calm, collected, reasonable, rational thought. Interest,
curiosity, observation, awe – these are what allay fears.
Protection is what we are taught to combat fear with, but to protect
oneself from what one fears does nothing to rid oneself of said
a boy, living on a small Wisconsin farm, I walked or rode my bike
to the eight grade one-room country school about a mile and a
half away--down the gravel road from our place, which was nestled
at the base of a wooded hill which had about 15 acres of woods
behind it, over the next hill a quarter of a mile or so away in
the other direction--the hill with the swiss cheese factory on
the other side of it--down to the corner at the paved road, right
turn, up the grade past Joe Milk's farm, over the crest by Walt's
farm, and there down the blacktop you could see Poplar Grove school,
trees and outhouses and all, about another half mile away. It
was a spring morning, and I had done my chores, had my breakfast,
said good-bye to Ma, and went out to get my bike and head off
Years before, a bedraggled dog had dragged itself up to our place,
from somewhere. Pa looked it over, and said "It's been shot.
I'll have to kill it", which raised a great hue and cry from
my little brothers and I--"No, Pa! We'll take care of it!
Don't shoot it Pa!" and he relented, most probably saying
"Well god-dammit then, you better damn well take care of
it, 'cause I sure as hell ain't!" while he walked away to
his busy day of farmer things.
The first thing we did was give the dog water, which it refused
for a day or so, making us think the dog was going to die anyway.
But, on the second or third day, the water was thirstily lapped
up by the new 'patient', who still just laid where he had arrived,
now for days. We still thought the dog was going to die. It didn't
eat any table scraps we brought it, again for days, but there
was hope because it did then regularly take water, which we left
next to it in a pan. We kids never did see exactly where it had
been shot, but I think is was in the gut, below and in front of
the hump of its rear hips.
Well, Pa had told us it was a boy dog, and after those few days
it began to eat, making us kids feel real good about our caregiving
abilities, and about the power of love and attention. But, all
along it had really smelled bad, its fur was filled with stickers,
and come-alongs, and cockleburs, but it began to recover. Pa told
us it had to have a bath, once it healed a bit, and that first
bath was a real adventure for us all--boys, washtub, hose, soap,
dog--we all got clean, and we boys were really aware that the
dog would have rather just stayed ragged and dirty and stinky.
He did not appreciate that particular attention. Once it got up
and began to move around a bit, we kids were all sad, because
we knew it would run away.
Well, we were wrong. The dog had finally found a home, but it
didn't have a name. We kids hoped to keep it at our place, because
we didn't already have a dog, and because we didn't want to see
the investment of our time and care run off to get shot again,
and we had to call it something when we had food for it, so, knowing
it was a He dog, we would holler "Here, boy! We got some
food! Here, boy", which in a short time, slurred into 'YeahBoy,
food', and 'YeahBoy' became his name.
Well that spring morning, with breakfast in my belly and chores
done, I was headed off to school, pushing my bike the first few
steps away from home. YeahBoy, now on in years, walked down our
short driveway with me to the road that came down the hill by
the woods. As I was petting him, saying good-bye because I was
heading off for a day at school, I heard a commotion up the road,
over the hill, back by the woods. I looked up and saw someone
I didn't recognize, driving a tractor I didn't recognize, pulling
a haybaler and a haywagon, barrelling up and over and then down
the hill at full throttle in high gear. In an instant it neared
Old Yeahboy saw an opportunity to protect his master by showing
that he could still chase a tire. Before I could do anything,
he ran out to the tractor, yapping at the big rotating rear tractor
tire for a yard or two, intending to run back to me to show me
what a great guard dog he was, how much he loved me, and how well
he could protect me.
My heart broke at the same time YeahBoy's back was broken by the
outside tire of the haybaler. One side of a baler sticks out past
the tractor tire probably eight feet, to pick up the dry hay from
the windrow and then roll it down a screw mechanism into the chute
and compression arm that creates the bale of hay. Old Yeahboy
didn't move as fast as he used to, and had probably never chased
a train of equipment like that before, and didn't realize that
as he dropped back from the tractor tire to run back to me, he
would run right into that eight foot end-wheeled extension of
the hay baler.
Yes, his back was broken, but I didn't immediately realize that.
I knew he was hurt, because that part of the baler jumped a couple
of feet in the air as it went over him, while that still-unknown
driver continued racing on down the road toward the cheese factory
hill. YeahBoy yelped, and dragged himself up to the boy who had
thrown down his bike and run to him, and while looking up at the
boy with some unspoken plea in his eyes, died.
The boy, now a man, can still cry when he tells this tale, but
will go on to relate that he did not go to school that day, although
his mother had said he had to. She relented to his protests that
YeahBoy was dead, and needed proper respect, and a burial, and
that school that day was of lesser importance. After all, we were
a God-loving family, weren't we?
I carried the remains of my friend up to the small bluff out past
the barn, where the family had planted the pine trees some years
before, and where I had many pleasant days, both winter and summer,
played with that dog, and with my brothers, and after some tears,
and prayers, and looking at the rocks, and earth, and sky, and
hearing the bird's songs and the wind in the pines, and breathing
in the life and death around me, finally dug the hole, and made
the cross out of sticks which was then placed over the small mound
of fresh earth that was now and ever shall be YeahBoy. Ma didn't
even wake or tell my little brothers that morning, because that
wouldn't have helped anything. Luckily, all they knew was that
he was gone. They probably yet have never looked into a loved
one's dying eyes.
Am I a dog person? I don't know. I have difficulty becoming attached
to a dog.
by Rick Brown
my senior year at college…followed by the first year of
my marriage (aka as the “What the hell do I do NOW year)
I drove kids to and from school in a Volkswagen Microbus. For
those too young to remember the Microbus, suffice it to say it
as a van with an air cooled, low horsepower engine in the rear.
I was a driver for the Franklin County Crippled Children School.
Cripple…when was the last time you heard THAT word? I believe
it’s simply called Easter Seals now. And my dog Daisy rode
with me. The kids LOVED Daisy. My bus was dubbed the “Daisy
Bus”. But that’s a story for another day. The kids
were instructed to call me Mr. Rick…and they did.
I had one of the longer routes that took me outside the county.
So I got to know these kids pretty well. I still fondly recall
many of them. They were after all, just kids. That’s how
they looked at themselves. There was Chris…a boy born without
legs…as well as a mild speech impediment. He had artificial
legs the school had made for him. His speech was out of their
league I suppose. He would walk with a cane. Perched atop the
prosthetics…ambling through the school’s hallways
he looked like a tiny British aristocrat. Chris hated his legs.
He would say to me, “Mistuh Wick…I hate these wegs!”
When I asked him why he replied, “Cause I can’t wide
my Big Wheel with them. But I can sit on the seat without them
and use my awrm to cwank the peddle. I can go FAST! Faster than
some kids WITH wegs!!” Sometimes when the Microbus would
go around a corner Chris’s legs would fall over with a thud…and
I’d hear “Mistuh Wick!! My WEGS FEWL OVUH!!!”
So I’d reassure this little gentleman I would correct the
situation at the next stop.
There was Tina…Chris’s girlfriend. Tina couldn’t
talk. She was mute because once her young mother gave her too
much aspirin when she was an infant. It burned out something in
her brain that affected her speech. Chris loved her all the same.
The two of them would sit together directly behind me in the Microbus…Chris’s
legs standing in front of them…and sing along with the radio.
At the time Helen Reddy had a hit that I couldn’t stand.
Tina and Chris however, loved it. And I could NEVER switch the
station before they recognized it. I’d thrust my hand to
the radio and change the station only to immediately hear Tina’s
“Uh! Uh!” and Chris would politely say, “Mistuh
Wick. Pwease put it back on Hewen Weddy!”
I drove a lot of kids born with brain and spinal problems. These
are the children you will never, ever see on a poster. They aren’t
considered cute by most people’s standards. And…at
least back then…they didn’t live to see their 8th
birthday. Three of these severely handicapped kids died in the
two years I drove them to and from school.
And two kids were autistic. The one boy I heard say a few words
to his mother…once. The other boy…Jimmy…said
one word. He would look me straight in the eye…his eyes
wide and wild…thrust his tiny fist violently into the air
and proclaim “GO! GO! GOOOOOOOO!!” He was a boy of
few words…but I liked him. He had style.
The very first day I drove this group of kids home from a day
at “cripple school” my boss showed me how to put seat
belts on…strap in the children in car seats…the ones
with the short lives and no chance to be a poster child. Once
I had everyone ready I made my way to the driver’s seat…fastened
my own seat belt…and turned on the radio. I had never done
my route before and was more than a little nervous.
“GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” Jimmy cried from the farthest seat
in back. And off we went.
Using my crib notes I tried to navigate our virgin journey through
neighborhoods as Chris and Tina serenaded us all from the middle
of the bus. “Gyspies! Twamps and thieves!!” Chris
would sing enthusiastically accompanied by Tina’s “Uh!
Uhs!”. But I was a nervous wreck. And I invariably got lost.
A couple times I heard “Mistuh Wick! My wegs fewl ovuh again!!”
And I’d stand them upright at the next stop. Why we didn’t
just decide to lay them down I can’t tell you.
As I began to get waaaay over schedule…I mean a driver can’t
be taking a handicapped kid home at 6 pm when school let out at
3 now can he?... I got a little frantic. Hey…I was 21 years
old! Upon realizing I had…once again…missed a turn
I whipped the VW Microbus into a driveway. Blam! Chris’s
legs hit the deck. Then…from the back…again…I
heard, “Mistuh Wick!”
“I know Chris. You’re legs fell over” I replied.
“It’s not my WEGS Mr Wick. It’s JIMMY! I think
he needs youwr HEWLP!!.” I looked to the very back seat.
Jimmy was dangling…upside down…hanging in mid air
by his seat belt. It probably wasn’t…but I swore his
face was blue. He had only been that way a minute. Still…I
almost panicked. I ran to the back of the little bus…sat
Jimmy upright…hugged him and asked him if he was okay.
Jimmy looked up at me…his eyes wide and wild…violently
thrust his little fist into the air and proclaimed for all to
that's what we did.
Easton Towne Center
* * * * *
by Rick Brown
not sure Pete Townshend intended Tommy to be a staged
rock opera when he wrote it. In fact, I could make a good argument
that Tommy…the recording originally released in
1969…is more a concept album than “rock opera”.
But given the radio success of “I’m Free”, “We’re
Not Gonna Take It”, and most notably “Pinball Wizard”
it became inevitable Tommy would be on the stage and
eventually celluloid. And ironically Townshend’s pinball
theme was added later…at the end to add continuity to an
incredibly ambiguous story line. It’s my understanding this
project was conceived after a rejection of the excessive “rock
star lifestyle” and Townshend’s embrace of mysticism…in
particular the works of Meher Baba.
Although I approached this performance with some mild trepidation…the
movie after all is quite horrible…I was amazed by how well
Shadowbox Cabaret brings out the best in Tommy on many
levels. Even Townshend’s sense of mysticism is there for
those who wish to see it. Of course the music is very strong like
any Shadowbox show. But it was the staging I was most impressed
with…particularly the choreography of Katy Psenicka. Admittedly
the actors bounce around the stage 60’s style at times…think
part Hair…part Oh Calcutta…but their
exuberance helps keep the show from taking itself too seriously
while skillfully avoiding the appearance of a “period piece”.
Use of the overhead video screens adds a visual texture nothing
short of wizardly.
Updating the story line from the early 20th Century to Tommy’s
birth in 1969 not only pays tribute to the recording’s release
but brings a relevance to younger audience members. The song “1921”
becomes anachronistic because of this. But in the context of the
entire performance it’s hardly noteworthy. Townshend’s
tunes sound as good as ever. And no matter how well Tommy
is staged…because literally almost every line is sung…the
music is what sells it. Matthew Hahn and Allen Talbot (guitars),Anthony
McCoy (bass), Brian Westbrook and Noelle Grandison (keys), backed
by Dan Abdelnour on drums would bring a smile to Townshend’s
Adam Fauth does a spectacular job being Tommy. Playing a deaf,
dumb and blind character is no small feat. Even the Who’s
own Roger Daltrey was awkward as Tommy in the film version. Johnny
Parezek (Tommy age 4) and Erik Rau (Tommy age 10) set the table
for the Fauth’s character with believable…albeit subtle…childlike
poise. Mr. Fauth not only superbly handles the difficult melodies
but evokes genuine sympathy and connection with a deaf, dumb and
blind kid rather than merely getting the audience to feel sorry
for him. Consequently at the story’s conclusion…after
Tommy gets his senses back…after he is worshipped by his
followers…he rejects the idolatry of it all and Fauth’s
stunningly nuanced acting let’s Townshend’s underlying
allegory shine through.
Cardinal does an impressive performance of Tommy’s father
Captain Walker. The same goes for Stacie Board as his mother.
Early on in the story both seasoned actors skillfully help construct
the reality onstage. This is when I noticed the wireless mics…and
the larger stage that was closer to the crowd. Between Mr. Cardinal
and Ms. Board’s strong stage presence, the mobility to move
and sing gracefully, and the proximity of the audience…Tommy
began to jell and mature until it was spellbinding.
Shadowbox Columbus (this performance includes actors from both
Columbus and Newport, Kentucky theaters) newcomer Sara Tomko is
a delight as Tommy’s love interest Sally Thompson. Even
a deaf, dumb and blind boy could see Ms. Tomko’s Sally is
sexy, smart and tough. And the woman can sing. Which brings me
to diva extraordinaire Stephanie Shull. With the voice of an angel
Ms. Shull sings like the devil. She doesn’t so much play
the Acid Queen. She becomes the Acid Queen.
I have to make special mention here of Brian Westbrook. Brian
happened to be our waiter this evening…a charming young
actor/musician from the Newport Shadowbox who is a torrid keyboard
player. Besides tickling the ivories Mr. Westbrook’s portrayal
of smarmy, child molesting Uncle Ernie is incredible. The scene
in which Uncle Ernie is left to tend to young Tommy only to molest
him while singing “Fiddle About” is powerful and obvious
without being either gratuitous or exploitive. And Westbrook’s
vocalizing of “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” is carnival
Beginning and ending with a crowd around Tommy and his pinball
machine…Christina Connor starting everyone off singing “Pinball
Wizard” may not have been Pete Townshend’s initial
intention. But Shadowbox Cabaret’s wonderful staging, production
and musical dynamics make The Who’s Tommy a special
treat for sure. The skillful use of video and wireless microphones
seems quite liberating for the actors rather than competition
for the audience’s attention. The sum of all of Tommy’s
parts is glorious rock and roll theater. And while I was standing
there applauding…watching the curtain calls…it dawned
on me. Shadowbox Cabaret…that sketch comedy and rock and
roll palace…had just done THEATER!!!
And it was great.
Who’s Tommy runs through April 2 on Sundays only at 2:30
and 7:30 pm. More shows may be added in May. For further information
go to ShadowboxCabaret.com.