Sunday, December 30, 2012

Transportation, Theatre, History and Dance - Part 1

Waiting Room area 
photo by Ted Klyce
A few weeks have passed already, but I wanted to share the opportunity I had to perform with Bedlam Theatre for the Grand Re-opening of the St. Paul Union Depot.  It was a much grander event than I anticipated.  In one week we had several intensive rehearsals culminating in an all-day event on Sat. Dec. 8.

The depot was built in 1923 and was in operation until 1971. I was familiar with the front part of the depot the Head House where the Christos is located and where I used to have lunch at the LeeAnn Chins back in the 1980s.  But I never knew about the waiting room area, newly renovated, which had been used by the U.S. Post Office for many years.  It was now going to be opened for use as a transit hub for trains, buses, bikes, taxis and the light rail.  It was a huge space, probably twice as big as the front area, and we got to rehearse and play in it all week.

Waiting Room area 
photo by Ted Klyce
 My roots are in St. Paul.  My mother grew up there. I grew up there.  Mom told me she had worked in downtown St. Paul in the 40s in an office not far from the depot, and one day she asked her boss if she could go during her lunch and say goodbye to this guy she had been writing to who was going into the Air Force.  (That guy later became my father.) She bought a box of Fannie Farmer candy and went to the train station.  The train was leaving, and she walked up to the passenger car.  She asked the porter to find my dad, and when my dad came back, the train engines were just starting up.  My dad came down the steps of the car, leaned out, and Mom reached forward and handed him the box.

Being involved in a well-organized production is like a gift.  With director Sam Johns, and Production Manager Birdie Freitag, the rehearsal process worked liked a well-oiled machine.  Telsche Thiessen found all the costumes and had been researching the 1920-40s for several months.  Core artists Barbara Berlovitz, Charles Campbell, Emily Gastineau, and Billy Mulvaney provided direction in the acting and choreography sequences.  There were over 40 of us involved in this production.

At dress rehearsal we got into our costumes and everyone was transformed.  For some reason the clothes that people put on - the dresses, the shoes, the hats and coats - they seemed to define the people who wore them.  We were not all a bunch of millennium, jean-wearing folks coming from work; we were travelers, army personnel, fine ladies and gentlemen.

On Saturday morning I have no idea what the politicians and speakers said about the project or how they introduced the event.  All I know is that when the curtain came down, and we finished our short acting/dance sequence to Sing Sing Sing, the people came poring in.  And they kept coming.  And coming.

More later...

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