Friday, April 06, 2007

In the Audience and Good Deeds

There are people in Columbia that complain about the lack of cultural activities in our town, but I'm not one of them. Sure, I've pointed out the lack of quality presented by some groups.....but, there's plenty to do here. Take this week, for example. Steve and I attended the annual USC student and facility art auction at Capstone. It was lots of fun even though the bidding moved at a snail's pace. One reason for the dragging tempo was that the auctioneers weren't professional. They were members of the university and community leaders. Larry Hembree sold several items as did Dr. Sorenson, the USC president. Most weren't great on the microphone but each brought their own sense of style and humor. We didn't buy anything but enjoyed seeing others waving their numbers up and down vying for the top bid.

The next evening, Thursday, we went to see Alex in the Dreher High School senior directing show. Four plays were shown. Most were the type written with educational purposes in mind...a way to introduce teenagers to various classic plays by incorporating them into the narrative. Easily, Hard Candy was the best of the four. Fortunately, Alex was cast in this play. Several students gave stand-out performances, including Alex. He was absolutely great and wore the pants he made as a costume. We laughed, genuinely enjoying Alex's did everyone else in the auditorium.

This evening I attended the wine and cheese reception for Pat Parise's art show at in the gallery outside my studio door before going to USC's Recital Hall in the Music building to see two classic, black & white silent films. These weren't just silent films...they were Charlie Chaplin films: Easy Street and The Kid.

What made the entire experience unique and totally entertaining though was that Dennis James played the organ music. Steve and I were truly honored to meet Mr. James. We fondly remember listening to his playing at the Ohio Theater in the late 70s and early to mid 80s. We used to attend the summer movie series. It cost just a dollar apiece. The Ohio Theater had been recently renovated to its former, velvet and gilded glory. We saw such movies as The Third Man, Casablanca, The African Queen, Gilda, Vertigo, Singing in the Rain, etc. Yet, one of the best parts of such an afternoon was listening to Dennis James play the organ. One knew the movie was about to begin when he crescendoed into Beautiful Ohio. He could bring tears to my eyes in the first four tones.

Anyway, watching the silent films and Dennis James creating the perfect, historically accurate accompaniment was a real treat. The price of admission was FREE. We were invited to a reception for him but opted for dinner at Tios instead. Alex, who really had no idea who Charlie Chaplin was, also had a great time.

Every day there seems to be something wonderful happening somewhere. Sure, we can't attend all the events but I just can't understand complaining that there's nothing to do or that this is a cultural wasteland. Sure, Columbia was just found to have the worst drivers in the entire nation, but maybe these are just folks anxious to see the newest cultural entertainment!

Fortunately, I got an opportunity to give back to my community. Some of the young people working for City Year called in a desperate situation. It seemed that they had plenty of donated mat board and lots of standard size frames. Some commercial frame shop had gone out of business and these supplies had been donated. The City Year team is "babysitting" K5 through 5th graders who need attention next week during spring break. They devised an magazine collage art project but just didn't have a way to cut the mat board to fit the frames. The mat board was to serve as the substrata for the project. I volunteered. It took over two hours and I got a blister on one finger but all the board was optimally cut down to usable sizes. The City Year people were more than grateful. I figured that I got the pay back to my town for all the good things we have here. Plus, I was always fortunate. I owned my own business. My kids just came home for spring break and other school holidays...but I still could work. I always let my employees bring their kids too, but not all businesses can do this. Not all families are so lucky. Fortunately, City Year is helping. Fortunately, I got to do my part too.

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