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The Tentacle


July 31, 2007

Supporting The Arts

Farrell Keough

They say the measure of a society is the support of its arts. While that is a rather narrow definition, it does hold some significant insight. Art is both a reflection of what is, but can also touch upon what could be.

Both are equally significant. When we forget the beauty of our present situation, we doom ourselves to the 24/7 existence of cable news. When we forget to aspire to a better future, we doom ourselves to a narrow existence informed only by the activities we allow into our current frame of reference.

But what is art? I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. The Honorable Senator from North Carolina said something along these lines when questioning the public funding of some rather offensive pieces. Agree with this man or not, this statement is probably one of the best definitions available.

The distinctions between art, fine art, collectables, crafts, ad infinitum becomes rather blurry. Your Aunt Tuttie may have a collection of handmade potholders that she swears is the best thing since sliced bread. You may well love her, but find her taste to be somewhat divergent of your own. For you, it is sculptures of that most honorable creature, the Moose. Either way, it always comes down to one's own determination of beauty.

We have been collecting various paintings for some years. Our favorite is a local artist who does watercolor of landscapes and buildings in the Frederick area. The man is a paraplegic and paints the very realistic portrayals. These aren't pictures; they have a life and flow all to themselves. We can't quite pony up for the originals, but the prints are great.

What is important to us is? We have found someone local whom we truly enjoy. We try to support this continuation of beauty by making sure we get this man's pieces when we can afford a new purchase. In our little way, this is how we try and support the arts.

And that is the point. Government support of the arts is a poor trade off for citizen support. Yes, the huge, expensive pieces cannot be purchased by the regular Joe and, yes, most of us would never get a chance to see things done by the "Masters" if it were not for museums and other mechanisms for display.

But, art is not just the famous and the big. It is also the small. As stated by that well known philosopher, Horton, "A person is a person, no matter how small."

Speaking of Horton, we had the pleasure of seeing the Fredericktowne Players in its production of Seussical, the Musical. A truly inventive, fun, and surprisingly intuitive production. This singing play interweaves a variety of Dr. Seuss characters into a flowing plot that references not only the wild silliness of Seuss, but common every day life as well.

The Cat-in-the-Hat is the central figure who ties the many story lines together. This young man is tremendous. His sense of timing and humor is excellent. Many of the references have adult themes that may pass over the heads of some children. His side comments are nonetheless fun for all and keep the older audience laughing and engaged. It seems obvious that this performer will do well in this business and we got the chance to say we "knew him when."

The storyline revolves around the escapades of Horton, that honorable elephant who protects the residents of Whoville as well as incubating the egg of that selfish and wily Mayzie LaBird.

Mayzie played her part so well, I fear many of the children were very upset with her after the play as they could not separate the character from the real person. Now that is acting.

But, the story, or rather stories, is much more in depth than just this simple outline. Horton has a secret admirer, (Gertrude McFuzz) whose voice is something to behold.

And what good play is bereft of monkeys, kangaroos, soldiers, and even a turtle judge? Not Seussical, the Musical. This has it all. And for those of the more rural persuasion, hunters are also included.

Finally, the other subplot revolves around that most famous of places - Whoville. Our own resident editorialist, the Honorable Delegate Rick Weldon is the Mayor of this tiny little community. An excellent performance, you would have thought he was already in politics. The son of the mayor and wife, Jojo, is central to this plotline. His acting and singing bring a nice connection. Some very interesting plots and twists take place which bring these two groups together. The Major General is not to be missed.

>From another article on this production, it seems that well over one hundred people applied for parts. Just imagine if that many people applied for our other areas of service? And then, to memorize the lines and songs. I'm lucky if I remember to put on the same color socks. But this isn't just memorization, it becomes a vibrant conversation that actively involves the audience. No easy task.

Obviously, the participants willing to relieve us from the hum-drum of our everyday lives are ubiquitous. This is a wonderful reflection on the state of our Frederick culture. But we need one more ingredient - a willing public.

This is a suggestion of something to attend. We saw this without children and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is not simply a children's play, but one which spans the ages and brings back to memory many of the wonderful Dr. Seuss stories of our collective past. Obviously, children are most welcome.

This is only one of a plethora of other possible activities or means to support the arts. Think along these lines and broaden your horizons. This world is filled with interesting and thought-provoking forms of art from the visual to all other senses. Enjoy something new this week, this summer, this year.

And by all means, keep in mind you have just as much potential to support the arts as the next guy. "A person's a person, no matter how small."



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