Tag Archives: Janet Scott

Earnest Words

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1980’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” in the Guignol with Eric Johnson on the right and some duffer in spats on the left.

Janie and I had a lovely night at the theatre a while back. We watched a crisp and energetic cast perform Oscar Wilde’s brilliant “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Athens West Theatre. It was one our happiest nights for the year.

I admired the efforts of Shayne Brakefield as a sometimes befuddled, often pompous local reverend (think Robert Morley in African Queen with a pencil-thin mustache), Janet Scott in full sail as Lady Bracknell, and Paul Thomas as the butler(s); mysterious, disheveled, inscrutable, vaguely obedient, barely competent, and clearly the mind behind every scene……not.

I have worked with all these actors before.
I know their gifts…and cherish them.
I know their habits and peccadilloes…and cherish them as well.

A week later I participated in a reading of Robert Penn Warren’s ALL THE KING’S MEN on the Carrick Theater stage at Transylvania with Joe Gatton, Sherman Fracher, Ellie Clark, Tom Phillips, Mark Mozingo, and Geoffrey Cobb Nelson.

I have worked with Joe, Sherman, Ellie, and Tom before.

Joe, Sherman, Ellie, Tom, Shayne, Janet, and Paul…
Together we’ve been to Dracula’s Transylvania, New Jersey, New York, a Midwest Mega-Church, Agincourt, Aquitaine, Deep South Mississippi, the magical forests of Shakespeare, Deep South Alabama, Upper-Peninsula Michigan, Russia, London, Pennsyvania, Scotland. We’ve been husbands and wives and daughters and sons and kings and vassals and brothers and sisters to each other.

We have history.

We have vocabulary.

When we step on stage with each other we have a big head-start to share with an audience; a dialogue that, in some cases, has been going on for decades.

These two stage experiences prompted me into a memory (what doesn’t these days?) of an early 80’s Guignol production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. This was, in retrospect, a wonderful cast for me; Eric Johnson, Martha Campbell, Walter Tunis, Lisa Thomas, Georgia Ferrell, Tim McClure, Ann Dalzell, and Paul Thomas (once more playing the butler – murderous, scheming, ever-expanding his role).

This production was directed by Dr. James Rodgers, and he created an atmosphere playful, quick, and creative, but fierce in language…a happy culture in which Wilde’s mots, bon et rapide, could fly.

And fly they did. At the first table read, our Lady Bracknell encountered the word “indecorous” in the script. She paused and inquired; “Is that pronounced; ‘IN-DUH-COH-RUS’?” To which another cast member replied; “No, and if you say it that way, that’s where you’ll be.”

I suspect Oscar would’ve been proud.

Vocabulary matters.

A Quietly Extraordinary Afternoon

40-plus people gathered in a room in an historic neighborhood in Lexington. The people brought food. They brought wine. They brought minds and hearts questing for a higher dialogue than we endured in Cleveland last week. They were promised Beethoven. That was the lure that brought them out on an insufferably hot Central Kentucky afternoon.

A word about the room itself.

It’s located on New Street; no more than an alley inaccurately named, since it’s one of the oldest streets in town. The room was designed with this afternoon in mind. As our pianist declaimed; “It’s not a living room, it’s a musical salon.” The walls of the room are ornamented with musical instruments – real musical instruments with individual histories of performance. The room is strewn with photographs that document the personal saga of our hostess performing the words of Thomas Merton with John Jacob Niles.

Indulgent Side Note.

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  • My first show at the University of Kentucky was J. M Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” in 1969 (pictured above). I had been a student at UK for about four weeks when the show opened. I initiated the show by slowly pushing a center stage door open, peering straight out at the audience, and timidly inquiring; “Where’s himself?” On opening night, I pushed the door and peered straight into the whiskered face of John Jacob Niles. I wasn’t quite sure if I should say my line or simply sit down on the floor and wait for him to pull out his dulcimer and sing. Understand, I would pretty much be in heaven with either choice. My fellow actors, the rest of the audience, and probably Mr. Niles himself were lucky that I chose to move on with the play.

End of Indulgent Side Note.

Our hostess this afternoon is Jackie Roberts, a remarkable singer and teacher who has nurtured and continues to nurture several generations of Lexington musicians. When I arrived early this afternoon to set up the chairs for the concert, she had already completed the task herself and “hoped that was alright.” We sat and chatted. She told me with a pride I could only envy from afar that one of her young students had just been cast in this October’s production of “Ragtime” by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.

The crowd, the food, and the performers arrived.

The musical program was superb.

Dr. Tedrin Lindsay’s introduction to his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #2 to open the afternoon placed us in the time and spirit of the piece. I felt as if I was sitting, turning pages for, and peeking over the shoulder of Beethoven as Tedrin played. It was not a performance tethered to today. It was adrift in time. We could have been in a room today, a room in Tedrin’s early years (he played today from his sheet music as a youth), or a room in Vienna in 1796. And the Rondo ended with the sigh Tedrin promised, closely followed by my own.

Then Dr. Lindsay introduced Janet Scott, a gifted local actress. I’ve worked with Janet in two productions by On the Verge Theatre; Lillian Hellman’s “Little Foxes” and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado”. Tedrin and Janet were featured last year in Athens West Theatre’s “33 Variations” by Moises Kaufmann. Janet and Tedrin performed several selections from that play which features Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Janet’s diction in this material is as precise and pleasing as the music. Her character’s initial striving for logic decays into a longing for more time…more variations…and the music ends as of course it must…teasing us with the suggestion of the perpetual existence of more music…but no more time. Bravo Beethoven! Brava Ms. Scott!

I think.

Dr. Lindsay closed the afternoon with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #18, an excellent choice after the first two selections and a favorite of mine. It sounds so modern, so purposeful, so energetic (but energetic with a plan). This is not a young person’s damn the torpedoes idealism. It’s a celebration and exhortation of what’s possible if we’ll just get up and do it.

The room was rapt.

There was no fear in the room.

There was art in the room.

And we all participated.

And we were all made great again

…as we always are when art is in the room.

This happens with frequency in Lexington. We should recognize it and celebrate it every time it does.