The pictures: View from Kimpton Hotel Burnham window at night; Pile o’books, with Laura Baratto, Random Rep; Girl Interviewers from DePaul; beautiful chocolate box top, but Phoebe ended up with the chocs (how did that happen?) Phoebe Larmore, old-pal escort Bill Young, Anne Clark Bartlett; The singers rehearse, with Jane Bunell; “Adam One,” Marc Embree, “Toby,” Anne Bartlett, and “Ren,” Loresa Grigsby; the actors with stage manager; Jane Bunell (pianist and music director) and Orville make the Sign of the Mole; the Signers, Heidi Woelbling and Mera Kelly-Yurdin; the Final Wrapup with the Blue Feather Boa and Orville.
Chicago – what a terrific city for the last U.S.A. dramatic and musical Year of the Flood Event! I imagined my late friend, Studs Terkel – whom I first met in 1976, and by whom I was interviewed so many times on his TV and radio shows – beaming down on us from the ornate ceiling of DePaul’s grand Merle Reskin Theatre.
Here’s how it went: Orville Stoeber and Phoebe Larmore were supposed to meet me at O’Hare, but the schedule didn’t say exactly where, so I wandered around among the baggage conveyor belts looking for them. No sooner had I obtained a Pike’s Place organic misto than I saw a demented gremlin pushing a baggage cart shoot out of an adjacent alleyway, whirl around, then shoot back out of sight. It looked a lot like Phoebe, and it was doing a Phoebe-ish kind of thing, so I followed up. It WAS Phoebe! “See,” she said to Orville. “I told him—all we have to do is run around in circles and she’s appear! And it worked!” Magical thinking triumphs again.
I spent the next bunch of time signing books with the help of Random rep Laura Baretto while somehow doing phone interviews at the same time, and then it was time for dinner with the DePaul co-conspirators in – yes! – the Atwood Café at the Kimpton Hotel Burnham, handily equipped with veggie options and organic coffee. (That Atwood was not me, but a distant relative – hero of Chicago architecture of olden days.)
The DePaul contingent was headed by Anne Clark Bartlett, Chair of the English Department and specialist in Mediaeval Studies, who had not only put up her hand for the Event, but had also gathered the troops and elected to play Toby heself! Now that’s gutsy! A huge number of people at DePaul helped out – it was a true community effort.
Old bookpal escort Bill Young was on hand to help out the next day, which included an interview by student TVers from DePaul and a reception for many involved, and then the performance. Women and Children First – the booksellers, long a Chicago feature – introduced the Event, and then, along with Orville Stoeber and accompanied by Jane Bunnell (who sings with the Chicago Lyric) the well-trained singers launched into the first Hymn. (They were: Becky Sorensen, Becky Robonson, Joanna Wernette, Jane Bunnell, Carl Glick, Daniel Cheng, Michael Cochran, Matt Marshall, Lindsay Metzger, and Lindsay Lehman, and they were from the Music School.) Marc Embree – in real life, an opera singer – was Adam One, and he gave it that operatic energy; Loresa Grigsby, a student from the Theatre School, was an excellently-articulated and touching Ren; and Dr. Anne Bartlett – in her first stage role! – played Toby with great inner conviction.
A special feature of the Chicago performance were the two Interpreters, Heidi Woelbling and Mera Kelly-Yurdin. It was the first time we’d had Interpreters, and these two were a joy to watch, especially during the Hymns – very dance-like. I called them “Signers” in the photo caption because I have a poem called “The Signer.”) Well done, Chicago!
After the book signing, the intrepid team –including Orville’s sister Cathy and her husband – retreated to the Phoebe & Orville room, where, in a frenzy of relief, we made merry with the blue feather boa. It was actually the second blue feather boa, Phoebe having left the first one somewhere, but it looked just the same. What were we eating? Popcorn? Whatever it was, it was festive.