Theatre du Mississippi last weekend presented a “radio” show written and directed by former Winonan Steve Andersen. I went opening night, and laughed through the whole show.
The premise was that it was a KWNO radio show (Andersen used to work there when he was in school at WSU) in the 1930s. The story is based loosely on a real news story on December 31, 1936 in the Winona Republican-Herald about a man who was hit by a car on April 16 on Stockton Hill by a driver from Rochester. The driver brought the injured man to the Winona General Hospital, which was then on Seventh Street in the West End.
The mystery comes into play, because the man seemed to have amnesia, and couldn’t tell the authorities who he was. The newspaper described him this way:
“The old man’s mind was not sound and he was unable to tell authorities about himself. He appeared to be a person of culture, however, and busied himself at the hospital in ‘rewriting the Bible’ and in composing various religious and semi-religious articles.
“He had a heavy white beard and long white hair and his disposition was always sunny, hospital attachés said. He was in good spirits until Christmas time when he began to fail rapidly.”
Andersen turned the story into an old-time radio show, complete with two sound effects men — Wes Hamilton and Dave Pulk — who were the source of much of the entertainment themselves, what with wind, thunder, footsteps, dogs barking, announcers and such.
Like radio in those days, there was a story, the “Mystery of the Puzzling Patient,” as well as advertising, singing acts, breaking news and on-location interviews with police looking for a lost little girl, and the Winona General Hospital Auxiliary chairwoman of the annual variety show. The superb cast brought it all to life, and I could practically see my grandmother shelling peas in the kitchen while she listened to her “stories.”
To add to the merriment, Andersen used familiar Winona surnames for the characters in the play — Fratzke, Wos, Kiekbush, Gerlach, Burleigh — you get the picture.
The live music was a huge part of the show, with “studio” musicians Nancy Edstrom Bachler, Sandy Todd, and Rachel Ryan Dahlgren, and the outstanding singing voices of Alex Akers, Charlotte Deranek, Lydia Munroe (loved her vocal interpretation of “The Very Thought of You”) and Brian Pipal with help from Steve Bachler, Kaia Hamilton, Todd, and Dahlgren.
The acting was some of the best I’ve seen in a Theatre du Mississippi production. Lori Eschweiler and Teri Tenseth Market were marvelous, each taking a dual role. Ray Felton took on three roles, all fantastic, drawing much applause. Ken McCullough was great both as the Sheriff and the doctor. Rob Thomas managed to be sinister in both his roles. Kaia Hamilton was adorably talented in her acting roles and fiddle playing. And some of you will remember Roy Achter, who was at KWNO for a long time, and whose voice we heard here.
Behind the scenes were the able Margaret Shaw Johnson, Paul Sannerud, Kathy Florin, Kara Eggers, Lynn Nankivil, Dave King, Bob Stuber, Janice Turek, Lynn Englund, Paul Skattum (wonderful set) and Bruce Johnson, and the voice of Paul Lundquist. The entire show will be broadcast on December 25 at 9 a.m. on KWNO.
Why present this show at Christmas? You had to be there to have solved that mystery. I am hoping this show becomes an annual event.
Mac McCauley R.I.P.
Mac McCauley understood the political power that a newspaper can wield long before I did. Mac was a frequent visitor to our office over the many years we’ve headed the Winona Post. He was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1971, the year we began in business, until 1976. It was during those years that we first met Mac.
A lot of people drop by my office for this or that reason. Mac always had a goal in mind during his visits, usually to make us aware of some political machinations up at the Capitol. He was never shy about voicing his opinion, stated his position well, and I think did a good job of listening to his constituents and representing this area in St. Paul.
There are politicians who, after they have served their term, recede into their private lives and are rarely heard from again. Mac was not that sort of man. Holding office wasn’t about him, it was about government, and just because he wasn’t currently holding a seat didn’t mean he didn’t still hold an interest in good government.
We could rely on Mac for interesting conversation when we would run into him and Margaret, his gentle wife, out and about. We also could expect regular submissions of letters to the editor from him. His last letters ran in the Winona Post this past spring, right before his 90th birthday. They were clearly written, timely, and persuasive.
Mac was the kind of person we need more of — people who care about society and where it is going. We will miss him and remember him fondly.