A couple weeks ago I attended a small fundraising event called Wordstock, benefiting a spoken-word troupe of sorts. A small theatre company. Well, actually, I’m not sure that’s right either. I mean even according to their own website they can’t define what they do. And by “they” I mean one person. Unless there are others with him.

Anyway – the evening was a small fundraiser at someone’s home, and included a silent auction and performances. It felt like part party, part fundraiser, part performance and part kegger.

Yes, kegger. The “fundraising” included a suggested donation at the door, which entitled the donor to a red plastic cup and access to the keg in the kitchen. This was something I haven’t done in years.

After an hour or so of small talk and perusing the numerous (and some very nice, others…not so) items up for the silent auction the crowd was corralled to one side of the living room to allow for a small “stage” complete with its own entrance out of the kitchen. Our host and emcee (and benefactee) greeted us all and introduced the various acts.

This was certainly the highlight of the evening. I had come primarily because my very good friend and collaborator was doing a ten minute story she’d written, which I’d recently read and discussed with her. It was a true story, but one that I don’t think I’d ever heard (which was surprising given how long we’ve known each other.) There were some intriguing, funny and touching elements to it. There was also some fiction, but only in a person’s name so as to not…well, to be fair, I suppose. No one really needs one’s dirty laundry aired publicly, even if only to a group of strangers in a suburban apartment living room.

She’s a very talented actress, but hasn’t been on stage in a few years and this was nothing like what she’d done before. I wanted to see how she did, and I wanted to give her support. I also felt compelled to go to simply be supportive of the host and the other performers.

She did well, and the friendly audience loved her and wants to see more. I know she was a bit nervous but she remained charming and engaging throughout, and I hope she continues to write more pieces. Despite having the challenge of following a master story teller in the lineup of the evening, she held her own and shined.

I found it all inspirational. I think story telling, particularly when it’s non-fictional, biographical memoir, (as a number of the pieces were that evening) can be very engaging, and I suspect challenging to write. Or, to write well. Only during the Minnesota Fringe Festival do I ever really see and experience story telling.

This is where all things may converge for me. The 2010 festival starts this week, and unlike last year, I’m not involved as anything other than a ticket buyer. I wonder if there’s an experience to happen, a story to tell, of this year’s fringe. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t write about the shows I see, not as a critic (which I’ve said I wouldn’t do here) but rather as a person in a social setting. Not about the plays themselves but about the festival, the experience, the sites, the people, the smells, the sounds, the energy and the exhaustion.

I may or may not post any of it, either during or after the Fringe.  And I will likely change the names to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent,) just as my friend did. It’s only fair. So, if we cross paths at the Fringe, you’re still safe.

Who is Forster?

Last night we attended a fundraiser for a local vocal group that a friend of ours works for. Last year we attended and had a great time and came home with a new print. (We’re still waiting to figure out where to hang it.) This year we came home with yet another print, this time nicely framed. It was listed an “antique print” titled “Woman with Sphere”. It has a kind of 1920s or 30s vibe to it. A woman in a red dress, kneeling, and holding up a glass orb of some sort.

There’s a name in the bottom left corner: Forster. If there’s a first name or initial before that it’s under the frame. On the bottom right corner there’s a copyright stamp followed by what seems to be “MOM…” and is then cut off by the frame. (Although it could be MOA or MON…it’s a bit hard to read.)

We have no idea who Forster is or anything about this “antique print”. I like to have a little knowledge about the origin of my artworks, but we’ve been unable to find anything on the internet can even give us a clue. I’ll have to post a picture of it later in hopes someone can identify something.

We’re debating over what her name should be. Also, we have to figure out where to hang this before the next fundraiser.

Skol to a big pink man

Bill Holm is a Minnesota writer. A poet mostly, but also a musician it seems. Bill Holm was Minnesota through and through, except for the Icelandic part of him. Bill Holm was someone I only learned about in the last year.

Bill Holm’s memorial was held last night at the Fitzgerald in downtown St. Paul,  and a good time was had by all. The evening was also a fundraiser for the Bill Holm Memorial Fund.

By all accounts, you couldn’t meet the man and not be amazed at something. Someone made a remark how spending five minutes with Bill always made him feel as if his hair might catch on fire. Apparently Bill was explosive, excitable and full of life. He was often referred to as large and  “pink”, or if he was particularly excited, “red.”

There were writers, poets, musicians, singers, old friends, new friends and the literati elite. The whole evening began with a special toast of Bill’s favorite drink: ice-cold Icelandic vodka. 700 shots at once . Skol! Then there were readings, stories, songs and recordings of Bill himself.

There were two things…no, make that three things, that stood out from that evening.

First was Bill’s long-time friend, Robert Bly. Who would’ve thought that an 82-year-old, hippie, beat poet would become the highlight of the evening. Flanked by a guitar player on his right and bongo-like musician on his left, he read pieces honoring his friend, including an original piece he wrote just for the occasion. His hands swaying to the rhythm of the piece and the music, encouraging the drummer to “Come on! Give it to me now!” his words flowed out with energy and humor and love. Everyone in attendance realized we were witnessing a truly unique performance.

Then there was Bill’s friend who told us of their last visit and conversations. Last year Bill had won a major award, which included a hefty check. We heard how just a month before he died, Bill, who had spent a lifetime as a teacher, was exclaiming how excited he was to finally devote himself full time to his writing. I gasped. I moaned. All that time, working to that point, and the door closes.

Finally, there was the New Orleans funeral band. Out they come, taking their place on stage, playing a somber dirge. They wind down off the stage, the house lights rise, they fill the aisle of the historic theater. Bill’s face appears on a large screen, filling the stage, giving the audience a smirky smile out of the corner of his eyes. The song ends. A moment of silence, a smattering of applause and off they go! Jazzing it up, they kick the music up and they wind their way out of the house, out the lobby and the audience follows. By the time we make it there, the crowd has overflowed from the sidewalk and fills most of the street, blocking traffic. The cool spring evening is warmed by the excitement and energy of the friends of Bill, who gathered on and danced and remembered.

I wish I had met the man earlier, more often. He seemed to be bigger than life.

The whole evening will be aired MPR.

Spring Fever and Music and Art

Last night was another outing – this time to a fundraiser for a friend’s choral organization, One Voice, and their annual fundraiser Spring Fever. (The fact that sleet was coming down as we left, and we’ve all woken to a white, damp, thin blanket of snow, has not diminished the spirit of the evening.)

One Voice is a mixed GLBT chorus, and seems to have a very popular following. Sadly, although our good friend works there, we have never seen a performance. We have, however, now become donors. Tickets to the event were not cheap and while there we spent more money on the “heads & tails game” (where you buy strings of beads and basically bet them in a coin toss & last man standing wins $$. We lost.) Plus, we bid on, and won, a sweet little print called Autumn Shrub, by Chris Nelson.


We’ve been talking for way too long about increasing our real art collection, and putting something up on some of these rather bare walls we have. This piece caught the corner of my eye well after we had perused everything, and had pretty much resigned to not bidding. I guess I hadn’t noticed it at first. I like the simplicity and colors. We think it’ll look good with the colors in our house.

Bonus: We didn’t know there was a $30 gift certificate for framing on the back! (That alone should’ve boosted the price – framing isn’t cheap, but $30 off is going to be good.)

more about the evening