You fall into one of two categories: you have little kids or you don't.
As a result, you either know or don't know A Year with Frog and Toad (one of TRM's longer-lived productions), the Hank the Cowdog series of books, and possibly Tulsa Repertory Musicals.
"Our mission is to promote and encourage reading for all kids," said Dan Call recently. Call founded TRM after retiring from a legendary career as the choir director at Memorial High School. While there, he demonstrated a passion for music, musicals, and education. He has remained on that path. "We hope to give kids a greater understanding about what it means to be in the audience. You know, not everybody can be on stage, but everybody is a potential audience member. I tell the kids they have the power to make it a better show by the energy and the love that they have as they watch."
To that end, Call and TRM present its sixth production, Hank the Cowdog and Monkey Business. This show represents a premiere, in fact, because Call and company found themselves pointed in the direction of Hank author John Erickson and just ran with it.
"What happened is that we have done Frog and Toad for dozens of schools," Call said. "One of our patrons saw it and asked if we'd ever thought of doing a show from the Hank the Cowdog series. I hadn't, but it sounded intriguing."
In 2011, Call met with Erickson and just straight up asked.
"He said, 'Sure.'"
With this initial go-ahead in hand, Call needed to find a musical writer to, you know, write a musical. Having taught teenagers about music for three decades, he had a whole bunch of people who might feel like they owed him one.
One of those currently teaches theater at Rogers State University.
"One of my former students at Memorial is a big music teacher now, and my wife, Kathy, saw him and asked if he'd like to write a musical, and he was in," Call said.
The show is set in a radio station and a live show from the old days of the medium, Hank the Cowdog and Monkey Business, relies on four actors, multiple characters, and a whole lot of sound effects.
George Nelson plays the titular character, while Steve Barker as Hanks' sidekick Drover gets the workout.
"He's got a theater major, and also some radio broadcast background. We call him the man with 1,000 voices," Call said. "Hank is always Hank, but Drover does lots of other voices for the radio show. He's really super."
Lest anyone think anyone is running around in a dog costume, Call is quick to clarify. After all, Hank doesn't live in a radio station studio.
"We kept it human, as it were," Call said. "People do dog or animal shows and dress the characters up. But we think that people may have their own idea of what Hank looks like, so we don't want to force them to change what they have imagined."
Accompanied by piano, bass, percussion, and the magnificently odd accordion, Hank the Cowdog and Monkey Business tells just one of the many adventures of its star dog, Call said.
"We've zeroed in on one of these 59 books, because we knew it would be impossible to write a little bit of all of them," he said.
Call also made a reference to the odd paths to which life sometimes leads us.
"I never dreamed I'd get back together with a student and create a show from the ground up," he said. And you could totally hear pride in his voice.
Hank the Cowdog and Monkey Business runs June 21-24 as a part of the SummerStage Tulsa event at the PAC. The show starts at 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday, with 3pm matinees on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $18 ($8 for children), and are available through the PAC box office at 918-596-7111 or at myticketoffice.com.
Matchbox Art with Sarah Bridgland
Give British paper sculptor Sarah Bridgland a matchbox, and she can make something pretty freaking cool.
"It's quite tricky. If people ask me what kind of artist I am, I say I'm a paper artist who predominantly works 3-dimensionally," she said. But that doesn't sound nearly as fun as what she's actually producing.
Her first-ever piece to appear in a museum's public collection is Stopftwist Cotton box (red, white, and black), and it lives here at the Philbrook.
"One of the trustees has one in his collection," Bridgland said. "It's made from an old costume box. This was my first piece in a public collection, so that was very exciting."
She comes to Tulsa to teach a workshop titled "Matchbox Art with Sarah Bridgland" at the Philbrook Thursday, June 21 at 5:30pm.
"I'm doing a workshop there that's just sort of arts education ideas that have spun off from my practice," the artist said. And she went on to outline what the class entails.
"You use a box as part of a sculpture. It's very simple and playful. So at this workshop, people will show up and there will be these printed materials -- things like old books and magazines, all sorts of different things," she said. "Hopefully, these will be things that visually excite them."
Just in case you're wondering if you read the class title correctly, yes, participants will be making art out of matchboxes. Adorably small little matchboxes.
"For the workshop, I explicitly use matchboxes, because they're easy top pick up and manipulate, and they sort of lend themselves to this kind of project," Bridgland said.
"It's going to be interesting, because it's going to be on a small scale, and people are going to be using materials they've not used before," Bridgland said.
The nature of the workshop, much like Bridgland's work, is largely extemporaneous.
"I've developed a strong visual language [in my work], but it's just for me. I'm not trying to convey a certain message at all," she said. "It is what it is. There are certain themes in my work, but it's not meant to convey a specific theme. It's sort of my exploration of this kind of visual language. It might take me on some tangents, and some might not go anywhere."
She collects lots of printed things, and as a result, since she uses much of that in her sculptures, she has a whole mess of materials to work with.
"I'm a big collector of printed material: second-hand books and comics, and such. My background is in printmaking, so I've always been a big fan of ephemera," Bridgland said. "My work is almost like a big celebration of the things I've collected over the years. It's quite nostalgic. All the material I use is older and sort of comes from the middle of the last century."
Referring again to her unique visual language, Bridgland speaks of on-the-fly creating, which is exactly what the intention of the workshop is.
"It's very improvisatory. You'll take a printed piece and put it down, and when you put another piece on top of it or next to it, there's sort of a conversation between the two forms," she said.
Bridgland enjoys teaching the workshop, and expresses delight at what she does and hopes to share.
"Hopefully, people will see that it's quite fun and playful. That's literally the point. I'm really excited, but I'm quite nervous, as well. You're never quite sure how people are going to take it," she said.
"Matchbox Art with Sarah Bridgland" will be held at the Philbrook Museum on Thursday, June 21 at 5:30pm. The class is included with admission to the Philbrook Museum.
More information at sarahbridgland.com or philbrook.org.
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