Linda Bradshaw loves all things Will Rogers. And to hear her tell it, so does everyone else.
"There's not an Oklahoman who doesn't hang their hat on Will Rogers," she said.
In fact, Will takes up a lot of space in her life. Her family's lives, too.
"My family runs when they see me coming. They know they're going to get a Will Rogers book for Christmas," she said. "I am a docent here just so I can meet people and hope they'll take a little bit of Will back to their home state. I've never been paid a dime for anything I've done promoting Will Rogers. I do it because I love it."
She's perennially preaching the gospel of Oklahoma's favorite son at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum at 1720 W. Will Rogers Blvd. in Claremore.
And now she's the chairman of The Event, a two-day bash geared toward raising both awareness of everyone's favorite cowboy and funds for the maintenance and update of the memorial campus. That's no easy task, as there isn't a previous fundraiser event upon which Bradshaw can draw.
"All 75 years that this has been sitting on this hill, there has never been a fundraiser for it," she said of the museum. "The state has a financial obligation. When Betty Rogers gifted this to the state, the 16th legislature said, 'We will fund it forever.' What they didn't realize was that the further we get away from that time, the economic climate can be overwhelming, so we're getting private donors to ensure that the legacy of Will Rogers stays around."
So it's not just schools and waste management that are seeing cuts in funding.
While The Event is a fundraiser, Bradshaw has loftier goals in mind, as well.
"We are state funded, but this is an opportunity for us to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the memorial," she said. "My goal is that we have a really wonderful bottom line, but also to see that a lot of people get to know about Will and we keep his legacy maintained."
The two-day fundraiser begins on September 19 at 6pm at the memorial in Claremore. Scheduled to appear are former Oklahoma governors Frank Keating and George Nigh, with Judge Robert Henry making a keynote speech. There will also be Wild West entertainment from the likes of Cowboy Kal and Doug Smith, both world champion ropers, and music from the Tulsa Playboys and fiddler Jana Jae. Will Rogers will be there, too, and not just in spirit, Bradshaw said.
"When school is in, almost on a daily basis, there are field trips here," she said. "We also have an outreach program where we go into the schools, because a lot of schools don't have the funding to come to the memorial. We have Doug Watson doing outreach."
Watson, as loyal readers of UTW's arts pages will recall, is a retired professor from Oklahoma Baptist University who has been performing as Will Rogers of Oklahoma Chautauqua and other functions for the better part of two decades.
"He's just wonderful," Bradshaw said. "He loves Will, and he knows it so well. He'll be here, actually, sitting in Will's place, and people can ask him questions."
Since it is a fundraiser, it's not exactly cheap to get in -- at least not the Claremore version of The Event.
"This fundraiser at Claremore is a high-dollar ticket. It's $125 per person," Bradshaw said. "We have a program and a lot of entertainment. It's kind of a mill around. You can sit and eat, or listen to music, or walk around, or you can go to the program."
There will be a raffle for a ritzy trip to California to tour Rogersian sites there, complete with a dinner at the Polo Grill.
And at a big fundraiser called The Event, it's not surprising, then, that they'll be handing out an award called The Award.
"We're presenting an award that night honoring all the pioneers and the people who made this memorial possible," Bradshaw explained. "These were prominent people, oil people, personal friends of Will's, and they were devastated when he was killed. So they wanted to be sure that the memorial that was put up here had a very good foundation, so we're honoring those people that evening. They're all gone, but they need to be remembered."
The next night, The Event comes to Tulsa. And where else to hold a bash honoring one of the most famous Okies of all? At the most famous venue of all -- Cain's Ballroom. (Did you know that the Sex Pistols played six American tour dates, and one of them was at the Cain's?)
"Jessie Coulter, who is a country music legend, will be there and be accompanied by her son, Shooter Jennings, and the Red Dirt Rangers will be opening," Bradshaw said of the "local" version of The Event. "That's funded by the David J. Chernicky Trust so that all the proceeds will go to the memorial foundation."
You get the feeling that Bradshaw is the glass-half-full-iest person ever when speaking to her, and her passion for the Will Rogers legacy is unbridled. To whit, she's thrilled to bring Will to downtown Tulsa.
"This is really cool because Will Rogers' name is beginning to be heard more and more," she said. "It's been 78 years since he was killed in 1935, but the young people of today need to hear his voice, and we need to bring his voice to the table. The world is out of whack, and we need someone like Will. I love that the Tulsa World is printing him every day now. We've got to reach those young kids, or the legacy of Will will not be maintained."
The evening will only set you back $20, too.
"We put the price as low as we could put it, because we want younger people to be able to get in and have a really fun evening. There's not football that night, so it's a perfect evening."
Tickets to either event are available at willrogers.com or by phone at 918-341-0719, and are also available at the door both nights.
Heller Theatre brings a night of thought-provoking laughs to the stage with Show People, opening this week.
Starring Timothy Hunter, Sidney Treat, Robert Young, and Sarah Smith, Show People examines a somewhat darker side of acting, telling the tale of two Broadway actors who haven't worked in years. The pair takes on a strange job for a rich New Yorker, at which point lines begin to blur.
Director Frank Gallagher had some musings on the piece and its themes, specifically how honest an actor can actually be, since the whole time he's on stage, he's lying about who he is.
"What makes someone want to spend significant portions of their life pretending to be someone they're not?" Gallagher asked. "Is it a gift, a sickness, or something in between? No matter the explanation, it's clear that performing has a powerful hold on the human mind. If we're not doing it, we're probably watching it."
He's right about that, especially in Tulsa, where our theater scene continues to thrive. Unlike the actors in Show People, though, most Tulsa actors don't see the performances bleed into their real lives, and that's the real issue in this show.
"The actors in Show People -- both the characters in the play and the actors playing those characters -- attempt to find honesty in pretense, to find their true identity inside a mask," Gallagher said. "But as always, the issue is in doubt until the final bows." Show People runs September 13-14, 17, and 20-21 at 7:30pm and September 22 at 2pm at the Henthorne Performing Arts Center, 4825 S. Quaker. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.
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Henry Bellmon Sustainability Awards Gala
Sustainable Tulsa and the Rotary Club of Southside Tulsa will present the fourth annual Henry Bellmon Sustainability Awards Gala on September 12 at the Tulsa Convention Center. Awards are given to those recognized as excelling in sustainable practices and leadership in the field. Tickets are available at bellmonawards.com or by calling 918-808-6576.
Portico Dans Theatre
Portico Dans Theatre creates interpretations and responses to sculptures in Remainder, the latest edition of the Philbrook Museum's "Response in Form" series. Bowing at 1:30pm on September 14 at the museum's main campus at 272 S. Rockford Rd. Admission for members is free.
Also this week is the debut of edition 28 of Dances Made to Order, a monthly series of dance films that can be found online. Edition 28 features Tulsa's own Portico Dans, which created a five-minute dance film based on themes chosen by the Dances Made to Order audience, which is worldwide.
You'll need a virtual ticket to this, which is $6.75 and available through dancesmadetoorder.com. Portico's film debuts September 18.
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