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Herington is a 'star': Longtime playhouse season ticket holder to be honored at block party

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Since the Paul Bunyan Playhouse opened in 1951, Edith Herington has enjoyed the opening nights of the professional summer stock theater.

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The playhouse will honor Herington, who has been a season ticket holder since the start of the playhouse, as its celebrity star patron Thursday at Stars in the Street, a block party to celebrate the playhouse's 2008 summer season.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Herington, 93, of Bemidji. "I think it's a great honor."

The public is invited to join the playhouse board of directors, Artistic Director Zach Curtis and a cast of stars at the block party starting at 5:30 p.m. on the 300 block of Beltrami Avenue Northwest. People attending the block party are invited to dress in their favorite theatrical attire.

At 6:45 p.m., guests can follow Herington and Highland bagpiper Brian Solum in parade to the Chief Theatre, the home of the playhouse, for an on-stage season preview with Curtis and company.

A ticket for $10 is required for the season preview and to enjoy appetizers provided by Bridig's Cross Irish Pub, Chocolate's Plus, Keg N' Cork, Elks Lodge and Tutto Bene. Tickets will be available for purchase Thursday at the playhouse box office and at the block party.

Herington and her late husband, Bob, became playhouse season ticket holders when it opened 57 years ago at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge.

"Bob and I used to go to the plays," she said, recalling how she and her husband would usually go out for dinner prior to show time and end the evening with a glass of wine. "It was our night out."

After Bob died in 1978, Herington kept up the tradition of being a season ticket holder.

"I just love theater," she said.

One summer, she even had a role in a play at the playhouse as a secretary.

Herington, who has held seat E17 ever since the playhouse moved from Ruttger's to the Chief Theatre in 1992, recalls one play, "Arsenic and Old Lace," as a perennial at the playhouse.

She also recalls a play in which an all-male cast dressed as women.

"I was amazed with the good looking ladies," she said with a smile. "It was just hilarious."

The 2008 summer season will include "Little Shop of Horrors" by Ashman and Menken, "The Foreigner" by Larry Shue, "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" by Neil Simon, "Three Days of Rain" by Richard Greenburg and "The Music Man" by Meredith Willson.

While a teacher at Bemidji High School, Herington was a choreographer for a production of "The Music Man."

"That's a good show," she said. "They're all good."

Herington said people who don't have tickets to the playhouse are missing a treat.

"We're just so fortunate to have the playhouse," she said. "We're so fortunate to have such good entertainment."

Season tickets and coupon books, which offer five tickets for one season at a discounted price, can be purchased online at paulbunyanplayhouse.com or by calling and leaving a message at the box office at 751-7270. Regular box office hours begin June 2.

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