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A Prairie Home Companion: Actors describe experiences with famous show

Sue Scott and Tim Russell perform a skit on stage for A Prairie Home Companion. They will be performing APHC with Garrison Keillor when it broadcasts live Feb. 12 from the John Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji. Submitted Photo

It's 5 p.m. on a Saturday night, and if you're like about four million other people, you're tuned in to A Prairie Home Companion.

Since Garrison Keillor began national broadcast of the show Feb. 17, 1979, fans from around the country and the world have listened to the Powdermilk Biscuits and Bertha's Kitty Boutique advertisements, and a variety of music, skits and News From Lake Wobegone.

On Saturday, Feb. 12, APHC will broadcast live from John Glas Fieldhouse at Bemidji State University. Guest performers Rhonda Vincent, the Rage, Sam Miltich and Andra Suchy will join the regular cast of Tom Keith, Tim Russell, Sue Scott, Keillor and the Guy's All Star Shoe Band.

Tickets are available at both Lueken's stores or through or by calling 800-982-2787. The performance will begin with a 4:45 p.m. preshow and go on the air from 5-7 p.m. Listeners can also tune into Minnesota Public Radio at 91.3 and 88.5 for the live broadcast at 5 p.m. and to 91.3 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Sunday repeat.

"What makes this show a thrill to do every week is Garrison's writing," said Tim Russell in a telephone interview from his home in the Twin Cities. "He's so prolific."

Russell and his partner in the radio acting company, Sue Scott, have performed on APHC since 1994 and 1992 respectively. Russell is known for his voice impersonations, as well as regular characters such as Jim in the Ketchup Advisory Board advertisements.

Scott said she doesn't lift voices as Russell does, but she plays an array of characters from the bimbo to the old lady with the cigarette-blasted voice to Duane's guilt-evoking mother.

"I worked with Tom over 20-some years; we're very good friends," Scott said in a telephone interview. "We have this website together. We have the same agents. We live two blocks from each other. Prairie Home is a big family."

Russell and Scott said they have to be flexible in their acting. Keillor writes the show toward the end of each week. The actors see the material for the first time on a Friday read-through, mostly so Keillor can hear how things sound, Scott said. They rehearse once on Saturday and then go on the air live.

"It's very minimal rehearsal," Scott said.

"Sometimes Garrison drops a surprise on me," Russell said. "I've never figured out how (his) wheels turn to churn out the News From Lake Wobegon every week without notes."