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Patt Rall Column: Let's all be thankful, no matter how small the blessing

To be precise, I am so proud of Bemidji when I see how many people give of them self to serve others. The lists of volunteers crossover at times: the same volunteer who escorted you to your seat at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse during the summer seas...

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To be precise, I am so proud of Bemidji when I see how many people give of them self to serve others. The lists of volunteers crossover at times: the same volunteer who escorted you to your seat at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse during the summer season might very well have served you a free dinner at St. Philip's on Thanksgiving Day. I know, because I have done it in the past, how many hours it takes to prepare that meal and how many of us cheerfully chatted and set up the tables for a festive day. Ann Welsh and Joan Kolbe, with their long history and even longer lists of volunteers, headed up the day, which actually began earlier in the month when the call went out for drivers, buyers, chefs, etc. Thanksgiving Day turns out to be a "small" family gathering of some 600 or more people.

Think of all the ensembles from the music department at BSU, for example, the Baroque Ensemble, which practices diligently and then invited us in to hear their performance. Yes, I did say invited us because they never charge admission. There are many student recitals when the public, family and friends gather together to support their performer, drink some cider or coffee and munch on store bought or home-made goodies. Yes, the admission is free and the enthusiasm for a job well done is heartwarming.

Then I am thankful for the many, many volunteers from the leads in the play to the person who sews buttons on costumes. The joy on the faces of the actors when they are receiving standing ovations is a sight to behold. When Joe Vene began to sing "Hello, Dolly," many in the audience leapt to their feet, whistled and then settled down. Julie Kaiser, better known as Dolly Gallagher Levi, showed her maturity and master of interpreting the lyrics for such songs as "Before the Parade Passes By." She was not the strident Streisand, but the middle-aged widow who let us into her heart---"let me go, Ephraim." Along with the up-and-coming younger thespians, Charles (Chuck) Deeter was so believable as Horace Vandegelder, that I got lost in the moment and neglected to watch his perfected acting techniques that have carried me away in past Bemidji Community Theater and Paul Bunyan Playhouse productions. Thanks to Region 2 Arts Council, without whose support these lavish plays would not happen and we would not be able to see and hear, especially, the cacophony of diverse accents and theater productions in the early 20th Century on the lower East Side of Manhattan. It is often quoted that the early vaudeville actors (Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys) sang and tap danced their way across the stages of many houses after the untimely passing of their mother, Italian singer Madelaine Morando, to keep the boys fed. We got a glimpse into early vaudeville (1888-1932) in "Gypsy," when the ferocious/protective stage mother managed to keep a roof over the heads of not only her children but those she picked up along the way. Having dealt with directors back East in final rehearsals for truck shows, I came to realize that their players (in their assigned roles) were alive to both the actors and directors. And that is what makes great movies as well, the actor becomes the person and we forget that we have come to peek into the life of one famous person or another like us with care and worries, sometimes able to surmount them rather than become victimized.

Don't forget about this coming Friday's First Night Events with Holiday Boutiques opening up at the Gallery North and Watermark Gallery. And last, but certainly, not least, thank you goes out to all you wonderful people who catch me on the street, send emails, post on Facebook and send notes. You have all kept me "vertical" as I like to respond but truly your comments mean so much to me - our precious volunteers.

Patt Rall is a longtime arts supporter and journalist in Bemidji. She can be reached at prall@midco.net .

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