Support Your Local Arts

 

Something About Nothing published the week of March 6, 2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be an actress. I suppose in today’s world I would say I wanted to be an actor. The word actress seems to have gone away in this politically correct world we now live in.

During my high school years I participated in drama and had a few nondescript roles. I enjoyed being behind the scenes, and my insecurities about my looks and my talent kept me from trying out for more roles.

In my middle adult years, I got involved in the drama departments in the high school when my kids participated, mostly behind the scenes with costumes. It was actually during one of those times I took the stage again as the front part of a dancing horse in the “Music Man.” It happened by accident when my friend Peggy and I, who was also doing costumes, put on the horse costume for fun and pranced around the auditorium to see what it felt like inside the costume. Mark Rud, who was directing the extravaganza at NRHEG, saw us and decided it would be fun if we became part of the play. No one would know who we were and we were to dance in pulling the Wells Fargo wagon, do a little jig and exit the stage. I must admit it was so much fun to do and my friend Peggy and I remember it to this day and — we almost fell off the stage because we couldn’t see where we were going.

A little later in my life, I and my family got involved in Albert Lea Community Theatre, my daughter in the musical, “Heidi,” and my husband in “Heidi” and “Peter Pan.” They talked me into trying out for a role in “I Remember Mama.” I actually got the part of one of the aunts. I suspect I got the part not because I was good, because I wasn’t, and the word ostentatious seemed to trip me up on a few nights because I couldn’t remember the word in my lines. Now I ask who doesn’t remember a word like that? I think I got the part because of my height, and I matched the person who played my husband. I felt I had come full circle because I had also been in the play in high school.

My favorite and fun part while being a part of the community theater was in an “Alice in Wonderland” play as part of a program they put on for school children each year. I got to play the Dodo bird in full costume. I loved it. Looking back, I think I would have been a better actress if I would have went for the costumed silly parts, because I loved them and they were so much fun. There were no nerves involved in being silly, even if I had lines.

The Albert Lea Community Theatre has been around for many years. This past weekend we attended a performance of “12 Angry Jurors.” As a mystery writer, it got my creative juices going. The cast superbly played the part of disagreeing jurors. Not only did they show their frustration at the process, but they conveyed the vulnerability of each juror coming from different experiences in their lives. Those experiences might or might not influence decisions one makes about someone else’s life, and in this case, whether a young man will be prosecuted, put in jail and possibly put to death. The cast played all of these emotions and kept the audience drawn in so that the time passed so quickly we were surprised when it was over.

As a writer, I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened when that jury went back into the courtroom and gave their verdict. I wanted to know if years down the road they were right or wrong. I wanted to know what happened to each one of them in their lives, and I wanted to know the impact the discussion to reach the verdict had on the way they would view others when they walked out of that jury room. The director and cast told the story so well they kept us wanting more.

The arts are important. If you have not experienced Albert Lea Community Theatre, I would highly recommend seeing their productions or getting involved as a volunteer. There is so much emphasis on the sporting world for kids, the arts and humanities are not always encouraged. It hasn’t been until recently that arts have come into their own as a respected medium. Our children should be encouraged to explore the arts because not every student has the ability or the desire to participate in sports, but they may be great at acting, painting or expressing themselves positively another way through a different medium.

I, myself, know because I have dabbled in it — acting where you must remember lines is not for me. I am better at the improv. I never could remember lines or deliver lines appropriately even in my good memory years. I wouldn’t know that unless I had the chance to experience it. My children have all had that experience from their high schools and hobbies. One loved it so much it has been a staple of her life, bringing that experience to complement her career.

We are fortunate to have opportunities in our area, even in small communities, to give all the experience of the arts whether it is by participating or viewing. As Mikey from the Life commercial would say, “Try it, you might like it.”

Small Town Main Streets Are Coming Back!

Wells Main StreetSomething About Nothing by Julie Seedorf, published in the Albert Lea Tribune August 4, 2014

The words “Small town main streets coming back” are making headlines on television, radio and newspapers across the United States.

I heard the news on the radio one day. Apparently we are getting tired of the urban sprawl and shopping malls and returning to our roots. Old main streets in small and large communities across America are being revitalized by mom and pop shops, arts and culture and unique niche shops that have locals and tourists coming back to the main street of America to shop.

I noticed the comeback recently as I have visited small and large communities in the area. I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Mills, Northfield, Shakopee, Bricelyn and Kiester. Even tiny Walters is a destination to eat with diners coming for the great food at R&R Roadhouse Bar & Grill.

Driving through other small communities I have noticed the change in their main streets. No longer are the dilapidated historical buildings an eyesore. Many now stand proud having been restored to their earlier glory, or to a state of beauty that fits in with the historic nature of the buildings.

Well-taken-care-of buildings on main street America reflect the pride of the community, the heritage and the people that now have a vested interest in the community, and that is, its residents.

As I drive through the main street of Albert Lea I stand in awe at some of the old architecture and beauty of the buildings and dream of the past. I notice the change in the buildings as they are being brought back to their former beauty and treasured and cherished as a part of history.

We live in a throwaway society. Those who lived through the Great Depression were savers. They threw nothing away because there was no money to replace things, and that attitude lived long past the time that the Depression was over. People my mother’s age had stuff, but much of the stuff were not things of value.

Families today have stuff. They have their electronics, their toys, their clothes and the list can go on. They don’t keep it unless there is a little hoarding itch in their bodies. Things are dumped in trash, sold on a garage sale, and interests move on to the next best thing.

Homes are built alike and buildings and stores look alike in the strip malls of America. I recently visited a restaurant in a strip mall and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a fine dining restaurant, but it didn’t have the ambiance that a restaurant in an old restored building such as Jonnie Beans, Club 57 and the Starfire Restaurant located in the refurbished Miller-Armstrong building in Waseca has.

The strip mall restaurant won’t be remembered after it is gone. The strip mall will be another building on the landscape, probably torn down for something new to replace it. We are no longer valuing our new architecture. We are building throw away buildings.

I have to tell you that there is a different feeling walking down a main street in a small town that has valued their buildings and promoted their buildings as much as they have their businesses. Perhaps it is because I remember small town America that I feel this way, yet, I have to believe even those younger like the feeling of the atmosphere of the old buildings.

Exploring the main streets with my granddaughters is something we like to do. They admire the brick buildings and ooh and ah at the stores we visit that have been restored back to the original decor with the tin ceilings and the brick walls. These children learn to value the history of America every time we frequent a place that has taken a look at its roots, and tried to get back a little of the history.

What sparked this column about the main streets of America? As I listened to the broadcast on the radio of the re-emergence of Main Street, I happened to be driving down the main street of New Richland after a visit to Northfield.

I lived in New Richland for 10 years and I was checking out the community and reliving old memories. New Richland, small as it is, takes pride in its main street. The trees that line the streets lend a welcoming shadow to the buildings that were painted and updated and restored. It screams the small-town cozy feeling of the warmth of the past, welcoming and comforting to those who might walk the street.  I noticed the revitalized New Richland Library in a building that I previously remember being in pretty bad shape, but the beauty was restored. As I was listening to the radio I was admiring small town Main Street. Good job, New Richland.

We can’t save all of the architecture on Main Street, but those that are saved are bringing back Main Street USA. That’s what the program said. People are coming back to the main streets with the restored buildings and businesses that have relocated in these buildings.

There’s one other thing I noticed while visiting Main Street in many small communities, and the revitalized mom and pop businesses in larger cities, that is, the greeting you receive. You won’t find the friendliness, the helpfulness and the customer service that you get from mom and pop in the big-box stores. There are no generic greetings from Mom and Pop or their employees whether you are a regular customer or a stranger. Mom and Pop on main street make you feel like you have come home.

Visiting with Diana Sullivan at Lady Di’s Antiques and the owners of the new Vintage, Shabby, Restored, Recycle store in downtown Shakopee, I felt as if I were talking with old friends and in a much smaller community such as my hometown instead of a metropolitan area. Eating the rolls from the bakery in downtown Shakopee that had been there for 35 some years, reminded me of the bakeries such as the former Fran’s Bakery and the Wells Bakeshop in my hometown of Wells. Visiting the small shops in Northfield gave me the same satisfying experience. It was worth wandering off of the chain store train to come back to the value of the past when customers were your friends and family, and were important.

Who wouldn’t want to visit a community that shows pride in the history of their buildings, shows pride in their businesses that fill those buildings, and lends history and friendliness to your visit? Welcome back, small-town main street. You were missed.