The MAD Players Come Through Again
I like to write stories featuring Siskiyou County; and the county is a great setting for my novels. Having lived here for more than fifty years, I think I’ve finally made it past the “flatlander” stage, and actually know a little of what I’m writing about. Despite the ever-increasing challenges to our rural way of life, I wouldn’t voluntarily live anywhere else, and I feel sorry for those poor souls in the Bay Area and LA who spend hours of their daily lives fighting traffic and breathing smog.
What’s so great about this place? Well, there’s the obvious: the breathtaking physical beauty of our countryside. We have some of everything, from 14,179-foot Mount Shasta, to the high desert volcanic caves of the Lava Beds, to Castle Crags, the Marble Mountain Wilderness, the Ski Park, lakes, rivers, mountains galore, etc, etc, etc. etc.
And then, there are the people. People here actually know each other. You can live for years in the city and never get to know your neighbors, or even the people who live in the same building. People here get together, do things together, and support each other. There are many examples of that, but today I will focus on one specific group, the performing arts community.
Last fall I wrote a story comparing a performance Ann and I attended at Etna’s historic 300-seat Avery memorial Theatre (Patsy Cline Tribute Artist Joni Morris) with a performance we saw the same week at Atlanta’s historic 4,665-seat Fox Theatre on Peachtree Street (Pretty Woman). We were in Atlanta to visit our son, who has a restaurant a block from the Fox. Both shows were great, but despite the enormous differences in the scale of the productions and the splendor of the theatres, I gave the nod to the Avery Theatre for sheer enjoyment and fun, primarily because of the venue. It was a delightful Fall evening, and the little town of Etna was hopping. For those of you San Francisco Chronicle readers, you know that in its “Datebook” section, the Chronicle rates performing arts shows with its “Little Man” rating system instead of using stars. It is a cartoon figure of a little man on a chair whose demeanor indicates his appreciation of a performance. I think the Little Man would have been happily seated on his chair, clapping, with a smile on his face (the equivalent of four stars) for both the performances at Atlanta’s giant Fox Theatre and Etna’s tiny Avery Theatre.
Saturday night, February 18, we went to see the MAD Players’ production of Bard to Tears … or The Lady Doth Protest Too Much. We saw this two-act melodrama at the Fort Jones Community Center. It was the final night of four shows; the first two had been staged the previous weekend at the Avery Theatre in Etna, and the latter two in Fort Jones.
Who are these MAD people anyway? When I first saw the advertisements for the show, I thought MAD was referring to the magazine I loved as a kid and its iconic “What, me worry” cover boy Alfred E. Neuman, with his gap-tooth smiley face, freckles, scrawny body, and ears that stuck out. But no. MAD refers to Madeleine Ayres (Director), Annie Kramer (Musical Director), and Dee Jones (Artistic Director). They, and the entire cast and crew did a great job. This was a completely original show and great fun. The show deserves the Little Man leaping out of his seat clapping so enthusiastically that his bowler hat has been knocked to the floor (five stars).
There are a lot of scary things going on in the world today, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation, and illegal immigrants at the southern border. And more locally, drought and the real danger of wildfires. These are the tip of the iceberg, and there is little that we as ordinary citizens can do about most of it except worry and obsess over it. To keep us from going mad, we need people like the MAD Players to help us maintain perspective … to help us remember all the good things there are in the world, and especially right here in Siskiyou County.
As long as I’ve lived here, I’ve always been amazed at how much artistic, musical, and dramatic talent we have lurking in the hills and valleys of our rural community. The MAD Players and the Scott Valley Theatre Company are a part of that, along with many other organizations county-wide that also bring us great performances, such as the Red Scarf Society, the Siskiyou Performing Arts Center (SPAC), Jefferson Center for the Arts (JCA), POPS Performing Arts and Cultural Center, Music by the Mountain, and the SDA Drama Dept, just to name a few. The list goes on and on.
Oh, and about ticket prices. Seats for the melodrama at the Avery were $10. At the Fort Jones Community Center, they were $20, but that also included great food and drinks. It’s hard to cook a dinner at home these days for $20. To put it in perspective, Atlanta’s Fox Theatre is currently presenting Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. Ticket prices range from $139 to $359.
We owe a lot to all the folks who contribute to our county’s vibrant performing arts culture and make it exciting and fun. I urge everyone to support them, both financially and by attending performances. What they do is a big part of what makes Siskiyou County deserve its Little Man leaping out of his seat, five-star status.