I chose this group shot in an ancient theater to honor and celebrate my father on Father’s Day, because it has been sort of a theater weekend for us. Friday night was Shakespeare in the park, with, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Saturday night, well really evening, we attended a live radio broadcast of “Prairie Home Companion”. We being Anne, Joanie and I. This was one of host Garrison Keillor’s last performances, after hosting almost 1,500 performances. He is retiring this summer too. The show was at the Fabulous Fox Theater, where Keillor seemed quite taken by the venue. He warmed up the crowd for 15 minutes before air time and performed three curtain calls after the show went off the air. After the show, we had dinner at the Triumph Grill.
This is the first time that we have seen “Prairie Home” live, although we have listen to it for many years. We have seen Keillor once before, when he soloed with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Clara Buckley of the New York Times has just written a nice, if somewhat melancholy piece about him and his imminent retirement entitled, “The Garrison Keillor You Never Knew”. In it she marvels at the dichotomy between the demeanor of the private person and that of the public showman, because they are so different. I think that he chose Saint Louis as part of his farewell tour, because as a youth, his first independent trip out into the world, was to the Lou. He mentioned this trip as part of his warmup.
Father’s Day was a major theme throughout the show, but most poignantly during his Lake Wobegon monologue. This being his farewell tour, Keillor was fuller than normal with regret. He berated himself for childhood indiscretions, including one my favorites, the tomato butt incident, but he found solace in the company of his daughter. I found it interesting that during the skits, he read his part, letting the pages fall to the stage once read, but he had no script to read for his monologue. He brought out a stool to sit on, but never used it. Instead, he wandered about the stage, sometimes with his back to the audience. Buckley may be right that Keillor is past his prime and should have left the stage already, but he was so obviously having fun out there and so was the rest of the house.