Monday, April 11, 2011


Freeport is covered with SHOWTIME signs and other recognitions of this long-time tradition that combined with the outstanding speech and drama department makes Freeport one of the best cities I know about for high school kids interested in the arts.

Although the trip upstate is getting more difficult as we age, I could not keep from having some sadness knowing this is the last Showtime I will probably ever see since grandson Elijah is a senior this year. The lasting hold that this annual show has on its city was developed in the filmed skit of some of the parents of 2011 Showtime kids. These parents too once walked the boards and now claimed they were addicted to Showtime and burst out singing to prove it. Likewise, I am convinced that the Showtime experience will stay with these kids for a lifetime and boost their self esteem every time they remember just how talented they were.

After the annual excellent jazz band concert directed by Bill Petersen and a brief intermission, the magic lights come on revealing this year’s set for Showtime. Every year the elaborate set is visually stimulating and satisfying. The show band is revealed high above in the back of the stage and it blasts forth the Showtime theme. The audience expectantly settles down for over an hour of music, dancing, laughs, and an ending with some important serious messages that will endure and enhance the lives of these young performers as well the viewers.

The most impressive thing director Jeff Lehman does, in my opinion, is to get this kind of cooperation from this many kids year after year. I doubt if many or even any of the guys in the show ever had a dance lesson, yet they are so good. They throw their hearts into each skit that will feature their singing and dancing, and the result is true theater with each face and muscle expressing the song.

Another impressive aspect is the rapid timing that never lets the audience feel impatience. By the end of the men’s song, they will have probably be joined by the young women dressed in new costumes and without a break, the audience will take in the new aspect of whatever theme is then being explored. Kids will have seamlessly changed props and backdrops if needed. There is never a lag or time for boredom.

Once again there was a three-screened photo report on the Showtime’s annual trip during their spring break, a trip where they perform at other schools and often notable venues. This year’s destination was Colorado, and they sang in the chapel at the Air Force Academy and climbed mountains and had the usual annual working vacation that demands more organization than I can imagine.

Finally, after multiple skits and songs that allow many different students to have their turn in the spotlight with solos or key roles, the final segment caused us to remember the upcoming l0th anniversary of 9/ll. I consider myself very patriotic, and for me, part of that patriotism is not getting silly sentimental. I judge patriotism by pitching in to help your neighbors and the community to succeed as well as doing your best to use your own talents and strengths. I judge patriotism by voting and willingly paying taxes to keep this nation healthy and solvent and our stupendous highway system in good shape. I do not like huge flags being used to pull people into a gas station to buy gas there. The flag is too important to be used in that way.

So although I expected to appreciate the students’ patriotic endeavor, I did not expect them to stir my emotions as they did with their high-powered renditions of songs with national importance while the giant screens reviewed September 11 for us. Suddenly, local uniformed fireman and police marched solemnly out on stage, and the audience instantly rose en masse with wild applause to show their appreciation for those public servants and for their New York colleagues who served and sacrificed so much on that fateful day. There may have been some dry eyes in the house, but mine were not among them.

This was followed by flag-bearing veterans marching in one by one down the aisles – many showing their age as well as dedication to our country. Balloons and confettti thrown down on the audience at the show’s conclusion to enchant the children was a remembered tradition, and this year added the sudden appearance of multiple huge red, white, and blue star-studded banners to hang over our heads.

We had driven half way up state the night before to Mary Ellen and Brian’s country home south of Springfield, and grandchildren Trent and Brianna were up and ready early the next morning for the long drive to Freeport. We arrived a little later than hoped for at the Eiler residence to pick up Cecelie, and we were delightfully surprised to have Elijah come out with her as he was unexpectedly free to spend the afternoon with us. (Jeannie was in a workshop at the Chicago Art Institute and Rick at Moline for a track meet.)

We checked into our hotel and went in search of lunch and a ESPNU station showing Georgia softball team playing Kentucky.
The manager where we ate was kind to search but reported they did not have that channel. Trent saved the day for us by finding the game on his new I-Phone and we kept up with the Georgia Dawgs’ success. (Both Georgia and the SIUC Salukis had 3-game sweeps this weekend.)

It was after 3, when we finished eating lunch, and we took the kids back to Jeannie’s house where they planned for a walk to Krape Park while Gerald and I rested. We’d prepared to take Lige to the theater at 5:30, but a college friend was home and he ended up going with her. I knew we had plenty of time to go back to our hotel to change for the evening show. I was relaxed because Jeannie had chili going in the crock pot and a fridge full of sandwich goodies, so I did not have to worry about kids getting hungry.

Then Rick came in from Moline and he could take Trent, Bri, and Cecelie to the show. Jeannie, who would be arriving late from Chicago, had secured tickets for us and Rick had a teacher friend usher us to our excellent seats. After the show, Elijah was involved with the cast party, but the rest of us headed to the Eilers for chili and food. The kids still had not eaten, but they were more excited about being together than eating. They grabbed sandwiches and were quickly off to their own projects in another room while we lingered at the dining room table and caught up with Jeannie and Rick’s news.

We left them to cope with the teens and we went back to our room in the landmark hotel in downtown Freeport instead of our usual home away from home, where a wedding in addition to the Showtime crowd make rooms scarce. It was late, and we slept extremely well until late the next morning where breakfast on the house and a newspaper awaited us downstairs.

We met up at the Eilers’ church and worshipped together before picking up the kids’ suitcases at Eilers and going out for a final meal together. I’d offered for Trent to sit up front on the way up, but he preferred whatever he was doing on his
I-Phone and Bri was glad to sleep going home since the cousins had stayed up a lot longer past midnight than Gerald and I had at the hotel. We made the trip back to First Road leading to the Taylors without incident despite a high wind making steering difficult and making us nervous of swaying vehicles.

We were greeted by Fifi when we dropped off Trent and Bri and quickly headed back to Woodsong since Mary Ellen and Brian were not home. We ate at Mt. Vernon, and were relieved when a call to our next-door neighbor told us the electricity was back on shortly after their return from Florida. Earlier in the afternoon, another neighbor had kindly called and warned us of the outage. Gerald laughingly told Sonje we had been thinking we might have to sleep at a neighbor’s since we had forgotten to take a house key and our garage door can’t be opened if the electricity is off. I am sure she was more relieved than ever that their lights were shining brightly and our pole light was back on. We slept good again last night.

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