'Strictly G.I.' pays homage to troops“Who’s on first?” Simple question; complex answer — and people are still laughing at the vaudeville skit made famous in the late 1930s by Abbott and Costello.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
“Who’s on first?”
Simple question; complex answer — and people are still laughing at the vaudeville skit made famous in the late 1930s by Abbott and Costello.
Red Wing Area Seniors are confident audiences will appreciate that comic routine and the many other bits that make up their fall production, “Strictly G.I.”
Appropriately, it opens on Veterans Day for a two-day run at the Sheldon Theatre, under the direction of Julie Martin.
Sketches in the production were created during World War II courtesy of the Hollywood Writers Mobilization Project.
As their contribution to the war effort, writers provided comedy sketches — including reworked versions of vaudeville routines — for the troops so they could put on “soldier shows,” according to Sheldon Theatre Executive Director Sean Dowse.
The script for the senior show came to the local group in a roundabout fashion.
Dowse’s father, Chester K. Dowse, was involved in putting together soldier shows while serving in the U.S. Army Special Services branch.
In addition to scripts written by professionals from New York to California, Dowse noted, the soldiers also were given “how-to” manuals to help them put on shows using just the materials at hand, stateside or overseas.
His father kept the books, and let Dowse have them when he was in school. After graduating from college and moving to Minnesota in the 1970s, Dowse remembered the scripts and used them to create a dinner theater show in Minneapolis.
“I thought the seniors might be interested,” he said, so he offered the collection of scripts to them.
“We thought this would be a good fit,” said Martin, who also directed the seniors in a melodrama last year.
She liked the idea of involving more people in an ensemble cast. In addition, because the show is a series of smaller scenes, there is less memorization for individuals.
Dowse spent time last summer typing up skits he thought would work best and be most interesting to a larger audience. He and Martin went through the scripts again and made their selections, which amount to perhaps 10 percent of the material in the books.
“It’s kind of a homage to the folks who fought World War II” on both the home front and the battlefield, Dowse said.
“It’s light humor about the military,” Martin said. “It’s a comic look at things that happened during the war.”
Themes range from military bureaucracy and jargon to shortages and mistaken identity.
The production, which will last about 90 minutes, also includes some popular wartime songs such as “We’re in the Army Now” and “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” plus some lyrical parodies. Tom Erickson will provide musical accompaniment.
Will bits designed to raise spirits and boost morale 70 years ago amuse people today?
“The audience will let us know,” Dowse said. “I think they still are funny. We laughed at them.”
If you go…
Who: Red Wing Area Seniors
What: “Strictly G.I.”
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 11, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 12
Where: Sheldon Theatre
How much: $15 adults, $9 students
Tickets: www.sheldontheatre.org or 651-388-8700