Friday, August 12, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
The TLP had a big day today with the closing of our latest show, Sweet Charity. Fortunately, we had a visitor from the past and one that shaped TLP to what it is today.
(Left to Right: Bob Hess and Andy Bro)
In 1974, Bob Hess helped rebuild the theatre. He installed the revolve that is used frequently in many of our shows and is a unique part of TLP. Along with Mr. Hess is one of our favorite alums, Andy Bro.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Marsha Gerson Hirsch
I first heard about Timber Lake Playhouse from my friend Connie Mango and came up to see a production of “Look Homeward Angel”. I was impressed to say the least. I was on my way to The Cleveland Playhouse and became friends with Vaughn McBride. He convinced me to become an actress with Timber Lake for the summer, not that I needed much convincing. I drove up with Ron and Holly Duffy in 1966.
Thus began some very memorable seasons-1966, '67, '68, & '69. I began by playing Martha in “Aesenic and Old Lace” What fun! I never worked so hard in my entire life. No such thing as “idle hands” at TLP. I rehearsed during the day, acted at night, worked on sets and costumes and also had the opportunity to direct. I remember staying up all night striking a set and putting up the new one. I learned why you don’t work barefoot in the shop. I also learned to drive a stick shift on Maurice Chevrolet. I always knew if I was a hit when I went to dinner. If Gladys had my favorite rhubarb pie, the show was going to succeed.
I played Bloody Mary in “South Pacific”, the only black haired, blue eyed Mary ever. Bill Bottom had a hard time with me. The singing wasn’t always easy, but the comedy I was born with. I remember stories from practically every show, but don’t ask me what I made for dinner last night.
During my big “searching for a pencil “ monologue in “Come Blow Your Horn”, Frangipani, a cast member’s kitten walked in upstage of me and began cleaning herself. The audience started giggling in the wrong place so I knew it wasn’t me. I turned around and scooped her up, handed her to Priscilla off stage, and said, “They don’t have a pencil but they have a cat”.
I became Bob Edwards’ resident wife, Steve Shaffer’s mother, with a little Mike Gross thrown in. In ‘68, I got to direct the first production of “A Thousand Clowns” with Mike Gross and Billie McBride. I also directed “Any Wednesday”. The list is etched on my brain in a way that finding my car keys isn’t. “Enter Laughing”, “Majority of One” , “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, (Who can forget Noel Shire as Hero?), “Brigadoon” with Peggy Bussert which she later did in the revival on Broadway. I cried every night when the bagpipes played at Mike’s funeral. “The Lady’s Not For Burning”, one of the most clever plays I have ever read. Another tricky long monologue-loved it. I watched the cast become inspired by Frye’s writing. “A View from the Bridge” with Ev Lunning. The phone booth from that show became my closet in my cabin. LeRoy ran a pole so I could hang my clothes. I also did the comedy “Never Too Late” in which the director taught me a new concept-subtlety in comedy. It worked. We did a few childrens’ shows as well. I remember dressing in a very large bunny suit.
But, the all-time classic was “Barefoot in the Park”. The opening of the second act calls for my son-in-law to carry me in and put me down on the couch. Mark, tall and lean, did not seem daunted. I was nervous. I was not used to being carried anywhere. The door opened, he did the two steps with me in his arms acting drunk, and put me on the couch. I could feel the couch tremble and the back legs buckled . The audience saw my feet slowly ri
sing up to the ceiling as the couch folded onto its back. The house was up for grabs. When I could get myself together, I crawled on my hands and knees and delivered the first line, “I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven, only I had to climb up”. The audience was hysterical again. The couch did the same thing the second night even after some repairs and then had to be replaced. I’m sorry Sheldon. Blame it on Gladys’ pies.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1970. I auditioned for everything. I did a lot of community theatre just waiting for a break. Lots of great reviews but no offers. I had a teaching degree and that paid the bills. I fell in love and married and have a wonderful son who had to be different so he went into film. I may never have started a theatre, but I produced a musical every year for graduation. I imparted my love for theatre to the inner city youth of South Central LA. When we did “West Side Story”, we really had the Sharks and the Jets. I directed “The Three Piggy
Opera” with third graders and “Annie” along with my son and a young cast of second language learners and native speakers.
I always remembered that whatever task we attempted, even finding enough flashlights and driving our cars up to the open theatre doors during a tornado when the electricity went out during a show, the “we can do this” attitude of Timber Lake which has guided my life. I applaud you Andy, Dorothea, Sheldon, and all the founders of the longest continuous running summer theatre in Illinois. Wow! The branches of your tree have grown in so many directions, too numerous to count. I thank you for a wonderful part of my life.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
By Ron Heffelfinger
In 1960, Timber Lake Playhouse was started. After trees were taken down and all the stumps removed, R.C. Traum Construction Company took over. Bob's crew was: Ron Heffelfinger, Arnold Provant, Denver Traum, Ken Heffelfinger, Arlen Larson and Fred Queckboerner.
All the wall footings were dug by hand and the wall forms were done by hand. They were of boards, steel and wire. The large posts that was used to hold the roof were 12"x8". The siding was 1"x12" oak, all different lengths and the framing lumber were all cut at Tautz Brothers saw mill. The siding was board and bat. The bats were 3" oak. Both of the boards and bats were dipped in an oak stain and laid out to dry before use. The only lumber in the theater that was brought in were the trusts for the roof.
While working on this project there were a lot of early morning changes made. Whenever Mr. McKay showed up there was going to be a change! One change that I can remember, which is getting hard to do, is that for two or three days we would put a trap door in the stage floor, then one day later take it out. Finally, it stayed there after Bob had a discussion with Mr. McKay.
The last thing we did before the opening was to drill hundreds of holes into the cement floor. These were to hold the bolts that held the seats down. We set a row of seats and cemented the bolts into the holes. It took a very long day to get all seats set. The cement was to set up very quickly. Two days after drying Bob pushed on the back row to see if they were set and to out surprise the back row went forward hitting the nest row and all the seats went forward. The cement did not set up, s0 we had to re-drill all the holes and reset the seats. This time the cement set up and it worked. We finished just a few days before opening.