Friday, May 27, 2011

Midland resident turns her dog into fashion model and the subject of a children's book

by Janet I. Martineau
Clara J del Valle and Gisselle
A fashion model with an Internet following is headed to Midland’s Creative 360 for a special program on Saturday, June 11.
Gisselle is her name, and she is a 12-year-old beige and white bearded collie who is both a therapy dog and the elegantly-clad star of a children’s book titled “Gisselle’s Adventures in Color.”
“She has quite a following among children,” says Clara  J del  Valle, with whom Gisselle lives in Midland. “And when we come home from doing our programs she is bushed -- because she knows she has been working and she has been on her best behavior.”
From 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on June 11, del Valle will read to children from her “Adventures in Color” book, with Gisselle at her side as always. Each child will receive a copy of the interactive book to take home -- autographed by the pooch -- and will participate in a color-mixing exercise from the book.
And then they and the dog will pose for a group picture, taken by del Valle who will send  a copy to each child via a jpeg.
The cost is $20, with pre-registration required by calling (989) 837-1885 or online at Creative 360 is located at 1517 Bayliss St.
Del Valle is a former chemist with the Dow Chemical Company and NASA. A chemist with passion for dogs and photography. She continues to earn her way in the world translating technical works. 
But since the mid-1990s, she has turned Gisselle and Lilibeth, a 17-year-old westie, into fashion models, Internet stars and therapy dogs, as well as honed her own non-canine photography skills into artistic award-winning pieces.
“I call Lilibeth the brains of the family and Gisselle the beauty. I created this book as a tribute to my girls.” (Lilibeth is the other dog seen on the page depicting a picnic.)

“Adventures in Color,” released in 2010, finds Gisselle dressed up in the midst of 15 colorful surroundings as the book helps teach youngsters about color as well as learning to identify nearly 200 objects seen  in everyday life (with the help, hopefully, of their parents or other adult companions like del Valle).
Among her guises are Gisselle as a nurse in white, mermaid in green, cowgirl in grey , Egyptian in gold, princess in pink and sailor in blue.
“I designed all the outfits you see on Gisselle in the book and took all of the pictures of her,” says del Valle. “The beads in one photo are from New Orleans. The fox sculpture is from the downtown Midland sculpture contest they have every year.
“She loves getting dressed up like this ... she learned it from her sister.”
What is unique about the book, says del Valle, “is these are photos vs. illustrations. They are reality. This is a live dog that people can meet.
“And what I am finding is that sometimes parents keep the book for themselves. The design of the outfits is lost on the children. They just see a dog dressed up. The adults seem to appreciate the effort, the thought, the details in the book.”
The cover of the children's book 

Del Valle admits, however, she has a lot of fun sitting on the floor and reading the book to  children “because you never know what kids will say. We got to the pink page one day recently and one little girl said about the cotton candy (words), ‘I ate cotton candy and threw up.’”
As for Gisselle’s therapy work, it is with a group called Dog Tales that takes canines into schools and libraries for one-on-one reading sessions.
 “The children pick a dog to read to for 20 minutes, and sometime they don’t want to stop after those 20 minutes. When a child reads to Gisselle, they often show her the page they are reading and she actually pays attention.” 

She is also known, on occasion, to plant kiss on some of the children.
Also on the schedule for Dog Tales workers are annual end-of-semester visits to Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, to combat what is called stress week. 

“It is not unusual to have the 12 dogs we take see 100 freshmen who sit on the floor and play with them.
“Some are missing their dogs because they are away from home, and some cry because their dog has died. The girls want to brush them. And the young men participating outnumber the girls.”
“Gisselle’s Adventures in Color,” geared to pre-schoolers through early elementary, is priced at $14.95. It is available through and on Gisselle’s web site The book won first prize last year in a Tawas art show.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Avid Midland biker to relive his grueling "La Ruta" race

by Janet I. Martineau

To call Midland resident David Burke an avid bicycle rider is an understatement.
David Burke of Midland during the La Ruta race
Among his “credits” is the annual One Day Ride Across Michigan event -- a little jaunt of  nearly 160 miles in one day, from Montague to Bay City,
He also has participated in the seven-day, 412-mile tour of Colorado known as the Ride of the Rockies.
But those were on his road bike. On paved roads.
In April 2010 he bought his first mountain bike, hired a trainer, and in November  participated in  "La Ruta de Los Conquistadors"  -- a four-day, 240-mile ride over roads and trails, through jungles and coffee fields, across rivers and atop active volcanoes from Costa Rica’s Jaca on the Pacific coast to Limon on the Caribbean.
It is considered one of the most difficult athletic events on the planet -- accumulative climbing of 39,000 feet; gravel, hard-packed dirt, loose dirt,  mud, sand, volcano ash surfaces; hot and humid weather to freezing cold.
At 7 p.m. Wedneday, June 1,  Burke will share images and stories on his training, racing and recovering from that adventure during a “Nurturing Nature” program  at the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw.

“The biggest surprise was my fourth place finish in my age category,” says Burke, 55. “There were 14 competitors in the 50 plus age category and I placed fourth. 
“My goal had been to get fit, learn how to ride a mountain bike and just plain finish  La Ruta -- 25 percent (who enter) do not. To finish just  off the podium was a very pleasant surprise.”
There were 194 participants overall, he says, with only 146 completing the four stages. He placed 77th overall.
Burke, a native of Ottawa, Ont., moved to Midland in 2001 to work for Dow Chemical in its finance department. He retired from the company in 2009.
“I have always been an avid cyclist. When I lived and worked in Toronto  I commuted to work there on a bike. I also took bike vacations with my wife. But when I moved to Michigan I met an enthusiastic  group of riders who encouraged me to pursue more biking activities, including charity rides starting in 2002 and  eventually racing in 2004.”
He is a member of the Tri-City Cyclists of Bay City, Saginaw and Midland.
Training for La Ruta was a bear, says Burke. It included road biking, mountain biking and some running as well as two skills camps in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a four-day camp in Costa Rica to scout parts of the race course.
“I trained on the bike up to 18 hours a week and sessions in yoga and pilates. However, with mountain biking comes injuries so there were extended periods of time when I recovered and spent less than 6 hours a week training.”
So how did he even consider LaRuta in the first place?
Newly retired, in November 2009, Burke participated in a Carmichael Training System camp in  in Tucson, Ariz., run by former Tour de France racer Chris Carmichael. Then, in early 2010, he met up with Carmichael again at a skills camp in California.
“He told me he would be forming a team to race La Ruta and encouraged me to apply, even though I did not even own a mountain bike. I saw it as an opportunity to learn new skills, improve fitness and travel.... exactly what I was interested in.”
Carmichael, by the way, finished third to Burke’s fourth.
“I will race La Ruta again, possibly in (November) 2012, the 20th edition of the race. The Transandes Challenge is my next big event -- a six-day mountain bike race across Chile in January 2012.”
“Nurturing Nature” is sponsored by the Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Admission to the programs is free for members and $2 for others,=.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Roethke poetry prize increased to $10,000 as one of his students and his widow journey to Saginaw to celebrate his birthday

by Janet I. Martineau
 A meeting across decades and miles takes place in Saginaw this coming week during the annual celebration honoring the May 25, 1908, birth of Theodore Roethke -- a Pulitzer-winning poet who was born and raised in Saginaw and whose works are in textbooks and anthologies worldwide.
Tess Gallagher, a student in Roethke’s last class at the University of Washington in Seattle, and Beatrice Roethke Lushington, the poet’s widow, will both attend a  Saturday, May 21, birthday dinner at the Montague Inn, 1581 S. Washington in Saginaw. Roethke died in 1963.
Theodore Roethke in his boyhood home in Saginaw
Gallagher, 67, is a prize-winning poet herself and lives in Port Angeles, Wash. She will lead a writing workshop during her visit to Saginaw as well as read from her works after the dinner at the Montague. And Lushington, 85,  is making the trip with her husband and a stepdaughter from their home in England.
“Tess and Bea have never met, so it will be especially wonderful to witness their greetings and hear their stories,”  says Annie Ransford, the president of the Friends of Theodore  Roethke Foundation which maintains his boyhood home at 1805 Gratiot. 
“Beatrice will attend some of the other events we are planning depending on her energy level, but she will definitely attend the dinner at the Montague.”
In other Roethke-releated news, Saginaw Valley State University has announced that the Triennial Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize it oversees has this year significantly increased the monetary part of the award bestowed every three years -- from $3,000 to $10,000.
“The amount of the prize has been $3,00 since it was first established in 1967,” says Carlos Ramet, the executive director of public affairs at SVSU. “At that time, one could buy a new Cadillac for that amount.
“There has been a desire for several years to increase the amount of the prize to bring it more in line with other national poetry prizes and what speakers receive, and this year the SVSU Board of Fellows agreed to sponsor raising it to $10,000 from its discretionary fund.”
In subsequent years, Ramet said, the $10,000 stipend will come from a $500,000 Roethke Prize endowment fund campaign which is being launched this year. The prize will be awarded on the night of  Tuesday, Nov. 15,  during a week-long Theodore Roethke Poetry and Arts Festival sponsored by SVSU. The winning poet has not yet been chosen by a panel of three national poets.
As for this week’s birthday events sponsored by the Friends of Theodore Roethke, they include:
-- Friday, May 20, a Traveling Rouse for Roethke with poets reading from his collected works 1-4:30 p.m. in the back yard of his boyhood home, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at his gravesite in Oakwood Cemetery in Saginaw Township, and starting at 7 p.m. along Hamilton Street in Old Saginaw City and its Perry’s Schuch Hotel, Jake’s Old City Grill and Red Eye Cafe.
Cover of collected works
Among the reading poets are members of the River Junction Poets, Rosalie Riegle, Rosie King, Charles Davenport, Robert Fanning and Jean Anaporte-Easton. Admission is free to those who wish to hear the readings.
-- 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 21, writing workshop with Gallagher at 1805 Gratiot. Cost $15.
-- 1-3:45 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Montague Inn, Michigan poets Patricia Clark, Loa Greenwell, William Olsen, Matthew Olzmann, Arra Lynn Ross and Keith Taylor reading from their works. Free.
-- 5-8 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Montague, the birthday buffet dinner and reading by Gallagher. On the menu is chicken boursin with artichoke and mushrooms, statler marinated salmon with fine herb cream sauce, caesar salad, vegetables and birthday cake. Cost $75.

-- 1-3:30 p.m, Sunday, May 22, at the Andersen Enrichment Center, 120 Ezra Rust, Michigan poets Robert Fanning, Jason Kahler, Judith Kerman, Larry Levy, Jodi Ann Stevenson and Qiana Towns reading from their works; showing of three Roethke films; display of student art work based on one of Roethke’s poems, and ice cream and cake. Free.
For the reservations to the writing workshop and the dinner at the Montague, contact
The SVSU Roethke Festival runs Saturday, Nov. 12, through Wednesday, Nov, 16, and in addition to the awarding of the the $10,000 prize on  Nov, 15 the festivities also include a poetry slam at SVSU, a “Haunts of Roethke” tour through Saginaw, a concert at First Presbyterian Church in Bay City, a private and a public dinner, a poetry reading in the greenhouse at Dow Gardens in Midland, and a wine tasting and poetry reading at Creative 360 in Midland.
SVSU also maintains the Roethke archives, to which his widow has contributed generously.

An ode to the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra's final concert of the season

review by Janet I. Martineau
What a remarkable and fascinating piece of programming maestro Brett Mitchell came up with to conclude the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra’s 75th season Saturday night at the Temple Theatre.
We can’t stop mulling it over....and, although Beethoven’s mighty Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (Ode to Joy) was the main feature of the night, it is the opening piece on the program that continues to enchant us.
As anyone familiar with classical music knows, Beethoven’s 9th ends its four movements with an enthusiastic explosion of choral music from four soloists and, on this night, a choir of 98 voices culled from across the mid-Michigan region. Sometimes the anticipation of hearing their poem-inspired words praising God makes the rest of the just orchestral work, well, pale.
So, what to program on a program with No. 9 as its cornerstone.
Mitchell turned to a 12-minute piece composed in 2000, some 176 years after the hour-long Beethoven. Instead of closing with a massive choir after three orchestra-only passages, it opens with a mezzo-soprano a cappella solo and then becomes an all-orchestral work.
And, titled “Rainbow Body,”  it is based not on a poetic praise to God but rather an Ave Maria chant by medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen and the Tibetan Buddhist idea of an enlightened body, after death,  is absorbed  back into the universe as energy and light.
Wow! Neat concept -- for both the piece and its placement as a complement to the Beethoven.
And wow! again because it was a compelling piece to listen to -- brimming with richness  and color and nuances and unusual sounds as well as some dynamic cello work by principal Andrea Yun.
In the program notes, composer Christopher Theofandis is quoted as saying at one point he is trying to capture the lingering reverberations heard in an old cathedral. That is indeed there, but also in amid that peaceful and lush setting also runs a turbulent and chaotic intensity which propels the piece.
And mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak, who rose up from behind the orchestra to sing its opening,  sent goosebumps with the richness of her voice.
Can you tell, we loved it.
But on to the Beethoven 9th.
History was being made with it on this night -- maestro Mitchell was conducting it for the first time in his young career. As he himself said at the outset, he will forever remember this night (for better or worse) and this place and these performers no matter where else he conducts this massive showpiece.
Fortunately it was a “for better” performance during which just about every instrument in the orchestra had a solo moment that shone and the ensemble as a whole was superb. The richness of the deeper strings (cello and bass) was of particular note as well as interludes from the woodwinds and percussion.
If there was a snafu, it came with the chorale when it did not, at first, rise and sit in unison and quietly. (Picky, picky.)
Prepared by SBSO choirmaster Gregory H. Largent (who joined his singers), the choir was, however, dynamic in its delivery. 
Its singers came from nearly 30 choirs -- churches, Saginaw Choral Society, Midland Music Society, schools and colleges, Bay Chorale -- from not only the Tri-City area but also Alma, Port Huron, Flint, Kawkawlin, Hemlock and Reese.
No small accomplishment to gather voices coming from an assortment of skills and conductor styles (and probably conflicting schedules) to mold it into a cohesive ensemble for this piece. (On this night it was also sadly announced that Largent is retiring after 21 years as the SBSO choirmaster.)
The four guest soloists (in particular bass-baritone Timothy Jones but also tenor Tyler Nelson, mezzo Gawrysiak and soprano Joyce El-Khoury) were icing on the vocal cake. (And oh, by the way, Gawrysiak makes her Tanglewood/Boston Symphony Orchestra debut with the Beethoven 9th this summer!)
A cheering, standing ovation concluded the night.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pit and Balcony's "Putnam Spelling Bee" on steroids, but has its moments

review by Janet I. Martineau
One of the musical numbers in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is titled “Pandemonium.”
Indeed...there is nothing orderly about this fictional spelling bee portrayed in  the Tony-winning musical, which opened a two-week run Friday night at Saginaw’s Pit and Balcony Community Theatre.
The six competing “kids” are off-the-wall characters -- like spelling the words out  beforehand with their feet, having no friends but the dictionary, and experiencing an erection at the most unfortunate of moments.
The exotic words they have to spell come with the most hilarious and goofy definitions and/or uses in a sentence one can imagine. Their biographies, and the biographies of four volunteer guest spellers from the audience, are edgy.
Serving as the rules-of-order official is a guy performing community service. There are contemporary pop culture references (eg. Charlie Sheen for one).
Oh, and Jesus Christ himself makes an appearance at one point -- a really, really tall Jesus Christ whose drops a killer of a line as he departs.
Yep. Nothing much is sacred in this adult play about kids.
It is our first time seeing this show, directed for Pit by guest director Michael Walling, so we have no way to compare it to other productions. But in our eyes (or more precisely, ears) it comes across as suffering from an overdose of steroids.
Yes, it needs to be high energy because kids are high energy and this is a wacky musical comedy spoof of spelling bees. But Walling has ramped things up to such a high speed, and has the musical numbers delivered at such a high volume, it all but spins out of control. Too many times the words, spoken and sung,  are lost in that noise and high speed. And forget any nuances of characters.  Less would have been so much more.
Somehow Ann Russell-Lutenske, Steve Maksymuik and Lori Fulsher seem to know that and deliver toned-down performances which are full of nuances and clear diction, and because of that their characters become endearing to us -- Russell-Lutenske as the moderator and a former spelling bee champ, Maksymuink as the vice principal who announces the words and gives their meanings and uses in a sentence, and Fulsher as a clumsy competitor whose mother is on a spiritual journey in India and whose father is working late.
It is interesting that the production’s two best musical numbers involve the two women -- Fulsher’s poignant “My Friend, the Dictionary” and the sensationally delivered trio “The I Love You Song,” with Russell-Lutenske doubling as the Indian mother and Sawandi Johnson (also cast as the community service guy)  as the working father. Every word, every emotion, every inflection is there in those two numbers.
Greg Allison is the speller with the dancing foot, Andrew Fergerson the Boy Scout speller, Tabetha James the cocky transfer student who speaks six languages, Mandee Wunderle the speller with a lisp and Spencer Wunderle the cape-clad kid who fears that “I’m Not That Smart.”
Each does have a moment or two of clarity -- and their costumes and hair styles are a riot. Spencer Wunderle is wonderful when he, in flash, goes from flighty nerd to deep-voiced manchild when he spells a word. And all of them are convincing as children despite being adults, and in the delightful strobe light/slow motion segment they are Right On in their line delivery. But overall, each of them is more caricature  than character, and rushes the delivery too much, and they are not quite a solid ensemble yet.
Walling’s school gymnasium set is full of detail and is colorful. and Sara Taylor’s five-member musical combo excellent.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Midland's "Sugar Bean Sisters" lots of goofy fun

review by Janet I. Martineau
Alien abductions. Disney World. Snakes in toilets. Spontaneous human combustion. Ghosts. Voodoo curses. Beauty pageants. Killer swamp alligators.
“The Sugar Bean Sisters,” now playing at the Midland Center for the Arts, romps through the world of pop culture and urban legend with two hours of non-stop zaniness. Good lord, this show is hilarious with one-liners that just come out of “it makes my ass want to chew tobacco.”
Methinks playwright Nathan Sanders is also spoofing James Bond when one of the characters requests that her Dr. Pepper be “stirred lightly with a finger.”
Bill Anderson Jr. directed the oddball “Urinetown” to competition-winning brilliance. And his odder yet “Sugar Bean” is equally strongly directed. We say this because as cuckoo and crazy as this show is, its characters and their plight are at the same time endearing. Difficult balance to achieve, but he and the cast do.
But, then, Anderson cast two old pros in the lead roles as the two feuding and fussing Nettles sisters of Sugar Bean, Fla. -- an eerie swampland town a few miles outside of Disney World.
Susie Polito is Faye Nettles, the manly sister who constantly eats cookies and makes sandwiches for the aliens from Mars she is expecting to make a return visit. And R. Jeannie Gilbert is her dimwit sister Willie Mae, who has inherited but hidden somewhere  on the property her grapefruit fortune and wears a Eva Gabor wig to cover up her bald head.
These two chew up the script and spit it out from start to finish, with Polito getting the lion’s share of killer one-liners like the one noted above while Gilbert excels with her deer-in-the-headlights, nobody-is-home expression.
To detail much further what they are feuding and fussing about would spoil the twists and turns of the wacko storyline, but suffice it to say it includes a father accused of mass murder, a Mormon bishop, the local reptile woman, and a mysterious stranger from New Orleans, among many other things.
Seeing Gilbert in her bald state is quite a shock to the system visually, and watching Polito have to climb up on the roof of the house is unnerving, but wallowing in the energy they put forth when they spar is sheer delight.
And like all good actresses, it is often their body English which carries the day -- although in this show, their lines are also dandy stuff indeed. I’ll never be able to hear Patsy Cline sing “I Fall to Pieces” again without thinking of its reference in this show.
Providing superb support is Sonja Roden as the Reptile Woman, who can smell a snake (and a rat) a mile away, and Marla Bearinger as the bird-like mysterious visitor who delivers one hell of a plot twist.
Jim Ely’s set and all of its props seal the deal, as do the costumes, collectively creating the atmosphere of the strange Sugar Bean, Fla.
Playwright Sanders has one strange mind, but to his credit he ties up all the loose ends and delivers a satisfying, and hilarious, ending to “The Sugar Bean Sisters.” How nice to see a family comedy that is, well, really a family comedy.

Saginaw Choral Society's "Party Time" fed the soul

review by Janet I. Martineau
Cupcakes and bags of popcorn served in the Temple Theatre’s lobby sent Saginaw Choral Society patrons home well fed physically Saturday night following the “Party Time” concert.
But the real dessert of the night was the music, led by conductor Glen Thomas Rideout in his official debut as the 16th leader of the 75-year-old  community chorus. It fed the soul to its very depths.
Rideout was all over the musical map in his programming -- Bernstein, Copland and Brahms from the more classical vein, Sondheim and Rodgers from musical theater, Robert Frost poetry set to music and “Cindy” from the popular music field, a touch of gospel and a bit of John Rutter,  a Russian folk song with accompaniment by dust broom and a percussive Ecuadorian piece.
What a delight, and so beautifully performed by the Saginaw Choral Society members who were dressed in spring pastel colors. It is perhaps too soon to totally judge Rideout, but in his “audition” concert and now this one as his first after being hired, it appears he is taking this chorus to a new level of showmanship and variety as well as excellence. “Party Time” may sound frivolous as as a theme, but its challenging music was anything but and was performed nearly flawlessly.
To single out a favorite during the evening is futile, but two back-to-back renderings were particularly noteworthy -- Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” followed by Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” Both were exquisite, softly and delicately performed with Carl Angelo’s piano work on Bernstein magnificent. 
“Our Own Song” found the choir lined up along the outside aisles and across the front of the stage, engaging the audience in rhythmic hand-clapping. The sextet Ah Tempo! dazzled one and all with its “Heaven Somewhere” a cappella fireworks. And Rideout had the singers clapping and stomping during “Cindy.”
Speaking of Rideout. He is also a formidable singer, as he proved in his earlier “audition” concert. And on this May night, with his mother and sister in the audience, he raised goosebumps not once but twice with solo pieces.
“Simple Song,” from Bernstein’s  Mass, came first, with Rideout singing a portion of it with his hands in his pocket. And then came “Deep River,” a spiritual of African American origin -- his huge voice filling the Temple Theatre with emotion, perfect diction and a clarity of voice.
Without putting too fine a point on it, there is no denying that Rideout, of African American heritage himself and still in his 20s, will put a new and welcome  imprint on what is, at this point, a primarily white choir much older than he. This program proved it, and the selection of material he chose also proved it.
He also is a joy to watch conduct, his movements so balletic and fluid.
“Party Time” was a great time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Looking for some summer fun? Check out Creative 360

by Janet I. Martineau

This summer at Creative 360 -- graffiti artists are invited, a touring Shakespeare troupe returns, folks age 55 and older will perform during a talent show, and it’s time to party with pints and paints.
“We have a little something for every age group,” says executive director Elizabeth A. Ruediger of the events at 1517 Bayliss in Midland. “What we are the most excited about is the ‘From the Street ... Art & Graffiti Festival and Exhibit’ in August. People can come and watch, for free, as  artists create graffiti and street art live, on the lawn.”
Creative 360 will provide each artist with an 8-foot by 4-foot board, and even an old donated car, on which they will create a piece of work between 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. After that the boards will go on display inside from Aug. 17-Sept. 27.
“Normally graffiti is discouraged, so we want to give its often-remarkable artists an outlet,” says Ruediger.
On a more intimate note, says Ruediger, is the “Pints and Paint (Party)” set for 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, at  a cost of $45. Participants will bring their own favorite brew and artist Priscilla Olsen will lead them through creating their own 11-inch by 14-inch acrylic painting to take home.
“We provide the canvas, paints, brushes, and the featured painting that will serve as the basis for their own version to take home,” says Ruediger. Registration is required by Tuesday, May 17.
Other notable offerings this summer:
-- Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company from Grand Haven returns, to present an all-male production of “Cymbeline, a fairy tale about a banished princes, an evil queen and two princes stolen from the cradle. 2 p.m. Sunday, July 10. Cost $10.
-- ArtFest55 “Senior Moments” Talent Show, featuring singers, dancers, musicians, poets, actors, comedian and more, age 55 and older, from around the state. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, July 29. Free.
-- Gisselle’s Adventure in Color,” a story time and book signing with a bearded collie and  its owner Clara J. del Valle. Del Valle, a photographer, has written and illustrated a children’s book featuring her bearded collie. Each child will receive a copy of the book, hear it read by the author, create art based on the book and receive a group portrait with the pooch. 1-1:45 p.m. Saturday, June 11. Cost: $20.
Also on the schedule for adults  is a Native American flute class and concert; classes in tie-dying, drawing on location, portraits in watercolor (with Saginaw artist Steve Fanelli) loom weaving, calligraphy and landscape quilting, and wellness offerings in yoga, NIA, meditation and tai chi.
And for the younger set are sessions on animation, juggling, theater and interrelated arts.
For the full schedule, log on to, or call (989) 837-1885 for a printed copy which can be mailed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bee for Literacy .. it was fun even though the Rotary team lost

commentary by Janet I. Martineau
It sounded like fun -- a spelling bee for adults.
Bee for Literacy, it’s called -- sponsored by Saginaw’s chapter of Altrusa International and benefitting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
Besides, an organization I belong to -- Rotary Club of Saginaw -- is a co-sponsor and this year we even rustled up a competing team. Since I am always looking for something new to do, I bought a ticket.
What fun! There was a chance to act like a kid again -- blowing on noisemakers and twirling other contraptions that made a raucous noise, eating cookies and brownies, cheering on our team and (yes, sadly) booing when it was well...later. And then I got to take home the table prize, a singing rotating bee (it is driving my cats nuts), as well as a pencil with a honeycomb and bees all over it.
Yep, I’d forgotten how much fun it was to be a kid. We adults need to do this more often. And, apparently, me and my fellow Rotarians are good at it. Jan LeCureux, who judged the team spirit contest, declared the Rotarians “the loudest and most obnoxious.”
This Bee for Literacy took place Wednesday, May 4, at Horizons and pitted 12 teams consisting of three members each. From Covenant HealthCare, Garber Automotive, PRIDE in Saginaw, the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office, HealthPlus of Michigan, Wildfire, READ Association of Saginaw and the Public Libraries of Saginaw among them.
Speaking of the Public Libraries of Saginaw.....heee heeeee.....called The Bookends, they were the first team to incorrectly spell a word and get their three balloons popped (sort of like how they extinguish the torch on the “Survivor” TV show). LIBRARIANS!
Master of ceremonies Roderick J. Bieber suggested gifts of dictionaries be given to them at Christmas......he said he was just kidding, amid the groans. But he does have a point (and yes we are kidding too....librarians are good READERS, not SPELLERS). We won’t name the team members, to avoid them further embarrassment.
The Rotary team (called Drone and the Queens and consisting of Bill Priest, Catherine McMichael and Linda Rasdorf) was sailing through the rounds with ease until a word confounded them. I think it was enthalpy. I got so mad at what followed I forget.
They took too long to confer, and did not hear the verbal warning of 20 seconds left to answer, and Linda had said two or three letters of it,  and ZAP. They were disqualified. Timed out. She asked to finish it anyway and got it right.
We at the Rotary table booed and hissed and even filed a complaint. We heard no verbal warning! Neither did our team. Unfortunately others did. We had a real-life  judge sitting at our table. I wanted her to stand up and shout “out of order.” She didn’t. Besides, this is just a  fun game, right???!!!
At the end, and nearly 100 words in all, it was down to a back and forth between Wildfire”s Bee Dazzlers and PRIDE’s The Buzzwords.....and the words were ones, some of them, I had never ever heard of before. PRIDE won. And one of its team members is like 82 years old, people.
The team spirit award went to the Covenant cheering table. And they were good. Very organized. With words shouted and chanted, often rhyming, always clever and funny. Just what the doctor ordered. I still like that we Rotarians were the “loudest and most obnoxious,” but then I was on a sugar high from the double dessert.
I liked it, too, that  I was seated between fellow Rotarians Jim Mitchell and Bill Koepke. Mitchell, I am pretty sure, got all the words spelled right given to all the teams (we were doing own lists). He needs to be on the Rotary team next year. And Koepke, no dummy, pulled out his smartphone and produced the right spellings often before the teams. Ah, the power of Google. Maybe we can figure a way to link Google transmission feeds to our team next year!
As for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, it provides 12 books a year to selected children, from birth to age 5, with the hopes parents will read those books to their children. Each month a new book is mailed to the home.
Bravo Dolly.