Not to put to a grim spin on the holiday weekend at hand, but ...
With the death of David Cassidy a few days ago, it does seem that the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts has been serving as a kind of "last stand" forum for some of those doing the performing.
In the past few years alone, the BCPA stage has hosted a quartet, ranging from legends to pop culture fixtures, that numbered the venue among its last stands.
In the summer of 2014, the bona fide legend, B.B. King, then 88 and nearing the end of his historic journey, was booked.
Most of us sensed this would be his last time through.
Eleven months later he was gone, along with the thrill of ever getting to see him in person again.
Preceding King, two years prior, was another legend to some, country-pop singer Glen Campbell, whose "Goodbye Tour" was specifically named in the wake of his then-recent diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.
Ironically, as the only performer whose show was specifically keyed to his end of days, Campbell's performing career continued another couple years, even as his condition worsened.
He passed in August, five years after saying goodbye to us (the BCPA show was, in fact, his final downstate Illinois appearance).
A year ago this spring (April 2016), 91-year-old Hal Holbrook brought his "Mark Twain Tonight" show — the longest-running one-man show in U.S. theater history — back to the BCPA amid disconcerting field reports of a faltering memory on stage.
In his interview with The Pantagraph's GO! section, Holbrook described dealing with old age as as something "to get mad about," then "get out of bed and try to knock it down."
Alas, a year later, the faltering memory issues have struck the winning blow: In September, the actor, now 92, announced he was abruptly pulling the plug on the show's epic 63-year run, canceling a fall tour that was to have begun Oct. 6.
Happily, it's only the show, not the actor himself, that has been put to rest.
Which brings us to the case of Cassidy, who was, in fact, a seasoned 67 when he passed Wednesday, but seemed fated to be forever boyish, per his best-known character of Keith Partridge, who lived and breathed on TV nearly 50 years ago.
Just two autumns past, Cassidy headlined a BCPA show after confiding in a GO! interview a week or so prior that this likely would be our last chance to see him.
"I have a beautiful new partner who I love very much, and who loves me, and I have a sense of a wonderful kind of freedom," he said.
"And I think now I am going to be semi-retired and retreat from live performing, except maybe for one or two gigs a year."
At the time of interview, Cassidy was coming out of a rough, media-fixated stretch of alcohol and financial woes. He sounded optimistic and re-energized about his future of a new relationship and a retreat from the unblinking public eye.
"Having a career and these distractions can suck a lot of energy out of you," he confided. "But, now, it's kind of like a page is turning, right now, as we speak."
The health issues that would mark that page surfaced around a year later, and led to the sad outcome this week.
As we stand on the brink of a new year and the arrival of another legend of sorts, 88-year-old Ed Asner, who'll take to the BCPA stage in February, we can only suggest for those interested: It's now or ... yes, that.
The week ahead in arts
Giving him this day: Internationally renowned composer David Maslanka, who had a close relationship with Illinois State University's School of Music over the years before his Aug. 6 death, will be memorialized in a concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the CPA Concert Hall on campus. The ISU Wind Symphony will perform a selection of his works, including "Give Us This Day" and "Traveler," while Roy Magnuson, professor of composition at ISU and a student during the time when Maslanka was an annual fixture on campus, will speak on his close mentor relationship.
Go into their dance: It's a footloose week ahead for dance enthusiasts, courtesy of the ISU School of Theater and Dance's annual Fall Dance Concert, 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Also on tap is Twin Cities Ballet's annual performance of "The Nutcracker," 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (and, yep, that's popular area country singer Eric Gordon in hoop skirt and wig as Mother Ginger ... with a beard ... and a guitar).