Arts & Craft

Laurie Metcalf, left, not too many years after playing a "virgin from Crete" on the Miller Park Summer Theater stage in Bloomington.

A funny thing happened on the way to Miller Park's Outdoor Summer Theatre program back in 1975.

Two of the unknown actors appearing in that summer's free stagings on the park bandstand were less than a decade away from major theater, film and TV careers.

Who knew?

Probably few seated on their blankets or folding lawn chairs back over the course of those two weekends in late June and early July.

For a quick refresher: the series, at least in its early going, was billed as Miller Park Outdoor Summer Theater/Theatre (the spellings of the latter word fluctuated, at least as a quick perusal of Pantagraph reviews and announcement stories reveals; today, the "Outdoor" is no longer needed, while "Theatre" is the preferred usage).

No fewer than three productions were staged over the course of the summer, from late June all the way through Labor Day weekend, with each show getting a two-weekend run.

Among the offerings in the summer of ’75 was the Stephen Sondheim musical comedy, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

Heading the cast were Laurie Metcalf and Lincoln native Terry Kinney, both theater students at Illinois State University in need of summer work ... and, of course, both headed to illustrious futures, together and apart, with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and many leagues beyond.

Complained The Pantagraph's reviewer, probably not realizing he was assessing a future Tony and Emmy winner: "Laurie Metcalf as Philia, a virgin from Crete, plays the role well ... though she doesn't have the strongest voice to be heard above the accompaniment of the Bloomington Municipal Band."

That possibility of unwittingly catching a future star in his or her larval stage is something to keep in mind as you head out to the final performances of this year's offering, "Once Upon a Mattress," at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

The streets are alive: Downtown Bloomington's ever-busy art colony is taking it to the streets, and then some, in a new event devised for the August edition of First Friday next weekend (5 to 8 p.m.).

Dubbed "LIVE! Street Art," the purpose of the outward exodus, says event spokesman Brian K Simpson, is to engage the public in the demonstration or activity at hand, "with many of the events taking place on the street in front of the galleries."

Here are your engagement opportunities:

  • Inside Out, 200 W. Monroe: Create a piece of a "collaborative masterpiece" that will be assembled at evening's end to reveal an entire painting.
  • Aletheia Studios, 104 E. Monroe: Help owners Amy Wolf and Cara Kirchner with their collaborative drawing outside the studio.
  • Joann Goetzinger Studio & Gallery, 313 N. Main: Grab the colored chalk and hit the sidewalk outside for a collaborative piece.
  • Ramp-Arts, 300 E. Grove St.: Live glass-blowing demonstrations by Michael Amis.
  • Art Vortex Gallery, 101 W. Monroe: Musician Sara Quah sharing new music and stories written this summer.
  • Eaton Gallery, 411 N. Center St.: Mary Jo Adams will encourage the public to create sidewalk chalk drawings from her prairie flower photos, while Charles Reynard, Judith Valente and Susan Bailer-Shepard recite poetry.
  • Three Square Gallery, 104 W. Monroe: Brian K Simpson will create 5- by 7-inch portraits in 10 minutes flat for gratuities.

The inside track: Theater fans looking for something extra have a new option, courtesy of the Normal Public Library and Heartland Theatre Company.

Dubbed "An Inside Look," the free program debuts at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 in the library cafe.

Its goal: to provide an opportunity for the community to meet the production staff of upcoming Heartland productions and discuss "their relevancy, history and technical aspects."

Each session will feature an introduction on the play's history, background and selection criteria, followed by a Q&A with designers and directors.

The Aug. 22 program will throw the spotlight on "The Importance of Being Earnest," the classic Oscar Wilde comedy which premieres a three-weekend run Sept. 7.

In conjunction with each "Inside Look" session, the library will have limited copies of each upcoming play to borrow.

'Better three hours too soon than a minute late': Hard to believe, but true: the 40th Illinois Shakespeare Festival is winding down into its final laps.

As of today (July 30), there are just two more chances to see "I Heart Juliet" (Aug. 2 and 8), four for "Shakespeare's Amazing Cymbeline" (Aug. 2, 4, 10, 12) and six for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (tonight, Aug, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11).

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at 


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