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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
April 28, 2003

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.

High School Plays, Local Sites, Bend It Like Honda

I've just seen the most amazing commercial. Not on television, but on the internet.

Honda of the UK has produced a true Rube Goldberg fantasy -- and everything in it really happened as filmed. Nothing was computer generated. It all had to be filmed in one take, so everyone could see that it was continuous and real. If one tiny thing went wrong, it had to be set up again and started over. It took 606 takes to get it right.

Check out http://home.attbi.com/~bernhard36/honda-ad.html. (This is a copy from the original UK website, made because the UK downloads were too slow.)


Bend It Like Beckham is being touted as a wonderful feel-good movie, and it is. This story of a girl from a Sikh family who defies tradition in order to play soccer is funny, truthful, and sometimes moving. Like most comedies, the plot often relies on people leaping to conclusions -- perhaps once too often in this film. And the immigrant-movie formulas are all in place. Just remember that if it seems too much like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it's because both movies rely on filmmaking traditions much older than either.

If you plan on taking your kids to the movie, you should be aware that homosexuality comes up twice as major plot points. Nothing that isn't funny or typical of today's cultural views, but you should decide in advance whether you want to have a conversation with a child of a particular age, explaining what all the to-do was about in the movie.


On Monday night we dropped in on a dress rehearsal for Page High School's production of Once Upon A Mattress. What a talented bunch of kids! Michael Fisher, playing the minstrel, has the most amazing voice, and Adriana Galdo as Princess Winnifred can knock out the back wall with a great old-fashioned Broadway voice.

And they're sharing the stage with a lot of wonderful performers -- Danielle Young as the strident Queen Agravain, Alex Golden as a charmingly goofy Prince Dauntless, and our very talented friend Chelsea Cordell as both Princess #12 and assistant director -- so you see a bit of her keen wit in many of the performances. Ian Darnley is a delightful King Sextimus, and we were delighted with Jeff Bechtel as the jester. But even the chorus puts their whole heart into some terrific dance numbers, and from sets to costumes the technical work ... well, works.

Our two older kids attended Page, and one of them was active in the drama program, but I have to say that I'm delighted with the work Michael Parrish is doing as the drama teacher there. He directed Page's shows years ago and has only recently returned, where he is once again choosing tried-and-true family-friendly plays (we also saw their recent production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) and giving the kids good leadership and a chance to learn a tremendous amount about theatre.

It's funny. High schools spend an enormous amount of time and effort building "school spirit" around football and basketball teams. Sports, according to the theory, "builds character" and "teaches teamwork."

But what I see is that theatre fulfils every educational mission that sports do -- and does it better. Teamwork? On a varsity team, if you aren't one of the stars you're lucky to get a couple of minutes of playing time. Nobody wants to give you the ball. But in a play, if you're not one of the best, you may not get the lead, but you get to do something on stage in the public eye. Even the small parts are vital -- you know that people are depending on you and your part is needed in order to make the show go well.

But if you miss an entrance or blow a line or trip up a dance step, the show will still go on. Nobody will yell at you afterward about how your stupid mistake cost us the whole game and we'll never win with idiots like you on the team.

In fact, that's one of the best things about high school drama. In sports contests, one team always has to lose for the other one to win. How often is that like real life? In theatre, everybody's on the same team, and if the audience has a good time, everybody wins.

It's a true cooperative venture. It rewards talent -- but those who weren't born with a lot of it can still learn to make the most of what they have, and the show will still be fun to watch.

So maybe you won't be heading to Page on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (five dollars at the door) -- but find out when your local school is doing plays and show up. Unlike sports, the actors are putting on a show for you, and they only win if you win too.


During Spring Break this year, we couldn't do our traditional trip to New York to see Broadway shows for two excellent reasons -- I had two projects that were way overdue and couldn't spare the time, and (contrary to the fantasies of those readers who think that just because I'm a writer, I'm rich) we were temporarily broke. (Book writers get paid twice a year, which can be inconvenient sometimes in this monthly world.)

So instead of taking a week and spending many hundreds of dollars, we filled the tank and drove around to see stuff near home.

The theory of this trip was: We've lived in Greensboro for twenty years, and we've never actually seen Reidsville or Madison or Mayodan. I've become quite familiar with all the towns located right on US 29 and I-85, because they're on the way to DC or Atlanta, but the towns right around our own home remained a mystery.

We started by driving out Lawndale. I'd ridden my bike past the building at the corner of Lawndale and highway 150 about a zillion times and had never stopped, and I wanted to see what it was.

Turns out we picked a good time to visit. The building has been many things over the years -- a post office, a Masonic lodge, an auction house, a girls' school. But for the past couple of years it's been the Hillsdale Brick Store, a wonderfully eclectic combination of hardware store, nursery, gift shop, and crafts boutique.

Whoever stocked this store has a wonderful sense of humor and quirky tastes that really appealed to us. Maybe you won't find anything that you like, but we came away with a bunch of items that we simply couldn't resist, including my "bear naked in Summerfield" t-shirt and a couple of giant insects that are now hanging out in our yard.

This Saturday, May 3rd, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Hillsdale Brick Store is going to be holding their "Spring Fling," with lots of artisans and craftspeople showing what they can do -- and food vendors, too.

It's the kind of store that tourists are delighted to find in a town five hundred miles from home -- and here we can go there by driving maybe ten or fifteen minutes.

Then we swung over to US 220 and when we got to Terry's Berry Barn we stopped again. In season, they sell fresh produce, but even before harvest time they have an interesting selection of stuff you probably won't find in Target or Home Depot. I've never seen so many treebark birdhouses and bird feeders, but what we couldn't resist was a planter shaped like a clay boot. It's now in our garden, looking almost nauseatingly cute -- but hey, Architectural Digest is never going to do a piece on our house, and if our friends don't like it, they don't have to come over for our backyard salmon barbecues.

On we went to Madison, and we were delighted to find that its lovely old-fashioned downtown is actually still alive. Not like Frederick, Maryland, where the downtown goes on for blocks and blocks, but there are still some charming stores well worth visiting. Plus the longest traffic light holding up the least amount of traffic in North Carolina.

In particular we had a great time at Madison Dry Goods, which sells comfortable one-of-a-kind women's, men's, and children's clothing (in two adjacent but connected stores). We came away with little dresses for a couple of favorite two-year-olds.

A couple of doors down was an art gallery which left us largely untempted, but they sell bathrobes of their own design, made of a stretchy all-cotton terrycloth that is the best robe I've ever owned. We would have had lunch at a locally-favored eatery at the top of the hill, but unfortunately they haven't yet heard of non-smoking sections, and there isn't any food worth the headache I get after about a minute of second-hand smoke.

Mayodan's downtown is more like most American downtowns -- almost dead. But being so close to Madison, it probably never was the kind of thriving village center that can be converted into a charming tourist destination. Still, both Madison and Mayodan look like wonderful places to live, unless you have to commute every day on 220, a highway that should have been made four-lane all the way to the Virginia border twenty years ago.

Here's a thought: 29 already had four lanes. Why spend all that money turning it into a freeway, when 220 is so heavily used by people commuting to jobs in Greensboro and 29 just ain't?

Eden's downtown is pretty but tiny; the real jewel wasn't a shop at all, but the charmingly overgrown garden of an old house right on the main street. It has a historical designation, but no sign that we could find telling us why. Didn't matter -- we liked seeing it, enjoyed looking briefly at Eden, and went on.

We stopped here and there on the road to Reidsville, but the funny thing is, apparently Reidsville is the most exclusive town in North Carolina. This is the second time I've tried to find it, and I just can't. Oh, we drove past signs that said "Entering Reidsville" -- in fact, we passed the second one without realizing we had ever left. But what we couldn't find was anything remotely like a downtown. There were signs telling us to turn here to get to Reidsville, but when we followed that road it just led us to 29. In fact, every road led to 29. So our only possible conclusion is that Reidsville is doing just fine without visitors from Greensboro crowding up their roads, and so if you don't already know your way around, they aren't going to help you find it.

Thing is, we had just as much fun not finding Reidsville as we did in some of the places we stopped, and when we got home we found that we'd spent less money than we would for tickets to one Broadway show and we got to sleep in our own beds that night for free.

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