Gift Guide for Your Favorite Theatre Geek

graduate bear

Wow, it’s April all ready!

It seems like once we pass Valentine’s day time moves a lot faster.

Today, I noticed graduation cards at my local pharmacy.  I always forget graduation is in mid-May.

The high school students in my college classes are quick to share the number of classes  they have before they are finished.  Funny, the other students don’t want to know how much time is left in the semester–they are panicked about finishing all their assignments in time.


Each year near graudation, people ask me for suggestions of a good gift for a theatre lover. 

Here are a few suggestions for you:

      1. Tickets to a Broadway play, musical or to attend a touring company production of the graduate’s favorite show.  Most of our students are on tight budgets and having free tickets to see a show would be heaven for them.

     2.  DVD’s of plays or musicals

     3.  A year long membership to Do you know of this company? They are gaining popularity with their Netflix-like approach to Broadway plays and musicals. These are live performance which have been video recorded by professionals. They are awesome!

     4.  A biography on your graduate’s favorite actor or actress. Just about every actor and actress a student would be familiar with will have a biography.

     5.  Find out your graduate’s taste in stage makeup and purchase some for them in their particular shades or colors.

     6.  Make up a basket, a “care package” for the graduate to use the next next time she is in a show.  Fill it with things like cough drops, deodorant, makeup wipes, a box of tissues, hard candy, throat spray, bandaids, a can of hairspray, a water bottle, a trade magazine (like Stagelight magazine a pen and journal, etc.

      7.  Have a tee shirt quilt made. You can find companies who will create it for you by checking on line.  Most theatre kids have scads of show tee shirts.  I had a friend of mine make a quilt for my daughter.  She LOVED it!  She dragged it off to college and it finally wore about five years ago (she’s twenty-nine.)

     8. A gift card to a particular dance supply company if your graduate is a dancer or so they can purchase sheet music for auditions.

     9. A glitzy picture frame is fun. Obviously, theatre geeks have lots of photos.

    10. Just a plain old VISA gift card is nice, too!

One of my favorite high school graduation gifts was an umbrella.  It was a great gift.  It never occurred to me I would be walking to class in the rain. Ha! (naive me)  I can’t even tell you how many times that wonderful umbrella came into use.  I think I wore it out!

graduate bear

Do you have favorite graduation gift memories?  I’d love to hear them.  Contact me here or at dhcbaldwin@gmail. com or



Life Without Art is Not Life to Me

Last night, my husband and I had the rare pleasure to watch the concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar with John Legend as Jesus.

Yesterday was Easter as well.

We attended church in the morning before our family came together for an Easter lunch complete with ham, world famous Conard potato salad and coconut cake.  Yum.

Everyone went home and we settled in for the evening.  The weather had been crummy all day and snowing!  This is a rare occasion in the midwest on Easter. It didn’t really put one in the mood for hopeful things, you know?

As I watched the story of Jesus’ crucifixion unfold on the television, I was reminded once more of the power of the arts in our lives.

If you have a chance to see the live version, do see it.  If for no other reason, watch the audience’s reactions to the performance.  That’s worth the two hour program.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is absolutely astounding. I think it is some of his best work.

Sitting there, riveted to the television screen, I thought about the church service I attended in the morning.  Although our pastor did his usual amazing job, something was lacking for me.

 I couldn’t pin point it.

As I watched Jesus Christ Superstar it hit me.

Dramatizing Jesus’s crucifixion rather than merely talking or sermonizing about it, made it all the more real for me.


You know, we read the crucifixion many times in a year especially if your church has communion every week as ours does.

Although I stay focused on what communion means, sometimes my minds wanders.

It’s hard to remember something which I did not see in person.  We have no photos, no newsreel or video from his death.

Last night’s dramatization inspired me to see in my mind’s eye the age old message–Jesus gave up His life for me. Although I wasn’t present for His death, I imagined it as I watched the production. It made it real for me.

That’s the point of theatre, isn’t it? To translate or give language to what we feel or experience.

Let’s face it.  The world is a harsh place, cold, unforgiving, filled with anger and judgement.

Art helps us.

It transcends the ugliness and finds the beauty even in the harshest and saddest of times.

It makes those life moments bearable or at least easier to understand.

The end of last night’s performance  of Jesus Christ Superstar was stunning.

Isn’t it breath taking? This is a large theatre.  I wonder what it was like in person?

Thank you to NBC for bringing this production to the viewers.

Live theatre–we’d be lost without it.

Have you attended a show which took your breath away?  I’d love to hear about it.

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Unique Method to Fight Boredom on Your Next Long Flight LOVE unique ideas. Do you? 
How about this one–live theatre performed on a long airplane flight. 

Read on. 

Even with a kooky safety video and a variety of film offerings, long flights can still be boring.

But Icelandair is trying something new: An 11-hour immersive theater production took place last week on a flight from London to New York, with an on-the-ground bonus performance during the layover in Reykjavik.

“We’ve made theater in unusual places but never made a show that started in one country, bounced to another, and ended up in a third on the same day,” said Kate Hargreaves, Founder of Gideon Reeling, the London-based theater company that helped develop the program.

The cast was a mix of professional actors along with pilots, engineers, accountants, ground workers, cabin crew, and other real airline employees who had volunteered to attend a special stage school to prepare for the event.

The characters they played ranged from film stars and flight attendants from various decades to business and leisure travelers, a perky party planner, a vulcanologist, and a farmer — as well as flight attendants from the past, present, and future.
And the performance, which reeled out in entertaining, story-filled, one-on-one encounters at check-in, at the gate and during the flight, hopscotched through time, with some actors playing multiple characters.
There were even a few sing-a-longs and several Icelandic-themed meals during the “Ahead in Time” performance.

Passengers met and had an opportunity to interact with Maria, dressed in a stylish suit from the 1950s, who said she’d be flying the plane; Richie and Cynthia, hippies from the 1960s who met on the road and were hoping to get to Woodstock; Alex, an exuberant, if disorganized, backpacker from the 1990s in search of his passport; and numerous grandchildren and other far-flung relatives of Edda Johnson, a world traveler and former Icelandair flight attendant who had invited everyone to her birthday party but (spoiler alert) was too busy traveling the world to show up.

Icelandair’s one-off immersive in-flight performance (and a series of on-the-ground events in Iceland over the next six months) was sparked by a recent UK-based study in which the majority of air travelers reported being bored during their flights. Three quarters of the study participants thought the people on the plane, especially the cabin crew, could have a greater hand in making the flight more enjoyable.

Responding to that research, “Our program aims to transform wasted time while traveling into time well-traveled,” said Icelandair CEO Birkir Hólm Guðnason, “We’re pleased to pioneer a new form of entertainment and value-added service for passengers.”

‘Hippies’ on Icelandair’s immersive theatrical performance. Harriet Baskas

 “That notion of offering passengers some sort of ‘surprise and delight’ is great,” said travel industry expert Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research, but he notes some passengers would rather use their in-flight time to work, rest, relax, and make their own choices for entertainment.

Still, Harteveldt approves of Icelandair’s effort to be creative and stand out from other airlines, especially as the competition for flights to and through Iceland from WOW air and other airlines heats up.

And while live theater in the aisles might be seen by some as a negative in the air, Harteveldt believes the airline’s Stopover Pass program, which gives passengers entry to special art, culture, and sporting events through April 2018, can be a huge positive on the ground.
“I applaud them for thinking of different ways to distinguish themselves, offering this value-added amenity so that passengers see Icelandair as passenger-centric,” he said. 
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Conversation Hacks: 25 Questions to Ask Your “Artsy” Relative

Here are conversation hacks:  25 questions to ask your “artsy” relative. A few holidays are coming up soon–Easter and Passover.  If you are lucky (or maybe you think not) you’ll spend time with your family and friends. Families are still families even if social moires have changed (I think for the better.)

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

My husband recently retired from his instrumental music teaching position and I from teaching drama.  Our daughters were both theatre majors and heavily involved in music as well.  One daughter is still involved in the arts.  Her sister became a nurse (which she should have done all along, but everyone has a journey.)

We always have plenty to talk about when we get together and surprisingly it isn’t Broadway.  We can dish like the best of them, however.  Whenever this occurs, I’m sure our sons-in-law don’t know quite what to do with us.  We try to keep it to a minimum around them.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

I thought about this challenge for other members of my family. They need conversation hacks–easy ways to converse with others.

My personal hack is F.O.R.M. ( questions about family, occupation, recreation, money) to create conversation and usually I have little problem talking with others if I initiate the conversation.

It doesn’t go very well the other way around.

I bet other arts people have the same problem I do.  In fact, I know they do.  It’s one of the reasons arts people are such good friends with one another–we understand each other, because we are creative people. We try out best to talk sports or politics and sometimes we are successful. Remember, we are chameleons.  If there is someone who can change themselves in order to blend with others, it’s an actor.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

However, if someone would take the time to sincerely converse with us, I think they’d find what we do to be fascinating.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

As you read the questions, just stick in art, music, dance or theatre as the project.


Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to Ask your Artsy Relative

  1.  What are you working on now?

  2. How is it progressing?

  3. Is it ever frustrating? How so?

  4. What’s the best part of the project?

  5. Do other people help or work with you on it?  Who?

  6. What is their involvement in it?

  7. Do you work with a budget on the project?  If you don’t mind my asking, how much money is it?

  8. Is that the usual budget for a project like this?

  9. Is this the first project of this kind you’ve done?

  10. How is it different from others?

  11. Do you have a deadline for completion?

  12. Are you confident you’ll make the deadline?

  13. Are you ever worried about it?  What are the worries?

  14. Does thinking about the project keep you awake at night?

  15. Is the worry well founded or unrealistic?

  16. When you visualize the outcome of the project, what does it look like?

  17. Is there a message you want to convey through it?  What is it?

  18. Have you patterned your project after someone else’s?  Whose and why?

  19. Who do you admire who has done this same project or a similar one?

  20. Why do you admire them?

  21. Will there be a public exhibition of your project?  When is it?

  22. Will admission be charged to see it?  How much does it cost for admission?

  23. Do you set the price of the admission or someone else does? Who and why?

  24. What is your most proud moment concerning the project thus far?

  25. Do you think you’ll attempt the project again? Why or why not?

So there you have it–Conversation Hacks: 25 quetions to ask your artsy relative while sitting around the dinner table. 

Trust me, they are dying to share their work with you.

Just ask them.

Conversation Hacks: 25 questions to ask your artsy relative

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I’d love to chat with you!

How Exciting is Life without Art? 

This post is in four sections. Find the others here:


life without art
Visual art is the pause that refreshes the soul, don’t you agree?

The world is sometimes unbearable to think about, especially now. It’s harsh, cold, unwelcoming and frightening.

The internet made everything transparent and gives us news in real time. Of course, that’s a good aspect of it, too but there are days when it is difficult to see or take in what is going on in the world.

On those days, I retreat to the arts. Today, I’m going to speak about visual art and how it makes our lives more exciting.

Consider this–you travel to an art museum. It’s quiet. It’s lit dramatically with spot lights on particular pieces and all the displays are arranged well.
As I focus on each art piece, I feel the stress leave me. Sometimes my body rebels.

At first, I am anxious. It is probably because my mind is switching gears, slowing down just as my pace does as I stroll through the museum.
I find one painting I particularly enjoy. Maybe it is one I’ve never viewed before, or it’s one I love such as Seurat’s “La Grande Jatte”

life without art

Pointillism fascinates me–painting a blue dot by a red dot and your eye sees purple. That’s amazing.

Or Monet’s Gardens

life without art
Bright colors make me happy. I know a teacher who loved Florida and beaches. She was a physical education teacher. She wore bright colors the entire school year even in the dead of winter. I think she had the right idea.

The art in front of you is the REAL deal, you know? The Picasso painting you are enjoying is his REAL canvas not some reprint on a discount store shelf. It almost gives me chills.

life without art

Maybe I notice an unusual sculpture like this one at the Nelson Atkins Art Gallery in Kansas City. This is Nick Cave’s piece entitled “Property”.

life without art

If I don’t readily understand or appreciate an art piece, it is then I know to stop and take the time to seriously consider it.

After a few minutes, I notice my mind clears. I relaxed. At the same time, the art museum invigorates me, it wears me out. The stop and walk, stop and walk cycle isn’t one I am used to following.

If you think about it, you don’t even use the same posture as you do in your normal life. You closely peer at the brush strokes of the masters. You lean forward to see the inside of a bowl from thousands of centuries before us. Shifting left and right on your feet, to see the different perspectives of a photo exhibit your legs become weary.

I sit on a bench provided by the art museum but it isn’t comfortable. Maybe that’s on purpose. Those wooden seats are hard, period. I think the bench is saying, “Enjoy the art, but keep moving. There’s more to see.”

Like a tomb or shrine, the museum is silent. One can’t think if there is too much noise. Much of the world’s sound is merely noise, you must admit.

It’s a hallowed place to me. A space to honor the creativity, imagination and genius of people. It’s a place to inspire you.

Since retiring, I have more time to enjoy art. At present, I’m too busy to visit an art exhibit, so the top of my desk will have to suffice.
On this gloomy day which holds on to winter, I have a Seurat coffee mug to lift my spirits. It will do for the moment.

What are some of your favorite paintings?

life without art

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Arts Quote We Love #2–Art Enables Us



Some quotes really speak to me. Art does enable me.  How about you?  In every role I have portrayed, I have found another part of my personality which I had not discovered on my own or gave attention.

I have spoke about the roles I’ve played, but this is something else.  If you want to check out a resume (abbreviated), go toa;

You do lose yourself in a role if you are totally committed to the part.

I was raised in a conservative mid-western community.  I attended church.  I was a Girl Scout for ten years.  Just that accomplishment explains a lot.

I knew very little about “worldly” whiles–you know sex, drugs and rock and roll.  All the evils of my generation, the late sixties and early seventies.

In college, my roommates were far more worldly than I was, so I lived vicariously through their escapades. HOnestly, it wasn’t until I graduated from college that I discovered some part of myself I hadn’t noticed. (You might say I was a late bloomer in that regard.)

If you want to learn about how theatre saved my life, go to:

Early in my marriage, I was cast as Nancy in Oliver!

It was such a feather in my cap to have been cast as Nancy.  I thought it would be wonderful to portray this very strong woman who sacrificed herself for the life of Oliver Twist.

Little did I know what that actually meant until I portrayed the role.

If you know the show, you’ll recall Nancy dies at the hands of her lover, Bill Sykes.  Although this violence is not dramatized on stage, merely hearing her scream sends shivers up your spine.

Try being Nancy and realizing what that scream really meant.

I had no problem with the singing and dancing in the part, but the emotional and physical abuse was startling to me.  It was the first time in my life I truly understood what a battered woman survives each and every day.

It’s not pretty.

Although, thank goodness, I have not lived a life like Nancy’s, I have had moments of emotional abuse.

Everyone has if you think about it.  This is where the acting comes in.

When I was portraying Nancy, as I spoke her linfes I reflected upon these moments of people saying hurtful things to me and merely amplified those feelings in my mind.

Even though that sounds painful to do, it is actually very cleansing.  By remembering those moments in my life, I dealt with them which I may have stuffed in my memory otherwise.

That’s what Thomas Merton’s quotation means to me.


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Art Quote #3–Art is a Necessity


When I heard the NEA is in jeopardy of being axed by the federal government, I cried for our country.

This can’t be possible!

I agree with Danby.  Art is a necessity and it enlightens us.


Image result for ken Danby

This is one of Danby’s paintings.

Its title, aptly named is “Towards the Hill.”

But what is enlightenment? 

According to the dictionary, it’s:



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Art Quotes We Love–Art is What Others See

Art is Not What You See












Is art what others see?  My husband and I took a vacation to Florida last week.  We traveled to Florida in the past, but never in February.  It was warm, sunny and wonderful. Our favorite part was watching the sunset every evening over the horizon.

While there, we visited the Ringling art museum.

If you haven’t heard of this museum before, don’t be surprised.  It’s quite a gem.

From Wikipedia:

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum of Florida, located in Sarasota, Florida.[1] It was established in 1927 as the legacy of Mable and John Ringling for the people of Florida. Florida State University assumed governance of the Museum in 2000.

Designated as the official state art museum for Florida, the institution offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art. The museum’s art collection currently consists of more than 10,000 objects that include a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods and from around the world. The most celebrated items in the museum are 16th–20th-century European paintings, including a world-renowned collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings.[4] Other famous artists represented include Benjamin West, Marcel Duchamp, Diego Velázquez, Paolo Veronese, Rosa Bonheur, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Giuliano Finelli, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Frans Hals, Nicolas Poussin, Joseph Wright of Derby, Thomas Gainsborough, Eugène Boudin, and Benedetto Pagni.

I enjoy listening to people as they take in the art.  Everyone notices something different.  For me, I noticed the use of light and shadow by some of the Masters.  I learned from an art teacher to get as close as you can to the art piece to see the brush strokes and techniques the artist used.  Just imagine, you are actually looking at the brush strokes by Ruben.  Wow!

That’s art for you.  It’s incredibly personal.  All of us have lived different lives filled with different experiences and while viewing art, those memories color our perception of the art.  Isn’t that interesting?

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