Blowing Rock NC Theater Radio Gals Dear Mister Gershwin June 1993 Klea Blackhurst Mike Craver (S8P1)




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Published on Mar 11, 2009

THEATER HISTORY and WHY this RADIO GALS (DEAR MISTER GERSHWIN) video is significant: Founder of the Blowing Rock Stage Company, Producing Director Mark Wilson had the great joy and fortune of being introduced in 1990 to the award-winning writing team of Mark Hardwick and Mike Craver. Mark Hardwick was one of the creators of PUMP BOYS & DINETTES and originated the role of LM on Broadway. Hardwick & Craver were co-creators of OIL CITY SYMPHONY, which played Off-Broadway for a year, and then at Mark Wilson's theater in co-production with his colleague Robin Farquhar of Flat Rock Playhouse.

Wilson was the first person privileged in the Hardwick/Craver creative cycle to read an early draft of RADIO GALS, sitting alone in a country restaurant high in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. He told the writers it was like gazing into some antique Christmas tree ornament as a child, only to find an entire world magically at play in miniature. The sweet innocence of the concept, neighbors gathered daily around a radio transmitter live on the air (WGAL) in the early 1900s, was overwhelming. Wilson pled his case humbly to produce the show.

Cliff Baker, the legendary director of Arkansas Rep was to have the honor of the world premiere, and Wilson traveled out to Little Rock to see it. The production was a triumph, and Wilson believed it should have gone straight from that stage to Off-Broadway, so enchanting was Baker's realization of its spirit.

The play continued in development, and Blowing Rock Stage Company in Blowing Rock, North Carolina was destined to be the second production. This time, writer Mark Hardwick was both to direct the production, and play the piano as one of the Swindle Sisters (one of the show's charming gags). Some of the choreography came directly from the writing team watching old black and white Follies movies of the 30s at Wilson's home, where they camped out tweaking the script. That is Mike Craver as Azilee Swindle that you see on upright bass in this show, which requires the actors to play a variety of instruments, providing all of the live musical accompaniment from the stage.

Very few of the theater family knew that Hardwick was terminally ill. He completed staging the show - his last public performance was at dress rehearsal - and his understudy went on for him opening night and completed the run. As you watch this video, Mark Hardwick is watching with you, in the back row of the theater, huddled under a blanket as the theater's eccentric air conditioning unit rained frigid air down the back wall, icing all who had those back row tickets each performance. And they did - every performance was sold-out. Handing out Blowing Rock blankets for those ticket-buyers was standard procedure for the House Manager. Show business...

The Blowing Rock production of RADIO GALS was to be Mark Hardwick's final earthly artistic endeavor. It was the greatest honor of Mark Wilson's twelve years' leadership to be of service to the legacy of these brilliant writer/performers. RADIO GALS made its way to Off-Broadway, and is often performed at both professional and community theaters worldwide. It included many of Wilson's favorites: Egyptology, early radio, spiritualism, flying saucers, time travel, exotic women, and talent beyond comprehension.

The Blowing Rock Theatre production cast included Klea Blackhurst, Candyce Hinkle, Emily Mikesell, Vivian Morrison, Joel Spineti, Bob Birdsong and Mike Craver. Direction, Choreography and Musical Direction by Mark Hardwick. Designer: Jennifer OKelly. Costume Designer: Yslan Hicks. Properties: Patricia Quinn. Technical Director: Curt Hardison.

Klea Blackhurst, the great New York cabaret performer, premiered the performance of DEAR MISTER GERSHWIN heard here. She is the standard by which all others are measured. That song has become one of the most frequently heard tunes performed by young auditioning actresses (ask any theatrical producer - it should be in the Guinness Book of Records!)

Dear Mister Gershwin,
Why were you staring out into space ...
That look on your face was ever so odd to me.
Was it hunger or grief ... Or just plain relief ...
Mister Gershwin, what did you see?
Another world so free ...
...A flying saucer?
or a prettier girl than me.
...And that's how I met Mister G.

(Sheet Music and much more available here.)

It all makes sense, from this old video tape, lovingly restored 16 years later for archival joy. Everything in life is allegory in the hands of artists. What a gift.

Mark Hardwick on Tony Awards 1982: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SG6LA9...


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