- - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts this weekend will present “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor, with guest artists including the U.S. Navy Band.

Saturday’s broadcast will be aired over Minnesota Public Radio and WAMU 88.5.

“We’ve been going to Wolf Trap around Memorial Day since 2003 because PHC’s season mirrors the academic year, probably because I assume I’m smarter in those months,” Mr. Keillor told The Washington Times. “The Friday night show is fairly loose, and we don’t watch the clock too closely, so the ‘News from Lake Wobegon’ can wander all over the map, but on Saturday we have exactly one hour, 58 minutes, 40 seconds, and if I fritter away time on something, a song or sketch has to be thrown overboard, so I try to make the News compact and cut to the chase if there is a chase.”

The special guests both evenings are singer-songwriters Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz of Texas and Aoife O’Donovan of Massachusetts, the lead singer for the bluegrass string band Crooked Still and the folk group the Wayfaring Strangers. All are frequent performers on the radio show.

Sara and Sarah and Aoife will be fresh off their European tour, and they’ll be hot,” Mr. Keillor said. “The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band will be stunning and precise and make people rise up and yell. And then there will be the baggy-pants host slouching out from the wings and murmuring, ‘I wish we’d invited Howard Levy the harmonica genius who could’ve done ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ in duet with the band.’ And that’s something you’ve never heard before.”

The highlight of every “Prairie Home Companion” broadcast is Mr. Keillor’s newsy account of Lake Wobegon, the mythical Minnesota town he claims as his boyhood home, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average.” The narration is always fresh, witty and nostalgic. Listeners have been known to guffaw loudly enough to annoy their neighbors and shed an occasional tear when the topic exhumes memories.

The residents of Lake Wobegon are like folks the audience has known for years, interspersed with an abundance of Norwegian bachelor farmers. In town, business is humming as usual at the Bon Marche Beauty Parlor and Salon and its competitor, The Curl Up and Dye. Bertha’s Kitty Boutique caters to “persons who care about cats,” and hungry folks gravitate to “the place to go that’s just like home,” The Chatterbox Cafe.

Some residents who honor their Scandinavian heritage belong to the Sons of Knute Temple, a Norwegian fraternal organization, and Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. Those descended from German immigrants attend Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church. All aspiring male singers of Lake Wobegon are welcomed by the Sons of Pitches men’s chorus, and sports aficionados root for the Whippets baseball team or the Lake Wobegon Loons, the five-man football squad.

“I think about the monologue early in the week but usually don’t start writing until Saturday,” Mr. Keillor said. “It’s a good habit. Fear is a stimulant. A person doesn’t lollygag on the morning of a show, when there is no writer’s block whatsoever. Writer’s block is for Wednesday. Our head writer, Sarah Bellum, takes full responsibility for the skits. She hasn’t yet decided on one for Wolf Trap, but cast member Sue Scott does a pretty good Hillary [Rodham Clinton], and Tim Russell does both Bill [Clinton] and Barack [Obama], so that’s a good start.”

Mr. Keillor is also excited about his trademark phony commercials.

“Two that tickle me the most are the coffee jingle with the line, ‘It’s delicious all alone it’s/Also good with doughnuts/ Keeps the Swedes and the Germans/Awake through the sermons,’” he said. “And, of course, Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie Filling, a cliffhanger story with the tagline, ‘Wouldn’t this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie?’”

Mr. Keillor also looks forward to his “secret pleasure,” singing in harmony with a female lead.

“When the radio season begins each fall,” he said, “I look forward to whenever Sara, Aoife, Sarah, Christine [DiGiallonardo], Heather [Masse] or Lynn [Peterson] come on the show. I like to be the second banana. It’s a luxury.

“I hope they’ll want me to join them at Wolf Trap. In a just world, I’d be a backup singer.”


WHAT: “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor, in association with Minnesota Public Radio and WAMU 88.5

WHEN: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

WHERE: Wolf Trap Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA 22182

INFO: Tickets May 22: lawn, $25, orchestra $42 to $55; May 23: lawn $28, orchestra $42 to $65 by calling 703/255-1868 or visiting WolfTrap.org

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