Wednesday, June 15, 2016
She was one of a dozen kids born on a farm in southern Missouri. The biggest event when she was growing up was the annual reunion of ex-Confederate soldiers on nearby Barnitz Lake.
Although she and grandpa met in St. Louis and lived in the city, they kept a weekend cabin in the country about a mile down the dirt road from the large white farm house where Grandma was born. We kids always considered her a hero of sorts and love to tell stories about her fighting off a snapping turtle at the swimming hole.
Since she lived in the city and used public transit or walked to the store and church, she didn't learn to drive until she and grandpa retired to the farm. It was a good thing she learned to drive. Grandpa died a few years later and she was alone at age 68.
But she was tough. I remember once when she was in her 70s she got her hand caught in the wringer washer and pulled the skin off her thumb. She wrapped it in a dishtowel, finished making a pie and delivered it to the church before heading to the doctor.
When she was in her 80s her farmhouse was struck by lightning and caught on fire twice. The first time she put out the fire with the garden hose. The second time the fire was too far along when it woke her. The electricity was off and the pump didn't work. She escaped in her nightgown and watched her home burn to the ground. She waded through a swollen creek and walked barefoot a mile down a dirt road to her brother's house.
Grandma died almost 22 years ago, but I know she's watching us even now. Happy Birthday Maxine Tharp Merrell!
Posted by Sue Merrell at 11:15 PM
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Even in my living room I couldn't help but applaud as if these great Broadway performers could hear me. I love the voices, the dancing, the raging emotions, the innovative stories and flashy costumes.
But more than anything else I love the diversity. The stage looks like our country. Young, old, black, white, Latino, Asian, even deaf. As the host James Corden said, the Tonys are the Oscars with diversity, and it's true. American Theatre is the best and brightest our country has to offer from the innovative rap of "Hamilton" to the sign language of "Spring Awakening".
And the show's response to the horrifying news of the day...a mass shooting in Orlando..was sensitive and heartfelt, from the lapel ribbons everyone wore to setting aside the prop muskets normally used in "Hamilton," to Lin-Manuel Miranda's sonnet about the tragedy.
The Tonys broadcast topped a weekend in which I reviewed two shows and spent several hours Saturday working with my fellow Encore Michigan reviewers to come up with the nominees for this year's Wilde Awards -- Michigan's version of the Tonys. I am delighted to have this small role in local theater and be a part of this ingenious industry.
We all know our hateful, violent world must change. And I believe American theater has the love, creativity and innovation to lead the way.
Posted by Sue Merrell at 11:01 PM
Monday, June 6, 2016
Andrew Foutz was a pacifist Dutchman who married my gggreat aunt Rachel Merrell about 1771 in Rowan County, North Carolina. Now that was the same year that one of my gggreat uncles Benjamin Merrell was hung for treason for defying the British governor of North Carolina. Benjamin was considered a hero to a lot of the colonists, and the Merrells were rabid Sons of Liberty.
Although most of the Foutz family refused to support the Revolution, poor Andy must have felt pressure from the Merrells to join. But he tried to do a task that didn't offend his pacifist leanings. He was General Washington's cook.
According to Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara, that didn't work exactly as planned.
“I have two cooks ... one of them, Mr. Foutz ... fancies himself quite the expert in worldly cuisine,” General Washington is quoted as telling Benjamin Franklin. “If we fed this army in the same manner Mr. Foutz has attempted to feed me, there would be mass desertion. He actually set out an elaborate dinner whose main attraction was bugs. Covered in some kind of sauce, mind you, but bugs nonetheless. I made the decision at that moment that Mr. Foutz would better serve this army by shouldering a musket."
Posted by Sue Merrell at 2:44 PM