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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Barter's An Evening With Garrison Keillor Big Hit with Fans

By Stephen Woodward | November 20, 2006

Garrison Keillor has been a staple of American radio since his show, A Prairie Home Companion, went national in the 1980s. On November 1, 2006, the Minnesota-born storyteller came right here to Abingdon for a special fundraising event at the Barter to perform to a sold-out theatre of eager fans.

The event opened with musical performances by Barter's own thespian stars singing popular songs from the shows Man of Constant Sorrow and Keep on the Sunny Side. Artistic Director Richard Rose acknowledged event sponsors and introduced the much anticipated radio personality. To booming applause, a tall, dark-haired man, wearing a black suit with a red tie, red socks, and a casual pair of red sneakers, graced the stage and took the microphone with a familiar ease. As soon as this former English major opened his mouth, the audience knew they were in for many hilarious, moving stories about the now famous Lake Wobegon. Soon, stories of Garrison's growing up in poverty, and being recognized for his early interest in poetry transported the audience into another place and time. As many who are familiar with the radio show know, Garrison's rich, deep baritone voice has the power to lull ears and move hearts. His presence onstage when singing about his nine-year-old daughter was both tender and comical, the mark of a great storyteller and something the 64 year-old Keillor's trademark for more than 40 years.

The evening didn't stop there, though, because Garrison brought his long time friends, Robin and Linda Williams, to join him onstage for some great music and comedy. When they joked between songs, Robin and Linda toyed with Garrison's ability to create a story from the smallest spark. The three of them performed like old friends getting together to share their musical talents and to enjoy an amazing evening. Their songs, often heard on the long running radio show, were featured in Robert Altman's movie, A Prairie Home Companion, based on Keillor's screenplay and starring Hollywood superstars Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and John C. Reiley.

Other activities before and after the show included a pre-show dinner on the beautiful Stonewall Square, and a gourmet dessert reception and silent auction after Keillor's show. This event by the Barter was organized to raise funds for the famous theater, and was indeed a night to remember.

Stephen Woodward
Guest Columnist

Editor's Note: Stephen Woodward is an English and Art student at Emory & Henry College.

A! ExtraTopics: Theatre