Greencastle's 'big event' hits the stage tonight

Minstrel show benefits Rescue Hose Co.

Minstrel show benefits Rescue Hose Co.

February 28, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The best singers in the world and the best dancers? Russ Clever says they're on television.

The entertainers performing in Greencastle tonight through Saturday, though, are your brothers, fathers and neighbors, who just might tease you during the show.

"It's different," Clever said. "I think the reason why this is the 73rd Minstrel Show and it goes on and on, it's certainly not because Greencastle has all the talent in 100 miles. ... I think our biggest asset is you can't turn on the TV and see an old-time minstrel show."

"I've always said the Minstrel Show gives the untalented a chance to get in front of an audience and prove they're not talented," said Frank Mowen, who shares the title of "premier endman" with Clever.


The 100 people involved in "How to Have a Minstrel" held their last rehearsal Wednesday and debut the show today at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Greencastle-Antrim High School. Proceeds from the shows benefit the Rescue Hose Co., and Saturday night's all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner benefits the Greencastle Rotary Club's work at the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library.

"It's one of the big events in Greencastle, no doubt about it," Clever said.

Greencastle's tradition is what organizers have called a "hobo minstrel," since the blackface aspect was eliminated. The show, in large part, hinges on exchanges between the endmen and interlocutor. They are backed by a chorus of more than 50 people.

"It's songs and jokes, mostly that's what it is," said Clever, who started participating in 1963. "We feel we're one of the oldest (minstrel shows) in the nation as far as I know."

Mowen was in high school when he joined the cast in 1944.

"My dad was in the Minstrel Show," Mowen said. "I followed in his footsteps, literally followed in his footsteps because I'm wearing the same shoes he wore in the Minstrel Show."

Mowen considered retiring prior to the 2008 performances, but he stayed on board at the prompting of his son, grandson and two great-grandsons - all of whom are performing.

Clever said no auditions are held for the annual shows. Instead, participants know that the initial practice is held the first Sunday afternoon after Jan. 1 at the Rescue Hose Co.

"I guess anybody who is in the minstrel show is a ham, all of us," Clever said.

The show, which has a $5 admission charge for adults, is appropriate for all ages, Clever said.

"The old days, there used to be a little bit of spirits running around, but it's not that way anymore," Clever said. "It's a family show."

"If you don't go away laughing, we haven't done our job," Mowen said.

The 1,050-seat auditorium tends to have near-capacity crowds on Friday and Saturday nights, Clever said.

"We do a different theme every year," he said. "We might do a patriotic theme one year, an old-time minstrel. One year, we did a gospel theme and we did a western."

If you go ...

What: "How to Have a Minstrel" show benefiting Rescue Hose Co.

When: Today, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m., with a 5 p.m. spaghetti dinner preceding Saturday's show

Where: Greencastle-Antrim High School, 300 S. Ridge Ave., Greencastle, Pa.

Tickets available at the door.

For more information, call 717-597-3815.

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