Tall Timber Tales
Tall Timber Drama
by Demian
December 30, 2005

Possibly “Happy Talk” from “South Pacific” - 1961

Mitchell Schecter leads the chorus in
“There is Nothing Like a Dame” from “South Pacific” - 1961
At Tall Timber, I had the dual role of “Arts & Crafts” and “Theater” counselor. Actually, it was more like “Nick-knack Crafts” and “Talent Show” counselor.

For the crafts, I guided the kids through the making of thousands of plaster-of-paris aluminum-pie-plate-mold picture thingies, pig banks made from bleach bottles, and other horrors. I despised these projects. They weren’t creative and did not teach much of anything.

Because I could hold a ruler, and pen or brush with some degree of steadiness, I was the one conscripted to make such things as signs and honor plaques. These too, I detested.

Just drawing or painting, was more engaging for the kids, and more likely to encourage some degree of skill, as well as appreciation for their own creations.

The camp musicals, however, were another story. These let the kids shine. They were mostly variety type shows — patterned after the Ed Sullivan show — which was patterned after vaudeville.

Typical between-song banter:

“Say, Hambone, who is buried at Grant’s Tomb?”
“I don’t know, Sparky. Who is buried at Grant’s Tomb?”
“Why a dead man, of course. Yuk, yuk, yuk.”
        [Foot stomps and noise makers rattled.]
That was the heaviest drama the camp shows ever achieved. And there never was any discussion of racism, even when donning burnt cork for the occasional minstrel number.

Better than on the level of “show and tell,” the kids often came through with amazing performances.

I remember the younger Kassoff sister evoking a sweet feeling when she sang “Russian Lullaby” while lovingly holding a doll in her arms.

Barbara Agatstein sang a very potent “My Man.” Sharon Senz Eiger — at Tall Timber with her brother Russell Senz, and parents Jack and Ella 1961-64 — wrote me: “That song made an indelible mark in my memory. That girl was fabulous, and she sang it as if she was years older, and had actually experienced all the heartache that man had put her through.”

“It cost me a lot,
But there's one thing that I've got:
It's my man,
It's my man.”
“My Man” was originally a French song, “Mon Homme” (1912). It was popularized in the English-speaking world by Fanny Brice when she performed it in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1921. Later, it was notably performed by Edith Piaf in 1940 (as "Mon Homme"), Billie Holiday in 1951, as well as by Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl” in 1968.

Uncle Mel picked out most of the music, which often came from the 1920-59s, a period that includes the “golden age” of musical theatre.

For the shows, parent Andrea Elburger, counselor Fran Rosenthal, or counselor Paul (last name?) played the piano accompaniments. Favorite songs were performed year-after-year by different campers each summer.

However, one of the most outstanding performances was sung a capella. Mitchell Schecter set the gold standard for acting a song, which was remembered by many campers for years.

Mitchell was a tough, short, 11-year old with a gravelly-foggy voice. I assigned him to sing a solo, “Goodbye Cruel World (I’m off to join the Circus).”

This sort of song — a lament for a lost love — could have come off as silly because of his age and tough kid demeanor. Further, the song had a tricky key change on the refrain line, “Step right up, and take a look at a fool.”

If he didn’t work hard on the meaning and feeling of the song, it would be a disaster.

To make some drama, I suggested he come on stage in plain clothes, put on a clown shirt, and apply clown grease paint to his face after the song started. By the end of the song, he was dressed and painted, and looked like a very sad clown.

He was so focused on the intent and emotion of the song that he blew the house away. To this day, I remember the power of his concentration, feeling, and delivery.

To wild, thunderous applause, he then bowed, and walked off stage. As he passed by me he said off-handedly: “No applause, just money.”

— Tall Timber Tales —
            Tall Timber Tales - An introduction by Demian
            My Dad - by Demian
            An Exhausting Winter’s Tale - by Demian
            Summer Camp Emergency - by Demian
            Tall Timber Drama - by Demian
            Thanks for the Plaque - by Jay Leites
            Indifference to Poison Ivy - by Bob Solomon
            A Boy Called Jacob - by Peter Berkrot
            The View from Far Right Field - by Peter Berkrot
            The Time of Our Lives - by Debbie Levy
            The Choice - by Jeff Gilbert
            Tall Timber Alumni - Notes from the campers
      Photo Galleries
            Summer Camp Kids - Photos by Demian
            Jack’s Kids - Photos by Jack Ritterman
            Roza Photos - Photos from Barbara Roza Iannotta
            Rucker Photos - Photos from Brian Rucker
            Arthur’s Photos - Photos from Arthur Marder
            Robin’s Photos - Photos from Robin Melasky Sloma
            All-Camp Mug Shots - Photos of the entire camp
                    1961 All-Camp Mug Shot - Who’s Who - Indentities
            Group Mug Shots - Photos of individual groups
      Reunion - Aug 15, 2009
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Jon Broz
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Jay Leites
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Michael Melasky
            Reunion 2009 Photos by Gary Solomon

Entire contents © 2015, Demian
Seattle, WA