|Pinched in the Limelight:
Critic Glover Walks in Players Shoes
"Carol, we'd like you to do a cameo role in our production of Inspecting Carol," the e-mail from Colonial Players' director Pat Browning invited.
My first step along the road to Inspecting Carol: The feeling of pleasure: How nice to be asked; wouldn't it be fun? It would be my first time on stage in a play since college.
My second step along the road to Inspecting Carol:
Anxiety, stomach flutters. I wonder how many lines there are to the part. With my memory, I'll get out there in front of an audience, freeze and forget my lines. I'll throw all the other actors off. Adding to the panic, there's always a packed house at Colonial Players.
Come to think of it, in college, I was always in the chorus, safely tucked away in the middle of the crowd.
My third stop along the road to Inspecting Carol:
My personal mission for the year 2000 says "try new experiences; take risks."
Not a stop but billboards along the road to Inspecting Carol: My husband tries to sell me on the idea of appearing on stage. "Try it. It'll be fun," he nudges.
Pat Browning's next e-mail, a sales job: "I'll mail you the script. It'll only be for one performance."
Fourth stop along the way to Inspecting Carol:
My e-mail to Pat, sent with trepidation: "Okay I'll do it. I'll review it Friday night and do the cameo Saturday night to separate the experiences." A little voice in my head says, "That gives you all of Friday night and Saturday to worry about it."
Pat sends me a list of other guest performers. Some familiar names jump out at me: Bob Kauffman, chair of Performing Arts at Anne Arundel County Community College; Dean Johnson, mayor of Annapolis; local entertainers Jeff Holland and Mack Bailey; Colonial Players' perennial Scrooge David Harper. That list really makes me feel good. None of those people are used to performing in front of audiences.
Fifth stop along the way to Inspecting Carol:
This is a funny show. I'm reading the script, laughing hysterically. Colonial Players, known for their rendition of A Christmas Carol, is putting on a play poking fun at this Christmas tradition. I read through the script in a euphoric mood. Then, with highlighter in hand, I look for my part. The sick feeling comes back again. I begin to underline. I place sticky tabs on all the pages. By the time I'm through, there are five yellow tabs marking the places in the script I have lines or must perform some movement, fainting or walking out on stage.
I review my lines, write them out on cards in big letters - 11 lines look like a lot in big print - and pencil in my cues. Then it's rehearsal time, with my husband as audience and cue giver. That's what happens when you provide encouragement. You get to participate.
Next to the last stop on the road to Inspecting Carol:
I arrive to review the show on Friday night. It's side splitting. I'm getting a kick out of the performers and the idea of A Christmas Carol gone wrong. The National Endowment inspector makes her stage appearance. That's my part Saturday night. Tonight's role is performed by Dani Wildason, an experienced actress. She's great. I watch her carefully.
After the show, I corner Dani at the opening night reception. She's helpful and encouraging.
Dani and I go downstairs to try on costumes. She volunteers to work with me during intermission the next night. She'll be there for moral support and to pinch hit for the guest performers who have last-minute, er, complications.
The end of my road to Inspecting Carol:
Saturday night arrives. During intermission, I meet Dani in the Green Room at the theater. Other members of the cast are there, too. I rehearse with them watching. I keep forgetting my lines. They encourage me, boost my morale.
Dani takes me downstairs. We wait in the dark for the cue. She nudges me in the back and thrusts me onstage. In a daze, I say my lines. I scream and faint at the right time. I take my bow and join the other members of the cast. The applause is enthusiastic.
I love the theater. I've seen so many plays throughout the years. But this one night has made me appreciate how hard the actors work, the professionalism that they bring to their roles. And the fun they have working together. The satisfaction of making people laugh. The old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes makes a lot of sense. It makes me look at acting through new eyes.
Glover's review of Inspecting Carol will appear next week.
Agro-tained at Halloween
The comforting smells of cinnamon and cider swirl through Cherry Hill Farm Market's Fall Harvest Celebration. Children swarm the market, darting to the homemade ice cream stand, where the flavor of the day is apple pie. Ice cream cone in hand, a just-picked pumpkin in tote, most are lured to the doughnut display case to purchase a fresh apple cider doughnut and join in the customs that Pat and William Alton Gallahan III have shared with this community for more than 50 years.
The Gallahans have farmed their land near Piscataway some 140 years with no outside income. "The farm was named for the vast amounts of cherry trees that blanketed the area in the 1860s when the farm was established," says Alton's sister, Pat Baden. Cherry Hill Farm & Orchard is growing into its name once more, harvesting 54 acres of apples, 18 acres of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and 20 acres of pumpkins. Tobacco has receded from 70 acres to five.
"Five acres too much to strip and grade this winter," says Alton, shaking his head and adjusting his Washington Redskins cap. Bleary eyed and handsomely weathered by the sun and wind, Alton does not complain about the hard work that goes into harvesting tobacco but the lack of reliable help.
Nowadays, the Gallahans - a clan of five farm families with 17 grandchildren - replace their tobacco income with agrotainment. Agrotainment, a new crop in Maryland, is supplementing many farm incomes.
"Agrotainment is definitely increasing, adding new components like school farm tours and gearing educational programs toward children who are learning about Maryland agriculture in the classroom," explains Tony Evans of the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Cherry Hill Farm & Orchard is one of 50 farms that, by Evans' count, sustain Maryland's agricultural tradition with one or another variety of agrotainment: pick-your-own crops, school tours, farm work vacations, fun in the fields and festivals of all kinds. Cherry Hill's haunted house shares a barn with the farm's last-ever crop of tobacco, which hangs from the rafters. Some of the stalks are still green, but most of the long leaves are shriveled like raisins and sweet with fragrance. Kids in search of ghosts and goblins barely notice the rich, brown leaves.
Before you reach the haunted house, there's much to do. Purchase a ticket in the market, and granddaughter 19-year-old Jennifer Gallahan, or one of the 32 staff members hired just for October, will lead you along the nature trail. Stiff, crisp, cornstalk rows follow the creek to a Pilgrim thanksgiving in the woods below an orchard.
A stroll through the animal barn leads to Sinatra, a five-year-old Shetland pony, and the new grain exhibit. Did you know that the United States produces 50 percent of the world's corn? And that Americans consume three pounds of corn products each day?
There's still more agrotainment on Cherry Hill Farm. Meet the tractor at the market for a hayride through the pumpkin patch. Settle in on a bail of hay as the tractor slowly labors over Gallahan Road and over to the pumpkin patch alive with 486 scarecrows. Here Charlie Brown and Lucy await the arrival of The Great Pumpkin. Tweety Bird and Casper keep them company. Children call out the names of the pirates and wrestlers they recognize among the ghoulish scarecrows.
When the tractor halts at the haunted house, children stream through the barn door into a maze of Harry Potter characters.
Meanwhile, Danny Gallahan, Pat and Alton's son, is busy plopping fresh-picked pumpkins into a field where all can roam. Danny is the acting manager of the farm, for Alton considers himself "as retired as I am going to get."
Pick a pumpkin and a fresh apple as the hayride slowly pulls past a scarecrow of the Statue of Liberty and the strawberry field. After strawberries are harvested in May, blackberries, peaches and apples keep the Gallahans busy through October, their busiest month.
The market is bustling, and everyone is quenching their thirst and hunger with apple cider, ice cream and doughnuts, which are made every day by Mike Gallahan, another of Pat and Alton's sons. Many visitors are ogling a photo of the five-acre Cornfusion Maze two miles down the road. Shaped like an Indian head in honor of the Piscataway Indians who once cultivated the land, the maze manages to cornfuse many, while educating them about the local tribe.
The farm culture that sustains the Gallahans is in turn sustained by them as agrotainment helps farming endure into Maryland's fifth century.
Fall Harvest Festival continues thru October 31 from 10am-6pm at 12309 Gallahan Rd., Ft. Washington: $5.50 w/apple and pumpkin: 301/292-4642.
-Jennifer A. Dawicki
Oysters Every Way at National Cook-Off
You can do just about anything with oysters.
Culinarily speaking, that is.
So say the judges of the National Oyster Cook-off, held annually for 21 years at the St. Mary's County Fairgrounds during the oyster season-opening October festival.
"We've tasted some amazing things," says judge William Taylor, of Leonardtown. In 21 years, Taylor, culinary historian and chef extraordinaire, has judged 252 oyster creations.
Taylor's peer in judicial longevity is Anne Mackenzie, retired from The Aegis and, for 15 years, food writer with the Baltimore Daily News. Slightly newer is Betty Day, food writer for the Gazette Journal on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. Newer still is Suzanne White, of Upper Marlboro, food writer for The Journal Newspapers. Newest of all am I, the descendent of many generations of oyster-loving Midwesterners.
You wouldn't believe what some of those cooks do to oysters, my more experienced peers confide.
A treat we'll not be trying this perfect Indian summer Saturday is Oyster Sundae. Thanks to Noreen Eberly's advance team, who've skimmed the cream off the 300-odd recipes submitted to this year's cook-off, we can only read about Dee Van Nest's concoction. Which some of us do between course one, hors d'oeuvres, which we sample at 10am, and soups, which come our way at 11:15.
Browsing the brand new 21st Annual National Oyster Cook-off cookbook, we see that Annapolitan Van Nest, a familiar name to all who follow Maryland culinary competitions, has indeed concocted an oyster sundae of "chocolate sauce," "vanilla cream" and fried, breaded oysters.
Other recipes prove that Van Nest - who's a runner up this year - is only first among equals. Astonishing millennial oyster innovations include Cream of Oyster Broccoli Soup, by John Hall of Berlin, Maryland; and Taco-Twist Oyster Salad, by Marjorie Farr of Silver Spring. Because this year's cookbook includes the 20th anniversary recipe collection, I see that innovation is nothing new at the Oyster Nationals. In past years, cooks have been honored for "Lethal" Oyster Cups, 1982; Oyster Pizza, versions in 1982 and 1990; Oyster Pie with Black Walnut Stuffing, 1988; Oyster Cheesecake, 1998; and White Oyster Chili, 1995's grand prize winner.
Continuing the tradition, the 12 finalists cooking their hearts out a building away in the festival kitchen have ascended the heights and plumbed the depths of creative oyster cooking.
For hors d'oeuvres, we've just sampled - and given first prize - to walnut-coated oysters swimming among bits of cucumber in a slightly sweet tomato cream sauce flavored with vanilla bean. That's the creation of Marion Karlin, of Waterloo, Iowa.
Karlin and I have plenty of company in proving that Chesapeake oysters are beloved far beyond the Bay. The eight men and four women who've made this year's finals hale from nine states: Florida, Iowa, Maryland - which accounts for three contestants; Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington state.
From north, south, east and west, cooks are vying to show the versatility of our local oyster. Before the day's out, we'll follow Chesapeake Bay oysters to the Caribbean, from which they returned jerked the Mediterranean, where they're transformed into salad and ravioli New Orleans, whence they return as savory and spicy Cajun Corn and Oyster Soup south of the border, for Crispy Oysters in Creamy Green Corn Sauce.
That's not to mention such one-world fusions as Grilled Maryland Oysters in Lemon-Grass Ginger Soup, cooked by Wolfgang Hanau of West Palm Beach. Nor such unclassifiable treats as Chevy Chase physician Joyce Johnson's Hot Toddy Oyster Salad, a cocktail composed of garlic, capers, green olives, pickled onions and cherry tomatoes tossed with oysters plumped with injections of vermouth, tequila or grapefruit juice. Which it will be has us judges speculating all day.
But this year's winner proves there's no place like home. Taking the grand prize is Crofton chef Greg A. Taylor, who's concocted in his Rockefeller Chowder what judge Bill Taylor - no relation - called "a classic with a bit of a twist."
The grand prize winner begins with a bit of bacon, providing the fat for sautéing a tablespoon of minced shallots. Over that pour and flambé the secret ingredient, six ounces of Pernod. Return and sauté briefly the six chopped slices of bacon plus a cup of chopped spinach. Add a quart of heavy cream, liquor from a dozen oysters and one cubed russet potato - plus a bit of white pepper, nutmeg and salt. Whisk in one-quarter cup shredded white cheddar cheese. Finish with oysters and heat till they're plump and firm.
You can do just about anything with an oyster, but, as judge Suzanne White said, in Chesapeake Country "You can't beat an oyster stew."
Unless you beat judge Betty Day to print in writing the book she plans to call Sex on the Half Shell.
Way Downstream ...
In Virginia, the Marine Resources Commission relented one week before a federally ordered ban on harvesting horseshoe crabs and, like Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, agreed to limits ...
In Florida, the death of 70 manatees by boat this year triggered a manatee summit in Tallahassee last week. Among the proposals aired: driver's licenses for boaters, manatee refuges where boaters can't enter and $10 boat taxes to help restore the gentle, threatened creatures ...
In Punta Arenas, Chile, the only populous area of the Earth exposed regularly to the ozone hole, people live like we all may be forced to live one day. When the hole drifts overhead, residents must wear sombreros and heavy clothing and smear sunblock on their bodies or risk burns from ultraviolet rays...
Our Creature Feature comes from Alaska, where the moose are not shy when mating time rolls around. Last week at the Kasuun Elementary School in Anchorage, about 20 gifted students were learning about the stock market when a bull moose stepped in front of the window. "Come on over, kids, and take a look at this," the teacher, Doug Weimann said, relating the story to the Anchorage Daily News.
"Then out walks a cow, and the next thing I know, they were engaging in activities I'd rather my kids not see. So I tell the kids, 'I can assure you this is a natural act.' "
We hope they were studying bull markets.