June 30th, 2016

Historic Concordia Tour of Homes 2016

On Saturday, June 18th, we took the Historic Concordia Tour of Homes, on which a dozen private houses and other buildings were open to be visited.

We started by visiting the Elizabeth Pabst von Ernst house in the 3400 block of West Wells street. We had seen this house a few years ago, and were interested to see progress that had been made.
The Benzakein residence on North 33rd Street was a good example of a successful renovation. The former duplex has been converted into a single-family dwelling with eleven bedrooms and copious other living space, including a handsome deck atop the garage.

We were very interested to see the inside of the “Lion House” on West Highland Boulevard. This building, which looks like it should have been a bank building was in fact built as a residence by George J. Koch in 1897. Koch was a banker, so perhaps this seemed homelike to him? It has been office space since the 1980’s, and is presently used by the Forest County Potowatomi Foundation in what must be one of the city’s most distinguished offices
The Grosse residence in the 3100 block of West Highland is very much a work in progress. Mr. Grosse bought the 1917 Craftsman bungalow at a sheriff’s sale in 2015, and has begun what will be an extensive restoration of the neglected but basically sound property.

The Manegold mansion, also on West Highland, is a very fine example of a Queen Anne Victorian which survived use as a nursing home and as a priests’ residence with many of its original appointments intact. The present owners are restoring it and hope to make it a bed and breakfast.
The former Gezelschap home on West State Street is another work in progress, with the new owners intent on restoring the spacious Victorian, which also had been converted into a rooming house. The original owner dealt in lighting fixtures, so the home has remarkable eleven-foot ceilings, appropriate for displaying his wares.

We re-visited the Charles Krause home on West Kilbourn, which has been very nicely restored and furnished. We had a very nice chat with the lady owner there.
This year, we skipped the Schuster Mansion and the Tower House, as we had seen them recently, and weren’t interested in the Woodlands School building or St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, although these were all open. We did stop in at the Tripoli Shrine Temple, the tour headquarters, for pieces of pie from the bake sale before heading home.

Notes about the tour had encouraged people to dress “period”, so of course Georgie and I did, being two of the evident few who did. However, we were very well received, and got many smiles and waves, even from neighborhood residents who weren’t part of the tour.

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British Car Field Day, 2016

On Sunday, June 19th, we drove out to Sussex Village Park for the annual British Car Field Day.

This year’s field was a bit smaller than some past years, but we still had a good opportunity to take up-close looks at a lot of interesting cars. As usual, there were a goodly number of examples of the classic British two-seater sports car, as made by MG, MGB, Austin-Healey, Sunbeam, and others. This was the first time we saw an example of the Morris Minor, frequently referred to in British literature, but seldom seen these days. While there were fewer Jaguars than some years, there was a rare type on display (possibly a Mark VIII?) that I was very interested to see.

We were also interested to note that there are now replicas available for some of the classic marques. There were two examples of a Lotus Super 7 replica—the car famously seen in the opening sequence of “The Prisoner”—which were very attractive.

There was also a new production model of the Morgan Three-Wheeler, notable since it can be legally imported to the US due to being classed as a motorcycle. The vehicle is driven by a massive cycle-type engine which sits in the open air in front of the front axle where an ordinary car’s grill would be. The boat-shaped body has an open cockpit which theoretically seats two very friendly slim people, and a minimal windscreen. (I didn’t note if this model has any kind of luggage compartment or not.) It’s a very minimalist approach to motoring and looks like it would be fun to drive for fun, but highly impractical otherwise.

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American Players Theatre, “An Ideal Husband”

On Saturday, June 25th, we drove over to Spring Green to see the opening night of the production of Oscar Wilde’s play, “An Ideal Husband.” We cannot recommend this performance too highly.

Wilde’s play, about a poor young man who built a brilliant political career on a fortune made by a single act of misfeasance, is very timely today. Sir Robert Chiltern (David Daniel) has a reputation for strict morality and honesty, and a loving wife (Colleen Madden) who keeps him on her pedestal of idealism. Indeed, all he has done in public life so far has adhered to those standards. Therefore, when he is threatened with the exposure of his past, the fall before him is terrible.

This drama is embedded in the type of comedy of manners that Wilde does so well, with an ongoing dialog about the “triviality” of life, society, parties, marriage, and fidelity, which continues oblivious of the desperate choice facing Sir Robert.

His best friend, Lord Goring (Marcus Truschinski), is the person who connects the worlds of the trivial and the serious. While constantly working on his “trivial” image, Goring turns out to be a steadfast friend and the voice of reason. As Wilde’s voice in the play, Goring has some of the most acerbic and witty commentary on society’s foibles, but also shows great heart and compassion.

There was really marvelous acting by all the principals. Daniel as shows us the agony of his situation. Ms. Madden displays the shock and horror Mrs. Chiltern feels when she finds out about her husband’s indiscretion like getting a punch in the stomach. Tracy Michele Arnold as Mrs. Cheveley has an edgy delivery that reminds one of a younger Dowager Duchess of Grantham. Jade Payton (as Mabel Chiltern), Greta Oglesby (Lady Markby), Cristina Panfilio (Lady Basildon), and Jennifer Latimore (Mrs. Marchmont), as the women of society were devastatingly funny discoursing on their amusements and their discontents.

The costumes were frankly amazing. The women’s party and day outfits were particularly spectacular, but Lord Goring’s orchidaceous suits were close behind. (Tall, slim, and elegant, Mr. Truschinski cuts a figure that Wilde would have envied--.) And, there were nice subtleties, such as the relatively conservative colors and cuts worn by the puritanical Mrs. Chiltern.
The minimal set backdrop was handsome and worked well, augmented by the period furniture and elegant flower arrangements.

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