Garrison Keillor returns to Aspen
If You Go …
What: Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home ‘Love and Comedy’ Show
Where: Benedict Music Tent
When: Monday, Aug. 14, 7 p.m.
How much: $45-$85
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House and Harris Concert Hall box offices; http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com
Two years ago, when Garrison Keillor has announced his plan to retire from touring and hosting his long-running radio program “A Prairie Home Companion,” it came between two summer stops in Aspen for the raconteur. His August 2015 show at the Benedict Music Tent, many assumed, would be his last local performance.
But, lucky for the local Keillor faithful, Keillor has kept at it and will return to the Benedict on Monday with his Prairie Home “Love and Comedy” variety show.
“I mean, nobody retires anymore,” Keillor told the Associated Press when he announced he was stepping down from his radio program. “Writers never retire.”
The beloved writer, humorist and radio host has spent what seems like most of his time on the road with the long-running variety program. But Keillor’s thoughts, he told the Aspen Times Weekly during his last swing through the mountains, remain largely in his boyhood home in small-town Minnesota, immortalized in his work as “Lake Wobegon.”
“This is a very odd situation to find oneself in,” Keillor said. “But it seems to be the truth that what happened to me as a child and a teenager is more vivid to me than what happened in the last year.”
That afternoon, Keillor was at home between stops in Washington, D.C., and Detroit.
His recounting of his plane trip from Washington to Minnesota offered a glimpse into how he works, how stories unspool from his own life and memory, how a morsel of his childhood transforms into a piece of news from Lake Wobegon.
On the flight, he’d written some notes about his high school prom for his monologue. He started a script featuring his private detective character Guy Noir. Then he found himself — bound for Motor City, USA — thinking about cars. He wrote a song about the pleasure of riding around in a car with a girl. He thought about the first Ford his dad bought — it was the first automobile in town — and ideas grew legs and became stories as he thought about why cars were so important to his father and to Americans as a whole.
“It meant everything to him. Independence, freedom and the excitement of starting out on a trip was an intense pleasure for my dad,” Keillor said. “My father died about nine years ago, but I think of him whenever I put a suitcase into the trunk of a car.”
Thus, a show was born.
Keillor’s live performance on Monday, co-presented by the Aspen Music Festival and School and Belly Up Aspen, will features old “Prairie Home Companion” favorites like pianist Richard Dworsky and The Road Hounds, alto Heather Masse and actor and sound effects master Fred Newman.
In Keillor’s remarks at the Aspen Words summer benefit two years ago, Keillor recited naughty limericks (including one he wrote on the plane from Denver to Aspen, opening with “A young Baptist lady of Aspen / Fell down bawling and gaspin’”) and spoke extemporaneously — and hilariously — about the writing life.
Keillor has tried his hand at what seems like every form of storytelling. At 74, he continues to challenge himself with new ones. Along with the 41 years of radio programs and decades’ worth of essays in the New Yorker, he has written 20-plus books, ranging from novels to story collections to social criticism to poetry — cutting a wide “man of letters” swath that’s rarely seen today. He recently finished a screenplay about Lake Wobegon — his first proper foray into the form (he was credited for the screenplay for Robert Altman’s 2006 “Prairie Home Companion” film adaptation, but he doesn’t count it).
Life on the road with the program, as he described it, is less than glamorous.
“I travel in a cocoon,” he said. “I’m up in an airplane, and I sit and write on a laptop. I go to a hotel, and I write. I sit backstage, and I write. So I’ve been everywhere, (but) I’ve not seen very much, and I’m still writing about a town that I knew when I was a teenager.”
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