The Duchess’ Diary

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The Duke and Duchess attend The Scottsboro Boys at the Guthrie September 9th, 2010

The Duke and Duchess of Earle rather fell heir to a couple of tickets to the Minneapolis-based theatrical jewel, the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, today.  On tap for the evening’s entertainment – if, in one sense, one dares to call it that – was The Scottsboro Boys, a minstrel show based on the true story of nine African-American males (the Duchess won’t call them men because one of them was a mere twelve years old) apprehended in Alabama in 1931.  They were falsely accused, first, of fighting with some white youths, and second, of the rape of two white women (who were, incidentally, lying – but apparently the truth didn’t matter in the prejudiced mental climate of the day). 

The production is energetic, mesmerizing in the impact of its story, leaving one feeling uncomfortably guilty for enjoying the beauties of the show.  It’s minimally, but creatively and excellently set.  A trio of frames, each smaller than the one before, in addition to marking the visual confines of the stage and the narrowing path of these fellow’s lives, also respresented to the Duchess the tightly constrained Southern mindset and society.  Silver chairs with barred backs, continually rearranged, become windows, prison cells and, coupled with boards, trains – with tambourine wheels. 

The lighting is equally good.   Especially haunting to the Duchess was the shadow of the woman falling behind Haywood Patterson as he sang a song late in the show – the woman who, at the end, becomes Rosa Parks, refusing to give up her seat at the front of the bus.

In spite of the emotional challenge for the viewers, the show still garnered enthusiastic whistles and a standing ovation from the audience at the close of the one-act musical. 

This production reminded the Duchess of the famous Broadway show, Cabaret – a show the Duchess has seen a number of times over the years.  There, as in The Scottsboro Boys, absolutely wonderful vocal harmonies are contrasted with the ugly treatment that many receive in this world.  This show, too, is headed for Broadway and it’s not difficult to see why.  For a taste, take a look at the opening number in the video below:



This one tells something about the background of the show: 

This play runs through the 25th of September.  If you’re in the area, the Duchess highly recommends you get your ticket, because September is already flying by.  If this requires travel arrangements, the Duchess offers you a link directly to her travel site:


News of a Concert on Madeline Island September 9th, 2010

Good afternoon to all the Duchess of Earle‘s readers!

There is likely a high percentage of her readers – those of you from outside the US – that are unfamiliar with the Apostle Islands, located along Lake Superior‘s Wisconsin, USA, shore. 

It’s a greatly picturesque place – twenty-two islands off the town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, which in the latter 1800s was a great tourist destination.  But over the years, the tourists ceased to come by boat, as they did in those days, and now they arrive by car.

  Bayfield, Wisconsin, USA

There is only one of those islands that is inhabited by more than the local critters (this is not counting the park personnel that live as caretakers on a few of the islands).  That island is called Madeline Island, which is a ferryboat ride across the chilly Superior waters from the town of Bayfield.

Madeline Island Ferry

The town is called La Pointe; it is not a fancy metropolis, but nevertheless it offers its own brand of backwater charms.  Amongst them is Tom’s Burned Down Cafe – a name that stuck after Tom’s Cafe had a nasty fire some years ago.  But, like a phoenix, Tom’s rose from the ashes and has continued to host business ever since, including having performers in to entertain his guests.

 Tom’s Burned Down Cafe

Just this afternoon, the Duchess has received the news from an acquaintance of hers, a talented lady experienced in the entertaining field.  Her name is Jane Aleckson and she has a musical partner named Jim Ouska.  They’ve played together for a lot of years.  The Duchess trades emails with Jane every so often – and here came one today with the news that Jane and Jim will be performing at Tom’s Burned Down Cafe this weekend, Friday and Saturday nights, September 10th and 11th. 

So if you, dear reader happen to be one of the lucky ones that would be in the vicinity of Tom’s Burned Down Cafe this weekend, you’re certainly welcome to stop ’round to lend your ear to what is sure to be an enjoyable concert.  The Duchess is unable to be there herself, but will absolutely be there in spirit!

P.S.  For those of you that, like the Duchess, won’t be there, you can always check out Jane and Jim’s website at .

 P.P.S.  The Duchess has found this video of Jane, albeit playing with other musicians than Jim Ouska, and is including it here for your listening pleasure. 


Like the sound of Bayfield?  Want to book that car or a flight to get there?  Check out the Duchess’ travel site to make your arrangements!  Bon voyage!