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The Best Seat in the House — Another Beautiful Day, Knives, Fungi

Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood beginning Friday at the Civic Theatre in Nelson. — Submitted photo

In a recent Parenting column in the Washington Post, writer Mary Petersen wrote, “ There’s a  lot of talk about Mister Rogers these days — and intertwined with all of the current chatter is the implied message that the original “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” series, while loved and appreciated by adults, is part of a bygone era and would never fly with today’s iPad-loving, Fortnite-obsessed youth. “

The story went on to tell about how her younger kids watched some recorded episodes she was reviewing and they couldn’t stop watching. When she asked them why they replied “Kids know when a grown-up likes them. When we watch him, there’s no noise.You don’t have to worry about anything.”

That explained everything. In a world of so much chaos and noise, kids liked calm sincerity.

Last year the documentary, ‘ Won’t You Be My Neighbour ‘ played at Sundance and here in Nelson.

It conveyed the history and impact of Fred Rogers career. After pioneering his show while working in Toronto with the CBC in 1961 he returned to Pittsburgh and the show ran nationally from 1968 to 2001. The footage of his talk to US Congress about feelings gave it extra weight for todays political climate.

Mister Rogers listened to kids, and encouraged them to ask questions, and even though it was geared to two to five year-olds, it was marketed as ‘appropriate for all ages ‘. But it was also shoved into an afterschool timeslot when I was still running around outside. Oddly my mother really encouraged me to enjoy the outdoors. So I didn’t catch it that often.

And that means I’m a lot like Tom Hanks. I know, that’s not a phrase you’ll hear too often. Hanks revealed that he wasn’t really into Mister Rogers when he was growing up. “I was too busy watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, and stuff like that,”

Well, so did I! I appreciated Mister Rogers but I loved that cartoon moose. Of course, Tom Hanks was just providing perspective since his film, It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood had just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie gives us a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism. It’s based on the story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and jaded magazine writer, Tom Junod. The journalist is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, and over time he learns about himself, about empathy, kindness, and decency.  

His article ‘ Can You Say… Hero’ ran in Esquire in 1998.

But A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood may offer even more lessons for adults in todays world. In a Vogue magazine article the actor suggested that “ when Fred Rogers first saw children’s programming, he saw something that was cynical. That you are not cool because you don’t have this toy, that it’s funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah.

We have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it’s a reminder] that we are allowed . . . to start off feeling good.”

The director seamlessly transitions the story by transitioning from wide screen to a smaller TV ratio image with faded colour, low resolution, and simple scenery like the TV show used. If that throws you back to memories of the show and reminds you that you’re allowed to feel good, why not embrace it.

It’s A Beautiful Day in The Neighbourhood begins Friday, and runs at the Civic Theatre from December 13-17th.

However, if you prefer diabolical mysteries about bad family behaviour, the theatre will also screen Knives Out Dec. 13-15th and Dec. 17-18th.

Written and Directed by Rian Johnson who also wrote and directed the Star Wars movie The Last Jedi, Knives Out is “a breath of fresh air for a genre caked in dust.” If you’ve been to The Civic and seen the trailer you can appreciate the NY Times critic’s comments that its “an ensemble of super-serious actors getting to misbehave,” and a “whodunit A-list turned slay-list party.”

Then on Thursday December 19th The Civic offers a fabulous documentary, Fabulous Fungi.

As Jason Asbell mentioned at the society’s recent AGM, the Civic shows 70-80 unique features a year that you just won’t find at your local franchise theatre and when a great documentary comes out we like to share it. So, let me just share the trailer to whet your appetite

And that’s a wrap. A great counter balance to the Mister Rogers movie. See two, see them all … from the best seats in the house.

Brian May is a Director with Nelson Civic Theatre Society.