University of Minnesota. / ISBN 081667230X (2011)
It's a special thing to say of a book after reading, "That was much too short."
We should be grateful for the glimpses we've been given of a theatre life about as far from Broadway
as you can get. But if this is just a sampling of Henry Wood and his many years as a circus worker, performer,
director, and silent film projectionist in old-time medicine shows and touring vaudeville troupes of the Midwest,
I can only imagine what we've missed. And the thought of his trunk-load of precious scrapbooks, mementos, etc.
being destroyed in a house fire at his daughter's house while he was traveling made the archivist in me weep.
"Priceless" is too trivial a word to use in this case.
But what is here is well worth the reading. We take for granted that it was a hard life, and reading the little daily
incidents; the prejudice against performers in small towns at the time (even when they struggled to run a "clean" show),
would be a lesson to any egomaniac star of today. Playing a villian too-convincingly in the stock company melodramas
made Henry so unpopular in the backwoods areas he had to change his appearance and name to be able to get lodgings
and service. Even as an elderly widower trying to get a place in a senior-citizen trailer park, one of the "available spaces"
turned out to be pre-rented once the manager remembered seeing him on stage half a century earlier. In fact , he suddenly
remembered that every one of the spaces was spoken for, and suggested Henry look elsewhere.
That we have Henry's story at all is thanks to his son-in-law, Michael Fedo. As a university professor of theatre and
a writer (he's the author of several books, including The Lynchings in Duluth, The Man from Lake Wobegon,
and the novel Indians in the Arborvitae) Michael knew the importance of an oral history record and was able
to tie Henry down on one of his flying trips between children to tell stories in front of a tape recorder. The incurable
nomad was off again the next morning, but between the recording, histories taken from other friends and family
members and research, Michael put together a small history for the family that was later expanded into this book.
Thank you, Michael.
dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 7.9 in / weight: 8 oz / volume: 144 pages