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[APRIL 4, 2001]   Stowaway." Karen Hesse. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2000. 319 pages. Grades 5-9.

"Stowaway" is the diary of red-headed Nicholas Young, 11 years old, as he sails on the Endeavor from August 1768 to July 1771.

Nicholas was a disappointment to his father because he had trouble with his studies, particularly Latin. He had worked for a butcher who beat him frequently. He decided anything would be better than his life in London. After paying three ship crew members to hide him, he spent four weeks covered and curled up in a small boat aboard the Endeavor. It was important to stay hidden until they were far enough out to sea so that Captain couldn’t send him back to land.


Through Nick’s journal we experience life at sea, from storms and seasickness to disease and death. He writes his impressions of the crew, including stern and fair Captain Cook and Joseph Banks, who collects and catalogs plant life. Captain charts and names many bays and islands as they sail the uncharted South Pacific.


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Captain Cook is always on the lookout for fresh fruits, wild plants, fish and animals to feed the crew. Nick writes of a particularly delicious fish: "It is of excellent size and the natives gather it by walking in the surf up to their middles. When they feel a lobster with their feet, they dive down and grab hold of it… I shouldn’t like that job. I place too great a value on all ten of my toes."

Hesse again shows her storytelling skills as she creates a tale full of detail, humor and history. She includes an "Afterword" in which facts about Nicholas Young are included. There is also a list of ship’s company and ship’s itinerary and a glossary of terms. Those who want to follow the trip can do so by comparing Nick’s longitude and latitude journal entries with an 1800 map reproduced on the end papers.

[Pat Schlough, Lincoln Public Library]


‘The Wish Master’

[APRIL 4, 2001]   The Wish Master." Betty Ren Wright. Holiday House, 2000. 104 pages. Grades 3-6.

Corby is not having one of his best summers. He’s stuck at his grandparents’ house in Wisconsin instead of at home with his dad in Santa Barbara.

While in Wisconsin, Corby meets Buck, who convinces him to sneak out at midnight and tramp through the woods to visit the Wish Master. According to Buck this fierce-looking statue has been known to grant wishes if asked at midnight. When it seems like his first two wishes have been granted, Corby decides to try for a big wish. The suspense mounts as Corby finds himself deeper and deeper in trouble with his grandfather and makes one more trip to the Wish Master on a stormy night.

This is a quick read that will appeal to reluctant readers as well as those who have read other books written by Wright.

[Pat Schlough, Lincoln Public Library]



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‘The Contender’

Released on video Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Rated R     Approx 127 Minutes     DreamWorks Home Entertainment -2000

Written and directed by Rod Lurie


Jeff Bridges

Christian Slater

Sam Elliot

Joan Allen

Gary Oldman (also the executive producer)


This movie uses graphic language to describe sexual scenes and presents some nudity.

[MARCH 10, 2001]  The box said “two thumbs up” and “Thriller!”

In recent years, the "two thumbs up" endorsement has meant that I probably was going to find the movie to be a loser. "Thriller" usually means I may endure it but I’m probably not going to be thrilled with it.

However, in the case of "The Contender," both my thumbs are up too, and I am indeed thrilled.

"The Contender" is a gritty movie, a political "action" film of sorts. It is a thriller because you don’t have a clear shot at the plot until it is finally revealed for you. At the end, you look back on the film and say, "Yeah, I should’ve seen that coming."

"The Contender" is gritty because it focuses on a dirty fight between political rivals to appoint a new vice president of the United States. The president (played very aptly by Jeff Bridges) selects a woman, Sen. Lane Hanson of Ohio (Joan Allen), for the job, against the advice of party officials and his own advisers. The previous vice president died somehow in office — but "The Contender" never tries to explain his passing.

The whole plot is wrapped up in the confirmation hearings and the process of bringing an appointee to office or sending ’em off packing.

Gary Oldman plays Sheldon Runyon, the Republican chairman of the selection committee. The highly respected, powerful senator seems bent on not only denying the president his day in the sun but also destroying the very career of Sen. Hanson.


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Two things about this movie made a good impression on me.

First, the acting was excellent. Oldman plays a perfect bad guy in this film (he seems to have the bad-guy act down pat). Jeff Bridges, who I thought incapable of playing a convincing president, stepped up to the plate and delivered. Christian Slater played the part of a freshman congressman who was seeking to do the right thing on principle, and was perfectly cast for the part. Finally, Joan Allen was wonderful in her portrayal of the contender under siege.

Second, the plot was dynamite. This movie seems to make you move away from certain characters and make certain assumptions, but you find yourself making a couple of 90 degree turns before it’s done. In the spirit of "The West Wing," it is full of political intrigue and the power of the Washington scene. "The Contender" is a film about respect and dignity and the rocky road to realizing those two values.

The first hour of the movie has a single weakness: The lack of actors on the set portraying political operatives, appointees, devotees and those holding office makes you believe the story less. They needed a fuller cast to make it seem like Washington and government.

This is not a partisan film about the usual struggle between Republicans and Democrats. Instead it is a story about the dynamics of power, accusation and truth.

So, I recommend this film to you if you enjoy a good thriller, if you enjoy stories about the political struggles of this nation and if you like a good fiction about how truth prevails.

I give it 3½ stars (out of five).


Charlie Brown auditions set

[MARCH 29, 2001]  The first auditions of the summer are just around the corner. Lincoln Community Theatre’s 30th season kicks off in June with the fun-filled musical "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown." As the first production ever staged by LCT, "Charlie Brown" was chosen to begin this anniversary season also. Auditions for the six familiar "cartoon characters" will take place Friday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday, April 7, at 9 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 402 Pekin St. in Lincoln.

Those auditioning should have a song prepared and be ready to learn a few basic dance steps. Auditioners will also be required to do cold readings from the script.

For more information regarding auditions, call 732-4298.

Production dates are June 8-16.

The LCT season membership campaign continues. For more information regarding season tickets or the purchase of gift memberships, call 732-2640.

[LCT news release]

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LCT scholarship applications available

[MARCH 23, 2001]  To foster local talent, Lincoln Community Theatre will award a $500 theater arts scholarship to a Logan County graduating high school senior who plans to attend Lincoln College.

Scholarship applications are available from area high school guidance counselors or by contacting Connie DiLillo, LCT scholarship chairman at 732-7859. Completed applications must be postmarked no later than April 27.

[LCT news release]


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LCT chooses summer production staff

[MARCH 12, 2001]  Lincoln Community Theatre has announced the 2001 summer production staff.

The first production, "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown," which runs from June 8 through 16, was selected in celebration of LCT’s 30th anniversary season. This musical was the first performance offered by Lincoln Community Theatre during the organization’s first season in 1971.

The 2001 production will be directed by Sean-Edward Hall of Springfield. Wayne Mara of Lincoln has been hired as technical director, with Jason Yarcho, also of Lincoln, as accompanist and orchestra director. Lights and sound will be managed by Stuart Wyneken of Lincoln.

The July 13 through 21 comedy, "Moon Over Buffalo," will be directed by Jerry Dellinger of Lincoln. He will also serve as lighting director. Technical director will be Max Levendel of Bloomington.

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LCT’s final production, "The Wiz," will be directed by Tracy Tiritilli of Bloomington, with husband Mark Tiritilli serving as technical director. The show will run Aug. 3 through 11. Yarcho will again serve as musical accompanist, and Wyneken will handle lighting and sound.

LCT also plans a children’s play this summer. Performances will be June 28 through July 1.

For more information see the LCT website,

[LCT news release]


Theatre 7 chooses cast members

[MARCH 3, 2001]  Theatre 7 – Decatur’s Community Theatre has selected cast members for its production of the comedy "Dearly Departed." The show is about a colorful but dysfunctional Southern family coming together to hilarious results when its patriarch, "Bud," passes away.

"Dearly Departed" is being directed by Joe Straka, with Penny Williams as assistant director

Cast members and the characters they play are as follows: Nancy Jo Batman, Raynelle; Shawn Becker, RayBud; Lesa Andrick, Lucille; James Graham, Junior; Tish Duis, Suzanne; Pam Stinson, Marguerite; Tom Morrow, Royce; Carl Sebens, Reverend Hooker; Karen Becker, Veda; John Dunn, Norval/Clyde; Julie Lycan, Nadine; Heather Jewell, Juanita; and Penny Williams, Delightful.

Tickets go on sale to the general public starting Monday, March 5, at the Decatur Civic Center Box Office, 422-6161.

Performance dates for "Dearly Departed" at the Decatur Civic Center Theater will be March 30-31 and April 6-7 at 7:30 p.m. and April 1 and 8 at 2 p.m.

[Theatre 7 news release]

Lincoln Community Theatre website

Lincoln Community Theatre’s (LCT) website is up and available. The site serves a number of functions, from providing information on becoming a season ticket holder to showing what new productions are being planned for next season. It lists everything one wants to know about LCT — except the scripts. The top of the page lists those already involved in the theatre and announces any paid or unpaid positions, which are still available. Audition dates are also listed for prospective actors.

The site also links to Gus Gordon Productions and Grand Ball Costumes. Gus Gordon produces plays all over central Illinois, and the site lists the upcoming plays. Grand Ball Costumes rents costumes here in central Illinois for plays, Halloween, weddings, birthdays or any other occasion.

A little farther down, the site offers information on upcoming plays, admission prices and season ticket prices. Presently, LCT’s website is displaying pictures of recent performances: "Annie" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

If you are interested in joining a performance or just going to see one, visit LCT’s website at, e-mail LCT at, or write to Lincoln Community Theatre, P.O. Box 374, Lincoln, IL  62656.


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