Elizabeth Park

A tale of tells

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

In poker, a tell is an unconscious behavior that gives away something about a player’s hand. Maybe they scratch their ear every time they’re about to bluff. Or they drum their fingers on the table in a particular rhythm when they’ve got a good hand. The thing about a tell is that it’s a compulsion, not a deliberate behavior. Players often know what their tells are, but are unable to exert control over them.

Tells are not limited to the poker table, however. In fact, I would go as far as to say we all have them. For instance, when I was growing up and my older sister was treating me like her personal guinea pig, I could always discern the degree of danger by how casual she acted. Concern for my welfare: probably pretty safe. Even-keel demeanor: moderately hazardous to my health. Positively lethargic: I’m gonna die. As barometers of behavior go, her tell was as reliable as it gets.

Which brings me to Marla Bronstein, who has a tell of her own.

For as long as I’ve known her, every time Marla utters a sentence akin to, “I’m not going to take on any more projects” or “I’m taking a break from everything,” she embarks on something big and time-consuming. On at least a couple of occasions she’s claimed to be taking a well-earned hiatus from her many theatrical endeavors—only to involve herself in challenging and ambitious productions. I’m pretty sure I heard another pledge to take a break right before she began renovating her house.

Her tell is telling indeed.

A few years ago, Marla took a vow of project poverty—and sounded like she really meant it. So, of course, she took over stewardship of the Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series shortly thereafter. As with all of her varied undertakings, this dovetailed neatly with her interests and skill set. She’s an avowed music lover, known community do-gooder and she’s never happier than when she’s bringing large groups of people together to share something she cares about. Add to that her status as a longtime Columbia Neighborhood resident with close proximity to Elizabeth Park, and Marla and the music series seemed like a match made in heaven.

It’s only fair to say that the concerts in Elizabeth Park weren’t exactly suffering before Marla came along. Thanks to the Eldridge Historical Society and Bellingham Parks and Rec, the perennially popular series had become a beloved summer staple, not just for Elizabeth Park denizens, but also for those who came from all over town every Thursday evening to enjoy free, family-friendly local music in an idyllic locale. However, I’ve met few situations that were not improved by Marla’s hard work and creative energy, and so it goes for the park concerts.

She introduced new bands and food vendors and brought some necessary structural alterations to the affair, but probably the most innovative change she made was to introduce a little bit of good-natured competition to the mix. The Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series is fueled by donations, and during an era in which budgetary concerns necessitated scaling back Parks and Rec’s musical offerings, one of the best ways to ensure longevity would be to bring in some cash. So, Marla got that bands involved, instituting a policy that the musical act that brought in the most donation dollars would be guaranteed a spot in the next year’s lineup should they so desire it. That means when Heroes plays the finale of the 2019 series on Aug. 22, it’s because they were the top money earners of 2018.

However, there’s a whole lot of summer between now and the end of August, and a slew of Thursday-night concerts in the park for us to enjoy along the way. Things actually got underway June 20 with Ranger and the Re-arrangers, and Triple Mood will close out June with their hybrid of jazz and funk. After that, you can celebrate the nation’s independence while it lasts with Brian Butler and Bridge (July 4), get (reasonably) loud with Sir Reginold Cosgrove and His Nighttime Singers (July 11), swoon to the sultry sounds of the Di Young Combo (July 18), and time-travel back to the 1950s and 1960s with Fossil Rock (July 25). Usher in August with Dr. Jimmy and the Swing Time Serenaders Big Band (Aug. 1), dance along with Those Guys (Aug. 8), get soulful and funky with Whitewing and the Soul Shaker Horns (Aug. 15) before the aforementioned Heroes sing you into the sunset for another summer.

As ever, the concerts begin at 6pm and are BYOS (Bring Your Own Seating). Parking can be something akin to a nightmare, so plan to walk, bike or bus to the Columbia Neighborhood in order to leave parking spots open for folks who need the accessibility. Dancing is always encouraged, as is letting Marla know how much you appreciate her efforts. Just don’t believe her when she says she’s taking a break from big projects. It’s her tell.

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