By David Schriemer, MD
Lloyd Appell MD fondly recalls Showboat through the years. Lloyd became involved with Showboat in 1972 when then director Arle Schneider, DVM, asked him to be on the script committee. Arle and Lloyd had collaborated on the village’s centennial pageant. Lloyd had the crazy idea to go all the way back to the ice age to tell the story of the village. He had a Boy Scout troop stand under a massive white sheet representing a glacier and had them slowly walk across the football field leaving behind paper mache rocks, forming the local landscape. Arle was so enamored with the creativity of this idea he decided Lloyd had to be on the script committee.
Lloyd recalls Arle was the backbone of the Showboat for many years writing, directing, and acting. Lloyd had great fun with fellow scriptwriters John Scott, Jim McClelland, Arle Schneider, Tim Moore, Warren Lawrence and Charlie Kendall. They had three inviolable rules: 1. All jokes must be suitable and understandable to a fifth grader; 2. A joke was included only if at least two other committee members laughed; 3. They had to be equal opportunity. All ethnicities were insulted equally.
It’s all in the Family
Lloyd was tapped to be director in 1983, took a brief sabbatical from 1996-1997, but resumed again 1998-2006. In the early days before cell phones and pagers, if Lloyd was on call for the medical practice, he had to take one of his children to the high school to stay by the phone while he conducted Showboat practice. If he was needed at the hospital they would call his home and speak with his wife Grace, who would call the high school office and speak with the child on phone duty who would summon Lloyd. It was a family effort.
One year, an audience member was feeling faint. Dr. Appell was sought out backstage. Lloyd was in full make up with a flowing blonde curly wig and several arrows through his chest as General Custer. He was certain the patient would pass out if he showed up like that. Fortunately, another doctor was attending that night and took care of the situation. Lloyd went back onstage selling souvenirs at “Custer’s Last Stand”.
Lloyd remembers a few mishaps through the years. During the doctor’s skit, one year, patient Walt Morris’s belly actually got cut! Arle Schneider was strapped to a vertical wheel and then was spun on it, hitting his head on the floor with each turn. In rehearsal, a chandelier fell on Norm Skippers and Dick Coppes but fortunately neither was hurt. They did show up in hard hats the next rehearsal though.
Lloyd tried to discourage deviations from the script but some performers just couldn’t stop themselves from adlibbing. Audience favorite, Paul Jones had a few scenes one year where no lines were written for him. “Somehow” he ended up with a lot, to the delight of those watching.
A regular feature of the Showboat is the newspaper joke scene. While scenery is changed behind the curtain, two characters stand in front of the curtain reading the newspaper, reviewing the news of the day, telling malapropisms and jokes. “Did you hear George got fired from the orange juice factory?” “No, what happened” “He couldn’t concentrate. They had to can him.” Lloyd initially did those scenes with Swift Noble then Jim McClelland, Charlie Kendall and now Warren Lawrence.
The Prop Expert
When unique props were needed, Lloyd constructed them with remarkable skill and creativity. Through the years he has made a car with doors that opened and working windshield wipers; the engine and prop to the Wright brothers plane with cylinders that lit up as they fired; Pharaoh’s sarcophagus; a huge elephant head with a trunk that rolled out and ears that moved; an exploding piano (watch for that one again); and his greatest achievement, the “Lizard of Ooze.” The Lizard of Ooze stood about 10 feet high, its head turned, jaws opened and closed, lit eyes opened and closed and smoke came out of its nostrils. The prop itself drew applause from the audience. It is even more amazing that all the props were made in Lloyd’s basement. To get them out of the basement they had to be less than 29 inches in one dimension. The lizard’s head was built, cut in half to get it out of the basement and reassembled on stage. Quite an engineering feat.
Lloyd’s favorite show was in 1990 when the crew went to “Storybook Land”. Lloyd had the idea that the backdrop would be a giant storybook. To change scenes, a giant page would be turned with the crew stepping through a door in the scenery. Bob Cohrs, in charge of scenery, said, “It can’t be done,” But Lloyd says, “Every year he’d say ‘It can’t be done’ then he’d go and do it.” Before the next meeting Lloyd made a model of what he envisioned. Bob showed up with an almost identical model. It got done and made for a memorable show.
Despite being very busy, Lloyd has relished his time working with everyone on the Showboat. “They’re such great people. If you need something, they’ll do it.” The list of people he’s worked with over the years is long and joyous from Arle Schneider who got him involved, scene painters Marilyn Vleugel, Steve Schimp and Dale Reno, set constructor Bob Cohrs, costumers Freddi Coppes and Jo Miller, music directors Jim Shaw, Todd Overbeek and Chris Garrett and a myriad of musicians and actors. It’s delightful when everyone “rows the boat” together. (Hint: Look for Lloyd Appell created watercraft this year.)