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Published: Thursday, 2/9/2006

Fathers of invention

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Henry Ford (Rick Woods), Warren G. Harding (Thom
Kleinert), and Thomas Edison (Thom Sinn) go camping. From left, Henry Ford (Rick Woods), Warren G. Harding (Thom Kleinert), and Thomas Edison (Thom Sinn) go camping.
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Around Toledo, when you say "theater" and "men camping" in the same sentence, people generally think of Jeff Daniels' Escanaba in Da Moonlight, which is a favorite of regional troupes.

Ms. Rose's Dinner Theater was one of the first to do Escanaba and had so much success, it looked for similar shows, such as Men on Ice.

Tomorrow, it will open Camping with Henry & Tom, which might seem to have the same theme, but there is a twist. The Henry is Henry Ford, and Tom is Thomas Edison. And they go camping with Warren, who happens to be Warren G. Harding, president of the United States.

The play by Mark St. Germain is a combination of fact and fiction. It is known that Edison and Ford went camping together several times. (In their case, camping is a relative term that includes maids, chauffeurs, and chefs.) And one year, they invited Harding. What happened during those trips and what was said is not known, but St. Germain used their letters, diaries, historical events, and the philosophies of the times to come up with dialogue and action.

"I adore the play," director Rick Hagg says. "I think it's probably one of the finest pieces of theater I've done in a long time."

Although Camping with Henry & Tom, is not a musical, Hagg likens it to 1776, which built a relationship and dialogue among Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams during the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

In Camping, Edison, Ford, and Harding are on a camping trip in Maryland, and they decide to ditch their retinue to talk in private. They get lost, and while they are waiting to be found, their conversation touches on everything from mistresses to the presidency to rivalry and racism.

Parts of the play are heavy and powerful, Hagg says, but there's a lot of humor and a lot of information about the three men that many people may not know. He believes that there will be special interest in the show because all three men were born within 100 miles of Toledo: Ford in Dearborn, Mich.; Edison in Milan, Ohio, and Harding near Mansfield.

Bringing the characters to life are Thom Sinn as Edison, Thom Kleinert as Harding, and Rick Woods as Ford. The three are Ms. Rose's veterans, with Kleinert and Woods having appeared in Escanaba and the just-closed The Underpants, and Sinn appearing in The Four Plaids and directing Polish Joke.

"[Camping with Henry & Tom] provides insight into two of the greatest minds of the 20th century," Hagg says, referring to Edison and Ford. And it underscores a feeling that, in regard

to the presidency, politics makes sure that we will not get the best man for the job, but we probably won't get the worst, either.

Ms. Rose's Dinner Theater opens "Camping with Henry & Tom" tomorrow at the DC Ranch Entertainment Complex, 25740 North State Rt. 25, Perrysburg. Doors open for the buffet meal two hours before the curtain. This month, shows are scheduled at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Feb. 17 and 24 and at 5 p.m. Feb. 19. Tickets are $36 for matinees and $39 for the evening performance. Information: 419-874-8505.

The New Works Writers Series will present a theatrical Tribute to August Wilson at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Toledo Museum of Art's Little Theater.

According to director Imelda Hunt, a cast of five performers - Tisha Carroll, Alisha Gamble, Kyna Kinard, Rodney Temple, and Grant Walker - will present selections of scenes from many of Wilson's popular plays, including Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Seven Guitars, Two Trains Running, and Jitney.

Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who died in 2005, chronicled the black experience in his works, set mostly in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

Tickets for "Tribute to August Wilson" are $15 and are available at Warren AME Church, 915 Collingwood Blvd. Information: 419-380-0257.

●The Ritz Players will present The World Goes Round, a revue of the music of John Kander and Fred Ebb, in the National Theatre area of the Ritz Theatre, 30 South Washington St., Tiffin. The cast includes Kelly Addis, Sandy Anderson, Stephanie Dell, Dalva Fearing, Janet Frankforther, Lisa King, and Terry Love of Tiffin, Jim Cook of Sycamore, Ohio, and Elaine Whitman of Old Fort, Ohio. Performances are at 8 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, and Feb. 18 and 2 p.m. Feb. 19. Tickets are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Information: 419-448-8544.

●The Fort Findlay Players open Honk! the Musical tomorrow in the Fort Findlay Playhouse, 300 West Sandusky St., Findlay. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's story of The Ugly Duckling, Honk! will be performed at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 25. Tickets are $15. Information: 418-422-4624.

●Everybody's Hero, based on the life of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, is scheduled at 10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. The show, presented by Mad River Theater Works of West Liberty, Ohio, uses music, drama, and storytelling to explore the life of the African-American player who shattered baseball's color line in 1947. The show is geared to school field trips for students in grades 6-12, but the public is welcome to attend if space is available. Tickets are $7 for the early show, $6.50 for the later one. Information: 419-824-3986.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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