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In celebration of Seuss

Beloved children’s book author comes to Roseville via musical, art show
By: Paul Cambra The Press-Tribune
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And to think that I saw it on Vernon Street. In the building marked by arrow-straight blue lines sits an art exhibit rife with droopy figures and curvy, nonsensical creations. A block or so east, on the Magic Circle’s main stage, a kindhearted elephant shares the spotlight with a trouble-making cat. Sound a little silly? It should, because it’s all part of an extended celebration of Dr. Seuss. “Dr. Seuss taught us many things, not the least of which is the love of books,” said Gayle Streff, a Roseville Arts member and volunteer on the education committee. “Theodor Geisel (Seuss’s real name) taught us about encouragement, which he received from his wife Helen, who encouraged him to drop his literary degree and go into art. And persistence. His first book was rejected 27 times before he found a publisher that would print it.” Streff will be training the docents who will lead the children’s tours at the Blue Line Gallery, where 27 (there’s that number again) pieces of Dr. Seuss art, including some three-dimensional sculpture, will be on display for the next 10 weeks. “They are absolutely stunning visually, the colors are fabulous,” said Beth Rolfes, curator at the Blue Line Gallery. “People are going to learn a lot from this, adults and kids alike.” The serigraphs and lithographs on display are artists’ interpretations of Geisel’s illustrations, rendered accurately and stamped as limited editions. “There’s some influence from Dali,” said Rolfes, “a little cubism. It was the golden age of illustration and he was influenced by those painting at the same time he was.” Seuss’s own influence on popular culture is pretty well entrenched. Who do you know who can’t recite a line from “Green Eggs and Ham?” Most people read him first as a child, and revisit his works as parents. “I picked up Dr. Seuss in the second grade, when I could read them myself,” said Jamie Finley, marketing and programming technician for the Roseville Public Library. “I love the made-up words. It’s so nonsensical and hilarious to try to pronounce them still keep the rhythm going.” That well-maintained rhythm, a poetic meter known as anapestic tetrameter, is what set Seuss apart from other writers of children’s books. That, and his unmistakable style of drawing, where it’s been said no straight line exists. “You have to take Seuss as a whole package,” Finley said. “It’s hard to separate the writing from the art.” Or the music apparently. “Seussical!” a musical based on Dr. Seuss books, debuted on Broadway in 2000 and finds its way to Roseville this weekend for the first of 11 performances by the Magic Circle Theatre’s Teen Master Series. And with a nod to “The Lorax,” Geisel’s 1971 tale about environmentalism and anti-consumerism, the production has been as green as possible. “We re-used materials for costumes and set pieces wherever possible,” said Kris Hunt, the theatre’s public relations director. “The kids themselves even thought up the idea for a book drive during the show’s run.” As for her favorite Seuss book? “‘The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,’” Hunt said, “I don’t know what it was that set me off, but I’d sit in bed and look at all the pictures of all hats and it fascinated me, each hat bigger and better, it had to be magic.” Or the work of one marvelous, magical mind. Nobody since has managed to mingle man and beast so delightfully and so imaginatively. “Theodor Geisel grew up three blocks from a library and three blocks from a zoo,” said Streff, shedding some light on the author’s penchant for inventing memorable, maniacal mammals. Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try.