Minneshowta:  Pioneer Public Television Films Pilot in Morris

Minneshowta: Pioneer Public Television Films Pilot in Morris

Michael Small, A&E Editor and Evan Aanerud, Staff Writer, originally published in Issue 3, Volume 30 of The University Register on Friday, October 20, 2017

Photo courtesy of Patrick Moore

Minneshowta is a new, live variety show on Pioneer Public Television that came to Morris on October 8 to film their pilot in Edson Auditorium. As per their webpage, www.pioneer.org/minneshowta, Minneshowta is “A 30-minute variety show featuring a mixture of ventriloquism, local performers, and one special puppet with an endless repertoire of one-liners! ​Hosted by James Wedgwood.” The pilot not only featured James Wedgwood, a wonderful ventriloquist, but also comedienne Mary Rowles and a cappella group The Sound Exchange.

The student center was packed as the show prepared to open the doors and was populated with all sorts of folks from in town and on-campus. Along with promotional material for Pioneer Public Television, free t-shirts and hats brandishing Minneshowta on them were given out to those that came in first. At 1:30 sharp, communication director for the show and UMM/UR alum Patrick Moore opened the doors for the public to gather in Edson as the tech crew bustled to set up all of their equipment. The side and back rows were mostly taped off to make room for their multiple cameras set up all around the theatre, the most impressive being a tiny panning camera on an incredibly long stick that swooped over the heads of the first ten rows and always on the go. Wedgwood went around the seats and personally greeted audience members as they cozied up in their seats.

James Wedgewood began the show with his act, Willard Twitsnoggle. A country-loving puppet that hails from Fergus Falls, Twistnoggle is always there with a snarky comment. He entertained the crowd with his cheesy jokes about North Dakota and his rootin-tootin accent. Wedgewood has been performing for a living since ‘88. He works hard to maintain his reputation as “The Most Fun You Can Have Without Moving Your Lips!”

At the peak of the audience’s buzz during the preshow, Wedgewood went up to the front row and dazzled the audience in preparation for the taping. He used his big stage presence and repertoire of jokes to get the audience prepared for the taping, say that it was “not the time to be stoic Scandinavians about this. Laugh!” Before he could brief the audience to watch out for the “LAUGH” sign, the audience burst out laughing and kept it rolling as he joked “I didn’t have to say applause. It’s a high literacy level!” When Wedgewood asked Willard what he hunts deer with, he said instead of sporting a Remington 700 that he uses his Ford F150.

The Sound Exchange was next in the program. An a capella group from the Twin Cities area, Sound Exchange dazzled the audience with energetic renditions of old classics like, “Over the River and Through the Wood.” They moved with spirit and were a powerful group of 5 musicians. Caleb Lee, bass for the group, was a fundamental and driving force to the group. His low register rumbled through the speakers and provided a powerful beat to the songs.

Up next, Mary Rowles performed for the crowd. Known for her spot-on impressions and stand-up, Rowles did her best stereotypical Northern-Minnesota impression. Coming onto stage with a stocking cap pulled down to her thick rimmed glasses, she impersonated a wide-eyed fisher with a nasty lisp. The crowd warmed up to her fast. She showed her ability to connect with an audience and make a lasting impact.

Wedgewood continued the show with a video clip of his recent trip to Vining, Minnesota. Known for its unique and odd sculpture garden, Vining is a popular small-town destination for many Minnesota fans. Wedgewood starred his puppet, Twistnoggle, in his video exploring the sculptures. With painful puns and laughable remarks, Twistnoggle was a crowd pleaser. His jokes about hunting and outdoorsmen resonated with the Morris audience.

All in all, Minneshowta kept the crowd entertained with a cut of small town Minnesota living. All of the acts continue a tradition of Minnesota talent that is important to continue to cultivate and build on. Wedgewood’s career running from 1988 has taken him all over not just Minnesota but the country, working alongside agriculture programs and colleges. For more information on him, visit jameswedgewood.com. Mary Rowles has been in the business for over twenty years and loves when people support live entertainment, especially in-state. For more information, look for her on G. L. Berg Entertainment’s website, glberg.com. Sound Exchange, based in the Twin Cities, has been performing for four years with previous experience from other vocal music experiences. They are available for any show, entertainment or educational. For more information, check them out on thesoundexchange.co. Lastly, General Manager Les Heen would like to say that graduating seniors are welcome to call Pioneer Public Television at 1-800-726-3178 and ask for the Financial or Communication Director.