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Has anyone ever heard of Ameritage? 
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Post Has anyone ever heard of Ameritage?
A couple of years ago, I did a show called Ameritage...put "American" and "heritage" together and that's what you get...

I think it was written by a friend of our director, but I think there was a recording of it, and I think it was performed (other than in our little group, I mean)...I just have no idea if the recording ever got released, or how many people actually ever saw it.

So...I turn to you guys. Has anyone ever heard of it?


Sat May 06, 2006 12:16 am
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Fresh Face
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Post Re: Ameritage
Don't know if your Ameritage is the same as my Ameritage, or even if you'll see this reply after a couple years, but just in case...

Ameritage was created in honor of the American bicentennial (1976) in the small university town of Alfred, New York. Primary writers were R. Bruce Cameron (who also directed) and Philip J. Lester. Bruce was on the faculty of the drama department at Alfred University. The rest of the original cast and crew were AU students. Bruce wrote most of the book, Phil most of the music. But both collaborated on both and a fair bit was developed by ad-libs in rehearsals and brainstorming with other members of the company.

Original cast included: Eliza Beckwith, C. Lee Cooley, Michael Hardy, Phil Lester, Rob ????? and Amy ?????

Band included: Charlie Rankin (guitar), Deb Larson (piano), Mitch Orenstein (accordion)

Some of the original choregraphy was contributed by Carla Murgia (who was also on the AU faculty).

We performed it on campus and at a number of centennial celebrations around central and western NY state, as well as a dinner theater production in NYC for university trustees. We put it on in parks, on huge proscenium arches, in the round, in 3/4 round, and among dinner tables. We used to say we could put it on in a closet if we had to.

Following the bicentennial year, Bruce took the show to Cody, Wyoming where it was performed regularly during the summer tourist season for a couple years. A few of the original cast went with him for that. I heard rumours that he was looking to develop a full-scale professional production (in Vegas, maybe? Don't recall) but I don't think that ever really went anywhere.

(btw, I was stage manager, understudy of all parts, frequently ran lights and occasionally subbed for Deb on the piano.)


Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:05 pm
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I definitely posted this thread over two years ago! How trippy!

But YES! That's the same show, haha :) I know (used to know? haven't seen them in a long time) the Cameron's daughters...I think the director of my production was their godmother? I forget exactly. I was about eleven years old when I did it.


Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:44 pm
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Fresh Face
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At the time I knew him, Bruce didn't yet have any kids, so I surely wouldn't know who their godmother was. :? If she were from the original company, the only one I that I could imagine it might possibly be would be Carol (aka C. Lee). I've lost touch with her and don't know her married name. (I think she did marry and change her name, but I'm not even certain of that.)


Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:18 pm
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No, I doubt she was involved in the original production at all, not even sure if they had known each other at the time...her name is Stanzi Stokes.


Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:54 pm
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Fresh Face
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Almost 4 years after the original post..... :D

In 78 or 79 I did the lighting and general tech stuff for Ameritage at Eastern Montana College in Billings, Montana. Bruce was teaching technical theatre and Phil came from New York to be involved. Bonnie was here as well but I don't remember if she was teaching pottery or not. I'm just not sure. The summer after it was at EMC they took it to Cody, Wyoming, a tourist town and they did Ameritage in an old time bar setting.

I know that Bonnie and Bruce divorced but don't know who they married. Bonnie had a baby and Bruce had twin girls. That is the last thing I knew about the two of them.

I've done a search on the internet for Bruce Cameron and R. Bruce Cameron but don't see any mention of him which surprises me since he was a go getter and I thought I'd find him mentioned all over.


Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:09 pm
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SORRY DONT KNOW IT.

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Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:07 pm
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Post Re: Has anyone ever heard of Ameritage?
Stan Freberg passed away recently. RIP to man of wit, imagination and humor.
It seemed fitting for me to pay the man his "due" in as much as he sparked me to dip my toes into creating new materials for performance. I first heard his outrageous record "The United States of America: The Early Years" while a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I thought it so funny, I actually transcribed the record and staged it for my senior year directing project. That might well be the only "live on stage" performance of the material ever mounted.

After graduating from Miami, and then with an MFA in Theatre from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, I got a job teaching theatre at Alfred University in upstate New York. A trip to NYC offered the chance to see the original "Story Theatre" on Broadway. What a show! I really wanted to direct a production at Alfred, but there was little chance rights would be available for years. So I thought about why "Story Theatre" worked so well. It finally came to me that the material in "Story Theatre" worked because it was all based on Fairy Tales - subject matter that the audience had some knowledge of. The audience knew the overall picture, but the performers had wide latitude to create a unique style of presentation. Now all I had to do was find subject matter that an audience already "knew" and then hope to weave stories with the same wide open style of humor. The only subject matter I could come up with was American history. And thus, the seed for the musical "Ameritage" was planted.

I checked out about 163 books from the Alfred library on American history, and spent two weeks camped out on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario in my VW camper bus. I returned to campus with reams of notes on legal pads, and a desire to somehow edit it all down into a production that would both entertain and educate. And somewhere deep in the memory banks was "The United States of America: The Early Years." So, many thanks to Mr. Freberg, the good, old original casts of "Saturday Night Live" and Firesign Theatre.

The first production was raw, but inspired. The music and songs were all from American idioms - Rock 'n' Roll, Broadway, Country and even a dollop of Cole Porter among others. The cast contributed mightily to the effort. I felt like a manic Ring Master trying to keep a lid on a cauldron of bubbling imagination. We performed it anywhere - large stages, dinner theatre, even outside at a park for a civic picnic in Wellsville, NY. We also did a performance at a children's theatre festival in White Plains, NY. While assured by the promoter that there would be a bare stage for us to perform on, when we arrived on the morning of performance, we discovered that technically, yes, it was a bare stage - meaning no walls. But the stage was full of platforms and stairs that were being used for the school's performance of some Shakespeare play. Uh - oh. 15 minutes of fenzied re-blocking in the greenroom was obviously not going to cut it. My simple solution was to trust my cast. I told the band to just vamp about ten extra minutes of music, and we'd send the cast out to "Warm Up" on stage. They made it work.

The pay off for their hard work came as the lights came up for their curtain call. Cheers and applause from the kids in the audience, and then those kids rushed up onto the stage, recreating their favorite parts of the play. Never seen anything like that before or since. One final note on that performance, Viola Spolin, author of "Improvising for the Theatre, and "Story Theatre" creator Paul Sands mother, was in the audience. She was very impressed.

"Ameritage" came with me out to the cultural frontier when I moved to Billings, Montana, teaching at University of Montana Billings. There was a production mounted though the theatre department, and that led to an invitation for me to run a summer theatre company in Cody, Wyoming. Go with what you know. Rather than a typical "Meller-drama" which I hate, we went against type, presenting a nightly play of American history against the other big attraction in Cody, a nightly rodeo. We succeeded for three straight seasons, actually turning a profit, which confused the producer greatly. I got the idea to have a table on the boardwalk in front of the theatre where we asked our audience to leave comments on the performance they'd just seen. The idea was to find out where they were from, and when engaging passerby's to hawk the show, you'd ask, "Where are you from?" Then, with any luck, you could mention that a family from there had seen the show and really enjoyed it. That worked, but we ended up with a number of really heart-felt comments, which to this day amazes me.

Two quick stories from Cody:
We had a family that came to see the show. They were from Chicago. Mom, Dad and four kids. Mom & Dad wanted to go to the rodeo the next night, but the kids wanted to come back to "Ameritage". The next night, Mom & Dad actually went to the rodeo, but the kids came back to the theatre. The next day they packed up their motorhome and headed to Los Angeles to go to Disneyland. They made it as far as Las Vegas, where the kids demanded they return to Cody so they could see the show one more time. I was surprised to see them, and once hearing their tale comped them all.

Our third season, we had a family from Philadelphia show up one afternoon. They stopped by the theatre to ask fi we were still doing "that American history play." They had passed through Cody three years earlier. They were strolling down the boardwalk one night while we were rehearsing the first season's production. They watched through the open windows. They came back to Cody just to see a full performance - from Philadelphia!

I ended up in LA in 1980, burnt out on college education and its politics. I got a job working on a car crash movie called "The Junkman". Our "bad guy" in the movie was actor Christopher Stone. We hit it off and began rewriting his scenes for the film together. That led to meeting his lovely wife Dee Wallace Stone, E.T.'s mom. And that led the three of us mounting a successful production here in Hollywood. This production looked terrific because Dee knew a lady in the wardrobe department at Warner Brothers Studios. We rented a lot of the Colonial costumes from WB's production of "1776". We had also added a romantic ballad to the scene where George Washington meets Martha "Virginia Valentine". The first half of the song was Martha wondering if she'd ever get married again. The second half had George show up in top hat and tails for a romantic "Fred & Ginger" dance. Our Martha wore a long cloak for the ballad part, and when George showed up, he sipped it off to reveal a wonderful, flowing gown that looked great as she danced. We found a dress at Warners, and it worked just as we'd hope. However, out actress complained that there was something sharp at the waist sticking her as she moved. We turned the dress inside-out, and found a yellowed piece of paper pinned inside. It read, "Miss Rogers".

"Ameritage" has since successfully played at four colleges around the country, each time updated and shaped to play to their particular audience. And, as referenced above, it was even done as a children's production at Stanzi Stokes' Children's Acting Workshop. The shows got legs, I'll say that for it.

Now, after 35 years working in "the Biz" here in Hollywood, as a Production Designer, Construction Coordinator, 13 seasons as Technical Director for USC's Opera Productions, writing for "The New Lassie", "Moonlighting", "Quantum Leap" and even a badly produced (but I got paid) little movie called "Killer Instinct", I'm hanging up the tool belt. Still working on the computer writing new material. It's been a fun ride, and my thanks to all those along the way that have given so much of their talent to "a little show that could".

- Bruce Cameron


Thu Apr 09, 2015 1:51 pm
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