St. Paul Pioneer Press
Shaking things up in Lake WobegonGarrison Keillor says his movie experiences have made him think about revitalizing his radio show.
By Chris Hewitt
July 31, 2005
The "A Prairie Home Companion" movie that just filmed in St. Paul concerns the end of the radio show. The real show is not ending, but creator/writer/star Garrison Keillor says there may be some changes coming to Lake Wobegon.
"When you do something for a long time, as I have, it becomes difficult to keep yourself in trim," says Keillor, who has been doing the radio show for 31 years and who plays a version of himself, known as G.K., in the movie. "You become slack, but this has been very inspiring. It makes a person resolve to do better when the radio show starts up again in the fall."
The radio show hits the road again for the first couple of weeks in August and begins St. Paul performances with a State Fair show Sept. 2. The "Prairie Home" of the movie is not the same as the radio show. Keillor says it's darker and was influenced by collaborating with the actors (including Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen and Kevin Kline) and director Robert Altman.
Madsen, a big fan of "Prairie Home" and specifically of gumshoe Guy Noir, is relieved to hear Keillor has no plans to say goodbye to the radio program. "I had the impression that maybe Garrison was writing this screenplay as a farewell to the show, because he doesn't like to say goodbye," Madsen says. "But now, I've heard him say that that is not the case and, in fact, he has a lot of plans for the show."
Keillor isn't offering specifics on what those plans may be, but his colleagues on the movie set had a variety of takes on the radio show. Maya Rudolph, the "Saturday Night Live" regular who plays a fictional stage manager in the movie, says, "I had never heard it, but I can get by on the fact that I hadn't heard it because it's on Saturday nights and I'm busy Saturday nights." And veteran character actor L.Q. Jones, who had never even heard of "Prairie Home" until he was asked to be a singer in the movie, says, "I was telling Garrison that let's see, how do I say this without sounding officious? I was saying that the show is not a knee-slapper, but it's warm and comfortable like a quilt."
Will it be less warm and comfortable this fall? Who knows, but Keillor sounds like he's interested in being a little less comfortable.
"This is really good for us, to see this way of working," he says referring to the way the movie brings together a disparate group of artists to create something together. "On our show, we're in a weird position of doing a show that doesn't exactly have direct competition. I can't name other shows that do the same thing, so we operate without the benefit of competition."
The danger of that, Keillor says, "is that we're this little, quiet pond, undisturbed. Sort of like a museum piece. Except we don't want to be a museum piece. Listening to the radio is not a normal thing. We have to get millions of people to do something that is not normal. So we have to continue to work to deserve the attention of the millions of people who listen.