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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Belle’ star takes break to return to ‘ER’ for finale

Ellen Crawford has had to cancel three performances of Interplayers’ “The Belle of Amherst” this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – but for an excellent reason.

She has been called back to L.A. to appear in the much-anticipated finale of NBC’s “ER.” She played nurse Lydia Wright for more than nine years in that medical series. The show is bringing back some former characters for the final episode.

Those holding tickets to the canceled shows can exchange them for other performances. Crawford will still be doing 10 performances, including one today at 2 p.m. and resuming again on Saturday.

“The Belle of Amherst,” a one-woman show about poet Emily Dickinson, will continue through March 14. Call (509) 455-7529 for tickets.

Crawford, by the way, uttered the very first words of “ER” in 1994: “Dr. Green, Dr. Green. A patient is waiting for you, Dr. Green.”

Maybe she’ll speak the final words as well.

Digital TV survival

The digital TV conversion is nearly two weeks old and … the republic has survived.

Which is not to say that everything went perfectly smoothly in the Spokane market.

The Spokane DTV Hotline, manned by the Spokane stations, received around 1,300 calls on Feb. 18, the first full day of the conversion.

On Feb. 19, the volume dropped to 350. On Feb. 20, it went down to 150 calls. Calls to local stations have since slowed to a trickle.

According to Claude Kistler, general manager of KSPS, most of the calls were about tuning, scanning and antennas. The majority of them ended with the problem solved.

A lot of calls also came from people who watch TV via translators, which are still analog. Some of those problems were easily resolved as well.

Other problems were not so simple to overcome. The new digital signals have more “shadows” – places where the signals are blocked by mountainous terrain – so the signals do not cover 100 percent of their former area.

That means people in some places, like parts of North Idaho, may have to switch to a rooftop antenna – or, in some cases, cable or satellite.

Big, big bubbles

Spokane’s “bubbillusionist” Jarom Watts broke two Guinness world records on Feb. 21 at the Lincoln Center in Spokane: the world’s largest soap bubble and the world’s longest bubble chain.

Preliminary calculations indicate that Watts’ bubble encompassed 483 cubic feet. He said a math professor is still confirming those calculations – a bubble is not an easy thing to measure.

Yet Watts has plenty of wiggle room. The old record was only 105 cubic feet.

The longest bubble chain record is easier to quantify. Watts made a chain of 15 bubbles, beating the old record of nine.

He plans to submit both records to Guinness and should know within a few weeks if they have been accepted.

Interstate Fair lineup

Fans of classic ’60s pop should be pleased with a couple of names in the 2009 Spokane County Interstate Fair entertainment lineup:

Glen Campbell, Sept. 15.

Beach Boys, Sept. 16.

This is a fitting pairing, since Glen Campbell was a Beach Boy, briefly, in 1965 (he filled in for Brian Wilson).

The schedule also features country star Rodney Atkins on Sept. 14. Keep an eye out for ticket information.

Mildred Bailey redux

We now have a date for Spokane singer Julia Keefe’s sneak preview of her upcoming tribute concert, “Thoroughly Modern: Mildred Bailey Songs.”

The concert will be at the Kubiak Theatre at Gonzaga Prep, March 16, 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students, through TicketsWest outlets (325-SEAT, 800-325-SEAT,

Keefe and collaborator Tom Molter are putting together the show for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on April 11. But they wanted to do a warm-up concert in Spokane first.

Bailey, a jazz pioneer, was born in Tekoa, Wash., and raised in Spokane.

By the way, I just visited the Experience Music Project in Seattle. Bailey’s photo is displayed there, right along with other state musical icons Bing Crosby and Jimi Hendrix.

‘Bridge to Terabithia’

The Spokane Children’s Theatre opens its next show on Saturday: “The Bridge to Terabithia,” based on the children’s classic.

Bryton Mart in and Ellie McDonald play the lead roles; Reed McColm directs.

It runs through March 22 at Spokane Community College’s Lair Auditorium, 1810 N. Greene St.

Tickets are available through TicketsWest outlets and at the door. Check www.spokanechildrenstheatre .org for more info.

‘Tastes Like Chicken’

The Woodlands Community Theatre, one of the cultural treasures of Kettle Falls and Stevens County, has come up with a tasty-sounding idea for a new show: “Tastes Like Chicken,” a full-length musical about food.

Local composer Tom Hart wrote all 20 songs. I love the names of the some of them: “Beer in the Ice Cream,” and “Dear Rachael Ray.”

The cast, crew and orchestra are all local as well, of course.

It runs Friday through March 22 at the Woodlands Theatre in Kettle Falls. Tickets are available by calling (509) 684-8515 or at Main Street Floral, 107 N. Main St., Colville.

College theater alert

Some of the best theater in the region takes place at our colleges, and we have two particularly promising productions coming up:

•“Museum,” by Tina Howe, Friday through March 14 at Whitworth University, Cowles Memorial Auditorium. This critically acclaimed 1976 play depicts the works of three fictional artists and explores the public’s reaction to their art. Call (509) 777-3707, or go to /theatretickets.

•“Othello,” by William Shakespeare, Thursday through March 15 at Spokane Falls Community College’s Spartan Playhouse. Aaron Lee Lewis plays Othello and Andrew Parish plays Iago. The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., next Sunday at 2 p.m., March 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m., and March 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or at For more stories by Jim Kershner, see columnists.
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