WORTHINGTON — A thoughtful and seasoned Garrison Keillor is set to appear at Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“An Evening with Garrison Keillor” will include Keillor at his story-telling best; expect songs, poetry and perhaps Lake Wobegon updates, along with musical expertise in his pairing with Richard Dworsky, former music director of Keillor’s famed stage and radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.”
“One goes out on a spirit of hope,” offered Keillor via a recent phone interview. “Rich and I have worked together for 30 years, so he knows everything I’ve ever done. We go out on stage and start with whatever is at the top of my mind and move on from there.”
Keillor is in the midst of a multi-month touring swing. His performance venues are strewn far and wide across the nation, ranging from the renowned Birdland Jazz Club in Manhattan to San Francisco to New York, Massachusetts and, yes, Worthington.
“I do the show for everybody who is there, and the audience is my responsibility,” said Keillor, whose “A Prairie Home Companion” ran from 1974-2016. It was nationally broadcast from 1980 on.
“I’m responsible for giving all of them a good time, for making them laugh and feel good — and I do that wherever I go.”
It’s far from Keillor’s first time performing in a small town, much less in Worthington.
“I’ve been to Worthington a number of times,” he volunteered. “We did the show there in the mid-’70s while on a bus tour, and several times after that.”
Keillor mentioned a local connection in that the late Jim Vance, a longtime Daily Globe publisher, was a personal friend.
“And I grew up out in the country, and I’m grateful for that,” Keillor added. “There’s something about rural and small towns that offer independence to young people. I don’t know if I could live in the country now, but it was a wonderful place to grow up.”
Thankfulness is a common theme for Keillor, 77, these days.
“My interest has changed dramatically,” he said. “I once considered myself a satirist — I would hold up the ridiculous and ridicule it — but I don’t feel that way anymore; I feel gratitude.
“I think the heart of what I have to tell people is about my gratitude for the goodness of life,” he continued.
“I’m in the midst of writing my memoir, so all of this is now in the front of my mind, but I particularly like to talk about the loveliness of growing up in the country where you become independent at a younger age — and I like to talk about teachers.”
Keillor proceeded to name a handful of teachers from his youth who “made a huge difference” in his life, even though he claims to have been unaware of their impact at the time.
“I was so lucky,” Keillor said.
“I had a wonderful speech teacher, and an English teacher who required us to memorize poems and several Shakespeare sonnets; ‘When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state,’” Keillor quoted before wryly adding, “That one comes in handy at times.”
Ever a wide-ranging thinker and natural storyteller, Keillor noted he considers himself primarily a writer and explained that he admires scientists and those who don’t give up.
“I am a writer; that’s what I do, and I do it every day,” said Keillor, the author of more than a dozen books (many of them best-sellers) and a former bookstore owner. “Writing is something I will do until I lose my mind.
“Occasionally I go out in front of an audience because I think that’s a healthy thing for a writer, but I’m not an actor; I go out as myself.
“I’m interested in talking about gratitude because it’s … interesting, and a natural subject for someone who is 77,” he continued. “I’m still alive, thanks to medical science that wasn’t around when my uncles grew older, so I’m older now than any of my uncles lived to be, and I’m grateful for that.”
Tammy Makram, managing director of Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, said booking Keillor was a no-brainer when the opportunity presented itself.
“We pride ourselves on bringing a variety of shows to Memorial Auditorium, so when the chance arose to bring Garrison Keillor here, we jumped at it,” said Makram. “Especially with the talented Rich Dworsky on piano, we’re looking forward to bringing a taste of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ right into our own little Lake Wobegon with a bit of singing, much laughter and a lot of storytelling.”
Judging by a nearly half-hour interview with the articulate and voluble Keillor, storytelling next Saturday night is a certainty.
Flowing through his musings about a lanky Massachusetts teenager who recently filled his rental car with gas (“’Fill it up with regular,’ I told him; I haven’t said those words since I was in my 40s,” Keillor said) to his memories of Anoka in the early days of its rise as the “Halloween Capital of the World” (“I saw the last living Civil War veteran from Minnesota in the Halloween parade there — Albert Olson, probably 105, from Duluth, an ancient man in the backseat of a convertible,”) to young men tipping over outhouses (“That was a particularly vicious form of vandalism,” he chuckled), Keillor seems poised to entertain as thoroughly as he ever did during his decades of success on a national radio platform.
“One realizes there are small events in your life — maybe a day at school when an accidental lucky occurrence took place and you look back years later and see how it changed your life — that’s really the heart of what I’m doing in a show like this,” Keillor said. “Onward we go.”
“An Evening with Garrison Keillor,” with musical accompaniment by Richard Dworsky, takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13 th St., Worthington. Tickets are available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays at the box office, by calling 376-9101 or by visiting friendsoftheauditorium.com. Discounted prices are available through next Friday. Prior to the show, live music will be shared in the lobby and Round Lake Winery will be offering beverages for purchase.