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The day after generosity

When I was a little girl, everyone around our Thanksgiving table had the last name "Holmgren." My father coveted our privacy and so the Hans Holmgren family always dined alone. At least - until the Thanksgiving of 1958 -  when  relatives from "up north" managed to weasel an invitation. I remember the phone call as if were yesterday. My mother was busy in the kitchen. My father was smoking a pipe and reading the paper at her pinewood table. "Don't answer that!" he warned as she picked up the receiver. "Nothing good ever comes from a telephone call on a holiday!" It was my father's Uncle Oscar and his wife Millie -  people I'd never met. Millie called from a booth in Nisswa.  They were on their way to town when she remembered they had family in the cities. Covering the mouth piece my mother whispered to my father - "You know people in Thief River?" Of course he did.  Uncle Oscar was his father's ol

Top five reasons to honor Halloween

I did it last year.  The year before.  And I'll do it again this year. The children who come to my door on October 31st will meet a hideous old woman, wretched and hidden inside her black, hooded cape; her features smashed by a dark,  opaque stocking, her hands vanished in black socks. She won't speak. Instead, she will gurgle a terrifying, muddled murmur. To the tiny brave ones who dare to step into the eerie, green-lit porch where bats and dismembered bones abound, she will offer marvelous, full-sized chocolate bars. The candy will bring the brave children closer. The timid will be terrified and turn down her candy rather than step into her lair. The neighbors complain When I was in my fifties (yes, when I was fifty-something-years old!) the neighbors began their annual complaint about my Halloween antics. They claimed I take Halloween too far. I don't need to be so frightening - the kids seek only sweets and a soft congratulations for the mother-m

Ghosts in the heartland

My new play is a ghost story. After Elsie dies, she realizes her life was peppered with unfinished business. She returns, hoping to open the doors she closed in life.  Along the way she discovers most of life is "unfinished."  Nothing comes to a conclusion. And no one is irreplaceable. I was only eight-years-old  when my grandfather died.   Oscar was a cranky, difficult Swedish immigrant with little tolerance for childhood. He never learned English; never had to.  Everyone in my family understood the language of rage. Grandpa Oscar died on a cold afternoon in May.  Three weeks later, my cousin Cherry died of acute leukemia. She began to bleed on a Friday afternoon and was dead by Wednesday. My cousin Cherry was eight-years-old.  And so was I.   Death was not proud in that year. My Aunt Olga followed Cherry - and within a few short weeks, another uncle and aunt died together in an automobile accident.   For all of this loss, I was too young to attend fu

Putting the baby to bed

Writing a play is like raising a child. The idea for one comes from someplace other than the intellect. The time for one is nonexistent. The money, enthusiasm, energy and imagination for one emerges when the time is right, and not a moment prior. And the launching of one is as painful as the launching of the other. My new show, EFFIGY, opens tonight. The gestation was about nine months.  The labor was intense; my actors passed through confusion, delusion, illumination and clarity. My mood swings were prolific.  Euphoric at first, self-doubting after the second trimester, and courageous confidence at crowing. Now, my baby takes first steps into the public realm of criticism, review, rejection and celebration. I drink my post-partum tonic from the wings, hoping for the best.  Off we go - into the wild, blue yonder of literature. And motherhood. Fly, little bird.  Fly away. EFFIGY is a big, strong, sassy grown up. Click the image above for ticket informat

Five good reasons to stay single

I know, I know.  You're a little lonely. You're not getting any younger.   The biological clock is ticking, and  all your brothers and sisters are married. So, you're beginning to worry.  Perhaps you've been to fussy.   Maybe you should lower your standards. You know a few acceptable men.  True - none of them ring your chimes.  But maybe you need to revisit your former criteria. Before you make that sows ear into a Gucci bag, consider these five romantic deal breakers. If your guy falls into any of these categories, take a deep breath and step away from the man. 1. He doesn't share your spiritual values.   He loves Krishna and you've got a serious thing for Mohammad.  He  doesn't think old people have immortal souls and wishes men could get pregnant so he could have at least one abortion.  When he was old enough for "Confirmation," he announced his affection for Satanism.  About the same time, he began to test the "nine liv

Her husband is a cheater. Should you tell her?

My mother was twenty-five-years-old when she learned her husband Carlos was an adulterer. Everyone in her small town of Fosston, Minnesota knew - but she didn't have a clue. Later in life she told me how she misread the quiet signs. "Everyone tried to tell me," she said.  "But I didn't want to know." Everywhere she went, she said, picking strawberries, Ladies' Aid meetings, shopping for produce at the fruit market, the other married women treated her with a strange respect. They stopped speaking when she approached.  They whispered as she departed. The ones who knew her best huddled around her, asking again and again if she had any "news." Sometimes, my mother thought she saw pity in their eyes, worry. But hindsight, she said, is always 20/20.. Then, one steamy August afternoon, Carlos came home early from the butcher shop and confessed. He was sleeping with a seventeen-year-old girl named Phyllis.  Phyllis, he told my mothe

Fathers - the best words

 Don't bother.  It's all been said - and better than you could ever say it.   Below - some of our literary giants share insights to paternity - - and I share it with you - on this, our Father's Day, 2013. For my father - who still haunts me.  Rest in peace, Hans. It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.  ~Harper Lee All fathers are invisible in daytime; daytime is ruled by mothers and fathers come out at night. Darkness brings home fathers, with their real, unspeakable power.   ~Margaret Atwood When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. ~Mark Twain Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes. ~Markus Zusak Few sons are like their fathers - man

The best of times, and the best of times.

It's the middle of the night and I'm wide, wild, and wooly awake - - When a person is a playwright, and two of the plays written are about to launch, the playwright often has a difficult time settling down at the end of the day. So it is for me - right now. Two plays - two delights - One, my funny, funny show - SWEET TRUTH - is about to be be "world" launched in Columbia, Missouri at the Berlin Theatre. And two - my show, EFFIGY - not as funny, but certainly humorous - premieres at my own Minneapolis-based Mixed Blood Theatre in August. Of course - a reasonable playwright would sleep well under these conditions. "My work is done," a reasonable person would say. "Time now for Pinot Grigio on the patio at W.A. Frost's." Instead, I'm wide awake, imagining new scripts and new directions. One will be with the Minnesota Historical Society and the commission I'm about to begin on our shared,  new production with Tim Stolz.

Soft, wise words

Confessions of an unrepentant tattletale

You'll get no apology from me.  If you're doing something against the law and I see it?   I'll blow the dang whistle on you. I did it when I worked for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. I did it when I worked for a certain women-serving nonprofit cheating its unsuspecting funders.  And I'll do it again. Consider yourself warned. Don't let me catch you stuffing a box of company paper in your briefcase as you punch out.  I'll tell the boss. If you're one of those unfortunate parents who insists on taking your exhausted toddler to Cub Foods at four o'clock in the afternoon,  you better watch your back. Don't you dare slap that little bink in front of me.  I'll call the frickin' county. I'm one of those moral fruit cakes you've read about. I am a whistleblower. Tattletale as a rightful legacy I come to this odious behavior honestly. My mother - bless her self-righteous soul - trained me in the fine art of r

BELIEFNET blows it. Feminism is NOT a dirty word

Seriously, is the F-word offensive? I'm proud to call myself a feminist  As a playwright and pastor, I was delighted to be offered a new blog on a faith site – but not at the expense of my beliefs Kristine Holmgren   guardian.co.uk ,  Tuesday 12 February 2013 12.14 EST Let me be clear: I'm a feminist playwright and proud of it. I'm also a Presbyterian pastor. I've built a successful career marrying these peculiar, male-defined vocations. When the faith and spirituality site Beliefnet invited me to blog for them, I was delighted. In my circles, Beliefnet is a well-known resource. Writing for them would add national scope to my own website and blog . Blending my unique expertise, I suggested the title: "Notes From a Feminist Pastor". But before the ink was dry on the contract, Beliefnet asked me to delete the word "feminist". A Beliefnet representative wrote to me:

Cranky no more

For almost ten years, I sat in this same chair in this cafe, writing my opinions for the Star Tribune. In those days, I never ran short of criticism. Trained by cranky immigrant Swedes, I grew up watching the world with a wary eye. When I needed to write social criticism, I had little difficulty. Inconsistencies were everywhere.  Lies, failures, shortcomings, and the ever-present flaws of humanity were ready for the picking.  I sat in this little chair and cherry-plucked from the vast and infinite flaws of my little world. Today, I sit in the same little chair in the same little cafe.  I'm sure I'm wearing the same jeans, same sweater I wore fifteen years ago. What I see, however, is far different from what I saw in those early days. Art changes everything Today, my world has no edges.  All the sharp contrasts from the past - the things that inspired me to  charge into righteous indignation - are muted into common effort. Writing for the theater changed me f

BeliefNet tells me to not use the "F" word!!

February 7, 2013 Romenesko Leave a Comment Beliefnet tells writer: Don’t use the word ‘feminist’ on your blog “Guess which Minnesota Playwright was invited to BLOG for Beliefnet? ” Kristine Holmgren wrote on Facebook in early January. “Yup! Your favorite cupcake, me!!! I’m negotiating “terms” right now…!” Beliefnet staffers “were very excited about me” blogging for them,” Holmgren told me on Wednesday, a day after negotiations broke down over use of the word “feminist.” The editors and marketing people “gushed” over her portfolio , which included columns that Holmgren says had been picked up by the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. “I said to them [during a group interview], ‘You’ve got to know that I’m a Presbyterian pastor, but I come to the world as a feminist.’ They said, ‘That’s fabulous. We want a wide range of views on the site.’” (Beliefnet, which was briefly a News Corp. property, was acquired by BN Media in 2010. It

Overheard at a coffee shop; An old woman's wisdom.

When she was a small child, she posed in front of her nursery mirror - fascinated with her reflection.  Sometimes she emulated Betty Davis.  Sometimes Shirley Temple.  When she was old enough, her mother enrolled her in tap dance classes, hoping to channel some of that ham-bone energy into something constructive. It worked.   Twice each year, the tap school dressed her in frilly, fluff-flounced costumes, put her on stage with a dozen other little show-offs,  and together they tapped their way to elementary school stardom. When she turned 13-years-old, her tap-dance gang joined the downtown YWCA where they spent their Saturdays doing something called "creative dramatics." Swimming, archery, bowling and hula absorbed their weekends, and she made new friends who introduced her to neighborhoods and families she might never have met and enjoyed. In high school, she auditioned and was cast in every onstage opportunity. In college, where the competition stiffened, she turn