When people think of Idaho, they often think of it as a cultural desert.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just look at what's available in Mountain Home, alone.
This weekend, theater-goers are being treated to a one-man play written by Patrick McManus and starring Tim Behrens. McManus is hilarious and Behrens does a wonderful job bringing his characters to life. If you miss it, you're missing a truly enjoyable evening.
That play is one of the many offerings brought into the community each year by the Mountain Home Arts Council. They do a good job bringing a little culture into our small town.
And the high school theater arts program, though its Encore Co., just keeps getting better and better. They just got through with "James and Giant Peach," and if you had little kids you should have taken them. There's something about live theater that stands head and shoulders above television. Encore Co. does several plays a year. Check them out. The kids do a good job and your support by showing up for one of their quality shows would be well appreciated. It can make for a fun and enjoyable "alternative activity" evening.
At little culture never hurt anyone.
We're also moving into the concert season for the high school bands and choirs. Most parents try to show up for those shows -- and the holiday concerts given by the elementary kids -- but at the high school level you're looking at some genuine quality here.
The choral programs are regionally renowned and we've got some kids here who have beautiful voices.
This school district has an excellent music program and by the time the kids get to high school they're starting to sound pretty polished.
We'll be promoting when the holiday concert season begins for the schools, and when you see one of the high school concerts on the calendar, make some time to go see these kids, even if you're not a parent. They're really worth attending and would be music to your ears.
One of the reasons I like living in Mountain Home is the fact that I enjoy a nice, quiet, comfortable "small-town" lifestyle, but I'm only 30 minutes away from Boise, where the cultural offerings are truly astounding. When I lived in big cities, I'd spend a lot more time in the car driving to a play or a ballet or a concert than I do now.
Boise, for example, supports two high quality ballet companies, and over the years some of the kids from the local dance studio have actually performed in some of their shows, specifically, "The Nutcracker" put on by Idaho Ballet each Christmas.
There's also the Boise Master Chorale, which has several members from Mountain Home and Elmore County. And if you're into vocal performances, Idaho Opera Theatre is genuinely first rate.
The Boise Philharmonic is excellent, featuring some truly exceptional musicians. I've always believed if you like music, you'll eventually come to appreciate the classical masters, and the philharmonic is a great venue for experiencing them in their full glory.
My wife and I enjoy live theater and Boise's offerings are as good as any around. The Morrison Center brings in each year the national touring companies of major Broadway productions. You're literally seeing some of the best contemporary theater in the country, at ticket prices below Broadway scale. Over the years we've enjoyed such productions as "Miss Saigon," "The Producers" (it was roll-in-the-aisles funny) and "Mama Mia!" The latter was hilarious and ten times better than the movie. Nothing beats live theater.
The Morrison Center is considered to be one of the world's best theaters in terms of acoustics and some of the world's top performers look forward to appearing there.
When you add in Taco Bell Arena and the Idaho Center, you've got venues that draw some of the best "name" entertainment in the country to the Treasure Valley.
Just this week, for example, Cirque du Soleil's has brought its production of "Alegria" to Taco Bell Arena. I've seen some of the other Cirque du Soleil shows and they're literally indescribable, a unique combination of circus aerial acrobatics, ballet and something I can't describe, but the images they create will last a lifetime.
It's just an example of the world-class cultural performances readily available in this area.
In addition, Boise alone supports more than half a dozen community and repertory theaters. My favorite is Knock-em Dead Theater, which I'll stack up against any rep theater in the country. It performs both musicals (their "Fiddler on the Roof" a couple years ago was as good as any I've ever seen -- on stage or film), and comedies. But what makes it unique is that it's a dinner theater. You sit at a comfortable table, get a great meal, and enjoy a very intimate theater experience since there isn't a seat in the house that isn't more than 100 feet from the stage.
Boise Little Theater and a host of smaller theater companies all add to the cultural charm of the area we live in and they all produce quality entertainment.
Then there's the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, which performs more than just Shakespeare, in a unique outdoor setting where people can watch the show from blankets on the grass to tables where they can eat ordered meals -- or bring their own food and spirits. It's a fun, special experience.
If you're into art, there are some great art galleries in the area, and the Boise Museum of Art is top class.
Maybe you like museums. Besides the Idaho History Museum, which is well worth the trip -- especially during the summer "Museum Comes to Life" event -- there's the Black History Museum nearby, a rock and gem museum, a small antique car museum, the historic state penitentiary has become a nice museum and if you're into airpower the extra 30 minutes to Nampa is well worth it to view the Warhawk Air Museum.
I guess my point is, from quality local offerings to literally world-class entertainment and experiences less than an hour's drive away, if you have any cultural inclinations at all, you can't be disappointed by what you can find in this oasis of culture in the desert.
If culture really does fill the soul, then living in the Treasure Valley can be quite fulfilling.
You just have to look -- and give it a chance.