Columnist Tom Morgan wishes to invite you to the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown to meet some of the most colorful and cantankerous characters you can imagine. He'll be at the theater company's facility on East Second Street, in downtown Jamestown, on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Morgan has been known in our area for more than 30 years as the producer of the syndicated radio program ''Tom Morgan's Moneytalk,'' and he has written a column by that same name, which appears weekly in The Post-Journal.
Morgan has written the stories himself, and will be portraying all the colorful characters, as he did a year ago, when he performed the first episode of his stories from his family's past at LBLTJ, which he titled ''Tales from the Empire Hotel.'' This year's performance is another visit to the small town hotel which he and his family operated in the 1970s in Central New York. The new production is called ''More Tales from the Empire Hotel.''
We talked by phone with Morgan, recently, and he told us about the new version of his stories.
''My wife and I had a wonderful time in Jamestown last year. The folks at the theater treated us like visiting royalty. So, when they invited us to return to do some new material, we signed right up,'' he told us. Morgan credits Jim Roselle, whom he met at Chautauqua, where he and his wife visit each summer, for first bringing him and his plays to the attention of the Jamestown community theater.
Morgan was born in Syracuse and led something of a travelling youth, living in various places around the country, then attending college and serving in the U.S. Navy, climaxing in a move to New Zealand, where he met and married his wife, Erna.
They returned to the Empire State when they received news that Morgan's father had gambled away all the family's money and had committed suicide. His grandmother bought the Empire Hotel to be a home and a source of income for his family, and he returned to work every job in the hotel and to help his mother and brothers restore their lives.
''Audience members who attended last year's performance will find that the set is exactly the same,'' Morgan said. ''The stage is divided into three segments: the hotel's tap room, the family's lunch table and a lounge with an old fashioned rocking chair.''
Morgan promises a brief reprise of the material from the earlier play, but nearly everything is new the second time around. ''This year's characters include a poet with a dramatic way of going about things, a pair of brothers who are the polar opposites of one another, a super salesman who just can't help himself deceiving everybody. There's an aunt of mine, who was a nun, and the town thief. We had a customer at the hotel who liked to cluck like a chicken and what may have been the dumbest dog who ever lived, just to name a few,'' he said.
He insists that each episode he describes can stand alone, and those who didn't attend last year or who don't remember last year, won't have any trouble enjoying the new material for itself.
Can we expect any more stories about the Gilbertsville hotel after this performance? He answered, ''Yes. I've finished a third one, and I expect to have a fourth one by the end of the summer. I get the sense that with four plays, I will have pretty much covered all the folks I knew through the hotel, but of course it's good not to ever make a hard and fast rule on things such as that.''
Now that he seems to be on a roll, does Morgan have any other writing on the burner? He responded that he and his wife, Erna Morgan McReynolds, have been talking about creating a series of mystery stories, each set in a different hotel. If they start writing, they plan to set the first one in Chautauqua's monumental Athenaeum Hotel.
Does the playwright have an idea of what has made his youthful stories so successful with audiences? ''I think it's the mixture of types. None of these people are so different that you couldn't believe what they did. But, there was a whole lot of humor, some poignancy, an occasional surprise. Audience members tell me all the time that they know people just like these folks, and that's why they like seeing and hearing about them,'' he said.
Tickets for the two performances of ''More Tales from the Empire Hotel'' are available at the box office of the Lucille Ball Little Theatre or by telephone at 483-1095. The theater is located at 18 E. Second St., in downtown Jamestown.