Don’t ask Garrison Keillor what will be on Saturday’s “A Prairie Home Companion Show,” being broadcast live from Rochester, because he hasn’t rewritten it yet.
“I have no idea what we’re going to do,” Keillor said in a phone call last week. “But I’m convinced that on Wednesday, I’ll start to have an idea, and on Thursday, I’ll write it, and on Friday, I’ll rewrite it.”
Keillor does know who the guests will be. Rochester’s own Choral Arts Ensemble and a bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, will join the show’s regular cast and crew — Tim Russell, Sue Scott, sound effects wizard Fred Newman — for the show at Mayo Civic Center.
But even the Choral Arts Ensemble, making its “A Prairie Home Companion” debut, does not yet have a set song list, if Keillor can be believed.
“They’re a very flexible choir,” Keillor said. “They seem to be ready for everything. I’m going to write new lyrics for songs, and they haven’t even asked me which ones yet.”
The show will be rehearsed Friday, fine-tuned during a run-through, and on Saturday morning, Keillor said, “I’ll get up early and start thinking about Lake Wobegon.” He might do that thinking while strolling through downtown Rochester to one of his favorite eateries for breakfast.
Keillor, after all, is no stranger to Rochester. Since undergoing open-heart surgery in 2001 at Mayo Clinic, he has returned regularly for checkups and treatment (including for a stroke in 2009). “Mayo is really an amazing place,” he said. The worldwide radio audience will no doubt be treated to Mayo-related stories and jokes as Keillor delivers what he said will be a “geography lesson” about Rochester.
“A Prairie Home Companion” was last broadcast from Rochester in 2010. Before that, the show was here in 2006. And with Keillor, now 72, brushing aside any talk of retirement, chances are it will be back in another four years, or less.
“If I had some major health catastrophe, I’d be lying whimpering by the side of the road like anyone else,” he said. “Barring that, one just keeps going.”
Besides, he still gets a kick out of bringing Minnesota, and the news from Lake Wobegon, to the world each week.
“The show is a lot of fun to do,” Keillor said. “I enjoy my work more than I ever did in the past. It’s a lucky turn that comes to you when you’re older and a late bloomer. If you feel you still have your best work ahead of you, then retirement seems perverse, almost.”
Especially when there’s still a Rochester show to rewrite.
If you go
What: “A Prairie Home Companion” live radio broadcast
When: 4:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive S.E., Rochester.
Tickets: $49, $39, $27, $16, available at the civic center box office (no service charge), and through Ticketmaster outlets, including Rochester Walmart stores, and at 800-745-3000.