July 14, 2008

A Truly Silly Tribute to Monty Python

By Mark Agee, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Jul. 14--GRAPEVINE -- Sheela Kadam knows how she developed her "warped sense of humor."

As a child growing up in England, she would sneak downstairs after her bedtime and watch Monty Python's Flying Circus with her older brother.

When she moved to the United States in 1989, Kadam was shocked to run into so many fans of the classic British comedy troupe in Grapevine.

"Fans actually seem to take it more seriously over here. They have a real cult following," said Kadam, an owner of the British Emporium in Grapevine. "You can usually tell who's a fan because they'll use Python quotes in conversation."

It's for those fans that she started the Monty Python Madness Charity Festival. The second annual festival is Friday through Sunday at the Emporium and sites around Main Street in Grapevine.

Events include a live tribute show at the Palace Arts Center and an interactive screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail at midnight Saturday.

"I hope people will bring coconuts to bang together," she said. (If you've never seen the movie, bring a coconut shell cut in half. You'll get the joke later.)

There are also opportunities to take a picture with a Viking or a lumberjack, make a half-mile Silly Walk down Main Street and participate in an Argument Clinic.

"You would be surprised how many people will pay $5 to have an argument," Kadam said. "It's going to be a bunch of very silly things and a lot of fun."

The festival will raise money for the Joey Wilkins Foundation, a Grapevine-based organization that helps the newly disabled remodel their homes and adjust their lives. The foundation has funded more than $250,000 in such work since its founding.

The founder of the organization, whose name is now Joey Schlapkohl, said Kadam offered the proceeds from the festival.

"I've known Sheela since before my accident," said Schlapkohl, who was paralyzed in a fall in 1999. "She's like a cheerleader for me, or a little angel."

Schlapkohl works for the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is helping promote the festival.

Bureau spokeswoman Lisa McGowan said Main Street is papered with posters and fliers, so pedestrians shouldn't be shocked by the sight of a mob, some in costume, performing a half-mile silly walk.

Schlapkohl said she wasn't familiar with Monty Python until she attended a private screening of a 10-minute promotional video made by Kadam and the group of local actors who are participating in the tribute show.

The premise of the video, which can be found on YouTube by searching for "Monty Python Grapevine," is that Grapevine was founded by Python characters who fled persecution in Europe.

"I was dying laughing," Schlapkohl said. "It really is something special."

Online: british-emporium.com


Monty Python Madness The charity festival runs Friday through Sunday.

Most events are at the British Emporium, 140 N. Main St.

Some performances are at the Palace Arts Theater, 300 S. Main St.

Information: 817-421-2311

Festival schedule: www.british-emporium.com


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