FONT

MORE STORIES


Mark and Helena Greathouse have fun sharing details of their wide-ranging lives



Photo Credit: AMMON RILEY/FOR THE REGAL COURIER - Mark and Helena Greathouse's performance of 'You Do Speak English, Don't You?' includes a compelling story, some great music and many costume changes, all used effectively to tell the story of how they met and married.Very few people can turn eventful moments and experiences in their lives into a song-and-dance act like Helena and Mark Greathouse have done.

An atypical couple – she is from Czechoslovakia and he is from Oregon – who had an improbable meeting on a bus, they have turned parts of their life story into a delightful one-hour show that they appropriately named, “You Do Speak English, Don’t You?”

The title comes from Helena’s experiences being misunderstood at times when she was speaking English and was asked what language she was using.

In the delightful and often-humorous show, the Summerfield residents alternate telling their story, with Helena singing songs, including some written by Mark, who plays the accordion. When she goes offstage to change costumes, he entertains the audience with additional stories and music.

The show showcases Helena’s singing and dancing skills and Mark’s composing and playing talents.

One of their performances took place Sept. 13 at the Beaverton History Center in downtown Beaverton, where a crowd enjoyed hearing their story and seeing the show.

Helena kicks off the show singing “Cabaret” while wearing a slinky black dress and red boa, and the story starts with Mark, who, having majored in German in college, moves to the beautiful city of Hamburg, Germany, for a year to improve his language skills. Being an accomplished accordion player, Mark rented an accordion to play for relaxation.

As Mark talks about his love for Hamburg, Helena reappears wearing a traditional German red, white and blue costume, complete with ruffles and a full skirt.

As students at the University of Hamburg, they both signed up to take a one-day bus trip to northern Germany to see mummified bogmen, who fell into bogs more than 2,000 years ago and were preserved. “That bus ride would change the course of my life,” Mark says.

Helena dons a blue Slovak apron over her costume in anticipation of singing a Slovak “czardas” as the story continues.

On the bus, Helena was anxious to talk to Americans to get their opinions on the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

The timing of their meeting was fortuitous, because Mark explains, “I had just broken up with my German girlfriend the day before. She wanted me to grow out a full beard, and I shaved it off that morning in protest.”

Helena picks up the story, saying, "Luckily for you! Otherwise, we would have talked about the election and nothing else.”

Photo Credit: AMMON RILEY/FOR THE REGAL COURIER - Mark and Helena Greathouse's show includes recreating some of their conversations that actually took place, including the first one when they met on a bus in Germany on the way to see 2,000-year-old mummified bogmen.Sitting on the stage, the couple recreates their first conversation on the bus before their story really takes off, highlighting their performances together in a café and teaching each other about their cultures.

“I was curious if Helena knew anything about the accordion, which she didn’t, so I taught her about it,” adds Mark, demonstrating what an accordion can do.

As Helena’s costume changes reflect the various parts of their lives, Mark continues the story, saying, “After a year and a half, we were married,” and a man in the Beaverton audience said, “Wow!” causing other audience members to laugh.

Almost like a magician pulling rabbits out of a top hat, Helena pulls out props to illustrate their story.

After the couple was married, Mark was anxious to show Helena his country, and they moved first to California and then to Oregon, where Helena’s language problems increased exponentially.

She kept seeing signs in stores that read, “No checks accepted,” and she wondered, Why not Germans? Why not Polish people?

And Helena hated to call people on the phone because they usually would hang up or say she had the wrong number, and she kept being accused of not speaking English.

One time while they were staying at a beach motel, she went to the reception desk to ask if they received PBS programs on Channel 10 and was told that breakfast was served in the lobby until 10 a.m.

For some reason, many people thought Helena was speaking Spanish instead of English with a Czech accent, and she sometimes was asked, “You do speak English, don’t you?” which became the name of their show.

But in real life and in the show, Mark and Helena decide to laugh off the experiences, with her singing, “Who Cares?”

Mark adds, “Don’t take life too seriously…” and Helena bursts into song, “Because life is a cabaret, old chum, so come to the cabaret.”