Monday, March 20, 2023

Happy Spring!


First flower of spring in my garden!

Today at precisely at 5:24, the Earth balanced and spring arrived. I think she arrived quite regally with a day of sunshine and garden crocuses that are on the very brink of blooming. I did have one bloom a couple of weeks ago…a tiny little flower which was, to me, a harbinger of spring.

Where did the winter go? It was quite an easy one with a few snowfalls, a bit of cold weather, and an abundance of gray clouds. The ice fishermen had just one week to drag buckets and tents out to our lakes and collect a few fish for a Friday night fish fry. I know Aaron looks forward to ice fishing more than anyone I know. Even as a kid he could sit outside down on our frozen pond for hours…fish or no fish. Some years the ice is so clear for skating as well as for fishing, but it all fell a bit short this year. I am sure many of you feel winter was just long enough. For me, though, I didn’t finish all my winter, indoor projects. Well, I guess, there is always next winter!

This past weekend was another music and story filled weekend starting with open mic at the new 6 on James. I was anxious to see the new location for 6 Autumns. For the past several years, I have loved listening to folk music and attending the jams. Last month Carolyn and I signed up with our friend, Ken, and played and sang with our ukes. (Is this our new band, I ask?) We were going to sign up last Thursday, but we became a little intimidated with the new space and surroundings. Ah, maybe next month we will be braver and actually take the ukes out of the car!

Friday night was Herman’s Hermits at the T. Furth Center for the Performing Arts. It was a great concert. I attended with my friend, Jan, and I think we stood and sang the entire time. Yes, we knew all the songs! I have such a new fondness for the Furth Center. Oh, I have always loved it, but now that I spend four nights a week there in rehearsal, I feel a special kindred spirit for the place.

On Saturday, once again, Carolyn and I climbed into my Jeep, Lola, and set off in search of more music and stories. (Can one really ever get enough?) We stopped at the Pizza Hut south of Fort Wayne to join the Fort Wayne Ukulele Club. Long tables were put together to seat over 25 players from all over the region. It was great meeting new folks, playing new songs and letting the joy of music just wash over us. “We will be back,” we called out to our new friends as we loaded the Jeep back up and headed to Indianapolis.

My friend, Patrick Ball, was on the last leg of his tour with his magnificent harp. Patrick lives in Ireland, in County Clare to be exact. During his performance at the History Center sponsored by Storytelling Arts of Indiana, we were mesmerized by his Celtic stories and his pure command of the harp. It was an exquisite evening with just enough energy left to enjoy a late-night salon dinner party at Ellen’s with Patrick and other Indy friends telling stories late into the night.

By Sunday morning Carolyn and I packed to come home, and Patrick packed to go back to Ireland. I was so happy to introduce her to Patrick. I knew she would love his music and stories.

This week finds the rehearsal sign back of both doors. (Do not be offended if you drop by this week and see the signs. Of course, if you need in, come on in, but please tiptoe!)

I am putting the final touches on my Indiana Landmarks and Storytelling Arts show for next Sunday. If you are inclined, I am performing this on Sunday at 3:00 at the Indiana Landmarks building in Indianapolis. This piece is on the Eagles Theatre in Wabash who just received the Cook Cup. I have loved this research…I always do. If you decide to come down, let me know, and I will save a ticket for you!

After my own rehearsal every day, I am back at the Furth with the students for our Hitchcock shows which opens March 30.

As I said, it is a week of music and stories…perfect for the rites of spring!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Eagles Theatre

Indiana Landmarks was founded in 1960 to preserve significant buildings in Indiana. The organization has grown and is one of the finest state-run organizations in our county. The main office is in Indianapolis, and there are eight satellite offices.

We are so fortunate to be under the umbrella of Indiana Landmarks for our own Historic Preservation Commission which is volunteer driven. I have been a part of this commission for many years seeking to improve and maintain our beautiful downtown.

Indiana Landmarks partnered with Storytelling Arts of Indiana to not only preserve structures, but to preserve the stories within the buildings. This program is called “If These Walls Could Talk.”

In 2007 Indiana Landmarks inaugurated the Cook Cup to be given to, “the owner who follows the highest standards of restoration in transforming a significant historic building, with positive impact on the neighborhood or community.” This prestigious award is given once a year with a presentation of an engraved silver cup and much fanfare.

Over the years, Indiana Landmarks has carefully chosen the winner, and at times the competition was quite active! Once the Cook Cup has been announced, the search also goes out to a storyteller to write and tell the story of the building! I have been so fortunate to have been awarded these story opportunities over the years. I have researched and told stories of the Charley Creek Inn in Wabash, the Bass Mansion in Fort Wayne, and the Shrewsbury House in Madison. These presentations have been a complete labor of love for me with on-site visits, hours spent sifting and sorting through boxes, and much on-line research through As a storyteller, I am given complete artistic freedom to research and write these stories. I am honored to work on these projects, and very humbled to spend the hours and days in trying to actually tell the stories. Once in a while, folks have lived in these structures so I can tell the story through their eyes.

This year the Cook Cup was given to The Eagles Theatre in Wabash for their massive restoration through the Honeywell Center. I am honored to research and tell the story of the Eagles Theatre. Upon my first on-site visit to Wabash, I spent the day with Cathy Gatchel, the Chief Development Officer for Honeywell, Arts and Entertainment. Cathy spent the full day with me touring the theatre including all the nooks and crannies. My favorite part of this marvelous tour was the stage floor which was original to 1906. Cathy said they debated long and hard whether or not to replace the floor, but in the end, it was saved. Walking across that floor I could hear the echo of the thousands of folks who danced, who sang, who lectured across those wooden floors. I knew then the stage floor would be the focus of my story.

The Honeywell Foundation purchased the Eagles Theatre in 2010 to help save and preserve this historic movie theatre. When the purchase was made, the theatre was in great disrepair. The upper floors were closed. The heating and air conditioning did not work properly. The balcony was closed for safety. It was then they decided on the restoration project in the amount of 16 million dollars, and it is spectacular.

It now operates as a movie theatre, a Media Arts program for high school students, offices, meeting rooms, classroom and balcony suites. The theatre is open for business every night showing the newest (and oldest) films available!

At the end of the day, I walked across the street to the Charley Creek Inn, one of my favorite places to stay! The staff knew I was coming to research once again, and I was given a room which looked out onto the Eagles Theatre marquee. With darkness coming early in December, my room was lit with the colorful marquee. I had dinner in the Cole Porter room and headed back over to the Eagles Theatre for the evening movie. As I crossed the street, snow was coming down, the Christmas lights of the city were vibrant. I felt as if I, too, were in a movie such as “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

My story premieres in Indianapolis at the end of March. With special thanks to Indiana Landmarks and Storytelling Arts of Indiana, and the Honeywell Foundation, I will take the stage and tell the stories. Come on down, be part of our Indiana history, and find out who did dance on that stage!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Lights, Camera, Action....


Lights! Camera! Action! And here we go again! Last semester was my first rodeo with the Trine Theatre. I must admit I didn’t know exactly how it would all work out. I mean, really, who does “Dracula” for their first university experience? I used to dream about the play, the students, well, everything for that matter. I have this rather interesting way of pushing theatre into my dreams and waking up in the night after a dream, or a nightmare. In my dream, it seemed as if we work and work and on opening night, when the curtains opened, the cast just stands there not knowing what to do or what to say. That is definitely in the nightmare mode!!! Luckily for me, that nightmare did not come true.

Directing “Dracula” was a dream come true for me, and I loved every moment of it. Every rehearsal, every thing that went wrong, and everything that just fell into place. We definitely had a great time. When the show closed, I could not imagine getting rid of Dracula’s coffin so it sits nicely in my office at school. (Great place for napping, FYI!)

What happens after the first play? There is a second play! I had a lot of fun choosing this one as I knew I wanted to do something quite different from ”Dracula” so I went with “Alfred Hitchcock, a 1940’s Radio Show.” This show is unique with costumes from the 1940’s, sound effects, and over the top acting. To my wonderful surprise, most of the cast from “Dracula” showed up for the auditions. I was thrilled, and I was already in love with them so it made it so easy. A few new students came into our company as well to make for a very well-rounded cast.

We started early so we built in a few days for some fun. One night, Jacob McNeal (assistant director) and I played an old-time radio show for them so they could hear what it sounded like. Perhaps it is a bit like sitting around the laptop and listening to a podcast. Maybe? It was inspiring to listen to the wonderful sounds of radio while sharing it with the cast. Tonight, we are sharing a Hitchcock film in honor of Valentine’s Day, which is today. It does seem a rather odd choice for a day full of love, but that is exactly what we are doing!

We are all familiar with the name Alfred Hitchcock. Most of us know his famous movie, “The Birds” which was released on the big screen in 1963. The story is based on the book of the same title written by Daphne de Maurier. But Hitchcock was involved in radio and theatre long before that movie. His first known interview was in March of 1937. It was a twenty-minute debate on Shakespeare and aired on the BBC.

A year later, on his first visit to the United States, he again participated in a panel discussion of The Cinema: The Director’s Job.

Not only did Hitchcock push his work forward during the radio hour with his mysteries, he was a huge fan of murder and mayhem and was especially fond of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

We are so happy to bring this fun piece to you in live theatre. In our theatrical rendition of the radio hour, we are bringing you three of Hitchcock’s most popular radio shows, and we are so excited to bring this to you.

With rehearsals four nights a week, an overly zealous costume designer (Kat), and Jacob as my assistant, it is sure to be a favorite event for the entire family.

The performance will take place at the T. Furth Center for the Performing Arts on March 30 and 31 at 7:30. You can catch a matinee on April 1 at 2:30.

In the words of Hitchcock, "I'm a little worried about mysteries these days.  I think we're getting altogether too many sinister looking butlers, hands coming through sliding panels and such.  You see, I'm interested in people, in characters . . . horrible characters.  I like to crawl inside a man's mind if I can possibly do so, and find out what makes him behave like a madman.”

In our radio show, the characters will come to life, as all good theatre does, and you will be able to crawl in the mind of a madman or two! Or just have a great time! See you at the show!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Pure sap...


My first batch of sap after four days of collecting and boiling, but isn't it beautiful?

Monday, February 06, 2023

The miracle of spring...


The text from Nate Simons came late last week. His words were simple but powerful. “It is time to tap our trees, what day is good for everyone?” Does this mean spring is coming or that winter is ending soon? (Forget about that groundhog!) We send our messages back and decide on Sunday afternoon at 2:00.

My neighborhood is just the best, the very best. We do neighborhood parties almost every month, spend a full day in the Autumn making cider and apple dumplings, bring the sprinklers and picnic baskets out for the summer events, and now back to collecting sap for our maple syrup.

To be honest (very honest), making maple syrup, at least for me, is not a way to save any money. Oh, not at all. By the time I burn my favorite pots (yes, I have done that), and boil and boil sap for days and days, there is no money to be saved. I do not collect sap to help out my bank account, but I do it for the fun of it (what’s that boiling on your stove, guests ask!), and because I am part of this wonderful neighborhood.

We gather on Sunday at 2:00. I have my two buckets washed and ready to go, and my wagon is cleared of the Autumn debris! I use my wagon to carry my buckets up and down the street. We gather in Nate’s backyard where he also has twenty or more buckets washed and ready to go. The spiles are in containers and the tubing has already been cut to the right size. We gather and laugh and joke around and then Nate welcomes us. We have questions as this winter has been quite strange, weather wise. He tells us that they were tapping in LaGrange county in January. He thought we should wait, though, and we did. He asks if any of us have any syrup from last year. Only a few hands go up. I put my hand up halfway as I am really stingy with my syrup. It still sits in the back of my refrigerator. It is beautiful to look at…golden yellow. Yes, I will share, but for now I just want to look at my jars from last year. The very first jar I ever made is sealed and sits in the cupboard with a note, “Do not use.” I read a poem once about that very same thing. The poem, by Donald Hall, talks about his grandfather’s maple syrup and finding jars in the cellar after his death. My kids will have to fight over that one jar of syrup!!

Nate gives the preliminary chat about the sap. Forty gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup. After the talk, we follow behind Nate. Ginger pulls her wagon with all the buckets loaded into it. Ginger has a bigger wagon than mine. My wagon is that old-fashioned metal one, but Ginger’s is big and holds all twenty buckets and lids. We walk down the middle of West Street, like a parade or a little like the Pied Piper. Our first stop is the Wyatt’s house. They have two beautiful trees for tapping. We all gather around for the first tree. Lee has his drill with him on his tool belt so he brings it out for the drilling of the holes. Nate carefully looks over the tree to make sure the holes are in different locations. He cautiously drills two holes and we get to take turns hammering in the spiles. The sap is already running with first a small drip and then a small stream of beautiful clear sap. It is the miracle of spring. We head over to Lee’s to tap his two trees. Again, we take turns putting the spiles into the trees and watch the sap drip into the bucket.

My two trees are next. Since I do not have a sugar maple tree at my house, I borrow a couple of trees from neighbors down the street. They are always fine with me borrowing their two trees for a month or so. My trees are beautiful. I even name them, Millie and Molly. The holes are drilled, and I put in the spiles for my trees and hang the buckets.

The work is finally completed. Our neighborhood is full of buckets. The texting begins right away as we gather our sap. I had two and a half gallons this morning!

Cheers to our amazing neighborhood!

Monday, January 30, 2023



And just like that, it snowed. And just like that, our world shut down for just a few hours, but wasn’t it lovely? Waiting for winter took a bit of patience this year as the snow and cold took its time to get here. I know you are not all fans of winter, and I am sorry if I am just gushing on and on, but here it is.

Sitting in my old house during a snowstorm is such a pleasure. My hobbies take over and I spend the time moving from project to project with no real plan because it is snowing! Once in a while, I go outside with my shovel or my broom and clear a path. I go outside to fill the bird feeder or even recover it from the snow as the squirrels always find a way to get to my feeders and often knock them down.

This week I am even planning on making a snow cloud. It is easy to do (with adult supervision, I might add!) When it is bitterly cold, boil water in a pan on the stove. I always add some food coloring to make the cloud quite beautiful! When the water is boiling, take it outside and toss the water (not the pan) into the air. Make sure someone is there with a camera to photograph your cloud! It might take a few tries, but it is certainly worth it when you get a perfect cloud.

This past week, not only brought a lovely snowstorm, but a county full of snowmen. Everywhere I look there are snowmen peering out at us with coal eyes, button noses and carrots for buttons! These snowmen are everywhere, and I can’t get enough of them! Aaron and Rachel and the boys built a giant snowman which has begun to tilt a bit. Graham ran over to get me to bring the camera over to get a photo. I love that they took the time as a family to build this snowman.

It is easy for me to get carried away by this beauty, but I decided to go to the BBC website to find some snow information! In 2008 the folks of Bethel, Maine built a community snowman. It took a month to complete and it stood 122 feet tall! That record was broken in 2020 by a group in Austria who built a 125-foot snowman.

What else did I learn, you ask? All snowflakes have six sides and fall at an average of two to five feet per hour. It takes one snowflake one hour to reach the ground. In my opinion, that is a lot of perseverance for that one tiny snowflake to spend an hour finding its way to the ground.  Here is something else I did not know! Snow is not white, but is translucent. The reflecting light makes it white! Fresh snow also absorbs sounds. That is why during a snowstorm the world is perfectly quiet!

The Scots have 421 words for snow. (Yes, I was amazed at that fact also!) According to research done by the University of Glasgow, they found the 421 words.  A few samples of these words include “skelf” which mean a large snowflake, “spitters” means small drops of snow, and “unbrak” makes the beginning of a thaw. I love adding these words to my own vocabulary; I just need to find the other 418 words!

Maybe after reading some of these facts you have a new appreciation for snow. I do feel sorry for children who never heard the magic words, “snow day,” whispered to them in the early morning. I do realize text messages are now sent, but not to young children. I remember those magical days when my mom whispered those words to me. I whispered those same words to my children! Even though I am no longer in a public school or have children going to school, I watch the TV crawls and am so happy when kids get a snow day. By the way, I want to congratulate the Fremont School District for giving children a real snow day! Bravo to you folks.

Winter is here. This week all eyes will be on Punxsutawny Phil on Groundhog Day. Will he see his shadow or not? No matter what he sees or doesn’t see, we will have six more weeks of winter!

As author Rick Bass says, “Be loyal to winter, all the way through-all the way and with sincerity.”

Monday, January 23, 2023

Robert Burns Celebration!


Once, in Scotland, I took the Robert Burns walking tour. Actually, I took two guided tours when in Edinburgh. One was a nighttime walking tour focusing on all the macabre stories in Edinburgh. It rained during the nighttime tour which made it all the creepier. I looked over my shoulder the whole time carrying my umbrella.

Up the close, down the stair,

Here’s the story of Burke and Hare.

The story of Burke and Hare is very creepy, and a true story. And, oh, there were so many more. Of course, walking tours are based on history with a few ghosts tossed in to make it scary and fun.

I took the second tour the next day which turned out to be bright and sunny, which is unusual for Scotland! There were twenty of us in the group, laughing and chatting as we waited for our tour guide. When he arrived, I think he took our breath away! He was a large man wearing an even larger cape lined in red silk. I knew we were in for a great afternoon. He began with a history of Robert Burns, and then as we walked, he stopped at small pubs, churches, and back alleys to recite poetry. Inside one of the cathedrals, he recited My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. It was stunning and we all just stood there in awe after he finished.

I think I was a Burns fan long before my trips to Edinburgh, but after that tour I was hooked on his life and his poetry. All across Scotland there are statues of the Burns the Bard. In Celtic countries, like England and Scotland, a Bard is a well-known storyteller. Shakespeare and Burns fall into this category.

He certainly didn’t start out like that. When his father died young, it was Robert who had to take over the farm for the family. It was a chore that he did not enjoy, yet he felt responsible to his family. He worked hard at it for several years all the while writing poetry on the side. He wrote poetry for his own use as he played around with language. His own education was very limited even though he did yearn to go to school. He tried to learn French and Latin on his own, but failed at that.

In his young years, he also became a rebel to the politics of Scotland and organized religion. He was out-spoken to anyone who would listen to him, but he did it all best with his writings. In the summer of 1786, he published his first book of poems, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. He carefully hand-picked the poetry to go into this book. One of my very favorite poems, To a Mouse, is in that collection. His poetry appealed to all classes in Scotland and was well received.

Burns continued to farm and write poetry. He often took no money for his poetry as he regarded his poetry to be a gift to Scotland. When he died at the young age of 37, he left a full body of poetry and songs to his beloved country.

To this day, we celebrate the poetry of Burns. Most of us know how to recite, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, and we all certainly know the words and tune to Auld Lang Syne.

We also celebrate his poetry with a yearly tribute to him known as Burns Night. The Burns supper is celebrated from Tokyo to New Deli, from St. Petersburg to London. In the United States alone there are over 150 Burns Night festivities.

Well, we are not a registered Burns Night, but for our celebration in this small town, I think we are forgiven. Once again (as I have for many, many years) Burns Night will be celebrated in my town. This year we are celebrating at the Caleo Café on Wednesday evening from 4-6. This includes an open mic which is available to anyone wishing to read a poem, sing a song, tell a story. This can be a tribute to Burns, or in our case, anything you would like to read would be just wonderful. If you own a kilt or a bagpipe, now would be the time to bring it along.

I will also bring a collection of Burns’ poetry, so you could always peruse the poems, and choose one to read. My first poem? My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.

Happy Spring!

  First flower of spring in my garden! Today at precisely at 5:24, the Earth balanced and spring arrived.  I think she arrived quite regally...