Sunday, October 20, 2019
It was a great night last night for the PL Variety Show under the direction of Elten Powers. There was a matching grant so in all (we think) we raised over $5,000.00 for the community. It was so great to see a full auditorium with friends and neighbors. There is, definitely, no place like our town!
Saturday, October 19, 2019
“Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?-every, every minute?” is a line from Our Town written by Thornton Wilder. Most of us know the play through a high school performance or lit class. Some of us even have a dozen copies of the play on their bookshelf (okay, I do) waiting to direct the play in her hometown. And some of us think about it often, as I also do.
The play, Our Town, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. It was a stark and original play with no curtains, no scenery in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners. Wilder chose this simplicity so audiences could put their own town into the scene. I remember the first time I saw the play. I was still a kid and my dad took me to see it. Was it transformational then as it is to me now? Maybe or maybe not. I do know I think about it every day. I think about it every time a guest or a friend says, “You are so lucky to live here.” I love to laugh and say, “Oh, not luck, my friend, it was and is a conscientious choice.”
This weekend we have a chance to experience our town on a personal level. Tonight is the Pleasant Lake Lions Club Variety Show (aka the Minstrel Show). This show has graced stages in Steuben County for more than sixty years with just a short hiatus. I became aware of the show because of Elten Powers. He has been the director of the show for ten years.
Elten came into my life about that same time when I was writing and directing the shows of Angola. My leading man became ill when my hairdresser, Mary Ramsey, said, “Call my uncle, Elten, he loves that kind of thing.” I had no idea who he was, but indeed, I did call. He answered. The rest of our friendship is history, along with his wife, Carolyn.
Elten took over the directorship of the show. Every year starting in July, he begins the search for songs, themes, and the core of the show. By early September, the guys are meeting and learning the songs every week. This year the theme is Our Town. Oh, not the show by Thornton Wilder, but indeed it is the theme of the show. Small towns. Gentle towns. Elten has followed the rules of Wilder with no curtains and no scenery. I was able to get a peek at the show (okay, my band the Genuine Pretenders) will be playing in the show), but aside of that, oh wow. You will know and love all the songs and be singing right along in your seats.
Included in the show this year is a performance by Allie Ryan and Josh Ayers. They will be closing the show with a song written by Iris Dement. I can’t say the name or I will give it away, but I will tell you it is a perfect ending for this show. Allie is able to sing as the song was written. The Mayor has a solo tonight too, but my lips are sealed!
I think this show gives us time to reflect on what we really have here in this town…and surrounding towns. It is said to always “smell the roses,” and that is good, but let’s make sure we take time to see our neighbors, watch the children, listen to the church bells, and take in the scent of Autumn.
It is rumored that Elten will end his directing at the close of the show tonight. I don’t know how you might feel about that (or did you know?), but I find endings quite sad. Elten wants to put his time and effort into his new museum as he continues to leave a legacy for the folks in Pleasant Lake. I want to thank him for his hard work. I have had so much fun joining up with the Pleasant Lake cast the past few years as Minnie Pearl, Lily Tomlin, the Bride of Frankenstein and many other roles.
Our Town is the first play the newly formed theatre will bring to you so stay tuned for that!
In the meantime, come out to the show tonight…say “hi” to your neighbors, give Elten a big thank you, and as Thornton Wilder said, “Let's really look at one another!”
Show starts at 7:00 in the Dale Hughes Auditorium. Come early to get a good seat!
First published in KPC, October 19, 2019
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Saturday, October 12, 2019
It is mid-October, and my plethora of ghost story books come tumbling off the shelves. Literally. Stacks of them weave in and out among the orange twinkle lights casting shadows known only to me.
Where did my fascination with ghost stories begin? Girl Scout campfires? Late night stories with my Dad? On the other hand, could it just be my own fascination with things not explained? Halloween was always my favorite holiday (if you could call it that) when I was a kid, and it still is my favorite. Autumn has always been my favorite season with cascading leaves onto the forlorn zucchini plants and the mums fading away. Candles. Campfires. Quilts on the beds. Ghost stories.
Today Kathy and I load up Lola (my red Jeep), and head down to Indy for the annual Ghost Stories in Crownhill Cemetery. It will be a quick trip with conversation and anticipation for the concert tonight. I have not been to Crown Hill for the past two years due to family obligations, but this year, not only am I a storyteller, but I am the last one of the evening. That alone sends shivers down my spine. I am also the emcee for the RIP reception as we auction off hand-painted pumpkins to raise funds for Storytelling Arts of Indiana.
Crown Hill Cemetery is the third largest non-government cemetery in the United States. It lies in the northern part of Indianapolis. The acreage is 374 with more than 190,000 resting souls inside the beauty.
The first burial in Indianapolis was in 1821 when a Pennsylvania Dutch merchant died. They carried his body to a location close to the river bush whacking their way to the burial. In 1862, Confederate soldiers were housed at Camp Morton in Indianapolis. The conditions were unbearable ending in the deaths of 1,762 Confederate soldiers from dysentery and smallpox. They, too, were buried in Indianapolis. Their graves were dug by Weaver and Williams. These two men also furnished the wooden coffins at $3.50. (Someday I need to check out those stories!) The city began to realize they were filling up with folks who would eventually need a cemetery so land was donated/purchased to build Crown Hill. It began as Strawberry Hill, but soon Crown Hill became the name because of the high point. A governing board of 30 directors witnessed the dedication on June 1, 1864. It took folks a full day to travel to Crown Hill by horse and carriage, and yet over 400 came for the dedication. They were concerned folks might not travel so far for burial. They were quite wrong with those assumptions!
The first burial in Crown Hill was Lucy Ann Seaton, the young wife of an army captain. She was struck with tuberculosis. Her gravestone reads, “Lucy, God grant that I may meet you in Heaven.” It has since become home to many famous folks such as Benjamin Harrison, James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington and John Dillinger.
Tonight I will walk upon the stage built in the center and tell stories to over a thousand folks spread out on blankets and chairs, bundled up for the cold temperatures. It will be magical. It will be dark, encompassed within the cemetery as I tell stories I have painstakingly chosen, researched, and rehearsed for this occasion. I have to admit, few things make me happier than taking hold of the microphone!
When the night ends, Kathy and I will quickly exit so as not to be locked into Crown Hill, as was the case a few years ago. I actually got lost on my way out. For some strange reason, I locked the doors of my car and had to call for help. I hope that we will exit immediately. I will once again be grateful that I am able to leave the cemetery wishing the sleeping souls a good night.
I am honored and humbled to be a storyteller within the gates of Crown Hill, the most beloved cemetery in the mid-west. Beauty abides within the rolling hills, the nature preserves, and the markers of those gone before us.
As Emily Dickinson once wrote, “It seems as if nature had formed the spot with a distinct idea of it being a resting place for her children.”
Now you want to hear my stories? Ah, you can! October 22 at the Fremont Library, 7:00 or October 26 at Pokagon, 8:00 in the pavilion. Both of these are adult shows. Be brave. Be very brave.
First published in KPC.
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