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“Theatre demands different muscles and different aspects of one’s personality.” ― Victor Garber

After about ten minutes into each theatrical production at Centerville High School, I tend to forget I am watching high school students – not college or professional – performing, and running the technical aspects of the show.

They are always THAT GOOD.

I look forward to theatre at Centerville High School as much as I do productions at two other outstanding educational institutions, Wright State University and Sinclair Community College.  I never wonder, “how will Centerille pull off this show?”  That’s a waste of time to even consider that question; CHS does it better than any other high school in Western Ohio.  I am always confident I will leave the auditorium a lot more excited than when I entered – and I always enter CHS’s lobby with a good deal of excitement because I know I am set for a damned good production.

Tonight, my theatre directing friends, Suzanne Grote and Aaron Jacobs, along with Suzanne’s niece, Erin, and my son, Quintin, joined me for AVENUE Q.  This quartet is always at my side for Centerville productions, and we never fail to marvel at the tremendous efforts and talent engaged at this high school theatre program.

I like it when the curtain is open upon seating in the auditorium because I have more time to absorb (marvel, shake my head, chuckle at little touches, and appreciate) Mike Cordonnier’s set designs.  Mike, like several of his Miami Valley contemporaries – Terry Stump at Sinclair Community College, Bruce Brown at nearly every other venue in town and beyond, the Wright State University crew – never fails to impress and surprise me with his creativity.  Mike’s superbly trained brigade of blossoming technical talent  can run a show with ease.

Joe Beumer’s clean, creative, and concise stage direction is a perfect marriage to Mike Cordonnier’s set designs and technical leadership.  There is an incredible amount of magic when you have Joe and Mike  charting the course.  And since Ben Spalding’s arrival as CHS’s choral director, the vocal talent, often accompanied by the instrumental direction of either Brandon Barrometti or Joshua Baker, has soared to new heights.

Centerville High School’s theatre program is outstanding in every way!

I had never seen a stage production of AVENUE Q, originally conceived by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, who also co-wrote the lyrics and music with Jeff Whitty’s libretto.  The school edition is not watered down to the point of dull-dom, as other school musical editions tend to be.  My colleagues who accompanied me tonight assured me this version was just as great as the original.  And the students – on stage and beyond – lifted this production beyond my already high expectations!

If the creators had been able to see this production, I am certain they would have appreciated, and enthusiastically applauded the phenomenal talents of these high school students, and their exceptional mentors/directors.

This Winter, CHS is set to present, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, and will conclude their 2012-2013 season with the Spring musical, SWEENEY TODD.

I am not joking when I say, “Centerville High School has one of the best, if not the best, high school theatre programs around.”

Go see their shows, and see for your self!

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Hey Gang!

I have a high school senior voice/musical theatre student from Kettering’s Fairmont High School here in Ohio, who is writing her senior research paper on the musical theatre industry.  Her thesis statement is centered around:

How musical theatre has affected the American culture between 1920 to the present.

If you have any:

  • personal/professional thoughts on this topic
  • any sources to which she might turn

please feel free to share.

Her rough draft is due Monday, October 29th.

Thanking you all in advance…  Darin

gfyjg

This Saturday morning had a nice little twist to it.  We were up, showered, dressed, and out of the house by 9:45am, and eating breakfast at Panera in downtown Centerville where we were joined by Amy Kress, and her youngest daughter, Sarah, 6.  We moved next door to Town Hall Theatre to watch an 11:00am production of Disney’s adorable stage musical, LITTLE MERMAID, starring my piano student, Katie Kress, as Scuttle.  Katie was hilarious, cute, and did an amazing job with her terribly wordy patter song, “Human Stuff.”  Many other stage performers around could learn a thing or two about perfect diction from this 10 year old!  She rocked her consonants!

Quintin and I did the meet and greet following the show, and then hurried to the newly opened Mernards on OH-741, South of the Dayton Mall  where the original Walmart once stood.  It was incredible, but horribly crowded.  We loaded up on a few things and checked out.

At 2:00pm I attended a funeral of a student’s grandmother.  I will probably have two more this week: the grandfather of a student, and the mother of a former student who has been moved to Hospice.

I managed a quick nap upon my return home, and then we were out the door again.  We grabbed dinner at China Buffet, a shower curtain from Big Lots, and then purchased movie tickets at The Greene for FINDING NEMO in 3D.

With time to kill before the movie, we ventured over to Books & Company.  I quickly found a book on President Lincoln, LOOKING FOR LINCOLN: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN ICON.  Despite finding two errors in the book within five minutes, I still decided to purchase the photo-filled book.

FINDING NEMO was a delight!  Quintin and I laughed, and laughed a lot.  We marveled at the beauty of the 3-D effects, and were caught up in the journey of a father searching for his son.  Very neat.

The movie was followed with some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.

This day was absolutely perfect!  Quintin and I laughed so hard throughout the day, and by dinner our conversation incorporated our Russian accents.  There were times when we were both doubled over with laughter, and tears filling our eyes.  This reminded me of when I was 17, and all the fun times I had, and still have, with my own mother, and my grandparents.  Humor, and even plain silliness is a great form of glue!

It was a swimmingly good day!

Quinny checking out the new Justin Bieber calendar.

 

Quinny sporting his new hat from Menards.

GFYJG

[Hit the play button on HOUNDS OF SPRING; listen as you read, and then, sit back and enjoy this fantastic piece of band literature by Alfred Reed.]

A beautiful day it is!  It is only 50-degrees this tenth day of March, but you could not ask for a more glorious day of sunshine, and Spring in the air. And tomorrow, those of us who get to set our clocks forward one hour will get to enjoy even more lovely days such as this.

Quintin was out the door to work in the office for the OMEA site until Noon. I satisfied any cravings shared by the office workers with a box of Bill’s Donuts.

I returned home to work in the front yard with the weed trimmer, and the leaf blower! Their electrifying sounds were music to my ears. How I love time to work in the yard, and that season is rapidly moving upon us.

I relaxed the afternoon away, watching some television, reading, and napping. I will now do some house work, and then get ready to go see CHILDREN OF EDEN with Quintin at the very close Playhouse South.

Tomorrow is percussion with MEPA at Centerville High School, and the arrival of Jeffrey Carter, friend/godfather, who will pass through Dayton for a few hours before heading to Cincinnati to see MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, starring Daniel Jenkins.

Producer:

  • Leaps Tall Buildings In A Single Bound
  • Is More Powerful Than A Locomotive
  • Is Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
  • Walks On Water
  • Gives Policy To God

Director:

  • Leaps Short Buildings In A Single Bound
  • Is More Powerful Than A Switch Engine
  • Is Just As Fast As A Speeding Bullet
  • Walks On Water If The Sea Is Calm
  • Talks With God

Playwright:

  • Leaps Short Buildings With A Running Start
  • Is Almost As Powerful As A Switch Engine
  • Is Faster Than A Speeding BB
  • Swims Well
  • Is Occasionally Addressed By God

Actor:

  • Makes High Marks On The Wall When Trying To Leap Buildings
  • Is Run Over By Locomotives
  • Can Sometimes Handle A Gun Without Inflicting Self-Injury
  • Dog Paddles
  • Talks To Animals

Orchestra:

  • Runs Into Buildings
  • Recognizes Locomotives Two Out Of Three Times
  • Is Not Issued Ammunition
  • Can Stay Afloat With A Life Preserver
  • Talks To Walls

Chorus:

  • Falls Over Doorsteps When Trying To Enter Buildings
  • Says, Look At The Choo-Choo!
  • Wets Self With A Water Pistol
  • Plays In Mud Puddles
  • Mumbles To Self

Stage Manager:

  • Lifts Buildings And Walks Under Them
  • Kicks Locomotives Off The Track
  • Catches Speeding Bullets In Teeth And Eats Them
  • Freezes Water With A Single Glance
  • Is GOD

At 5:15am, The Haasienda was ablaze with lights, and much activity, as Quintin got ready to leave with the Fairmont Percussion Ensemble for a major contest in Indianapolis.  The dogs were confused with the activity, as this morning’s routine was slightly different than the typical weekday/weekend morning.  After Quintin left at 5:55am, I settled back in my bed, prepared to sleep; however, I was wide awake until 7:00am. I did manage to doze a bit, but felt the day wasting away.

After getting the dogs through their morning routine, and eating my own breakfast, I began rearranging, and cleaning the living room.  By Noon, CNN was broadcasting Whitney Houston’s funeral.  I listened to the marathon-service while completing my chores.  I spent a good 9o-minutes rearranging, and adding more hanging photographs to the living room wall.  Once that was completed, I swept the entire house, and then deep-cleaned all the carpets and rugs.

By 4:00pm, Whitney’s funeral was finally winding down, and my chores were wrapped up with a thorough kitchen-cleaning.  I showered, and drove to Fox & Hound restaurant near the Fairfield Commons to have a three-hour dinner with my very dear friend, Suzanne Grote.  We had an absolute blast, as we always do.

At 8:00pm, I entered Gabriel Brothers, and found some great deals.  I ventured on to Kroger for a few groceries, and returned home to the enthusiastic greeting from Navi and Chief.  After another 90 minutes of additional tidying-up, I am now settled in bed with Chief and Navi at my feet.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I will relax, teach a few lessons, and eagerly greet my son upon his return from Indianapolis.  The ensemble placed 3rd out of 18 exceptionally good drum-lines today, so tomorrow will be an exciting day!

Today was the first time I’d ever seen the musical, THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE.   One of my voice students, Heather Barker, portrayed Logainnr Schwartzandgrubenniere, and Heather was absolutely hilarious! 

Heather began studying with me when she was in high school, and I had the pleasure to serve as the music director/conductor for Beavercreek High School’s production, THE PAJAMA GAME, in which Heather played the lead, Babe Williams.  Heather, then a senior in high school, was so impressive during the rehearsal process – always well-prepared, attentive, mature, and very professional in her manner, and behavior.  She ventured on to Arizona State University, and is now returned to Ohio to study theatre at Cedarville University.  It is a joy to be reunited with Heather as student and voice teacher, and to be a part of her continued growth as an actress.  Today’s performance as Logainne was re-confirmation that Heather is a very capable, talented theatre student.  I am so proud of her!

I was also very impressed with the quality of this Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre production!  It was class from the parking lot to the curtain call.  The facility, located on Miami University’s campus in Hamilton, Ohio is a very nice venue.

I would like to see more productions by this company!  It is definitely worth the drive!

And, again – KUDOS, Heather!!!

I saw tonight, for the first time, the Jim Leonard, Jr. play, THE DIVINERS.  Several friends told me that I would probably enjoy the production if one was in the area.

Well, Centerville High School produced THE DIVINERS, and it was absolutely incredible.  It is a fairly hefty piece to tackle, and as I’ve become accustomed to the excellent quality of any CHS production, I was not let down for a second.

To learn more about this play, please visit: THE DIVINERS by Jim Leonard, Jr.

The cast of teenagers was outstanding.  The cast included:

Buddy Layman – Evan Benjamin
C.C. Showers – Alex Roesch
Ferris Layman – Nick Beecroft
Jennie Mae Layman – Carly Marten
Basil Bennett – Brendon Embry
Luella Bennett – Erin Ulman
Norma Henshaw – Kate Robinson
Goldie Short – Liz Girvin
Darlene Henshaw – Jackie Mulay
Melvin Wilder – Slava Tchoul
Dewey Maples – Trevor Lucente

There were so many neat moments featuring each cast member in this exceptionally tight ensemble; however, Evan Benjamin ascended well past the fly space as Buddy Layman, who has the ability to predict when it’s going to rain, and also has a knack for finding water sources. But, he suffers an aversion to it. His near death experience from drowning left him impaired, and took the life of his mother, who rescued him. 

Evan, a high school sophomore, gave one of the most 3-dimensional portrayals of a staged-character that continually had me forgetting he was a teenager in a high school production.  He mastered the redundant lines of the mentally, and emotionally, strapped fourteen year old character, and often had me thinking of my own fourteen year old nephew who is Autistic.

Evan’s genes swim in a pool of incredible performing, professional artists, and I’ve enjoyed watching his parents, John & Martha, and older brother, Ian, now a Wright State University musical theatre major, on stage in many of Epiphany Lutheran Church’s summer productions.  I guess I should not be surprised by this younger Benjamin’s work; however, he surpassed the high quality performance I’ve come to expect from this exceptionally talented family.

I’ve never had the opportunity to see this musical, but have always been fascinated with it.  The music is incredible, and the arrangements for the musical are invigorating!

Go see it!  Enjoy it!                                            (For you, Mr. S___ with great thanks!)

About JERSEY BOYS… (from Wikipedia)

Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. It is a documentary-style musical, based on one of the most successful 1960s rock ‘n roll groups, the Four Seasons. The musical opened on Broadway in 2005, and has since had a North American National Tour, along with productions in London’s West End, Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, Sydney and Philadelphia. Jersey Boys won four 2006 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Synopsis

The story dramatizes the forming, rise and eventual break-up of the original four members of The Four Seasons. The musical is separated into four “seasons”, each narrated by a different member of the band. Act 1 comprises Spring (Tommy DeVito) & Summer (Bob Gaudio); Act 2 comprises Fall (Nick Massi) & Winter (Frankie Valli); each member has a different perspective on the band and his contribution to it.

Act I

Spring

The show opens with a performance of “Ces soirées-là“, a modern pop-rap song that was released in 2000. Tommy DeVito then enters the stage, introducing himself and explaining how the song is a cover of The Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)“. He offers to tell the story of the band, explaining how he started out with the group “The Variety Band” with his brother Nick DeVito and friend Nick Massi, eventually discovering teenager Frankie Castelluccio and taking him under his wing, teaching him everything he knows. (“The Early Years: A Scrapbook”) During these early years Nick Massi helped train Frankie to sing, Tommy went in and out of prison, Frankie changed his last name to Valli, Tommy and Frankie developed a good relationship with mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, and Frankie fell in love with and married Mary DelGado. Musically, the band was still struggling and kept changing their name and sound but without any dramatic success. One day friend and fellow Jersey boy Joe Pesci comes up to Tommy and says that he knows a singer-songwriter who’d make the perfect fourth for their band: Bob Gaudio.

Summer

Bob Gaudio takes over the narration, starting by telling the audience that no matter what Tommy says, he wasn’t plucked from obscurity by him, since he already had a hit single with “Short Shorts“. Bob goes with Joe Pesci to see the band perform, and is immediately impressed by Frankie’s voice. Bob performs a song he’d just written: “Cry for Me” on piano, which Frankie, Nick Massi and then Tommy joining in with vocals, bass and guitar respectively. They negotiate an agreement, though Tommy is at first skeptical that Bobby (then still a teenager) will be good for the band. The band eventually gets a contract with producer Bob Crewe but only to sing back-up (“Backup Sessions”). Crewe insists that the band has an “identity crisis” and needs to make a firm decision on a name and a sound. The band name themselves after The Four Seasons bowling alley, and Bobby writes them three songs that finally propel them to stardom: “Sherry“, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man“. In the wake of their success, Bob also chalks up a personal first by losing his virginity. (“December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)“) The band’s success means that they tour a lot more, along the way discovering the girl band The Angels (“My Boyfriend’s Back“). Unfortunately, the constant touring strains Frankie’s marriage to Mary, and they eventually divorce (“My Eyes Adored You“). The band continues to enjoy chart successes (“Dawn (Go Away)“) until after a concert the band is approached by a loan shark out to claim money owed by Tommy (“Walk Like a Man (reprise)”).

Act II

Fall

The second act opens with “Big Man in Town“. Nick Massi explains that Bob was so focused on the band’s musical success and future that he couldn’t see that the band had been in trouble for some time. Tommy’s been racking up debts, and a forgotten bill during a previous tour lands the band in jail over the weekend, which strains things between Tommy and Bob. Nick observes that Tommy became jealous of Frankie’s success and closeness with Bobby, and attempted to seduce Frankie’s new girlfriend Lorraine. The two never confronted each other about it, but the old friendship was not what it used to be. When the loan shark approaches the band for the $150,000 owed by Tommy, Frankie approaches Gyp DeCarlo for help despite Tommy’s insistence that he doesn’t need it. (“Beggin’“) The band, Gyp, and the loan shark come to agreement: Tommy is to be “sequestered” in Las Vegas where the mob can keep an eye on him, and the band will willingly cover all of Tommy’s debts. The band continues for a while as a trio until Nick declares that he wants out. (“Stay/Let’s Hang On!“)

Winter

Frankie takes over narration, explaining that though he owes Tommy a great deal, he’s aware that their relationship wasn’t ideal, and he never understood why Nick decided to leave. Frankie and Bob find replacements to keep the band a quartet (“Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me)“) until Bobby announces that he’s never been comfortable in the spotlight and that Frankie should be a single, i.e. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In his personal life, Frankie’s relationship with his daughter Francine is strained and he breaks up with girlfriend Lorraine. (“Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)“) Frankie continues to have success thanks to Bobby’s songs, and hits jackpot with (“C’mon Marianne“) and the almost-never-released (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You“) which Bobby fights to get airplay for. Along with the success of “Working My Way Back to You“, Frankie and Bobby finally finish paying off Tommy’s debts, and Frankie’s life is good until his daughter Francine dies from a drug overdose. (“Fallen Angel”)

Finale

The final scene is The Four Seasons’ 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, announced by Bob Crewe and reuniting the original four members on stage one last time. (“Rag Doll“) Each member takes a moment to address the audience one by one, explaining their pride of being with the band and what they did after. (“Who Loves You“)

The weekend was a delightful world-wind of activity, all centered around music and friends!

Friday evening after teaching, Quintin and I headed for Beavercreek High School where I served as a judge for the show choir’s invitational.  Friday was middle school show choir night.  Five competing show choirs and two exhibition show choirs from Beavercreek.

Saturday morning at 8:30am I was heading back to Beavercreek High School where I spent sixteen hours judging soloists, judging show choirs, eating a delicious lunch and supper, and catching up with colleagues, fellow judges, show choir parents, and friends.  I always enjoy Beavercreek’s weekend, but this seemed to be an exceptionally fun year.

Sunday morning was filled with house-activity of playing catch-up with items.  At 12:10pm we were out the door to UNO’s pizza downtown before heading next door to The Victoria Theatre to see Muse Machine’s production, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

I was seated next to three adorable elderly sisters who could easily have been USO girls during The War Between The States – they had me howling!  As I nestled into my seat I looked at my neighbor, and said, “I can tell you are gonna be trouble the whole time.”  She slapped her knee, and said to her companions, “He’s already got my number!”  The one sister had brought her fellow octogenarians to see her granddaughter perform, and each time the young performer was located in the mass of young folks on stage, they pointed, and without whispering, loudly exclaimed, and explained to one another where the girl was.  At one point, the lady next to me (who was slightly deaf) asked, “Are you enjoying this?”  I smiled, nodded.  She responded to my silent response with, “I am, too.  I saw the movie as a girl.”  She then turned to her sisters, and loudly said, “He likes the show, too,” accompanied by more verbal interaction.

Normally, I am usually irritated by loud talking during a show, but these ladies were so adorable that I did not mind.

After the show, we burst through the crowd to hurry home for three evening lessons – just making it in time.

Quintin and I closed out the weekend with a meal at Taco Bell, and spent a good 45 minutes chatting about life.

Back at home, I finished up some items and was sound asleep by 10:00pm.

A wonderful, wonderful weekend!

‘1776’ – John Adams: “One useless man is called a disgrace; two are called a law firm; and three or more become a Congress.”

This afternoon, my 16 year old son, Quintin, and I drove 35 miles to Wilmington, Ohio to see Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre‘s production of  ‘1776.’  One of my Ball State University friends, Timothy Larrick, was to perform as Roger Sherman – “the simple cobbler from Connecticut.”

I was slightly hesitant when I read it would be a concert version, that several women would portray the delegates, andthat the director was also performing the role of John Adams.  I am always slightly leery of productions where directors involve themselves in the actual production.  Actually, I find it a tad bit on the tacky side.  Either direct the production, or perform in the production – do not attempt to do both as it seldom works, nor plays well.

The concert version was outstanding!   The focus was on the delightful script and music!  It was refreshing, to say the least.  I did not miss the costuming, the lighting, the scenic designs, etc..  The limited staging was most effective, and kept the show moving.

And the women?  Fantastic!  They blended in with the male ensemble, and carried their male-roles very well.  Stephen Hopkins, portrayed by Claudia Fowler, was not less funny, or growling.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Steven Haines’ performance, and directing of this production which I found to be even more powerful, and poignant in the staged-concert setting.  Mr. Haines never once let me down for a second in his portrayal of one of my favorite presidents, and musical theatre roles.  As for directors performing in their own productions on purpose, Mr. Haines is a rare exception.

There were so many memorable performances…

Timothy Larrick as Roger Sherman…  Tim Brausch as Benjamin Franklin…  Wayne Dunn as John Dickinson…  Dean Feldmeyer as Richard Henry Lee…  J. Wynn Alexander as Thomas Jefferson…  Jack Filkins as Charles Thomson, secretary…

Bryan S. Wallingford mastered the role of South Carolina’s, Edward Rutlegde, so well, that I was actually despising the character as he attempted to squelch the movement.

Tricia Heys gave Abigail Adams an incredible multi-dimensional quality, and by the time we arrived as “Yours, Yours, Yours,” I was a tad damp around the eyes.  Her voice was lovely, and powerful to match John Adams’ mainstay, and her acting and beauty pulled you even closer to the patriotic-duo that helped lay the foundation of this country.

The last two-quarters of Scene Seven – the ending of the show – were incredible.  When the delegates had abandoned John Adams at the eleventh hour, I was on the edge of my seat with my stomach in a knot.

This is damned good theatre!  It was like seeing TITANIC… I know how the story ends, but if the production does what it should, I am pulled into their moment on the stage while abandoning any knowledge of history.  ‘1776’ certainly did the job!

As we were leaving, I told one of my friends, Aaron Jacobs, that this production had given me a fine dose of Vitamin-T (theatre) that I’d sorely been missing.  I felt rejuvenated, fulfilled, appreciative of the creators, appreciate of the WCCST, and most certainly, grateful for those true founding parents who stepped into treasonous roles knowingly fully well they were merely experimenting with a belief that they could succeed.

Ironically, I recognized a number of similarities between the portrayed Continental Congress, and our current Congress.  Nothing is ever accomplished quickly, and without agendas.

I wish there was a second weekend of WCCST’s “1776” as I would be shooing folks from The Miami Valley down to Wilmington this coming weekend.  And I would be returning, myself, to enjoy this production – again!

The company is listed as a community theatre; however, they were quite a notch above typical community theatre.   This was not community theatre.

This was DAMNED GOOD THEATRE!

Please be sure to check out Wilmington College Theatre Department and WCCST on Facebook.

What an incredible evening!

Dinner at UNO’s with Quintin was loaded with good humor, and great food.  I love eating at UNO’s prior to a show at The Victoria Theatre, or The Schuster Center, because there is that familiar electricity in the air that is not only energizing, but comforting, as well.  I absolutely love that feeling I get before a production begins.

Quintin’s eyes devoured the expansive, imposing lobby of the Schuster Center.  While at the ticket center, I personally met someone who had just written me that morning about my posts on Facebook.  It was such a nice surprise.

We took our seats – four apart – and the families began pouring into the auditorium.  Yes, it looked like a sea of young sprouts ready to watch Disney On Ice, but I love seeing the little peeps at the theatre, or in concerts.  Seated next to me was a plump little thing not older than 8 years, who had no control over her body, whatsoever.  Within a few minutes I had dubbed her Princess Bounce A Lot!

We were up in the upper balcony, and could not see the incredible dome which, to me, is one of the most gorgeous memorials to The Wright Brothers.  The dome is the constellation’s configuration above Dayton the night before the Wright Brother’s first flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903.  Every time I see it I am quite touched.

I don’t believe I have ever attended a production where giraffes simply walking across the stage received an ovation; however, I don’t think I’ve ever seen giraffes on stage… well, perhaps in some productions of Children of Eden.  The opening number continued to build, and build, and build until there was this enormous wall of sound, and a scenic moment of set, costumes, lighting that was breathtaking.  I kept thinking how famous scenic & lighting designer, Jo Mielziner would have reacted to this moment – and the many more that were to follow.

I had thoroughly enjoyed the animated motion picture, The Lion King, when it first appeared on the scene years ago, tonight the story’s line came to life in a much richer expanse.  I love the themes where the protagonist has no idea when it is his time to step up the role for which he is truly intended.  I saw some Hamlet peek through, but more of Moses and Lincoln.  Good always triumphs over evil.

Several times I looked down the row to see how Quintin was taking in this epic experience.  I know I probably teared up a little as I watched him bounce to the music, his head toss back with laughter, and a smile remain on his face.   Following intermission, Princess Bounce A Lot and her mother were escorted to different seats, so Quintin joined me.  I could tell he was loving every minute.  After the show we walked over to Riverscape, and he cheerfully pointed out his favorite moments.

As I sit here, several hours following the production’s close, I cannot decide if I watched true musical theatre, or something beyond legitimate musical theatre.  At times, the beauty on stage seemed to be living scenery choreographed to music.  And, it truly does not matter.  All that matters is that I was fortunate to share this experience with a new son.

I found a great article in The Dayton Paper that lists all the upcoming shows but they were listed under the various companies. I made up a list of shows by their dates.

Keep in mind that I only entered the starting date for some productions, and there may be more performances.

For more information, please visit the following websites for each individual theatre company. Remember that many of the companies listed below can also be located on Facebook and Twitter.

Centerville High School Theatre

Sinclair Community College Theatre

Dayton Theatre Guild

Wright State Theatre & Dance

University of Dayton Theatre

Playhouse South

Cedarville University Theatre

La Comedia Dinner Theatre

The Seed Theatre Project

Human Race Theatre Company

Springfield Arts Council

Springfield Stageworks

Beavercreek Community Theatre

Dayton Playhouse

Don’t forget to support the various Children’s Theatre programs in the area, as well.

For outstanding high school theatre productions, be sure to check out Centerville High School’s theatre program – one of the finest student production companies in Ohio!

09/08/2010 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels LaComedia
09/17/2010 The Spitfire Grill Beavercreek Community Theatre
09/23/2010 August: Osage County Wright State University & Human Race Theatre Company
09/28/2010 Blue Man Group Victoria Theatre Association
09/30/2010 The Importance of Being Earnest Cedarville University
10/02/2010 Forever Plaid Springfield Arts Council
10/08/2010 Die Mommie Die! Dayton Playhouse
10/15/2010 Once On This Island Sinclair Community College
10/15/2010 Moon Over Buffalo Playhouse South
10/21/2010 The 39 Steps Human Race Theatre Company
10/22/2010 The Diviners University of Dayton
10/22/2010 The Sugar Witch Dayton Theatre Guild
10/28/2010 Anything Goes Wright State University
11/02/2010 Spring Awakening Victoria Theatre Association
11/04/2010 White Christmas LaComedia
11/05/2010 Grey Gardens The Musical Seed Threatre Project
11/10/2010 Drumline Live Victoria Theatre Association
11/12/2010 All Shook Up Centerville High School
11/12/2010 Wit Dayton Playhouse
11/12/2010 Dark Lights of Broadway Playhouse South
11/13/2010 An Evening With Sutton Foster Springfield Arts Council
11/26/2010 Precious Heart Dayton Theatre Guild
12/02/2010 8-Track Sounds of the 70’s Human Race Theatre Company
12/03/2010 A Christmas Carol Beavercreek Community Theatre
12/07/2010 The Wonder Bread Years Victoria Theatre Association
12/17/2010 Christmas Belles Dayton Playhouse
01/07/2011 Ravenscroft Dayton Theatre Guild
01/20/2011 Jeckyll & Hyde Wright State University
01/21/2011 Betty Buckley’s Broadway Springfield Arts Council
01/21/2011 I Hate Hamlet Playhouse South
01/27/2011 Diary Of Anne Frank Centerville High School
01/27/2011 Twelfth Night Human Race Theatre Company
01/28/2011 The Octette Bridge Club Beavercreek Community Theatre
01/28/2011 The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Dayton Playhouse
02/01/2011 9 to 5: The Musical Victoria Theatre Association
02/02/2011 Fiddler On The Roof Springfield Arts Council
02/04/2011 True West University of Dayton
02/10/2011 The Last 5 Years Springfield Stageworks
02/11/2011 Fat Pig Dayton Theatre Guild
02/11/2011 Almost, Maine Seed Threatre Project
02/17/2011 Picnic Wright State University
02/18/2011 The Foreigner Sinclair Community College
03/03/2011 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers LaComedia
03/04/2011 The Wizard of Oz Springfield Arts Council
03/04/2011 Little Women Wright State University
03/04/2011 Golda’s Balcony Dayton Theatre Guild
03/11/2011 Mid-Life The Crisis Musical Beavercreek Community Theatre
03/11/2011 Beyond Therapy Dayton Playhouse
03/25/2011 Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Playhouse South
03/28/2011 The Drowsy Chaperone Victoria Theatre Association
04/01/2011 Smoke On The Mountain University of Dayton
04/01/2011 Bill W. & Dr. Bob Dayton Playhouse
04/01/2011 The Boys Next Door Dayton Theatre Guild
04/05/2011 All Shook Up Victoria Theatre
04/14/2011 Permanent Collection Human Race Theatre Company
04/15/2011 An Enemy of the People Seed Threatre Project
04/21/2011 Titus Andronicus Springfield Stageworks
04/22/2011 Blackbird Dayton Theatre Guild
04/28/2011 Hairspray LaComedia
04/29/2011 Hello, Dolly! Centerville High School
05/06/2011 A Piece of Heart Playhouse South
05/12/2011 42nd Street Wright State University
05/13/2011 The Women of Lockerbie Sinclair Community College
05/13/2011 La Cage aux Folles Dayton Playhouse
05/13/2011 Mauritius Dayton Theatre Guild
05/19/2011 Monty Python’s Spamalot Springfield Arts Council
05/26/2011 right next to me Human Race Theatre Company
06/03/2011 Barnaby Rudge Wright State University
06/10/2011 The Mystery of Edwin Drood Beavercreek Community Theatre
06/10/2011 Anyone Can Whistle Seed Threatre Project
06/14/2011 Disney’s The Lion King Victoria Theatre Association

This has been an amusing several days for news.

  • Lindsay Lohan is sentenced to jail and rehab…
  • Mel Gibson has been acting up, again…
  • Touch Down Jesus will be rebuilt – full body from Indiana limestone…
  • The Barefoot Bandit has alluded authorities several times this past week…
  • And the big item this week… Lebron James…

Hmmm….

First off, I had no idea who Miss Lohan was. In fact, I almost thought they were talking about J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I did a quick search and found out she was a supermodel, an actress and a singer. OK… cool.

For several days I read, or heard about this mysterious announcement to be made by Lebron James. Since I do not follow sports, and only half listen to television news I figured someone was getting ready to announce their candidacy for the 2012 Presidential Election. I mean, isn’t it about time for the campaigning to begin?

The comments on Facebook, and Twitter, are downright hilarious to me! You would have thought this young guy was discovered to be one of the ten spies returned to Russia yesterday. It reminded me of the night the Baltimore Colts were whisked away in a bus to Indianapolis – fans appeared furious that a sports team leaving their community! You would have thought Michigan and Ohio State University had switched fight songs (if you are from Ohio, you would understand the blasphemy, and severity of such an action!).

The Barefoot Bandit, whose real name is Colton Harris-Moore, now has his own Wikipedia site, and has 55,587 followers (as of this Saturday afternoon) on Facebook. Darling Facebook fan, Eddie Smith of England, who could probably stand to gain from a basic grammar class, writes, “Man your a legend, your story is everywhere in England… Everyone thinks your great!….. Keep going man never let them catch you!!!”

These items seem to be plastering the media landscape, and I have to scratch my head, and ask, “Why the hell should any of this really, and truly matter?”

People are furious with Lebron James for switching to tennis, or marrying Tiger Woods future ex-wife, or trying to steal Morgan Freeman’s contract for the upcoming Broadway production, DRIVING MISS DAISY, or whatever it is he does (yes, I know he is a basketball star from Ohio).

I don’t know why THE TODAY SHOW was so concerned with talking to doctor’s, psychologists, lawyers, and fellow celebrities to dissect Ms. Lohan’s ordeal. Are ya serious, Meredith Viero? An Oregon boy is missing, we have a major oil spill, people are suffering from the heat wave hitting the East Coast, and so many other items of greater importance – and yet the focus is on a celebrity’s legal battles. So what else is new?

When it was announced in The Dayton Daily News that Touchdown Jesus would be rebuilt with Indiana limestone, the critical, even cruel, comments began pouring in! People are furious that Solid Rock Church is spending their OWN money for a blasphemous structure (like cathedrals throughout Europe and here) to glorify God.  “But we don’t even know what Jesus looks like?” wrote one complaining comment. Well, neither did Leonardo da Vinci nor Michaelangelo, or so many other great artists. Should we paint over their masterpieces, or chisel away at the sculptures? I am certain the complainers have

  1. attended, or still attend churches with Christian icons, or set dressing
  2. never attempted to do as much for charity as the parishioners of Solid Rock Church
  3. have no church affiliation, or
  4. a new GPS so they no longer need TDJ as a landmark to tell them when they are closer to Traders World or Kings Island

Why are these particular topics so valued by the masses?

Why is the nineteen year old Barefoot Bandit more an international focus and Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda groupies are not?

While waiting to put some groceries on the conveyor belt at Kroger last night, I glanced over at the Rag Mags, and learned:

  • Laura Bush is divorcing George W. Bush because he is having an affair with Joan Rivers
  • Justin Bieber really has begun puberty
  • Billy Ray Cyrus is a much better actor than many believe, and will be cast in the title role of HAMLET in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
  • Will Prince Charles have to pin back his ears to wear the royal crown when he becomes king?
  • Television’s Sister Angelica is secretly carrying Pope Benedict’s love child
  • Donna Summer has been cast to play Michael Jackson in the television rock-u-drama about his life?
  • Broadway’s newest production of LES MISERABLES welcomes Great Britain’s star, Susan Doyle, to play Young Cosette

OK, those were actually headlines I made up, but we all know that those do seem to be genuine from the Rag Mags on shopping store racks.

I wonder how many readers will read the above items and take them to be true?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Jose and I just returned from seeing CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010). A very good movie, indeed.

I can remember seeing the original in 1981 when I was a sophomore in high school. I recall very little of that movie, but seemed to be fairly accurate when leaning over to Jose and sharing upcoming moments. So much of what I remembered came directly from my high school Latin teacher, Diana Garner. Mrs. Garner was one of the most fascinating teachers I have known, and I cannot believe how much of her teachings are still with me in my professional life, as well as in every day life. Generally, I tend to rely on so many skills taught by Mrs. Garner, and my advanced composition teacher, Darren Paquin.

On the drive home, Jose and I discussed the many connections between mythology, and Christianity, and even some of the connectedness to STAR WARS. We discussed some of the similarities between the birth of Christ, and how it was very similar to various aspects of mythologies preceding his birth. Very interesting conversation, and good reading material for comparisons.

I thought the movie was well cast with Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, and Alexa Davalos. However, accompanying Harry Hamlin in the 1981 version was a plethora of screen giants, some who were near the end of their careers, and lives, with the exception of Maggie Smith and Claire Bloom who are both still active in their profession, Flora Robson, Burgess Meredith, and Sir Laurence Olivier gave the movie a LOVE BOAT quality since the cheerful television show revisited so many aging stars.

The movie was good, predictable (naturally), and epic in many ways. I am always impressed, and amazed at how quickly technology has changed from my teen years to the generation of my son’s. I now liken my self to my great-grandfather on whose lap I sat as we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Grandpa Garrett was only 6 years old when the Wrights first flew at Kitty Hawk, and at age 16 he bought his first horse and buggy. When he began farming, it was with a horse and plow. When Grandpa Garrett retired from farming in 1966, he sold his tractors, combines, tillers, and all other farm machinery. When he was born, the first telephone was installed in the White House. When he died in his 100th year, I received an email telling me he had passed away in the night.

One day, I hope to marvel with my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in the continued advancement of technology, reminding them that when I was a teen we did not have computers, cell phones, internet, IPods… hell, by the time my great-grandchildren are born, these current technological thrills will be extinct!

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

4:00am found me wide awake this morning, but I managed to return to two more hours of sleep.

After feeding Logan and Flyer, I settled down to write the morning’s entry on this blog site, and by 9:30am I was finally preparing my presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln for the Lincoln Society of Dayton. For several weeks I had been storing away items in my brain but had not committed any notes to paper. Everything flowed easily, and within an hour I had the entire presentation completed.

I was amazed at how easy it all fell together, but then, I have been studying the Lincoln family for nearly forty years.

At 1:00pm Bob & Sarah Koogler arrived, and after a few minutes of conversation in the house, we set out for the Patterson Family Homestead near the University of Dayton.

I was excited to spend time with Bob & Sarah, and was equally surprised to see Bill & Kay Hetzer, and Geary & Jennifer Biggs.

The crowd was very kind, enthusiastic, and surprisingly eager to learn about Robert Todd Lincoln! The presentation went smoothly, even when I said “Robert Lincoln became a captain in the army under General Lee” – instead of General Grant! The audience roared even more when I tossed the comment off with “I guess I am rewriting history.”

The question/answer segment was filled with some great questions and comments.

After the presentation, the Kooglers, Hetzers, Biggs and I drove over to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream, and had the best time laughing.

The Kooglers dropped me off, and I hurried over to pick up Sophie Lockhart for her lesson. I spent a good hour talking to Valerie and Sophie before heading back home for Soph’s lesson.

Jose and I grabbed Subway for dinner (I deserved to have someone else prepare food today), and ate dinner. I settled down in my bedroom to type, and watch The Tony Awards. Slightly uneventful… and disappointing with some of the performances.

The evening is slowing down nicely, and with some relaxation after the whirlwind weekend.

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

46 years ago, Ball State’s Emen’s Auditorium opened…

46 years ago, the Ball State Singers were born…

46 years ago (this September), I was born…

46 years ago (this September), BEWITCHED premiered on television…

and…

46 years ago, HELLO DOLLY premiered on Broadway!

This afternoon, I was reminded of why I love the show so much! Wright State University’s theatre department produced another Stuart McDowell masterpiece with two so many outstanding performances by individuals, and a tight ensemble.

Of course, I was exceptionally proud of Will Hutcheson who played Barnaby…

…and Katie O’Neill who played Dolly Levi!

These two talents have evolved into incredible performers, and I cannot wait to see their careers flourish when they hit New York City this fall!

I have never thought of the main production number, “Hello Dolly” as a tear jerker, but it hit me this afternoon… much clapping and wiping away a few tears because I was so proud of these two future stars!

Thank you, Stuart McDowell, and the entire company of WSU’s HELLO DOLLY, and much love to Katie and Will!

I cannot believe I have slipped into my old pattern of not blogging! I was so good about blogging, and then the past few days I have been lazy – an for no good reason.

It has been a typical week at the Haasienda – teaching, watching documentaries, walks, gym time with Jose and the neighbor boy, Kelley, and playing with Flyer and Logan. I have been battling low energy, again, this week, and it is driving me up the wall.

Tonight is the Fairmont concert at the Fraze Pavilion for the bands. Since my Beavercreek students have all rescheduled this evening’s lessons, I will be free to attend this concert.

Thursday, there is nothing major on the docket.

Friday, after teaching, I plan on going to see HELLO, DOLLY at Wright State University. Several former students are leads in this production, and they are seniors. Hopefully, my friend, Suzanne Grote, will be able to sneak away from family to see the show with me.

Saturday will be busy – two graduation parties, and a canoe expedition at Old River Park with several family friends.

Sunday is the annual cookout next door with the Moore-Parker household – one of my favorite events of the year! We may try to work in some more canoe time, and then the fireworks later that night. Generally, downtown Dayton offers fireworks, as well over the Memorial Day weekend.

Other than that, it is a typical Spring day at the Haasienda.

Read PLAYBILL’s article on the collaborative direction about Hal Prince and Susan Stromman…

Prince and Stroman Unveil New Musical

This downtown Dayton-make-over sounds incredible! What renewed energy!

Read the Dayton Daily News article:  Downtown makeover plans target housing, entertainment

This was a slightly busy, yet relaxing week. Despite the heavy rain and thunderstorms throughout the first half of the week, we had mild temperatures. Many times we were threatened with rain, or storms but they by-passed us.

The students were great this week – hard working, and really digging into some good material.

Jose has been busy with marching band percussion until 9:00pm most nights this week, yet we have managed to have some ample quality time together.

I have done a fairly decent job this week with maintaining some good walking time! Flyer has really been enjoying these neighborhood journeys. Tonight, she found a tennis ball, and was delighted to carry it, and then grab it when she tossed it front of her. It certainly made her trip more festive.

Today I had three visits to the doctor to draw blood to see how the new medications are working. The last time, I had to be “stuck” twice but I kept my humor… needles don’t really bother me.

Tomorrow morning I will spend time with Magsig Middle School students in Centerville to discuss the performing arts as a career.  I will have a few hours before teaching to eat lunch, and maybe grab a walk through the neighborhood. After several hours of teaching I will head to ACTION Adoption for training.

Saturday, Jose will have marching band percussion rehearsal from 9:00am-9:00pm. I am planning on working in my study the largest part of the day. I will be at the Carter home by 5:00pm to see the twins as they head off to the Beavercreek prom.

If there weather holds out Sunday, I would like to head down to Old River Park with Jose and grab a canoe to enjoy the 1.5 mile historic lagoon. We had hoped to hit ORP the past few weekends but in-climate weather prevented us from doing so.

Other than that, there is just not much to report.

Originally published in PLAYBILL.

By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson
11 May 2010

Doris Eaton Travis
Doris Eaton Travis

Doris Eaton Travis, the former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who inspired 21st century audiences with her pluck, good will — and fancy footwork — at 12 of 13 annual Easter Bonnet Competition performances for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, died May 11 at the age of 106, according to Tom Viola, executive director of BC/EFA.

Ms. Eaton was thought to be among “the last of the Ziegfeld Girls” — as were known the bejeweled ensemble of women who graced the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre (and elsewhere) in producer Flo Ziegfeld’s revues in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Eight decades after her initial bout of fame, she again found an audience on the stage of the New Amsterdam. She danced for a 1998 audience when she appeared with four other graying Ziegfeld veterans in the first Easter Bonnet fundraiser at the theatre, then newly restored, on West 42nd Street.

“She was truly our good luck charm,” Viola told Playbill.com. “In 1998, at 94, she was in incredible shape — in amazing shape. We brought her back every year, and she would dance in the opening number. She taught Sutton Foster how to dance ‘The Black Bottom,’ she danced with the ‘Cagelles’ from the previous revival, we celebrated her 100th birthday on stage, she appeared with the cast of Billy Elliot.”

Ms. Travis had lived recently with her nephew Joe Eaton and his wife outside of Chicago. She previously lived in Norman, OK, where she ran a horse ranch with her husband for 40 years.

Viola told Playbill.com that she took ill Sunday and was taken to the hospital to be rehydrated and was released, but was brought back to the hospital on May 11. She was reportedly talkative in the car, then chatting with the nurses about being a Ziegfeld girl and having just returned from the Bonnet Competition in New York City.

She slipped away quietly, without incident, at the hospital. Viola said, “I’ll bet the sound of the extraordinary ovation she received on stage at the Minskoff just two weeks ago today was ringing in her ears.”

Doris Eaton was born March 14, 1904, in Norfolk, VA. Four of her seven siblings would eventually go onto the stage, including sisters Mary and Pearl, who were also Ziegfeld Girls, and brothers Charles and Joseph, though Joe, disliking show business, left the theatre at a tender age. For a short period in the early 1920s, the three Eaton girls were famous enough that their heart-shaped faces graced the covers of celebrity magazines.

Mama Eaton encouraged the stage ambitions of her children early on, and ambitious older sister Evelyn pushed her brothers and sisters to achieve. Mary, the family’s greatest beauty, was the most famous, headlining the 1926 musical Lucky and receiving top billing with Eddie Cantor in Kid Boots. Pearl split her time between acting and choreographing, becoming quite accomplished at the latter.

Doris Eaton took her first step on Broadway in the 1917 play Mother Carey’s Chickens. She got her big break in the serendipitous manner often seen in Hollywood films. Her sister Pearl had been employed to rehearse a group of dancing girls for a road show of the Follies for producer Ned Wayburn. Doris tagged along to watch.

“During the break, Mr. Wayburn came over to give Pearl some instructions and he kept looking at me. He finally said, ‘Who’s this?’ Pearl said, ‘It’s my youngest sister, Doris.’ ‘Can she dance? I’m looking for somebody to understudy Ann Pennington on the road.’ Pearl knew Pennington’s routines and knew my capacity and she said, ‘She could do that. But, Mr. Wayburn, she’s only 14 and I don’t think her mother would let her go on the road.’ He said, ‘You tell your mother I want Doris to do this and she can travel with her and I’ll pay her mother’s way.'”

Young Doris was the youngest girl featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918. She also appeared in the 1920 edition of the Follies.

“Florenz Ziegfeld, to us and our family, was just a delightful person,” she told Playbill.com in 2004. “My sisters Mary and Pearl, my brother Charlie and I all worked for him, and he treated us just beautifully, almost like a father. When I went with my mother up to his office, he was always gentlemanly and kindly. He was sort of a quiet person. He was always well-groomed, sort of natty.”

Ms. Eaton modestly admitted she was never the star of the family. Still, she had her moments. She executed a rhythm tap dancing routine in the 1928 musical Cross My Heart which stopped the show cold every night. In the 1929 show The Hollywood Music Box Revue, she introduced the song “Singing in the Rain,” months before Cliff Edwards would deliver it in the film “Hollywood Revue.” And then there was that love affair with Nacio Herb Brown, the composer of “Singin’ in the Rain” and many other standards.

The Eatons’ heyday was short. Offers from both Broadway and Hollywood dried up with the arrival of the Great Depression. Suddenly, the fabulous family business was finished. The clan didn’t handle the reversal in fortunes well. Charlie, Mary and Pearl all battled alcoholism. Glamorous Mary married “three drunks in a row,” as her brother Joe put it, and died of severe metamorphosis of the liver in 1948.

“Ballet dancing and the theatre was really my sister’s whole life,” remembered Doris when discussing Mary in 2004. “It was something inward with her. With Pearl, she liked it but it was a job. With me, it was just a job. I never had stars in my eyes about the theatre.”

Pearl also ended badly. She died in 1958 in her Manhattan Beach apartment, the victim of a bizarre murder which remains unsolved. The sturdy and cheerful Charlie fared best at carving out a long career, often joining Doris as half of a dance team. He died in 2004.

Asked why she survived the seeming tragedy of being shut out of show business while still in the bloom of youth, Ms. Eaton said, “I reached the age of 32 and I took a good look at myself and said ‘What’s going on here? This is nothing. This is not life.’ I went back to church and began to study and find myself. I got some inner strength from that.”

Ms. Eaton left show business, but later became the owner of 18 Arthur Murray dance studios in Michigan, which she operated for 30 years. She also ran a horse ranch in Oklahoma with her late husband, Paul Travis, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma at the age of 88.

In 2003, she published “The Days We Danced,” a frank biography of her family’s history on and off the stage—a tale replete with glory and heartbreak in even amounts.

Ms. Eaton took her last bow April 27, during the opening number of the 2010 Easter Bonnet show. She rode onstage in a giant Easter basket, giving the initial impression that she could no longer walk. But Ms. Travis brought the audience to its feet when she rose to her own feet and took center stage. Steadied by two shirtless young male dancers, she executed a kick or two and thanked the audience for the love they had shown her over the 12 years of her appearances at the Bonnet event. She then headed into the wings under her own power.

(Written in September 2002)

Thursday evening I was in the middle of teaching private voice, piano and saxophone lessons when I received Emails from my mother and sister telling me that Mr. Brugger had passed away.  Though not terribly surprised by the news, I was still quite sad. As my student continued playing through her lesson, a kaleidoscope of memories began turning.

My first memory of Mr. Brugger was at the T-Way parking lot as a very small child. My grandmother, Donna, Barmes, use to ride me on her bicycle a good deal, and one of our favorite jaunts in the summer was to watch the Panter Band practice.  The early images must have had a strong impact on me as I later served as the Panther Band Drum-major throughout my high school career.  It was during those years in the late 1960’s that I first heard Mr. Brugger sing “Old Man River.”

In 1975, two phenomenal teachers entered my life – Garnetta and Clifford Brugger.  Mrs. Brugger was my fifth grade teacher, and Mr. Brugger, having retired from the high school, came into our music class each week to teach songs and tell stories.  He would lead us in several favorite American folk songs, and then stop to tell us a joke or a story, complete with various voices and theatrics.  One day, someone asked why we sang “those old songs.”  With a reassuring smile, Mr. Brugger explained that in other countries around the world, folks songs were vital to the people’s history because they told stories of the people of their land.  He felt, that as an American, we should all value our own musical heritage.   To this day, American folk songs are a part of my teaching repertoire.

Toward the end of the year, I wrote a note to Mr. Brugger with a special request, and sent it home via his wife.  His last day he was with us at Washington Elementary School, he honored my request.  I can remember the school secretary, Jan Helpling, slipping in through the coat hall… Diana Lane, the fourth grade teacher (and also one of my favorites), joined her… Mrs. Brugger, holding a cup of coffee slipped in beside them… Mr. Brugger’s voice filled the entire building with the rich strains of “Old Man River.”

Throughout my junior high and senior high years, Mr. Brugger was one of my biggest supporters.  Whether attending an Elwood HS Variety Show – his own legacy and gift to our community – or giving me a nod along the parade route, he always made sure I knew how proud he was of my work.  The crowning moment came when he saw me after a performance of OKALHOMA! and compared my performance to that of Gordon MacRae who portrayed “Curly” in the motion picture.

Upon my return visits to my family over the years, I knew that if we went to Jim Dandy for breakfast, I would get to see Mr. Brugger.  He never failed to recognize me, and always insisted I tell him everything I was doing with my own music career as a band & choir director, and performer.

My last student this evening came into my studio and announced that he had decided to go to Ball State University next fall to major in music education. Although he is not my first student to go into music, his timing was perfect.  As Brian warmed up on his saxophone, I was so happy Clifford Brugger made such an impression me twenty-eight years ago.  I was even more appreciative that he also had an impact on his own student, Paula Simmons, who was my junior high and high school band and choir director.

When my student left, I sent my newly adopted thirteen year old son outside to walk our dog.  I sat down at my piano and began playing and singing.  It was a tender moment without great emotion.  It was a moment of thanksgiving, and celebration.  The lyrics flowed easily…

“Ol’ man river, that ol’ man river,

He mus’ know sumpin’ but don’t say nuthin’

He jes’ keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’ along.

He don’t plant taters, he don’t plant cotton

An’ dem dat plants ‘em is soon forgotten,

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

I git weary an’ sick of tryin’

I’m tired of livin’ an’ skeered of dyin’

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

Our beloved maestro has laid down his baton at last, yet his music “keeps on rollin’” within our memories, and our hearts.  Where ever you are, Mr. Brugger, thank you, and God bless.

[April 2003, Paula Simmons invited me back to Elwood Community High School to perform, “Old Man River,” in honor of Mr. Brugger.  This was, and will always be, one of my greatest honors.]

Darin as Panther Band drum-major

Darin performing "Old Man River" - 2003

Originally published: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d29-Butlers-Coleman-Hemsath-marks-his-30th-production-with-Singin-In-The-Rain

Hemsath - Head shotEight years. Thirty productions. This averages to 3.75 shows each year. Most of these thirty productions, however, were accomplished within the past five years.

This incredibly busy rehearsal and performance schedule has been maintained by Coleman Hemsath, a Butler High School junior who is a familiar face in Vandalia Youth Theatre and Muse Machine productions.

Some children do not listen to their mothers, but it is a good thing Coleman listened to his.

“My mother was looking for something for me to do over the summer in 2001. She found the Vandalia Youth Theatre and enrolled me in it. I think I fell in love after that. It’s something I couldn’t shake off.”

That first year he played the role of Cockroach in the Vandalia Youth Theatre children’s production, Bugz. Not a very auspicious beginning for the young man who would portray Javert in the 2009 Vandalia Youth Theatre production, Les Miserables. Nonetheless, it was Coleman’s start in theatre. The following year, his stage character vastly improved with the role Big Jules in Guys & Dolls.

Most of Coleman’s roles have allowed him to engage his comedic timing; however, this past summer, he was challenged to spread his dramatic wings as Javert in Les Miserables.

“This character had to be real and deep because of the choices and situations he endures leading to a final decision of suicide. My favorite part of the role was actually committing suicide. This was incredibly hard and for the longest time it was lacking emotion. But one day at rehearsal I remember literally breaking down in tears after singing the song leading up to the suicide. Something clicked. It was definitely the most challenging and yet, most gratifying role I’ve played.”

The seventeen year old thespian credits the cast’s dedication as a reason for the show’s success, and succeeding with his initial trepidation tackling his huge, dramatic role.

Thoroughly Modern Millie was Coleman’s first performance with Dayton’s Muse Machine. Like most first time performers with Muse Machine, he was in awe as he walked on to the dazzling Victoria Theater’s stage. Being in a show with tremendously talented teens he had admired in previous years from the other side of the lights was a moment he will always remember.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie just seemed to have a spark to it.”

This coming January, Coleman will once again join his fellow Muse performers on the Victoria stage in Singin’ In The Rain. Coleman will play the tightly-wound Diction Coach, as well as understudy to Don Lockwood, the character popularized in the 1952 movie by Gene Kelly.

Following his 2011 graduation from Vandalia’s Butler High School, Coleman plans on majoring in musical theatre or vocal performance, and one day hopes to play either Max Bialystock or Leo Bloom in The Producers. If performing is not enough for this jovial thespian, he dreams of someday opening his own theatre company.

Keep your eye on the Miami Valley’s own – Coleman Hemsath!

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