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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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I felt like a kid, tonight.  In fact, it felt like I had the excitement of all my birthdays and Christmases all combined.

Quintin and I met Brian Pollock at The Greene to watch the movie I’ve waited several years to see.

The theatre, at 6:30pm, was packed for the 7:00pm showing, and we sat down in the lower tier, or as Brian aptly stated, “laying down in front of the TV on the floor.”  I was thrilled to see the theater packed.  At first, when I saw the immense lines of young teen girls, I was hopeful that LINCOLN-fever had reached their generation; however, I soon learned they were there to see the new TWILIGHT movie.

My bottom line reaction:  BRAVO!

I am sure the historians will find fault with this movie.  Naturally, there were items I knew, or believed to be historically inaccurate, but this is not a documentary.  LINCOLN is a fictional account based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS.  Tony Award winning playwright, Tony Kushner, delivered a tight, believable, and emotional script that highlighted some of our country’s greatest individuals set against the backdrop of the Civil War.

Before the movie even hit theaters, folks were complaining about Sally Field being too old, photos of the White House set not being accurate, or a myriad of other picky items.  Folks were concerned the script would not be accurate.  Again, it was a fictional account, based on actual events.  If we were to examine THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE KING AND I, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, GYPSY, and others, we would be appalled at the truth versus the fictional accounts portrayed on stage.  LINCOLN is no different.

Following a robust applause, the credits scrolled upward.  It was an impressive line-up of names!  I asked Brian if there any actors left in Hollywood to film other movies while this was being filmed.  Incredible performances from some incredible actors.

Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, as President Lincoln & Mary Todd Lincoln, were everything I hoped they would be.  I was not let down.  Hal Holbrook was brilliant, and I did love the fact that a former Lincoln-actor, LINCOLN (television 1974-1975), was included in this list of stars.  There was not one performance that disappointed me.

For me, the most delightful performance was delivered by Tommy Lee Jones, portraying Pennsylvania congressman, Thaddeus Stevens.  Outstanding!  I smell a supporting actor Oscar nomination!

Many have commented on Daniel Day Lewis’ voice in the movie.  I think everyone believes Abraham Lincoln had a booming baritone voice like James Earl Jones; however, Lincoln’s voice was described as “high pitched, thin and reedy.”  It served him well during speeches before thousands of spectators in an era without electronic sound amplification.  I believe Daniel Day Lewis captured Lincoln’s voice.

In the early stages, several colleagues were fearful of Sally Fields being 20 years older than Daniel Day Lewis, and not matching the 9 year age difference between Lincoln and Mary Todd.  I oft reminded the critics that Mrs. Lincoln, at age 44, looked much older, and with the blessings of Max Factor, Sally Field would be right in the ball park.

And, she was!

Sally Field has succeeded a long line of well-known actresses who have portrayed the first lady:

  • Jane Curtin
  • Donna Murphy
  • Sada Thompson (opposite Hal Holbrook)
  • Glenn Close
  • Ellen Burstyn
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Julie Harris (in the Broadway play, THE LAST OF MRS. LINCOLN, penned by fellow Ball State University graduate, James Prideaux)
  • Lillian Gish
  • Geraldine Fitzgerald
  • Ruth Gordon
  • and dozens more…

When Gore Vidal’s LINCOLN premiered on television, I was horrified by Mary Tyler Moore’s abrasive portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln.  With the combined script, direction and acting, I felt Tyler-Moore’s particular portrayal was just awful.  Sally Field, for me, personally, was Mary Todd Lincoln.  Ms. Field was terribly believable, capturing Mrs. Lincoln’s fire, intelligence, grace, doubts, feelings and frustrations of being left out of her husband’s White House work, charm, political savvy, tender and protective maternal nature, and a Mary that was very capable of holding her own in a world ruled by men!

Were there items I feel should have been included to better round out the character of Mrs. Lincoln?

Of course.  But this movie was not about Mary Todd Lincoln.  It focused on President Lincoln and those who fought to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  The writing and directing of this particular character was far better than previous attempts, and Ms. Field’s professional, and personal choices pleased me very much.

There were a few scenes that were historically adjusted, but those moments seemed to strengthen Mary Lincoln’s heartbreak and devastation at the loss of her son, Willie, who died within their first year of residency in the White House, as well as the fire and capacity that Mrs. Lincoln exhibited, much to Abraham’s success.

So… go see LINCOLN.

If you are a historian, take off your historian cap, as I did, and simply rejoice in the truly great work, and the fact that the Lincolns are currently a fairly hot commodity in motion pictures!

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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

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I am sitting in my study, as I do four days a week, writing.  Each afternoon through mid-evening I teach private lessons. But prior to teaching, I have three-scheduled hours of writing time, cheerfully followed by errands, and household chores. I am fortunate to spend my mornings, somewhat leisurely, writing, simply because one lady told me I could write, and then, she showed me how to write.

Darren Paquin

Although my younger siblings cringed when Darren Paquin pulled out my high school essays, written nearly a decade earlier, they also expressed some pride that their eldest brother was still remembered in the classrooms, and hallways, of Elwood Community High School. They often razzed me for my writing skills, but they never realized how much effort, time, and work, I put into writing, and especially, depending on the topic, research, and outlining.

Since the fall of 1982, I have continually used the “rock of writing” learned in Mrs. Paquin’s classroom: an outline. I can remember the encouragement, and insistence, that was her daily mantra, “Outline.” I always knew, when I ran into writing issues, the first question I would be asked, “Where’s your outline?”

One day, Mrs. Paquin hovered over my shoulder as I struggled with a particular paragraph in an essay. “Let me take a look at your outline.” It was such a casual request, yet one I was dreading that morning. I had no outline. I admitted that I had skipped a procedure in the very thing I now promote as a teacher: PROCESS. Mrs. Paquin straightened, looked down, and just stood there with a ‘are-you-kidding-me-? smile. For several seconds, she said nothing. Finally, using her red flair-tipped editing pen, she tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “You know I expect more from you.” And with that, she moved on to the next student, but turned to reaffirm her statement with a smile, punctuated with a wink.

For my sons, former students, and current students, who are reading this, I am sure there is a breeze, accompanied by the sound of a flock of fleeing birds, as they shake their heads, and roll their eyes. “I expect more from you,” an oft used phrase in The Haasienda, runs a close second to our family motto: “Always do your best – always!” That morning in Mrs. Paquin’s advanced composition class seemed to add a new element to my life’s journey, and future career. Through the years, the phrase became ingrained in my soul as a constant marker, reminding me to continually challenge myself to do better in all areas of my life.

My favorite photo of Mrs. & Mr. Paquin

Several years after I graduated from high school, Mrs. Paquin began a new chapter of living as she began her own process of survival. Her heart specialists prescribed an outline for living, and this outline included a transplant from a heart donor. As you can see from the posted video below, she kept to the outline.

I always tell my sons that I will never be their friend, nor they, mine. I explain that my mother will never be my friend.  She is my mother. Yes, we have had a wonderful relationship for the past 47 years, but I could never reduce her status as anything other than the very reverent title,  Mother. The same holds for Mrs. Paquin, and several other Elwood teachers who have had a tremendous impact on my life. Yes, in many ways, Mrs. Paquin, has been a valued friend, but as she was thirty years ago, she still is, today, my beloved Teacher.

I continue to learn from this wonderful lady through the inspiration of faith, hope, and perseverance she demonstrates. I am so grateful that when God was designing Mrs. Paquin’s life-outline, I was included as one of the many subheadings.

And I must be honest… I did not create an outline for this particular blog-post. Sometimes, the heart has it’s own outline.

Mrs. Paquin, know you are loved…

25 Years of Heart Transplant at St.Vincent Heart Center

Note:  Mr. Gordon Paquin was my high school principal, and one of the best role models for a fatherless teenager. Mr. & Mrs. Paquin have two children, Dawn and Derek, who attended high school with me. 

I am finishing up the writing of a musical on the Wright Brothers, and in one particular scene, I recreate the concept of the hobble skirt when a modesty cord is tied around a young lady’s long, voluminous skirts prior to a flight with Wilbur Wright. A fashion designer happened to be in the crowd, watching these famed flights of 1909, and captured a new fashion design when the lady scooted away from the areoplane with the modesty cord still in place. In my research, I discovered the young designer was from Paris’ famed, The House of Paquin. You can bet The House of Paquin is mentioned in the musical!

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

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 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

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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Teaching only three days in the summer means long days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; however, having the additional two week-days – plus the weekend – to work around the house, write, and spend time with my are wonderful.

This morning I was wide-awake at 5:45am – which seems to be my inner alarm wake-up call – and decided to go ahead and water the plants on the deck. I did my morning routine, and decided that at 7:15am it was way too early to pull out the hedge trimmer. So, I read some emails, watched some of THE TODAY SHOW, followed by WILL & GRACE, and about fifteen minutes of ALL IN THE FAMILY. At 8:00am I was restless, so I tackled some indoor items, and ate breakfast.

I just finished watering the plants in front, greatly increased in their beauty thanks to Valerie Lockhart’s gifts the past two weeks. I cleaned the front door and mailbox – having painted the fence yesterday morning. The mail box may need some painting, too.

I have a full schedule of what I wish to accomplish today, mostly having to do with the yard. Jose has a work meeting at 1:00pm, and then works from 4:45pm-8:00pm, so I will plan my writing time in those chunks.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and promises to be even more so today. The cool, non-humidity nights, so rare for the end of June in Ohio, were a welcome relief after the sufferings of the past several weeks. The rains came in torrents, briefly cooling off the air, but soon were followed by the steam.

This weekend promises to be fantastic for the July Fourth festivities – which are many here in The Miami Valley. I am sure we will canoe several times, maybe catch one or two firework shows, a parade, and hopefully time with some friends.

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

Although I am a passionate historian, I must admit that I was rather lazy in my study of Dayton history. Normally, I am on top of my historical surroundings, and learn as much as possible. However, when I moved to Dayton, Ohio in 1990, I was not at all certain I would remain here more than 3-5 years. I anticipated moving to New York City, or even to Virginia near Williamsburg, or Washington, DC. Perhaps I had an unaddressable fear of learning too much about the Miami Valley for fear of it gluing me here.

Twenty years later, I still feel slightly negligent in knowing Dayton’s history. I seem to know more about the Wright Brothers than I do most of Dayton, and the surrounding area. Still, it was not until the summer of 1999 that I even gave the Wrights a second thought. I had been to the Air Force Museum when my parents visited in 1992, but I found it agonizingly boring. My dad had to stop and read every placard, and photograph nearly every plane. Mother, still with tints of red in her hair at the time, was photographed in front of the plane painted with the title, “Strawberry Bitch.” Each visit to the museum still prompts a photo with a family member standing in front of the plane.

Seven years later I was on my three week vacation that took me to:

  • Niagara Falls (ugh… another story)
  • a drive through the Adirondacks
  • a pass through Schroon Lake
  • Stowe, Vermont to visit the Trapp family members (THE SOUND OF MUSIC) at the Trapp Family Lodge
  • Manchester, Vermont to visit Robert Todd Lincoln’s home, Hildene
  • FDR’s home/grave in Hyde Park, NY
  • Val-Kil, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home & retreat near Hyde Park
  • New York City
  • Flushing Meadows – the site of the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs
  • Teddy Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill
  • Montauk Point Lighthouse at the tip of Long Island
  • Assateague Island to see the wild horses because my fourth grade teacher, Diana Lane, read us the book, THE MYSTERY OF ASSATEAGUE ISLAND in 1974
  • A brief trip through DC – only driving and looking, no stopping
  • A trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel
  • A visit with my aunt and cousins
  • The Outer Banks
    • Wright Memorial (merely drove around it and left)
    • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (which had just finished its hydraulic move the day before)
    • Ocracoke Island
  • A visit with my grandfather and family at Grandpa’s mission program in Southeastern Kentucky
  • Gatlinburg for three days with family
  • Lexington, Kentucky
    • Mary Todd Lincoln
    • Henry Clay home
    • ice cream at Cheapside
    • Lexington Cemetery

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I took advantage of this East Coast vacation, packing as much in as possible. I knew that once I began adopting children, this kind of vacation would be on hiatus.

The memorial at Kitty Hawk meant absolutely nothing to me. I drop past it, only to return since it had a Dayton connection. I took a photo, and drove on not wanting to indulge any time in listening to a (biased) NC park ranger talk about airplanes.

September 1999, while roller blading in Centerville’s Stubbs Park, I was resting on a rock when I noticed a tiny sparrow hopping in the parking lot, picking at some food dropped by patrons from the previous evening’s concert. I had always been terrified of birds growing up, so I had never considered how they got their bodies into the air, supported by seemingly fragile wings.

As I watched the sparrow my eye caught a jet floating through the sky as it prepared to land at Dayton International.

“How did that thing get into the sky?”

As I continued to watch the bird and the plane (no Superman), I heard voices of two young boys arguing. I even turned around, expecting to find two lads arguing.

Nothing.

The voices continued.

Finally I heard the one boy call the name of the other, and there was no doubt as to who they were, and why I was privy to their aggravated conversation.

The next day, I returned from the USA Air Force Museum with nine books on the Wright Brothers. I had received “my mission” while resting in the park.

Prior to that September day, I had never given the Wrights much thought. By April 2000, I was finally sketching out plots, scenes, and characters.

July 2000, I drove to Kitty Hawk, stood on the Wright Brothers’ Memorial and flew a kite to toast the start of what would be a fascinating journey for the next decade.

My goal was to finish the musical, then titled, TWELVE SECONDS TO THE MOON, for the 2003 anniversary.

Gail Whipple - lyricist-composer

In 1998 I got a new saxophone student, Lucas Whipple – a neat 10 year old boy with a wonderful personality. I eventually began teaching his sister, Andra, piano and voice. Their mother, Gail, a fantastic musician (vocalist, pianist) was teaching music at South Dayton Preparatory School and asked if I’d please teach beginning piano there.

In January 2003, Gail and I were chatting about the Muse Machine musical we had just seen. Her husband, Tim, was the Muse board president. Gail and I began discussing musical scores, and she played a few of her own songs that were clearly “musical theatre.” I promptly asked her to assist me with TWELVE SECONDS TO THE MOON, and she agreed.

Leslie Merry, Composer

A month later, I hosted the first read-thru of the book with approximately 20 theatre friends at my town house. Gail attended, and brought her friend, Leslie Merry, introducing her as “a musician friend of mine.”

Within a few days, the trio of Gail, Leslie and Darin were embarking on our collaboration. Other than directing, this was my first collaborative effort, and I did not know what to expect with our first work session. I had tossed out ideas for styles on several songs. Quietly, Gail and Leslie tossed them back, presenting something completely different from what I was hearing… and it was magnificent. Throughout the years, I continued to toss to them what I was hearing in my head, and they provided something different… entirely different, and much more clever, and exciting!

As with any project, it evolved. The history of flight anniversary flew by and we knew that we still had a product. However, the Wrights’ story had changed. Their sister, Katharine, was now an integral part of the story, and it now began five years after they first flew at Kitty Hawk. We had uncovered more drama, and depth to their story – the story after the story with most are most familiar.

The working title soon changed to THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and the underlying theme was about “control.”

  • The secret to flight was in “control”
  • There was an international race to “control” the sky
  • There were battles over financial “control”
  • There were internal issues of “control” within the family circle

It was the right path for this musical.

Now, the 99.5% completed project is a grand mixture of our theatrical forefathers’ creations… there are hints of RAGTIME, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE SECRET GARDEN, EVITA, SUNDAY IN THE PARK, CAMELOT… the musical is dramatic, comedic, filled with suspense, interwoven with political intrigue (well, nothing that would arouse the interest of James Bond, but remember, it is 1908-1945)…

I was blessed to find a lyricist (Gail) who could arrange lyrics as wonderfully as Hammerstein, Lowe, and Rice, and a composer (Leslie) who could immediately whip out a strong melodic line rivaling Rodgers, Lerner and Webber but with a heavy flavor of Sondheim. And the score is, perhaps, more Sondheimesque. The lyrics, in many places, are simply too good to be true due to the clever, concise arrangement of thoughts and words. I would hand Gail a paragraph of thoughts, and she would return lyrics that made my jaw hit the floor. The lyrics and music, together, are outstanding, and I honestly believe their contributions to this project far surpass my work on the book. The three of us, each being musicians, have also contributed to one another’s individual assignments – which has been a splendid delightful process for we each trust one another, and are, too often, like one mind.

I humbly bow to my two collaborators, and will always be grateful for their magnificent contributions to the future success of this musical.

My personal journey with this project began a decade ago. The three of us were also working professionals, raising children, involved musicians, busy volunteers, and confronted with personal, and professional experiences that sometimes kept as from moving ahead on the project consistently. Before Gail’s family moved to California, we had many fantastic work sessions, and reading sessions (about six, in all). Now, Leslie and I will work together, and collaborate with Gail, using all the modern technologies.

What a thrilling journey it has been!

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.

There is some tennis event on NBC. The skies above the Miami Valley have resembled a tennis match all morning… for a few minutes the sun shines, and shortly, the dark clouds hover… back and forth.

The storms for the past two nights have woke me, and the pounding rains lulled me back to sleep each time. Yesterday afternoon, and evening, the heat and humidity were unbearable. This afternoon, a cool breeze keeps the curtains in my bedroom dancing back and forth from the screen windows while the shadows of trees moves across the kitchen cabinets and floor. The wind chimes on the deck create a continues song.

I know my week was not nearly as busy as so many others, but for me, it was extremely busy. The past few days of relaxation, after nearly nine straight days of continuous activity, were most welcome.

Friday, after teaching, I ran a few errands with Jose, and then we settled on a meal from Steak N Shake. Neither of us were interested in doing anything, so we each settled on our own movies. I had received It’s Complicated from Netflix, but it just did not interest me; so, I settled on several on-line movies:

  • The George Burns & Gracie Allen Collection
  • HH Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer
  • The Bible According To Hollywood

Saturday morning alternated between rain and sunshine, so I settled at my laptop in my bedroom with several books, and my Netflix movies running:

  • Cold Case Files: Killer In The Country
  • The Jewish People: A Story of Survival

A little after Noon, I completed some household tasks, and started several loads of laundry. Rain storms hit pretty hard for a while, so I returned to my room and watched portions of several movies, occasionally chatting with Jose as he passed back and forth from the kitchen to the basement.

I drove Jose to work since the storms were striking intermittently, and ran errands to Dollar General and Kroger. Back at home I worked at my desk a little, keeping an eye on the sky and the clock should Jose need me to pick him up.

I decided to research a little more on Cornelius Vanderbilt, a minor character in the Wright Brother’s musical.

Jose arrived home from One Lincoln Park, and offered me a tray of beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, and stewed tomatoes. As always, the chef created a triumph!

Jose descended to the basement to XBox360 world, and I turned on more Netflix as Flyer and Logan snuggled next to me. I know my selections would boar most, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these historical figures.

The story of the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek, Michigan, was extremely interesting, as was the story of hotel giant, Conrad Hilton.  The Kellogg brothers, and Conrad Hilton, were all incredible entrepreneurs, well ahead of their times.

Conrad Hilton was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor – who, to my surprise, is still living! Her sister, Ava had died, but I figured this other Gabor sister was also deceased. If you get a chance to Google Ms. Gabor’s more recent photos, please do. I will post them. Despite being in her 90’s, she still grabs some of the glamour… barely. I had not made the connection of this gentlemen to Paris Hilton!

I received an email from a student’s parent that she was watching Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. I knew of the play, but had never seen the movie. She grew up near Katharine Hepburn in Connecticut, and watches all Ms. Hepburn’s movies. I decided to research it, and then pull up the movie on Netflix.

The movie, which includes Ms. Hepburn, also stars Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards (who starred in the original stage play), and a very young Dean Stockwell who is more popularly known from his roles in Quantum Leap and Battlestar Gallactica. I read a good deal about the 1962 movie’s director, Sidney Lumet (1924- ), and his style of directing. What a fascinating director.

I have a feeling I am being “encouraged” to study this director. I was introduced to Mr. Lumet’s work last night. This morning I was watching a morning news program Anderson Cooper, and Googled him. I had no idea he was the 3rd great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt – who I had researched Saturday evening – and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt – a wife of Sidney Lumet!

Coincidence?

I was so moved by this movie that I could not turn it off to go to sleep. At 2:45am, I finally decided that I must. I should have continued watching it as it was less than an hour that the newly arrived storms were waking me.

(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!

Originally published: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d28-Wayne-High-School-senior-Tray-Shelton-shines-in-Moon-Over-Buffalo

Shelton 6“I have been interested in theatre for as long as I can remember. I think the main reason the stage has always been appealing to me is because in a small town like Huber Heights, you don’t have many opportunities to express yourself and I knew that high school theatre would be a sort of creative outlet for me.”

And finding his creative outlet in high school theatre is exactly what Wayne High School senior, Tray Shelton, has done.

Tray first got a taste for the boards during his sophomore year when he stepped into the role of James Keller in Wayne’s production, The Miracle Worker, for which he received a Floorboard Award for “best newcomer.” Since that first appearance he has enjoyed lead roles in Anything Goes, The Importance Of Being Earnest, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

Being in front of an audience and seeing the reactions to events on stage explains why Wayne’s Thespian Society/Drama Club president is enthusiastic about performing.

“My favorite thing to hear is laughter because it means I’m doing something to make the audience happy and that makes me happy.”

Tray claims that his favorite show is The Miracle Worker, which was his first production. Playing the role of Helen Keller’s older brother introduced him to character development while learning how theatre functions.

The third weekend of November will find Tray in what he believes to be his favorite role, portraying George Hay in Ken Ludwig’s 1995 Broadway hit, Moon Over Buffalo.

“It’s a challenging role because George spends the entire second act intoxicated. I am enjoying working on the differences between ‘drunk George’ and ‘sober George’. It’s almost like playing two characters at once which is a fun and unique experience. I also love the fact that I am an actor playing an actor. It’s fun to play into all of the stereotypes associated with actors.”

When preparing for a role, the Wayne thespian admits that memorizing blocking comes rather naturally. However, line memorization is often difficult due to spending countless hours after school each day.

Still, cramming lines and life into the busy schedule of a high school senior has not dampened his spirits. Tray’s future plans include studying at Wittenberg, or Wright State, pursuing a degree in theatre. One day, he dreams of playing Angel in Rent.

Feeling as though he got a late start in performing, Tray encourages younger students to get involved earlier than high school by seeking performing opportunities in school, church or community venues.

“I waited until my sophomore year to join the drama club and while it has still been a wonderful experience I have always wished it could have lasted just a little bit longer.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Tray Shelton and fellow Wayne performers in Moon Over Buffalo, November 19, 20, & 21, 2009 in the Wayne High School Auditorium. Thursday & Friday curtains will rise at 7:00pm, and Saturday’s matinee begins at 2:00pm. Wayne Sporting Goods will begin selling tickets two weeks before the show. Tickets can also be purchased one hour prior to curtain. Admission for preferred seating are $8, and general admission is $5. International Thespian Society members can get tickets half price with a valid membership card (one per card).
 

 

Originally posted: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d26-Fairmont-grad-Phil-Drennen-launches-new-writing-career-following-Altar-Boyz-tour

PhilThis 2002 Fairmont graduate, now a performer living in New York City, was known in the Miami Valley for cow roping, singin’ and dancin’ in the rain, gambling, and dancing in pajamas. Now, having completed a national tour of Altar Boyz, Philip Drennen is settling into a new phase of his youthful career. However, he still credits his theatrical experiences as a high school student in the Miami Valley as the foundation of his success and still new horizons.

“Literally all my best memories from high school, in general, are from doing shows and playing in the band,” said Philip. “All of my best friends from that time, who still are my best friends, I met in a performance group.”

When not playing flute in a Kettering concert band, or serving as the marching band’s field commander, Phil, was on Fairmont’s stage, performing the lead roles in Oklahoma!, Guys & Dolls and Singin’ In The Rain. Away from the Fairmont stage, he was a familiar favorite on the Muse stage in My Fair Lady and The Pajama Game.

His favorite high school role is, perhaps, the most memorable to many as he sang and danced his way through a rain shower in Singin’ In The Rain, a production that packed Fairmont’s auditorium each night.

“Of all the shows I did I’ll always talk about how it rained on stage during Singin’ in the Rain. The audience gave the rain wagon a standing ovation. Legendary!”

While a student at Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, where he received his BFA (bachelor of fine arts) in musical theatre, Philip performed in William Finn’s Elegies, Crazy For You and Working. From CCM it was on to the professional world of musical theatre where Mr. Drennen glided right into his professional life.

“I have many interesting stories from the last few years. I’m so, so grateful I was encouraged to go into theater. And to be honest, I wasn’t encouraged by everyone. I’ve gotten to see shows in London’s West End, climb the Great Wall of China, and even recently got to perform with Mickey Rooney! All from doing theater.

Aside from performing with 1940’s teen star, Mickey Rooney, Phil landed roles in a world premiere, For The Glory, which debuted in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and starred in the national tour of Altar Boyz.

Soon after arriving in New York, Phil learned that performing on Broadway is a great goal to pursue, but it should not be the only goal guiding young performers. There are natural facets of growth in the performing arena – something that many professionals refer to as, “process.”

“Many people get really down on themselves when they don’t get a huge show right out of school. But some people don’t peak until later. I’d always been told that I was a ‘leading man’ who hadn’t grown into himself and that I’d have to wait until I’m 30 to really break through. Instead of waiting, I’m taking things into my own hands and anyone can.”

And taking a pen and musical score paper into his own hands is exactly what Philip has done.

While on the road touring with Altar Boyz, Phil, and fellow performer, Dan Scott, who played “Mark”, began writing songs to pass the time. As soon as they returned to New York, the former Boyz were immediately at work co-writing songs. Within a few months, they recorded their first EP, One Of These Days.

This November, the newly formed duo, now popularly known as Astoria Boulevard, will throw their first CD-release party at Santos Party House in NYC.

Despite branching out in a slightly different direction in his still young career, Phil believes that he would not have discovered his voice for writing music had it not been for his years involved with high school theatre at Fairmont High School, and with the Muse Machine productions.

“There are many, many facets of performing that aren’t singing on Broadway.”

This grateful thespian that began his performing career here in the Miami Valley is eager to see other young performers reach for their own futures.

“If you’re goal is only to sing on Broadway, then tell yourself you WILL do it. If you’re a young person who wants to do this for a living and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, try it!”

To learn more about Astoria Boulevard with Philip Drennen and Dan Scott’s, please visit their website: http://www.astoria-boulevard.com

Originally published:  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d23-Jack-Gallagher-lights-the-way

Friends - GALLAGHER Jack“The shear difference from a plainly lit stage before the show, and the last little touch – lighting adds to a production that truly takes you to where the show takes place.”

This is why Centerville High School senior, Jackson “Jack” Gallagher, loves lighting design.

Following a Kettering Rec Center production of Pinocchio when Jack was three years old, the future thespian was hooked on theatre. In the years to come Jack was immersed in classes and summer camps that focused on dancing, singing, and acting while investigating the entire store of technical theatre.

Since his first production as a third grader at Washington Township’s Town Hall Theatre to Centerville High School’s recent production of Lucky Stiff, Jack has covered nearly every aspect of a production’s offering. By fourth grade he was involved on tech crew for the first time and has since become one of the Miami Valley’s most gifted high school theatre-tech students, garnering impressive awards for lighting design at the Ohio State Thespian Conference, The International Thespian Festival, and the International Tech Challenge.

Initially, Jack’s passion was in sound. In fact, for his 7th birthday he asked his parents for a sound board. However, he was soon to discover the radiant world of stage lighting that would launch him on a successful, award winning path.

“I worked with several lighting designers at Town Hall. Darell Porter was probably the most influential. He sat me down several times and taught me the basics about lighting design. However I didn’t start really getting into lighting until I came to CHS.”

The past three years, Jack has served as CHS’s lighting designer for Lucky Stiff, The Importance of Being Earnest, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Rumors, and Once Upon A Mattress for which he received a DayTony Award. In July 2009, Jack visually transported audiences to lush islands in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic, South Pacific at Beavercreek High School.

Jack Gallagher steadfastly follows his own regimen of advice that he thoughtfully shares with fellow students who wish to pursue theatre technical studies during their high school tenures by reading numerous articles, talking to professionals, getting involved in community theatre, and by simply being himself.

“The theatre world is about the size of a penny, and everyone knows everyone. Connections can mean more than your skills sometimes, so having good people skills and meeting the right people is invaluable.”

June 2010, the award winning student lighting designer will take leave of the CHS stage to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“I’ve applied for early decision at Carnegie Mellon and I have an interview on November 8th. So if everything goes well I might be accepted as early as then and would major in theatrical design.” 

Even at 18, Jack has a firm vision for his future, balanced with the philosophies instilled by CHS theatre instructors, Joe Buemner and Mike Cordonnier.

“Theatre is an ever changing market and I don’t want to have too much of a set plan because I probably won’t end up following that idea. People, friends, relationships, constantly change and they affect what you can do and jobs you can get. So I’ll major in theatre and see where life takes me. Maybe further down the road I would like to teach at a university and settle down and have a family. But who knows what tomorrow will hold.”

For more information on upcoming events at CHS’s Performing Arts Center, please call 937-439-3535, or visit their website http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/index.php?section=61

Every September 1st, I think of this beautiful song by Weill & Anderson.

The first time I heard “September Song” was in the mid-late 1980’s when Mr. Logan played a recording of it. I cannot remember who sang it but it seems like it was Ray Bolger’s voice in my mind. The lyrics are beautiful, wistful…

SEPTEMBER SONG

When I was a young man courting the girls
I played me a waiting game
If a maid refused me with tossing curls
I’d let the old Earth make a couple of whirls
While I plied her with tears in lieu of pearls
And as time came around she came my way
As time came around, she came

When you meet with the young girls early in the Spring
You court them in song and rhyme
They answer with words and a clover ring
But if you could examine the goods they bring
They have little to offer but the songs they sing
And the plentiful waste of time of day
A plentiful waste of time

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you

Well, last night the production team officially met for the first time to prep SOUTH PACIFIC for Beavercreek High School’s new summer stock production company, Summer On Stage. This production team is on fire, and over the past three weeks, has done an enormous job of planning, and most of all -visioneering.

This Sunday, May 17, we hold auditions, and the response from students has been great. My goal is to have tons of men for the Seabee numbers. “Nothin’ Like A Dame” will rock!

Unfortunately, we have little fires to constantly put out due to stagnating issues from the past, and this has infiltrated down to a handfull of students. One particular student, who will be attending a podunk school that has a very mediocre musical theatre (but she clams it is the best in the Midwest even when she could not get into the schools of her choice… [insert laugh here]), has been saying SOUTH PACIFIC will fail because I am a bad vocalist. However, she is all smoke… no substance. A few others have been on the attack, but again, no substance.

It’s sad that some of the students have basically been “bought” with empty promises. In some ways, I do not blame them for their attacks on the previous production, THE PAJAMA GAME, nor now with SOUTH PACIFIC. The students have had these insidious thoughts planted in their minds, and in the minds of some of their parents. How sad they have been used for unethical reasons.

But their small-mindedness shall not chip away at what we will produce this summer. The tidal wave is rolling.

An announcement for orchestra members went out this morning, and a ton of other items were accomplished by the team!

Next week we will interview potential technical directors.

There are so many neat plans for this production, and I cannot wait until we start rehearsals.

Sunday afternoon, the production of THE PAJAMA GAME at Beavercreek High School ended.

I am generally a little teary-eyed following a production, but this time I was relieved.

April 14th, the orchestra conductor was fired and I was handed the position, along with the current duties of vocal director.

Suzanne, the director, and I had so many storms to weather throughout this production – Suzanne more so than myself. Mine was very confined to a week or so, where hers was on-going. My predecessor had 57 students sign up for the orchestra – students thinking I was to conduct (I thought I was to do it, originally, as well). Within 30 minutes, over 30 students had walked out on his first meeting.

Monday morning I had not orchestra. Thanks to the band director, and several of my music friends, I had one of the best orchestras BHS has had – and was told so by MANY faculty and parents, and those who have known the program for many years. I heard the video the other evening and I was so proud of the sound coming from the pit.

We had 3 rehearsals, a sitz probe, and two tech rehearsals before the shows began – and those orchestra members plowed through the difficult score as though they were each born to play a musical theatre score.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday trying to bring as much normalcy back to life as I could. I had a yard to mow, flowers to plant, yard to clean up, laundry, and tons of other things. Jose had done a tremendous job of helping me while I was in production, but there were so many things that I prefer to do – and all was waiting for me.

Monday and Tuesday nights were heavy with teaching – and a number of make-up lessons. Wednesday night was the cast party, and Thursday was a four hour class for part of my teaching licensure.

While wading through all the above, I was also launching the production of SOUTH PACIFIC for this summer.

Auditions are May 17th @ 5:00pm.

The audition announcements are out, and I am swamped in preparation. I think this is when I am happiest – preparing for, and directing a show. The performances are always somewhat dull for me – my heaven, and haven is being in a rehearsal.

I am hoping to write more on preparations for SOUTH PACIFIC… I am in heaven, despite some of the garbage already pouring from some of the preceding issues at the school.

This afternoon, Mother will arrive to spend the weekend with us. At 5:15pm we will head to Beavercreek High School to watch the Friend’s Show Choir’s FINALE – a very moving evening to celebrate the end of the year.

I feel as though I am finally catching my breath for the first time in a month.

Where do I begin?

Well, I am vocal director for Beavercreek High School’s production, The Pajama Game. The director and I are up against a few “waves” to pull this production off. Due to some items beyond our control, the students’ morale was been sinking. Finally, two weeks ago, I began vocal rehearsals, and I managed to bring the cast up in spirits, as well as song.

I have also been working WGI (Winter Guard Internationals) and MEPA (Mid-Eastern Performance Association) competitions. For the hours we work, money is applied to our child’s band fees. By the time I have finished with this season, I believe I shall be slightly over what I owe.

Last summer, Jose was not planning on doing marching band, and therefore, I did not attend the processing day. A bill was never sent to me, and it was not until Rita was doing my taxes that she inquired about last year’s marching band fees. There was a balance of $397, and then I knew I would have $415 for this coming season’s fees.

I have actually had a blast working with the different band parents. For three different MEPA competitions I worked at Centerville High School selling T-shirts and raffles for a Yamaha marching snare. I took my lap top, and plenty to work on, and actually accomplished a good bit of writing and editing. These were fun events.

On top of this, I have been working on the Wright Brothers’ musical, and after sending it off to a local director who expressed interest in reading it for a possible production, I pulled out the musical I began writing in 1986, Love Is Eternal – Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln.

I have truly enjoyed working on these two musicals. I have always loved the musical on Mrs. Lincoln, and am enjoying bringing it back to life.

This past Sunday, after leaving Centerville High School, I hurried to Yellow Springs to meet the Lockharts and their family at Young’s Dairy to celebrate Mike and Valerie’s 25th anniversary. It was such a wonderful time with my adoptive Ohio family.

So, today was actually the first day of spring break. I fell asleep last night by 11:30pm, and was wide awake at 4:00am. I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and then fell back asleep until 7:00am. I fed the pets, took my sugar, ate breakfast, swept the first floor, did a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and my desk tops – and was settled at my desk by 9:00am to write on the Lincoln musical.

By 1:30pm I was drained. I thought I’d take a quick power nap so I could watch Bewitchedat 2:00pm. However, I slept until 4:00pm. Jose went to work, and I worked. Flyer and I walked over to One Lincoln Park and walked home with Jose where the neighbor boy was waiting on Jose. Since they were playing XBox, I worked some more.

Tomorrow, I shall teach for four hours, and plan on taking Jose and his friend, Michael, to see a movie at Danburry.

Wednesday I have the entire day off but Jose works – so that shot any chance of us going out of town.

Thursday and Friday I will work at Trent Arena from 6:45am – 11:00pm for the WGI contest. Ugh! But it is a ton of money towards Jose’s band fees.

Saturday morning we will drive to Indiana to meet up with other family for Mother’s birthday dinner. We will spend the night at Mother’s and return home so Jose can work.

Then, Monday, April 6th (Mother’s birthday), I will hit everything full speed – The Pajama Game vocals, writing and editing on Love Is Eternal, perhaps some work on The Bird Let Loose, teaching, and trying to find extra time to spend with Jose during this very busy period. I suppose my weekends will be taken up with rehearsals for Beavercreek’s musical, with the exception of mid-April when I will work one last WGI competition. The production goes up the first weekend of May, and then it is on to all the concerts and events that pile into the last four weeks of the school year.

Ahh… time to rest and enjoy some television…

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

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Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

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Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

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At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….

The long, long weekend is over…

If parents work shifts at the Winter Guard International (WGI) or percussion contests, money will be applied towards your child’s marching band account. So, I volunteered for Saturday. Kathy Symes, the parent coordinator, and one of my favorite band moms (I haven’t forgotten you, Jill Chabut!) asked me earlier in the week if I could work all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.

Sure!

Saturday morning  I left the Haasienda at 8:30am to walk to Trent Arena on the other side of the high school, while chatting with Mother briefly on the telephone.

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Trent Arena on the Kettering Fairmont High School campus.

Saturday, from 9:00am until 7:00pm I worked the admissions table. The couple who assisted me on the first shift, Steve and Lorie, were an absolute blast. They both grew up in Fairborn. Steve was in the military, and they lived in multiple locations before moving to Kettering.  Their daughter is a trombone player, and a sophomore. Steve and Lorie could not be more adorable!

The afternoon shift flew by – though, my partners at the admission table were not as exciting. However, I got to see several friends from Ball State, and by the day’s end my stomach muscles were sore from holding them in every time I ran into someone from college!

I joked around with the guests coming in for the day – putting on their paper bracelets – alot more fun than handling money which I hate (instant math!). I got tons of laughs from the people as I explained the paper wrist wraps were compliments of James Free Jewelers, and that everyone from a one hundred mile radius was flocking in to buy one. The winter guard students assured us that you could wear the bracelets in the shower for three months before they rotted off.

Now, if you have never been to a WGI event, you are missing some fun experiences. They are so different than show choir contests. Winter guard and percussion ensembles seem, to me, to be completely made up of a different type of teenager. Many guards have teen boys in them, and the open or world class guards have a number of guys in them. There were a ton of male choreographers in attendance, both as staff, and in the audience. And perhaps 90% of the men in attendance for these events are gay, or heterosexually challenged.

Now – having set up the flavor of the event…

This one lady entered the lobby, and she was dressed To The Nines! Sharp. She unbuttoned her coat, revealing an ample bosom. However, the ample bosom was quite exposed as the neckline descended in a long “V” ending just above her navel. As she paid her money I could not stop staring at how freely they seemed to dangle, apparently unaccompanied by a sturdy undergarment. After paying for her entry fee, she moved to my end of the table, offering her wrist for me to wrap the paper bracelet. Upon closer inspection it was terribly obvious that she was not wearing a bra, as “Twirly and Whirly” were about to Samba right on out of her sheer, black blouse (which, come on… not appropriate for this type of event!).

The mother sitting next to me waited politely until the woman had left the table, and then grabbed my arm with the most astonished look on her face. Thank heavens I was not the only one to have witnessed “the twins.”

“Why would she wear such a top to a high school function?” my admission table partner asked.

“Well, if you ask me,” I replied, “if she is here to pick up a man, this is the WRONG place to find one in this crowd!”

Botticelli or da Vinci could have taken their easels and made a day out of it with some angel or Madonna painting!

Jose worked from 2:00pm-7:00pm, and by the time I arrived home Saturday night I was dead to the world – but could not rest. I remember TWO AND A HALF MEN coming on at 11:30pm, but I don’t recall anything after that until I woke up at 4:30am. I coaxed my self back to sleep until 6:30am.

Sunday, I walked back to the high school at 8:15am (while chatting again with Mother) and was in an entirely different position. Instead of sitting and enjoying people, I was inside Trent Arena at the very top, coordinating all the judges’ score sheets and the hand-held digital recorders. I had two students to work the balcony and floor, but I still managed to climb up and down the bleacher steps a good 60 times. There were a few times I just did not know if the heart was going to keep up with me… but with some encouragement, and some medication, we made those steps look carefree.

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The shows were interesting, and incredibly delightful. I managed to squeeze in one restroom break between 9:30am-3:30pm. I know, from years of experience, to pack items on which I can work when board, and snacks. I was a good little boyscout. And I ripped through some chunks of the Wright Brothers’ musical.

Towards the end, an elderly couple entered – he looked every  bit the grandfather, and she was dazzling. The WGI staff was making quite a stir about them, reminding me of Len Thomas and Brian Breed tripping over themselves to get to Virginia Waring – the wife of Fred Waring – when we were having a cocktail party at Penn State in 1984 prior to the television taping of Fred Waring’s America. Eventually, the couple moved near me, taking seats set up on the indoor track around the arena balcony.

The lady turned, looked at me… smiled. I returned the smile. She looked familiar but I was so tired that I could not place where I knew her.

During a break between guards, she smiled again, and then I recognized her!

Marlene Miller.

Fred J. Miller, and his beautiful wife, Marlene, have one of the number one band clinic organizations, and band uniform/equipment companies in the nation, and headquartered right here in South Dayton. They are co-presidents of their family run business, and their three children are the vice-presidents. The Fred J. Miller drum-major clinics are fantastic, and they also provide many of the same clinics as Smith-Wallbridge Clinics with which I was associated in high school and college.

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Fred & Marlene Miller, and their three children.

As Mr. & Mrs. Miller and I chatted, I discovered they were good friends with one of Elwood’s most prominent choreographers, Tudy Smith. Tudy was one of the nation’s foremost baton twirlers, and her daughter, Selita, was Purdue’s Golden Girl. For many years, the Elwood Variety Shows sparkled under the brilliant designs of Mrs. Smith, and her musical companions, Clifford Brugger and Rex Jenkins, band legends in Indiana. Tudy was also the choreographer for the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City for many years. A sweet, beautiful and wonderfully classy lady!

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Tudy Smith

Fred J. Miller, and Tudy had also served as presidents of the United States Twirling Association (USTA) throughout the years. Mrs. Miller told me that Tudy had just been inducted to the Twirling Hall of Fame.

I had the best chat with the Millers, who delighted in sharing that they were celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and that they had met, and fell in love at Smith-Wallbridge Drum-major Camp in Syracuse, Indiana. We discussed all the familiar names of Dr. Charles Henzie, Merl Smith, Margaret Smith, Gary Smith… great teachers in my drum-major days!

By 3:00pm the contest was completed, and the awards were given.

I stayed to help with tear down, and clean up, and then dragged my very tired, aching body home.

However, by 6:30pm I was sweeping the house in preparation for the teaching week, folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping my weekly calendar. I received a note from Valerie Lockhart – Mike’s father passed away this morning. Just after reading her email at 7:30pm, Jose called from work so I could pick him up and drive him to SIGNS youth group.

While he was at SIGNS, I ran to Dollar General to get paper items, and then to Meijers to get groceries. By 8:30pm I was back at the YMCA (where SIGNS is held), and home by 9:00pm. We unloaded groceries, and I baked a cake for my neighbor lady’s birthday, some brownies for the Lockharts, and prepped some food for this week since it will be a BUSY week.

Monday thru Thursdays are my busiest days as I have 12-14 students each day, and only 8 on Fridays. My Friday students have been squeezed into the other four days this week since we have school off this Friday for the long Presidents’ Day weekend. Tuesday night I will cut out slightly earlier than normal to work with Beavercreek High School’s show choir.

And on top of all this… a theatre director has indicated interest in the Wright Brothers’ musical to see if it might be something a local, and reputable theatre company could produce. So… while it is so nice to have this nibble, there is certainly no assurance of a production. But, I am hopeful, and working like the Devil to tie up some loose ends.

Hopefully, Friday Jose and I will be able to fully celebrate his birthday which was January 14th. With show choir contests, youth group events, WGI contest, and other items, we have not been able to celebrate his 17th birthday.

This week our weather is expected to be in the 40’s and 50’s… beautiful! I am hoping to squeeze in some walking time… just where is yet to be determined. I do some of my best writing while walking!

It is now 11:18pm and I am signing off and heading to bed… I WANT MY BED!!!

Much love to all!

PS. Just as I was ready to sign off, Jose came in to show me he had been upstairs working on homework. He realized that he had forgotten a biology assignment of 69 questions. He said, “I was so exhausted and was wanting to go to bed, but I knew the right thing was to get the assignment done.”

YES!

So, for nearly 45 minutes, we talked about academics, life, adoption, and how far he has come these past five years. My son is finally kicking in to the academics, and realizing his great potential!

And though I am still terribly tired, I have an energy surging through me that is nothing more than the knowledge of the blessings I feel at this moment…

Last night I saw the stage musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and began wondering if the Sherman Brothers had penned some of the new songs. Yes, indeed! They are still living, and still writing music!

Sherman Brothers are Academy Award-winning American songwriters who specialize in musical films. They are Robert B. Sherman (born December 19, 1925) and Richard M. Sherman (born June 12, 1928).

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The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history,[1] working for Walt Disney during the last six years of his life. Film scores of the Sherman Brothers include Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats.

Robert and Richard Sherman began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman. The brothers wrote together and with different songwriting partners throughout the rest of the decade.

In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company Music World Corporation, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney’s BMI-affiliated publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with “Tall Paul,” sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet on the Surf Records label and then covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. The success of this song yielded the attention of Walt Disney, who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. The first song they wrote on personal assignment by Walt Disney was “Strummin’ Song” in 1961. It was used in the Annette Funicello made-for-television movie called The Horsemasters.

While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. They also wrote what is perhaps their best-known song, “It’s a Small World (after all)” for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Since then, some have claimed that this has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is largely justified by the fact that it is played continuously at Disney’s leisure park rides of the same name.[2]

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In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes the songs “Feed The Birds,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Since Mary Poppins’ premiere, the Shermans have subsequently earned nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, and an incredible 23 gold- and platinum-certified albums.

Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live-action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney’s death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brothers have worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme-park exhibits, and stage musicals.

Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli‘s motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award Nomination.

In 1970, the Shermans returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs & Broomsticks. The latter film garnered the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar Nominations, respectively. 1972 saw the release of Snoopy Come Home, for which the brothers received a Grammy nomination.

In 1973, the Sherman Brothers also made history by becoming the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer, for which they also authored the screenplay.

In 1976, “The Slipper and the Rose” was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year. The performance was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, “Slipper”, also featured songs, score, and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. Two further Academy Award nominations were garnered by the brothers for the film. That same year the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” directly across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

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The Sherman Brothers’ numerous other Disney and non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte’s Web (1973) , The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992).

Outside the motion-picture realm, their Tony Award-nominated smash hit Over Here! (1974) was the biggest-grossing original Broadway musical of that year. The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top selling songs including “You’re Sixteen,” which holds the distinction of reaching Billboard’s #1 spot twice: first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then with Ringo Starr fourteen years later. Other top-ten hits include “Pineapple Princess,” “Let’s Get Together,” and more.

In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for the Disney film The Tigger Movie. This film marked the brothers’ first major motion picture for the Disney company in over 28t years.

In 2002, Chitty hit the London stage, receiving rave revues. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century-old theater’s history. On April 28, 2005, a second Chitty company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Hilton Theatre. The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions. A successful third company of Chitty is currently touring throughout the United Kingdom.

In 2003, four Sherman Brothers’ musicals ranked in the Top 10 Favorite Children’s Films of All Time in a British nationwide poll reported by the BBC. The Jungle Book (1967) ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The Aristocats (1970) ranked at #9, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.

In recent years, with Robert’s move to London, England, United Kingdom, the brothers have written many new songs for the stage musical presentations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, produced collaboratively by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh.

For their contributions to the motion picture industry, the Sherman brothers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Blvd. and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005. On November 16, 2006, Mary Poppins premiered at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway.

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On Saturday, October 4, 2008, Richard Sherman appeared as a surprise guest on stage at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles during The Swell Season‘s’ sold-out concert and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with the band.

The Sherman Brothers receive the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon artists from the United States Government. (left to right Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and U.S. President George W. Bush at The White House, November 17, 2008.

  • In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the award winning score to The Tigger Movie which achieved number-one status in both theatrical box office and video sales.
  • The Sherman Brothers’ classic motion picture Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was adapted into a London West End Musical in 2002 and premiered at the London Palladium on April 16, 2002, featuring many new songs and a reworked score by both Sherman Brothers. It was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Musical. The Sherman Brothers each received the Musical Theatre Award from the Variety Club of Great Britain that year as well for Chitty, which finished a record breaking three-and-a-half-year run at the Palladium, becoming the longest running show in the theater’s century long history. In 2004, the premiere of Mary Poppins arrived on the stage. In 2005, Poppins was nominated for nine Olivier Awards. In 2005, Chitty went to Broadway and was nominated for nine Tonys and also began its nationwide (UK) tour.

Since 2002, Robert Sherman has lived in London, England. He moved from Beverly Hills, while Richard Sherman remained in California. Surprisingly, however, the separation did not impede the brothers’ collaborative process; they have credited this to the technological advents of fax machines, e-mail and low-cost international telephone service. Also, both brothers travel between Los Angeles, New York, and London frequently, which also facilitates their work. Since Robert’s move, the brothers have continued to collaborate on various musical plays as well as a feature-length animated film musical that incorporates an original story, song score and screenplay[4].

small-world 

 

IT WAS TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS!

chittychitty

“It was more than spectacular – to use the vernacular – it’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

Forty years ago, I opened a Christmas present, and to my delight was a cast iron model of the car from the newest musical motion picture, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG starring Dick Van Dyke.

Tonight, my dear friends, Bill & Ann Impson, and I went to see the musical stage version of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG at Dayton’s Schuster Center of the Performing Arts. This production was “phantasmagorical!” The new songs were blended well, and though the story’s plot was slightly different than the beloved movie, it was still “uncategorical.”

It was fun!

chitty_400x300

It was not a heady, deep thinking show – but one that returned me to the age of four or five, when life was so innocent and splendid. Though the car was barely warmed up by the time I returned home from the seven minute drive, it made no difference because my mind and mouth were focused on the music of the title song – not the temperature of 14 degrees!

The songs are still whirling through my head. 

And the car lifted into the air, turned, tilted toward the audience, and landed… although I figured out the mechanics of the hydraulic wench, it was still magical.

chittycarfly

I had the best time with Bill & Ann, and am so glad I could share a moment of one of my favorite musicals, and cherished childhood memories.

“You’re sleek as a thoroughbred.
Your seats are a feather bed.
You’ll turn everybody’s head today.
We’ll glide on our motor trip
With pride in our ownership
The envy of all we survey.

It’s uncategorical,

A fuel burning oracle,

A phantasmagorical machine.

It’s more than spectacular,

To use the vernacular,

It’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

 

At 12:05am the five buses carrying the marching band passed in front of the house. I was standing on the front steps smoking my pipe and letting Flyer explore the symphony of smells in the front yard when they passed. Bringing up the rear was Mike Berning, the band director, and his family, honking as they passed.

This week was just incredibly busy. I worked my butt off, but always seemed to be behind in accomplishing all I wished. My email is backed up a mile long, but the study and rest of the house is organized and efficient.

Today I woke after a semi-restful sleep, and plowed right into writing and researching on the Wright Brothers’ musical. I took some time out during lunch to read up on the economy and some of the boiling political issues. At 2:00pm my first student arrived, and at 5:15pm my last student was leaving – an early night with one student ill, and another on a college visit.

I ate some rice, broccoli and cheese casserole, and green beans, and relaxed with two episodes of TWO AND A HALF MEN – one of my favorite shows.

At 8:00pm I dove into the musical writing, and edited a good deal. 11:15pm, I was trying to tackle one particular scene with no success. An email from my lyricist, Gail, who now lives in California, arrived, offering some suggestions to the very scene that had been giving me fits for over an hour. With a few more emails, I knew which direction we should take and by midnight I was sending off the latest draft through the miracle of the internet.

Gail Whipple – another Oscar Hammerstein II

Around 12:20am I walked Flyer over to the performing arts wing and met up with Jose. It is a beautiful evening, just a little chilly – but still nice.

Tomorrow we will run some errands and try to find something fun to do together until it is time to head over to the stadium for the marching band invitational hosted by Fairmont. We will probably be tripping in after midnight.

In two weeks the marching band season will conclude, and Jose and I shall hopefully have more time together. I so enjoy my time with him, and his humor and cheery disposition is a great comfort. In a few years, it will just be me, Flyer and Logan, unless I adopt more sons.

Today is Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday… what a great lady! Even Jose has one of her quotes posted above his bed.

It is 11:35pm on a Wednesday night and I am finally winding down after a full, productive day. After thinking through all I have accomplished I feel like I have competed with my cousin, Dana, who seems to cram four days into one.

This was my Wednesday:

6:00am     Woke up on my own; began reading my daily newsletters from BeliefNet and theatre groups

6:30am     Cleaned living room ceiling fan, mirrors, dishes

7:00am     Dusted living room, study and bedroom; washed dishes

7:30am     Berry green tea, Cheerios (heart healthy); put chicken thighs on to boil; folded two baskets of laundry

8:00am     At desk writing on Wright Bros’ musical, while watching a DVD on Wrights

11:30am   Deboned chicken; made salad; watched a Netflix DVD on Anthony Robbins

12:30pm   Reorganized the closet in my study, brought down a book case from Jose’s room for my study; reorganized some of my book cases in my study

1:00pm     Took a nap

1:30pm     Afternoon Emails and newsletters

2:30pm     Started spaghetti and sauce; showered & dressed

2:45pm    Finished spaghetti; cleaned the bathroom

3:15pm    Talked to Jose

3:30pm    Began teaching

4:00pm    Had an unscheduled break – watched OPRAH…

Today’s show was on ways to save money during this economic crises. One family described how they cut down their electric bill from $150 per month to $50 each month by unplugging unnecessary items. Hmm… good idea. During this break I reconfigured the living room so that the entertainment unit and all but the torch lamps are on a timer from 2:30pm-8:30pm each day. I may change this so that I just unplug it so that it is off on the weekends, too.

5:00pm    Resumed teaching

8:30pm    Finished last student; grabbed some spaghetti while chatting with Jose just home from work

9:00pm    Began reconfiguring my study’s electrical items; only computer remains plugged in 24/7 and monitor is turned off when not in use (generally do this); Jose and I redid the basement and kitchen

10:00pm  Jose and I sat and talked in the study; his girlfriend called and he chatted with her while I redid the electric items in my bedroom

11:00pm  Jose took care of electrics in his room; I finished some late nite items with business, washed more dishes and cleaned the counters

And the day is done… I feel invigorated, and slightly tired; however, the mind is still going strong. Flyer is snuggled next to me on the passenger side of the bed, and Logan is on my legs while I type on my laptop which is situated on a hospital table. I had to turn up the television volume to hear Letterman’s Top Ten because Flyer is snoring loudly.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is an exceptionally busy day:

  • I will connect with my co-writers
  • hopefully accomplish a good deal of writing
  • start teaching at 1:00pm-6:00pm (my shortest day)
  • run some errands
  • relax until Jose returns home from marching band around 9:30pm

We spend most of our evenings chatting, not even watching television. It is a wonderful relationship, and we enjoy one another’s company tremendously.

Today is the 100th birthday of my hero in directing, Joshua Logan.

Joshua Lockwood Logan III (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Logan was born in Texarkana, Texas. His father died when Logan was only three, and his mother remarried six years later. He was reared in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish and the largest city in north Louisiana. He attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, where his stepfather served on the staff. At school, he experienced his first drama class and felt at home. After his high school graduation he attended Princeton University.

At Princeton, he was involved with the intercollegiate summer stock company, known as the University Players, with fellow student James Stewart and also non-student Henry Fonda. In fact, James Stewart was an architect major when Logan recruited him for a bit part in a production he was directing. Stewart became hooked on acting and the two remained life time friends. During his senior year he served as president of the Princeton Triangle Club. Before his graduation he won a scholarship to study in Moscow with Constantin Stanislavsky, and Logan left school without a diploma.

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan (daughter of Ned Harrigan), in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, who is most remembered as Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in GONE WITH THE WIND, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

At his best, Logan’s direction was distinguished by a deep insight into character and a remarkable fluidity, the latter especially evident in his staging of often cumbersome musicals. He was sometimes criticized in his later shows and films, however, for too heavy a touch. Autobiography: Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life, 1976.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

JOSHUA LOGAN’S OBITUARY…

Published: July 13, 1988

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Mr. Logan frequently served as co-author and producer or co-producer as well as director of plays. He was also that uncommon phenomenon, the theater director who was also successful in films – with such hits as ”Sayonara” and ”Paint Your Wagon.”

While he attempted the classics only once, with ”The Wisteria Trees” – his own version of Chekhov’s ”Cherry Orchard” – and did not seek out innovative or avant-garde drama, he was a consummate theatrical craftsman, possessing great emotional force that he was able to transmit to the actors he directed.

His long string of successes really began with the musical ”I Married an Angel” (1938) and included ”Knickerbocker Holiday” with Walter Huston the same year, ”Annie Get Your Gun” (1946), ”Picnic” (1953), ”Fanny” (1954), ”The World of Suzie Wong” (1958) and the movie of ”Camelot” (1967). Some Failures, Too

He did have his failures, notably ”Miss Moffat,” a musical version of ”The Corn Is Green,” starring Bette Davis. It closed in Philadelphia before reaching New York, when Miss Davis withdrew from the cast. Another was ”Rip van Winkle,” a 1976 musical for which he wrote both book and lyrics as well as provided the direction. It closed before its New York opening. ”Ensign Pulver,” a 1964 film, was not a success, nor was ”Look to the Lilies,” in 1970.

Mr. Logan was notable for his candor in discussing manic depression, the mental illness in which manic elation alternates with profound depression. He had the condition for many years before it was discovered that it could be controlled by the drug lithium carbonate.

It had been rumored for years that Mr. Logan’s ups and downs of mood were occasionally excessive, and that he required hospitalization for extended periods, which in fact he did on two occasions.

After January 1969, when he learned of lithium and began taking it as a preventive, Mr. Logan decided, he wrote in ”Movie Stars, Real People, and Me,” that he would talk about it. Telling What He Knew ”I had been ignorant all my life about such things,” he said, ”at least I could tell others so they would never be as ignorant as I was.”

He took part in medical seminars, appeared on television and talked and wrote about his illness. But he also made it clear that he felt its manic phase contributed to his creativity: ”Without my illness, active or dormant, I’m sure I would have lived only half of the life I’ve lived and that would be as unexciting as a safe and sane Fourth of July. I would have missed the sharpest, the rarest and, yes, the sweetest moments of my existence.”

Joshua Lockwood Logan was born Oct. 5, 1908, in Texarkana, Tex. His father died when he was 3 years old; six years later, his mother married an Army officer who was later on the staff of the Culver (Ind.) Military Academy.

It was when he was 8 years old that Joshua saw his first professional play, ”Everywoman,” in Shreveport, La. It was, he wrote in his autobiography, ”Josh,” a case of ”love at first sight.” It was during his five years at Culver, Mr. Logan wrote, that he entered his first dramatics class and ”felt my life swerve and suddenly steady itself.” Studied With Stanislavsky.

He chose to go to Princeton because of its Triangle Club show that toured the country, and he entered the university in 1927. The previous year, he recalled, he saw his first Broadway play, ”What Price Glory?”

TRIVIA…

  • Won seven Tony Awards:
  • two in 1948 for “Mister Roberts,” with collaborator Thomas Heggen as Best Authors and as writers of the Best Play winner
  • four in 1950 for “South Pacific,” as Best Director, Best Authors (Musical) with Oscar Hammerstein II, Best Producers (Musical) wirh Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein and Leland Hayward, and as writers, along with Rodgers and Hammerstein, of the Best Musical winner
  • and one in 1953, as Best Director for William Inge‘s “Picnic.”
  • He was also Tony-nominated on two other occasions:
  • in 1959, as co-producer of Best Play nominee “Epitaph for George Dillon,”
  • in 1962 as Best Director (Musical) for “All American.”

For the past several months, or so, I have been experiencing a feeling – as John Adams called it in the musical 1776 – “discontentment.” As I was writing a good friend earlier this afternoon, I feel like all these major musical theatre characters singing about the excitement festering within.

Here are some examples:

Tony in WEST SIDE STORY:

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Jekyll in JEKYLL & HYDE:

This is the moment!
This is the day,
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way!

Every endeavor,
I have made – ever –
Is coming into play,
Is here and now – today!

This is the moment,
This is the time,
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme!

Give me this moment –
This precious chance –
I’ll gather up my past
And make some sense at last!

This is the moment,
When all I’ve done –
All the dreaming,
Scheming and screaming,
Become one!

This is the day –
See it sparkle and shine,
When all I’ve lived for
Becomes mine!

For all these years,
I’ve faced the world alone,
And now the time has come
To prove to them
I’ve made it on my own!

This is the moment –
My final test –
Destiny beckoned,
I never reckoned,
Second Best!

I won’t look down,
I must not fall!
This is the moment,
The sweetest moment of them all!

This is the moment!
Damn all the odds!
This day, or never,
I’ll sit forever
With the gods!

When I look back,
I will always recall,
Moment for moment,
This was the moment,
The greatest moment
Of them all!

Something is festering inside – a burning desire to be doing something else. The past month I have had some strange “reminders” about the Mary Todd Lincoln musical… why? Who knows…

I am so ready for this next great adventure – whatever it is. The signs continue to herald that the time is near. Perhaps it is already here and I am not recognizing it… maybe there is nothing to recognize. Maybe I am supposed to just dig in and work…

For some reason, Mary Todd Lincoln has been resurfacing this past month in a variety of connections. I had begun writing a musical on Miss Todd in 1986, and put it away in the mid-1990’s. And here she is again, beckoning me to finish her story.

This is an op-ed piece from the NY TIMES, written by one of my favorite authors, Samuel A. Schreiner of Darien, Connecticut. Mr. Schreiner wrote a fantastic book, THE TRIALS OF MRS. LINCOLN. I adore this author for being such a great champion of this oft over-looked, vilanized first lady.

Truly, Madly, Deeply

 

PRESIDENTS’ DAY is generally reserved for honoring our presidents. But how about the wives of our presidents? And how about presidential wives who have been unfairly maligned over the years? In this regard, there is no better candidate for rehabilitation this holiday than Mary Todd Lincoln.

For years, authors and scholars have claimed that Mary Lincoln was insane. This is simply not true, and a file of documents found in 1975 in a closet in the Manchester, Vt., home of Mary Lincoln’s son Robert proves it. In 1875, Mary Todd Lincoln was declared insane by a jury, and remanded to an asylum. The charge was brought by Robert, and he must have nursed a guilty conscience about it to keep a file, which reveals that the trial was a sham.

The proceeding was nevertheless an international sensation. Although another, little-noted trial a year later set that verdict aside and declared Mary Lincoln sane, the damage had already been done. A mad Mary Lincoln conveniently validated the tales circulated by her enemies and critics, mostly men, from the time she arrived on the national stage as the vivacious consort of a sorely tried president and on through her years as the neglected widow of a martyr.

Of course, the first lady was an emotional volcano, prone to fiery eruption at sometimes inappropriate moments. An attractive woman with expensive tastes, she could be easy on the eye but hard on the budget. With a well-stocked mind and the nerve to speak it, she persuaded her husband to follow her advice in matters like coveted appointments, and this infuriated the men around the president.

Out of fear of or respect for Abraham Lincoln’s power, comment on his wife was muted until the assassin’s bullet removed him from office and Mary Lincoln became fair game for the gossip mongers, who claimed that Lincoln’s bouts of depression were caused by a lost love and a miserable life with a crazy woman.

Creator of the miserable marriage myth was Lincoln’s longtime law partner in Springfield, Ill., William Herndon. In a lecture he gave shortly after the president’s death, Herndon said that Lincoln had never loved his wife because his heart belonged to Ann Rutledge, a neighbor who died at the age of 22 and whom some historians believe was courted by Lincoln. To claim, however, that her death would have rendered a man of Lincoln’s will and intelligence unable to have a loving relationship with another person is absurd. The untimely loss of loved ones was such a common fact of life in the 1800’s that people simply had to learn how to cope with it to carry on.

In any event, Herndon is not a believable witness to what went on between the Lincolns. Because he was too fond of the bottle and, in Mary Lincoln’s view, too uncouth, he wasn’t welcome in the Lincoln household. As a result, he developed an abiding hatred and jealousy of Lincoln’s wife.

Herndon was also probably put off by what he undoubtedly regarded as the unmanly ways by which Lincoln helped his wife. Lincoln was known to have greeted callers still wearing an apron, and he was often seen shepherding a trio of rambunctious young sons through the streets to his office to give his wife respite. Herndon found Lincoln’s office visits with children in tow especially annoying. Lincoln let them get into everything, as he evidently did at home, and even Herndon would agree that the Lincoln marriage was compatible in one respect: neither husband nor wife believed in disciplining their children.

People who were intimate with the Lincolns did not buy the Rutledge story or the rest of Herndon’s charges. Emily Todd Helm, Mary Lincoln’s half-sister, who lived for months in the couple’s Springfield home while she was a teenager, considered them love birds. She reported that Mary Lincoln would run out to the street to greet her husband as he returned home, and they would enter the house hand-in-hand. Their differences in temperament — she, for instance, was punctual and he careless of time — could lead to clashes, but Helm was impressed by the way they were resolved. Once when Mary Lincoln let loose her anger at her husband’s arriving late for supper, he simply scooped her up in his arms and kissed her.

A frequent guest in the Lincolns’ Springfield house was the Rev. James Smith, Mary Lincoln’s Presbyterian pastor. Although Lincoln was not a churchgoer, he and the minister would spend hours by the fireside discussing religion and everything else under the sun.

When Lincoln went to Washington, Smith was appointed to a consulate in Scotland where he read in a newspaper an account of Herndon’s Rutledge lecture. Incensed, he wrote an open letter to Herndon that was published in The Dundee Advertiser. Reprinted in this newspaper and The Chicago Tribune, the letter made the point that a law office was not a good vantage point from which to judge a man’s home life. Declaring himself fortunate enough to have known the Lincolns well, Smith wrote that the president was a “faithful, loving and affectionate husband” who “was utterly incapable of withholding” love from his wife.

Mary Lincoln’s enemies may have discounted Smith’s testimony on the grounds that he was paying off a debt or piously upholding the sanctity of marriage. They would have a harder time shrugging off an address by Charles Sumner, the worldly and sophisticated senator from Massachusetts, during a debate in Congress about Mary’s pension. After establishing himself as well acquainted with the couple’s home life in the White House, Sumner said, “Surely, the honorable members of the Senate must be weary of casting mud on the garments of the wife of Lincoln.” The president “had all her love,” he continued, and Lincoln loved her “as only his mighty heart could.”

Unquestionably high-strung, Mary Lincoln was under a great deal of stress while she was living in the White House, especially when her son Willie died in 1862. After so many other stresses — the death of another son, Eddie, 12 years earlier; attacks on her extravagance; doubts of her loyalty because she had relatives fighting for the Confederacy — Willie’s death was almost more than she could take. According to people who question her sanity, she wailed so hard and so long that Lincoln led her over to a window, pointed out an insane asylum in the distance and threatened to take her there if she didn’t stop.

The story is probably true and totally in character for Lincoln, who often tried to tease or startle his wife out of her funks. That it did no damage to the marriage was attested by a couple who took a carriage ride with the Lincolns on April 14, 1865, just hours before their fatal visit to Ford’s Theater. The war over, the president and the first lady were talking as happily as newlyweds of plans like trips together to Paris for her and to California for him.

Lincoln’s patience with his wife was apparently reciprocated by her patience with him when he slipped away from her into one of his periods of melancholy or preoccupation with affairs of state. Lincoln suffered recurring episodes of what would now be called depression from early childhood onward. In light of what we know today, an effort to link them to emotional disappointments rather than to a chemical imbalance seems quaint rather than scientific.

Mary Lincoln may have been difficult to live with, but she was not insane and there’s no question that the president loved her dearly. “My wife was as handsome as when she was a girl,” Lincoln once told a reporter. “And I, poor nobody then, fell in love with her, and what is more, have never fallen out.”

This Presidents’ Day, let’s finally acknowledge that truth.

By Andrew Gans
24 Jul 2008

Performances have yet to begin, but box-office demand is so high that the Guthrie has extended its upcoming world premiere of the musical version of Little House on the Prairie.

Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on NBC’s long-running “Little House on the Prairie” series, will play Ma in the musical version of Prairie, which begins previews at the Minneapolis venue July 26. The Little Mermaid‘s Francesca Zambello directs.

Originally scheduled to run through Oct. 5, the production will now play an additional two weeks through Oct. 19. Opening night remains Aug. 15.

The cast will also feature Steve Blanchard (Beauty and the Beast, Frankenstein) as Pa, Carnegie Mellon graduate Kara Lindsay as Laura, Jenn Gambatese (Tarzan, Is He Dead?) as Mary, Sara Jean Ford (The Phantom of the Opera) as Nellie and Kevin Massey (Big River, Tarzan) as Almanzo Wilder.

The ensemble will comprise Tori Adams, Mathias Anderson, Lexy Armour, Robert O. Berdahl, Kurt Engh, Shawn Hamilton, Caroline Innerbichler, Norah Long, Ryan McCartan, Addi McDaniel, Mary Jo Mecca, Patricia Noonan, Prince Michael Okolie, James Ramlet, David L. Ruffin, Gayle Samuels, Amy Schroeder, Tony Vierling and Jordan Young.

It was producer Ben Sprecher, who is attached to the project, who contacted Gilbert about appearing in the musical. Gilbert told Variety, “I’m very careful about the way the legacy is handled. My primary concern was that the material was done the right way.”

The new musical features a book by Rachel Sheinkin, music by Rachel Portman and lyrics by Donna DiNovelli.

The Guthrie describes Little House as such: “Though their DeSmet, South Dakota, farmstead comes with many new challenges, the Ingalls family perseveres through the hardships of pioneer life to find hope, love and the promise of a new beginning in a land of endless sky and open prairie. As Laura struggles to overcome a lifelong loathing of school and frequent battles with a town rival, her older sister’s sudden blindness and a harsh winter blizzard test the independent spirit of this young pioneer. Forced to grow up quickly, she follows an unexpected calling, becoming a teacher and finding love on the prairie.”

The creative team for Little House also includes set designer Adrianne Lobel, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Mark McCullough, sound designer Scott W. Edwards, choreographer Michele Lynch and musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell.

Little House on the Prairie is being produced at the Guthrie by special arrangement with Global Prairie Productions, Inc.

The Guthrie is located at 818 South 2nd Street in downtown Minneapolis.

Today is an anniversary for two of my heroes… one died, and one was born….

JOSHUA LOGAN – (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Broadway

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan, in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

Hollywood

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II – (July 12, 1895August 23, 1960) was an American writer, producer, and (usually uncredited) director of musicals for almost forty years. He was twice awarded an Oscar for “Best Original Song“, and much of his work has been admitted into the unofficial Great American Songbook.

Rodgers and Hammerstein

Hammerstein’s most successful and sustained collaboration, however, came in 1943 when he teamed up with Richard Rodgers to write a musical adaptation of the play Green Grow the Lilacs. Rodgers’ first partner, Lorenz Hart, was originally going to join in the collaboration but was too deeply entrenched in alcoholism to be of any use. The result of the new Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration was Oklahoma!, a show which revolutionized the American musical theatre by tightly integrating all the aspects of musical theater, with the songs and dances arising out of the plot and characters. It also began a partnership which would produce such classic Broadway musicals as Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me & Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music as well as the musical film State Fair (and its stage adaptation of the same name) and the television musical Cinderella, all of which were featured in the revue A Grand Night for Singing. Hammerstein also produced the book and lyrics for Carmen Jones, an adaptation of Georges Bizet‘s opera Carmen with an all-black cast.

Oscar Hammerstein II is today considered one of the most important figures in the history of American musical theater. He was probably the best “book writer” in Broadway history – he made the story, not the songs or the stars, central to the musical, and brought it to full maturity as an art form. His reputation for being “sentimental”, is based largely on the movie versions of the musicals, especially The Sound of Music, in which a song sung by those in favor of pacification with the Nazis, No Way to Stop It, was cut. As recent revivals of Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The King and I in London and New York show, Hammerstein was one of the more tough-minded and socially conscious American musical theater artists. Oscar Hammerstein believed in love; he did not believe that it would always end happily.

Death and honors

Hammerstein is the only person named Oscar ever to win an Oscar (Academy Award). He won two Oscars for best original song—in 1941 for “The Last Time I Saw Paris” in the film Lady Be Good, and in 1945 for “It Might As Well Be Spring” in State Fair. In 1950, the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein received The Hundred Year Association of New York‘s Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York.”

Hammerstein died of stomach cancer in his home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania at the age of 65, shortly after the opening of The Sound of Music on Broadway, thus ending one of the most remarkable collaborations in the history of the American musical theatre. The final song he wrote was “Edelweiss” which was added during rehearsals near the end of the second act. To this day, many think it is an Austrian folk song. Sadly, he never lived to see The Sound of Music made into the 1965 film adaptation which became internationally loved, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and became perhaps his most well-known legacy.

Universally mourned, with the lights of Times Square and London’s West End being dimmed in recognition of his contribution to the musical, he was cremated at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, and later buried at Southwark Cathedral, England. He was survived by his second wife Dorothy Blanchard Jacobson and his three children, William and Alice by first wife Myra Finn and James by Jacobson.

Kenneth Jones Playbill On-Line Thu Jul 3, 9:44 AM ET

She was a founding member of Chicago Musical Theatre Works (CMTW), a collective of Windy City musical writers who sought to establish Chicago as a place where musicals were developed. The group’s efforts included public readings of new works. Recently, an offshoot group would meet for critique sessions of their dawning works.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Ms. McKenny was born in Dayton, OH, in 1951, where she attended Alter High School and was a co-founder of Summer Youth Theatre Company (SYTCO). At Northwestern, she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Oral Interpretation. She liked to say that she majored in “reading aloud,” friends said.

While at Northwestern she wrote her first play, Chautauqua, seen at the university, in a local professional production and at other colleges. At the time of her death she had just completed her first draft of a play about the Greek goddess Psyche.

For 30 years, she collaborated on industrials, plays, musicals and other projects with writing partner and fellow Northwestern University grad Doug Frew, who is now executor of her writing. They shared book and lyric credits and worked with various composers over the years.

For three seasons, Ms. McKenny, Frew and David Roe wrote for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

McKenny and Frew’s musical about George Sand, Becoming George, with composer Linda Eisenstein, was chosen for the Pages to Stages development program at the Kennedy Center and premiered in spring 2006 at Metro Stage in Alexandria, VA.

Their musical 90 North, written with composer Daniel Sticco, won ASCAP’s 1997 Outstanding New Musical Award, was nominated for the Sammy Cahn Lyricist Award, and helped launch ASCAP’s “In the Works” new musicals program at the Kennedy Center in 2000 with artistic director Stephen Schwartz.

Her other works include Lady Lovelace’s Objection (with Doug Frew) and a 1920s Chicago-set play, Towertown, completed in 2007.

With Frew and Andrew Hansen, she won the After Dark Award and was nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for incidental music and lyrics in She Stoops to Conquer at Northlight Theatre.

In addition to narrative musical theatre works, she wrote standalone songs with many composers, and her songs were sought by Chicago cabaret performers, including Kat Taylor.

In a note that was distributed to members of the group Chicago Cabaret Professionals, Taylor reflected on Ms. McKenny: “She was a writer a story teller, a lyricist, a playwright, songwriter, freelance corporate communications writer, voice over performer, oral interpreter, producer, director, a networking business woman, an organizer extraordinaire with a work ethic astounding to behold. She was the glue that held her many friends and acquaintances together, a true and loyal friend, a loving sister and the best aunt. She was and is an inspiration. And we will miss her.”

Cheri Coons, a Chicago lyricist and librettist, told Playbill.com, “Patti was driven by the idea that, in her words, ‘It takes a village to raise a curtain.’ She was the driving force behind Chicago Musical Theatre Works, and lived to see her dream realized of the first Disney ASCAP Workshop in Chicago, largely because of the efforts of CMTW. She was a true connecter a committed community-builder, a magical writer, and an inspirational friend.”

Ms. McKenny was a co-founder of Studiomedia recording studio, a member of Chautauqua Preservation Society, a member of the Dramatists Guild, and an active member of Chicago Women in Publishing.

She is survived by her brother Don McKenny and his wife Diane, her nieces Trish and Molly and nephew Sam, and a countless extended family of friends across the country. Her parents Donald and Martha McKenny predeceased her.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

I love these photos of the Wright family taken in June 1909 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds during the Dayton Celebration. Behind the delegation’s grandstand are bleachers holding several thousand school children forming a “singing American flag.”

Below…Bishop Wright is delivering the invocation.

Behind him are: Governor James Cox; Leontine (niece of Wright Brothers; wearing white dress); Wilbur; Orville; Netta Wright, sister-in-law (dressed in white); Lorin Wright, older brother of Wrights.  

 

 Photo below…

(Front Row) Wilbur; Orville; Bishop Milton Wright (father of Wrights); Milton Wright – nephew of Wright Brothers.
(Back Row) Leontine (niece); Ivonette (niece); Katharine (turned around); Netta, sister-in-law
 
 
 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

This is, perhaps, my favorite photo… Katharine is being social, and chatty. But what I love most is Bishop Wright chatting with his eldest grandson, Milton – his namesake. Grandfather and grandson obviously have a great rapport, engaged in conversation. I love the way Bishop Wright is turned in his seat, devoting his attention to younger Milton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orville, Katharine & Wilbur Wright. 1909

It was August 1999 that I was on the tale-end of a three week vacation when I ended up on the Outer Banks.  The previous weeks I had been to:

  • Niagara Falls
  • through the Adirondacks
  • Stowe, Vermont to visit with the surviving von Trapp children
  • down through Manchester, Vermont to visit Robert Todd Lincoln’s beautiful estate, Hildene
  • Hyde Park to visit FDR’s home
  • Manhattan to visit friends and race taxi cab drivers (um… no joke)
  • Long Island to visit Teddy Roosevelt’s home and Montauk Lighthouse (I also sat and chatted with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her daughter, Tatiana
  • Assateague Island – because in 4th grade Mrs. Lane had read us The Mystery of Assateague Island
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel
  • Jolliffe Road & Methodist Church
  • and down to the Outer Banks – one of my sanctuaries
    • Currituck Lighthouse
    • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
    • Ocracoke Island

I drove by Wright Memorial, but gave it little thought. Big deal. When Mother and Dad came to Dayton, we went to the Air Force Museum. Dad loved it. I was bored.

As I drove past the huge pylon on top of the hill from which they flew, I glanced, but continued on. As I passed it again, I decided to at least get closer – after all, I was now a Daytonian. What would others think of me if they discovered I had not paid homage to the Miami Valley’s most popular brothers?

That following September, I was roller blading through Centerville’s Stubbs Park. As I sat on a rock resting, I watched a little sparrow flitting about the parking lot, nibbling at food dropped from some event.

“How did that little fellow get his body up into the air, and maneuver to another location?”

I had never really considered this… well, I had never really cared.

I looked up to see a huge plane jetting across the horizon, heading for Dayton International Airport.

“How does that big thing get into the air?”

My eyes went back and forth between the sparrow and the plane… and then… from somewhere came the voices of two young boys. I looked around.

I was alone… or was I?

Again, the voices began – and after a few minutes it was clear I was listening to a conversation between Wilbur and Orville Wright.

But why? And furthermore, why me?

And then it was clear: a musical!

The following day I was in the book store of the Air Force Museum, purchasing books on the Wright Brothers. When I research projects, I always buy books as I like to make notes and have them at my disposal 24/7.

Wilbur Wright

It has been almost nine years since I began researching the Wright Brothers, and their remarkable sister, Katharine. In January 2000, I set down in my own handwriting the first few scenes. Within a year, I had the book completed. The Wrights had become an obsession, and I scoured Dayton for every piece of information.

One day I tripped into The Kettering-Moraine Museum, and was met by the director, Melba Hunt. A fascinating, somewhat eccentric lady that knew her Wright history. In the museum, I was introduced to many relics belonging to the Wright family. A year later, after a friendship had developed, I was invited behind the velvet ropes…

  • I touched the quilt made by Susan Wright, the mother
  • I held Bishop Milton Wright’s spectacles
  • I glanced through the family Bible with all the notes pertaining to births, marriages and deaths
  • I held several of Bishop’s canes
  • I touched Orville’s bed
  • I sat at Katharine’s desk
  • Melba handed me a jacket to hold while digging through a closet; the white dinner jacket, covered in a clear plastic cleaning bag had a note: “Orville Wright wore this jacket to a dinner at the White House with Franklin Roosevelt, 1942.” I reached up under the plastic and held the jacket’s sleeve
  • and then, Melba handed me a little box which I opened… I pulled out two relics – a sliver of wood and a swatch of material from the very first Wright flying machine that flew at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. The one that hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum has been completely restored, and most of the wing covering is now at the Dayton Air Force Museum.

What a great day!

In 2003, two wonderful ladies joined me as my co-writers: Gail Whipple, my lyricist, and Leslie Merry, my composer. These two have been the most marvelous colaborators, and I cannot say enough for what they’ve brought to this project.

Orville Wright

So, here we are in June 2008. It has been a long haul. In the mean time I have continued to teach, raised two sons, shared my home with five foster sons, endured countless trials with all these boys, performed in several shows and major concerts, directed ten shows, worked with show choirs, traveled, buried two grandparents, welcomed two new nephews, and countless other moments in life – joyful and trying.

The past three weeks, my youngest son has been with my brother and his family in Indiana, and I have tackled one of the most amazing experiences withthis project. I completely isolated myself, with the exception of two ball games for the Lockhartfamily, and a movie night with Sophie Lockhart. I would teach all day, Mondays through Wednesdays, and then work until 2:00am. Thursdays through Sundays were spent working in the yard, spring cleaning, and writing. No matter what errand was at hand, the Wright project consumed me as I battled so many moments where I just could not budge anything.

Katharine Wright

Finally, something clicked earlier this week, and everything began falling into place. The past few days have been intense, exhilarating and fulfilling. I completely rearranged the outline, deleted a few characters (gulp), cut one of my favorite scenes, and strenghtened the musical for what may be the final rewrite.

Over the past nine years, I have become so fond of Wilbur and Orville Wright, and their sister, Katharine. What an interesting family, an inspiring family. One of my favorite places to visit is Woodland Cemetery and the Wright Family plot containing the remains of Bishop and Susan Wright, Wilbur, Katharine and Orville, and the remains of twins born between Wilbur and Orville, Ida and Otis (they died shortly after birth). There were two other brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, both older than Wilbur.

Katharine entertaining crowned heads of Europe, 1909.

Katharine is the most fascinating. She graduated from Oberlin College in Northern Ohio, and taught Latin and Greek at Steele High School in Dayton. Katharine was the only Wright child to graduate from high school. In fact, neither Wilbur or Orville graduated from high school.

 In September 1908 (nearly one hundred years ago), Orville was injured in a crash while demonstrating a flyer for the United States Army. Katharine left her teaching position to nurse him, never returning to her career. Instead, she served as her brothers’ social secretary, and accompanied them throughout Europe, charming kings, queens, princes and other notable figures. Spains’ King Alphonso said she was the “ideal American woman.”

Katharine & Wilbur – Katharine’s first flight – note the modesty cord on her skirt.

One day, Wilbur took Katharine on her first flight. Her voluminous skirts were tied with a “modesty cord.” With the flight completed, she scooted away from the plane, the modesty cord still in place. Katharine’s playful moment had surpassed her charm and wit. A fashion designer from Paris’ House of Paquin captured the moment – thus was born, the Hobble Skirt!

Wilbur died in 1912, and Orville was devastated. He did not possess Wilbur’s understanding with business, and especially, the ability to tackle the endless court battles protecting their patent. Katharine was at his side. They retired to a beautiful home, Hawthorn Hill, in Oakwood (less than a mile from where I live).

Katharine Wright Haskell

In 1925, Katharine fell in love with Harry Haskell, a fellow graduate of Oberlin. Harry and his wife, Isabelle, were both great friends of Katharine, and had Harry asked her, Katharine would have married him. In 1923, Isabelle died from cancer. Katharine, always the true friend, sent endless letters and gifts to Harry, now the editor for The Kansas City Star. Within a few years, they had fallen in love.

However, Katharine was terrified to tell Orville of her engagement. Orville imagined this unspoken, unwritten pact that they would always remain together. Finally, Katharine and Harry told Orville, and he exploded, refusing to speak to Katharine. 

On Nov. 20, 1926, Katharine, 52, and Harry, 54, were married in the Oberlin home of friends. Katharine moved with Harry to his home in Kansas City. She told friends that her new life as a wife was a fairy tale come true.

The Wright sister would never see her brother again – until he came to her bedside the day before she died.

Orville Wright lived until 1948, but Katharine and Harry Haskell had just two years and three months together. Despite a bad cold, Katharine was planning a trip abroad with Harry in the winter of 1929. It had been 20 years since Katharine’s first trip to Europe, when she had flown in her brothers’ magical flying machine and met King Edward VII of England, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

A couple of weeks before Katharine and Harry were to board a ship for their trip abroad, her cold turned into pneumonia. The death watch began. Harry asked his wife if she wanted to see Orville.

 

Orville arrived on a Saturday. Harry asked Katharine if she recognized her brother.

“Yes, of course,” she whispered. She died on Sunday, March 3, 1929. She was 54.

Katharine Wright had been revered by kings and presidents. She had been to the White House – walked right up to Presidents William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge, and shook their hands boldly. Like the royals in France, the presidents were charmed.

Katharine Wright might be just a footnote to history, but author Richard Maurer said she was far more than a footnote to the lives and achievements of her brothers.

“You can take the airplane out of the lives of the Wright brothers, and they would have been pretty insignificant and uninteresting people,” Maurer said. “That’s not true of Katharine. She did not let the airplane define her.”

If the life of the Wrights were a movie, Maurer said, the sister would be the star:

“Katharine has a bit part, but she’s the character you remember. In the story of the Wrights, she gets the Academy Award for the best supporting actress. Katharine Wright steals the show.”

 

In March 1929, Orville received word that Katharine was dying from pneumonia. He was finally convinced to visit her, arriving the day before she died. Katharine was 53. Orville requested her body be returned to Dayton where she now rests between Wilbur and Orville – a fitting place for the sister who gave so much of her self to the brothers who taught the world how to fly.

Orville Wright. 1945

In 1948, Orville suffered a heart attack and died. That following December, the original Kitty Hawk Flyer was installed in the Smithsonian following a thirty-three year battle which finally resulted with the institution’s recognition that the Wrights were indeed, the first to fly.

So, my journey with the Wright family is nearing an end. There will be additional re-writes, eventual rehearsals and performances, but my intimate work with the Wrights will be over. Once a director steps in, it is much like sending your child off to school for the first time… the acorn can not be closed once the oak begins to grow.

I have several projects on deck, crying to be written:

  • The Mink Story
  • finishing Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • King Edwards VIII & Wallace Simpson
  • a musical on the ghosts of five first ladies, The Sorority
  • and so many more…

But in the meantime, I am enjoying this time with the Wrights… they have been wonderful companions these past nine years.

 

Footnote: Katharine’s husband, Henry “Harry” Haskell, went on to marry a third time, outliving his third wife. Harry received three Pulitzer Prizes for his editorials – one of which warned the world about the new German chancellor, Adolph Hitler.

Getting ready to shower and head to training for the update of my adoption license.
 
I finally hit a point last night where I could just write no more on the Wright Brother musical.  Normally I can go strong until 1:00-2:00am. But my brain just gave out. I had completely changed the entire format, and spent all of Thursday and Friday ripping it apart and putting it all back together. I eliminated one character and had to go through the entire script deleting his name, and reassigning his lines that were important to the story. So, around 9:00pm I brought my laptop and everything inside, and came to the bedroom with a DVD on Ronald Reagan – the PBS series. Great movie.
I woke at 7:00am, but have had trouble stirring… dark and gray outside, but the sun is struggling to peak through.
 
Logan, my cat of 14 years, seems to be slowing down in so many ways. Getting up onto things seems to be tougher for her. In the morning, each pet gets a little dish of moist food, and I set Logan’s up on the kitchen table because Flyer always goes after it. Normally Logan would hop right up, but now I lift her to the table. I’ve noticed, for some time, how she calculates getting up to tables, rail on deck, etc. She has even been forgoing  napping or sleeping on my bed, and remaining on the floor. When my alarm goes off each morning she is always up in my face meowing and bugging me to get my butt into the kitchen for her moist food. This morning, I had to call her into the kitchen. She came running and yapping, but she is definitely slowing down. Amazing how youthful and sprite she appears when there is a baby bunny to chase and kill.
 
Tons of stuff in the news: 
  • Obama & Clinton now a team on the trail
  • Nelson Mandela celebrates his 90th birthday
  • and Wal-Mart will now be spelled Walmart and have a burnt orange background.
 
Time to shower and head to training…. ugh. Not one of my favorite things. Material is stuff I have been teaching the past five years.
 

In my research on the Wright Brothers, I have often come across references to Darius Green and his Flying Machine (1868), and finally took the time to read this delightful tale.

The chief rival of the Wrights, Glenn Curtiss, considered the father of naval aviation, grew up in Hammondsport, New York on the banks of Lake Keuka. Glenn’s grandmother was a good friend of John Townsend Trowbridge (1827-1916), the author of Darius Green and his Flying Machine. I am currently pulling in some references for the musical to be sung by the character of Glenn Curtiss.

Darius Green and his Flying Machine

If ever there lived a Yankee lad,
Wise or otherwise, good or bad,
Who, seeing the birds fly, didn’t jump
With flapping arms from stake or stump,
Or, spreading the tail
Of his coat for a sail,
Take a soaring leap from post or rail,
And wonder why
He couldn’t fly,
And flap and flutter and wish and try –
If ever you knew a country dunce
Who didn’t try that as often as once,
All I can say is, that’s a sign
He never would do for a hero of mine.

An aspiring genius was D. Green;
The son of a farmer, age fourteen;
His body was long and lank and lean –
Just right for flying, as will be seen;
He had two eyes as bright as a bean,
And a freckled nose that grew between,
A little awry – -for I must mention
That be had riveted his attention
Upon his wonderful invention,
Twisting his tongue as he twisted the strings,
And working his face as he worked the wings,
And with every turn of gimlet and screw
Turning and screwing his mouth round too,
Till his nose seemed bent
To catch the scent,
Around some corner, of new-baked pies,
And his wrinkled cheeks and his squinting yes
Grew puckered into a queer grimace,
That made him look very droll in the face,
And also very wise.

And wise he must have been, to do more
Than ever a genius did before,
Excepting Daedalus of yore
And his son Icarus, who wore
Upon their backs
Those wings of wax
He had read of in the old almanacs.
Darius was clearly of the opinion
That the air is also man’s dominion,
And that, with paddle or fin or pinion,
We soon or late shall navigate
The azure as now we sail the sea.
The thing looks simple enough to me;
And if you doubt it,
Hear how Darius reasoned about it.

“The birds can fly an’ why can’t I?
Must we give in,” says he with a grin,
“That the bluebird an’ phoebe
Are smarter’n we be?
Jest fold our hands an’ see the swaller
An’ blackbird an’ catbird beat us holler?
Doos the little chatterin’, sassy wren,
No bigger’n my thumb, know more than men?
Just show me that!
Ur prove ‘t the bat
Hez got more brains than’s in my hat.
An’ I’ll back down, an’ not till then!”
He argued further: “Nur I can’t see
What’s th’ use o’ wings to a bumblebee,
Fur to git a livin’ with, more’n to me; —
Ain’t my business
Important’s his’n is?
That Icarus
Made a perty muss —
Him an’ his daddy Daedalus
They might ‘a’ knowed wings made o’ wax
Wouldn’t stand sun-heat an’ hard whacks.
I’ll make mine o’ luther,
Ur suthin’ ur other.”

And he said to himself, as he tinkered and planned:
“But I ain’t goin’ to show my hand
To mummies that never can understand
The fust idee that’s big an’ grand.”
So he kept his secret from all the rest,
Safely buttoned within his vest;
And in the loft above the shed
Himself he locks, with thimble and thread
And wax and hammer and buckles and screws
And all such things as geniuses use; —
Two bats for patterns, curious fellows!
A charcoal-pot and a pair of bellows;
Some wire, and several old umbrellas;

A carriage-cover, for tail and wings;
A piece of harness; and straps and strings;
And a big strong box,
In which he locks
These and a hundred other things.
His grinning brothers, Reuben and Burke
And Nathan and Jotham and Solomon, lurk
Around the corner to see him work —
Sitting cross-legged, like a Turk,
Drawing the waxed-end through with a jerk,
And boring the holes with a comical quirk
Of his wise old head, and a knowing smirk.
But vainly they mounted each other’s backs,
And poked through knot-holes and pried through cracks;
With wood from the pile and straw from the stacks
He plugged the knot-holes and caulked the cracks;
And a dipper of water, which one would think
He had brought up into the loft to drink
When he chanced to be dry,
Stood always nigh,
For Darius was sly!
And whenever at work he happened to spy
At chink or crevice a blinking eye.
He let the dipper of water fly.
“Take that! an’ ef ever ye git a peep,
Guess ye’ll ketch a weasel asleep!”
And he sings as he locks
His big strong box: —

“The weasel’s head is small an’ trim,
An’ he is little an’ long an’ slim,
An’ quick of motion an’ nimble of limb
An’ ef you’ll be
Advised by me
Keep wide awake when ye’re ketchin’ him!”

So day after day
He stitched and tinkered and hammered away,
Till at last ’twas done —
The greatest invention under the sun!
“An’ now,” says Darius, “hooray fur some fun!”

‘Twas the Fourth of July,
And the weather was dry,
And not a cloud was on all the sky,
Save a few light fleeces, which here and there,
Half mist, half air,
Like foam on the ocean went floating by
just as lovely a morning as ever was seen
For a nice little trip in a flying-machine.
Thought cunning Darius: “Now I shan’t go
Along ‘ith the fellers to see the show.
I’ll say I’ve got sich a terrible coughl
An’ then, when the folks ‘ave all gone off,
I’ll hev full swing fur to try the thing,
An’ practise a little on the wing.”
“Ain’t goin’ to see the celebration?”
Says brother Nate. “No; botheration
I’ve got sich a cold – a toothache – I
My gracious – feel’s though I should fly!”
Said Jotham, “Sho!
Guess ye better go.”
But Darius said, “No!
Shouldn’t wonder ‘f you might see me, though,
‘Long ’bout noon, ef I git red
O’ this jumpin’, thumpin’ pain ‘n my head.”
For all the while to himself he said: —

“I tell ye what!
I’ll fly a few times around the lot,
To see how ‘t seems, then soon’s I’ve got
The hang o’ the thing, ez likely’s not,
I’ll astonish the nation,
An’ all creation,
By flyin’ over the celebration!
Over their heads I’ll sail like an eagle;
I’ll balance myself on my wings like a sea-gull:
I’ll dance on the chimbleys; I’ll stand on the steeple;
I’ll flop up to winders an’ scare the people!
I’ll light on the liberty-pole, an’ crow;
An’ I’ll say to the gawpin’ fools below,
‘What world’s this ‘ere
That I’ve come near?’
Fur I’ll make ’em b’lieve I’m a chap f’m the Moon;
An’ I’ll try to race ‘ith their ol’balloon!”
He crept from his bed;
And, seeing the others were gone, he said,
“I’m gittin’ over the cold ‘n my head.”
And away he sped,
To open the wonderful box in the shed.

His brothers had walked but a little way,
When Jotham to Nathan chanced to say,
“What is the feller up to, hey!”
“Don’o’- the’s suthin’ ur other to pay,
Ur he wouldn’t ‘a’ stayed tu hum to-day.”
Says Burke, “His toothache’s all ‘n his eye!
He never’d missed a Fo’th-o’-July,
Ef he hedn’t got some machine to try.”
Then Sol, the little one, spoke: “By darn!
Le’s hurry back an’ hide ‘n the barn,
An’ pay him fur tellin’ us that yarn!”
“Agreed!” Through the orchard they creep back
Along by the fences, behind the stack,
And one by one, through a hole in the wall,
In under the dusty barn they crawl,
Dressed in their Sunday garments all;
And a very astonishing sight was that,
When each in his cobwebbed coat and hat
Came up through the floor like an ancient rat
And there they hid;
And Reuben slid
The fastenings back, and the door undid.
“Keep dark!” said he,
“While I squint an’ see what the’ is to see.”

As knights of old put on their mail –
From head to foot an iron suit
Iron jacket and iron boot,
Iron breeches, and on the head
No hat, but an iron pot instead,
And under the chin the bail,
(I believe they called the thing a helm,)
Then sallied forth to overwhelm
The dragons and pagans that plagued the earth
So this modern knight
Prepared for flight,
Put on his wings and strapped them tight
Jointed and jaunty, strong and light —
Buckled them fast to shoulder and hip;
Ten feet they measured from tip to tip
And a helm had he, but that he wore,
Not on his head, like those of yore,
But more like the helm of a ship.

“Hush!” Reuben said,
“He’s up in the shed!
He’s opened the winder — I see his head!
He stretches it out, an’ pokes it about,
Lookin’ to see ‘f the coast is clear,
An’ nobody near; —
Guess he don’ o’ who’s hid in here!
He’s riggin’ a spring-board over the
sill!Stop laffin’, Solomon! Burke, keep still!
He’s a climbin’ out now — Of all the things!
What’s he got on? I vum, it’s wings!
An’ that ‘tother thing? I vum, it’s a taill
An’ there he sits like a hawk on a rail!
Steppin’ careful, he travels the length
Of his spring-board, and teeters to try its strength.
Now he stretches his wings, like a monstrous bat;
Peeks over his shoulder; this way an’ that,
Fur to see ‘f the’ ‘s any one passin’ by;
But the’ ‘s on’y a caf an’ goslin nigh.
They turn up at him a wonderin’ eye,
To see — The dragon! he’s goin’ to fly!
Away he goes! Jimminy! what a jump!
Flop — flop — an’ plump
To the ground with a thump!
Flutt’rin’ an’ flound’rin’ all ‘n a lump!”

As a demon is hurled by an angel’s spear,
Heels over head, to his proper sphere —
Heels over head, and head over heels,
Dizzily down the abyss he wheels —
So fell Darius. Upon his crown,
In the midst of the barn-yard, he came down,
In a wonderful whirl of tangled strings,
Broken braces and broken springs,
Broken tail and broken wings,
Shooting-stars, and various things;
Barn-yard litter of straw and chaff,
And much that wasn’t so sweet by half.
Away with a bellow fled the calf,
And what was that? Did the gosling laugh?
‘Tis a merry roar from the old barn-door.
And he hears the voice of Jotham crying,
“Say, D’rius! how do you like flyin’?”

Slowly, ruefully, where he lay,
Darius just turned and looked that way,
As he stanched his sorrowful nose with his cuff.
“Wal, I like flyin’ well enough,”
He said; “but the’ ain’t such a thunderin’ sight
O’ fun in ‘t when ye come to light.”
I just have room for the MORAL here:
And this is the moral — Stick to your sphere.
Or if you insist, as you have the right,
On spreading your wings for a loftier flight,
The moral is – Take care how you light.

 

 

 

This is what my writing area looks like on the back deck. I generally “hit the deck” around 7:00am, setting up my work area, checking Email, and attending to other business while listening to THE TODAY SHOW from the small television on a shelf behind me.

The umbrella, purchased for the Outer Banks’ beaches last summer, has made a wonderful table umbrella, and also serves me in organization – I must have an organized area. Sometimes, I have 4-8 papers or items clipped to the umbrella which functions as a Lazy Susan. The base which holds the umbrella is filled with sand from the beach directly across the road from where the Wright Brothers first flew in 1903, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Flyer, the dog, and Logan, the cat, are always nearby. Logan generally rests on one of the deck rails so she can survey anything that walks, crawls or flies through the yard. Flyer always chooses to be near the door should I decide to move inside for any reason – she will seldom let me out of her sight. Now, when Logan spies something and goes into pounce-mode, Flyer stealthily moves to the steps to join Logan in her reconnaissance mission… and if it is worth it, they will both jump into the yard for the merry chase.

Today the humidity is already beginning to rise, and by Noon I will probably move inside and remain through the thundestorms we are expected to receive.

So this is my space when not teaching. It is a lovely, relaxing setting, and I could not be happier. A space in which to write, and spending time with my friends, Wilbur, Orville and Katharine Wright.

 

 

I am hoping everything now goes as planned.

I finished teaching this evening at 5:30pm, just as a major 30 minute downpour ended. It was a nasty storm, and it looked like a fog settling in.

This morning I spent four solid hours on the Wright Brothers’ musical – major, major changes. I sent an email to my wonderful co-writers to receive their blessing on this over-haul, as it is slightly large.  At this juncture I hate making major changes without their input, and this overhaul is loosing four characters (not major ones), and an entire scene that was my absolute favorite because other playwrights and theatre folks said it was one of the funniest scenes; however, it did not advance the plot any longer.

Tonight, Thursday and Friday I will dig in and complete as much as I can.

Saturday morning until 3:30pm I will be in training for the update of my adoptive license. A pain in the butt, but something that needs to be completed.

Sunday, I will do as much as I can to prepare for the trip to Fowler, and the on to Chicago the remainder of the week. Mary Tarlano, from ACTION, will come by Sunday morning to do a walk-through of the house so she can complete the adoptive license update. The remainder of Sunday I hope to mow the lawn, and pack.

Monday (June 30th), I will teach about five lessons to students I missed this week due to camps and vacations – I do not want them to go two weeks without a lesson.

Tuesday morning (July 1st). I will head to Fowler, retrieve the boy from the Haas home and head 100 miles due North to Chicago. I hope to take in a lot that first day.

Will post the remainder of the itinerary as we get closer. Am keeping a close watch on the weather forecast.

 Favorite Photo of the Day… my nephew, Frederick Lee Haas, six months old June 30th, 2008

THURSDAY
  • Logan, my cat, has been with me fourteen years, today.
  • I called the dentist about my temporary crown, and they got me in at 11:40am. To save on gas, I took the bus to the Dayton Mall area. The one thing about the bus is that it forces me to walk! I logged in some great walking time. Following the dentist, I strolled through the mall – a place I generally avoid – and then went to Wal-Mart for some basics.
  • I arrived home a little after 2:00pm and took a nap, and then read my Glenn Curtiss books for three hours, taking notes. I received an email from Valerie Lockhart that Jackson did have a game, afterall, at the high school’s field. I decided to remain home until I received a last minute email from Val – Jackson learned he would be pitching… Uncle Darin could not stay home. I spent a great time with Valerie – Jackson was on the field, Mike was taking stats in the dug out, and Sophie was at camp.
  • After the game I drove to Kroger, and then home to work until 2:00am.
FRIDAY
  • Darin Jolliff is 43 years old – still. Today, Darin Jolliffe-Haas is twenty-four years old. Anniversary of my adoption.
  • Woke at 6:30am, took tea on the deck while working on studio emails. Read more on Glenn Curtiss, and then began making long, detailed notes on how to insert some new material regarding Curtiss and Alexander Graham Bell.
  • Drove to ACTION at 5:00pm, and ate salad while talking to Pat Hill. Taught a wonderful new group of prospective parents on “discipline” which I entitle “creative discipline.” After class ended at 10pm, I talked with Pat, Cissie and some others until 11:30pm.
  • At home I was wide awake. I watched a little TV, and then read, hoping to fall asleep. The last time I coherently saw the clock, it was 4:15am.
SATURDAY
  • Woke at 7:30am – wide awake. Drank my tea, ate an egg white omelet, and worked on Wright Brothers notes. At 9:00am I mowed the lawn, trimmed and raked. I took Flyer on a walk, and then returned to the deck for more scene sketching. 
  • After showering at 1:30am, I drove to Carillon Historical Park which is filled with Dayton History! Good stuff!
  • En route, Jose called me from Wal-Mart. With some of his earned money he purchased Guitar Hero. I will never see the boy once he returns home unless I venture into the basement. Again, he sounded happy and recounted all the work, and fun he has been having with Destin, Stacia, Parker and Fred.
  • Just before entering the park I ran into Ross Cali, one of my favorite musicians of all time. Ross came to the USA from Italy at the age of 17. He joined the Air Force and was in the Band of Flight. Ross married, and started Mita Copiers out of his garage. He built a wonderful little empire which he passed on to his son, Tony. Ross has played clarinet with some of the finest musicians, and best professional concert bands and orchestras all over. Ross was my principal clarinetist when I was conductor of the Centerville Community Band for seven years. Ross is just about the best there is – both as a musician, and as a person.
  • I slowly walked through the Wright exhibit – a replica of their famous cycle shop, the museum wing, and then the memorial hall where the 1905 Wright Flyer III rests – a national historical landmark. I went to the other sites, but absorbed as much Wright stuff as I could.

Newcomb’s Tavern – 1796 – original structure

 Replica of Wright Cycle Shop

  • I left the park and went to the Wright Brothers’ neighborhood – took some photos of their old home’s site.
  • Memorial structure on the original home site of the Wright’s home on Hawthorn Street.

  • Came home, ate supper, and worked until 12:30am on Wright Brothers.
SUNDAY
  • 8:00am I woke, grabbed my tea and called Mother. Watched a little of MEET THE PRESS – I know I should be open-minded, but Tim Russert made me want to watch his program. Even Dr. Schuller didn’t hold my attention.
  • I moved to the deck to work until 3:00pm when dark clouds began hovering, looking as though they would burst at any moment… they did not. I napped until 4:00pm, took care of some emails, and while typing this I have supper in the oven.
  • The rest of the evening will be filled with actual writing…
  • Tomorrow starts another teaching week of three days – but lightly filled! Over half my students are at clinics, camps, or on vacation! I am looking forward to this writing opportunity.

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