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whatzup2nite • Thursday, November 27

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Things To Do

AWS Fantasy of Lights 1.5 mile display of animated Christmas lights and holiday decorations, 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 27; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 28-29; 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, Nov. 30-Dec. 4; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 5-6; 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday Dec. 7-11; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 12-13; 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, Dec.14-Dec. 18; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 19-20; 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, Dec. 21-Dec. 25; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 26-27; 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday Dec. 28-31, Franke Park, Fort Wayne, $5 per car; $10 per 15-passanger van; $25 per bus/trolley, 456-2971, ext. 5874

Festival of Gingerbread — Over 100 creations made of edible ingredients by persons ranging from preschoolers to adults, including professional bakers, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday Nov. 27; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 28; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29; 12-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30; 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Dec. 1-4; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday Dec. 6; 12-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Dec. 8-11; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13 and 12-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, History Center, Fort Wayne, $4-$6, 424-4419

Festival of Trees — Decorated Christmas trees sponsored by local business and organizations, 4-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 27 (featuring Grande Page Organ); 12-8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Nov. 28-Nov. 30 (youth entertainment on Embassy stage); 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1 (senior day); 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2 and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3 (Tots and Trees), Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, $3-$7, 424-6287


National Shows

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Music & Comedy

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Karaoke & DJs

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Stage & Dance

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Movies

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Art & Artifacts

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Featured Events

Fort Wayne Dance Collective — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theatre classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977, www.ipfw.edu/caa

Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, $100 per month, 432-8176 ext. 1961, academy.sweetwater.com



Features

HolidayFest

Lights, Bells and Bombs Bursting in Air

Once upon a time, in a land called Fort Wayne, the night before Thanksgiving held one delightful event that captured the imagination of small children throughout the city. Young, pleading voices begged their parents to take them to see the Santa on the Wall exhibit on the side of what was then the Fort Wayne National Bank building spring to life as lights were triggered and the Christmas season was finally at hand. (At least that’s the scene that played out in some people’s living rooms. Perhaps your story is different.) But now the parents are as likely as their children to want to visit downtown Fort Wayne that Thanksgiving Eve. What was once simply the Night of Lights has evolved into HolidayFest, a wildly popular and impossibly busy evening of activities throughout the downtown area. The Downtown Improvement District has pulled together a wide-range of activities, thanks to their many partners throughout downtown. Of course the Night of Lights lighting ceremony is still an evening highlight, but it is now just one element of a full evening of events. The Festival of Trees is a veteran of the holiday activities, but that’s just one stop along the way. Also featured will be opening night of the Festival of Gingerbread at the History Center and the Grand Wayne Center’s Holiday Open House which features performances by the Fort Wayne Youth Concert Orchestra, Youth Symphony Orchestra and Faith in Motion Dancers, along with a visit by Mrs. Claus and treats provided by the ACPL. For those who wish to stroll the sidewalks, there will a cocoa station as well as caroling at the Allen County Courthouse (with another cocoa station a couple blocks away on Calhoun at Your Virgin Hair Boutique). More lightings can be enjoyed at Aunt Millie’s on Pearl Street, First Presbyterian Church on West Wayne and the USF Performing Arts Center on West Berry while the Botanical Conservatory will host the official Holiday Kick-Off Party. Those who’d like to skate can head to Headwaters where there is sure to be a nice crowd gathering for what will be for many the first skate of the season. Although each year’s schedule is pretty impressive, the list of activities keeps growing, thanks to businesses and organizations in the heart of downtown that wish to be part of the merriment. “We have a few fun new things this year, so we’re pretty excited,” says Frank Howard, director of marketing, environmental and business services for DID. “This year we’ll have our first annual Ringing of the Bells following the fireworks at Parkview Field. First Presbyterian Church wanted to be involved with HolidayFest and organized nine local churches to ring their bells in unison. So that’s going to be another great way to usher in the holiday season.” Based on a similar tradition in Germany, Howard said that the folks at First Presbyterian had heard about it and wanted to bring something similar to Fort Wayne’s traditions. Howard says the church has done “a fabulous job, and the result is really going to be heartwarming.” Those looking for something a little crafty can head to the Community Center where there are a host of free activities to share with your kids. Make-and-take crafts, refreshments and a movie are all on the bill at the center, not to mention tuba-playing Santas who will entertain from 5-6 p.m. That’s right – tuba-playing Santas. You just don’t find this kind of thing in every city. Wells Fargo, located at the corner of Wayne and Calhoun, is also getting into the spirit by hosting the Northrop High School Show Choir, and the legendary Wells Fargo Stagecoach will be available for photos until 8:30 p.m., an easy stop as you head to or from the History Center. Pulling together all of these activities requires a special holiday spirit which kicks in while most of the city is trying to deny the calendar. Howard says it’s been called “reacquainting ourselves with old friends” and the phrase is apt. “Around late September, early October we start talking to our partners in the community, and it really is a great chance for us to all touch base and talk about what we want to do for HolidayFest this year. We all want to show the community that we care and that we want to provide a special holiday experience.” The Night of Lights, which begins at the History Center at 5:15 and continues through the 7:45 fireworks at Parkview Field, and all of the associated events on Wednesday evening are exciting, but HolidayFest is more than a one-night event. HolidayFest will continue through the rest of the year with special performances, art events, Holly Trolley Shopping and the continuation of events like Festival of Trees and Festival of Gingerbread. For a full schedule visit HolidayFestDowntown.com

Michele DeVinney







Such a Night

Another Last Waltz

There are people who will tell you that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. They’re probably the same people who say you can’t catch lightning in a bottle. The folks behind Such a Night: Recreating the Music of The Last Waltz are here to correct both notions. It turns out, the magic of an historical live concert can indeed be revisited and brought to life again. And again. And again. The Last Waltz is, of course, Martin Scorsese’s much-heralded rock-doc that chronicles The Band’s epic final live performance at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving Day 1976. The concert was supposed to be nothing more than The Band’s farewell to fans, its swan song, an elegant bow-out of the hectic world of world tours and sold-out shows. What it became, however, is a now legendary night of unrivaled performances by some of the brightest stars in the 60s and 70s musical galaxy, including Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, the Staple Singers, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison and Neil Young. The evening was spontaneous and surprising, full of the kind of sweet shock and awe only live music can deliver. You’d think recreating such an iconic moment in musical history would be a pretty tall order, but that is just what Indianapolis-based producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Bill Mallers set out to do in 2012 in the wake of the death of The Band’s drummer Levon Helm at the age of 71 due to cancer. The show started as a one-and-done, a tribute to Helm and his mates and a song-by-song, play-by-play reenactment of that now infamous night in San Franscisco. Soon, though, word spread around musical communities in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, and other towns wanted a piece of the action. Fort Wayne was one of those towns, and it saw its first Such a Night last year at C2G Music Hall. Those who enjoyed last year’s show or wish they hadn’t missed it will be glad to know that Such a Night will be back on the same stage Saturday, November 29 at 8 p.m. Many of the performers will be returning to reprise their roles, and there will be new faces as well. Attendees can count on seeing Fort Wayne’s own Kenny Taylor as Eric Clapton, Dave Todoran as Bob Dylan, Marnée as Joni Mitchell, G Money as Muddy Waters, Hollie Shelton as Emmylou Harris, Johnny Mendez as Neil Diamond and Kevin Jackson as Paul Butterfield. The part of The Band will be played by Maller and his Indy eight-piece who, when they got together to rehearse for the first ever Such a Night, experienced a kind of unmistakable chemistry that means, stop, look, listen – you’re on to something good. “We’d never all played together at once, and so when we gathered in my studio we didn’t know what to expect,” Maller said. “I’d say it was less than a minute into our rehearsal of our first song when we all just had to stop and laugh. One of the guys say, ‘Oh my God. I think we were born to do this.’” The chemistry between Maller’s eight-piece and the local musicians hand-picked to play guest starring roles is likewise a thrill, Maller said. “It’s a combination of the incredible songs and the talent we’ve assembled in each city that makes the night so special.” The night is special for another reason: it will serve as a benefit for the Community Harvest Food Bank. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward stocking that pantry’s food shelves, and concertgoers are also encouraged to bring canned good to the show that night. C2G will then distribute that food to Fort Wayne’s needy. The connection between The Last Waltz and giving back is a strong one, according to Maller. “The original concert was done at a time when music was making a huge difference in society. There was a spirit then that something new and great was happening, and I do not exaggerate when I say that spirit is in the room now when we recreate it,” he said. “A big part of that spirit is doing your part to make things better. We like to leave each town we go to a little better than how we found it.” Part of that goal is supporting the local music community, many of whose members will show up that night dressed for the part they’re asked to play. “The cast of the show gets to perform for a crowd they might not have played for before,” Maller said. “For instance, G-Money as Muddy Waters gets to sing for Dave Todoran’s fans, and Dave Todoran gets to play for Marnée’s fans, and Kenny Taylor gets to play for G-Money’s fans. It’s uplifting, it brings people together, and it’s also just a pretty cool show.”

Deborah Kennedy







Fare Warning

Indiana Artisan Holiday Marketplace

Everyone has his or her own favorite parts of the holiday season, and one of mine is spending money, though food and holiday-themed films run close behind. That may sound crass, but I find that retail therapy can be quite cathartic and rejuvenating, and finding special gifts that make eyes light up can be very rewarding. This year for the first time, there’s a new way to merge the joy of shopping and eating at one fantastic event. On the weekend following Thanksgiving, November 29-30, the Indiana Artisan Holiday Marketplace visits the Grand Wayne Center and promises 75 Indiana artisans as well as food crafters who will share their talents – which feature everything from leather goods to homemade jams – with an eager holiday crowd. Similar to a springtime event held each year in Indianapolis, the Holiday Marketplace provides an intoxicating array of items to purchase or just sample. In addition to the variety of artisans – which include painters, potters, woodworkers, bakers, instrument makers, jewelry designers, weavers, paper and mixed-media artists and leatherworkers – the marketplace will encourage guests to sample chocolates, candies, noodles, wines and more. There will also be craft demonstrations to behold while you sample the goodies. This is the first time an event of this kind has visited Fort Wayne (most similar efforts are held in the state capital). Bringing this kind of talent into northeast Indiana is a boon and speaks to the growing reputation for artistry in this region. Of course, there is also a growing appreciation for such talent among those of us who have yet to master such talents, making it especially nice to be able to find such unique and special gifts for our loved ones. More information and a complete list of artisans included in the Indiana Artisan Holiday Marketplace can be found at indianaartisan.org. The marketplace nicely addresses the shopping and food aspects of the holiday season, but what about holiday movies? Beyond the usual array of television airings and DVD offerings, there is a special event which allows for some community Christmas movie enjoyment, thanks to our friends (at least I like to think of them as friends) at Turner Classic Movies. Just as they did earlier this year in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Gone with the Wind, TCM is bringing classic Christmas films to our local theaters. In Fort Wayne, Coldwater Crossing will be the site of an especially fantastic double-feature of the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol followed by – I kid you not – a showing of the Barbara Stanwyck classic, Christmas in Connecticut. The double feature will run on Sunday, December 7 at two different times: 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. And that, my friends, is how to enjoy the holiday season.

Michele DeVinney







Barefoot in the Park

Directors Notes

I was first introduced to Neil Simon when The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was broadcast from New York City in the early 1960s. Johnny would introduce Mr. Simon as one of the funniest men in show business, having been a writer for such television shows as The Phil Silvers Show and Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, two of my favorites in the early days of television. I would also read Earl Wilson’s column in which he would talk about theatrical productions opening on Broadway; it seemed like a new Neil Simon comedy would open at least once a month. During the 1966-1967 Broadway season alone, Barefoot in the Park was running simultaneously with The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity and The Star-Spangled Girl. He has written over 30 plays and books of musicals, garnering 17 Tony nominations and winning the Tony Award for Best New Play for The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues and Lost in Yonkers (for which he also won the Pulitzer Prize) and over 30 scripts for films. In 1983 he became the only living playwright to have a Broadway theater named after him. When I saw the movie version of The Odd Couple, I realized just how great a writer he was. Years later, I auditioned for and landed a role as one of Oscar’s poker playing buddies in a local production of the stage show. Since then, I have done that show four more times – once as Oscar, twice more as one of his buddies and once as one of the Costazuela brothers (in the female version of The Odd Couple). Each time, I have learned something more about Simon’s abilities as a writer. He writes with a rhythm like a musician with a very good ear for the musicality of his dialogue. It makes his scripts a true joy to memorize and work with. This cast, from the very beginning, has understood the rhythms of this show – something I hope the audience will see. I have so enjoyed the process of watching this production go from simply words on a page to such an entertaining evening of live theater. I hope audiences will enjoy it as well.

Fred Krauskopf







Festival of Trees

The Embassy Dresses Up

There has been a huge resurgence of activity in Fort Wayne’s downtown in recent years, and never is that more apparent than during the Christmas season. What was once a quiet little ceremony to light up the streets and the Santa display has exploded into an electric extravaganza of lights and sounds and celebration. But before all of that could happen, and even before the downtown area began truly revitalizing, the Embassy Theatre brought Festival of Trees to the city’s annual holiday traditions, and nothing has been the same since. Realizing that very much herself is Barb Richards, the Embassy’s marketing director who assumed the position in 2013 after a long career in radio. Last year’s Festival of Trees was her first, a daunting task to be sure. This year, she admits, was a little bit easier. “I know just enough now to be dangerous,” she says. “It is easier now that I know what I’m doing.” She also had a special focus which allowed for her to learn a lot about the 1985 origins of the festival, now celebrating its 30th season. “It’s really allowed me to delve more into the history of the Festival of Trees, and through that process I saw that this event was really the first one of its kind and really made HolidayFest what it is now. I’ve been talking to Maryellen Rice and some of the other people involved in that first Festival of Trees, and I’ve learned so much about the Embassy and about the event. I didn’t know all of that, and I think it’s very, very cool.” That original event was intended as a means to an end more than as a lasting tradition. Repairs to the historic structure were badly needed, but there was no funding available to help restore the theater to its former glory. Festival of Trees was intended to help raise those funds, but in the process it has become one of its biggest annual fundraisers in addition to providing a beloved centerpiece to Fort Wayne’s holiday season. When Richards spoke to Rice, they were able to compare notes about planning such a large scale event. “She was asking me what it was like to plan it today, and I told her we’re still basically using the same business model they did in 1985. We haven’t needed to mess with that success.” Little could those original organizers have realized that three decades later, the Festival of Trees would be a key element to an evening that now includes fireworks at Parkview Field just a few blocks down the street. In fact, Parkview Field would never have been in their imaginings either. But it has become clear that the efforts to save the Embassy all those years ago provided a much needed boost to the area, and the ripples of that effort are still being felt today. For its 30th year, Festival of Trees boasts 59 trees amidst the grandeur of the beautifully restored Embassy. Richards says response from sponsors and decorators was especially good this year, providing a remarkable variety of trees to behold. Among her favorites, Richards mentions the tree provided by Shindigz Party Supplies, a festive tribute to the ubiquitous Disney film Frozen, sure to be a hit with young girls and young women who visit. But there are some decidedly quirky trees as well, including The Red Stiletto hair and cosmetics salon’s tribute to 1980s hairstyles and the Marry Me contribution, a tree styled to be a bridal dress. Pop culture faves will also be featured heavily, including tributes to Rubik’s Cube, the Smurfs and the films Goonies and Back to the Future. Perhaps most appealing to PBS fans, a tree paying tribute to Downton Abbey will also be among the offerings this year. A couple of the trees, including the aforementioned Frozen tree, will be available as a possible prize. Registration via donation can be made, and the lucky winner will have their very own 12-foot Frozen-inspired Christmas tree in their very own living room.   Another huge draw to Festival of Trees has long been the decorated windows along perimeter of the building. Harkening back to the glory days of Wolf & Dessauer, the windows have inspired fond memories for older residents who remember the animated displays of years past. For its 30th installment, Festival of Trees took a new approach to the windows, and Richards is excited about the results. “We have new designers for the windows this year,” she says. “We opened it up to the community, and this year the History Center brought back some of those Wolf & Dessauer animated items, so a couple of the windows feature those. Then in our other windows we have the story of Mary Mouse who makes the long trek from Fort Wayne to the North Pole. The story of Mary will be available in a couple of different formats, including an audio recording which can be accessed by cell phone and a script posted on the window so parents can read to their children.” Of course, no Festival of Trees is complete without Santa and Mrs. Claus who are there to visit with the children and take their Christmas wishes. The Embassy’s Breakfast with Santa has proven remarkably popular, and even after a third breakfast was announced, the tickets quickly sold out. But fear not, Santa will still sit on his chair to the delight of children, and Mrs. Claus will read a story to the gathering. Visitors can also expect a treat, one which was new to the Festival last year: a scoop of peppermint ice cream courtesy of Edy’s. Pulling together an event of this size is a big job, but it’s clearly one that Richards relishes, especially now that she has had time to settle into her job. But she says it’s worth all the effort. “It is a big job, but I’m having a fun time. The hours are long, there’s a lot of work, and it pretty much takes over my life between October and December. But it’s definitely the Embassy at its best, and it’s such a big part of downtown and the community at this time of year. And when you hear all the oohs and aahs as people walk into the theatre, it’s just really cool.”

Michele DeVinney







Les Misérables

Ballads and Barricades

For the past 5 years, Rich Najuch and Joel Froomkin have produced delightful holiday Supper Club shows at the New Huntington Theatre. But to end the inaugural season of their main stage theatre Different Stages, they decided to do a bit of a 180. Rather than a lighthearted holiday cabaret show, they are mounting a grand production of the most heart-wrenching, tear-jerking and universally beloved musical in history: Les Misérables. What makes this story – about the oppressed poor and a 19th century French student revolution that ends tragically – so perfect for the holidays? “The show’s most powerful lyric is ‘to love another person is to see the face of God,’” says Froomkin, who is the artistic director for Different Stages, “and I think it’s such a beautiful message for this time of year. The show touches people in a very profound way and makes us so aware of the power we have for good. There is great joy in the journey of these characters.” Froomkin sees a connection between the writing of Victor Hugo, who wrote the novel the musical is based on, and Charles Dickens, who wrote the holiday classic A Christmas Carol. In fact, he says, the musical’s creators had been inspired to write the show after seeing a West End adaptation of another Dickens novel. “Les Misérables and A Christmas Carol are both allegories of redemption,” Froomkin says. “The path of one man to accept love in his heart and embrace his own potential goodness. Scrooge takes his journey in one night and Valjean’s journey takes 40 years, but they are on the same path. Tiny Tim opens the heart of Scrooge, and Valjean is transformed when he meets little Cosette.” Like the Dickens story, Les Misérables certainly appears destined for all-time classic status with universal appeal. “It’s not easy to pinpoint what makes something the most successful musical in history,” says Froomkin, but he points out that one of the factors is its universal relevance. “The characters are so rich that everyone in the audience can connect and find their own personal way into the story,” he says. As for Froomkin, his love of the musical began with its orchestration. “There are passages in the accompaniment supporting the melody lines that are some of the most beautiful phrases ever written for the stage,” he says. “Cameron Macintosh called them ‘magic notes.’ This show is filled with themes that support the melody, but are absolutely breathtaking. It’s one of the only shows I know where the audience can hum the accompaniment. That’s extraordinary.” In addition to the “magic” of the music, Different Stages’ space adds another layer of depth to the production. “The intimacy of [our stage] allows a special bond between the audience and the performer,” he says. The intimacy of the stage will not take away from the grandness of the production. “The set is truly epic,” he says, and it includes the show’s famous barricade. “The production will move in a very cinematic way, but the audience will have the opportunity to feel connected to the show in a way that is unique.” As in the past, Froomkin will utilize projections against the backdrop of the set for added texture to transform the set in what he calls “a very painterly way.” He also believes that the cast that he and Najuch have assembled has something special. “In my mind what makes the difference between a good production of this show and a great production is the ensemble,” he says, “and we have cast an extraordinary group of very versatile actors who work together beautifully.” Froomkin’s expertise in dialects will also play into the production value. “I have always felt that American productions of Les Misérables had a disadvantage because they didn’t have the versatility of dialect that British actors were able to employ,” he explains. “In British productions, simply by changing regional dialect the actors are not only able to transform their characters, but they can also make clear statements regarding geographic location, social status and class.” Another enhancement Froomkin is bringing to his production centers on the characters themselves. He has turned to the source material, the Victor Hugo novel, to gain insights. “I’ve really spent time with the novel trying to understand these characters,” he says, “and get back to the root of the show’s origins.” Froomkin contends that as rabid as Les Misérables’ theater fans are, this fandom did not necessarily translate to last year’s film production of the musical. “I think the film was visually a beautiful piece of work,” he admits, “but I felt there were musical choices which lost a great deal of the visceral affect this score can have on its audience.” Rather than the operatic score that was originally written, he says that the film “shied away from that in an effort to keep things ‘real.’ The orchestration was so quiet that you didn’t feel the music in your gut the way you do when it’s washing over you in a theater. There was no bass, no heartbeat.” He places the blame on modern cinema’s apparent “fear” of singing. “Film directors feel like they have to apologize for [singing in film],” he says. “You hardly ever hear people sing in the trailers of musicals anymore. They [minimize the singing] so it plays as ‘natural.’ But it really has to be the opposite; the emotion has to be bigger so that the energy justifies bursting into song.” He also had the same complaint of the film that many moviegoers had: “There were performers in the film that simply didn’t have the musical chops to sing the score the way it should be sung,” he says. In contrast, Froomkin’s cast members have strong, theatrically trained voices. “We really wanted the score sung,” he says. “Our company are all stellar musicians with incredible voices, and the sound they produce is going to be breathtaking.” Different Stages audiences are already familiar with three of the production’s stars. Two appeared in this season’s The Sound of Music – Amelia Story (who played Marta) and Becky Rosky (who played Mother Abbess). Story plays the urchin boy Gavroche, and Froomkin calls her “just fabulous.” Rosky, whom Froomkin says audiences “went crazy over” in The Sound of Music plays Cosette. Ethan Carpenter, who performed in two seasons of the theater’s Supper Club, will play Marius. “He has this extraordinary warmth and innocence coupled with one of the most beautiful voices,” says Froomkin. To cast their shows, Froomkin and Najuch have fully embraced modern technology. “We did something we dubbed a digital open call,” Froomkin says. “We provided performers with accompaniment tracks of songs from the show and they were able to submit a video audition.” This allowed actors to submit even if they were away on tour or on contract elsewhere. In all, they received 1,200 submissions, and they also held an open casting call in New York. “We saw 400 people in four hours,” Froomkin says. “That was pretty crazy, but it was amazing. Hundreds of actresses submitted for the role of Eponine, but when Brooke Quintana auditioned at the open call, she knocked it out of the park.” Froomkin is confident this production will not only wow Les Miz devotees, but will win over new fans – something he doesn’t believe the film did. “If you didn’t love Les Misérables before [you saw the film],” he says, “I’m not sure you really grasped what all the fuss was about.” The magic of live theater (including every single one of the “magic notes” in the live theatrical score) coupled with the intimate setting could change all that. “At Different Stages, we create this powerful relationship – it’s really a partnership – between the audience and the performer,” says Froomkin. “It’s incredibly communal, and I have a feeling that with this particular show, the effect is going to be really extraordinary.”

Jen Poiry-Prough







The Nutcracker

Seasonal Paws de Deux

There have been a lot of changes at Fort Wayne Ballet in the last few years. Now settled into their studios at the Auer Center for Arts & Culture three years after their move, the ballet has seen some key personnel move on and new faces arrive to fill the void. They have also forged a relationship with the University of Saint Francis to offer a degree program in dance at the private university. But through all the changes, one thing remains predictably certain: If it’s December, it must be time for The Nutcracker. As usual, the casts for the performances are very large, allowing for many of the ballet’s students, and a wide range of age and experience, to participate along with their performing-level students and professional company of dancers. All told, each cast (and there are two which alternate performances) boasts around 130 talented young performers and some veteran adults who fill the lush opening party scene. That scene has also boasted some additional talent for the last five years. Through a partnership with Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, a venture which first launched in 2010, a variety of adoptable canines have been featured performers in the ballet’s first act. “The Muttcrackers,” as they have been dubbed, was an idea that was at first questioned, but Karen Gibbons-Brown, executive and artistic director of Fort Wayne Ballet, wouldn’t allow a few doubters to deter her. And she has been rewarded for her perseverance in seeing almost 60 dogs find new homes. “I’m always happy to help our furry friends,” says Gibbons-Brown, who fosters dogs among her little canine family. “We are the community’s organization, we’re not privately owned. We’re called Fort Wayne Ballet for a reason, [and] we take our role in the community seriously. This time of year we have a big collection of stuffed animals that we give to the police so that they can be available to comfort children in difficult situations. We have our coat and mitten drive so that we can help children during the winter months. And we love being able to participate in something a little different by bringing dogs who are looking for forever homes to our production. I think Animal Care & Control likes it, too. This has been one of our easiest projects, and you wouldn’t think it would be. We just make sure we partner the dog on stage with someone who is not dog fearful, and it’s all gone very smoothly.” Though early concerns about dog behavior during the performance, particularly in light of the large audience (which always reacts audibly when the dogs enter the stage), seemed well-founded, they have been rendered moot in the past four years of Nutcracker performances. After they leave the stage, each evening’s stars are taken to an area outside the theater so they can be viewed and petted by fans. Adoption papers are available there to begin the process for anyone so moved, but Gibbons-Brown admits that many of those adopted land close to home. “Quite a few of the dogs have found homes with our dancers or our ballet parents,” she says. “And I’m also proud that Dance Theatre of Tennessee adopted our program the year after we did and are still doing it too.” Aside from that element of community service, which has become a tradition of its own, Gibbons-Brown has had a few other ideas over the years that seemed a bit unrealistic at the time, but it’s clear that when she sets her mind to something, she finds a way to make it happen. One of the key changes over the years was the addition of a snow-maker in the theater, one which will allow the audience to sit amidst snow as it falls onstage during the final moments of Act I. A charming gasp can be heard as children (and their parents) realize it’s snowing. “I love sitting in the back of the theater when that happens and watching the reaction. I can see little hands reaching up and trying to catch the snow. Every year we have people call and ask where they have to sit for the snow to fall on them.” Maintaining those traditions while keeping the show fresh is Gibbons-Brown challenge each year. Last year she had the backdrop for Act I updated, and the same is being done this year for the Act II backdrop. There are also new costumes provided by Fort Wayne Ballet’s longtime designer Tess Heet. And there will be some new faces in key roles following the departure of principal dancer Lucia Rogers who left the ballet earlier this year. An infusion of new talent from around the country brings new faces into iconic roles, and there are now enough male dancers available to provide a partner to Dew Drop, allowing for one more pas de deux. Although Gibbons-Brown strives to infuse new life into the show, she ultimately hopes it isn’t noticed. “It should be seamless so that no one realizes there are changes. We just want to heighten the magic and make it an overall more exciting production. And we always plan a few new surprises for the audiences.” As always the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will accompany the first three performances of The Nutcracker, the Friday and Saturday evening performances as well as the Saturday matinee. Additionally, the matinees will once again be followed by Sugar Plum Parties, a delightful opportunity for the youngsters to meet the dancers and enjoy a treat or two. This year’s opening night reception will now take place before the performance on Friday, December 5, beginning at 6 p.m. Ticket information for the Sugar Plum Parties and the reception is available at fortwayneballet.org or by calling the ArtsTix box office. Those looking for more opportunities to watch Fort Wayne Ballet in action have a few more dates to look forward to in the coming months. February 14 will see them celebrate Valentine’s Day in the ArtsLab on the first floor of the Auer Center, and the ballet’s spring performance of Don Quixote begins in March. But until then Gibbons-Brown says she looks forward to contributing to Fort Wayne’s annual celebration of the holiday season. “People never seem to get tired of it. I think it’s just such a magical show, and people never get tired of it. It’s just such a great tradition.”

Michele DeVinney







Festival of Gingerbread

Edible Architecture

Once upon a time, in a bygone era, Christmas was a largely handmade and homemade holiday. While there are still plenty of people who gather to make Christmas cookies and create special gifts from scratch, the number of people who have time to indulge in all the creativity the holiday offers has dwindled as schedules fill with other obligations. It’s a romantic notion to spend hours upon hours making something special and celebratory from scratch, but reality seldom allows for it. That may be one reason that the Festival of Gingerbread has become such a popular annual event and a comforting part of the city’s celebration. Hosted by the History Center, the festival allows us to enjoy the exquisite crafting of gingerbread houses and creations, things we might aspire to try but never quite get around to doing. Of course, it’s so much more than just a chance to gander at gingerbread. It also allows the History Center to welcome more people into its doors and introduce area residents to everything the museum has to offer. This year marks 29 seasons of gingerbread at the center, with the inaugural event taking place in 1985, just five years after the center itself opened. The Festival of Gingerbread its longest-running program. “It began as a small and unique way to attract folks to our museum during the holiday season,” says Todd Pelfry, the center’s executive director. “That first year we had just a handful of houses, but it was well-received. People really embraced the festival and turned it into a valued part of our shared traditions. We see many repeat visitors who are just amazed at the level of creativity shown by these fantastic houses.” Pelfry also notes that there’s a level of longing for the opportunity to indulge in some holiday creativity from those who visit each year. “I see folks every year who say ‘I would love to try to do this next year.’ But people are so busy, and these houses take many, many hours to put together. Of course, the other side of this is the houses made by younger individuals and groups that aren’t quite as detailed but look like they were a lot of fun to do.” With a wide variety of houses to enjoy, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Festival of Gingerbread, but the History Center provides one more: admission to the festival also includes admission to all of the displays the center has to offer. Opened in 1980, the History Center is one of the largest museums of its kind in the state and includes more than three dozen permanent exhibits pertaining to all levels of local history, from the ice age to today. Two years ago the Allen County Innovation exhibit also opened; it features highlights of 20th century industrial heritage. There will also be an array of speakers and lectures on the weekends during the festival’s run, which goes from Wednesday, November 26 until Sunday, December 14. (The exhibit is closed on Thanksgiving.) A listing of those events and appearances can be found at the center’s website which also shares the History Center mission. Additionally, there are added features each day of the festival, including visits from Santa on November 26 and December 6, a chance to create a handmade ornament on November 29 and a cookie decorating party on December 14. As for the number of gingerbread houses to expect this year, Pelfry is reluctant to say, given the fragility of the houses themselves. “We do lose a lot in transit,” he admits. “Last year we had a record 149 on display, and I expect we’ll have well over 100 again this year. But the houses have to travel here, and there are a lot of stops and a lot can happen.” In addition to the gingerbread houses, the center’s regular exhibits and the educational programs and hands-on experiences available with one admission price, the History Center is proud for visitors to see the final piece of the renovation of the old city courtroom – an exquisite chandelier which Pelfry says is “both illuminating and breathtaking. It really provides a beautiful, luxurious room for the gingerbread houses.” Pelfry advises those who wish to see the exhibit to come sooner rather than later, a bit of wisdom gleaned from last year’s weather challenges. “I encourage people to come early in the exhibit’s run. Last year the weather made it nearly impossible for anyone to attend that final weekend, and since you never know what’s going to happen, you might want to plan on getting here early this year.”

Michele DeVinney







Fantasy of Lights

Making the Season Sparkle

Each year there are numerous ways for Fort Wayne residents to get into the holiday spirit. With so many traditions to enjoy, there are also some who experience well-established events for the first time each year. Of course, part of the reason to visit events and displays is to celebrate a happy time of year, but when that celebration can benefit others, then it can be the perfect reflection of the spirit of the season. One perfect example is the annual Fantasy of Lights at Franke Park, now celebrating its 20th year as one of Fort Wayne’s premier annual events. More than just a good way to see sparkling lights, the Fantasy of Lights benefits the AWS Foundation, which contributes greatly to the disabled community in our area. Proceeds help to provide support to those who are intellectually and physically disabled, providing quality of life programs which include visual and performing arts programs, summer camps, autism services, health education and guardianship services. Transportation is another benefit provided, along with general education and awareness programs. But while the end result may benefit AWS (and Fantasy of Lights has raised more than $700,000 to date), there are still those sparkling lights to consider. And each year those offerings expand. This year, AWS Foundation Executive Director Lynne Gilmore promises, there will be three new displays, many of which will be planned surprises or memorials for lost loved ones. The plans for the new displays take shape over the course of the year so that, even though specific plans for each year’s Fantasy of Lights begin in July, thoughts about sponsoring displays continue throughout the year. “I get phone calls from people during the year who are interested in sponsoring a display,” says Gilmore, noting that many of those already on display include memorials and tributes to family members who often don’t know about it until they drive through for the first time. Keeping the displays in order and refurbishing them regularly is a big part of the project, and Gilmore credits two men with making it all possible. “We have an extraordinary two-man crew that takes care of the displays each year: Dan Stuerzenburger and Craig Schmitt. They’re responsible for everything that happens at the park, including the set-up, maintenance, take-down and refurbishing which makes sure that everything is in top working order each year. Without them, none of this happens.” In recent years there has been a lot to refurbish. New LED lighting, phased in over the last five years or so, has not only made the displays more environmentally friendly, but has added to the luster of the lights, making the glow even more overwhelming than before. Now as the cars and vans drive through the display, the lights are more vivid and awe-inspiring which goes a long way to making even the Grinches among us feel the Christmas spirit. “The LED lights are much more brilliant,” says Gilmore. “It really does transform Franke Park into a Winter Wonderland.” Record-setting numbers have visited the displays in the last couple years, with a record 14,300 visiting in 2012 and 13,600 in 2013. Gilmore, who has served in her position for 13 years, has enjoyed the growth the event has seen during her tenure and over the 20-year history of the event. “We’ve seen a huge increase in attendance over the years as the event has continued to grow year after year.” In part, the growth can be credited to the continual additions of new displays. Although the new displays this year, which are added to the 70 from previous years, are mostly being kept a surprise, she does hint at a special animated musical instrument which is sure to catch the eye of those visitors both old and new. Although not officially part of the traditional downtown Night of Lights festivities on Thanksgiving Eve, Fantasy of Lights opens that same evening, providing a possible final treat on a night designed to kick off the holidays. But if your evening is already full on the 26th, you have a little longer to enjoy Fantasy of Lights than many of the downtown festivities. Fantasy of Lights remains open every night through New Year’s Eve, opening at 6 p.m. each evening. It remains open until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There are also a variety of ways to enjoy the drive through the many Fantasy of Lights displays. Most, of course, enjoy the trip in their own family vehicle, but larger groups can visit in passenger vans, buses or trolleys and even carriage rides. More details about booking the carriage, or about the event and other AWS programs can be found by visiting the AWS Fantasy of Lights website, awsfantasyoflights.com.

Michele DeVinney







Jeff Salisbury

A Naturally Aged Ham

Actors tend to fall into one of two categories: shy people who use performing to come out of their shells, or attention-seeking hams. Jeff Salisbury proudly counts himself a member of the latter group. “According to my parents, I have been singing and dancing and hamming it up since I was born,” he says. “You know how most kids just stare blankly when you are trying to take a picture? Well, apparently if I saw a camera, even if they were complete strangers, I would go try and get in the picture. I guess I was photo bombing before I even knew what that was.” Despite his desire to be seen by anyone and everyone, he was a reluctant stage performer. “In fourth grade, my teacher asked me if I wanted to do the elementary musical, Pinocchio,” he says. “I had no interest in it, but she finally talked me into it. I was the cat that helps trick Pinocchio into going to Pleasure Island. It took me about four rehearsals to be completely hooked. I seemed to have some natural aptitude for it and really enjoyed the playing and creating involved with coming up with a character.” That was 26 years ago, and he hasn’t stopped since. As smitten as he was with performing, he never actually saw a live theatrical performance until he made a bold decision when he was 16 years old. When his high school offered a program for sophomores to job shadow in their career of interest, he impulsively – and unexpectedly – requested to shadow a professional actor. “My guidance counselor laughed and then asked what I was actually interested in,” he says. “I told him that was the only thing. He sighed and said, ‘Okay, Jeff,’ and sent me on my way.” True to his word, his counselor did some research and learned about a professional theater only 20 minutes away from them – the Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres in Nappanee. The teen followed one of the actors around for the day, learning what a professional rehearsal was all about, and talked with other actors and the artistic director about their careers. He got a backstage tour and was able to see two different shows in one day (Godspell and Plain and Fancy). “Each of those shows moved me in a way I hadn’t felt before,” he recalls. “To see people I had been talking to all day completely transform and tell two completely different yet beautiful stories was mind-blowing to me. I was completely lost in acting after that. That one day told me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.” After high school he earned a B.A in theatre from Bethel College in Mishawaka. Following that, he worked off and on as a professional actor at the Round Barn Theatre and other companies for about 10 years. He also learned the technical aspects of theatre, including lighting design and set construction. He quit acting in 2006 and moved to Fort Wayne, where he has held an assortment of different jobs, including restaurant host, furniture delivery man, photographer and administrative assistant. However, he believes he has found his niche with his current employer, Apollo Design Technologies. “They make lighting and effects equipment, and I find the work to be really interesting,” he says. “The lighting designer in me loves all the ‘toys’ I play with every day. It’s just a great place to work.” Salisbury still finds plenty of time to tread the boards and just finished the playing the title role in the Civic Theatre’s production of Shrek. “An over-the-top fun-ride of silliness, fantasy and a whole lot of singing sums it up nicely,” he says of the Shrek experience. “The show itself is just fun, yet it has a lot of heart and a good message.” Salisbury says he approaches his characters like a little kid. “I live by the question, ‘Why?’ When you can answer that question to everything you say [onstage] and put in the time to figure out how to convey that ‘why,’ that adds a level to the performance that isn’t there if you just recite the script and think, ‘Oh, it might be good if I’m mad here,’ or ‘I think I’ll be happy here.’” Not surprisingly, he is an actor who creates a backstory for each character he portrays. But he also embraces the collaborative nature of theater. “I figure out the ‘why’ for every line of every scene,” he explains, “and in rehearsals I tweak those feelings based on what the director is looking for or in response to how [other actors are] delivering their lines and where they are taking it. I try to be as prepared as I can be but still be flexible and creative enough to adapt to what other people bring to the table.” While he says the Civic is the most “professional” theatre group in town and offers some of the most fun productions, he loves the work of the faith-based theatre group all for One (afO) productions. He has been their technical director and occasional actor for the past four years and calls them “a fantastic group.” “I just completely believe in what they do and what they represent,” he says. “They create an amazing atmosphere and refreshing theater experience for actors and audience members.” His first experience with afO was in the 2007 play A Sentimental Journey in which he played a WWII soldier who awakens in a hospital to find he has partial paralysis and no memory. “The emotional and physical gamut I had to go through in that show was so hard and so much fun,” he says. “I went from happy to furious to scared to having a complete emotional breakdown. From concern to love to laughter, all while trying to remember I can’t use my right side and most of the time in a wheelchair. It was a hard show, but still one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had on stage.” Even though afO is “faith-based,” Salisbury points out, “That doesn’t mean they do church plays like most people think when they hear that. It’s how they treat their actors and everyone they interact with. They choose really good shows that have a good message. They adapt a lot of classic literature to stage and find very challenging shows to produce. The actors are always pushed to be better than they think they can be, and I’ve seen a lot of people grow in their art there. Everyone works together to create the absolute best show they can. It’s not separated into actors and technicians and designers; everyone chips in to put the show up. That’s not an atmosphere you get in theater most of the time.” When he’s not involved with theater, Salisbury likes another collaborative type of team play: gaming. “I love table top games, video games, card games, you name it,” he says. “If it involves a group of people getting together and having fun playing it, I’m in.”

Jen Poiry-Prough







Pembroke Bakery & Café

Dining Out

For a long time, I thought Pembroke Bakery, located inside the Auer Center on Main Street, was just that – a bakery. I knew it specialized in gluten-free baked goods that my gluten-intolerant friends enjoy, but I had no idea it has a tasty café menu that caters to vegans and vegetarians. Pembroke also offers “regular” baked goods, and I can attest that the bagels are delicious. Now that I work in the same building as the small eatery, I find myself there for lunch several times a week, and I have never been disappointed. While you may wait awhile as they prepare your food, the service is always friendly and you’re bound to run into someone you know. Plus, you can watch the dancers at the Fort Wayne Ballet while you wait or pop into Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery to see me. There are a few tables available inside the café and additional seating in the lobby of the Auer Center. Here are my top picks from the menu: Beet Burger ($6.50): Made with roasted beets, black beans and onions and topped with vegan pickled veggie mayo, lettuce and tomato on a house-made bun, this may be the most unique “burger” in town. If you aren’t a fan of beets, it’s not for you, but if you like them even a little bit, you have to try it. Earthy, savory and a little spicy, this burger hits the spot and doesn’t weigh you down like a typical burger. Black Bean Burger ($6.50): This patty is made with black beans, onions, garlic, red bell pepper, poblano chili peppers, chili molido, oregano, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil and topped with avocado vinaigrette and red cabbage-cilantro slaw. A little bit spicy, a little bit sweet and a whole lot of yummy. According to Pembroke staff, this has quickly become the most popular item on the menu – and for good reason. The avocado vinaigrette is so good I could drink it. Teriyaki Bento ($6.75): When I am looking for something light and filling, this combination of sautéed vegetables and tofu with teriyaki sauce and seasoned Japanese rice is my go-to. I love the tangy teriyaki sauce and the crunchy fresh vegetables. The sticky Japanese rice adds some filler to soak up the sauce without being too heavy. Chickpea Salad ($6.50): Slow cooked chickpeas, onions, celery, dill pickles and vegenaise are served on house-made herb whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette. I often opt to have this served as a salad instead of a sandwich, but it’s good either way, providing just enough energy to propel you through the afternoon. While the above mentioned items top my list from the regular menu, Pembroke offers rotating daily specials, including some creative soups made from house-made stocks and organic ingredients, that have really wowed me. You never know what to expect, but you won’t be disappointed. Pembroke also offers a full catering menu for your event or party with options like falafel, Thai lettuce rolls, butternut squash ravioli and curried red lentils, just to name a few.

Amber Recker







Terry Ratliff

A Gallery Rises on Broadway

The writing on the window leaves no question. There is a new gallery in town. The tiny building that shares a wall with the popular Phoenix restaurant on Broadway now reads, Ratliff in large, white script letters that span the front reflective window. Terry Ratliff fans are streaming in like rats following the piper. It seems that whenever one turns a head in a restaurant, public building or even the homes of a friend in this city, there is a Ratliff signature scrawled across a canvas. His work hangs on walls all over town. The standout, bright colors Ratliff applies with an energetic but well-tuned hand are easy to spot. His range in style proves he is, to say the least, versatile. He is an “order up” painter who can fill just about any need for any collector who wants to fill a wall. With such a large following, one would assume Ratliff would own a puffed up ego. Not so. An inviting handshake welcomed me into his gallery, a long, narrow space flanked by exposed brick broken up by sections of deep purple walls. Large mirrors paired with a row of hair-cutting stations in the building that was once a barbershop make the gallery look brighter, as the reflections of his bold work hit visitors with eye candy from all sides. The floors are warm and wood-covered, and a few cozy pieces of furniture easily shift positions to accommodate lively conversations. Those who know Ratliff know that conversations with him are upbeat, intelligent and spiked with a bit of edgy wit that reflects the range of experience, both good and bad, he has had over his long career as an artist. He has worked in a variety of studio spaces all over town, but finally feels he has found the just-right location. Many readers will remember the house on Jefferson Boulevard from which he worked and hosted many a Trolley Tour stop. He has since outgrown the small house once used as both a studio and a gallery. Ratliff says of the space, “After a while it got kind of tiring to be painting in a dining room all day long. It just got to be too much. The lighting was terrible.” The Jefferson location still holds stacks of his work; he estimates it contains over 1,000 pieces. From now on, it will serve as a holding area for work waiting to be edited or sold. Even without a gallery to fill, Ratliff keeps working. His recent focus has been on a variety of commissioned works, and he explains, “For a while it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have a place to show because I’ve been working with clients. I recently did 67 pieces for Indiana Tech.” Ratliff is so highly esteemed by locals that commissions often come with few parameters. He says of the Indiana Tech project, “I didn’t have many guidelines. They said they trusted me, which put on a lot of pressure. They gave me a color scheme and let me run with it.” Even being well seasoned by experience, Ratliff can feel a bit apprehensive about the work produced for commissions. “When you try to do something for someone else, it’s never as good. It’s not coming from your soul. When I paint a painting for myself, I don’t worry if anyone is going to like it,” he says. Ratliff recently stepped back into the studio with the goal of painting for himself. He paints nearly every day and explains, “It’s a scary job. I’m not assured of a paycheck. Even after a commission like Indiana Tech, I have to get right back to work. You can’t be lazy or take the day off. It’s a job for me.” Setting up his new space took time and focus away from his studio routine. “When I was getting this place ready, I didn’t paint for at least two weeks and it was getting into my head,” he says. “I missed it. Now I have about 20 pieces going at a time.” Between working on a tidal wave of commissioned pieces and developing new work that follows his own passions, one might wonder how Ratliff keeps the momentum of consistent sales going? After all these years, it seems his spark would fade. The answer to his success is his fireball personality, dedicated work ethic and polished marketing skills. Ratliff can whip pieces out in just a couple hours. “The faster, the better,” he says, yet his quality remains high and his pieces express the passion that he holds. “That’s what selling art is about. You have to be enthusiastic.” Enthusiasm and relentless energy are what makes showing and running his own gallery a sensible choice for this artist. Ratliff questions why he would want to split the commission with another gallery and says, “I want to sell myself. I don’t want someone else to sell me. I would feel like I’m missing out on something if I wasn’t there to meet the people who buy my work and take it to their place to install it.” For Ratliff, the stars often align to guide him to the next client or phase of his career. Just as the Casaburos kicked started his success by filling their restaurants with his work, the opportunity to open his own gallery on Broadway just sort of, according to Ratliff, “fell in my lap.” He talked to Matt McCoy, the owner of the building about having a place to show his work. “The walls were yellow from cigarette smoke. The floor was almost non-existent,” says Ratliff, “but Matt did everything he could to bring this place up to par. The sign on his restaurant reads, “music, food and art.” It’s going to be a perfect fit.” Filling the gallery with inventory won’t be a problem. “At my studio on Jefferson I have stacks and stacks of paintings,” says Ratliff, but he won’t just be digging out old pieces to hang on the walls. “I’ve found 10-year-old paintings that I rework. Now that I know a bit more about myself as an artist and what I’m trying to say, I have more direction.” He quickly whips out his phone to show a photo of a piece he reworked just that morning. “I completely revised this one,” he says. “I primed an old work and pumped out this painting of two people eating spaghetti.” The piece shows a whimsical, yet stylish couple slurping a strand of pasta, very reminiscent of the Disney scene shared by two runaway mutts. Ratliff warns other artists not to destroy old pieces that have become stale. “Don’t throw it away, you can pull something out of it,” he says. He also enjoys looking at the progression of his work and says, “I like the vintage ones because they are more raw. I can’t do raw anymore. I’m more calculated. I’d like to have that rawness come back into my work.” While Ratliff has spent years developing his own career, he now searches for and supports young artists with potential. “There’s a couple of artists who I really admire,” says Ratliff, “and I’m trying to help them as much as I can. I try to help them get shows and teach them about marketing. It’s important to develop a brand. “It’s all about hanging your art. I tell young artists to get your work out there. You might have to sell your work for next to nothing but if you keep doing it, it will happen for you.” For Ratliff, it is happening again. “Fort Wayne is getting better and better, especially here on Broadway,” he says. That’s 1124 Broadway, to be specific, open Friday and Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Sunday 2-7 p.m. Certainly this new gallery will keep things moving forward for both the city and for Ratliff.

Heather Miller








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