whatzup2nite • Thursday, January 29

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Things To Do

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National Shows

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Music & Comedy

Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., cover, 422-5055

Jared Pagan — Acoustic at Beamer's, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 625-1002

Jason Paul — Acoustic variety at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 483-1311

Jon Durnell — Variety at Checkerz, Fort Wayne, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 489-0286

Open Mic Night — Hosted by Mike Conley at Mad Anthony Brewing Company, Fort Wayne, 8:30-11 p.m., no cover, 426-2537

Karaoke & DJs

American Idol Karaoke w/Dave — Karaoke at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526

Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Karaoke at Deer Park, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 432-8966

Stage & Dance

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Art & Artifacts

Celebrating 20 Years, 1995-2015 — Featuring national and regional artists; Forrest Formsma, Fred Doloresco, Robert Eberle, Pamela Newell, Diane Lyon, Jody Hemphill Smith, Katy McMurray, Maureen O’Hara Pesta, Michael Poorman, Mike Kelly, Carolyn Fehsenfeld, Doug Runyan, CW Mundy, Susan Suraci, Terri Buchholz, Andrea Bojrab, Bill Inman and Terry Armstrong, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru Feb. 7, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568

Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts — Costumes, accessories, set pieces, documentary excerpts, historical photos and tour posters from the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s first 40 years, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 15, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Hunt Slonem: Magnificent Menagerie — Nature inspired paintings, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 8, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Rock Paper Scissors — Mixed media pieces focused on games and annual postcard sale and fundraiser, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 4, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

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,

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,



For the Love of Laughter

About a year before David Adkins got kicked out of the military for parking his car in the wrong position, he was sitting in the audience of the U.S. Air Force Talent Search Contest, and he saw himself on stage. Not literally, of course. That would be taking things into Kenny Rogers and the First Edition weirdness. But as he watched the comics perform that night, Adkins realized that was what he wanted to do, what he was meant to do. The next year he won the Air Force emcee contest, adopted the stage name Sinbad, a name he was using for himself from the time he was 18, and was off on a series of adventures worthy of his namesake. Star Search, HBO, Bill Cosby and Hollywood would eventually recognize his comedic prowess. In time, a generation of laugh addicts would hear the name Sinbad and think not of the peripatetic Persian sailor, but of the six-foot-five-inch funny man from Benton Harbor, Michigan. A 2007 Wikipedia entry said he was dead. But he isn’t. Sinbad is alive and well and as funny as ever. Sinbad sails into the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, Ohio on Saturday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m. Sinbad is one of those rare comedians who has the ability to take a word and riff on it for half an hour. That gift earned him 78th place in Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. A few minutes surfing Youtube videos is all it takes to understand why. Sinbad’s act glides seamlessly from observations on men, women, children, marriage, aging, sex and life in general. And it does so without profanity. “I realized one day in Chicago when there were all these other comedians and we all sounded like bad Richard Pryors,” he said. “You don’t have to curse to be funny.” Sinbad was born in 1951 and grew up watching Red Skelton, Bill Cosby and Redd Fox. A classic nerd, Sinbad was in his high school marching band and was a member of the math club. He played basketball at the University of Denver. Following college he joined the Air Force which proved to be a poor fit. He kept going AWOL hoping to get kicked out. “I had done plenty to get discharged before that parking incident,” he said. “But I have nothing but good things to say about the Air Force because that’s where I figured out my path. I always knew I was going to be something special. I just wasn’t sure in what field. But I knew I was going to be an entertainer. Seeing that talent show just let me know what path to pursue.” Starting out in the entertainment business can be brutally difficult, and such was the case for Sinbad. He spent years doing things like sleeping outside clubs and conning his way into slots on comedy stages, sometimes agreeing to do a minute of some other guy’s spot. He’s said that he had to make people laugh in the first four seconds and then keep them laughing for the next 56. He would watch and learn from other comedians, sometimes taking their jokes and changing them in a way to make them better. At one point he stole a complete routine from a comic, and by giving it his own spin, made it work where the original fell flat. “It was tough,” he said. “I just went to the clubs and talked my way on stage. You can’t do that today. Things are different.” Living hand-to-mouth and riding Greyhound buses between gigs, Sinbad’s first big break came on the show Star Search. A common misconception is that he won Star Search, but he didn’t; he placed second. He appeared on the show many times, at one point beating comedian Dennis Miller in a round of the competition. The success on Star Search boosted him on his way to stardom. “Star Search gave you four minutes,” he said. “You have to cut all the fat out and get right to it.” In the 1980s and 90s it was hard to turn on the television without seeing Sinbad. He landed a role on A Different World, the Cosby Show spin-off, had his own HBO comedy special called Sinbad: Brain Damaged, starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way and with Phil Hartman in Houseguest. He’s even played a condom in a short about HIV/AIDS. Sinbad’s success did not prevent him from filing bankruptcy for back taxes in 2010. But his money troubles are not from a lack of working. He’s been doing more than 200 shows per year for a long time. It’s more that the nature of the business has changed, he said. In 2010 he appeared on Celebrity Apprentice and was fired in the second round. He had much more success with his 2010 live Comedy Central movie Where U Been?, which poked fun at his supposed decline. A more recent special, Make Me Wanna Holla, features Sinbad in a 90-minute standup set in Detroit in 2014. Sinbad may be down financially, but he certainly is not out of the game. He is as funny as ever. “You have ebbs and flows in your career,” he said. “I love this game. Even on a bad day it’s good. I think of a boxer. For me it’s just getting back into the ring.“

Mark Hunter

The Smell of the Kill

Arena's Kill a Risk Worth Taking

It’s always exciting to see a new play you know nothing about. There are no expectations and no other performances to compare it to. It’s a little bit of a risk for an audience member, but risks can pay off. Arena Dinner Theatre’s The Smell of the Kill is a risk worth taking. With a short 90-minute running time, the dark comedy by Michele Lowe is about three upper-middle-class women who are faced with the tempting prospect of letting their husbands die. It has been described as “Arsenic and Old Lace meets Desperate Housewives,” a pretty fair description. The script isn’t particularly deep or thought-provoking, and it doesn’t really shed new light on marital relationships. But it’s very, very funny. “I really hope you’re in the mood for a black comedy,” said Director Brian H. Wagner, the Arena’s executive director and off-stage voice of one of the husbands, in his curtain speech, The opening night audience definitely was. The play is rated “mature” for adult language and content. The audience seemed a bit caught off guard at first, but quickly warmed up to the profanity and bitter humor. Gloria Minnich plays Nicky, a very angry and embittered book editor whose husband faces prison time after being caught embezzling. Minnich is one of Fort Wayne’s most versatile actors, having just played Cory in Arena’s Barefoot in the Park. Nicky is a complete 180 from Cory, but Minnich is equally convincing in this role. Nicky is angry and sarcastic, but still has a wicked sense of humor, and Minnich once again treads the fine line of abrasiveness and likability, grounding her character in reality. Rebecca Larue Karcher plays Debra, the Bree Van de Camp of the group (to use a Desperate Housewives comparison). Dressed in pearls, she boasts of her “perfect” marriage and domestic skills, which are quickly refuted and disproven. Debra is the moral center of the play, and Karcher brings warmth to her role, which helps temper Nicky’s all-consuming bitterness. Kristin Jones plays Molly who is sensual, baby crazy and the group’s most naïve member. She also gets increasingly drunker throughout the play. Jones’ interpretation of drunkenness is subtle, which isn’t easy to convey. The husbands, who are all loutish and obnoxious, are only heard from off-stage. They are played by Wagner, Kevin Boner (also the show’s stage manager) and Kevin Knuth. Despite the dark tone of the show, The Smell of the Kill is a light-hearted comedy with lots of laughs. It lets the audience explore the darker side of marriage without taking itself too seriously.

Jen Poiry-Prough

Heywood Banks

Money from Mowing

Heywood Banks is a 12-year-old Zen master billionaire. Well, that may be stretching it a bit, but he does share qualities with each, mostly the 12-year-old. And it’s the pre-teen in Banks that provides him with the goofiness incumbent in his line of work. Heywood Banks, you see, is a comedian, and his style of comedy includes writing songs about things that might occupy the splashy brain of a 12-year-old boy, like giant brassieres, toast and tires. Banks, a veteran of The Bob & Tom Show, Showtime, Entertainment Tonight, the Improv and numerous other comedy shows and clubs, returns to Snickerz Comedy Club Sunday, February 8 at 7 p.m. When I spoke with him by phone recently, he had just finished up some chores around his Howell, Michigan home, which is what he was doing the last time I talked to him a few years ago. Things like raking leaves and mowing his yard get him in a state of mind to think up songs about graven images (“Big Butter”) and overheard conversations about police restraint techniques (“Taser Song”). “I have a 48-inch walk-behind mower and a large hilly yard,” he said. “It’s like being on an endless treadmill. It gets me into something like a Zen state or something. It’s so repetitious. I’ve written a number of songs that way. It’s the pacing. There’s a rhythm to it. It’s also how I tell it’s spring because I always mow over my garden hose. I know it’s spring when I have a bunch of four-foot sections of hose lying all over the place.” Before he was Heywood Banks, the comedian, he was Stuart Mitchell, the folk singer. But the folk songs he was writing always seemed to take on a humorous bent, and Heywood Banks was born. Since the mid 1990s Banks has released seven CDs of his funny songs and collaborated with his wife on two more discs. “I’ve probably got enough songs for two more albums,” he said. “I like to play them as sort of a test market. I tweak the words to see what works. They can’t all be a TED Talk. It’s interesting. Sometimes I’ll play a song on Bob & Tom, and when I’m done there will be silence. Then I’ll play in public and they’ll love it. I can’t explain it.” Banks was weaned on the humor of Jack Benny and Bob Hope. And like them and other performers of the 1950s, he works clean. No profanity, politics or sexual content mars his act. He works like an adolescent performing for his great aunt. “I got stuck at around age 12,” he said. “The seed was planted. [For] most men, the core of who they are stops at age 12. When I was a kid, I was obnoxious. Today that kid would be medicated. I think it’s a terrible thing to force this intuitive brain into a box. Everybody doesn’t need to be a cog in a machine. Most billionaires have a creative aspect to themselves that may not have made it out of childhood if they’d been medicated. I’m not a billionaire, but my wife thinks I am.” Banks may be a 12-year-old, but he’s a smart 12-year-old. He doesn’t dumb down his humor. He doesn’t see the point. He has a list of big words he likes to toss into his act for the sole purpose of making audience members stretch the limits of their brain power. He does one bit about his 92-year-old uncle who was named Obgyn after the doctor who delivered him. Obgyn was sick and in a Lutheran hospital, and Banks asked him if they nailed his bill to the door. “Whether people get it or not doesn’t matter,” he said. “What does matter is that it’s a stupid reference and that I can make a joke about it. It’s all in the mix of just of being goofy, just having fun. If I can take their minds off their lives for an hour and a half, then I’ve done my job. It’s like the opposite of being a cop.” Another aspect of Banks’ style comes from his love of Popeye, The Three Stooges and Captain Jolly, a Detroit-area kids show featuring a silly sea captain and his puppet sidekicks. The innocent and absurd humor struck a chord with Banks. It taught him things about life that he has held onto and incorporated into his act. It also made him understand the importance of comedy in navigating the often ridiculous nature of existence, the random blend of good fortune and tragedy that defines our lives. “Life itself is absurd,” he said. “Sometimes comedy is the only way you can digest it. Comedians are so important. That’s the thing about the Charlie Hebdo massacre. In a free society there has to be an open dialogue on everything. That’s what a free society is. Everything is open for discussion or ridicule. Like The Daily Show. It’s such an important program to be on TV. It helps people make sense of stuff. Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything we’re told all the time. “That’s the problem with dogma – it’s written by people. It might have been good at one time, but people have agendas. It’s like looking at the Selma movie or anything whether it’s religion or racism. How do you have time to take out of your life to force somebody else to do something?” And when we ended the conversation, he added, “Glad I could end on a high note.”

Mark Hunter

The Kid from Kokomo

The Boy Who Changed Hearts and Minds

Fort Wayne Youtheatre doesn’t usually precast roles, but the role of Ryan White was an exception. The young Hoosier who, in his short life, was a lightning rod for much of the confusion, controversy and compassion generated by the nascent AIDS virus in the mid-80s is the central character in Gregory Stieber’s original play, The Kid From Kokomo. It opens February 6 at the Auer Center for Arts & Culture. The family of White, a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from a blood product transfusion, fought a lengthy legal battle with the Kokomo-area school system that had barred him from returning to class after his diagnosis. He became a world-renowned figure in the process. After White’s death, AIDS activist Larry Kramer said of him, “I think little Ryan White probably did more to change the face of this illness and to move people than anyone.” Stieber’s experience directing last year’s Little House on the Prairie: Mary’s Story impressed upon him the necessity of seeking out an actor to portray White who could handle rewrites and other unavoidable exigencies of the playwriting process. Stieber chose longtime Youtheatre actor Anthony James Hayes, a 14-year-old who attends Lakeside Middle School. “He’s a good actor and a brave kid,” Stieber says. “He’s always been the type to take any size role or to help out backstage if that’s where he is most needed.” Hayes says he was happy at first that he was asked to play such a large role. But Ryan White was unknown to him initially, and Hayes’ subsequent research saddened him. “I realized how depressing and sad his story is,” Hayes says. “I knew I needed to try my best to honor his memory.” The Kid From Kokomo is the second of three annual plays that Stieber is writing and directing for Youtheatre. One of the artistic aims of this series, he says, is to show “kids facing adversity who want to be educated.” And, in the case of White, who end up being unintentional educators. The new Black Box Theatre at the Auer Center provides an opportunity to present White’s story in myriad, overlapping ways. Images will be projected on all four walls, he says, and voices of prominent personalities of White’s place and period will be piped in. These personalities will be portrayed by such local media figures as Melissa Long, Mark Evans, Barb Richards, Leslie Stone, Doc West and JJ Fabini. The purpose of all these layers is not only to convey complicated information to Youtheatre audiences as efficiently as possible, Stieber says. It is also to show how misinformation was passed from adult to adult until it spilled from the mouths of babes (some of whom were White’s classmates and close contemporaries). While it is true that many adults had the choice to treat White humanely and declined to do so, it is easy for us to judge them in hindsight. It is just as easy to forget how frightened people were in the early days of the epidemic and how little many of them knew about it. Rumor and innuendo were far more readily available than fact – as they always seem to be. Many people believed that AIDs could be spread by way of casual contact. “They’re not evil,” he says of White’s detractors. “They were just the first.” Hayes says he imagines the hysteria over AIDS in the 80s was a lot like the recent hysteria over the Ebola virus. Some of the language in the piece is appropriately blunt, Stieber says, given that the evidently heterosexual White was often attacked with slurs that referenced his presumed homosexuality. Fear was transmuted into ugliness, he says. “Bigotry was at the forefront,” he says, “but underlying it was this struggle to understand how the virus works. They were afraid of Ryan. And people who are afraid tend to act out.” We’ve come a long way since then, and yet it is not outrageous or unfair to imagine that people remain who would prefer that White’s story be relegated to the realm of history or who believe that Youtheatre and White are a bad fit. Stieber says he expected some pushback, but he didn’t get any. Every parent he spoke to on the phone during the casting process “wanted to talk about that time in history.” After he won the role, Hayes says his mother told him, “It is so sad what he had to go through, and I am so glad you are playing him.” White won the lawsuit, but his family nevertheless elected to move to nearby Cicero, as they felt Kokomo was no longer a safe place to be. Cicero embraced White, Stieber says, but the town had the benefit of learning from the mistakes that had been made in Kokomo. In the course of his legal battle, White made friends in high places, among them Elton John, Bobby Knight, John Mellencamp, Michael Jackson, Greg Louganis, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Reagans. Actress Alyssa Milano, White’s celebrity crush, befriended him and kissed him on national television (considered by some at the time to be a death-defying act). But Stieber says White wasn’t famous because he had AIDS or because he associated with celebrities. “He was famous for one reason,” he says. “Because he wanted to go to school.”

Steve Penhollow

Justin Johnson

An Artist Switches Gears

If you’ve taken a stroll through Artlink or Crestwood galleries lately, you might have noticed a few surprising pieces hanging on the walls. Justin Johnson, a local favorite, is changing gears as he explores a brand new style, purpose and technique. Most of us are familiar with Johnson’s previous body of work: warm toned backgrounds layered with succinct, sometimes figurative drawings topped by a thin, translucent veil of gold overlay. His current pieces are void of color, minimalist abstracts representing transomed and transeptal features of architecture, most frequently derived from medieval references. “This is a distinct departure from what I normally do,” says Johnson. “This is something I’d been planning out in my mind for about a year and a half.” Johnson’s new approach involves the use of velum, a translucent paper that allows him to simultaneously use both the back and front of the substrate. Similar to his earlier work, this technique requires the careful manipulation of layers, each one placed after a great deal of contemplation, until the artist achieves a sense of completion. “If you distill both bodies of work you still see very similar aspects in terms of composition,” says Johnson. “Doing both an under-drawing and over-drawing on velum doubles the value of the tones in terms of what’s positive and negative.” Black, white and grey tones pull Johnson away from his previous body of work, but those tones allow him to focus on composition and the process of building each piece. When faced with a blank piece of velum, Johnson first lays down a series of loose lines with pencil. He studies these lines, searching for beginnings of satisfying compositions. “I work on a large sheet in several different areas or grids,” he explains. “I begin to see compositions develop and trim those areas off. On a sheet I may have four to six compositions going at the same time, and then I pull those pieces out and rework them into a finished sense … I work until if I put another line down I will dismantle it.” In his work Johnson tries to extract the fundamental elements of ancient architecture. He tries to capture the spiritual experience felt when entering a majestic, ancient cathedral. “I like to take a contemporary perspective on them,” he says. “It’s a matter of working with distillation of line and shape to create these compositions.” As Johnson’s pieces progress, he tries not to take lines away. Unwanted marks are not erased but rather incorporated into the design, which is often accomplished by applying layers of a dominant medium. “With working on both sides of the velum I can kind of erase lines that I don’t want to use by overlapping with ink and Wite-Out,” he explains. Johnson is a contemplative artist who saves the unused fragments of the original substrate and studies them to learn about himself; he learns about how he works as an artist, especially how he develops composition. Careful observers can learn about Johnson’s thought process if they look for the similarities in past bodies of work that led him to his current work. As he was working on his most recognizable pieces, the figurative, warm-toned compositions, he began to pay more attention to the translucent quality of the gold overlay than the primary subject of each piece. He was attracted to the intuitive nature of the medium. Working with the gold was a bit uncontrollable. According to Johnson, it sometimes wanted to do it’s own thing which forced him to follow the path of the paint and use spontaneity to his advantage. His inquisitive nature led Johnson to think about new options. As he finished his work with gold overlay, he found himself fantasizing about velum, charcoal, pencil and Wite-Out. He decided to leave color behind. Once he started producing these new pieces, Johnson felt reinvigorated and steamed forward. “I love the minimal aspects of this,” he says. “I probably won’t go back to color until I feel like I’ve conquered the aspects of black and white … there is a meditative quality about them without color.” By removing color from the equation, Johnson is able to create simplistic landscapes and architectural structures that emit a serene tone that pulls the viewer in, tempting one to look past the page and imagine what might exist beyond his picture plane. Johnson’s passion for the design of structure is deeply seated. With a background in drafting and architecture, his mind is predisposed to concise lines and angles. “My work has always been a bit rigid,” he says. “If I go too far in another direction, it will feel contrived.” The influences of two area artists, Rick Cartwright and Maurice Papier, also steer Johnson’s approach to making art. Johnson was introduced to these artists through his study as an undergraduate at the University of Saint Francis where he went on to fulfill his master’s degree. Johnson’s relationship with the university continues; he has spent the past 12 years serving as gallery director. “My work as a director has allowed me to study a broad range of artists,” he says. Being exposed to a constant stream of art – ranging from smoke paintings and contemporary installations to traditional oil paintings – Johnson enjoys an ongoing influx of new material that accumulates in his mind, waiting to be extracted and expressed onto canvas. Art enthusiasts in town are becoming familiar with Johnson’s new body of work. It has been displayed at the faculty expo at the University of Saint Francis, Crestwood Gallery and Artlink. He hopes to soon accumulate enough pieces to support a solo show. You can catch a glimpse of his work at Crestwood Gallery during its year-end show, Greatest Hits. A closing party will be held Saturday, January 17 from 3-6 p.m. The show closes officially on January 31.

Heather Miller

Old and Dirty

An Old Band's New Start

If Old and Dirty were any less dedicated, they probably would have called it quits when the once five-piece band devolved to a duo less than a year ago. Perhaps another reason the band is still around after two years of sporadic activity is because they never developed or nurtured any grand ambitions beyond just jamming with friends who share mutual tastes in music. With its current lineup of Pete Dio on vocals and guitar, Hope Wherle on fiddle and Joe Bent on bass and backing vocals, Old and Dirty have focused on honing their rather unique style of bluegrass and country music. If one were to consult the band’s Facebook page for information, it would imply that Old and Dirty are of the cowpunk genre (think Meat Puppets). And cowpunk sounds exactly like what you would think: country, folk and bluegrass music, but with a faster-paced, aggressive edge. Founding member and guitarist/vocalist Dio, however, doesn’t necessarily agree with the description on Facebook. “When we started out, we were doing some bluegrass renditions of punk songs,” Dio said, “We did some Rancid and Fat Ass, but [we’re not punk] aesthetically or sound-wise; it’s just our approach to it.” Even though a song like “Untitled” (posted on the group’s ReverbNation page) seemingly contradicts Dio’s claim, that original punk element still persists. Unless it’s at a family-friendly venue like the Botanical Conservatory, an Old and Dirty show might include mouthing off at the audience, accepting donations from audience members in the form of alcoholic beverages and, after ingesting them, loosening up the structure of the songs to make them all the more unpredictable. After all, the way Dio prefers to describe Old and Dirty’s repertoire is “drinking music.” Appropriately, the venue formerly known as the Berlin (now christened the Skeletunes Lounge) played host to Dirty Thursdays where dollar drinks were offered while the band provided the musical entertainment. The Dirty Thursday shows that ran throughout 2012 funded the recording of the band’s debut album. However, as the album entered the mixing stage, most of the band members decided to exit the group. “Sometimes ... you think you’re being funny when you’re not,” Dio said by way of explaining how the band began to fall apart. “Some of it’s too personal, and if you read close enough into the lyrics, you can understand why the band had a sort of regrouping. It’s self-documentation of life imitating art and art imitating life. It started out with good intentions, like releasing tension, but ended up creating tension.” A subsequent low point for the then duo of Dio and Wherle came at a performance at the Woodcrest Lanes bowling alley in Union City, Ohio. According to Wherle, nobody knew Old and Dirty or their style of music, and to make things worse there was no bass player to provide backbone to the songs, so the set became an emaciated shell of what it had once been. Though Dio and Wherle laugh about it now, the experience at the time was enough to make them question the future of Old and Dirty. An embarrassing episode like the Woodcrest Lanes fiasco might have destroyed another band. However, instead of completely imploding, Dio and Wherle decided to move forward by enlisting Dio’s mutual friend and bandmate, Joe Bent, on bass. Dio and Bent are in several other bands togther (including the new incarnation of Left Lane Cruiser with Bent on bass and Dio on drums). And, according to Dio, they also have the same kind of musical brain, making it easier to set the band’s new course. “[Wherle’s] like, the focus,” Dio said, “which is a lot better than what she used to do with a five piece. She would have to fight in order to be heard. Once we started rocking as a three piece, and we got Joe on bass, Hope just blossomed, and I like the sound that we have now much better.” Dio also credits Wherle for keeping Old and Dirty going. “I like to say it’s Hope’s band because she’s the one [who] makes it worth paying attention to,” Dio says. Her role elevates the band’s music beyond what Dio calls “boring, regular, sad bastard stuff. “She’s the heart and soul of the band because she’s a pretty positive person, and if it wasn’t for Hope sticking around when the band had its hard times, there wouldn’t be no band,” Dio said. While the group is still together and rehearsing, Old and Dirty are also currently in a state of limbo due to Dio recently undergoing surgery on his back. After he fully recuperates, the group plans on pressing and releasing that full-length debut album featuring the original five-piece lineup. Future plans include working on a new set of songs and eventually playing at the Muddy Roots Festival in Cookeville, Tennessee. For now, it appears as though Old and Dirty have earned themselves a fresh, clean start for the second phase in their career.

Colin McCallister

Christi Campbell

Stronger Than She Knew

For many performers, acting is a way to make their voices heard. For others, it’s a way to learn about the human experience and to take away lessons. For Christi Campbell, it’s about both. “I was always ridiculously comfortable in front of people as a kid,” she says, “and once I got my first taste of being on a real stage, it became a passion and a permanent part of who I was.” She took inspiration from her father, a Methodist pastor who performed in high school theater and is a gifted speaker and storyteller. “Like me, he is stupidly comfortable in front of people,” she says. “I use that phrase because it’s absolutely stupid to be comfortable in front of a large group of people but nervous in front of two or three you don’t know. But that is true of us both.” While a high school freshman, her family moved to Monon, Indiana, and to relax after a long day of travel, they decided to take in a student performance of Oklahoma! at the North White High School. They were impressed by the size of the theater for such a small town and even more impressed by the quality of the performance. “From that moment,” she says, “it was my dream to be in their next show.” Although not a singer, Campbell auditioned for their next production, the musical Once upon a Mattress. She admits to being completely out of her depths and ill-prepared for the experience, but was thrilled to be cast. “It was more than enough,” she says. “I sang in the ensemble and helped backstage with props. It was the time of my life. I was introduced to a magical backstage world and I’ve been hooked since.” She performed all through high school, including summer shows, and she joined a traveling theater group in college. She attended the University of Indianapolis and Purdue, studying writing and communication with a focus on psychology. She met her future husband during her studies, and after having three children she took a long break from theater to focus on her family. She currently works as a freelance writer and blogger for Moms Fort Wayne. She also has a personal blog, Ditching the Masks, in which she discusses some of the personal struggles both she and her family are going through, including Chiari malformation (“my brain tissue does not fit into my skull correctly, causing pain and other challenges”). Recently, however, after a 17-year break, she felt the draw of the theater again. Despite her challenges, she was determined to revisit her passion. So far she has performed in six shows at First Presbyterian Theater, including their current production, The Savannah Disputation, in which she plays Melissa, a spunky, over-eager Southern evangelical missionary. She has enjoyed getting to know Melissa and finds her character’s struggle similar to her own. “She is perky and confident, excited and super happy,” she says. “She is willing to get doors slammed in her face over and over because she doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. Her real flaw is her fear of failure. I so get that. That is my biggest hang up in life, my fear of failure.” Campbell’s own struggles have made her somewhat reticent in new situations. However, she says she has found a home at First Presbyterian Theater. “It’s meant a lot to me and my whole family,” she says. “My daughter has become part of the behind-the-scenes family there. They are supportive, unquestioning, and they just care. They are a blessing in our lives.” Nevertheless, she is eager to see what the other groups in town have to offer. “I’d love to get a chance to romp at least once on each stage around town,” she says, “to get a feel of each space and the audience reflected back in it. The flavor of the community is different in every venue, and I love that.” For now she is enjoying working with her First Presbyterian family in The Savannah Disputation. With just four cast members – married couple Meg and Jonathan Brouwer, Nancy Kartholl (who is married to director Thom Hofrichter) and Campbell – the group is particularly tight-knit. “The cast is small, and this has led to more of a ‘family closeness’ than I’ve had before,” Campbell says. “It’s just been amazing.” She compares nightly rehearsal to “taking a college level acting class” and cites Kartholl as one of her top acting role models, along with another frequent First Pres actress, Kate Black. “I admire their performances and techniques,” Campbell says. “When I see them in a show, I take in every moment, almost like a student takes in a lecture, tucking it away for future reference. Mostly I admire them for their human real side. They are constantly growing and wanting to be more.” The other lessons she is taking away from the theater experience have been more surprising to Campbell. Through performing, she says, “I’ve found I’m stronger than I ever knew.” She says she generally feels more confident onstage than off, but she is learning to bring that confidence with her when she leaves the theatre. “I knew there was this strong, fearless, kick-ass side of me,” she says. “Performing has allowed me to give her a voice and legs.” One character that she found particularly therapeutic was one of the three women she played in last year’s First Presbyterian Theater play, Mrs. Packard. Her character was an unnamed patient in a 19th century mental asylum, and she was called on to scream in terror during one scene. Like several of the women in the play, which was based on the actual journal of a former patient, her character was perfectly sane but had been forcibly admitted to the asylum by a husband who simply disagreed with her ideas. “She was driven mad by being there,” says Campbell. “I made up a whole back story for her, because she needed a reason to scream her head off every night. I called it ‘scream therapy.’ It was actually very good to unleash all life’s frustrations rather than bottle them up.” She likewise appreciates working with other actors who take new things away from theatrical experiences. “I especially love working with actors who recognize that we do this for enjoyment and fulfillment,” she says. “It’s about having fun and growing as a person. People who love to grow, laugh and help me learn a thing or two about myself and the craft are my favorite people.” Campbell also continues to use what she learns as an actor in her writing. “I love to write fiction and create worlds that are very real and characters that are flawed and relatable,” she says. She plans to publish her first book this year and has three more in the works. Her personal blog is something she is also becoming more passionate about. “It’s slowly becoming a platform for me,” she says, saying that the challenges she writes about there are “harder than any stage production.” But, she says, “without the theater, I’d become lost. It’s how I can come back home fresh and be a better mom. Doing something that makes me come alive is the best thing I could do for my kids.”

Jen Poiry-Prough

Koze Thai Cuisine & Bar

Good, But a Bit Overpriced

Anyone who knows me well understands that I gravitate towards Asian cuisine – Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese – so when I saw a new Thai restaurant opening on Lima Road in the former O’Charley’s location, I was stoked. There is always room for more dining options. Having been a long time Baan Thai fan, I was skeptical that this new place could top it, but I knew I had to give it a try. Koze, which opened in late 2014, places its focus on ambiance which dances the line between casual and sophisticated. The newly renovated space has shed its chain-restaurant feel and is tastefully decorated with authentic Thai art. The spacious bar can comfortably seat up to 40 people, and there’s a private room that can accommodate up to 20 people for a private event. I sat at the bar when I visited and received prompt and courteous service, though I should mention I was the only one in the place at the time. The cocktail menu is adequate and includes some signature drinks priced at $8. I tried the Farang Fizz made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Cointreau, muddled orange slices, cherries and a dash of Angostura bitters, shaken and stirred and served on the rocks with a splash of soda. I enjoyed the taste of this cocktail, but I found the abundance of orange pieces a bit bothersome, especially as I tried to drink through a straw. The restaurant boasts that the custom cocktail menu features only freshly prepared juices and mixers. If I make a return visit, I plan to try the Bangkok Stinger, made with Bombay Sapphire gin, blackberry brandy, grenadine and fresh lime juice with a splash of pineapple juice. Koze offers a few beers on tap and some bottled beer choices, as well. The food menu is fairly simple and features a small selection of fried rice, curry, noodle and stir fry dishes. Whenever I try a new Thai Restaurant, I always order Pad Thai ($13). This is the quintessential Thai dish and, if done well, is a good indicator whether the rest of the menu is worth exploring. I ordered mine with tofu. I also tried the Spicy Basil and Peppers Stir Fry ($13). Pad Thai is a straightforward dish made with stir-fried rice noodles, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions and peanuts and seasoned with tamarind pulp and garlic. Though simple, Pad Thai typically packs a flavor punch, but I found Koze’s to be quite bland and Americanized. It is edible, but certainly nothing to write home about. On a positive note, the ingredients tasted fresh, and I have it on good authority that the owners plan to source as many ingredients locally as it can. The Spicy Basil and Peppers Stir Fry was quite tasty – and spicy, as the name implies. It may be prepared with pork, chicken, beef or tofu. I chose beef and was pleasantly surprised with the result. The dish contained the perfect blend of spices, and I enjoyed the crunch of the red and green bell peppers. While basil is in the name of the dish, it was not overpowering— punctuating each bite with a fresh pop of flavor. Overall, the food and drinks were fine. My biggest issue is the prices: $3 to $4 more than comparable dishes at other Thai restaurants in town. I’d be okay paying those prices if the food were outstanding, but as it stands, Baan Thai remains the king of Thai cuisine in my book.

Amber Recker



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