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whatzup2nite • Thursday, December 18

Click on the headings below for full calendars


Things To Do

AWS Fantasy of Lights 1.5 mile display of animated Christmas lights and holiday decorations, 6-9 p.m. Thursday, 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


National Shows

Sal DeMilio — Comedy at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., free, 483-1311


Music & Comedy

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

Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., cover, 422-5055

Fort Wayne Philharmonic & Philharmonic Chorus — Handel's Messiah at Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., 422, 481-6555

Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at Checkerz, Fort Wayne, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 489-0286

Mike Mowry — Rock/variety at Beamer's, Fort Wayne, 7-9 p.m., no cover, 625-1002

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

Sal DeMilio — Comedy at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., free, 483-1311


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

Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., cover, 422-5055


Stage & Dance

Les Misérables — Hit musical based on the classic Victor Hugo novel that culminates in the 1832 uprising in Paris, France, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Dec. 18-19; 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20; 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, Different Stages at the New Huntington Theatre, Huntington, $44-$59 thru box office, 454-0603


Movies

Click header for complete Movie times


Art & Artifacts

10th Regional Exhibition — Mixed media pieces from local and regional artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru Jan. 14, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

America’s Spirit: Evolution of a National Style — Collection drawn from FWMoA’s permanent collection chronicling American art from 1765-1900, Tuesday-Sunday thru Jan. 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Boycott! The Art of Economic Activism — 61 posters from 20 past and present economic campaigns and movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru Jan. 14, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft — Arizona State University Art Museum and Ceramics Research Center in the Herberger Institute’s comprehensive collection of craft holdings and new international requisitions in wood, ceramic and fiber, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 21, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Crossing Lines: Contemporary Art from Coast to Coast — Contemporary pieces from Austin, TX, Tuesday-Sunday thru Jan. 15, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Holiday Show — Visual interpretations of the season by national and regional artists including Terry Armstrong, Forrest Formsma, Fred Doloresco, Robert Eberle, Bill Inman, Diane Lyon, Jody Hemphill Smith, CW Mundy and more,, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment  thru Jan. 6, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568

Marvelous Molecules: The Secret of Life — Traveling exhibit focusing on molecules and the building blocks of life, daily thru Jan. 4, Science Central, Fort Wayne, $5-$8, 424-2400

USF Photo Club — Photography, Tuesday-Sunday thru Jan. 14, Betty Fishman Gallery, 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, 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

Kool Keith

Picks

Fans of horrorcore, rejoice. Keith “Kool Keith” Thornton – the artist otherwise known as Dr. Dooom, Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis and Poppa Large – will be in Fort Wayne Friday, December 19, bringing the beats and, of course, the cool to Cover Girls Ladies and Gentlemen’s Club. Thornton, a native of the Bronx, is a founding member of the Ultramagnetic MC’s. Known for his odd and eccentric behavior (rumor has it he was briefly institutionalized in New York’s Bellevue Hospital in 1988) but also his incredible output and exceptional use of internal rhymes, Kool Keith has a 50-strong discography and is credited with influencing Eminem, among others. Since he debuted his act in the early 90s, Thornton has worked with Ice T, Tim Dog, Marc Live, H-Bomb and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Not one to be modest, he doesn’t mind telling the media that he invented horrorcore, a sub-genre of rap devoted to the spooky side of the street. He also likes to bring sexy back now and again, and sometimes refers to his work as “pornocore.” Forget labels. Kool Keith’s music clearly has a core and a beat, and you can dance to it.







Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.

A Solid Gold Christmas

It was in the formative months of the Fifth Dimension, when the five talented musicians were first coming together to create some of the best pop music of the late 1960s, that Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. first met. The astonishingly tight musical harmonies of the group were quickly evident, eventually leading to a remarkable list of hit songs including “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (from the musical Hair), “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Up, Up and Away,” “One Less Bell to Answer” and “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All.” While the group obviously clicked from the beginning, so did the relationship between McCoo and Davis. “We really started out with a great friendship,” says McCoo. “Even before we were going together, we just became good friends. When Billy first moved out to L.A., I would pick him up for our rehearsals, and we would talk and laugh in the car, and [we] became closer and closer as friends. It wasn’t until about two years into being in the group that we began to take a special interest in each other.” Married in 1969, the couple continued with the Fifth Dimension until 1975 when they decided to pursue solo careers. Talking to them on the phone simultaneously, it becomes evident how they’ve managed to stay together all of these years. “When we left the group, we’d been married for 10 years,” said Davis. “No, baby, it hadn’t been 10 years, we were married in 1969,” corrected McCoo. “So 1969 until 1975.” “Oh, that’s right,” said Davis. “It just felt like 10 years,” which left the pair laughing together, something they did frequently throughout the interview. Determined at first to each work on solo projects, they quickly reconsidered that plan. “We had the opportunity to explore those projects, and I was working on my project while Billy was working on his. But it became clear to us that if the records were successful, that we’d be off in separate directions which might not be healthy for our marriage. So we talked to the president of our record company, who also happened to be a friend, and told him our dilemma and explained that we wanted to work together.” Quickly given the go ahead for that change of direction, they were partnered with producer Don Davis who helped bring duet material to the pair so they could begin recording together. The most famous of those songs remains “You Don’t Have to Be a Star,” a huge hit for the couple which led to appearances on television programs for the better part of a year. Three albums later, they continued to be popular guests on television, and McCoo’s charismatic presence on TV (not to mention her beauty) led to her being chosen to co-host the iconic show of its era, Solid Gold, which had previously been hosted by Dionne Warwick. “When I auditioned for the show, Billy and I talked about it, and we knew that television was wonderful exposure,” says McCoo. “And it was a good opportunity, so we decided to start working separately at that point.” “Plus I got to make frequent appearances on the show since I knew the host,” adds Davis. McCoo was set to co-host with Andy Gibb, but his problems with drug addiction led to numerous absences and changed her role with the show, ultimately allowing her to grow. “I always enjoy challenges,” says McCoo. “When Andy started having his challenges and sometimes wasn’t able to come in, I had to step in and be prepared because we still had to tape. I was sorry I didn’t get to work with Andy more and sorry that he was having those problems in his personal life, but it was what it was and we had to keep going. After that first season they brought in Rex Smith to host with me, but they didn’t like that pairing, so going into season three they asked me if I could host alone. And I really enjoyed that. I got to sing duets with so many people. I had a really great time singing with Bette Midler. And I worked with Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, Sir Cliff Richard. It was a really fun period for me.” Through all the years and career changes, one thing has remained constant: Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. continue to make beautiful music together on stage and off. Their Christmas show, now in its second year, allows them to showcase their many hits along with some great Christmas classics. They also enjoy showing off their troupe of musicians and singers who accompany them. “It’s really a whole family participation of musicians with us,” says Davis. “It’s great to share Christmas with them and show how special it is to all of us. We had never done a Christmas show of our own before, though we had appeared on Christmas shows over the years, but it’s been very nice that we get to do this too. The show is still building. There are so many different types of Christmas songs that we would never run out, and they still sound so fresh.” The rapport between McCoo and Davis is evident, and it’s not hard to understand how they stay together after 45 years. But it remains a remarkable accomplishment in this era, and one can’t help but ask what has made their marriage such a lasting partnership and whether it has helped to have worked together all through the years as well. “For us I think it’s worked because we’ve always worked together since the beginning,” says McCoo. “We have a love of the music because we’re both doing what we wanted to do since we were kids. The only downside is that sometimes when we’re working together we feel like we don’t have enough time for each other away from the work. We sometimes have to be careful about that.” “Sometimes we’ll be talking in front of other people, and we’ll say ‘We need to take a vacation together,’” says Davis. “And people will look at us like we’re crazy because we’re together all the time. But we need to get away from the work to be with each other sometimes.” The couple credits their strong and shared faith as a key element of their marital success, but they also agree that it’s the foundation of their relationship, the thing that brought them together in the first place, as what really keeps their bond strong. “I think the most important thing is that we have a strong friendship,” says McCoo. “That has endured over the years, and when we’ve had times that have challenged us and made us question whether it can last, my biggest concern was that this is my friend, and we’re so close. I just can’t imagine my life without him.” “And that friendship has just gotten stronger and stronger over the years,” Davis says.”

Michele DeVinney







A C2G Christmas

Deck the Music Hall's Walls

Throughout the 60s and 70s, crooners like Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Perry Como would take to the airwaves every December and offer variety specials. There is nothing quite like these Christmas specials on television anymore. The hosts would usually start by inviting viewers into their “homes” (which had been mocked up on soundstages), and then they would sing the Christmas songs they’d become associated with. They’d also visit with any neighbors who happened to stop by – like Michael Landon, Sally Struthers or David Bowie. The results were cheesy but irresistible. It is hard to find a contemporary singer on the national scene who is as closely associated with Christmas as Crosby, Williams and Como were. But we have one here in Fort Wayne. He’s Mike Conley. On Saturday, December 20 Conley will be a featured performer at the Summit City’s perennial yuletide variety show, A C2G Christmas. In 2009 the local rocker released his self-produced dream project, a CD called It’s a Conley Christmas. In the years that have followed, one of Conley’s renditions was included on a national Christmas compilation that also featured Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics (among others). And Conley was the special guest artist during the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s 2011 Holiday Pops concerts. And in 2012 the first A C2G Christmas was held. This year’s edition of A C2G Christmas also features Sunny Taylor, Hannah Bushong, the Reindeer Quartet, the Gregg Bender Band and Smooth Edge 2. There will be no celebrity neighbors involved, but Conley promises to expand the definition of variety by “telling stupid stories in between acts.” Admission to the show is only $5 with the donation of a canned food item for the Community Harvest Food Bank. Pastor Mark Minnick, C2G’s general manager, described the comparison of the show to Christmas variety specials of the late 20th century as “perfect,” a good thing because this writer wasn’t likely to give it up without a fight. With the addition this year of the Reindeer Quartet (four professional string players who, according to Conley, will race over to the Embassy Theatre after their C2G set to participate in Holiday Pops), A C2G Christmas has truly attained “extraordinary” levels of variety, Minnich said. “It really does feature the best local talent,” he said. New to the concept this year are The Gregg Bender Band. Bender said this concert will represent the first time his band has played Christmas music in a live setting. “Being involved in this is really a big deal for us,” he said. “I went to the show last year to see Mike Conley, Sunny Taylor, the Bushongs and all the others because I respect them all as musicians and wanted to get a little holiday spirit going. Mike’s Christmas CD is one of the best you’ll ever hear.” When the call came asking him and his bandmates to take part this year, Bender said it was “a surprise and nerve-wracking all at the same time.” “This is huge for us,” he said. “What a great venue, and how cool to be part of the Christmas show! It has pushed us as a band to learn new material that is true to the original artist but also encompasses our style.” For this show only, Bender is adding a female vocalist to his usual five-piece band. She’s June McCullough, director of the Voices of Unity choir. Bender said this concert will probably eclipse his favorite musical Christmas memory: his acquisition at the age of six of the Alvin and the Chipmunks album, which he “played till the grooves wore away.” Another fresh addition to this burgeoning C2G tradition is the seven-person a capella group, Smooth Edge 2. The name Smooth Edge 2 would seem to suggest that somewhere in the world, a Smooth Edge 1 is performing, and that elsewhere, a lawsuit against Smooth Edge 2 is percolating. But Smooth Edge 2 are no Creedence Clearwater Revisited, ELO 2 or Gallagher Too. Ron Harker said the name was inspired by a high school band that was fronted by the brother of one of his fellow singers. Harker remembers saying, “‘We can’t possibly call ourselves Smooth Edge if that was your brother’s high school band name.’ “And thus Smooth Edge 2 was born,” he said, laughing. It is not known what most people think of when they hear the phrase “a capella,” but it’s a safe bet that some people think of something high-falutin’. “They think of a choir in a concert hall,” he said. “We are absolutely nothing like that. They are “a group that plays to a relatively small core audience,” Harker says, “because people aren’t going to say, ‘Oooh, look! It’s an a capella group. I can’t wait to get out and see that.’ Typically, he said, once people take a chance on the group, they tend to say, “‘You are not at all what I was expecting.’ “There’s a lot of humor in the show,” Harker said. “We make fun of ourselves a lot. We do some completely ridiculous things on stage. We want to make sure that we can go into a bar and that people can watch our show and have a good time.” Harker said Smooth Edge 2 recently released their first Christmas EP which should be available at the show. Add to this Conley’s It’s a Conley Christmas and Bushong’s Sleigh Bells in the Air (not to mention Taylor’s new non-Christmas CD, Map to the Fire) and you have a lot of potential gifts that will await you at the conclusion of the concert. Conley said A C2G Christmas has fast become a Fort Wayne Christmas tradition on par with more venerable others. “For people who are already in the Christmas spirit, they’ll love it,” he said. “For people who may not be in the Christmas spirit – by the time they leave, they will be.”

Steve Penhollow







Curtain Call

Barefoot in the Park

Neil Simon’s 1963 play Barefoot in the Park is Arena Dinner Theatre’s holiday offering, and it serves up warm-hearted laughs without too much drama. Corie and Paul Bratter are a sweet, opposites-attract newlywed couple. Corie (played by Gloria Minnich) is a lively free spirit who gets a “terrific kick out of living.” Paul (Michael Coale) is a serious, buttoned-down lawyer trying to make a name for himself on his first case. Corie has rented a tiny New York walk-up apartment on the fifth floor without Paul’s having seen it. She has fallen for the apartment’s charm, overlooking all its faults – plumbing that works “backward,” a bedroom that only fits a twin bed, and a hole in the skylight, to name a few. Paul does not approve but he tries to overlook them for his wife’s sake. Corie’s mom, Ethel Banks (Carol Howell-Wasson), is similar to Paul; she is slightly controlling and a bit closed off, not quite understanding Corie’s zest for life. Their upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco (Kim Detwiler), is what Corie would be if she were a single, late-middle-aged man: quirky to the point of eccentricity for eccentricity’s sake. Corie decides her mother needs to experience life now that she’s an empty-nester, and she sets up a double date so she can meet the fun-loving Mr. Velasco. Even though she’s a good sport, the evening appears to have been a disaster and has put a spotlight on Corie and Paul’s differences. Corie decides she doesn’t want to be married to a stuffed shirt, so she demands a divorce. It being an early Neil Simon comedy, the fight doesn’t last long and the couple soon reconcile. It being a 1963 script, it’s Corie who makes the concession, but that’s all right. Paul seems to understand that he could lighten up a little, too – even though he’s feverish when he comes to this realization. Minnich is perfectly cast as Corie. She is vivacious and enthusiastic, but never obnoxious. The script calls for her to cry quite a bit at the end of the show and she does so convincingly and without being annoying. Coates provides a great contrast and is very natural onstage. You don’t see him “acting.” Howell-Wasson plays Mrs. Banks very broadly and has some wonderful moments of physical comedy, particularly in the second act, following their drunken evening out. Detwiler exudes lovable eccentricity as Mr. Velasco, and despite the dated sexual harassment of Corie (she admits he makes her nervous but this only encourages him), he is quite charming. When he begins to recognize the physical limits of his own quirks, you feel for him. The cast is rounded out by Brian H. Wagner as the wryly kindhearted telephone repairman and by David Thompson, the productions’ stage manager who has a bit part as a delivery man.

Jen Poiry-Prough







Holiday Pops

A Christmas Homecoming

For many the holiday season is as much about bringing the family together as it is about sharing meals and gifts with each other. Beginning with Thanksgiving and on through to New Year’s, each special day is often highlighted by families gathering around a table or around a tree or around a bowl of punch. This year the same is true for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, as they offer their annual celebration of the season, and in doing so they bring back Sameer Patel, a member of the Philharmonic family for three years until his departure this past summer. Since he left Fort Wayne in July, Patel and his wife Shannon have relocated to sunny San Diego, a city which takes her back to her family and provides him a warm and comfortable home base as he travels the country guest conducting symphonies from coast to coast. But he welcomes this opportunity to return to the place he called home for three seasons. “I’ve known for a couple of months that I would be conducting. They tapped me pretty early on because it’s a big show, and it’s good to have someone who’s already familiar with it. And it’s really good to come back and be able to see everybody.” That said, Patel is more than happy with his new surroundings. “Oh my gosh, I love it here,” says the Michigan native. “It’s 75 degrees outside right now. There are so many things my wife and I miss about Fort Wayne, particularly the people, but this is paradise. I’ve been traveling so much, and this has been a good place to come home to.” In the five months since his departure, Patel has been very busy, and it was that upcoming schedule that made him realize he couldn’t devote the time he should to his role as associate conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. His travels have taken him to symphonies in Jacksonville, Knoxville, Phoenix, Alabama and Chicago, where he recently accepted a position with the Chicago Sinfonietta where he’ll spend four weeks in the coming year serving as a conducting fellow. Enjoying work with an educational component, he has been able to do much of that in his visits to Arizona. He credits his time with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for making his current opportunities possible, and he looks forward to working with the orchestra again this holiday season. “What’s great is coming back to the collective spirit of the community and the orchestra itself. Chris Murphy, who’s the director and producer of the show and has worked with me on the family concerts, always has big and bold ideas and a great vision. Adrian Mann is wonderful to work with on programming and gives us such wonderful new arrangements.” Patel also touts the return of the cast members joining the Philharmonic as guests this year. Singer and dancers from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music – Kaela O’Connor, Samantha Pollino, Eric Geil and Nathaniel Irvin – will be joined by the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir and the Phil Chorus to add depth to an already rich program. And of course, a visit from Santa is always a highlight of the evening. Or any evening, for that matter. A new aspect of the Philharmonic’s Holiday Pops concert will be the addition of animals to the cast. Just as Fort Wayne Ballet has incorporated puppy power into its party scene for The Nutcracker, so will the Phil partner with an animal shelter – in this case the Allen County SPCA – to showcase a pair of “holiday pups” to their stage. The puppies will be featured in the lobby of the Embassy and available for adoption during intermission. As is always the case with Holiday Pops, the program for the evening features a remarkable and seamless merging of sacred and secular, of classical and popular. Songs as wide-ranging as the vocal classics “Santa Baby” and “Oh Holy Night” combine with “Merry Christmas,” the John Williams theme from Home Alone and “Silent Night” to fulfill many holiday expectations. A performance of “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” will feature narration by Jeff Moore. The evening will also include opportunities for audience participation such as the rousing “A Holly and Jolly Sing-Along.” There is much to celebrate and enjoy about the Holiday Pops performances, and Patel knows that it’s the people who make it work. “It’s always great working with so many talented people. Holiday Pops is such a great tradition, and there are so many people who have been coming for many years to these concerts, bringing their families and friends. Last year someone brought 10 to 15 people to the show. Audiences have come to love, admire and cherish this music which has helped create so many memories for them over the years. I love to see their faces light up with joy. It’s great that this music puts a smile on so many faces every year.”

Michele DeVinney







Les Misérables

Powerful Performances Lift Les Miz

Huntington’s Different Stages Theater ends its freshman season with the beloved musical Les Misérables. The musical is based on the Victor Hugo novel about an ex-con who gains redemption after breaking parole, stealing silver from a bishop and being entrusted by the bishop to use the silver to turn his life around. He changes his identity, adopts an orphan girl and is constantly pursued by a law officer hell-bent on justice, no matter how morally unjust it might be. The story has been compared to Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. In both, the protagonist has lost faith in humanity, but a small, underprivileged child helps them recover their belief in goodness and love. This production promised an intimate setting with strong, professional voices and acting, and youthful passion for the show. It does not disappoint. The performers faced a number of obstacles on opening night. In addition to being a technically challenging production with nonstop singing, constant movement, stage combat and lots and lots of wigs, there were sound balance issues and a small, quiet (albeit appreciative) audience. The audience was hesitant to applaud, even after numbers that were designed to allow them to, but this did not seem to dampen the cast’s enthusiasm or energy. Landon Sholar is a perfect Jean Valjean. Last summer, according to his program bio, he became the youngest actor to play the role as a professional. This is his third time in the role, and he completely embodies the aging, beleaguered ex-con who turns away from God and back again. More than any other actor in the show, Sholar seems to connect directly with the audience. Robert Teasdale is likewise perfect as his foil, Inspector Javert. Tall and imposing, Teasdale brings a touching vulnerability to Javert, who suffers from a tragic sense of justice. He speak-sings the beginning of his song “Stars,” but as the number progresses, the lines become longer and more powerful as Javert becomes more resolute in his conviction that he is who he is. No matter the cost, he must punish Valjean for his crimes. Particularly passionate in his role is Charlie Tingen as the student revolutionary Enjolras. He is operatic and almost too intense for such a small stage, but as a leader who convinces a bunch of privileged “schoolboys” to give their lives for the rights of the oppressed poor, the elevated performance is appropriate. Melissa Weyn and Brooke Anne Quintana as Fantine and Eponine respectively, have beautiful, rich voices. Raynah Tyler plays Young Cosette. She is tiny and adorable but sings her solo “Castle on a Cloud” with poise and professionalism, especially for someone so young Raynah Tyler played Young Cosette on opening night (she alternates with another young actress, Naomi Vincenti). Amelia Story plays the little boy Gavroche with spunk and perfect comedic timing. She got one of the show’s biggest laughs on opening night during a confrontation with Javert. But the biggest laughs rightly go to the story’s comedic villains, the Thernardiers. Played by Matt Hill and the show’s choreographer Erin Baltsar, the duo are gleefully and deliciously evil. The entire ensemble is strong, with everyone having their moments to shine. British accents were used well by the cast with varying dialects by the different classes. The men’s chorus were difficult to understand during the prologue, partly due to overly loud orchestration, but the women’s diction was, collectively, impeccable. The student revolutionaries have a believable camaraderie and you truly feel their heartbreak as members of their band begin to fall. The costumes were constructed by Cat Lovejoy and are quite beautiful. The set, designed by artistic director Joel Froomkin, and the lighting, designed by Jacob Ziegler, allow the stage to transform into many different settings. Walls open and close, the barricade comes together like a 3D puzzle, and Javert’s fate is portrayed cleverly. Many of the cast members have appeared in other productions of Les Misérables, and their youthful passion shines through. Once the kinks are worked out of the sound system, I have no doubt this production will be one that northeast Indiana theater audiences talk about for years to come.

Jen Poiry-Prough







The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Fare Warning

There are many amazing arts organizations in Fort Wayne, and any one of them can promise you a remarkable evening or afternoon of entertainment and delight. But in the last few years some of my favorite offerings have been collaborations between those organizations that have produced some of the best productions Fort Wayne has seen in a long time. Two of my recent favorites were courtesy of Fort Wayne Youtheatre which joined forces two seasons ago for Oliver! with IPFW’s Department of Theatre and last year’s Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in partnership with the University of St. Francis. Once again this year Youtheatre is finding new ways to collaborate, and this month, as they continue the celebration of their 80th anniversary, they have picked a perfect way to honor that milestone. The Steadfast Tin Soldier not only provides a great way to work again with their neighbors and frequent partners, the Fort Wayne Ballet, but it also serves to commemorate Youtheatre’s debut production some 80 years ago in 1934. Appropriately, longtime director and Fort Wayne theater icon Harvey Cocks has adapted the Hans Christian Andersen tale for the corps of Youtheatre performers. Since the tale involves a toy soldier earnestly trying to win the heart of a ballerina, the inclusion of Fort Wayne Ballet, fresh off their annual production of The Nutcracker, is perfect and will allow both Youtheatre and FWB to share the stage in the still-new Auer Black Box Theatre just downstairs from the ballet studios and across the street from Youtheatre’s home at Arts United Center. For this production the ArtsLab becomes a toy box filled with soldiers, ballerinas and holiday carolers and should provide a perfect warm-up for holiday week. As usual, Youtheatre will hold an opening night reception, this time hosted by Artlink on Friday, December 19 at 6 p.m. Food will be catered by the Coliseum Subway and Zinnia’s bakery, and beverages will be provided by Five Star Distributing. Admission to the reception is $5 for children 18 and under and $10 for adults (and includes wine and beer). Of course, access to the Artlink exhibits are an added perk of admission, and additional entertainment includes the Tin Soldier Troupe, meeting the Toy Ballerina, and piano accompaniment by Jenny Huang. The opening performance of The Steadfast Tin Soldier begins across the lobby in the Black Box at 7 p.m. For ticket information, call 422-4226 or visit the Arts Tix box office at tickets.artstix.org.

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







Dotty Miller

No Part Too Intimidating

“I love connecting with people,” says Fort Wayne actress/singer/pageant coach Dotty Miller. “I was named Dotty, after all, so I guess I ‘connect the dots.’” Born in Burbank, California, Miller says she grew up “pretty much as I am now: fun-loving, happy, outgoing and self-centered. People would say, ‘My, what a pretty little girl!’ I answered, ‘I know it!’” She was a natural performer from a long line of performers. “My mother told me her father sang in minstrel shows, churches, weddings and funerals,” she says. One of her sisters is a choir member and soloist in Pittsburgh, and she has a nephew who is a community theatre actor in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Miller has enjoyed the spotlight herself from an early age. “My parents always had me reciting a poem or singing at gatherings,” she says. The applause made a lasting impression. “I was singing along with and matching Julie Andrews’ voice in Mary Poppins at 6,” she says. “When my singing voice was discovered by elementary music teachers, I usually got solos in performances.” Unfortunately, her audiences weren’t able to get too attached to the precocious young singer. Miller attended 17 different elementary schools and as many churches throughout her childhood. Her father was an independent contractor who installed inter-office telephone equipment during the national upgrade to the direct distance dialing system used today. His work took him to 36 different states where they would live for varying amounts of time depending on the breadth of each assignment. “During one school year, I went to four schools in four different states,” she says. “I would be asked to join a church choir in the community in which we were living at the time, sing once or twice, then move.” Her family settled in northwest Ohio when she was in 7th grade, but she didn’t move to Fort Wayne until 12 years ago. “This will probably remain ‘home base,’” she says now, “but I still love to travel.” Miller saw her first live theatrical performance when she was in junior high, but loved movie musicals and acting them out. When it came time to audition for her Bryan High School production of The Music Man, she had so many vocal auditions and performances under her belt that she was cast as understudy for the female lead, Marian Paroo, even though she was only a freshman. The following year she played Fruma Sarah in Fiddler on the Roof. “I really wanted to be Golda,” she says, “but I seem to be better suited for crazies.” As an adult she continued to act and has found Fort Wayne a city full of great opportunities. She has long ago lost count of the number of productions she has been in, but today she aims for three shows per year. Auditions continue to be relatively low-stress for her, due in part to her attitude about the casting process. “What is the worst the director can say?” she asks rhetorically, then answers, “‘No.’ The part may not be right for you in the eyes of that director, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Once she has been cast, she spends time researching the time, circumstances and history of the show. She also memorizes her lines as quickly as possible so that the script doesn’t get in the way of onstage movements.   But most of all, she has fun. “It’s called ‘a play’ for a reason,” she says. “Play with it, have fun, work hard. Never take the audience for granted.” Miller believes in working hard and having fun in all aspects of her life. She earns her living in human resources for Centurion Industries Inc., in Garrett. Several years ago, one of her personal connections, Miss Indiana preliminary pageant director Shirley Souder, asked her to use her HR skills to help her mock interview local pageant titleholders to prepare them for the Miss Indiana competition. “This snowballed into my becoming a director of a local preliminary pageant to Miss Indiana,” she says, “which segued into judging and emceeing pageants. Then I was coaching successful contestants in areas of interview, stage presence, and personal appearances and interactions – things they carry into the world of college or business for the rest of their lives.” As a human resources professional, she also gets to use her performance skills on a daily basis. “My focus is recruitment, employee involvement and training,” she says. “I’m ‘on stage’ every day at work. Whether during a new hire orientation, dishing out food – and comments – at a company luncheon, or presenting to or updating employees on their benefits, it’s like improv night every day.” Her current onstage role in First Presbyterian Theater’s Christmas Potpourri has had improvisational elements as well. The show is a brand new musical revue (think Bing Crosby/Andy Williams variety show with skits and classic songs) written by Jack Cantey, and like most new shows, it experienced numerous rewrites and script tweaks as it began to come together with the cast. “We auditioned for the show in June and started music rehearsal in October,” Miller says. “In the meantime, we had a couple cast adjustments.” She calls the challenges fun, saying, “It’s all about your attitude.” Miller says the revue is “entertaining, uplifting, poignant, spiritual and comical. It’s a good family show to get the holiday season started.” She enjoys sharing her love for theater with her family, including “The Blondterage” – her trio of granddaughters, Daphne, Stella and Amelia Gramling. But for now, they are content to remain in the audience. “They haven’t followed me into the theater, concert halls, choirs or pageants,” she says, “but they all take dance lessons and perform with their studio.” She does, however, make it a point to schedule one-on-one theater trips with each of them. “They seem to enjoy these outings and talk about them thereafter,” she says. “They get to do other fun things with their parents but this is ‘our thing.’” Other lessons she hopes to teach her granddaughters are to remain open to possibilities, to not be afraid of taking a chance and to always be willing to make new connections. “Dwight Wilson assistant directed Dreamgirls at the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre a few years ago,” she says, “and he loves to tell a story about auditions for that show.” The green room was filled with youthful African American performers, she says, “and then I showed up – a middle-aged, white woman who had loved the show since the 1980s and just wanted to be a part of it.” She went on to win an Anthony Award for her performance. “Through the years, I have wondered if I got a part only because no one else auditioned for it,” she says. “Who knows? My advice to anyone who is interested in auditioning for something, even if they don’t think they’re right for the show: what do you have to lose? Show up. It could be the fulfillment of a dream or the role of your career.”

Jen Poiry-Prough







Friends Too

Dining Out

Since visiting Greece in 2006, I’ve been infatuated with Greek cuisine. It should come as no surprise then that Greek Fest is my favorite Fort Wayne festival (because of the food, of course). Typically, Greek cuisine uses olive oil quite liberally, whether it is a vegetable, fish, lamb or poultry dish. Olives, cheese, eggplant, mint, garlic and yogurt are also staples in many Greek dishes. Sadly, Greek Fest comes around only once a year, but thankfully, Friends Too provides me with my fix all year round. Locally owned and operated by Niko and Ana Hatzigeorgiou, the restaurant on West Jefferson is the second location for the pair; the original, Friends, is located on Dupont Road. In addition to traditional Greek cuisine, Friends Too has a robust menu typical of Greek diners in larger cities. I am a big fan of their breakfast options, especially the Spartan Omelette ($8.29), which is made with gyro meat, spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese. The American Favorites section of the menu features a BBQ Rib Dinner ($17.99 for a full slab, $11.99 for half), Fried Fish ($6.99), Rotisserie Chicken ($11.99 for a whole, $7.99 for half), Pork Chops ($9.99), and Beef Manhattan ($8.99), to name a few of the selections. Here are my favorite Greek dishes on the menu: Marianthi’s Greek Vegetarian Plate, $9.99 – Three spanakopita, three tiropitakia, six dolmadakia and tzatziki sauce. This is the perfect dish to order if you are not sure you like Greek food. It offers an assortment of some staples and is more than enough to share. Spanakopita is spinach and feta wrapped with phyllo dough. Similarly, tiropitakia is a feta and egg mixture wrapped in layers of buttered phyllo dough. Dolmadkia are grape leaves stuffed with rice and dill and seasoned with lemon. Tzatziki sauce is to Greek food as ketchup is to American food. It consists of strained yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon juice and dill and is a great complement to these vegetarian options. Dolmades, $9.99 – grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice, topped with an egg-lemon sauce. These tangy Greek staples are similar to dolmadkia but are loaded with beef which makes them extra satisfying and filling for meat lovers. I had my first taste of them in Greece, and the ones prepared at Friends Too give those a run for their money. For some, the texture of the grape leaves is unappealing, and I’ll admit it took me a few tries to get past it, but now dolmades rank at the top of my list when it comes to Greek cuisine. Friends Plate for Two, $19.99 – mousaka, pastichio, two spanakopita, two tiropitakia and two pieces of pita bread. This is another dish perfect for those unsure if they like Greek food. It offers a variety of some Greek staples and is enough to share with a friend. Mousaka is a baked eggplant, potatoes and ground beef casserole topped with béchamel sauce (a roux made with butter and flour). Pastichio is a baked pasta and ground beef casserole topped with a béchamel sauce. Both mousaka ($10.99) and pastichio ($9.99) are offered on the menu separately.  Greek Salad, $7.49 – mixed greens, beets, pineapple, tomatoes, feta, kalamata olives, pepperocini, red onions, cucumbers and croutons. No Greek menu would be complete without a Greek salad, and this one delivers. The large is filling because it is loaded with veggies. A small is also available for $5.79. Not brave enough to try a full meal? Friends Too has an extensive appetizers menu that includes hummus, tzatziki, and spicy feta dip, served with two pitas ($7.99); pork and chicken souvlaki, served with tzatziki and two pitas ($6.99); saganaki, a Greek kaseri cheese flambéed at your table and serve with two pitas ($7.99); and charbroiled octopus ($7.99).

Amber Recker







Randy Brown

The Big House Builder

By Michele DeVinney When it comes to education, people have some very definite ideas about what must be possible for those who earn particular degrees. For example, when many hear that a student is pursuing a major in theatre and drama, they immediately leap to the assumption that they are interested in acting – and that the person who completes said program is destined to a hard scrabble life of auditions and inevitable disappointments. So it may surprise some to learn that Randy Brown, the executive vice-president and general manager of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, earned his undergraduate degree at Indiana University in exactly that major. Drawn to the stage during his middle school years, Brown’s focus was behind the scenes in the areas of sound, lights, scenic design and the full spectrum of technical aspects of performance. After he completed that degree, he stayed in Bloomington to earn a master’s in public administration, putting together what he says now is the perfect educational plan for the work he has been doing in Fort Wayne for 26 years. But he didn’t come to Fort Wayne directly from his studies at IU. Brown, a Mishawaka native, first plied his trade at IU South Bend and St. Mary’s College, also in South Bend, before accepting his current position here. In fact, he says now that he never applied for a job but rather was recruited to each position he has held in his professional career. Pulling together a resumé that makes head hunters take notice is more than just a good education. He has also demonstrated a willingness to work hard and a passion for the work which has brought hours upon hours of enjoyment to audiences across the state. “In South Bend I was working at the Morris Civic Auditorium and the Joyce Center, and there were a lot of concerts coming through all the time with some amazing technology. When I was in Bloomington, I was a union stage hand and got to work at Assembly Hall and was working with the theater department, which is one of the top 10 programs in the country, as well as the university’s opera program, which is number one. I learned lighting from Al White, who is very talented. Being able to gain that kind of experience and reach a point where I’m being recruited for jobs is something that I may not have appreciated at the time, but now I see that not everybody has that same opportunity.” His unique experiences also included a large scale event, namely the 1987 Special Olympics World Summer Games which were held at the University of Notre Dame and featured live performances from John Denver, Marvin Hamlisch, Barbara Mandrell and Whitney Houston. Those games helped launch him into his job at the Coliseum, which he accepted in August 1988 just as the Coliseum was adding its Expo Center. “It was really a start-up operation when I got here. We had the arena and the old Expo Hall, but when we added the Expo Center, everything changed. At that time we were able to add to our parking also. The city was developing Kreager Park at that time. The city had the old City Utilities Park adjacent to the Coliseum, so there was a trade for that space in exchange for the 50 acres adjacent to Kreager Park.” That sounds simple enough, but it was during those negotiations that the coliseum expansion – and Brown’s role in the city’s plans – took an unexpected turn. “Suddenly the parking story became a baseball story. We went to a meeting and were told that the one caveat to the land trade was that the city had the opportunity for a baseball team and stadium, and if that happened, then the coliseum would build it. We did not see that coming. Suddenly we were in the baseball business.” That would remain the case for 17 years while the Fort Wayne Wizards played ball at Memorial Stadium just outside the coliseum. When the team, renamed the TinCaps, left for downtown and Parkview Field, the area formerly devoted to a stadium became additional parking, making other recent expansions at the coliseum even more advantageous. Changes in the last several years have not only changed the exterior of the building but have altered the way the Coliseum does business and what shows and programs are now possible in Fort Wayne. “Our rigging system has completely changed, making shows like Cirque du Soleil and even concerts like Cher and Jason Aldean possible. We have three sports teams that play at the Coliseum, with Komets here for the last 63 years, the Mad Ants winning a championship here and the Fort Wayne Derby Girls holding their events here. And the second phase of the expansion is going to bring food courts and improved rest rooms to the facility. For a 63-year-old building, it really doesn’t look like it because there’s very little left from the original.” Among many changes under Brown’s helm is new state-of-the-art technology and an Expo Center which provides the ability to hold multiple events in the building at the same time. A second or even third arena can be made available, providing thousands of seats in each. In fact, Brown says the facility’s flexibility means they can hold up to 1,400 events each year, making it one of the most active and versatile venues in the country. “When I mention these numbers to colleagues in other parts of the country, they can’t believe it. We’re over-achieving. And for citizens of Allen County, it’s important to note that we are completely self-sustaining, which is unheard of. A similar venue in Peoria lost $870,000 last year, while our recent fourth quarter was one of the best we’ve had in years.” Brown also enjoys booking shows. He says country performers are the most popular, but he also seeks out shows in other genres and cites several recent alternative rock shows as well as some upcoming classic rock shows. It’s the negotiation for those and the promise of unexpected successes that keeps the job fresh and exciting for him after all these years. “No two days are ever alike,” he says. “I do the same organizing everyday, and I have Post-it® notes around my office, but one phone call can change everything. Someone can call and ask if we have a date available, and I start working to see if I can pull the terms of the deal together. Usually only one in 10 of those actually works out, so if we have 15-20 of these shows every year, you can see how many of these calls I’m getting and how many we’re working on all the time. I enjoy doing that, and I’m excited for our staff which has been remarkably stable over the years. “We have 500 employees and very low turnover, and we all work together to do what we can for our guests.”

Michele DeVinney







Trichotomous Hippopotamus

Remember That Name

You can imagine the stories that might surround something called a Trichotomous Hippopotamus. “Archaeologists in Uganda recently unearthed the bones of the rare trichotomous hippopotamus. The animal was rumored to have lived in the area millions of years ago, but until now was never proven to have existed.” Or “The newest attraction at the Lincoln Park Zoo is the trichotomous hippopotamus. It will be on display throughout the summer in the African Safari edition of the park. Get your tickets now!” The reality is that Trichotomous Hippopotamus is the name of a new band right here in the Fort Wayne area, a band comprised of three musicians with a like mind for creating “high energy, in-your-face rock n’ roll with roots in blues and soul.” Judging from their success in this year’s whatzup/Wooden Nickel Battle of the Bands (they placed third), they are connecting with an audience that craves the same things they do and are creating new fans with every song. Influenced by the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Strokes, John Mayer Trio and Soulive, the band “originally started out playing straight-ahead blues, but we couldn’t turn the energy down,” according to lead guitarist and vocalist Ryan Lentine. The result is a band that seemingly will tackle just about any type of music, putting its own spin on it and thus making it decidedly Trichotomous Hippopotamus. Songs start out with a good idea and simply progress from there. “We write about life, relationships, good times and bad times. Somebody brings a riff, chord progression or whatever to the table and we hash out the form and different sections together as a band,” says Lentine. Though Trichotomous Hippopotamus are new to the scene, the band members are not. Lentine is also a member of Elements of Cosmos and The Mojo Band, recently joined up with Mason Dillon and has played a few gigs with G-Money. Bassist Jesse Gaze, currently pursuing an art degree at Ball State, has played with 2013 Battle of the Bands champions Trackless as well as freelance jazz and orchestral double bass gigs. Drummer Connor O’Shaughnessy also recently linked up with Mason Dillon and has played in Awkward Silence. He frequently plays with G-Money and the Fabulous Rhythm as well as other freelance gigs. According to Lentine, putting a band of this caliber together wasn’t as difficult as it may seem. In fact, it actually started with a simple text message. Lentine and Gaze “had been talking about working together on a project in the spring of 2014 and put a bunch of ideas on the table, but weren’t really sure what we wanted to do,” Lentine said. Lentine later got a text from Gaze that said, “Let’s start a trio.” Lentine happened to be in the same room as O’Shaughnessy at the time. “[I] turned to him and said ‘so you doin’ anything?’ And the rest was history,” he said. This year’s Battle of the Bands shows were the band’s first live shows, the first of many to come, most likely. Though they didn’t win the contest, the experience put the band on the map and, according to Lentine, was an overall positive experience. “Richard (Replogle) and Bob (Roets) really did a great job this year and made it a great experience. It was certainly great publicity for us, considering our first show ever was round one and our third show ever was at the Finals. It got us started off on the right foot. There was also a really nice communal atmosphere between all the bands that were competing.” True to expectations, a Trichotomous Hippopotamus show is a decidedly raucous, fun time. Deep rooted in the blues/rock tradition of Joe Bonamassa and North Mississippi All Stars, the band is a tight-knit unit that also seems to crave the spontaneity that playing the blues allows. Lentine handles the frontman duties with ease and exudes an air of confidence seldom seen in the local scene, while Gaze and O’Shaughnessy contribute effortlessly. The band’s songs display a high level of musicianship and songwriting ability while maintaining an air of accessibility for novice fans. They are a true rock stars in the making. At the same time, they are still a developing band trying to find its way in the scene. Short term, says Lentine, “we’re currently working on getting as many gigs as possible while growing our fan base and putting our first album together.” So that brings us back to that name. The band members acknowledge that Trichotomous Hippopotamus is a bit difficult to pronounce for some, but other than that, they don’t seem to think it’s really that big of a deal. “It’s actually just a result of “too much time with a thesaurus,” Lentine explained. “We’re a trio, or trichotomous, which rhymes with hippopotamus. Hence, Trichotomous Hippopotamus. Riveting.”

Chris Hupe








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