whatzup2nite • Thursday, September 3

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Auburn Fall Auction

Auctions America Auburn Fall Collector Car Auction — Collector car auction, Auburn Auction Park, 9 a.m., $15/day ($50/weekend pass), 877-906-2437


Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival Classic car shows, 5K, live entertainment, craft show, Gatsby Gala Ball, historic tours, games and activities, ice cream social, swap meet and more, hours vary Wednesday, Sept. 2-Monday, Sept. 7, various location, downtown Auburn, free (activity and admission fees may apply), 925-3600

Auctions America Auburn Fall Collector Car Weekend — Collector car auction, Auburn Auction Park, 10 a.m., $15/day ($50/weekend pass), 877-906-2437

Worldwide Auctioneers 8th Annual The Auburn Auction — Private shows of vehicles, National Auto & Truck Museum, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., $8 (to view museum cars), 925-9100

If These Cars Could Talk Tour — 60-minute guided tour of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, 10 a.m., $20/person or $40/family (reservations encouraged), 925-3600

Kick-Off Luncheon/Celebration — Entertainment by Dixieland band, Willennar Hall, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum, 12 p.m., $15/person (reservations required, acdfestival.org), 925-1444

Docent-Led Tour — 90-minute guided tour of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, 12 p.m., $20/person or $40/family (reservations encouraged), 925-3600

Collection Highlights Tour — 35-minute guided tour of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, 2 p.m., $20/person or $40/family (reservations encouraged), 925-3600

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum Benefit Extravaganza Fundraiser — Hors d’oeuvres, gourmet dinner, open bar and auction, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum, 6 p.m., $150/person (reservation and jacket required), 925-1444 for information


Things To Do

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National Shows

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Music & Comedy

Jason Wells — Blues/variety at 4D's Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 490-6488

Joe Justice — Variety at Adams Lake Pub, Wolcottville, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 854-3463

Kimberly — Variety at Bar 145, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 209-2117

Mahria Green — Variety at The Green Frog Inn, Fort Wayne, 9-11 p.m., no cover, 426-1088

Open Mic Night — Hosted by Mike Conley at Mad Anthony Brewing Co., 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 Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 432-8966

DJ Trend — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 482-6425


Stage & Dance

Avenue Q — Humans and puppets interact in the tale of twenty-somethings learning how to live and love in New York City,8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 3-5 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, Warsaw, $14-$32, 574-267-8041


Movies

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Art & Artifacts

20 Year Retrospective — Works from Jody Hemphill Smith, CW Mundy, Katy McMurray, Michael Poorman, Mike Kelly, Joey Frisillo, Diane Lyon, Doug Runyan, Susan Suraci, Terri Buchholz, Andrea Bojrab, Bill Inman, Terry Armstrong, Carolyn Fehsenfeld, Lori Putnam, Rick Wilson, Fred Doloresco, Forrest Formsma, B. Eric Rhoads, Robert Eberle, Pamela C. Newell, Shelby Keefe, Mark Daly and Maurice Papier, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru Sept. 13, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568

American Brilliant Cut Glass — Highlights form the American Cut Glass Association Permanent Collection, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 6, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Artlink Members’ Show — Works from Artlink member artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 1, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

Babette Bloch: Steel Garden — Laser-cut and water-jet cut stainless steel sculptures, Tuesday-Sunday thru Nov. 1, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Christina Bothwell: Spirit into Matter — Stone and glass sculptures reflecting the processes of birth, death and renewal, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 13, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Dayne Bonta: Impressions at 88 — Photographs from Indiana photographer depicting his 88 years of life, Tuesday-Sunday. Sept. 5-Nov. 22, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Invisible College — Group exhibition co-curated by Andrew and Shawn Hosner of Los Angeles’ Thinkspace Gallery and Josef Zimmerman of FWMoA featuring works by 46 artists belonging to the New Contemporary Movement, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 27, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

M.Y.O. (My, Yours, Ours...) — Photographs of disparity, race perceptions and race relations through current national events by Palermo Galindo, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 1, Betty Fishman Gallery, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

Steve Linn and Robert Schefman — Sculptures and paintings, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 13, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Summer of Glass — 43rd Annual Glass Invitational Award Winners; solo, exhibit featuring Christina Bothwell, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 13, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467


Featured Events

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theater 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, call for pricing, 432-8176, academy.sweetwater.com

Whitley County Farmers Market — Farmers market sponsored by Whitley County Chamber of Commerce, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays thru Oct. 10, Courthouse Square, downtown Columbia City, free, 248-8131



Features

Don McLean

American Songsmith

Music can be a window to the world. Take for example a 10-year-old girl whose only real exposure to art is through a couple of coffee table books, limited perhaps to a few of the Italian masters. For that girl, a song like “Vincent,” which lovingly tells the tale of artist Vincent Van Gogh, is an eye-opener. The song, opening with the line “Starry, starry night,” paints a picture almost as colorful and enlightening as the artist and painting that inspired it. Four decades later, how does that girl fully thank Don McLean, the man who wrote the song, for bringing new and thrilling influences into her life? She can only try. “Music should be more than entertainment,” says McLean in humble response. Don McLean has a long list of such songs, having been one of the more prolific singer-songwriters of the early 1970s with “Castles in the Air,” “And I Love You So,” “Dreidel” and, of course, the ubiquitous “American Pie” in his songbook. The latter alone could have set him up for life, but with that kind of classic comes plenty of both good and bad responses. “The song has definitely lasted and grown and means something to people,” says McLean. “I had 10 hit records, but that one was huge which was surprising. It just became a phenomenon. But then there was backlash because it was played so much in the early 70s. Then there was ‘Vincent’ and ‘Castles in the Air,’ and ‘Dreidel’ was off the wall. so they didn’t really know what to make of me.” But with all great songs, backlash is a temporary thing, based mostly in a reaction against popularity rather than the singer himself. Such was the case with McLean who has continued to write, record and tour steadily throughout the years to devoted fans who never tire of his work. And the public at large also caught up again, providing him with a bit of a renaissance. “In 2000 there started to be some new attention to me and my music. ‘American Pie’ was named the fifth greatest song of the century, and it all sort of grew from there. Madonna had a cover of it. Garth Brooks has done a cover too. And Ed Sheeran did a cover of ‘Vincent’ on Storytellers. Millions of people bought [American Pie], and Ed Sheeran has said how influential that album has been to him. That all means a lot to me.” McLean’s reach goes beyond his own composition. His song, “Empty Chairs,” was the inspiration for the Roberta Flack hit “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” and that title in turn has been adapted for McLean’s authorized biography, The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly With His Songs by Alan Howard, and a 2012 DVD, American Troubadour, combines both concert and documentary elements to provide insight into McLean’s life and work. He says both are accurate portrayals of him and says he’s granted access to a British filmmaker to further tell his story. McLean says to fully understand his music, you have to look at a broad range of American music. “I’m really a fusion songwriter. I’m influenced by Irving Berlin, but also by the rock n’ roll of the 1950s – Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent. I’m not a trained musician; I don’t read music. I’ve just fused all of these different elements together.” McLean has a remarkable catalog of beloved hits but is not content to rest on his laurels, still mining stories from the life he sees around him, including a recent song about a man who lives in and wanders around McLean’s hometown of Camden, Maine. McLean says he “fantasized about his life” and wrote a song. Four of his newest songs, from an upcoming collection which may also include a greatest hits package, are now available online. McLean sees both good and bad in the way technology allows for the transmission of music and other content, admitting that he enjoys the ready access but fears the long-term ramifications. “I do have a huge presence on YouTube, and many albums are available for download, which has introduced me to new audiences. And I think as a tool to find out stuff and see things you might not otherwise be able to access, it’s terrific. If I want to find out about an actor or see photographs or look something up on Wikipedia, it’s great. But more and more people are putting their total reliance on their computer or their iPhone, and they aren’t using their minds anymore. As someone who knows 10,000 songs, I’m not really worried about using my mind, but I see people who don’t use their minds much anymore, and they’ve become very sedentary. It’s also ruined a lot of businesses which is really a form of cultural terrorism. The music business has been destroyed by it, the book and newspaper businesses are being destroyed by it, and the film industry eventually will be destroyed by it. So it’s also very dangerous in that sense. “It has also brought us to the point where Joe Six-Pack can have a video on YouTube and be regarded as an artist,” he continues. “And he’s not an artist, and it’s important that we realize that’s the wrong way of becoming an artist. I don’t care if people think that’s arrogant. Not everybody can be a pro baseball player either. You can’t just put yourself on the internet and say you’re an artist.” McLean still enjoys time on the road and is happy to continue the life of a troubadour. With 70 shows this year, both in and outside of the United States, he figures to spend about 200 days of this year traveling with his five-piece band. That’s more than usual, he admits, but he still enjoys talking with people as he travels to learn more about the world. It’s clearly been the reward for his many contributions to American music. “It’s in my blood, to travel around and see things, and I get paid to do it. I’ve been paid to see America.”

Michele DeVinney







John Németh

Coming to the Blues by the Back Door

When you call bluesman John Németh and get his voice mail, the outgoing message is a simple and telling one. It’s his smooth, soothing voice, singing, “What a beautiful day we’re having, what a wonderful day. What a beautiful day we’re having. What a wonderful day.” Kind of difficult to have the blues when one is confronted with such a sweet statement, but anyone who’s ever gone to a blues show or, better yet, played them live, knows that the blues aren’t really about being down, depressed, hopeless. “The underlying feeling is that, ‘Hey, these are the blues. Everybody gets them, but everything’s going to be all right,’” Németh said in a recent phone interview. He was at home in Memphis, having missed my first call because he and his wife were taking their son to the ER for an allergy attack. “He’s going to be all right too,” Németh said. Németh, who will close out the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory Botanical Roots concert series Friday, September 4 at 7 p.m., is, by conventional standards, not your typical bluesman – he’s the son of a Hungarian immigrant and hails from Boise, Idaho – but Németh doesn’t buy into media-perpetuated stereotypes about what sort of person should play what genre. “Musicians aren’t ever really surprised that I play the blues, especially here in Memphis,” he said. “People have come from all over, with no exposure whatsoever to Southern culture, and they can play the blues like they were born to it. The only people who are ever surprised that I’m a bluesman are members of the public who’ve been told to be surprised because, supposedly, people who play the blues look a certain way.” Németh credits his background with helping shape him as a musician. His main musical influences growing up were his parents. His mother spoke in colloquialisms that to this day inform his approach to the blues, and his father listened to Hungarian folk music which, Németh says, has a great deal in common with American blues. “We lived out in the middle of nowhere in Idaho, and my mom’s speech, it was funny and full of colloquialisms. I guess she thought, ‘Why not pepper conversation with innuendo? It might at least make life more interesting.’ And Hungarian folk is very emotional, very harmonically complex and full of feeling. When I first heard the blues, I was like, ‘Wow, this is cool. There is so much innuendo and colloquialisms the way my mother speaks, and the music has undeniable passion and emotion like gypsy music like father likes.’ I fell in love with the blues right then and there.” Németh formed his first band in high school and began playing clubs in and around Boise when most of his classmates were still focusing on SATs and homework. A strong singer and songwriter, Németh’s instrument is the harmonica, which he picked up partially because it was cheap and, when he was just getting started in the 90s, electric pianos were not. “It was the perfect instrument for a poor high school kid,” he said. “I remember I was out one day and I saw a harmonica in a case. I was already a fan of Junior Wells and Little Walter, and I thought, ‘How hard can that be?’ Little did I know it’s tricky to pick up and play well, whereas with a piano you press a note and it happens. Any note you need, you push down and it comes out. The harmonica has hidden notes. Who knew?” Németh gained a reputation beyond Boise for his powerful and unique approach to the blues. He even toured with Junior Watson, serving as his opening act, and in 2004 Watson appeared on Németh’s debut album, Come and Get It. Later that same year, Németh made the difficult decision to move to the Bay Area with his then girlfriend, Jaki. It proved a fateful decision. Németh was signed to the legendary Blind Pig Records label, and he began playing in (speaking of legendary) Elvin Bishop’s band. “Working with Elvin Bishop I learned a lot about American music, about the possibilities in combining styles I’d never even thought of before,” Németh said. “Elvin is a master at seamlessly arranging different stylistic influences, and he taught me so much about composition that really improved the records I made with Blind Pig.” With Blind Pig he put out Love Me Tonight, Magic Touch and Name the Day. Critics and fans responded to Németh’s idiosyncratic style which, again, he said might have something to do with the fact that he grew up far from the birthplaces of the blues. “I was somewhat in isolation in Idaho,” he said. “The only comparison I can make is to reggae artists who grew up in Jamaica, listening to American R&B on shortwave radio. Given the way the music was recorded and how it was transmitted, some things were lost – notes here and there, pieces of a song – so you pick up on what the overall feeling of the music is and you fill in the blanks in your own way. It’s a way of bringing a different dialect to an already established musical language.” Németh and Jaki, the girlfriend he followed to California, eventually married and started a family. As much as they loved Oakland and San Francisco and the music scene there, they found the Golden State an increasingly stressful and difficult place to raise a family, so in 2013 they moved to Memphis. In Memphis, Németh hooked up with producer Scott Bomar, who composed the film scores for Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan. Németh was soon back in the studio, laying down tracks for Memphis Grease, which he recorded with a little help from Bomar and his session band, The Bo-Keys. “In Memphis they’re still cutting records exactly the way they cut them back in the day,” Németh said. “It’s like getting back to square one, to what really matters. The talent on that record is astounding to me. I’ll let it speak for itself.” And speak it did, earning Németh, among other accolades, a Soul/Blues Album of the Year from the Blues Music Awards. It was also the most played blues record in the world in 2014. Not that Németh is resting on any laurels. He’s always making changes to his music, tweaking his songwriting and his way with the harmonica. He also has a new band he’ll bring to Fort Wayne. He described the Blue Dreamers – Johnny Rhoades (guitar), Danny Banks (drums) and Matthew Wilson (bass) – as a bluesy version of the Beatles. “They’re a bunch of young guys, really fantastic players and they all sing harmonies. Some even played my music before they joined band.” A good sign for a genre some claim is in danger of dying out. “The Grammys keep eliminating blues categories from their awards, I guess because of lack of participation? What does that even mean? And who cares about ‘participation’? If it’s only five guys out there playing the blues, it’s still five guys playing the most important musical invention in the United States. A lot of people love to mine the blues but keep it on the back burner like it’s some sort of little secret. That’s okay for them, but the blues are what I’ve done, what I love, what I’ve always played and I’ll play them until my dying day.”

Deborah Kennedy







Avenue Q

Muppet-like Mayhem

If you have ever dreamed of attending a comedy club on Sesame Street, then Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts has just the show for you. They close out their 2015 summer season with Avenue Q, their second annual Encore Series production. Known for their universally popular, family-friendly musicals and plays, the Wagon Wheel takes a bit of a chance with its Encore Series productions. “With the Encore shows, we are trying to pick smaller shows that would appeal not only to our existing audience, but hopefully to draw in new audience members,” says Artistic Director Scott Michaels. “We look for shows that were successful on Broadway but that people might have a limited chance of seeing.” They also tend to have content that pushes some boundaries for their regular season-holding membership. Much like Rent, last year’s inaugural Encore Series production, Avenue Q certainly fills the bill. “There is a reason it won three Tony Awards, including Best Musical of 2003, and is still running Off-Broadway today,” says Michaels. “It’s a great and funny show.” The musical tells the story of recent college graduate (and puppet) Princeton, who moves to a shabby urban apartment on Avenue Q. He meets a host of colorful characters – some human, some puppet – and together they learn important lessons. Much like Sesame Street teaches preschoolers important life lessons about friendship, handling their emotions and navigating play dates, Avenue Q’s characters learn about racism, love, careers, first apartments, shattered dreams, the ramifications of poor choices, sexual identity and how to find one’s purpose in life.   “I have often wondered what it would be like for [Sesame Street] characters if they had to face real-life adult situations,” says Michaels. “With this show, you get that chance.”   Michaels says he and the rest of the Wagon Wheel staff wanted to capitalize on the ongoing success of Avenue Q’s composer, Robert Lopez. Not many people realize that songwriter for the film Frozen and the co-creator of the stage musical The Book of Mormon had his first success with this subversive and irreverent musical about Sesame Street-style puppets living in the gritty real world.   Yes, the same man who wrote “Let It Go” and “Love Is an Open Door” also wrote ““Hasa Diga Eebowai” and “The Internet Is for Porn.” Realizing that some shows, such as Avenue Q, may have a slightly smaller fan base than its regular season shows (which this year included such wildly popular favorites as West Side Story and The Little Mermaid), the Encore Series is scheduled for a shorter run (only a six-day run rather than 11).   “The Encore Series is still a new venture for us,” says Michaels. “We can keep production costs down by having a short run. We have also found it challenging to get people to commit to a longer season, since kids are already back to school in the fall. And Warsaw is a summer lake town, so after Labor Day there are fewer people living here.” He is quick to point out that Avenue Q is not a show for kids – despite all the puppets. “The content is R-rated, but it’s all in good fun,” he says. “I leave it up to the parents to decide if their teenagers should see it. But if you like shows along the lines of South Park, Family Guy, Archer, or have seen The Book of Mormon, then this show will be right up your alley.”   Even non-fans of those shows can get something out of Avenue Q, he says. “It’s touching and funny with a touch of raunchy fun. I equate it to going out to an adult comedy club.”   Michaels is cognizant of the fact that the Wagon Wheel may risk offending some audience members who don’t know what they’re getting into with the Encore Series. But he hopes that subscribers will give Avenue Q a chance and that the unusual offering will bring in new audiences. “Last year’s production of Rent brought in a very different crowd to the theater, and we hope that this show does the same,” he says. “But as with any Encore show, there is always a gamble of people being offended. These shows are meant to appeal to an adult crowd, something we don’t offer in our summer season.” Avenue Q premiered on Broadway in 2003, and although the script can’t be changed for legal reasons, it does allow for topical humor to be added, which Michaels promises will happen. As raunchy and potentially offensive as it might be, Michaels asserts that the show still holds some universal truths about entering adulthood. But mainly, it’s great fun. “It’s meant to give our adult audiences a night out,” says Michaels. “It’s a great date show that has catchy music, a touching story line, and, of course, puppets.”

Jen Poiry-Prough







Auburn Fall Collector Car Weekend

A Collection of Cars & Stars

With auctions it’s all about the numbers. And it’s especially so for car auctions. Take for instance the 2014 Auburn Fall auction. Well-known worldwide for its high-quality cars and its often star-studded attendees, the Auctions America event also has the numbers thing down. Big numbers. Last year some 81,500 people attended the four-day event. Those who stayed through it all got to see $29.5 million worth of cars and other collectibles find new owners. In all, 77 percent of the items offered for auction sold. Impressive numbers. And the top price for a car last year? A 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Dual-Cowl Phaeton sold for $1,150,000. Now that’s a nice warm number. Auburn Fall 2015 promises to be just as exciting. There’s a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe by Murphy hitting the block that could fetch a similar price. The Auburn Fall Collector Car Weekend, which runs from Sept. 2-6, is among the top auctions of its kind in the world. Now in its 45th year, Auburn Fall 2015 is bigger and better than ever. As usual the Labor Day weekend tradition will have a large number of amazing and rare cars up for auction. It will also have lots of exciting things to do for outside of the auction arena. Ryan Hurst, star of Sons of Anarchy, Remember the Titans and Saving Private Ryan, will be on hand Saturday and Sunday to sign autographs. Stock car racing fans will get the chance to test their skills in the pits and on the track. Sportbike enthusiasts can watch in awe as a pair of the world’s best riders perform tricks and gasp-inducing stunts. There will be monster truck rides, helicopter rides, a swap meet and the ever-popular car corral. The car corral is where you want to go to buy a car and the swap meet is the place to be if a car you already have needs a hard-to-find part. But it’s the cars up for auction that drives attendance. Auctions America marketing coordinator Drew Gerhart said the lots for sale should garner lots of attention. “The cars look really, really great this year,” he said. “There’s great offerings from the main three associated with the festival – the Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs – and also a number of entry-level cars for people just getting into collecting. It’s a great place to find a project. There’s really something for every level of collector and enthusiast.” A quick scan through the lots catalogs bears this out. In addition to the 1929 Duesey there are Auburn Phaetons, a Cabriolet and a Speedster, and a nice cohort of Cords. Plus Cadillacs, Packards, Mercedes, a Delorean, a couple of sweet Sunbeam Tigers, Beetles, MGs, Fords, Chevys, Buicks and a bunch of car memorabilia and car parts. Vintage bicycles, wagons and toys will get their time in the spotlight as well. Gerhart said about 1,000 cars will be auctioned over the four days of the event. This year’s auction is being touted as the most diverse to date. One of the featured lots is the vast and diverse collection owned by Steve Ramsey. His offerings include a 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat with just two miles on its odometer, an all-original 1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427/400 Coupe with just 18,000 original miles; a 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air 409 Bubbletop; and an all-original 1979 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible that’s seen just 177 miles of road. Other featured lots include the Duffy Grove Collection, the Frank Heiss Sr. Collection, the Suburban Collection and the Cord Trademark. With NASCAR’s booming popularity, the addition of the Ultimate Race Fan Experience seems like a no-brainer. The Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR racing simulators will allow two players to test their skills on the track, while a pair of mobile tire changing stations let you go for the tire-changing record. There will also be several NASCAR race cars driven by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon on display. “They’re also bringing a car transport converted into a rolling museum,” Gerhart said. “You can check out different race car equipment.” Two-wheel sport fans get their moment too. Top Sportbike freestylers Kyle Sliger (a Fort Wayne native) and Jesse Toler will put on a stunt show that is certain to impress. Informative and mind-boggling, Sliger and Toler will put on two shows, one each on Friday and Saturday, tracing the birth of freestyle stunt riding through live demonstrations of tricks as they were developed and perfected. Keep your cameras handy. And back this year are the ever-popular monster truck and helicopter rides. Bouncing and flying. Similar yet different experiences you won’t want to miss. When combined with the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival in downtown Auburn (easily accessible from the auction park by free shuttle) the 2015 Auburn Fall Collector Car Weekend is a must-attend event.

Mark Hunter







Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival

The Cars Are the Stars

Downtown Auburn is about as small-town Indiana as it gets. A quiet and prosperous community of 12,000 residents with a county courthouse rising stoically above a grassy square dotted with trees and monuments anchoring a thriving central business district filled with shops and restaurants and professional offices, Auburn wears its success with an unassuming modesty synonymous with Hoosier virtue. Even the city website shies away from boastfulness. It wonders “Why Auburn?” in its attempt to attract new residents and industry before calmly providing a bullet list of its many, if non-flashy, civic amenities: lowest municipal electric rate in the state; less than 200 miles from Indianapolis, Chicago and Detroit; community-owned fiber optic infrastructure. But come Labor Day weekend each year, all that quiet stuff goes out the window. That’s when the city of Auburn throws a huge party for the beautiful, sleek and sometimes ostentatious automobiles that made it famous as the classic car capital of the world. Each year more than 100,000 people from around the world flock to Auburn to get up close and personal with the spectacular Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs that were built here in the 1920s and 30s. Now in its 59th year, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival has blossomed from an annual meeting of those who collected Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs into a three-day celebration featuring not just extremely cool automobiles, but a classic car parade, concerts, fireworks, auctions, museums, crafts, arts, food and even educational programs. Sarah Payne, executive director of the ACD Festival, says the weekend is an all-ages party that has something for everybody. “It’s free family-friendly fun both Friday and Saturday night. We have Chris Worth, Joe Justice and Big Caddy Daddy on Friday night and The Freak Brothers and Sugar Shot and fireworks Saturday night.” The real stars on Friday night are of course the cars. Payne says as many as 700 – hot rods, classics, one-of-a-kinds – will be on hand for the Downtown Cruise-In. The cruise-in takes place at the courthouse square. The streets will be closed to accommodate all the cars and all the people who will be milling around. The bands will be playing nearby; the Fort Wayne Food Trucks will be there; there’s even an ice cream social. The Official Auburn Cord Duesenberg Beer Tent presented by Main Street Bistro invites you to “take in the sights, relax with friends and grab a cold one. Enjoy our live music, beautiful cars and friends and wet your whistle while you walk.” Sounds like a good plan. But that’s just a smidgen of the planned events. Throughout the days of Friday, Saturday and for a good part of Sunday, festival goers have a full menu of options, from museum tours at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and tours of the city to fun activities for children including an automotive bounce house and vintage backyard games. Sunday is the annual arts and crafts show, sponsored by the Downtown Auburn Business Association. There are flea markets, swap meets, kids tours, a speakeasy. The list of events is 40-plus pages long, so be sure to pick one up early. Everybody loves a parade, right. Well on Saturday at 1 p.m. the Parade of Classics begins. ACD Club members get behind the wheels of their classics and drive them slowly through the streets of Auburn. It’s a good chance to see these cars in action. It’s also a good chance to meet new people from all over the country and from around the world. Payne says it’s quite common for car enthusiasts from different parts of the planet to make the pilgrimage to Auburn, not only to look at the cars but to get a taste of a truly American event. “This is one of the things that is on a lot of people’s life lists,” Payne says. “People come from everywhere. That goes for the car owners as well. Since this is the annual meeting for the ACD Club, it’s not unusual for car owners to come from overseas and bring their cars with them.” Payne says the ACD Club was the starting point for the festival. “If you think about it, back in the 50s these cars were old but not really classics. Some of the folks from the club started to pull some of the owners together and thought it would be fun to go back to where these cars came from. So they made their first trek to Auburn back in the 50s. And some of the local folks recognized the value of this club coming to town and really rolled out the red carpet for them. It started out as a Chamber event and has just been growing ever since.” Then, of course, there are the auctions. Two separate auctions will be held over multiple days during the festival. Auctions America holds its annual Auburn Fall auction at its park while Worldwide Auctioneers hosts events at the National Auto and Truck Museum. With all this going on in a city of 12,000 it’s understandable to think that parking might be a nightmare, that the crowds will be overwhelming and that the whole thing is just about cars anyway, so what’s point? Not to worry. There’s plenty to do for the non-car enthusiasts out there. We’ve already covered that. As for parking, Payne says there is plenty of on- and off-street parking to handle the load. Plus there is a trolley service running between the activities downtown, the museums and the Auctions American Auction Park. The trolley runs from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. “There are a lot of moving parts and different organizations that are a part of this,” Payne says. “There are the museums, two auctions and a lot of clubs and organizations and businesses that collaborate with us. There are lots of different activities that happen that are put on by these partner organizations. It allows us to have a whole lot to offer visitors over that weekend.” It’s also something the city might consider adding to its list of reasons to consider Auburn. After all, any community of this size that can successfully pull off an event this huge and do it for almost 60 years must have something pretty good going on.

Mark Hunter







Lovestruck>/i>

Immersive Enchantment

Lovestruck is the aptly named title of Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s third annual immersive theater event. Based on Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which several characters fall in love at first sight, Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s adaptation presents the action through dance, as one would expect, but with a twist. Rather than being confined to a stage, the dancers will move throughout the three domes and the terrace at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Meanwhile, audience members get to roam freely following whichever performers they chose. Oh, and the audience will be wearing masks. Those who attended FWDC’s two previous forays into the genre – Star Crossed (based on Romeo and Juliet) in 2013 and Wonderland (based on Alice in Wonderland) in 2014 – know the drill. For first-timers, however, the concept of immersive theater may take a bit of getting used to. “It’s really up to the audience to explore where to go and what to see,” said Alison Gerardot, outreach director with FWDC. “You’re not going to see everything, and that’s really the point. Your experience is going to be different than the next person’s experience unless you stay together the whole time.” And with the masks it may be difficult to tell who the next person is, let alone what their particular adventure might entail. One thing is certain: many people in Fort Wayne will benefit from this signature fundraising event, which is a one-time-only performance on Friday, September 11. Just as experimentation has been essential to the internal growth of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective in its 36-year history, finding new ways to contribute to and include the community have been vital to the external presentation of its art. “The funds go to support scholarships at our on-site school and our outreach programs,” Gerardot said. “We have three different programs. Dance in Education, Dance for Disability and Dance for Health. We are at six schools this year working with students from pre-school to high school. We are also at nine different sites serving people with disabilities. Dance for Health is our healing arts program with Parkview Hospital.” Immersive theater has been around for more than a century. The attempt to tear down the fourth wall of the theater, the invisible barrier between the mobile actors on stage and the spectators planted in their seats, can be traced to an adaptation of Charles Dickens unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, according to the websitebricolagepgh.org. The play, which premiered in London near the turn of the last century, concluded with the audience casting votes to solve the mystery. Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s initial dip into the immersive theater pool was inspired by an adaptation of MacBeth by the British theater group Punchdrunk. The adaptation, called Sleep No More, has been running in New York for four years and is the inspiration behind FWDC’s decision to tackle the genre, Gerardot said. “They took an abandoned warehouse and divided it up into rooms,” she said. “There are multiple floors and they outfitted each room intricately with props. Everything is interactive. The audience comes in and is sort of given a little spiel on what will happen. People are just sort of dropped off at random parts of the building, and people can go where they want and follow whatever characters they want, or not. They can just rifle through anything that’s in any room.” The FWDC production at the Botanical Conservatory is being directed by Heather Brackeen who is working with five choreographers. Brackeen directed the Wonderland immersive event last year at the Masonic Temple. According to Gerardot, the non-linear Lovestruck has more in common with Wonderland than with Star Crossed. “Alice in Wonderland is not a linear story, so we took different concepts from Alice and layered them in different rooms. As you traveled from room to room, those were the places that Alice visited. For instance, we had the caterpillar in one spot. This year will be similar to that, but just a little more structured.” The two earlier productions posed logistical problems. Not only did the story lines have to be worked out for dancers in a vast, disconnected space (Star Crossed used the Embassy Theater and the Indiana Hotel as its “stage”) but the random movement or non-movement of the audience had to be figured into the mix, a contingency that proved difficult to predict. With Star Crossed the audience got into a sort of people jam while moving through tight areas. With Wonderland some audience members scrambled from one scene to the next. “People rushed through the process last year,” Gerardot said. “They’d go see one thing and then they’d go see another thing and then they’d sort of be done with the experience.” The previous shows ran through the action one time, making it difficult if not impossible to see the whole show, or at least a good portion of it. This year the performance will be looped so that every scene will be done twice. The repetition will afford the audience a chance to see more of the total production, Gerardot said. “So if you run into a certain scene you’ve seen before, you can quickly move to a different location and see something different,” she said. “The same music will be playing in all areas of the conservatory. “There are three fight scenes that happen throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and each of those fight scenes is going to happen to the same music. There will be one fight scene in each room. They’ll all happen simultaneously, but they’ll all happen again on a loop at a different point in time. You could potentially see two out of the three fight scenes, but you won’t be able to see all three.” If it becomes all too much, there will be distractions in the form of bars, various musicians performing here and there, a photo booth and a silent auction to help ground you. The end of the show will see all of the audience brought together for a performance by Hope Arthur, who will also appear in the final scene. “We’re just trying to get the audiences here comfortable with that idea,” Gerardot said. “People who have been to the shows in the past will be much more comfortable with that idea.” The basic idea is to sever ties with every concept you have of traditional stage performances and let your whims control your movements. Follow your heart. Allow yourself to become lovestruck by a performer or that mysterious person in the mask next to you and follow them.

Mark Hunter







The Hot Sauce Committee

Beasties in the Mix

If you like to get down to the music of the 1990s, The Hot Sauce Committee are the band for you. The Chicago-based foursome specializes in covering the songs that filled the airwaves at the end of the last century, but they add a decidedly 21st-century spin. Anyone who was at Bar 145’s Fort Wayne opening back in April already got the chance to boogie to The Hot Sauce Committee and experience the glory of their chosen decade. And on Friday, September 11, the band returns to Bar 145. Students of that decade, particularly fans of the Beastie Boys, will recognize the name The Hot Sauce Committee and it’s significance in the Beasties’ world. The Hot Sauce Committee guitar player Brian Bender said the reason the band exists in the first place can be traced to the hip-hop trio from New York City “We started off as a Beastie Boys tribute band,” Bender told me in a telephone interview. “The Hot Sauce Committee is the last album the Beastie Boys released.” At first The Hot Sauce Committee (hereinafter referred to as “Hot Sauce” in the interest of pixel conservation) consisted of just Bender and lead singer Chris Servia (hereinafter referred to as “Serv” because that’s what he’s called on stage and possibly offstage as well). After a year or two of attacking the market from that angle, Bender and Serv stumbled on something interesting about women. “We did the Beastie Boys thing for a while, and then we discovered that girls like dancing to artists other than the Beastie Boys. And we love girls, so we changed up the format of the band a little bit to include all 90s music. Now we do stuff from Justin Timberlake, some boy band stuff, Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC, hip-hop stuff, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Run DMC. It gives our repertoire a little more diversity, more to choose from depending on where we’re playing.” But the switch to 90s dance music doesn’t mean they’ve kicked the Beasties to the curb. Hot Sauce are still getting requests to do Beastie Boys tribute shows at festivals around the Midwest. And their song list is mostly Beastie Boys stuff. They also do all boy band shows, which Bender says are good for attracting lots of girls. But they realize there are men in the audience as well. “We do some pop stuff like Sublime,” he said. “We do George Michael ‘Faith,’ but we do the Limp Bizkit version to get the guys excited. For the most part it’s upbeat music to make people smile and remember the 90s and get happy about it.” Joining Bender and Serv in Hot Sauce are Nick-Lightning on bass, vocals and backup dancing and Danger-Russ on drums. Serv is the lead vocalist and lead dancer. Like Lightning, Bender is also backup dancer. Bender said the dancing is a vital part of their act. (As a boy band cover act, why wouldn’t it be?) The reason the dancing is important is that helps redirect the focus of audience members from the video screens back to the guys actually playing the music. Video screens, you ask? “One of our favorite bands is Kiss,” Bender said. “We love productions, so we bring in fog machines and video screens. Basically, we have videos synced up to all our songs. It’s funny cause even if people don’t like the genre of music we’re playing, we have viral Youtube videos playing, So at least they’re enjoying that.” But Hot Sauce are performers. They like having people at least take some notice of what they’re doing onstage. Which is where the boy band moves come in. “The demographic that we play for, they’re obsessed with cell phones and videos,” Bender said. “Sometimes I have to get people’s attention by shaking my ass right in front of them. It’s fun!” Apparently the fun is contagious. Hot Sauce have gone from playing very small gigs to playing places like the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and in front of Soldier Field. “The shows are getting better and better,” Bender said. “It’s hard when you start a band because you have all these dreams and aspirations. You want to do things, but it’s hard when you start ’cause the money isn’t as good. But now were headlining festivals and playing really big corporate gigs. We played The Q where the Cleveland Cavaliers play. We’ve played Soldier Field for the Blackhawks and Penguins stadium series. So we’re playing some really big shows.” You know you’ve made it as a band when fans start screaming “Free Bird” at shows. Hot Sauce will play the occasional request, but to get them to play the iconic (and ironic) Lynyrd Skynyrd tune the requester is going to have to pony up some cash. “We’ll play it, Bender said, “but it comes with a price. For 500 bucks we’ll play ‘Free Bird’ to its fullest extent.” I wonder if he’ll dance to it too.

Mark Hunter







Oktobeerfest

A Superior Brew Fest

Exactly one week before the original Oktoberfest begins in Munich this year, Fort Wayne will have it’s own Oktoberfest. It’s called the Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest, and it’s been going on for 17 years. The latest edition happens Saturday, September 12 in Headwaters Park West. I shouldn’t even need to write the following, but since some of you may have just moved into town, I’ll perform this public service: The Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest is the better of the two. Skeptical? Well, here are some facts: At Germany’s Oktoberfest, six breweries will be represented. At the Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest? More than 40. Also, at Germany’s Oktoberfest, there will probably be a lot of people wearing lederhosen and a lot of people who will feel guilty for having forgotten to wear lederhosen and a lot of people who will just run out and buy the nearest lederhosen. “Good lederhosen start at 200 euros,” writes a Munich resident at the Trip Advisor website. That’s $227. “The better the leather, the steeper the price,” he continues. “A full Trachten set will set you back well over 1,000 euros ($1137), if it’s quality you want.” Since the Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest is ostensibly a celebration of Hoosier things, you’re free to wear any britches you’d like, although it would be nice to see some people in the official trouser of Indiana: candy-striped warm-up pants. The Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest used to happen in a tent behind Mad Anthony brewery’s main location on Broadway, said Mad Anthony’s marketing coordinator Tiffany Pryor. But the event outgrew that space. The event’s catchphrase is “Say OK to Oktobeerfest,” which is perfectly laconic. Craft beer doesn’t really need the hard sell. All the beer that will be available for sampling at the Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest will have been created at Hoosier microbreweries. One thing that differentiates the Mad Anthony Oktobeerfest from some other beer and wine festivals, said Pryor, is that actual brewers will be on site to chat with aficionados. Some festivals are staffed only with liquor distributors and press flacks. It would be folly to try to describe all the participating breweries and their brews here, but it is vital to note that three young Summit City upstarts will be in attendance: Summit City Brewerks, Trubble Brewing and Olde School Brauhaus. Summit City Brewerks’ on-tap operation is open at 1501 E. Berry St., but Trubble Brewing and Olde School Brauhaus are still prepping theirs at 2725 Broadway and 1801 S. Harrison St., respectively. Anyone who has lived here more than 20 years has got to be astonished and delighted at the amount of craft beer buzz effervescing in the city in 2015. “It’s really exciting for us to be able to share these new breweries with the community,” she said. “Increased craft beer traffic is exactly what our local economy needs.” Pryor wants to stress that this is a sampling event. Fans of $6 pitchers will just have to get those elsewhere. For the home brewer, Mad Anthony and Brewer’s Art Supply are teaming up to give one virtuoso of the suds a chance to have his or her recipe commercially produced. And there will be a contest to win a most-expenses-paid trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Boulder, Colorado. Non-liquid nourishment will be provided by a number of Fort Wayne’s many food trucks, Pryor said, and Rudy’s will have a cigar-smoking area set up. Local bands will represent. Given how much it’s growing, Pryor said, a move to Headwaters Park East is probably inevitable. For a local festival, that’s like being called up to the majors.

Steve Penhollow







all for One productions

New Season, New Digs

For its 2015-16 season, all for One Productions will have a new home. Having started small as a traveling theater troupe, all for One is used to moving about. Most recently they called the Allen County Public Library theater home. While it was a good home, the vision of the troupe grew larger than what the space could provide. When an opportunity arose for them to move into the PPG ArtsLab in the Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Artistic director, Lauren Nichols, was thrilled. “When I was growing up here in the 1970s, Larry Life was doing all his studio shows in Kettler Hall. I didn’t know it was called Black Box [Theater], but I knew how exciting it was that every time you went the stage looked different [and] was in a different part of the room. There was an extra energy because of that factor, and we get to do that now. Fort Wayne audiences haven’t had that experience in quite a long time.” What part of moving is Nichols most excited about? Lighting! The move “allows us to do multiple-level sets we never could before. In the theater we used at the library, we had to have movable sets that we would bring in, and they could not be fixed to the floor. We had to be careful not to damage the flooring there. Now we can build secure structures right on the stage, configure it to what we need and use lighting in ways we never could before. We can do visual effects we could never do before. We are very excited. A whole new world has opened up for us.” Nichols went on to add that the new location itself was a breath of fresh air. Having spent so much time hidden away in the basement of the library, moving to the Auer Center was like an awakening. “ The night Around the World in 80 Days opened there was an Artlink gallery opening, the ballet was rehearsing upstairs and the Pembroke Bakery was humming. I’m exited to be right in the heart of the arts community. I’m excited to bring our audiences in and to give them that experience.” Producing four shows again this season, each one will stretch the imagination and use the fullest extent of the facilities. First up will be a world premiere musical called Bend Us. Other shows include Just So Stories, Turtle Soup and Jane Eyre. Families coming this year will not only laugh and be entertained, but will learn, reflect and even be introduced to one of the classical greats in literature. The theater experience this year is designed to bring afO’s audiences face-to-face with the actors and being intimate enough that audiences will feel part of the production. Several productions will have attendees actually crossing the stage itself in order to reach their seats, a far cry different from their previous stage home with its traditional staging. “Our first three shows will be three different configurations, and this just excites me,” Nichols said. “It may not be a big thing, but I really think our audiences are going to enjoy that added feature of wondering how we are going to stage things.” This season’s line up has been chosen carefully in order to make the best use of this kind of extra personal experience. Bend Us, a musical by local writer, musician and pastor Dave Frincke, will have its world premiere September 18-27. “Bend Us is a full musical, but not a traditional musical in the Broadway sense,” Nichols explained. “It’s a musical with contemporary music by Frincke, mostly in which characters express internal dialog mixed with historical hymns of the day.” It’s a truly captivating story told through the eyes of a young girl on the verge of womanhood and swept up in a monumental wave of spiritual renewal. The cast is so changed in the course of the production that Nichols says audiences will feel it from their seats. The musical focuses on a series of events that change an entire culture, leading to a revival in Wales. It spreads like wild fire through the countryside, even moving swiftly across the ocean. The set will allow audiences to not simply peer inside a home, or a church, but a mineshaft, its vast dangers and everywhere in between. This play will give audiences a chance to be swept away to Wales and back in time. While it is rated G, middle schoolers to adults will appreciate it best. Just So Stories will run from November 13-22 and is Joseph Robinette’s adaption of five charming Rudyard Kipling tales. An area premiere, the show is specifically designed for the youngest of audience members and is a perfect show to introduce kids to the world of theater. With a cast of all children, this show will not only inspire the budding theatergoers, but will bring out the kid in everyone. They’ll be especially excited as they enter a magical world, walking through special doorways and across the set as they reach their seats. They will join Elsie, who is in need of serious distraction while her parents are traveling abroad, in a creative wait. Her father wrote some stories for her, and to pass the time, she decides to act out father’s lively and imaginative scenes, all leading to a surprise twist ending. With a fast pace, quick costume changes and a chance to guess what character is coming up next, this show is perfect for the whole family to come see together. Next up is Turtle Soup, running February 19-28. Local playwright Michael Wilhelm premiered his hilarious and shockingly entirely true play about the origin of Churubusco’s Turtle Days back in 2011. In his fun look at a local tradition, we see through comedic proof that truth is much stranger than fiction. All for One’s new staging ability and style, mixed with an assortment of skeleton sets and the use illusion to create multiple locations across a large stage area will bring excitement to it. You will want to bring the whole family over to gain some laughs along with a rib-tickling history lesson that will make you want to take a drive through our neighboring town on your next Sunday drive. The final show of afO’s season is another special one. Jane Eyre, April 29-May 8, is the world premiere for Nichols’ adaptation of one of the most cherished and highly regarded British novels in literature. Taking an unusual approach to the storytelling style, Nichols’ play will treat audiences to flashbacks and theatrical effects to bring the classic tale to life and is a perfect way to introduce a new generation to Charlotte Bronte’s classic and to see Jane Eyre in a new light. While many may know this story well, this fresh approach should keep audiences hopping the whole way through. This play is more suited for those in the PG range due to the subject matter, but it’s a great family play for those with older children. Be sure to mark your calendar today for these dates. You wont want to miss a single show. It’s going to be an exciting year.

Christi Campbell







Escanaba in Da Moonlight

Fun with Yooperisms

Jeff Daniels: half of the title duo in the comedy classic Dumb & Dumber, Emmy-winning star of HBO’s provocative The Newsroom, author of First Presbyterian’s Escanaba in da Moonlight. Wait. What? That’s right! The actor you also know from roles in Pleasantville, 101 Dalmatians, Terms of Endearment and more also wrote FPT’s latest comedy. Daniels is practically our neighbor, residing north in his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan where he is the founder and artistic director of The Purple Rose Theatre (taking its name from his Woody Allen film, The Purple Rose of Cairo). Over the years, Daniels has authored several plays for his theater, including an entire Escanaba trilogy; but the first, Escanaba in da Moonlight, is the one Daniels says “just won’t die,” with multiple long runs at the Purple Rose, countless productions across the country and a 2001 film that has become a cult hit complete with drinking games and costumed viewing parties. Set in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the opening day of deer season 1989, the play finds Reuben Soady with one last chance to avoid going into the record book as the oldest Soady in family history never to bag a buck. In writing a play about Michigan for a Midwestern audience, Daniels claims his intent was to attract people who had never been to his theater (or maybe any theater) before; and while I agree Escanaba is the perfect play to bring the outdoorsy, uninitiated, non-theatergoer in your life to, I think its appeal is as wide as the Mackinac Bridge is long. Beneath the Yooper dialects, the beer guzzling and all that flatulence (in a scene that rivals Blazing Saddles), these are recognizable people dealing with universal themes like tradition and father-son and brotherly “relationship stuff.” There is great heart beneath the bountiful humor. It’s becoming a bit of my own tradition to kick off the theater season at FPT, having directed The Fox on the Fairway and last fall’s The Foreigner. Just like the Soady’s annual pilgrimage to deer camp, it is a joy to spend time doing what I love with amazing friends and colleagues here. I’m especially pleased to populate Escanaba with familiar faces like Jim Nelson, Joel Grillo and Emily Arata (all returning from The Foreigner), Jim Matusik (who was in Fox), plus FPT favorite Jeff Moore and an appropriately named newcomer, Mason Hunter, as “da buckless Yooper.” If you’re looking for high art, Escanaba may not be the place to find it. But if you’re looking for fun and laughs, we’ve got plenty to spare in this hunting story to beat all hunting stories. As Daniels says, “It’s like Christmas – with guns.” Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 for patrons age 65-plus and free for full-time students with reservations. Box office hours are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and one hour prior to every performance. You can also buy tickets at www.firstpresbyteriantheater.com.

Christopher J. Murphy







Al Moll

The Man In Charge of Fun

With an eclectic resume which includes private businessman, corporate employee and a stint as Fort Wayne’s first deputy mayor in the Graham Richard administration, Al Moll was already deeply entrenched in the community by 2005. A Kansas native, Moll grew up in the Washington, D.C. area before moving to Fort Wayne in 1984. By the time he became deputy mayor, Moll was already interested in working for Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, but when a search commenced to find a new director, Moll chose to see where the national search led. When none of the candidates quite filled the bill, Moll decided to throw his hat into the ring and, as a result, has now been director for 10 years. In that decade, Moll has tapped into his varied professional experiences to bring solid leadership to Fort Wayne Parks & Rec, a department which is not only among the most respected in the city but also the most beloved. Each neighborhood has its own parks, and every citizen seems to be attached to their favorite, most likely the one they frequented growing up or the one where they had their wedding or took their children. It’s a public trust that Moll takes very seriously.   “Of all the things I’ve done professionally over the years, this is by far the most rewarding. It’s a great opportunity, and I feel blessed and honored to have it. There’s an incredible amount of support in this community which treasures its park system. We have both seasoned and young staff members who are all so energetic. Everybody wants to work for the parks system because we love seeing the fruits of our labors.” That staff includes over 100 full-time, year-round employees, plus an additional 40 to 50 which provide seasonal support. In the summer, those numbers grow to 400 more who help run 1,500 programs to serve the community. Having just celebrated the department’s 110th anniversary with a community party at Headwaters Park, Moll says that support from not only the mayor’s administration, but from the citizens of Fort Wayne makes the continued growth and expansion possible. “Some people don’t realize that Headwaters Park and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are part of Fort Wayne Parks & Rec. We let the Zoological Society run the zoo, and I know enough to just stay out of Jim Anderson’s way because they do a great job there. But they’re part of our system, and they’re an example of how, while we’re a government entity, most of our programs are self-sustaining. We also have a Park Foundation which has set up endowments for some of our parks. Freimann Square, for example, is completely endowed, so all the money to maintain it comes from that endowment. Headwaters Park, the Courthouse Green and Lakeside also have endowments.” Recent upgrades to McMillan Park, with a new community center which repurposes the old ice rink, has provided basketball, soccer and technology programs, all designed to fill a void and serve the underserved in our community. A new playground at Kreager Park, which includes a splash pad, is “Disney-like” in its offerings, says Moll. He also notes that Foster Park is considered “The People’s Park,” one of the crowning jewels in the city. “We try to maintain the parks and offer programs that get kids outside to enjoy nature,” says Moll. “It’s a little harder to do these days, but we know it’s better for their health if they have reasons to go outside. We try to keep our programs reasonably priced which attracts more people, but these programs have a strong tradition in this community.” One of the biggest changes to the parks system during Moll’s era has been the explosive growth of the Foellinger Theatre in the last several years. From the time he took the position as director, he saw the theatre’s potential and sought to do something about it. “I really drove that expansion. When I took the job in 2005, there were 10 to 15 free events in the theatre each year, and attendance at those was next to nothing. It was a great place to have free movies and free concerts, and we still offer all of that. But sometime around 2006 or 2007, we booked the Grass Roots to play and charged maybe $10 admission. Maybe not even that. “We were just looking to see what would happen if we had concerts in there, and the show sold out. So we started bringing in more acts like Grand Funk Railroad and some cover bands. Hotel California has been coming here every year and will be back again next year for its seventh consecutive time. Each year when they come they draw a bigger crowd.” As the concert schedule at Foellinger continued to grow, Moll decided to take a chance and book a band who cost a little more, whose ticket price was a little higher, just to see what might be possible. “Our turning point in 2012 was when we brought in Huey Lewis & the News. We’d already had some big names come in – we’d had groups like Three Dog Night the year before – but we took a chance with some bigger, more expensive names, and the risk paid off. So the following year, we brought in Chicago, America, Little River Band, Kansas, and pretty soon, promoters were contacting us, trying to book shows here. “Now we’re working with Pacific Coast Concerts, and we have some of the biggest lineups ever. When our summer series is announced, it’s a big community event. This past year we crashed the city’s website because as soon as the tickets went on sale, there was such a high volume trying to register on the site.” Aiming for the baby boomers, and now looking to the next generations, Moll has perfectly targeted the audience for the summer concerts, and ticket and concession revenues not only pay for the show but provide additional monies for upgrades to the theater, which has recently included a new rigging system and a likely upgrade of an already elaborate sound system. Recent renovations to the stage, which no longer includes a cover to a defunct orchestra pit, allowed for additional seating closer to the stage. “We sought input from the bands that played here, and they wanted less distance between them and the audience,” says Moll. “So now we have additional seats, which provide more revenue and allow for the bands and the audiences to be closer. The bands that play here tell other bands what a great experience they have, and that helps spread the word. Mike Love of the Beach Boys said what a great experience they had in Fort Wayne last year, which is why they came back again this year. He’s been all over the world, and he has great things to say about playing at the Foellinger.” Although 2015 has been a mixed bag – Moll says the success of the concert series built him up while flooding and fallen trees brought him back down to earth – he is happy with the growth he’s seen during his tenure and looks forward to continuing in the role. “Although budgets are strained at times, we’re still able to take care of the community, and these concerts are the icing on the cake. It’s great when people come up and say you’re doing a great job, but it’s really about so much more than me. It’s a pleasure serving the public and serving this park system.”

Michele DeVinney







Anna Lee Huber

Historical Sleuthing

Anna Lee Huber thought for many years she wanted to be a singer. A native of Hicksville, Ohio, she grew up dreaming rock star dreams, and in college she majored in music and psychology. It wasn’t until years later that she rediscovered one of her first loves – writing – and good thing she did, because now Huber, who resides in Fort Wayne with her husband and daughter, can add “best-selling author” to her already impressive list of accomplishments. Huber is the author of the Lady Darby mysteries, a four-book strong series set in 19th century Edinburgh. The books – The Anatomist’s Wife, Mortal Arts, A Grave Matter and the latest, A Study in Death, which hit shelves July 7 – follow the adventures of Lady Kiera Darby, a talented portrait painter turned reluctant homicide investigator whose short-lived and unhappy marriage to an anatomist makes her a much sought-after crime scene expert. Huber decided to write the Lady Darby series partially to please herself. A fan of historical fiction, she wanted to immerse her readers in a world different from their own. “All the elements in my book are the kinds of things I gravitate toward as a reader,” she said in a recent phone interview. “I love history and romance. They say ‘write what you love.’ These are things I love, they’re the things that get my imagination going.” She also wanted to create the kind of character she would love to follow. Unlike the female protagonists of many mystery stories, Kiera Darby is not a social darling. Instead, she is shy and retiring, and it’s her expertise, not her infectious charm, that makes her an essential part of the investigations that form the backbone of the books. “There are so many mysteries out there about female detectives whose charm is what sets them apart. Those are great,” Huber said, “but I wanted to do something different. Lady Darby is awkward in society, she’s shy and retiring and doesn’t enjoy the spotlight, but her skills make her so valuable.” Choosing the setting and time period that would prove the perfect backdrop for Lady Darby’s life required a bit more research, another passion of Huber’s. Knowing that she wanted Lady Darby to be a portrait artist, she started digging into the history of the discipline of anatomy and came across material on the Burke and Hare Trial. The case, which scandalized 1820s Scotland, concerned two Irishmen – William Burke and William Hare – who murdered men on the streets of Edinburgh for the purpose of selling the cadavers to Dr. Robert Knox, a renowned anatomy lecturer. “The time period was a no-brainer,” Huber said. “There was a lot of political turmoil, and just a couple years after the trial a number of reform acts were passed, including the Anatomy Act which changed the way medical schools dealt cadavers obtained for research purposes. The early 1830s inhabits this neat little cusp in history, after the crazy body-snatching period and before the reform.” Huber clearly did her homework before she sat down to write her first Lady Darby mystery, but what she couldn’t have prepared for was the critical and popular reception of her work. The Anatomist’s Wife made her a nationally best-selling writer and the three Lady Darby books that followed solidified her reputation as a mystery writer to watch. And, of course, read. “I feel really, blessed,” she said of her success. “It’s a dream come true excitement kind of feeling.” Huber’s dreams have changed a bit since she was a young girl growing up in Hicksville with four brothers and a sister and fantasizing about life as a pop star or even a celebrated soprano. But even back then, she was an avid reader and reading fed her love of writing. “At one point I thought I should try writing stories of my own,” she said. “I was always making them up in my head, so it was a natural progression to start writing them down. I loved creating my own worlds. I even made up my own Nancy Drew-type series.” Only time will tell whether Lady Kiera Darby joins Nancy Drew in the pantheon of female detectives that have become household names, but in the meantime Huber is hard at work writing the next part of Darby’s story. Over the course of the four-book series, Kiera Darby and a fellow investigator, Sebastian Gage, have fallen deeply in love and are now engaged. A novella, entitled A Pressing Engagement, is slated to come out May 17, and the fifth full book, As Death Draws Near, should hit shelves next July. Huber’s goal as a writer is to entertain, and she also wants her readers to identify with her characters, to find them life-like and relatable. In particular, she hopes Lady Darby’s story of triumph over adversity – Kiera’s husband, the anatomist, was an abusive brute – will strike a chord. “Everyone has their own darkness, their own shadows to move past,” Huber said. “Lady Darby’s story is a journey from a period of darkness to one of strength and happiness. I hope the books give other people the encouragement to do the same thing.” The life of a writer is not an easy one; rejection and poverty and periods of darkness and shadows are all part of a writer’s life. Huber’s advice to aspiring writers is simple: read a lot and keep writing. “Read what you want to write. Examine how they’re doing it, discover the tricks of the trade, but really just keep writing. The best way to write is to write and write and write and write. Find that voice that is uniquely yours and use it.”

Deborah Kennedy







BC Fuzzz

Familiar Songs You Won't Recgonize

Being a musician boils down to two basic skills: knowing what to play and knowing when to play it. Implicit in the first, of course, is knowing how to play what to play. And getting the second thing right means knowing how to count in ways non-musicians don’t understand, so that when the when arrives you’re already there playing. Or stopping playing. For musicians who mostly play cover tunes, the what and the when of the playing are pretty much already settled. There are variations in phrasing and tempo and chord structure and instrumentation that can alter a song ever so subtly, but for the most part, cover bands stick to the song the way it was written, and the people listening are happy because they recognize the song (Hey! That’s “Sugar Mountain!”) and the people playing are happy because the people listening are happy. Everybody’s happy. Everybody might also be a little bored. But so what? That’s not to say any of this is easy. Or always tedious. Very good bands build very good reputations playing other bands’ songs. A good version of “Sugar Mountain” or “Straight, No Chaser” generally warrants another round. Which brings me to BC Fuzzz. BC Fuzzz are ostensibly a three-piece cover band. They play songs by a variety of popular artists from a variety of genres sprinkled with some originals like a lot of cover bands. But there the similarity ends. BC Fuzzz – Dan Mihuc, guitar and vocals, Bryan Nellums, drums and Tim Beeler or Marco Franco, bass, depending on who’s available – take tunes and run them through an atom smasher, then reassemble them in some sort of improvisation machine. The result is music that makes you lean forward. Forget online brain workouts. BC Fuzzz will open parts of our brain you never knew were there. “If we’re going to do cover songs, we want them to be ours,’ Mihuc said. “We change the tunes, the chord progressions. Don Henley has this song ‘Boys of Summer’; we do it like an R&B folk tune. I really dig that. The whole approach to the band is to draw the audience into what we are doing. Some of the lyrics will be familiar, but the music and the groove and the approach [are] different. I guess that’s how I try to suck people in. It think it’s a good formula. People come up to me after the show and say I can’t believe that was that song.” Most people know Beeler and Mihuc from their previous work – Beeler as a member of Fawn Liebowitz and a score of other bands and session work, and Mihuc through the Freak Brothers and his solo stuff. Nellums is relatively new on the scene. He worked with Voices of Unity on their triumphant world tours and did brief stints with the Afro-Disiacs and Elephants in Mud. Franco may not be as familiar a name in these parts as his home state of Michigan, but his reputation is huge. Mihuc says playing with these guys is a guitar player’s dream. “Tim is one of the most sought-after bass players in town. He’s played with everybody, like all the Sweetwater stuff that’s going on. Any time Sweetwater has a clinic, he gets the call. He’s just a certified bad ass. And then I’m so lucky, Marco is my No. 2 guy. He’s absolutely fantastic. He toured the world with blues acts for probably 15 years. “Nellums hasn’t really done too much for any length of time. He was just getting established on the scene in 2011, and everyone knew who he was instantly. When we were doing those open mic jams, everybody was like, okay, I want you to play with my band. Everyone was trying to snatch him up. I was lucky.” BC Fuzzz came together during those open jam sessions hosted by Dave Pagan at the now defunct Mid City Grill. Pagan called Beeler and Nellums, and then Mihuc came on board. They were the backup band for anyone who wanted to play. They would jam whenever no one claimed the stage. After doing this awhile, a thought popped into Mihuc’s head. “I was like, ‘Guys, we need to do a trio, and we’ll call it BC Fuzzz.’” Since then BC Fuzzz have started a buzz. I first caught wind of the band a few years ago while sitting at the bar at The Venue (formerly Skip’s) in Angola. A guy I know who knows Mihuc said something was brewing with Mihuc and Beeler. Earlier this year The Venue reignited the legendary Wednesday night blues gigs and had BC Fuzzz as regulars the first three months. Mihuc is choosy about where the band will play. It has to be the right crowd, the right place. They have four gigs in the next two months, August 22, September 19 and October 17 at Club Soda and August 28 at Nick’s Martini & Wine Bar. “Basically we only play just a couple places around town,” he said. “Club Soda primarily, Nick’s. We played Ribfest and a couple openings for bars around town. We don’t do a whole lot of regular gigging at regular bars. The 10 to 2 thing kind of left me a few years ago. I get to pick and choose the gigs that I want to play. I’m very careful about that. I only want to play the best spots.” And the best spots deserve the best music. BC Fuzzz challenge themselves and the audience. For Mihuc, any song is on the table. “I’m fearless,” he said. “I don’t care. We try to keep each other off balance. We play a Bruno Mars pop tune. Some guys are like, ‘I’m not playing a Britney Spears tune.’ But if the chords are good and you put the time in to put a twist on it and make it your own and it’s interesting, then I think any song is approachable.”  

Mark Hunter







Catablu

Still a Fine Dining Favorite

I am ashamed to admit that, until recently, I hadn’t visited Catablu since it moved to its new location in Covington Plaza years ago, even though it was my go-to special occasions dining establishment for many years. I loved its former location in an old theater on Broadway and just couldn’t bring myself to make the trek to the southwest side of town. Over the past few months, I’ve visited a few times for lunch and dinner and have been extremely impressed. The new location, with outside seating available and its dressed up menu, exceeded my expectations. Inside, the ambiance is upscale and cozy, with a huge horseshoe shaped bar as the dining room’s main focal point. The outdoor patio is quaint and comfortable, even though it’s simply an extension of the sidewalk that runs in front of the shops at Covington Plaza. The staff is friendly and helpful; they always answer my extremely obnoxious questions about the menu with patience. Catablu features rotating daily specials like slow-roasted tuna steak with frisee salad, green beans, oranges and an orange sherry vinaigrette; and flatbread with rosemary-smoked chicken, caramelized onions and goat cheese and topped with arugula and fresh grapes, then finished with a drizzle of truffle oil, for example. The drink menu at Catablu is a lot of fun too. I tried the Angry Ginger which features Domaine De Canton Ginger Liquer, apple cider, Captain Morgan Rum and lime for $10. It was the perfect cocktail for a summer dinner on the outdoor patio. Here are some of my favorites from the menu. Fried Brussels Sprouts ($8) – Served with bacon and miso glaze. This prepared dish was not what I was expecting. The miso glaze translated more as a barbecue sauce than a glaze, but the flavor was outstanding. I shared this appetizer with my dinner companion, and we were fighting over the last sprout. I liked this dish so well, I tried to replicate it at home to no avail. That miso glaze/barbeque sauce holds some magical secrets. Smoked Duck Flatbread ($12) – Catablu offers several flatbread options which are great for sharing. My favorite from the list is the Smoked Duck, served with fresh spinach, cilantro sour cream, roasted mushrooms (I asked for mine without due to allergies) and balsamic vinaigrette. The flavor combinations in this dish are so unique, I have a hard time comparing it to anything. The smoky flavor from the duck goes well with the punch from the cilantro sour cream and balsamic vinaigrette. It is definitely a must-try for adventurous eaters. Kale Salad (small $5, large $11) – Kale is all the rage right now and can be found on most upscale restaurant menus in many forms. The Kale Salad at Catablu was light and fresh, kicking off the meal just right. It is served with romaine, peppers, smoked cheddar, sweet corn, sunflower seeds and buttermilk vinaigrette. I dare say it is the best Kale Salad I’ve had. Grilled Pork Chop ($24) – Served with a blackberry glaze, broccolini, cherry wood bacon, fingerling potatoes and smoked onion rings. I don’t typically order pork at a restaurant. Heck, I don’t typically prepare pork at home. It’s a difficult meat to cook just right without getting too dry. This pork chop is the best pork chop I’ve ever consumed, and I made sure to send that message with our waiter to the chef. Perfectly cooked and juicy, the savory pork chop was complemented well by the sweet blackberry glaze. The broccolini and fingerling potatoes were scrumptious too, but the real star of this dish is the smoked onion rings. With just a slight smoked flavor, the onion rings paired with the sweet from the blackberry glaze on the pork chop resulted in a taste that is out of this world. Really, I went on and on and made such a ruckus about this delicious dish that other tables started to gawk at me. Grilled Filet Mignon (6 oz. $23, 8 oz. $28, larger cuts available $3 per oz.) – Filet served with roasted garlic Parmesan smashed potatoes, asparagus and red wine veal jus. There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about this filet: no hidden special ingredient. It simply stands alone in its perfection. Cooked to medium rare, the filet was a mouthwatering, extremely tender piece of meat which was boosted by the simplicity of the sides with which it was served. Lobster Mac ’n’ Cheese ($29) – Orzo pasta, sweet peas, black truffles, lobster and mascarpone cheese. Don’t let the price tag deter you from ordering this dish. It is worth it. Though a bit rich, this is absolutely a must-try. It is decadent, rich and oh so good. I even scraped the large bowl with my fork to make sure I consumed every last bit of cheesy goodness. While I haven’t ordered a burger from Catablu yet, I have dined with several who have, and they had rave reviews. As an added bonus, you can add a fried egg to any burger for $1.50. While dining on the outdoor patio, I saw many people enjoying a casual dinner of upscale burgers and fries. Here are the two currently featured on the menu. Grass Fed American Kobe Burger ($18) – Served with grilled peach, ancho honey glaze, goat cheese, wheat bun and hand cut fries. BBQ Ranch Burger ($13) – All natural beef patty, apple smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, Tabasco onion rings, ranch dressing and BBQ sauce, served with hand cut fries. Whether you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion or simply enjoy a casual dinner with friends on the patio, Catablu has you covered. Its innovative menu, with regularly rotating specials, gets an A-plus in my book. I can’t wait for the next special occasion to roll around so I have an excuse to visit again.

Amber Foster







Emily Arata

The Center of Attention

Emily Arata says that she was a sensitive, talkative child who had an opinion about everything and liked to be the center of attention. She also claims that not much has changed. “I was always interested in performing,” she says. “I used to act out the books my mom read me using props and costumes. I studied with the Fort Wayne Ballet until sixth grade and had the coveted role of Party Child in The Nutcracker.” She also recalls coercing her family into annual Thanksgiving puppet shows (“heinously long, plotless and violent”) that she would produce, direct and star in. Performing was almost inevitable for Arata, who comes from an enormously creative family. Her grandmother and several great aunts were involved with the Fort Wayne Ballet. Her mother is a visual artist specializing in “really tiny things.” Her father is a karaoke standout (“His ‘Mustang Sally’ is glorious”). Her younger brother Sean is “freakishly musically talented, both instrumentally and vocally, and is a very natural actor.” She also has a number of cousins who sing, act and play in bands. While many performers cite their high school or college theater experiences as instigating their love for performing, Arata was inspired by her kindergarten. “Weisser Park really made it happen for me,” she says. “There were, and are, so many opportunities there for kids to perform and express themselves artistically. I wanted it all. I took dance, piano, band, choir, everything they had. I ate it all up. I will never be able to express how thankful I am that I was able to go through that program.” As easily as performing comes to her, she does not feel the same about auditions. “I have always been the worst auditioner,” she says emphatically. “My first audition was for The Music Man at Memorial Park in the sixth grade. I sang ‘76 Trombones’ with a weird, fake slide in my voice. So gross. So bad. [Director] Kirby Volz didn’t cast me until a later show, when I discovered how to sing like a normal person.” She earned her first theater role when she was cast as Lucille in No, No, Nanette during her eighth grade year. “I loved it,” she recalls. “I got to wear cool dresses. I had a solo, and my voice cracked in the middle of my song. [But] it was great.” She went to Indiana University in Bloomington, initially studying criminal justice with a theater minor. She soon switched to elementary education, which didn’t allow for a minor, but she continued to take theater classes as electives. Her first community theater production was Where’s Charley? at IPFW under the direction of Larry Life. “I didn’t have many lines but it was a great experience,” she says. “Larry just terrified me, but I felt so lucky to be working with him that it was okay.” As she grew, she became enamored with the professional-level acting and musical talent of the Fort Wayne community. “I still freak out when I meet people,” she says. “They think I’m joking, but to me, it’s like getting to hang out with celebrities.” She cites several experiences meeting such talents as Abby Ehinger, Gary Lanier, and Christopher J. Murphy, who cast her in a show with some of her other idols, Jim Nelson, Rosy Ridenour and Jim Matusik. “Murphy still makes fun of me about how much I was acting like a creepy fan,” she says. “I can’t believe I get to work with these people. I can’t believe these people are my friends.” Despite her feelings of intimidation, Arata has garnered accolades for a variety of noteworthy roles, including Jenny in the Arena Dinner Theatre production of Company and Marcy Park in the Civic Theatre production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The latter role was a particular challenge, as Arata was called upon to “do a cartwheel, twirl a baton, play trombone, do karate and even to do the splits – which I unfortunately could not do,” she says. An even bigger challenge was to interact with audience members in a surly fashion. “I had to be really mean to random audience members every night,” she says. “I caught up with some of them in the green room and apologized later.” The empathy she felt for the audience members translates to her acting. “I think if you have empathy for your character,” she says, “you can understand how and why they react like they do.” The other key to acting, she says, is to study and learn from other actors. “Jim Nelson is the king of facial expressions and holding the exact right time for laughs,” she says. “Joel Grillo is so good at body language on stage. Emilie Henry’s got these big, expressive eyes and this amazing, maniacal laugh. Clare Ramel is totally fearless on stage. In every show I do, I try to pick up something like that from someone and then use it in my acting.” She says that if she were to be typecast, she would most prefer to be “the hilarious sidekick. Less pressure than being the lead, and usually more laughs,” she says. “That’s my jam.” Her current leading role as Meredith Parker in Arena Dinner Theatre’s production of Bat Boy: The Musical does not exactly fill that niche. But she isn’t complaining. “I love this role,” she says. “I play the wife of a veterinarian who has been taking care of a bat boy that some kids found in a cave. She really takes to the boy, but not everyone feels the same.” Arata has enjoyed the challenge. “It’s the biggest role I’ve ever had, by far,” she says. “The music is hard, and [Meredith] goes through a lot of emotions in the show.” She is also proud of the production itself. “We’re doing things that haven’t been done in Fort Wayne,” she says. “We’re pushing boundaries, and we might offend some people. We’ve all worked together to find the humor in this really dark script. Audiences have responded very well to it. It’s been amazing.” As soon as the Bat Boy run ends, Arata will return to work as a teacher at Weisser Park, the fine arts magnet that fostered her love of performing. This fall she will start a new position there as the drama teacher, and she is looking forward to teaching and inspiring a whole new generation of performers. She is replacing Bruce Hancock, who is also taking a new position as the fine arts liaison this year. “Bruce is one of the most eloquent, kind, brilliant people I’ve ever met,” she says, “and he is an enormously difficult act to follow.” Fortunately, she says, he has agreed to mentor her as she learns the ropes. Her love and respect for theater education are a great start, however. “Theatre is the great equalizer,” she says. “It teaches you to empathize. It teaches you to speak in front of people and not be scared. It teaches you discipline. It lets you just be who you are and hang out with people who are different from you, because they’re busy being who they are. Kids need that. Our society needs that. I get to teach kids to have more kindness, creativity, diversity, and self-confidence all at the same time. How could a job be better than that?”

Jen Poiry-Prough







Nina Bennett

Auburn’s Expression Maker

Nina Bennett is an artist who has the Midas touch. Whatever she is involved in vibrates with the energy of art. Her creative mind expands far beyond her own two hands and has helped to build a foundation of artistic representation in the city of Auburn. Bennett has helped develop several community art projects, including the annual Downtown Business Association’s paint the (fill-in-the-blank) project. One year it was park benches while another year yielded garden gates. Summer 2015 brings small rocking chairs scattered downtown. Most are charming decorations. Bennett’s, of course, has a unique twist. Her chair makes music. When it rocks back and forth, gravity takes hold and makes the cymbal clang. “I don’t just paint things,” she says. “I want to incorporate a lot of the arts in my projects. I want to get people thinking. People come in and ask me about it [the chair]. I love it because it’s interactive.” Bennett has also spearheaded other public art projects, her most recent being the winter yarn-bombing during which volunteers wrapped barren trees with knitted yarn. The practice is common in urban areas, but not so much in a small-town. The effect in Auburn was whimsical, as if the trees were bundled up for the cold winter wind. “We’re such a small community and we think small,” says Bennett. “I’m always pushing the line. I want to figure it [art] out too and I want people to expand what art is.” Bennett is an artist who experiments with ink, watercolor and mixed media. Actually, she’s open to trying just about anything, including taking the plunge into starting her own gallery. Expressions Gallery was her first adventure and was a small gallery and frame shop that held the work of local artists. “My first purpose was to find an art studio where I could work. During that process I really wanted to provide a space where artists could show year round, so they wouldn’t have to do the festivals.” Toward that end, Bennett began collecting work from artists she knew. “There were also people who lived just a few blocks away who had full-time careers but also made art, art that is really good,” she recalls. The gallery filled up and it seemed everything was complete. Even with her own space, Bennett dreamed of something bigger, something that could make a real impact on the community. When she found out an antique store was closing, her creative juices started to percolate. Through a long, drawn out series of events involving financing, ownership and development, Bennett finally came into a position where she could move her dream from concept to concrete. Working with contractors and the owner of the building, Bennett was able to design the space and direct the construction of the interior of the building at 106 West 6th Street. It was completed in less than six months. A dream that had once been plugging and slogging along suddenly lurched forward at full speed. The result is the Auburn Atrium Marketplace. The Marketplace is set up to house a collection of vendors. Walk in and you can’t help but look up at the high ceilings and windows that allow buckets of daylight to pour into the space. Surrounding the upper level is a wide balcony, wide enough to give an artist space to create. Bennett is determined to fill the upper level with working artist studios, a feature never thought possible in Auburn. Downstairs visitors are greeted by an absolutely delightful stationary shop, The Paper Gourmet. Just beyond is a small bookstore run completely by donation and volunteers working to earn revenue to support the Dekalb Humane Shelter. The jewel of the market is Bennett’s gallery and framing shop. Tucked in between the oil paintings and pottery, you will find samples of Bennett’s own work. With such a bright personality, one may be surprised by the edge that much of her work reflects. One particular ink drawing is oozing with raw emotion. The piece shows series of figures that flow from a cowering form to stretching upward toward the heavens. Networks of bold and hair-like lines seem to tangle around the figure bringing across a feeling of struggle and strength. While her watercolor and ink drawings are powerful, Bennett is ready to take a turn with her work. “I want to take a step beyond and move into mixed media. You get bored if you stay within. It took me a long time to figure out that I love design. I got to design this building,” says Bennett. “It goes along with the insanity.” Bennett is at a place where she feels comfortable with her own work. She is ready to make art for art’s sake rather than let the sales numbers drive her vision. “I want to make art that is a step beyond. I don’t want to make art because I think someone is going to buy it. I want to make art that someone is going to love. I want to be happy with it and then it is okay.” Just as with her smaller space, Bennett is looking for work of other artists who are brave enough to step beyond. She is drawn to work that is unique to add to her eclectic collection at the gallery. Bennett plans to keep the momentum moving forward. She has plans for pop-up stores to fill the space over the Labor Day festivities. She would also love to see a group of artists start a co-op within the space. Bennett is an optimist. “I believe that Auburn can support the arts more now that it could 10 years ago when I first started my business,” she says. “In those 10 years we’ve had the Seward Johnson statues twice and a public art project each year since. This is just another character of Auburn that has popped out.” Bennett is a visionary and a pioneer who has bolted along, fostering the art scene in a small town. Thanks to her, Auburn can enjoy a taste of art that is unique to this area. Bennett summed it up best when she said, “There are a lot of really cool things that can be done if you go out into the world with your mind open.” The community should be thankful that this open-minded artist calls Auburn, home.

Heather Miller








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