The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 16, 2013

Performing arts vital for communities

New festival coming to Wapello County, featuring three musical theater performances this summer

OTTUMWA — A new performing arts festival is coming to town this summer.

The American Gothic Performing Arts Festival, born from a board of directors and focus groups that started in 2011, is an education-based festival celebrating the performing arts, specifically musical theater.

Board president Dennis Willhoit — former director of music at St. Mary of the Visitation — said he and board secretary Miriam Kenning gathered the focus groups in 2011 to discuss the timing of this kind of event.

“We saw that really, things sort of slow down a bit in the performing arts calendar in the summer,” he said. “Also around July 4, there’s not a lot of activity going on in Ottumwa, it seems. It’s a good time to celebrate the performing arts.”

The focus of the festival began with musical theater but was eventually expanded to include all performing arts.

“As it grows we’d like to include a large variety of different performing arts opportunities and events people can attend, with the core of it being that little subscription series with one show in Eldon and the other two in Ottumwa,” he said.

So far, three performances have been secured in the festival’s “Come Fly With Us!” musical theater series:

• The series will open with performances of “Smoke on the Mountain” on June 7-9 at the McHaffey Opera House in Eldon.

• The main stage production will be “Peter Pan” on June 29 and July 4, 6-7 at Bridge View Center.

• “Go, Dog, Go!” will be performed by area high school students on July 2-3 and 5 at Bridge View Center.

The three shows currently planned are not the only events on the schedule, though, Willhoit said.

“We have some other events in the planning stages, which will be released as things are finalized,” he said.

Either this season or in future seasons, Willhoit said the board would like to invite indie bands, bluegrass and many other different styles of performing arts, as well as collaborating with area performing arts organizations.

“I think that performing arts are a reflection of the cultural life of a community, and with so many good resources in our immediate area and in the extended area, I think it’s vital for the quality of life,” Willhoit said.

It’s also a matter of creating destination events for tourism.

“We have some wonderful venues,” he said. “Bridge View is our crown jewel. It’s a new facility with a modern-equipped theater, so there’s lots of possibilities there.”

But he said there are several great outdoor venues, churches and synagogues as well that have outstanding acoustics. And there’s the McHaffey Opera House in Eldon, which is nearing the end of its restoration.

This summer’s performance will be the first live performance at the opera house in around 100 years, he said.

“They’ve worked so diligently on the bones and the skeleton,” Willhoit said of the committee that has worked for the last 18 years on restoring the 120-year-old opera house. “They’ve restored the structure of the building with a new roof, heating and cooling, made it handicapped accessible — all those things which are the really big-ticket items and take so much time and effort.”

And now that the seats have been installed, he said they can focus on the “prettier stuff,” such as restoring the paintings on the walls and other aesthetic qualities.

“We’re looking forward to being part of that and sharing box office receipts so they have some proceeds to help with their continued restoration and preservation,” he said. “I grew up in Wapello County and had never been in it until a couple months ago, and I think it’s just a gem.”

The festival will also include area youth, encouraging them to get involved in the arts.

“We want to have them involved in the production in Eldon, everything from the crew and house responsibilities to the cast,” he said.

Specifically for that performance, Willhoit said he’d like to reach out to the Cardinal school district since they’re so close.

But he said students from across Wapello County and other nearby districts will be urged to join in on the “Go, Dog, Go!” production. High school students will perform in that production since it’s aimed toward a younger audience.

“Peter Pan” will be the first time actors will “fly” at Bridge View Center, he said.

“It’s not every day you put actors in harnesses and swing them around the stage,” he said. “This idea of flying, whether it’s in ‘Peter Pan’ or some of the gospel tunes, lended itself to this idea that we’re taking flight on a new project.”

The show at the opera house was chosen for its style.

“It’s not your typical Broadway musical sound,” he said. “It’s a bluegrass, gospel-y sound,  and it captures the nostalgia of the opera house.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Ladies Night Out through downtown Ottumwa Friday OTTUMWA — Ladies, are you ready for a night on the town? Then grab your passport and head downtown Friday evening. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 28 downtown businesses will keep their doors open late for a special Ladies Night Out. Everyone will mee

    April 20, 2014

  • 0422 Eagle photo On a wing and a prayer

    LAKE RED ROCK — Protective gloves aren’t uncommon when dealing with a sick patient, though they’re not usually heavy, leather welder’s gloves. But, then, the patient usually doesn’t have toenails designed to puncture flesh. Or a sharp beak. Diane Mas

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0420 OTT Gothic house easter web-color photo American Gothic House celebrates Easter weekend Kids participate in an egg roll competition Saturday on the American Gothic House lawn in Eldon. Families were invited to come and participate in Easter-themed events and make crafts. They also had the opportunity to dress up and pose in front of the

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0422 OTT Egg hunt color photo -L On a roll this Easter ELDON — If you pulled up to the American Gothic House Center Saturday afternoon at moments before 1 p.m., you probably had to park halfway down the road. Cars filled the parking lot and spilled out onto the street as parents and kids from all over so

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ups and downs OTTUMWA — Iowa's governor and his lieutenant seemed thrilled with part of the employment news Friday. Gov. Terry Branstad's Twitter page said: "BREAKING: Iowa's employment reaches all-time high of 1,615,200." Iowa Workforce Development confirms the n

    April 18, 2014

  • Those who came before OTTUMWA — There is so much information on researching genealogy, beginners may not know where to start. But experts and knowledgeable amateurs will offer help as they gather for a free Family History Fair to share which websites are worthwhile and wh

    April 18, 2014

  • 0419 OTT Tree planting color photo -T -M -L Young Ottumwans show their green thumbs OTTUMWA — Several of Ottumwa’s cemeteries and parks were recipients of new trees this week as Ottumwa High School students and Eagle Scouts dedicated their time to planting dozens of trees around the city. Students from the OHS JROTC class were at Ot

    April 18, 2014 4 Photos

  • 0419 OTT Prayer Walk 2 bw photo -L -M -T On a journey OTTUMWA — The seven blocks through the center of Ottumwa took more than an hour and a half to walk as 25 people prayed and read Scripture to reflect on the events of Good Friday. Led by the Ottumwa Area Fellowship of Pastors, the walk began at First

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0419 OTT drought map -L -T -M Drought weakens grip on Iowa OTTUMWA — Last weekend saw the first significant rains in quite some time for the Ottumwa area. How long? The last day with at least a half-inch of rain was back on Nov. 20. It was a welcome rain, arriving after the ground had thawed. That allowed at

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eugene Clark STOCKPORT — Eugene Morris Clark, 90, of Stockport, died at 5:30 p.m. April 17, 2014, at Good Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ottumwa. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Spencer Cemetery northeast of Stockport; Pastor Richard

    April 18, 2014

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition