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
  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 15-minutes.png A change at Evans

    OTTUMWA — You can get kids to memorize facts. But teaching them to think can take more time. Educational leaders told the Ottumwa school board that the school year that begins 2014 will shift Evans Middle School students from 45-minute periods to 60-

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Agriculture Day color photo 2 -T -L -M Cardinal students celebrate Ag Day ELDON — Sometimes the best way to learn is to get out of the classroom and come face-to-face with things that you might not see every day. Students at Cardinal Elementary School got that chance Thursday during Ag Day. Every year, the Cardinal FFA and

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418 OTT Five Things logo -T -L -M Five things to do in southeast Iowa this weekend OTTUMWA — It's a weekend of Easter celebrations, historic events and educational opportunities in southeast Iowa. Many people are gathered together this weekend, and the surrounding communities have scheduled events perfect for the whole family. 1. S

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Joe Tafta color photo -L -T -M Pursuing opportunities

    OTTUMWA — Joe Tafta follows the rules. The Simpson College junior hopes to be a U.S. marshal one day, so he’s careful about what he says and does. But not always. On the afternoon of April 1, Tafta says, he nearly got booted out of Dunn Library for m

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT OEDC director -T Guiding our growth

    OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Earth day color photo 1 -T -M Cargill celebrates Earth Day by educating ALBIA — In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, employees from Cargill Eddyville and Cargill Pork are visiting with students at Grant Elementary and Lincoln Center in Albia all this week. On Wednesday the Courier caught up with them as they went

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0417 OTT Saving Center color photo -T -L -M Hedrick building has friends HEDRICK — The community wants a civic center, and they've been willing to work for it. "I'd say we have 15 to 25 volunteers each time," Tommy Smith of Hedrick said. "These are all good people." Smith was volunteering his services at the Easter Brunch

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Iowa farmers preparing for planting OTTUMWA — Even though the winter seemed to linger like Iowa was going through an ice age and cold and wet weather has highlighted the early spring, farmers are starting to get out to their fields to put down fertilizer and get fields ready for planti

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition