Thinking about World War One - 100 Yrs Ago

Today is the day the Great War began in Europe 100 years ago.

For a year I have been working on a new story to tell - THE HELLO GIRLS, so my head has been turned toward that period of time for months.  I have wondered why I have never heard much about WWI  before. Or did I just not pay attention beyond the high school read of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms.

Then a handful of years ago along came Missouri storyteller Mary Garrett who introduced me to author Jacqueline Winspear. Since Mary, an avid reader, a veritable gobbler of books, recommends great reads, I dove into Maisie Dobbs, the first novel in Winspear's series about a World War One battlefield nurse - a survivor. As long as Winspear continues to write about Maisie I will be right there with her book in my hand. Through Maisie Jacqueline Winspear brings the GREAT WAR, the times, and the human costs of war to life.

If you want to walk the battlefields of France and open yourself to understanding the lasting aftermaths and pain of WWI for Great Britain read Winspear's essay: Skylarks Above No Man's Land as I did this morning.

My grandmother's younger brother, Walter, died and is buried in France.
Only his mother ever visited his grave in  San Mihiel Cemetery overseas.
As does happen in families, by the time I was born 18 years later there was no mention of him. I have found out some things through research but there is no one left to tell me about Walter - the boy he was or the man he became.

Twenty years ago I bought a box of cast off papers and discovered a letter written by a young WWI wife yearning for her husband in France but that was about as far as I went. Until I accidentally learned that she and her husband are buried two blocks from my husband (and me eventually) in Arlington National Cemetery.

Maybe Grace Hotchkiss, the young woman of the letter, led me to The Hello Girls.

Maybe you have read the poems of British poet Rupert Brooke.

In her essay Winspear quotes these famous lines from his poem, The Soldier.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
Just wondering, 
Is that why today the military "leaves no one behind." 


Reviewing My Fringe History - Part One

I am busy getting ready for the 2014 Fringe which opens July 10.  I am very excited about my story this year!

The Hello Girls is a new story - little known history and its not a personal story - which for 25 years has been my particular interest. But this story, although not about me or my family, connects deeply with me personally and my feelings as a feminist. It takes me back to the days of my activism for the Equal Rights Amendment. I knew when I discovered the story that I wanted to tell it - to have the opportunity to bring their story to light.

This is my fifth time telling at the Capital Fringe.
Each year except one I conceived a new story and told it. Its hard work but I have loved it - and that is one of  the thing that brings me back.

On a personal note: July is my birthday month so the calendar flips another year during the Fringe.  I like being a bit older and being out  there working - - - creative juices flowing and telling stories.

The Fringe is not an end in itself for me. It is an excellent place to experiment with new stories which I then market out to other venues and travel with afterwards. For instance in August 2014 I will be performing my 2011 Fringe Show Finding Gus in Watkinsville, GA along with a day work-shop.

These days as I work on The Hello Girls I find myself thinking back over my history as a Fringe participant. Recalling the fun and vitality of being involved in a dynamic artistic community. The energy is palpable.

2010 was the first time I entered the Fringe. I had a memoir story I had wanted to tell for a long time.
I called the story "Pushing Boundaries" because it was my story of "morphing" from a 1950s housewife to an ERA activist of the 1970s.  That period took me through college as a returning older student, to political activism for women artists and then my first "real" job as ERA campaign director for the League of Women Voters of the United States.

It was an extremely exciting time of growth and change for me as it was for hundreds of women. My husband, Jim Schoettler supported all my activities and he encouraged me in telling this story and worked with me to produce it.

The reviews of Pushing Boundaries were positive.  That was were important to me because I came up through the women artists movement. In the 1970s we focused on seeing that our work was documented. The reviews provided excellent documentation and websites are an effective way to publish them widely.

All that worked together to convince me that I would be back to Fringe the following year - with a new story.(More later).


June - Full and well-storied.

June has been full. 

Anticipating THE HELLO GIRLS and the Capital Fringe. First show July 10 - - that's just 17 days from now. Tickets are on sale HERE 

So I have been juggling. Some days its hard to keep track as the lists grow despite my scratching items off and keeping at them 24/7.

So I am looking back to take stock - and to remember how doors opened to let me in where I have wanted to go for years.

My friend came for a visit and she and I went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for a sentimental journey. It was a sweet and wonderful time.  And I thought that would be that - but I was mistaken.

Kay was special guest at a dinner honoring her late husband and she invited me along. A dinner conversation with a surgeon who was interested in history and in storytelling has opened doors for me to talk to several very senior guys about a long-ago surgeon who was a "consequential stranger" in my life.  It is a story I have wanted to gather for 25 years but the stars never aligned for me to meet and talk with the right folks. It has been amazing networking - one conversation leads to two more and then more.  It is happening now and I am fascinated by the stories people are telling me. And by the rhythm of the hand-offs to more information.

I feel the story. I know I can get to the heart of it. But, whether its something I will bring to a stage, well I don't know. Even if I don't - gathering it is pure joy. I am feeling the old excitement that attracted me when I was working with genealogy - except this is not a genealogy story. And, I might not see the possibilities if I had not created The Hello Girls - which is a new departure in storytelling for me. I feel so fortunate. 

But more than my getting the story I am fascinated by the way these two men have kept the stories of earlier days alive by the telling of their stories - stories they know first hand and melded with those they have been told. Its been like a fire brigade - stories passed along a bit at a time. A man who was bigger than life during his lifetime could so easily have been forgotten if there were not a hand full of doctors who value the history and pass it along - even to a non-medical storyteller who asks questions. 

This reverence for the importance of history is part of the reason I have had such a strong affection for the Hopkins medical world since I landed here in 1954 as a wide-eyed eighteen year old. I would never have come to Hopkins if it had not been for the larger-than-life legend I am finding out about. That's worth a story, don't you think?



The 2014 Capital Fringe Box Office opened today!

Excitement is building!

July 10 is the opening night!



Several months ago I taped this Episode of Stories in Time. It is about The Hello Girls and why I want to tell their story. This seems like a good time to bring it out again.


Reveling in Stories on Stage

A RICH Sunday afternoon Reveling in theater. 

My long time friend Kaye is visiting from San Antonio and we are having fun reveling in memories and stories. Memories shared from 1954 when we both arrived for the same Class in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing up to today. We have new stories to tell each other and "fine-wine" stories to remind us of earlier fine days.

We headed downtown for an afternoon of excellent theater at Theater J - first we dipped into The Final Session - a last conversation between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis - which was superb. The beautiful set supposedly of Freud's London consultation room reminded me of the actual Freud apartment Jim and I visited in Vienna. The FINE acting and challenging conversation of the play draws you in.  At the end the audience stood to salute the actors and the play.

Then we saw The Prostate Diaglogues, our prinary reason for coming to Theater J. Jon Spelman's new one-man show is absolutely marvelous. Spelman commands the stage. This is the 3rd time I have seen it during its several year  development - first at a house concert in Baltimore and then at the opening in Baltimore when I wrote a review for DC Metro Theater Arts.  

The Prostate Dialogues has ripened. Spelman has tighted it and made it more deliciously funny without weakening any of the power of his story. Spelman is skilled in choosing just the right words to bring the story home. Jon is successfully walking a marvelous line to marry storytelling and theater (staging, lighting and use of sound) to en-trance the

Spelman set himself a daunting challenge when he set out to take his journey with cancer and turn it into a successful play - but he has done it! Don't miss it. 

Kaye and I stayed for the "Talk-back" afterwards - and the conversations promoted by the experience of the show were amazing in their revealing and sharing comments. Ari Roth, Artistic Director, joined the group. He commented on the power of talk back opportunities, especially when the performance opens controversial or emotional topics. All agreed - sitting in a circle of strangers  listening to the personal stories prompted by the play was indeed a rewarding finale. 

Kaye and I continued to talk about the performances and the talk-back through dinner. I imagine we will continue mulling it over -  especially as we visit Johns Hopkins Hospital on our sentimental journey this week. 

I know I will pull out a few of Jim's books by and about Freud as I think about The Last Session.

Kaye summer it up. "I love plays like this that make me think as well as entertain me."



F O R   I M M E D I A T E   R E L E A S E   
Contact:  Ellouise Schoettler  301-367-9323

THE HELLO GIRLS:  A Surprising WWI Story

Storyteller Ellouise Schoettler presents a One-Woman show
            as part of the 10th Annual Capital Fringe Festival  July 10-26, 2015

In 1918 war-torn France they answered calls from the Front with a familiar “Hello” so the US troops dubbed them – The Hello Girls.

“These gutsy women stepped up to serve their country at war and their story captures your heart,” says storyteller Ellouise Schoettler.

American women telephone operators, answering our country’s call to service in France during WWI, were key in winning Allied victories, only to return home unacknowledged and nearly forgotten … until now. This summer, at Cap Fringe 2014, you can meet them through their stories.

FIVE PERFORMANCES:    Brookland Artspace Lofts Studio
                                                  3305 8th Street NE  Washington, DC 20004

                           Friday,              July 10,  6:15 p.m.
                           Sunday,             July 12,  3:30 p.m.
                           Saturday,          July 18,  5:45 p.m.
                           Tuesday,            July 21,  6;15 p.m.
                           Sunday,             July 26,  12:15 p.m.
        Air-Conditioned Venue    Handicapped Access    Limited Seating
For Tickets & Passes:  capitalfringe.org or by calling 866-811-4111

About The Show:
The Hello Girls is the story of the “plucky” telephone operators who served with the US Army Signal Corps in France during WWI.  Using portable switchboards these American women worked near the battlefields and played a key role in wining Allied victories.  But, their story did not end with the war. Like many veterans today, they faced another battle on the “home front.”
 For more:  TheHelloGirls.net

Ellouise Schoettler is a Cap Fringe 5 Star performer returning for her 6th year. “When I learned about the Hello Girls I knew it was a story I had to tell.  Its not typical Fringe fare but my programs are usually the hidden gem every year. Audiences are consistently surprised by the power of storytelling.”

79-year-old professional storyteller Ellouise Schoettler is known for telling stories with heart and humor as well as for her support of women’s issues.
Based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, she performs nationwide and is featured on 2 MMCTV local cable shows.  She was a speaker for the 2013 TEDx Bethesda Women Special.  In September 2015 she will be an invited week-long Storyteller-In-Residence at the International Storytelling Theater in Jonesborough, TN. For more on her:  ellouiseschoettler.com


Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey

Gonna take a sentimental journey!

Next week.

Kay and I entered nurse's training at Johns Hopkins in the same class. It began in September, 1954.  She came from the middle of the country - Denver, Colorado and I had just arrived on a train from Charlotte, NC. We were 18 years old.

Before we each chose marriage and dropped out of training - we once lived on the same hall in rooms next to each which faced North Broadway. From the fourth floor rooms we looked directly at this building - the old, venerated original Hopkins Hospital. It is still there although dwarfed by soaring modern buildings that in some places are more glass than brick.

We both married Hopkins medical students - and our first apartments were a block and a half apart.
We lived in first floor apartments of small row houses that were in the shadow of the hospital. Our sons were born  six months apart- her's being the first of the two.

We have stayed close. We have a friendship that stays fresh even though the visits may be far apart.
We see each other, take a breath and start talking - as though we had just waved good-bye the day before.

All that to set the scene for my excitement. Kay arrives Saturday and she will be here almost a week.

Jim and I last saw Kay and Bob in San Antonio and then they came to hear the stories at the George West Storytelling Festival when I was telling a few there.  It was a sweet visit. Neither Jim nor Bob can be with us this visit -  but they will be much in our minds and in our conversations.

Next week Kay and I are going to Baltimore - for a two night stay. We will visit Hopkins Hospital - a stroll down memory lane - and more.. we are staying in a little known overnight housing for families of patients at the hospital which is a group of row houses on the streets, actually the blocks where we lived when we were first married. We will be staying about a block from where we lived. Once again we will be in sight of Hopkins Hospital.

I am a little nervous about stepping into what could be very emotional territory - however - who else could I possibly do it with?

We will be talking stories that we lived -when we were young and very much in love with the guys we married and made lives with for more than 50 years.

It is indeed a sentimental journey.


Harry Catchpole Remembers D-Day and tells us about it

June 6 this week, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the start of the defining battle in Europe of WWII. Washington reporter for Voice of Russia Andrew Hiller has a very special interview for D-Day.

Hiller's D-Day interview is with Harry Catchpole, an eye-witness American soldier, who in England days before Operation Overloard and in France for the battles that ensued. After being shipped to France from his job in England as a clerk on General Eisenhower's staff he was assigned to the Third Army under General George Patton.

Hiller's interview with Catchpole is a GEM  - - - not-to-be-missed. 

Today Harry Catchpole is 101 years old. And he vividly remembers 1944, D-Day - and the days after when he was in France.

He is a US Army veteran who crossed the beach at Normandy in the squishy footsteps of those who landed on June 6. Listen to him tell of having to walk between the "white lines" to avoid the mines on the beach the morning he landed in Normandy. Listening to the former Sergeant describe those days takes you right to the spot - right into that history.

Hiller's interview brings a moment in the past to life. 

Harry lives in Athens, GA where he and my sister Kathy McGill (mentioned in the audio) know each other well through the Univ. of Ga Catholic Center.  When I met Harry a year ago and heard him bring those days of 1944 to life I was totally mesmerized. I kept asking him questions - questions which were fueled by a need to grab the real story from someone who was there.

Listening to him I really understood the enormous importance of asking veterans for and listening to their stories. They have the history. They have the truth of the place. They have stories to tell, if they are willing, which we need to hear.

It is even more important to talk with the veterans in our families - to know their stories and to hear them tell us about their experiences. Many people tell me they wish they had asked. I wish I had asked my father more about his overseas service.

When I met Harry I was still working on my Arlington National Cemetary story. Hearing his stories ignited my interest in reaching out across for the breadth of stories at Arlington. I began wandering beyond Jim's and my spot - 7424 Roosevelt Drive.. into a new world.

This pursuit of veteran's stories has brought me now to The Hello Girls, the story I will be telling at the DC Capital Fringe in July in Washington, DC. They are gutsy women who stepped up and volunteered for military service when they were needed for WWI.

Their words make the story. Like Harry, they were there, but because they were women  - few heard their stories. I ask you, how fair is that?

Today listening to the audio tape of Andrew Hiller's conversation with Harry Catchpole I am so grateful Hiller captured him -

Now on D-Day we can all share this history -  on June 6 we can go to France with Harry,  And, thank them all for their Service.

Harry's comments about his recent visit to Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - about the loss of all those killed in WWII - brought me to tears. "What would the world have been like if their possible contributions had not been lost."

Why do we remember June 6? For the WIN - or to remember those who sacrificed their lives that day?


NEW VIDEO - interview with JON SPELMAN

Have you ever wondered if a story about cancer could make you laugh? Well if the storyteller is the amazing Jon Spelman and the story is The Prostate Dialogues - the answer is a resounding YES. In his new solo show, The Prostate Dialogues he takes you with him to an encounter with the feared C and you leave the story encouraged, educated and entertained. How's that for filling a huge order!

Several months ago Jon came to Channel 16 as a guest on Stories in Focus and we talked about his process in developing The Prostate Dialogues. Meet him as he talks about his work as a storyteller.

On a personal note: I have seen this show twice in other settings and I plan to see it during this run at Theater J. This is fine storytelling by a man who crafts absorbing and entertaining stories and who deserves the title "Master storyteller." This is not a show for men only - ladies be sure and see it - you will be glad you did - - why, you ask. Because its an evening of good theater.

The Prostate Dialgoues is playing through the month of June at Theater J in Washington, DC.

Information about the show at Theater J. I bet you can buy your tickets there as well. HERE