Diamond Jubilee - a continuing pilgrimmage

With all my focus on the Fringe I want to wrap up the month with a few other highlights in I do not want to over-look.  They are also part of my Diamond Jubilee.

I have been talking about my Diamond Jubilee - otherwise known as my 75th birthday, since January - celebrating it at every turn  by telling stories or going somewhere that has been important during those years. So when July 14 finally arrived it almost slid by without notice.

Since Jim and I were flying to Charlotte on an early flight next morning for the Toe River Storytelling Festival - there was only time for a small cake with our local family. Daughter Karen explained that they put on only five candles to save me from starting a fire with the whole 75. The cake was delicious and they

included my all-time favorite ice cream - butter pecan.

Next morning Jim and I flew to Charlotte - my home town which felt appropriate - picked up a car and drove to the mountains for the Storytelling Festival.
Ellouise, Donna Washignton, Sherry Lovett

Told stories with wonderful storytellers.
Right: me with Donna Washington and Sherry Lovett.

Below - me with Mitch Capel.

I hadn't worked with them before so it was a joy to hear their wonderful stories.
Even though is was a drizzling day the audience was steady all day and very appreciative of all our stories. Their kind of listening brought the best from the storytellers.
When the invitation came to tell at Toe River I was excited by the timing - 2 days after my birthday - as it put me on hoe ground telling my stories. Sherry Lovett introduced me as"southern, seventy-five and sassy" and folks welcomed me with open arms. I told stories connected to my childhood and the audience loved them.

Spruce Pine isa charming small town in the mountains. People are warm and friendly. Toe River Storytelling Festival is a lovely festival which does not seem as well-known as it should be.

The tent was close to a train track so we had the music of the passing trains often all day. How can you beat that for storytelling atmosphere?
   Pat and Jerry drove up from Charlotte "to hear you." What a sweet surprise. Jerry and I have history. He and I met at Piedmont Jr. High School. And graduated from Central High School in the same class. Delightful to share stories and visit.
Jim - my favorite listener.

We had a delightful week-end break from the Fringe - lunch with a medical school classmate of Jim's on the way to Spruce Pine. A stay at The Richmond Inn - the Spruce Pine B and B - a place with personality, delightful people, excellent breakfasts, and a wonderfully warm and welcoming owner.
I recommend it if you are in the area. 
Jim and I would be happy to go back.

 My Diamond Jubilee has been partly pilgrimmage, partly sentimental journey. It is like gathering scraps for a feeply personal quilt. So I could not come through Charlotte without touching base with a few important places and special memories:

Holy Angels Nursery - founded by the Sisters of Mercy at Sacred Heart in Belmont, NC, a home for "special" babies and children where our daughter Gretchen lived for several years before her death.
Its an important place and another story.

This building was formerly Sacred Heart Academy, Belmont, NC. - a boarding school under the rule of the The Sisters of Mercy  - which my grandmother and a few aunts attended - and where my sister Lynda and I boarded during WWII.  A number of  my childhood stories take place here.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church was on the road to Hickory. We stopped here so that I could water my Irish Catholic roots. Many of my Lonergans are buried in the church yard - among them James Lonergan, my 3-great grandfather - and his father, John, my 4 great grandfather. They came together from Tipperary with all the family in 1837.

These Lonergans are on my list for stories. I have told about them before but not in a very long time and I have some new ideas, learned from Finding Gus about how to put it together differently.
On our way back we had enough time in Charlotte to stop at Elmwood Cemetary to thank my grandfather Gus Keasler for his story.

The week-end was important - a wrapping up and a new beginning - isn't that how it is with pilgrimmages - you start the journey as one person and return as another.  So, more will be revealed.


Winding up the 2011 Capital Fringe

During the 2011 Capital Fringe I had five performances for Finding Gus - my new one woman show drawn from my family history.

Gus Keasler is my grandfather, a mythical figure, who died when my mother was 15 months old. The story is a quest which blends genealogy and storytelling. Storyteller Nancy Donoval worked with me to shape the story.

The day after the Fringe closed - when I was really tired. I wrote this to a friend:

"Glad the Fringe is done actually - the heat, and other stuff. Small audiences were really hard - but -- they gave me the freedom to stay in the process and keep working on the story until Sunday - when I felt like I had tweaked it into its best form. I liked using the teeny tiny touches of theater - the glasses and table set-up.Just enough to help define the space - and separate two of the characters. Could tell without them - but loved trying this as "something new"
Jim and I saw 10 other shows. I stuck with all the one-person (male and female) shows. Made it a seminar in the form since  I seem to be most interested in the long form story right now. IT was too good an opportunity to pass up - and I learned quite a bit -" 

Now, a week later I can be a bit more reflective:

Finding Gus is a story that is a bit off as a usual fringe show. I knew using it would be a challenge ... And it was. I faced smallish audiences which was difficult but turned out to be an unexpected advantage in that I felt freer to experiment with altering the show. 

I was pleased with the shape of the story when Fringe opened but as happens ..telling it brought insights for how the story could be sharpened and improved. The story changed each time I told it..and by the end of the run Finding Gus was completely tweaked. I added a couple of "theater" touches and changed the opening and the ending. For me, this year the fringe run was total process.

There was angst over the small audiences. There was the artisitic freedom to experiment. There were  benefits. People who mattered to me saw the show: family, storytellers, friends and reviewers. They laughed and cried as they heard the story. Wow. So I know the story was worthy and I am telling it well.  Four wonderful reviews such as THIS re-enforced my belief in the story and in myself

The Fringe environment abounds with challenges and opportunities. Meeting new people is obvious. Along with the chance to see many varied performances .. some traditional, some experimental in a short period of time. Unlike a storytelling festival the shows are primarily theater-based. During this fringe, since I am focusing on the one-person long form story, Jim and I saw 10 one person shows -- ranging from very theatrically staged to humorous storytelling. I used the Fringe as an intense master-class --- and I learned a lot. 

Fringing is also hard work. Artists are responsible for their own marketing and advertising. This is doubly difficult if you are coming in from out of town. One of the most successsful out of town marketing efforts I saw this year was for "Alice "... A  professionally staged theatrical one-person show from Florida (I believe). The audiences who filled a large theater space did not look like usual fringe patrons. The "Alice" folks did an impressive job of contacting and attracting an older segment of local theater goers  - people who would be interested in a show about President Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth. 

Times of performances are also a major factor. I ended up with three 6PM slots on work-days, another at 2:15 PM on Saturday and 4 PM on  Sunday. The saturday and sunday were fine but those three 6 o'clocks were killers - for someone like me who was marketing to a local suburban audience with a show that would appeal to an older audience. Hindsight is a good teacher . I cannot imagine I was the only show pinched by timing. Once I gave up the idea of getting larger groups in - I began to see how it freed me in developing the show - even if that did make the Fringe an expensive rehersal hall.

The heat in DC is July is a killer and this year it bore down with a venegeance. Fortunately I was assigned to an air-conditioned venue. Jim and I attended one show that was in a hot box and if Kimleigh Smith's show T O T A L L Y  had not been the exciting, fabulous show it is - we would have melted - sitting there for an hour. Fortunately the other one-person shows I wanted to see were in cool spots.

In summing up:
I am glad I was part of the Fringe this year...built on what I learned last year and will be reviewing this year's experiences as I prepare to fringe again.


My Diamond Jubilee Day - 7/14/2011

Ellouise Keasler Diggle Schoettler
Born in Charlotte, NC

First child of Louie Keasler and Robert Diggle, Sr.

How do you get from there to HERE?

I know for sure it takes 75 years - 
and there are many stories.

I have been telling some of those stories to prepare myself for this birthday-
I revisited Charlotte and told stories at the Elizabeth School where I started the First Grade
during WWII.

I brought my grandfather Gus Keasler back to his family when I went to Anderson, SC, his birth area, met a larger segment of the Keasler family and discovered even more about Gus. Now I am telling his story as Finding Gus aka My Diamond Jubilee for my children and anyone else that wants to listen in the Capital Fringe in Washngton, DC. 

I am proud of him. He died young, only had one child, my mother, and was a mystery to his descendants. Gus was a football hero in the days when the game was rough and life-threatening. He played on college scholarships and graduated from NC A & M now NC State University in 1910. Descended from a Revolutionary War patriot he was the first to graduate from college and his degree made him the "hope" of his younger brothers and sisters.

For the next year I will be developing a story of a couple who immigrated to the East Coast - an idealistic young man from the West and a naive young woman from the South -who met, fell in love, married and have been together for 56 years - - living in times of major changes in the world.
Now who could that be??

I feel strongly that we owe it to ourselves to discover who we come from - to find out about our roots - and then we owe it to our children to tell our stories - to give them clues as to the people that they come from - -  "in our own words."



Hard to believe that its been a week since I wrote something on the blog. Wow. That's really a change for me -
and what that means is that I have been BUSY - Fringing. Telling my program
Finding Gus at the DC Capital Fringe.

Its not over. I have this week off at the Fringe - to go to tell stories at the Toe River Storytelling Festival in NC and then I will be back here with three more performances of Finding Gus aka My Diamond Jubilee.

There have been great moments and then plunges into pits. Somedays I have felt like I was working on a new workshop "How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot while Fringing" - mix-ups with the name of the show - my fault.  And other similar bloopers.

But such good stuff too:

A House Concert the week before the Fringe - with good listeners and their feed-back.

Trying a NEW show and knowing that its working - even though there will be tweaks and changes.

On-line Examiner
DC Theatre Scene
Maryland Theatre Guide

And - as always - Jim is there: supporting, encouraging, carting and lifting and this time - as em-cee.

Along with family and friends. It takes a whole lot of folks to do these shows.

The 2011 Fringe is rich with a wide variety of shows and I am seeing as many as I can work in.
Jim and I have seen a bunch of good shows  - well-done, entertaining, hitting different notes and using a range of approaches. Fringe is such a great opportunity to see rich performance pieces.

Fringe makes a place for storytelling but the majority of programs are some variation of "theater" and I am really enjoying that. Pushing Boundaries last year was a 60 minute bio piece - that followed a story line. Gus is another one-woman show that is a 60 minute piece with the smaller story clips drawn together to make the whole for the story. I see each of these as vignettes or small chapters. And for the first time I have a teeny-tiny attempt at staging.

I am thinking, thinking, thinking. Enjoying walking the fine line between storytelling and theater.

We will see more shws when we get back from NC.

Then I can tell you about the ones I loved.


Summertime and Swimming

Summer is here. Days are hot now. There is a neighborhood swimming pool several blocks away on our street. Kids are flocking to the pool every day on bicycles or walking and Moms are pushing strollers, carriages, and holding hands with their toddlers. That's what you do in Summer, isn't it? Go Swimming.

Brings back memories of other lazy days of summer. So sharing this story - just as it was shown on Channel 16 in Montgomery County, Maryland earlier this year.

SWIMMING 1 from Ellouise Schoettler on Vimeo.


Grace of Days - Day One

Playing with the Hipstamatic App on my Cell Phone is FUN and the closest I have been to "making art" in months. I miss that - the making art.

So - - when you are lucky enough to find something to get you back in touch with making art -- and that is as simple and non-messy as this- Go For It.

I have always been like that actually - drawn to the new, shiny, and interesting. Easily diverted - until something really HITSs.

Like storytelling - total focus.

I love telling stories. I love listening to stories and congregating with storytellers and I am grateful for the interesting and wonderful people I have been lucky to meet these past years. But - yes another but, in some ways its narrowed my life - or at least my Facebook Friends look that way - they are mostly storytellers -

Now that's good. Knowing a lot of people in your profession - feeling warm and friendly to them - having people to commune with - its all GOOD.  BUT- as I work to call people to come see "Finding Gus" I find that this solo world has limited my ability to spread the word. Think about it - my colleagues are supportive and encouraging - but can't fill the seats - they have their own work to do.

Facebook does not touch all of my world, that's true. Why? Because a large segment of my acquaintances and friends do not use Facebook - in fact, they do not use a computer. They are intimidated by technology or shy away from Social Media. I am grateful to be so curious about technology. Drawn to like its a magnet. Its fascinating.

I know how lucky I am - to have grandsons who teach me and my daughter, Robin, a Social Media expert who got me started and steers me long the road.

The Internet is a chasm that separates generations leaving the older segment out of touch with large groups of younger colleagues and family members. When, like me, you are straddling the two worlds first you have to SEE the problem and then look for solutions. Right now, I am a bit short on solutions - but thinking more clearly about the issues.

Today is July 5   - 9 days until My Diamond Jubilee is no longer something coming up. It will be HERE - KABOOM.

Have not completely sorted out how I feel about that yet.

First though, I am grateful to BE here. Thank you God for the Grace of Days.


Happy Fourth of July, Working and new Fun.

Preview of the Fringe
Friday night - the hub-bub and noise of the Fringe Preview Party.
Outside in the sultry DC evening - hot and oppressive.
Meeting people - exchanging promo
cards - getting ready for the opening of the Capital Fringe Thursday July 7.
My show was not selected for a 5 minute preview on the Showcase Stage. I was disappointed but not surprised. Finding Gus is more conservative than the usual Fringe Show and I am not billing it as "funny". There are moments of humor - but it does not bring on fits of belly-shaking laughs. The show is heart-warming - about Love, Loss and Reunion. And about the search to find Gus' story.
Even if I do say so myself - its a wonderful story. And the surprise is the FOOTBALL history. Gus was a powerful and aggressive footballer for Clemson and then NC A&M (now NC State) in the days (circa 1904-10) when picking up a football on the field could be a deadly move.

Marketing Gus
I have worked at the marketing. Facebook, of course and Twitter, which is new for me  - - so I have a steep learning curve with Tweets. And then the usual stuff, press releases, calls - etc.  Storyteller Sue Black posted an interesting article on the WEB clearly outlining the trap of marketing to your own audience - i.e. storytellers to storytellers. Robin has told me that for months and I kind of understood it - but this time, I heard it. Probably because I am mired in it. Taking a hard look at what I am doing. May not be able to fix it for this show - but I will certainly change the approach I take - and try to share the info with others.

OLD GLORY flying for the Fourth.
That flag - "Old Glory" is flying in Gettysburg - a place where history and patriotism oozes from the bricks. God Bless is all - and our Liberty - and keep the troops safe. I am thinking of one young woman in particular.
Jim and Karen and I came to PA for the week-end. Its been a nice get-away - not that I haven't been working ---because I have. The computer goes everywhere. But it it deeply QUIET here. We never have hooked up a television cable. There is no news. WE have stepped outside the flow of noise and world angst. That in itself is a great gift.


Well where is the Fun?Its a new APP.

I read on Facebook that a great looking photo was done with a new App - Hipstamatic - - for iPods, iPhones and I assume iPads. I was too curious not to check out the Apple APP Store. Its cheap. $1.99 and fun. When you take the picture it replicates the look of the old Instamatic camera - anybody remember those. I think we still have a couple in a box in the closet.
To try it out I took a few random shots in our PA bedroom.

Yep - that really is the wall-paper. I couldn't believe it either when we bought this house but its grown on me. Maybe waiting for these photographs.




Well where is the Fun?Its a new APP.

I read on Facebook that a great looking photo was done with a new App - Hipstamatic - - for iPods, iPhones and I assume iPads.
Where have I been that I missed out on that?

I was too curious not to check out the Apple APP Store. Its cheap. $1.99 and fun. When you take the picture it replicates the look of the old Instamatic camera - anybody remember those. I think we still have a couple in a box in the closet.

To try it out I took a few random shots in our PA bedroom.

Yep - that really is the wall-paper. I couldn't believe it either when we bought this house but its grown on me. Maybe waiting for these photographs.


Taking a Plunge

Here I am a year ago
at the Capital Fringe.
Had just had surgery
and felt revived by the performing.

Introduced Pushing Boundaries.
and it went well and I have told the story since - college venues and at The Rogue Festival in Fresno, CA
So - here I am again.

My new show, Finding Gus, opens at the 2011 Capital Fringe in less than a week.
I am excited, scared and very busy.
Juggling the marketing, planning - etc
And I have decided to re-vamp the show.
Some timing issues I want to resolve a different way.

Lordy lordy - what am I thinking.
But I think it will be better for the story
and that's really what matters.

That's one of the particular challenges of a one-woman how
its not a string of separate stories - to be tinkered with individually
its a whole cloth.
Like a painting or collage
it has to be tightly woven together.

For me this is when I get the storytelling and the visual art really working together.

And - that's the FUN of it.
Maybe its crazy - I am taking a chance at this late date
however that brings me closer to working on the high wire that I do with collage and fabric
Fix it
Find the solution to make the composition work

For me - the process is the ART of the thing.