There are many passages for me this month. From my birthday to completing the Fringe and to marking the first anniversary of my husband Jim's burial at Arlington National Cemetery on August 1, 2012. Is it just a year - not a lifetime ago? I recorded this story to mark the anniversary. As I say in the story - it marks the closing of one chapter and the opening of another. Thanks to those who have been with me on this journey this year.


Pausing to Review and Savor the Stories

Ellouise Schoettler
As the 2013 Capital Fringe is closing down I want to take a look a this year and my storytelling journey with the Fringe. Looking things over this way helps me to keep on track with my work.

This is my fourth year performing a one-woman show with the Fringe.  I have three not four shows, because last year when I was a recent widow, I chose to repeat Pushing Boundaries, a favorite show of mine rather than dive into developing a new program.

I have been happy to be a part of this year's Fringe with a new solo show even though its had its ups and downs.  When I chose to return with another one-person show I knew there would be special challenges.

 I was back in the same venue, The Goethe Institut, which I really like because the Mainstage is perfect for storytelling. Being familiar with the staff and site was comforting on a year when the personal content was emotional and stressful. For anyone that might not know, August 1 is the one year anniversary of my husband's burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Jim's burial was the impetus for the story and is my heart for it but not the full focus of the story.

The story is drawn from my time at Arlington as a part of my personal journey during this past year of bereavement. Surprisingly it moves from being a widow's tale as it turns into a story with universal reach when it embraces the stories and presence of the recent casualties and their family members who visit them.

Some might not consider that it had a successful run because the audiences were sometimes painfully small but I expected that. The card featured my picture of a caisson with Jim's casket on it - and you were invited to a cemetery. However - the people who came loved the show. Many had a personal connections to Arlington and others just wanted to know more about it.  And - - the thoughtful stellar reviews are the treasure.

I am booking it now and will be telling the story November 20th at the Women's Military Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery as an observance of Veterans' Day.
Women's Military Memorial

I really like the long-form one person story. It gives the storyteller a chance to deeply explore a story by creating an aesthetic arc and using it as you model the story. As a visual artist, I have been a collagist for 30 years, assembling bits into a whole. I work the long form story the same way.  A true long form story is not an assembling of a handful of short stories to fill a longer time slot. It is crafted and threaded into a cohesive, smooth whole. There are many challenges and changes during the creative process.

I worked on My Forever Home from the idea in August 2012 through the final telling at the Fringe in this July. Over that time I told the story in workshops, house concerts, and public programs in three states to practice and hone the story. Even so I found myself making tweaking changes during each of the five Fringe performances - changes that refined and polished it for my ears. I love this dynamic aspect of storytelling.

As I look at the run of the Fringe this year I am also reviewing the past two one person shows for what I have learned in the process.

In 2010 my solo fringe show, Pushing Boundaries,  was a grant-funded work based on my one-woman's journey through the 1970s Women's Movement. I explored the story of how I morphed from a traditional housewife to a national activist for the Equal Rights Amendment. I was passionate about the issues of those days and becoming involved in the early 70s changed my life just as the defeat of the  ERA broke my heart.

Through my involvement I met some well-known political figures and entertainment celebrities and incredible men and women who were trying to make a difference. I walked a road I would never have known if I had not been a part of the campaign. Truthfully I enjoyed sifting those memories to craft a story that would be relevant to a wider audience and I loved telling my foot note to women's history.

The story sparked memories from women who were also a part of the campaign and I hope prompted them to share their stories with their families, especially the young women in their world.

I was invited to tell Pushing Boundaries last Spring for the South Carolina League of Women Voters State Meeting. It it was such a pleasure to share it with comrades-at-arms, especially talented and determined women who continue to fight the fight for equal rights for women and for all in their state. This story brings me opportunities to remember the energy and excitement of the 1970s and to touch base with those who still have that same commitment and have passed it to broaden the base.

In 2011 I presented a show, Finding Gus, for which I wove together three of my long-time passions: genealogy, family history, and  personal experience  - into a tightly knit story. The heart of the story is finding my mother's father who died when she was eighteen months old. My grandmother's grief was so intense that she silenced his story and he was lost to our family.

Fortunately through genealogy research I discovered his last living sibling alive in South Carolina. She was in her late 80s but mentally sharp with a fabulous memory and wonderful stories of her older brother. He was an early (1904-05) football player for Clemson University and NC State Univ. when it was NC A and M. His story involves the legendary John Heisman.

While I only knew Gus by his name-stone in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, his SC family had kept his memory alive as a family folk-hero.  And, they welcomed me into their fold as Gus' Grand-daughter.

I told Finding Gus at the Anderson Library, Anderson, SC, his home area last April. I will be telling it again in November in Alexandria along with a "Telling Your Family Stories" workshop.

Also presenting the "Telling Your Family Stories" at the National Family Historians annual national conference in November.

Summary: In looking at the three stories I can see that I have grown as a storyteller through the challenging creative process.

  • Pushing Boundaries, although filled with national content, was largely a longer personal and "eye-witness to history" story. 
  • Finding Gus broadened the focus by using three sources for material and also including personal interviews. The story engages the viewer with ideas for finding a "lost" relative of their on.
  • Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home builds on both the other two stories. Initially it was a widow's tale touched by "Our Town", but matured to include touching real and true stories of the recent casualies of Afghanistan and Iraq and their families as well as observations of the daily "life" and everyday business of Arlington. I now understand the importance of Arlington as a place of remembering and like to think that touches on the Africa Folktale that reminds us: "no one is truly dead as long as they are remembered."
I am already thinking of two possibilities for a new one-woman show for the 2014 Fringe. I am only certain of one thing - - it is going to be FUNNY!



Winding Up July


Winding up.

One more Fringe show this Friday - and then WHEW. My Fringe Run of Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home is completed for this year.
It has been miserably hot in downtown DC - which led me to discover the NEW peach green tea lemonade at Starbucks and IMO it is delicious. AND, glad the Starbucks is on the corner a block from the Goethe Institut where I am performing.

Everything has been going well so I was not prepared for a SNAFU.
Sunday after my show I tripped in the lobby of the Goethe Institut. 

SPLAT.  I fell flat - took the brunt of the fall on my right knee which is now swollen and sore.  Scared everybody in the crowded reception room - the sight of a white haired woman dropping down on the floor spread eagle flat - especially one who has just completed a show about her waiting grave - well you can imagine. It caused a stir.

The Goethe guys were so helpful - one went next door to bring my son Jimmy in- which scared him quite a bit. The guy who has a show of his own about PTSD - which I had attended the other night - stayed to help. That was very sweet. It was all drama!  Drama I could have done without  - - 
especially the
bruised and sore knee I have today. I hope it is nothing. but most of all I am grateful it was not worse.

After Friday I am taking the month of August off - well almost. I will be going to the National Storytelling Network Conference in RIchmond for a few days to see people and pick up an Award. I have been honored with the 2013 ORACLE AWARD - Regional for the Mid-Atlantic States - for Service and Leadership for Storytelling. I appreciate it..... and look forward to being there to share the stage with the others who are being honored.

Then back to the real world - housework, budgets and home repairs. Until September when I will be back at work as a storyteller.


Attention Being Paid

As I read about other Capital Fringe shows "selling out" I feel painful jealous twinges and want to whine about it.

The truth is I expected coming into the Capital Fringe this year that I would have small audiences .... and I have. After-all my subject is Arlington National Cemetery and directly or obliquely the presence of death in the world.

So that is why I was so grateful for a note this morning that reminds me why I am telling this story. I received an email from a wise and dear friend who was in the audience yesterday and her words touch me with healing.  She understands and puts into words what I set out to do -

"I really was so glad that I saw the show.  You did a great job.  I know that discussing  death is very difficult not only for you personally, but as a subject that most of us avoid.  You showed warmth and compassion for not only your story, but for those others who share the space.  As the wife of Willy Loman says in "Death of a Salesman"  "Attention must be paid." "

My southern childhood was a bit haunted. It included Sunday afternoons at the cemetery and stories to keep their memories alive. I grew up feeling that I knew so many I would never see. Genealogy re-enforced that when I searched for forgotten family members. Many of my family stories are about those I never knew but who live in my imagination.

August 1st is the first anniversary of my husband's burial at Arlington. National Cemetery.  In some traditions they place the tombstone on the one year anniversary.  Jim already has his tombstone, placed by Arlington last February. I am telling this story for myself  - as a private marker for this year anniversary - his anniversary is not part of the story.

Nov. 2011 - Gretchen's 50th birthday
I will continue to tell the story - not just for Jim and our daughter who was buried at Arlington 47 years ago - but for the other neighbors of my Forever Home I am learning about and their family members I have met this year and will continue to meet. Hopefully this story will comfort those who chose to hear it.
I am reminded of the African folktale which gives us the wisdom that "no person is truly dead as long as they are remembered."

My friend is so right in reminding me and anyone else, "Attention must be paid."

For me Arlington National Cemetery, and every other cemetery, are places of " attention and remembering"
where the living
can take moments to "Pay Attention." even if it means acknowledging that we too will take our place there one day.



If you are in the DC Metro Area I hope you will come for see My Forever Home at the Capital Fringe. Three more shows closing.

I hope these reviewers will persuade you that it is a MUST SEE show.


DC Metro Theater Arts - reviewer Leslie Weisman
Favorite Quote: "she closes a show ostensibly about death and loss on a note of life and hope."

DC Theater Scene - reviewer Kate Mattingly
Favorite Quote: Schoettler's stories ... "speak to the transformative power of rituals in any person's life."

MD Theater Guide - Reviewer Elliot Lanes
Favorite Quote: "this is one show that must be on your must see list."

dc Broadway World  - reviewer Jennifer Perry
"Schoettler's story transcends her own familial lines."

"it's poignant and well, pretty darn perfect."






DC Metro Theater Arts - reviewer Leslie Weisman
Favorite Quote: "she closes a show ostensibly about death and loss on a note of life and hope."

DC Theater Scene - reviewer Kate Mattingly
Favorite Quote: Schoettler's stories ... "speak to the transformative power of rituals in any person's life."

MD Theater Guide - Reviewer Elliot Lanes
Favorite Quote: "this is one show that must be on your must see list."

dc Broadway World  - reviewer Jennifer Perry
"it's poignant and well, pretty darn perfect."
"Schoettler's story transcends her own familial lines."



My Story - A Quick Outline

Ellouise Diggle - -
Born Charlotte, NC
July 14, 1936

THE MIDDLE  - which starts in 1955 when I met Jim Schoettler
Married Jim Schoettler December 30, 1955 - 50th Anniversary

START OF THE MIDDLE -  which lasted  more than five decades and is filled with many wonderful days and weeks and months and years - for which I am very grateful.

THEN COMES: THE END OF THE MIDDLE - to mark this change I am telling this story at the Capital Fringe.

July 14, 2013 - is  another birthday - my 77th - I start a NEW STORY.


The WHY of My Story.

Tonight my new show Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home opens its Capital Fringe Run at the Goethe Institut.

This is my fourth year at the Fringe and in this very venue. I am glad to be back with both. The Goethe is comfortable and deliciously air-conditioned. The air-conditioning is a major blessing in Washington in the summer. We are having the relentless heat and so it feels good in there.

This year I am trying something new for me. The Mainstage is a screening room so I have a selection of slides I have taken at Arlington over the past year running in a slide show as people are seating themselves. Those images not for the story itself but to establish the place of Arlington. Many people will know the place; many will never have been there but perhaps come because they are curious

Maybe they are asking themselves: "why is this woman telling a story about a cemetery?"

Good question!

Whether we want to think about it or not - the cemetery is a universal destination. It is an in-common setting for a story. Arlington is that and so much more. It is a place founded in revenge during the Civil War which has emerged as a National Shrine to Honor and Service and to Heroism.  It is also a place for families.

Arlington is a place of Remembering. It echoes the traditional folktale that says: "No one is truly dead as long as they are remembered."

For a year I have collected stories of the people buried there, the people who visit them, and the people who work at Arlington. I will be buried with my husband at Arlington and I am checking out the neighborhood before I move in.

This story is a growing collection of stories. It changes under my feet every time I go there because I talk to someone new, or see something I have not see before, or notice something that I missed earlier.

Arlington is a very beautiful as well as being a very busy sacred place.

Come and hear the story and then visit Arlington with a different perspective.

Is the Fringe the right place for this Story? I have no idea. It is a risk certainly - but Fringes are places where you put the a risky story out to a difference audience - and I like to take chances.


Where are the battery cables?

Two more days until my OPENING show at the Capital Fringe.

I am excited - but not in the same way that I used to be.
I have done this before -
This is my fourth year at the Fringe.

Jim is not here to share it with - and I miss him.
He not only helped me - we enjoyed Fringing.

This is another part of getting used to my new life -

For a year developing the Arlington Story has been "my job" and focusing on that has helped me to stay on track and get "back together" - if that is possible. And now - the newness and intensity of it is winding down.

There are other things looming on the horizon - and that's good.

*  an art show with a group at American University in August
*  storytelling gigs in September, October and November
*  a couple of storytelling trips
*  plans for the annual storytelling pig-out in Tennessee
*  continuing the monthly storytelling series and my TV shows
*  facing up to my new life and where that is going

All this coincides with my birthday next week.

So you could stay I am at a perfect juncture to re-start my life.
Its sort of like tottering at the edge of a cliff.

Now, if I could just find a Workbook to help me get started.

Or better yet - a set of battery cables.


Computing on Computers

Facebook has blocked me out because I forgot my password. When I asked to change it FB responded that it would be 24 hours before I could get back on. I don't understand that but that's how it is. All this started when I was hacked 6 weeks ago. To recover from the "hacking" I had to change all my passwords - and I do mean all. Passwoods that had become second nature over time - were now gone. And, I admit, in a few cases I could not regroup with the new ones. Forgot to write them down as I made them up and then they were lost too. I was recovering from all that - until the Fourth of July at our house in PA. This computer went beserk. Did not connect with the familiar network in that house and then things just went from bad to worse. Yesterday an Apple Genius fixed it by installing a new battery. He explained that my MAC's clock had gone off. It had messed up the system. I understood that. I understand what its like when your clock goes off. So, now its supposed to be fine. I was relieved. The fix was easy and cheap. Except for the Facebook situation. I am still blocked off: still unconnected. Why am I even bothering with this. Why not just accept the situation and move on. There are plenty of other things for me to do around here - from rehearsing my Fringe show to folding the laundry. But I am unsettled - without my Facebook FIX during the day. I have come to rely on FB as a diversion everyday - as a way to feel connected in my life that has become so unconnected without Jim's presence. Damn! As a way to feel busy without doing the painful things that need doing like clearing out the everyday reminders of another life. DAMN! Grief at work again! But maybe its a good thing that I can see it. So, I guess that is why I am bothering to blather about it.


Pre-Fringe Days

The past few days my MAC has been acting up - like it had a mind of its own - and it would not do anything I wanted it to. Bad timing. This week-end I had a heavy list of computer work to do to support my Fringe show which opens in 5 days. So first thing this morning I had an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Bethesda Apple store. AND, he was a genius. Instead of costing me a fortune he repaired for $129 - the cost of a new battery. So far so good.

Now, I am focusing on rehearsing the story. I record versions I have told on my iPod and then those tellings become my scripts to work from. With my Boise head phones I can work anywhere. I love them!
And all this effort is aimed toward the Goethe Institut next Thursday. If you are in the DC Metro area I hope you are ready to buy your tickets: http://bit.ly/14GSTrm


Fourth of July in Two Time Zones

This is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. This week-end the town was caught between two worlds as 15,000 re-enactors encamped to re-create those bloody battles on the grounds of a large farm near our get-away cottage. 

I was sitting at the computer early on the Fourth when I heard the hoof steps on the road. When I rushed outside to see them - it was not the 3 or 4 I expected - it was an "advance" of mounted and armed Union Cavalry riding by on their way to the "war." .
A great PHOTO OP at home.

Things stopped and lucky folks who happened by waited patiently while the PAST marched in review.
We all agreed - - - ENJOY the convergence of two realities when history comes to life in your back yard.


Capital Fringe Opens in 5 Days

The 7th Annual Capital Fringe Performing Arts Festival opens July 11.

Have you ever dipped into the wide and exciting array of acts and performances offered during the three weeks of the Fringe. Its a rich and varied menu from storytelling, musicals, drama and comedy.
There is something for everybody. Check it out. 

I love the fringe and try to see as many difference performances as I can work in. When this feast opens up  - I gorge myself.

This will be my fourth year presenting a one-person show. Call is storytelling or spoken word. Its what I do - and I particularly like performing on the Capital Fringe Bill.

Let me tell you about my show, Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home. I hope you will check it out and then I hope you will BUY A TICKET
and come to see the show.