Tag Archives: USP

The Latest 12-6-2016

Wendy and I have been crazy busy with Union Street Players‘ holiday musical, The Christmas Post. It’s the third time Wendy has directed the show (2001, 2006, 2016) and for the second time I have suited up to play the comedic villain. Wendy, as anyone who knows her can imagine, is a very capable and organized director. She’s done great things with the show. This past weekend was the opening weekend and we saw increased attendance with each performance (225, 242, 289) which tells me that we’ve gotten good word-of-mouth in the community.  There are three more performances: tonight, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon.

It was great to have family down to see the show this past weekend. My folks came on Saturday, along with my sister, and brought with them a small crowd of old friends from Des Moines. Taylor came down on Sunday afternoon, as did Wendy’s family who made the trek from Ankeny. We’re so appreciative of family’s love and support. The one down-side is that we are so busy with the show that we don’t really get a chance to socialize with our visitors. We’re looking forward to hosting family on Christmas Day when we can relax and enjoy their good company.

For the past couple of weeks I have been feeling really run down. This isn’t unusual during a large production, but I have been feeling unusually run down. It hasn’t been like cold or flu, just feeling like the energy tank is constantly on empty. I was really struggling over the weekend. I slept 10 hours on Saturday night and woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I told Wendy that I felt like I had pneumonia. There’s only two times in my life that I can remember feeling so utterly depleted: when I had Pneumonia and when I had Mono.

I felt like I was on the verge of passing out  most all of Sunday’s performance, and was thankful for the prayers and thoughts of family and friends who were in the know. When we went out for the curtain call one of my fellow actors looked at me and said, “You look really pale.” And, that was with make-up on. I’m so thankful I made it through the show, but the energy I expended to gut it out really did a number on me. I was in bed nearly 12 hours on Sunday night and still had to drag myself out of bed. Ugh.

So, yesterday I went to see Doc. He tested my blood and immediately diagnosed me with a “Mono-like” virus. Great. Nothing to be done but fluids, vitamins, and rest. I’m praying that my immune system kicks it into high gear. There’s still a lot to get through this week.

We’re excited for Taylor. She recently landed a job with Think Digital in Des Moines. She’s moved out of the Catholic Worker Community (though she will continue to volunteer her time there) and rented a small apartment in the Drake neighborhood. Ironically, she’s living on the same street where my mom grew up. There’s something in the synergy of that which makes me smile.

Madison is staying very busy this time of year. Working sales in the retail environment makes life very hectic during the holiday season. She is continuing to build community in SC and doesn’t seem too sad about the more temperate weather she’s experiencing there. We’re looking forward to having her home for New Year’s.

Hard to believe that another year is drawing to a close. Our work continues to keep us busy, as well. We’re finishing up 2016 project work and I’m busy working on 2017 proposals and renewals. I’m grateful to have seen small, incremental growth this year, though it’s continued to be a tough slog since the 2008 recession. As I speak with clients I’m finding there’s a generally positive sentiment in the business community for the first time in many years. I’m praying it translates into good things this coming year.

The Latest 10-15-2016

Life continues to feel like a whirlwind, whipping Wendy and me from one thing to the next. This past couple of weeks and weekends was no exception.  I spent the entire  work week, last week, on the road to Texas, working with a client there in Laredo and San Antonio. Wendy stayed busy with rehearsals for The Christmas Post here at home.

 

I arrived home on Friday evening in time for the Cubs first playoff game against San Francisco. Wendy had beer, hot dogs, and nachos ready and the living room here at Vander Well Manor was transformed into our own little ball park for the game. Glad to say our Cubbies won in dramatic fashion. Classic pitcher’s duel into the bottom of the 8th when Javy Baez hit a solo-shot to left for the game’s only run. I spent the late innings texting updates, like a modern form of the telegraph, to our friend Kevin who was monitoring the game in Palm Springs. So much fun to get to text the good news.

Saturday was Union Street Players annual Award’s Night. This year our friend Spence Ver Meer was inducted to the USP Walk of Fame. Spence starred with Wendy in the 2005 production of Barefoot in the Park and it was an honor to be part of the festivities. While Wendy spent Saturday morning at rehearsal, I spent the time preparing slides, video, and music for the festivities. It was a full day of preparation as Wendy had made cheesecake’s for our dessert. The event went really well. The local improv group who performed (made up mostly of USP members) even got Wendy to volunteer to help out on the final game. That’s not an easy feat but it was hilarious to watch (see featured image).

Wendy continues to do a masterful job directing The Christmas Post for Union Street Players. Performances are scheduled Dec 2-4, 6, 8, 9 here in Pella. You don’t want to miss this! I’ll be on stage reprising my role as Mr. Herzog.

I preached again last Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third. We kicked off a series on the love chapter. Wendy and I got a little rest watching the Vikings beat the Texans in the afternoon before our preparations for the coming week kicked into high gear. The whirlwind continues.

Madison got some Cubbie swag to help maintain her Midwest roots in SC!
Madison got some Cubbie swag to help maintain her Midwest roots in SC!

Madison is safe and sound in South Carolina. Hurricane Matthew gave Madison her first taste of a tropical storm, but Columbia was mostly hit with heavy rain and 25-30 mph winds. She hunkered down in her apartment and killed flying cockroaches. I sent Madison some Cubbie swag so she can “keep the faith” down south for a Cub’s World Series.

Taylor has received some encouraging signs regarding potential employment across the pond. And, some interest in employment here in Fun City. Where will she end up? More on that as things prayerfully progress.

 

The Latest 04-24-2016

The past two weeks were dominated by last weekend’s production of Almost, Maine. Wendy and I were cast before Christmas and the curtain finally rose on four performances April 14-17. The play is a series of nine vignettes that take place in on the same night, at the same time, in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. The scenes are all reflections on love and relationships.

The challenge and opportunity for both Wendy and me were to play multiple characters in the show. I played five characters and Wendy played three. It is not unusual for actors to play multiple roles in a show, but the multiple characters are often bit parts or walk-on roles. It is another thing altogether to develop 3-5 fully developed, differentiated characters in one show. From an acting perspective it is an exciting challenge to walk off stage, change costume in less than 30 seconds and walk on as a completely different character. To pull it off and make it believable for the audience was a really, really fun stretch for both Wendy and me.

The show went well. Attendance was slightly above average for a spring show in our community theatre. For both of us, the fun was all about the experience of being directed by our friend Kevin McQuade who is a brilliant director and who pushed both of us to new heights in our acting experiences. In addition, we loved, loved, loved our fellow cast members who were focused, disciplined, and really fun to work with.

Production weekend was fun, but took a lot out of us. The cast socialized after every show. Opening night we had a party here at Vander Well Pub and the last guests to leave meandered out the door around 1:00 a.m. Friday night the cast and crew stopped at the Cellar Peanut Pub and then enjoyed drinks and eats at Monarch’s. Wendy and I enjoyed a nightcap at McQuade Pub and walked home somewhere around 2:00 a.m. Saturday night the cast and various friends enjoyed after show festivities at Kaldera. The closing performance on Sunday was followed by set strike and a cast party at McQuade Pub.

Oh…and I preached two services on Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third Church.

It was wonderful to have Suzanna, Taylor, my folks, Jody, and Emma join us over the weekend to see the show. It’s always a bittersweet experience having loved ones come to town to see the show, but then not having the time or space to actually spend time with them.

McNay Stags Head

We got home from the final cast party on Sunday evening about 9:00 p.m. and I immediately had to pack for a week-long business trip to Texas. I flew out first thing Monday morning and spent five days in San Antonio and Laredo. It was a long week, for sure, but on Friday I got to meet Tim and Kumi for a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse between San Antonio and Austin. It was fun to hear about their recent vacation in Japan to visit Kumi’s sister and to see their photos. I also got to spend a couple of hours at the McNay Art Museum before flying out for home.

This weekend has been blessedly quiet. I mowed a crop of weeds on Saturday and tried desperately to groom our pitiful lawn so that it wouldn’t completely shame the neighborhood. Though, our weed infested lawn is an admittedly nicer sight than the apocalyptic wasteland that was our lot last year. We ended Saturday with a wonderful evening on Matthew and Sarah’s deck.

ICubs Game

We headed to the early service this morning and enjoyed the message from Roger DeWaard before making the trek to Principal Park for our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. The I-Cubs sucked wind and got blown out by Oklahoma City, but Wendy and I sat in the sun and got our first sunburn of the season.

It’s a momentous week ahead. My 50th birthday is this coming Saturday. [sigh]

The Latest 12-20-2015

Christmas is less than a week away, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The weather in Iowa has continued to be unseasonably warm for the most part. Instead of snow and ice we’ve had chilly downpours that feel more like March or October.

USP LWW Cast Party

Right after my last Sunday Summary post we hosted the cast party for Union Street Players (USP’s) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We loved having cast and crew here at the house. They did a great job. We weren’t involved in the show other than helping man the box office phone and sell tickets.

In fact, it’s been a while since Wendy or I have been on stage. Two weeks ago we auditioned for Union Street Players’ upcoming production of Almost, Maine and were cast. The show is a romantic comedy set on a moonless winter night in a mythical town in northern Maine. In a series of vignettes, a series of couples struggle with that thing called love. Wendy and I will play multiple roles in the show which will be performed April 14-17. We’re looking forward to working with our friend and neighbor, Kevin McQuade, who is directing the show.

2015 02 12 Scholte House Dinner9

While we haven’t been on stage, we have been in character. On the 11th we donned the period costumes of our town’s founders, Dominie H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria, and played host at the Scholte House Museum to a corporate Christmas dinner for the executives of a business here in town. Wendy and I have portrayed the Scholtes in numerous productions. We enjoy volunteering our time and helping share their unique story.

Later that night we joined Taylor and her friend at Peace Tree Brewery in Knoxville for their annual Christmas sweater party. The band included Taylor’s faculty advisor from Grandview and we enjoyed the evening.

I was on the road this past week. Visited client in Texas on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I flew to Denver where I visited another client, then drove down to Colorado Springs. Madison had her last college final that evening. I met her at her favorite coffee haunt and we enjoyed a Crave Burger with Brett and Evan Strait. Madison has been living with the Straits for the past couple of months as her lease was up and she’s not sure where the path will lead after graduation.

Madison headed to her test and I visited with the Straits. I then met her at BJ’s Brewhouse across from campus after her test was done and we celebrated together joined by her friend, Matt. We got to enjoy breakfast together and hang out for a few hours the following morning before I had to head for home.

Madison has been interviewing for sales jobs in the cosmetic industry. While she would love to stay in Colorado, she’s committed to moving wherever a good job opens up. She will continue to work as a flight attendant in the meantime. We’re bummed that she won’t be home for Christmas. In order to schedule her life to finish school, she’s had to work the holidays this year! 😦

On Friday I got to greet Suzanna who is home from Cedar Falls for Christmas break. She’s had a great first semester in college and it’s great to have her home. On Friday afternoon Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for the funeral of my friend and mentor, Chuck Wenger who was also founder of our company, C Wenger Group. It was a great memorial service. Chuck had committed his life to mentoring young men, and it was rather incredible to hear the testimonies from many who were in attendance. It was also great to see former group members, clients, and friends.

On Friday night we joined friends Kevin, Linda, Rob, Vandy and CD at McQuade Pub for a reading of the script Art. It was a great excuse to spend an evening of food, drink and good company. The script was great and we both enjoyed it immensely.

At Star Wars The Force Awakens

Birthday Girl!
Birthday Girl!

Wendy’s birthday is Monday, so we started celebrating on Saturday with an early matinée of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We loved it! We ran a few errands before hightailing it back home. In the evening I took Wendy to dinner at Kaldera with Kevin and Linda (where we ran into the JPs & VLs!) . After dinner we retired back to V-Dub Pub for a night-cap.

We have been talking for months with our friends Vandy and Rob about getting together to watch football. They are still relatively new to town and Vandy is a Vikings fan. So, today was the day! They arrived before noon and we watched the Vikes beat the Bears, while keeping an eye on Rob’s Giants who came back and then fell short against the undefeated Panthers.

I’m looking forward to continuing Wendy’s birthday celebration tomorrow, and to Christmas celebrations with family this week!

The Latest 12-6-2015

After hosting Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, Wendy and I spent the rest of the weekend hunkering down at home. Thanksgiving evening was spent watching a family movie with Taylor and Suzanna (This is Where I Leave You). We enjoyed the movie, though Suzanna fell asleep, which is not unusual (see featured photo of this post).

One of the priorities on the honey-do list since moving into our house has been getting shelves built in the storage room downstairs. So, on Saturday I was up early finishing walls and beginning the task. It took me about 10 hours without break, but we have 24 feet of shelving for all of our “stuff” (and Taylor’s “stuff” and Madison’s “stuff” and Suzanna’s “stuff”).

Storage Room Before Shelves
Before
After!
After!

Needless to say, I was fairly tired and sore, so Sunday would have been a day of rest and routine. It started out routine: Breakfast with CBS Sunday Morning and church, but then we headed to the Community Center to sell tickets for USP’s production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Wendy and I stepped down from our Board positions, but we’re continuing to volunteer our time in other ways. Wendy heads up ticket sales and I am doing web and social media. Once ticket sales were done we headed home to watch the Vikings (they won!). In the evening we walked down the street to McQuade Pub for cocktails and conversation which was the perfect cap to the holiday weekend.

Aslan is on the loose!

The weather continues to be unseasonably warm. Highs have been in the 50’s the past few days. Wendy and I continued to sell tickets for the USP show on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. We stayed to watch the show on Thursday.

On Friday night we were invited over to the Burch’s for a late dinner and stayed late into the evening. On Saturday morning I drove to Des Moines for the funeral of Doug Appleby. Doug’s brother Dan was in my class at Hoover. We and our siblings were all in the youth group together at First Federated Church back in the day. It was a bit of a sober homecoming of sorts with friends I hadn’t seen in many years. Doug was a great kid, a veteran, a family man, and a man of faith. There was a lot of love and hope at the funeral.

Wendy and Beck at V-Dub Pub

Kev, Beck and the kids came to Pella last night. The kids went to the play with grandma and grandpa while we adults enjoyed dinner together. After the kids returned we all hung out downstairs in V-Dub Pub and watched the Iowa Hawkeyes blow their lead and lose the Big10 championship game.

We’ll help with tickets for the closing USP performance this afternoon. It’s a sell-out. We’re hosting the cast party here at Vander Well Manor. Looking forward to celebrating with the cast and crew.

The Latest 10-04-15

Summer has turned to autumn. The mornings are crisp and cool. The late summer sun is strong, but tempered with the cool fall breeze. The trees are changing color and looking increasingly bare. Here in the Iowa heartland the combines are out and the landscape changes daily as fields full of tall corn are laid bare with the harvest.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 3

A few weeks ago we returned from our fall weekend at the lake with Kevin and Becky. While we were in Missouri there had been a big rain back here at home. And, I had been watering our fledgling lawn religiously. Early that week I was sitting in Vander Well Pub with Taylor talking about her day when I looked into the basement family room and noticed that a big pillow sitting on the floor was discolored. It was then that I discovered our sump pump had not been working and our storage room and family room were flooded. When our contractor came over to inspect the issue, he found that at some point the sump pump plug was not flush in the outlet. All he did was push it in and the sump started to work. It was not a good evening.

We had a lot of damaged photos, artwork and other belongings that were still boxed in the storage room from the move. Fortunately, our friend Brad responded to my text and brought over huge fans and a special machine for sucking up water out of the carpet/pad. I was up until the wee hours trying to dry things out. Ugh.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 1The Latest 10 04 2015 - 4Wendy has been planning a new tat for a long time now, and had vowed to put it off until after the summer (You’re supposed to keep new tattoos out of the sunlight). She finally pulled the trigger and had a gorgeous phoenix inked onto her upper left arm. It’s a gorgeous tat. The phoenix, a symbol of rebirth and glory from ashes, has long held special significance for Wendy. I’m happy that she finally got it done.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 5

Last weekend was Pella’s Marching Band Festival. Des Moines Christian was marching, so Jody and my folks drove down for it. Wendy and I met them at the field to watch the band, then came back to the house for a quick bite. It was great to have them here and to see both Emma and Harry Roose marching.

The Latest 10 04 2015 - 9

This past week Taylor received word that her Master’s dissertation had been accepted by Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. We uncorked a nice bottle of wine, made a special dinner of grilled salmon, and toasted her acheivement!

Yesterday we were in Ames. My dear friend, Megan, asked me to be honorary dad at ISU Dad’s Weekend. Her mom picked Wendy and me up early in the morning and we drove up to the campus. Megan has pledged to a sorority, so after picking her up at her dorm we went to the house for tailgating and games. We then walked to Jack Trice stadium and sat in the student section to watch the Cyclones beat Kansas. It was a cloudless day and one half of my face got nicely burned! It was great to see Megan and, as always, it was a privilege to be honorary dad.

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Wendy and I have spent the past couple of weeks finalizing our transition out of leadership with Union Street Players. There have been files to transfer, final reports to prepare, meetings with the new Board. Last night was the 2015 USP Award’s Night which was essentially our final major responsibility. Wendy planned the event and made several cheesecakes. I put together the year-in-review video and emcee’d the event. Suzanna came back from school to attend. Our friend Heather MacClennan came down from Des Moines with her trio to provide entertainment. Good time had by all (despite some maddening technical difficulties that just about fubar’d the entire evening for me).

Top Five Memories from 10 Years Leading USP

Speaking of ten years leading our community theatre, for Top Five Tuesday, here are my Top Five favorite moments from the past ten years of community theatre:

  1. Spearheading the effort to raise money and replace the stage curtains.
  2. Watching the implementation, growth, and success of our group’s annual summer Drama Camp which is inspiring and launching a whole new generation of young actors, writers, directors, stage hands, and lovers of theatre.
  3. Watching people who have never been on stage before experience the natural high you get that first opening night.
  4. Being on stage with Wendy and both of our daughters in different productions. I love that the stage is something that our family has experienced together.
  5. Looking around at the picnic last night and seeing multiple generations of amazing people from those who founded our organization over a quarter century ago, to those who have been doing the blocking and tackling in recent years, to a flock of “theatre kids” who will lead our future.

The Latest 07-26-2015

It felt like a long week, but it always does feel long when most of it is spent on a business trip. And, I didn’t have much rest going into it. I was asked to give the message at Central in Oskaloosa last Sunday. There were two services, one at 8:30 for the older, more traditional crowd and 10:45 for the younger, more contemporary crowd. I was pleased when Howard and Donna DeGroot came up to say “hello” after the first service. I hadn’t spoken to them in a long time. They seemed excited to meet Wendy and it was good to catch up.

After the service Wendy and I high-tailed it to Ankeny where members of the Vander Hart clan had gathered. Becky, Court, and Lydia were visiting from Denver. We had lunch and hung out all afternoon. It was the first time we’d seen Lydia since she was a newborn. It was fun to get reacquainted.

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We buzzed home in the evening and I packed for my trip. I spent the week with our client in San Antonio and Laredo, Texas where it was very hot. Good week, however. While I was away Wendy and Suzanna played host to Becky, Court, and Lydia who introduced Lydia to Pella. I was sad to have missed it.

I landed back home in DSM (relatively on time) Friday evening about 7:30 p.m. Almost immediately upon arrival back at Vander Well Manor, Wendy and I walked over to McQuade Pub and were refreshed, body and soul, by Kevin and Linda’s hospitality. As usual, it was a late evening of drinks and meandering conversation.

2015 07 Suzanna in Fiddler

It’s opening weekend for Union Street Players Fiddler on the Roof. Wendy and I usually take summers off of productions, preferring to spend whatever free time we can manage at the lake. Suzanna, however, is in the chorus and Wendy and I are involved behind the scenes with ticket sales and various production issues. We announced at USP’s monthly meeting that we will be stepping down from the Board after 10 years. Grandma Vander Hart told Wendy that the local radio station even found the event newsworthy enough for their local news broadcast this week. You gotta love small town Iowa.

knia story

Wendy’s mom came yesterday and is spending the weekend to see Suzanna in Fiddler. VW Manor feels like a Bed and Breakfast this week and we love it. We are excited for the coming week. Taylor moves home after her year of grad school in Scotland. Madison arrives back in Iowa on Thursday. The entire Vander Well clan joins to celebrate nephew Sam’s wedding to Lydia Yoder on Saturday morning.

The Dickensian Men

2014 12 USP Men of Christmas Carol LR

It was Spence Ver Meer’s idea to get all of the men from Union Street Player’s production of “A Christmas Carol” together for a photograph in costume. I’m glad he did because they turned out to be fun photographs. I set up my trip-pod and remote control before Sunday afternoon’s closing matinee for this group shot. I used Snapseed to rough it up and give it a vintage, old photograph feel.

2014 12 USP Men of Christmas Carol 02LR

Ham Buns and Potato Salad: Epilogue

The past week has been spent resting up from the premiere of Ham Buns and Potato Salad. After a flurry of activity getting ready for the show, Wendy and I hit the wall as soon as the show closed and the cast party was over. We’re just beginning to feel like life is getting back to a sense of normal.

The show went really well. Attendance was above average for a spring production, and our final performance had the biggest crowd of the run which is usually a sign of good word-of-mouth. The cast and crew were fantastic and I was extremely pleased with everyone’s performances. I was so impressed with the effort the actors put in to their characters:

  • Jana De Zwarte and Karl Deakyne had a monumental task of pulling of the critical second act scene between Marian and Thomas (It became known as the “mini-play”). They had me in tears most nights.
  • My wife, Wendy, and Arvin Van Zante did an incredible job of taking two extreme characters and making them authentic without losing the humor.
  • Lily Villalobos was amazing in her stage debut, bringing sweetness and charm to her portrayal of Abigail.
  • I was so pleased to get Griffin Hammel on the stage before he heads to grad school. His energy on stage as Matt pushed the rest of the cast to raise their game.
  • Mark Moreland and Doug DeWolf did a fantastic job of creating interesting contrasts in Arl and Dean.
  • Denise Gregory and Cyndi Atkins, likewise, nailed their portrayals of Betty and Lola. They became the archetypical small town mother and aunt many of us know.

Mat Kelly and Anne McCullough Kelly did an incredible job designing and constructing the set. It captured the feeling of Hebron without being over the top. Props to Arvin Van Zante for his light design and Cody Kooi for his work on the sound. Anne McCullough Kelly and Liz Keeney were invaluable stage managers and kept the production on track.

I have to give a ton of credit to the show’s director, Ann Wilkinson. Ann did an amazing job of navigating a new and original script. She contributed so many key touches to the action and worked her usual mastery with the actors. The show would not have happened were it not for her commitment to helping with the script from its early stages and her invaluable encouragement and feedback through the entire process.

Last, but certainly not least, my love Wendy has not gotten near enough credit for the contributions she’s made to the play from the beginning. She has been muse, cheerleader, critic, and contributor. She has believed in the script from the beginning and given constant investment and encouragement from first draft through production. It wouldn’t have happened without her.

It was fascinating for me to sit around the post opening night party and the final cast party and listen to the actors and crew continuing to talk about their characters and the story itself. I loved the after show conversations and debates with family and friends about the end of the play and the characters’ choices. I was quietly pleased that the script prompted such on-going discussions. The truth is that I found those conversations more gratifying than the audience’s ovations. My desire all along had been to write a play that both entertains and prompts post show conversation.

What’s next for Ham Buns and Potato Salad? I’ve already been asked permission for a 2015 production of the play by Newton Community Theatre in Newton, Iowa. I’m hoping that other productions will follow. I will continue to pursue production and publishing opportunities. We’ll see where it goes. For now, I’m looking forward to a little break.

More video clips from the show:

“They were in a love triangle.”
“Old Man Schuler”
“All the tact of an atomic bomb.”
“I’m in the book.”

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