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Producer Blog

Thank you for an amazing 2014

Thursday, 01 January 2015 19:23 Janis Stone

2014So many stood with us in 2014 and said “I’m a believer.”  Thank you cast members, crew, behind-the-scenes volunteers, advertisers, cash donors, corporate sponsors, advisors, and audience.

Because you believed, MTVarts was able to produce, in partnership with MVNU, our Classics Series Arthur Miller's “The Crucible”; our Senior Series, “Driving Miss Daisy”; our First-Knox sponsored summer musical, “Shrek”; the artsIQ youth workshop and show Disney’s “The Little Mermaid, Jr.”; and, thanks to owner Mark Ramser and a generous grant from The Ariel Foundation, expand the use of our warehouse.  

We tried a fun experiment on Facebook asking folks to describe our year in five words? After some consideration here are my five:

TORN… Arthur Miller's “The Crucible”

crucibleThe passion of MTVarts’ volunteers fuels our growth and innovation as a theatre company. It was evident in “The Crucible” in a plethora of details. My personal favorite was the backdrop with the growing tear. The discussion it generated, the interpretations of the meaning and significance of the drop, were a true measurement of the show’s success.  

“The Crucible brought to light the fact that mass suspicion and hysteria are still present today as they were during the Salem Witch Trials. A seed of fear can grow a forest of hatred that leaves a mark forever. Miller’s timeless classic reminds us that we always need to respond with love and understanding, even in the most trying times.”    Leah Stone, director



TOUCHING… Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning “Driving Miss Daisy”

dmdMan’s inhumanity to man is not a subject I want to revisit on stage. I go to the theatre to laugh and have a good time; please don’t make me think of the evils that lurk below the surface. But there is a quote by Edmund Burke: “...the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So, once again, the passion of our people translated to powerful theatre to affect us, move us, touch us.

“‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a play of great love and patience, telling a story that takes 25 years to unfold. We developed a real feeling for the characters. The cast, crew and, audience fell in love with this theatrical gem.”   Bruce Jacklin, who portrayed Boolie Werthan




CHEEKY… Dreamworks’ ”Shrek: The Musical”

shrek1Our summer musical was MTVarts at its best. Cast and crew donated thousands of hours of their lives to the making of the show and we had a ball. The show was weaved with the simple joys of pretending to risk-taking to the profound impact theatre can have in the life of a special angel.   

shrek2Amanda Mayville, who portrayed Princess Fiona, said “What an amazing opportunity. I learned so much from the other cast members and production staff, and got to be a princess/ogre for the summer!”

Ian Ernsberger, who portrayed Farquaad, speaks of folks complimenting him with “You are never short on talent” and then goes on to say, “Little did I know how short I would go to prove that. By far the most painful and tiring role I've ever played but seeing those kids’ faces after the show and talking to them made it all worth the bruises. And for Sarah, who couldn't tell us how much she enjoyed herself and loved seeing all the characters come to life. But you could see that sparkle in her eye when she came up to me in line after the show and I am so thankful I was able to entertain that wonderful little girl.”

So yes, it was a little cheeky. There was some flatulation on stage, but… “We sailed away, we saw the world the world, we reached the farthest reaches. We felt the wind, we tasted salt and sea… andmeven stormed some beaches.”

GROWING… artsIQ youth production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid, Jr.”

mermaidThey came together. They did a show. And it was fabulous! Youth theatre is like a bucket of water poured on the roots of a tree during a drought. “More, please!” so we can grow, grow, grow!

Matthew said, "Being part of MTVarts Little Mermaid Jr. production was an awesome experience that I will never forget. I learned so much from all of the directors and made a lot of new friends."

And what of tomorrow?  
Will MTVarts be here in 10 years with these kids leading the way? Will we have strengthened the roots so the tree blossomed? So that it is strong and still growing? Which brings me to my final word.



warehouseTERRIFYING… but in a good way!

Frankly, it is terrifying to think what it is going to take to keep MTVarts green and growing.









MONEY. Money to pay for the shows. Money to pay the bills to operate the warehouse. Money to sustain our infrastructure. Money to move us forward.

PEOPLE. Volunteers to finish all the work on the to-do list. Volunteers to sing and dance and make people happy.  Volunteers People to do all the work to make that possible.

BELIEVERS. Dreamers who will imagine the more we can be together! MTVarts… multi-tasking volunteers + appreciation + respect + trust = success. Thanks Art Schad for investing many hours toward that goal of organization. Thanks Kenyon students, MVNU students, and loyal core volunteers for hauling that bale and toting that barge. If you all stay with us and some more folks come alongside, we will assess these terrifying opportunities, make a plan, and look confidently to our future. Here’s to reaching for the stars!

15 season theme


It's Just Community Theatre

Monday, 28 April 2014 21:14 Janis Stone

I heard it again the other day, "It's just community theatre." And, yes, we are amateur, community theatre--the whole organization is run on ticket sales and donations. No one is paid; everyone volunteers. Those making it possible are your neighbors and co-workers who all have day jobs. No one is a professional. But, what is being a professional? Is it just being paid? No! MTVarts is filled with multi-tasking volunteers... amateurs... working full time, as professionals. It is about passion; the quality of the work; the willingness to pursue, to learn, to excel--just for the love of theatre.

Very noble, don't you think? Someone reminds us every year, "It's not about you; it is about the audience. We are giving our community a wonderful gift." But, in the end, it can lead to burnout and frustration. Many of us come to the point of, "I just can't do this anymore. My family is right; this is ridiculous." You pledge to take a summer off and know in your heart that you may not be back. But then you get an email.

My daughter loves this musical (from attending a local school production and from watching the DVD). But we would be driving from Indianapolis, Indiana. What are the performance times, please?

Thank you.

Hi Mark

The evening performances are 7:30 and, unfortunately, this year, because of theatre availability, we only have one matinee... Sunday July 13, at 2:00.

If you chose to stay overnight, we do have some very nice local hotels as well as Holiday Inn Express.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the super-fast reply! I'll plan to make this trip with my daughter.

Great. You do know you can purchase tickets online?

Let us know how you like the show. We try to be an audience-driven theatre company so feedback is our lifeblood. :)

May I ask how you heard about the show?



My angel daughter is a special needs child, and she loves to go to musical productions of her favorite stories. So I Google-search anything possible related to her favorites, and will take her to see them. Most 2014 productions of "Shrek" are on the east and west coasts and Texas, with few in the Midwest. I found your show after narrowing the search to the year and state, along with the name "Shrek the Musical."

Thank you. I will order online.


As the dates get closer, remind me and we will arrange a back stage tour. We work with people with disabilities and two will be in the show. JJ House is the assistant to the director and he could perhaps chat with your little angel. Here is JJ's adventure with us.

See you in July.

Thank you. Sarah loves to meet performers after the shows, and I have dozens of photo albums of her with cast members. To her, everyone in the show is real, and maybe that's the way she connects with them. She is not very communicative verbally, except when at a show and talking about it afterward. The photos of Shrek from the performances we attended last year were in one of the photo books I sent along with her to school yesterday for her weekly speech therapy. We listened to part of the cast CD on the way to school today, and she told me she wanted to see Shrek and Fiona again. That is what inspired my search for performances that were within a manageable driving distance. We talk about Shrek being a nice ogre, and she said, "He's my friend. He said my name", which is true, as the cast were so kind to her at that school production last year. I always introduce Sarah by name, as she is too shy to speak, but they respond kindly to her, and she remembers everything about who she meets and if they said her name.

Thank you again.

Sarah our theatre angelWe will do all we can to make this special for Sarah. Our cast is fabulous and will be wonderful with Sarah. We always do a meet and greet after the show where she can personally meet all the cast. If JJ is able, he could be her host. This could be wonderful. :) Keep me posted on your plans.

Meet Sarah She will be traveling to attend 4 of our performances.  We can't wait to meet her.

So, you see, it is much, much more than community theatre. This year our inspiration will be Sarah. And we will remember to say her name. Let's keep doing this thing together. It can be so much more.


Merry Christmas, thanks for the gift!

Monday, 23 December 2013 21:36 Janis Stone

The greatest gift you can give to someone is to believe in their dreams.

Thanks for believing!

Merry Christmas from MTVarts

Believe 2013 small

Wow, what a year we have had with MTVarts.  Each year I think we can't do this and each year somehow people make it happen.  It all started with Aaron's vision for  "Of Mice and Men" coming to life thanks to donated barns and a cast of extremely talented actors.  Then we moved right into "The Music Man"  and again over 100 people worked to pull it off.  This was the first time Bruce turned over the director reins for a summer musical and Leah lead the parade beautifully.  Unbelieveably we kept right on marching into September and The JJ Project - "How I Became a Pirate".  Tremendous community support, Theatrical Rights Worldwide, Mark and Janet and Melinda, all those special guests and a gala to boot!  Aarrghh it was a great adventure, eh JJ?

There are truly are no people like show people.  To our audience, thank you for coming to see our shows.  To our patrons, thank you for giving us your hard-earned money.  To our advisers, thank you for keeping us on track.  To our volunteers, simply thank you!  The "more" we "imagine together" is amazing!
To all who are MTVarts . . .thank you for believing!

And 2014?  Well let's just say you will be shouting, "I'm a Believer!"


Remembering Jim

Friday, 06 September 2013 01:37 Matt Starr

Jim MillerJim Miller’s passing has come as a shock to so many of us in the MTVarts community. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I will look out in the audience and not see his face smiling with pride and contentment. I still cannot believe it.

I had the pleasure of working with Jim on several projects (some of which were behind the scenes), but my most favorite time sharing the stage with him was in the MTVarts’ Classics Series Twelve Angry Men. Jim played the role of Juror No. 4, the rational, well-manicured professional who sought reason and logic as the way to understand the world. As the story developed, each of the twelve jurors changes his opinion on the case involving a teenage accused of murder. For me, seeing Jim’s character change was the most dramatic of all of us because logic was used in the end to change his mind. Jim’s truthfulness to Juror No. 4 was as impressive to me as E.G. Marshall’s performance in the 1957 movie.
Jim’s presence remains with me. He is one of those rare human beings who understands the value of community and how each one of us fits into the world from everyday life to the major events in our society. Jim appreciates that our interactions, relationships, and struggles essentially capture the beauty and significance of our lives as growing individuals and as a collective community.

When MTVarts produced Of Mice and Men this past spring, Jim had a significant role behind the scenes in making that production as success.  Planning with him almost a year in advance enabled us to share this story with over 680 students and 400 members in the community. Jim not only oversaw the business plan of putting on this show, but was instrumental in marketing it to students (some of whom this show will be the only theatre they will ever experience). In addition to introducing the special matinee to the local high schools, Jim expertly facilitated the Q&A following the performance with the students and their teachers. I am so happy that these students (one of whom is my granddaughter), shared in such a rich cultural experience – much of which can be attributed to Jim Miller.

We all have our time on earth, this fleeting moment in our existence as we know it. It isn’t fair. As much as I am unwilling to accept it at right now, someone else decided that his work on earth was finished. While it is no consolation, I keep Jim in my thoughts frequently (even before his death). He occupies a special place in my heart that few people can. Whenever I am faced with significant decisions in my life, I imagine myself locked in a room surrounded by people from my past and present. None of them say a word to me or offer advice – they are there with me watching and listening. Sometimes I look to them for answers, but they will never answer me – only comfort me in my decisions. Since working with Jim, I will forever see the logically-thinking, well-manicured Juror No. 4 smiling at me with contentment and pride, and I am comforted in the fact that he will remain with me until my time on this earth is complete.


Courage of the Classics

Tuesday, 30 April 2013 15:51 Janis Stone
MTVarts Classics Series Chair
The Classics Series was designed as a truly community service based faction of MTVarts. With Bruce Jacklin & Companies' comedies and cabarets at the Alcove Dinner Theater, audiences don’t have to think (or want to think) and are able to escape life for a few hours and enjoy an evening out. The Broadway musical that MTVarts brings each summer draws sold-out crowds and is developed for entertainment for the whole family. We started the Classics Series six years ago in order to offer American literary classics to our community members who wanted something “heavier” than the other programs. Also, this was developed to augment the classroom setting for high school and college students who were reading these stories in school. Having a program devoted to more serious dramatic story-telling is a unique feature that our community has. Who knows why the classics are less popular in this community than the other theatrical productions? However, this year, MTVarts presentation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men will be performed for nearly 600 high school students from the area who have read the story being performed on stage.
 Taking on difficult pieces of literature requires a great deal of courage. On top of that, those who invest in these productions are also courageous because of the sensitive nature of the material. MTVarts would not have been able to perform this year’s production without the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Mortellaro of Mortellaro’s McDonald’s or the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County. Performing artists get to do what we do because of visionaries like these two organizations who understand the tremendous responsibility that creating art plays in our lives and that having diverse and challenging material adds significant value to the quality of life in our community. 
As the Classics Series Chair, I see each of our productions getting better every year. Again, I am proud of this production team and the MTVarts family. Also, I am humbled by the generosity of our sponsors. I urge you, our audience members, to please thank Mortellaro McDonald’s and the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County, for their community-mindedness and courage to bring you this story.

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