Monday, June 10, 2019

Kurt Schindler...Go Rest High

His name is Kurt, "our Kurt," and he is as much the heart of the Ole Olsen Memorial Theater as is the building itself, the plays and shows that have given such pleasure for all these many years, the stage at the front of the building that echoes with the emotions that are left there.

I can't believe he's gone. His illness was fast and furious and left so many of us aching with loss and sorrow. And laughing. Because wherever Kurt Schindler was, laughter was there, too. And love. As dearly as we all loved him is how much he loved us in return.

Because I was so fascinated by the world of community theater, he asked me to be part of the production of A Christmas Carol in 2017. I was undoubtedly one of the worst assistant directors ever, but I have memories that will stay with me forever.

As do we all.

From Angel Williams: My darling Kurt... it is hard for me to find the words at this moment. Since we first had our bonding moments on stage nearly 14 years ago, you have been my collaborator, my partner in creativity, my dear friend, and my beloved chosen Family. Rehearsals and performances, late nights preparing, phone calls, gazebo time, dinners and road trips, doing the hustle, and my wedding, just to name a few...Cherished memories that I will always carry with me. We saw each other through tremendous joys and deep sadnesses. I am struggling to imagine this world without you in it. Although my heart is broken to lose you, I am forever thankful for the time we had together and that you are no longer in pain. I have no question that you love me and I know that you always knew how much I love and adore you.

You had me sing this at Bill's funeral...and no truer words could be shared now that you are gone: "It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part: so much of me is made of what I learned from you. You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now, whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend."

"Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

I love you, honey.

Jayne Kesler
“Kurt’s Role as Otto Frank”

I had the pleasure of directing Kurt Schindler in his last role on the Ole stage.  He pursued the role of Otto Frank from checking out a script to read early before auditions to researching Otto Frank’s story.

He was the perfect choice for Otto Frank. Just as Otto was the anchor for the residents of the Secret Annex, Kurt was the anchor for our Secret Annex Ole family on stage.  He enjoyed working with the Ole veterans in the show and relished having Brandi Davis, a veteran performer but a newcomer from Elwood to Ole.  He was particularly fond of working with Kiley Stiers and our Ole newcomer Carsten Loe.  He wanted success for all of our young actors  and made suggestions to each for their characters, and he so enjoyed interacting with them on stage.  He was their father figure.   Kurt and I both valued a positive “family” relationship among our cast, and he put in the extra effort to make our cast a family. 

No show with Kurt would be complete without laughter and inside jokes, and The Diary of Anne Frank cast had a terrific balance of laughter and tears.  It was not an easy show for Kurt because, as we realized afterwards, his pain and difficulty with memory were a result of his cancer, but playing the role of the historic icon,Otto Frank, and telling the story of all the residents in the Secret Annex took precedence over all he was suffering.  His last role and performance on the Ole Stage were exactly what he wanted, and his Otto Frank was excellent!
Kelly Matthias-Williams

Kurt and I were from the HIGH SCHOOL graduating class of 1985.  Although we did not go to school together, we enjoyed the same music, a love of theatre, as well as the shows from the past.  We became close friends.  When he was President of Ole Olsen, I was his Vice President.  We trusted one another with our secrets, and our past.  As far as friends go, he was a rare gem.

He had a faith in me like no other.  Kurt inspired me to be a better actress, singer, and director.  I will always recall thinking, that COFFEE, by Cole Porter, was WAY out of my range.  I said something to him, and he said, “Well you’re hittin’ the notes!!”  I thought casting me to play Susan Boyle was crazy, but he assured me that I could do it.  When I didn’t have faith in myself, he had enough faith for the both of us. 

His calm in the eye of a theatre storm was quite impressive.  Everyone loved him and wanted to make him proud.  I rarely saw his feathers ruffled by ciaos in a rehearsal.  He genuinely cared about all the people he worked with, played with at Ole, as well as his other endeavors.  He took time to make people feel special.

I think we’ve all found since his passing, something that those of us who’ve known him for a while already knew … he was VERY LOVED!!  Not only did he have a special relationship with all of us at Ole, but his co-workers, customers, and the crew from the “old” Club 14 days remember him fondly.  Kurt had a deep voice with a contagious laugh.  He had that ever-present smile that lit up a room when he showed up to an event or party fashionably late.  The echoes of “Where’s Kurt?”  could be heard, even when the party was for him.  He knew how to make an entrance.   

Thanks for the love and laughter, Kurt!  

Alan Myers

I can say with certainty. You can be all things to many individuals. On all levels of diversity. Individuality. Each relationship was full of unconditional love. Unique and trusting. He knew how to fill anyone's spirits. At least, that's what I saw. 

Debby Myers

I first got to know Kurt under a table, literally. We were both cast in a show called The Dining Room. We had so much fun under that table! That's where we forged and pledged our love and friendship 'til the day we died. 

On the stage, Kurt was a gifted actor that I had the pleasure of directing a number of times. Whether portraying a dramatic role like Lt Colonel Matthew Markinson in A Few Good Men or as the funny and crazy Sedgwick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kurt could create a character―heck, Kurt was a character! 

Memories just keep flooding into my mind and there are many I could share. His fingerprints are all over our theater group as a director, writer, creator, and Hall of Fame member and he will be truly missed. But what hurts even more is the heartbreak I feel over losing one of my best friends of my lifetime. We never fought, we always laughed and it will be so hard for me without him. We spoke every week, sometimes twice clear up until his passing. I got him a Snoopy quilt a few months ago―he snuggled under it as he left us and I'm so grateful to the family for returning it to me.

Cari Brooks Scott

Kurt Schindler...our Kurtie...was the most humble, kind hearted, talented, and fun person that graced our Ole stage and became my dear friend. He was our own super-star with memorable roles; but he was so much more than that. He made everyone he met feel valued and important; his laugh, contagious and infectious. My greatest memories are getting him to sign a directors copy of a show he wrote that he was going to throw away-he said he felt so important by autographing that for me. He made it a point to sit beside me during a show that was sad so he could hold my hand and comfort me; knowing I’d lost my husband only months before. He always managed to catch me peeking out of the stage and took countless pictures of half of my face. My boys also loved him; my youngest, Canaan, didn’t know his name was Kurt for the longest time; referring to him as “Peace Brotha”, the phrase they said to each other whenever they saw each other. To say he will be missed is an understatement; a hole in our hearts for quite a while, I’m sure. I’m thankful and blessed to have known him; and because I knew him, I am changed for good.

Nancy Neff

Kurt was a mood lifter, confidence booster and someone I always looked forward to seeing or hearing from. His belief in someone else's abilities - especially your own - was contagious. Have so many favorite memories with Kurt but probably the most special was the dinner theater (opening night) for Once Upon A Cole. I asked him to come out with me to introduce the show. Though I'd written the fairy tale, he helped me turn it into a play. His supportive response was that it was my moment - drink it in and savour it. Thank you, Kurt - for everything. I continue to cherish you and the memories you helped create with all of us. I love you, dear friend.

Shannon Morton Banter

A picture of Kurt from the 1st Showstoppers. He sang "Mr. Cellophane" from the movie Chicago.

Blair Brown

Kurt knew I wanted to be a Hollywood actor, and he'd always ask me about my plans and talk about his time on the set of Golden Girls. He was very supportive of my dream.

Dan Brown

...Kurt was very supportive of Blair... and Danielle. In fact, Kurt asked Danielle to help him direct one of his shows. His belief in others brought out their best.

Joe Pyke

Kurt was so talented and creative. He excelled at comedy, especially parody. When writing a play I feel he was intentional about making sure each character had their moment, at least one. As an actor, he could be a bit territorial, but once he had his part he would work and polish his performance to a high standard. He challenged himself and helped his fellows rise to theirs. His was a generous and compassionate heart. He’ll be sorely missed by many.
Brandi Murphy

To say that Kurt Schindler has been an inspiration, authentic, kind, caring, humble, and so much more is an understatement of his many unique and wonderful attributes.

Kurt along with Kelly Mathias-Williams cast me in my first show with Ole Olsen in nearly 20 years. He opened his arms and heart with love and friendship immediately. I instantly felt as though I had known him my entire life. 

Kurt encouraged me along with many others to write, and I did. I wrote a Cole Porter review with much assistance from him. I have written songs after his encouragement to learn to play an instrument. His never ending positivity and support has enriched the lives of more people than I can count. 

I am blessed to have been able to have his friendship over the last few years. And while the world will never be the same without “our Kurt” the world is certainly a better place for having had him in it. 

Mary Geesa 

I think of laughs, honesty, devotion and friendship when it comes to Kurt...but mostly I see how supportive he was. Kurt would support you in achieving your dreams and also support you in your choice to give up or lose one of those dreams. He knew how to lift you up and also understood that sometimes you were in a low, dark place and needed to stay there for a little bit. Kurt could support you while you were trying to support someone else. He had a unique and never-failing ability to connect with a person on a human level. No judgment given or taken. When Kurt listened to you, he truly HEARD you. Kurt had an amazing way of listening to your goals, and telling you all about yourself but in a way that made you feel like a bright and shining star- - like you were the best of the best. He supported his matter what crazy thing you wanted to do...Kurt believed in you.

There is no good way to end this particular post. I thank everyone who contributed to it. I thank Kurt Schindler for being who he was...who he is, for what he gave and continues to give. We love you, Kurt.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

I give to you and you give to me... by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

Okay, it's a writing post, from another blog in another time, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

One of my least favorite parts of myself is that my tin ear is so I am surprised that earrings don’t adhere to my skin with rust when I wear them. Although I like music and the emotion I get from it, I don’t actually hear the notes or feel the emotion of the performer. My husband was changing strings on his Alvarez guitar a few weeks ago and was aghast at hearing a dead spot—there were two or three notes that weren’t there. I hope I was properly sympathetic, but in truth, the notes that weren’t there sounded to me exactly like the ones that were.

          This past weekend was the annual Cole Porter Festival where I live. Saturday night, we went to the cabaret of mostly Porter songs at the Depot where the local theatre performs. As always, I was completely awed by the talent all around me, but on one song, I noticed that Duane’s applause was even more enthusiastic than usual. He was spellbound.

          Well, I could understand that—they all amazed me, but then he turned to me and said, “Did you see it? When the emotion got her and took over the song? Did you hear it? Wasn’t it great?”

          It got me to thinking about emotion in writing, for the writer and for the reader. I love writing emotion, because I feel it as I write it. These are the scenes that write themselves, that have me laughing or crying aloud here by myself in the office. These are the ones that are my favorites. Always.

          As a reader, the parts of books I go back and reread are the ones that make me feel. Pamela Morsi wrote a scene in Letting Go that I read 12 years ago and it hasn’t “let go” of me yet. Emotional scenes are the basis for my personal stack of comfort reads. My heart has been rewriting Beth March’s death in Little Women for over 50 years, but I read and love the way it is. Over and over and over.

          As a reader, I probably have a tin ear to the sounds of other writers’ emotions when they write. I think their words were from their hearts, but maybe not—maybe they’re just that good at making the sounds my emotions want to hear.

          And that’s so cool! The song last night, the one that Duane saw and felt explode with emotion, was just another beautiful song to me. But the one a little before that, when Duane and three others performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, had tears pushing at the back of my eyes and my nails cutting half-moons of joy into my palms. To him, “Hallelujah” is merely a good song; to me, it is an anthem.

          As a writer, I want to write those scenes that stay with me forever and ever. If you’ve read One More Summer, you know what I’m talking about. However, not everyone will feel that—their ears will be deaf to my angst, sorrow, and joy.

          On the other side of that much-flipped coin, I have had lovely emails from people about scenes that affected them deeply, made them laugh hard or sniffle or read a passage aloud to someone else. I am so pleased when that happens and more proud than I have a right to be. Because often those scenes are not the ones that exploded from me in an emotional spate; rather, they are the ones I chewed my thumb and stared into space while I dug for, word by slow word.

          Duane restrung the Alvarez again the other day. “Listen!” he urged, and strummed a few times. “Hear it? The notes are back. The dead spot is gone.”

          Hear it? No, I couldn’t. But I felt his happiness—he loves the Alvarez. When he plays songs like “Hallelujah,” even though he’s not emotionally invested in them, he still feels how powerfully listeners are touched. It makes him try harder, I think, to chew his mental thumb and stare into space until, note by slow note, he’s able to give listeners a gift he doesn’t have. When he is emotionally involved, there’s no chewing or staring necessary, but we with our tin ears don’t know one from the other—we just enjoy the music and the sensations it gives us.

          I’ve read back over this post and I have to admit it’s kind of confusing. I think what I’m trying to do is remind us that when it comes to emotions, sometimes we are the givers and sometimes we are the receivers. Either way, the gift is absolute.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Kill the Stigma by Jerra Moreland

Please welcome my friend Jerra Moreland to the Window today. I have laughed with Jerra, shared popcorn with her, and laughed more. She has more empathy than anyone I know and until I read her story in her words, I didn't understand why. Please read this and, more importantly, share it. Have a great week. - Liz

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adult Americans experience mental illness. Depression is the leading cause of disability WORLDWIDE! Only 60% of adults with mental illness receive treatment and the percentage is half of that for African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death over all and the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the United States. Frankly, I find these statistics alarming. They testify starkly to the lack of awareness, accessibility to treatment, and our general understanding of how mental illness impacts our world, our people. In the fall of 1998, I began my education in Psychology. I accepted my first paid position in the field of social work that same year. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and I have worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. I have advocated for many with mental illness. I have experienced the aftermath of suicide and suicide attempts, drug addiction, disabling conditions, families torn apart, lives forever changed. There are stories I could tell you that would numb your mind, make you want to give up hope for humanity. But bigger than those are the stories of hope, endurance, and resiliency that have risen from those same tragedies. Yes, every client I saw, had successes. I found that the biggest battle in my career was not “dealing” with the difficulty of mental illness, but dealing with the barriers that are in place that prevent people from getting proper and unashamed treatment for their illness.
But this story starts before my college education and my fulfilling career in mental health. It is about a story behind the statistics. This is my story. Circa 1980, my beginning was set in a hailstorm of childhood trauma. Born to a teenage mother, an addict. Witness to criminal activity, domestic abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, poverty and drug/alcohol abuse. Labeled survivor, resilient, successful. Buried under all those experiences is the shrapnel of a silent war that no one likes to talk about. The shards of that past remain embedded in my very being. The visible wounds healed, most of the scars are unseen, but the damage remains. I was well into my adulthood before I received treatment for my mental illness. I have PTSD, anxiety, and depression that I left untreated out of shame, denial, embarrassment. But, hey, I was doing okay. No one could tell. Tears stayed behind closed doors. Nightmares stayed in the dark. Fear was covered by confidence. I remained entombed in a past unsaid. Facing those demons was the hardest thing I have ever done. I learned so much in therapy. I developed healthy ways to cope with my anxiety. I found myself. I learned “grounding” techniques that have helped me live life past my PTSD. I have real confidence now. I believe in myself. But, up until say about hmmmmmm…yesterday, I kept that a secret. People around me know my background, know my history. Those few who are close to me know a bit more. Those who live with me know that I receive treatment. But ironically I have kept a pretty tight lid on all of that. Me, the woman who has worked so hard to help others access care and to not be ashamed of their experiences…I preach over breaking silence and bringing awareness to others. Yet I kept my own so very quiet. Then, I experienced in a very personal way just how the pain and frustration of the "stigma" of a mental illness can impact someone in a way that forces silence. I decided to share that experience on social media, breaking my own silence. It is my hope that sharing this will help others step out from behind their own curtains. That we as a whole can embrace the very real fact that mental illness should not be hidden, but embraced and given proper care. Suicide should not be in the leading cause of death category for anyone. After spending six days hospitalized for an asthma exacerbation and treated with strong steroids I found myself home battling symptoms of “steroid toxicity.” It is not easy to tell anyone, "Hey, I'm feeling a bit crazier than normal..." but I knew things weren't right and I reached out to the on call medical personnel for assistance. When the voice on the other end of the phone noted, "I see here in your chart that you have a history of depression/anxiety," my heart sank. In short, my symptoms: insomnia, heart palpitations, chest pain, headache, nausea, and mood swings were attributed to my "mental illness" history and were dismissed. Two days later in the doctor’s office, lab work showed that I was a very sick woman who needed immediate medical interventions to stop the adverse effects that the steroids were having on my body. Turns out it wasn’t my “mental illness” after all. Even if it were, "just anxiety or just depression," as they say, that dismissal and judgement placed on me is what causes people seeking help to stay quiet and to stay sick.

So I am going to be one loud voice. My name is Jerra and I have a history of depression/anxiety and PTSD and that's okay!

My name is Jerra Moreland. I am sharing life with my wonderful partner John and I am mother to five amazing humans! My two wonderful boys are 15 and 17 & my three bonus children twins (boy & girl) 21 and daughter 18. I have one of those amazing jobs where work does not feel like work. I spend my day in a multi categorical special education classroom working with students who have a variety of exceptional needs. I enjoy the arts... participating in local community theater, writing and creating various art projects using multiple mediums. The beach is my happy place. When I grow up I would like to publish a book or two. I would also like to become a life coach and a motivational speaker. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. It is my hope that through my voice others will find peace, acceptance and unconditional love. Epilogue: Within 24 hours of writing this we received news that one of John's co-workers had completed suicide. It is my hope that no one would ever have to feel that the world, the people they love, would be better off without them there. You matter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

If You Woke Up Rich... by Liz Flaherty

From  Peru Indiana Today in February of 2018. 
There was this meme on Facebook today that said, basically, if you woke up with 500 million dollars in the bank, how would you quit your job? I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. And I can't help but wonder about something.
Why would you want 500 million dollars? Why would anyone? I mean, I definitely get wanting or needing more money than you have. We raised a family in fear of emergencies, because we never had that nice cushion in the bank that was recommended. Eating out was a Big Deal because we couldn't afford to do it very often. Paying book rent at the first of the school year for three kids meant robbing Peter to pay Paul until things fell back into place along about November, just in time to shop for Christmas. More money would have been nice.
It still would, I guess. But, if you're not going to give it away or help someone who needs it, what is the point of having a lot of money? Maybe I have been luckier than many in that I've liked my jobs, both the one I retired from and the ones I have in retirement. There's nothing more fun than writing books, not much that's more fun (for me) than working in a library.
If I had 500 million, even if I had five million dollars, how would life be any better? I suppose the house would be bigger and have more bathrooms. Maybe I wouldn't compare prices at the grocery store or book the cheapest flights or drive my car until its wheels threaten to fall off. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't clean my own house anymore and I know I've always said if I were rich, I'd sleep on clean sheets every single night. I might spend more on clothes. And closets. I'd give more.
But I'm not sure what I'd do once I was know...not doing what I do now. I don't think sunrises or sunsets would be any more beautiful, my cats more accepting, or my friends any better. I think relationships might change in crumbling, scratchy ways that would cause pain. I think there are people who would decide they liked me because I was rich, and...really, is that a good enough reason?
So, okay, if I wake up with that 500 million, you can have it (except for a little bit--I'm not entirely stupid) and I'll just keep the life I have. But I'd love to hear your answers to why you'd want that much money in the first place.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The best job ever... by Liz Flaherty

This is from last year and before that, too. My mother-in-law, Mary Farrell, and my mother, Evelyn Shafer have both left us and there are great empty places where they were, but what blessings memories are!

My sister-in-law Debbie Coleman once said motherhood was the only job she had that she never wanted to quit. I had to admit that I wanted to quit it at least once every single day. The kids probably wanted to fire me at least that often. One of the greatest gratitudes in my life is that we all stuck it out.

Mary Farrell
Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year and I didn’t write anything about it even though writing is what I do. I think about it a lot, think about my mom—gone all these long years—and my mother-in-law, who I’ve loved almost as long as I’ve loved her son and who has loved me back. I think about being a mom and a grandma—it’s just my favorite thing. But Mother’s Day? I’m really glad my kids remember it, tell me they love me, stop by if they’re close by, but mostly I’m glad it’s not 
Mary Farrell
confined to one day in May.

I wrote most of this years ago—I’m the rerun queen, you know—but I hope it still says what it did then. I hope it stands up.

Graduation days have always been like Mother’s Day. They were the signal that one of the most important jobs in life-as-a-mom was nearly finished and that she had, at least to some degree, been successful at it. From my own high school graduates, the entire day of graduation was a gift to me. They would much rather have collected their diplomas on the last day of school and cut and run. They were not eager to wear caps and gowns, to see all the relatives at the open house, to stand with their dad and me and have their pictures with us grinning gleefully from either side of them.

Evelyn Shafer
Parents Night during the various sports season is like Mother’s Day. After all, we always get a rose; we get to stand with the kid and grin gleefully while our picture is taken, and we go back to the bleachers safe in the secret knowledge that, bar none, our kid is the best one out there. Oh, she may not make the best grades, and he may not be the best athlete, and she may cause trouble in class from time to time, but overall, he’s the best kid. You know what I mean.

Mother’s Day is when you tell the kid who thinks you’re being bossy, unreasonable, and not quite bright that you love him more than anything else on earth and he tells you he loves you, too and maybe gives you a little one-armed hug if no one’s around.

Mother’s Day is when someone tells your daughter she’s just like you and she just smiles and says, “Thank you.”

Mother’s Day is when the kids have been horrendous brats all day long. They’ve beaten up the neighbor kid who’s half their size, trashed the entire house, and flipped mashed potatoes at the kitchen wall. They’ve broken the Blu-ray player—the one you got their dad for Christmas—and spilled…oh, everything.

After they’ve gone to sleep and you’ve scrubbed the wall and cleaned the worst of the mess in the house and apologized profusely to the neighbors, you check the kids before you go to bed yourself. And they look like angels among their cartoon-character sheets. Their skin is baby’s-bottom soft and flushed with innocence and youth and they’re the best kids ever born and you are so lucky and it’s truly Mother’s Day all over again.

When they’re older and have established their own ideas and thought patterns and don’t agree with anything you say and their favorite things about you are your wallet and your car…yes, even then they will every now and then do something so perfect and so right it brings tears to your eyes. It doesn’t matter what it is—it can be standing firm for something they believe in, defending an underdog with heat and dignity, or confessing to a wrongdoing rather than let someone innocent of it suffer in their place. When it happens, it is absolutely Mother’s Day.

To all who fit the bill, Happy Mother’s Day. Whenever it may be.