A Holiday Excursion, Days 2-3: Mushing and Slushing to Dug Road Inn

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It was a gray and blustery day.

I’m still in shock that I am able to tell you this story.  The winter storm caught up to me with a seething ferocity.  The snow blew so hard that it was nearly a complete whiteout.  Then it happened.  Some nut in a red Corvette came roaring by in the other lane like a bat out of heck.  The unknown driver cut me off and clipped the front end of my car.  My car careened off the road and rolled over 4 times.  I have a vague realization of my seat belt coming loose and being thrown from my vehicle.

I awoke in a hospital somewhere around Dows, IA.  Both of my arms were broken and the nurse to whom I’m now dictating this story informed me that my gas line had ruptured and my car had exploded.  Its burning carcass was seen through the snowy haze by motorists who summoned help and I was found thirty feet from the smoldering remains of my Focus.

Wow!  That’s a great start to a fiction story.

But what really happened was that the drive was not too bad.  Des Moines was the worst of it so I took things very slowly until I reached I-35.  There wasn’t a lot of snow, but it was blowing around quite a bit due to the strong wind and would get whipped around pretty good when semi trucks drove by.  I kept things well under the speed limit to be extra safe unless I was on completely clear stretches of road.  I was aided by the fact that the roads were virtually empty and what few motorists were on the road also drove quite safely with one or two exceptions.

Due to my safety measures, an extra 90 minutes were tacked onto my drive, but I wasn’t in a rush in the first place.  About 2pm, I found myself in the Norwegian community of Decorah, IA.  Thankfully, the owner of my next inn, Dug Road Inn, had given me a call to check to see if I were still coming and he let me check in an hour early due to the weather.

Dug Road Inn is an Italianate style home originally built by Lt Colonel William T Baker back in the 1860s.  Its current owners are Doug and Shirleen Sturtz and the inn is touted as an eco-friendly B & B famed for its 3 course organic breakfasts.

I was greeted in the driveway by Doug who helped me get my luggage into the house.  He led me to the Duncan Room which would serve as my headquarters for the next 2 days.  After getting my stuff settled, I returned to the living room where Doug brought me a glass of wine and we spent a little time conversing about my project and Iowa football.

After our conversation, I returned to my room where I continued reading a new Nero Wolfe novel before the exhaustion of my long drive caused me to doze off for a brief nap.

When I awoke, I glanced out the window and was met by a night and day difference.  The storm had reached its peak and snow was falling steadily and the wind was howling.  I really did not want to go outside, but I needed to eat.  Luckily, the main drag was only 2 blocks away, so I donned my coat, hat, and gloves and headed outside.  I decided not to press my luck and just eat at the first available place I could find.

That would end up being the Old Armory BBQ which is one of the top 10 BBQ restaurants in Iowa.  When I entered the place, it seemed as if they were closing up and that fact was confirmed a few moments later by one of the employees.  They still had some food left out and said they could prepare something for me.

I settled for a hamburger with homemade pickles which was pretty good, though I couldn’t linger over it as I didn’t want to keep these people in here longer than necessary.  I’m grateful that Old Armory kept me from going hungry that night so I left a good tip for the sandwich before trudging back to Dug Road Inn.

I drew a hot bath after I returned to my room though the jets on the Jacuzzi tub didn’t seem to be working.  But I enjoyed the bath as it was just the right temperature.  Afterwards, I read myself to sleep with Rex Stout’s brilliant, if slothful, detective.

The next morning, I met Doug’s wife, Shirleen, who had prepared my breakfast.  The first course was a dish of mixed fruit (apples, grapes, and, I believe, pomegranate) in a dish of cream.  The second course was baked bacon with a small salad of greens and tomatoes, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, and a wonderful food item that I could best describe as a stuffed pancake.  The third course was a dessert course consisting of chocolate gelato and lefse.  This meal I did do justice to as I blissfully enjoyed every bite.  Regrettably, I had forgotten my camera upstairs so you’ll have to use your imaginations for this meal.

I wanted some exercise so I got into my winter accessories and wandered around the downtown area to work off the meal.  Downtown Decorah reminds me very much of my grandparents’ old hometown of Storm Lake, IA as it is mostly locally owned businesses.  There is even a small J.C. Penney on one of the corners just like the one in Storm Lake.

My meanderings brought me to GamesXP.  If you’re a vintage video game connoisseur like I am, then this is the store for you.  I was amazed by the classic games and systems this store had.  Odyssey, Intellivision, Atari, Super Famicom, this place had it all.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to continue building my Sega CD library as their selection was limited and didn’t have anything I wanted, but this is a store that I will surely visit again if my journeys bring me back.

I returned to the inn where I found Doug scraping the ice from my vehicle, a personal touch of hospitality which I very much appreciated.  I read a few more chapters before getting into my car and seeing what there was to see.

I had hoped to visit the Ice Cave, but when I reached the road leading to it, I found it covered with snow.  Remembering my misadventure back in Greenfield, I opted to turn back.  However, I did find Dunnings’ Spring which has a 200 foot waterfall.  I hiked up the steep hill through the new fallen snow and managed to grab some good pics of this natural beauty.

Afterwards, I drove back to the inn where I read for a while and dried out my clothes.  Around 4:30, I decided to take another hot bath to get the chill out of bones.  After soaking for nearly an hour, I headed back downtown in search of supper.

I ended up at Restauration in the famed Hotel Winneshiek.  This is a small fine dining establishment that is well worth a visit.  My meal began with a mixed green salad with a homemade ranch dressing with some homemade bread.  The main course was an Iowa specialty, pork chop, with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and red onions).

The salad was excellent, though I had hoped for hot bread.  The presentation of the main course was superior, especially the grill marks on the Iowa chop which was, mmm, cooked to perfection.  The vegetables were fresh and crisp, but the potatoes needed some more garlic.

After the satisfying meal, I went back to Dug Road Inn and called it a night.

I really didn’t want to get out of my comfortable bed the next morning, but the smell of fine cooking galvanized me to make the attempt.  The Inn’s regular chef was able to make it in today and the meal once again began with mixed fruit (orange, grapes, pomegranate) with cream and granola.  The main entrée was a tiny dish of cherry tomatoes in a dressing with Eggs Florentine cooked with parmesan cheese and spinach.  Also included were fried potatoes with feta cheese, oregano, and chili powder and sausage.  Each bite was heavenly.  For dessert was apple-cranberry crisp with whipped cream that melted in my mouth.

I was disappointed when my meal ended for I knew that my stay had come to a close.  Dug Road Inn is certainly well worth a visit and Decorah is a fine little city, though probably best visited in the warmer months when there is more to see and do.  If your travels brings you to Decorah, get a room at Dug Road Inn where you’ll enter as strangers and leave as friends.

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A Holiday Excursion, Day 1: Bravo, Butler House

003Well, it was my first time back on the road since September and I was in for several post-Christmas surprises.  I always try to schedule a review or two around the Christmas season because I enjoy seeing how the inns decorate for the holidays.  However, since I operate out of the Midwest, I’ve always got to keep an eye on the weather because I never quite know what’s going to happen.

Nebraska had actually been enjoying a rather tepid December and I was rather looking forward to a pleasant drive through Iowa and that’s exactly what I got on Sunday.  It was a little cold, but the sky was clear and the drive was smooth.  Monday may be a different story, however.

A winter storm is set to pummel Nebraska and do a number on Iowa.  Fortunately, my good luck seems to be with me as the storm is set to strike Nebraska first and move its way slowly to Iowa.  As I’m already in Des Moines, I’m actually a few hours ahead of the storm and it will have just started by the time I hit the road so I should manage to stay just ahead of it.  I’ll just be playing things by ear and possibly moving quite slowly.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here.

A brief two hour drive brought me to Des Moines, IA and Butler House on Grand owned and operated by Clark Smith and Lauren Kernen Smith.  Butler House on Grand is a 6100 square foot Tudor mansion nestled close to the downtown area and the artistic center of the city as the Des Moines Playhouse and Arts Center are a hop, skip, and jump away.

I was greeted by Clark who led me to the Dynasty Suite which would serve as my home away from home for at least one night.

The Dynasty Suite is probably one of the biggest rooms I’ve enjoyed since I started this project.  The suite is quite roomy and is highlighted by an en suite Jacuzzi and writing desk.  The mansion, itself, has a very pleasant feel to it and I was quite impressed with the Christmas decorations, especially in the living room which featured a real Christmas tree, Christmas village, and various Christmas knickknacks.

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The Dynasty Suite

I took it easy in my room for a few hours as I kept my eye on the weather reports.  After a few hours, I decided it was time for dinner and decided to enjoy a nice meal at Taki Japanese Steakhouse.

I’m quite partial to teppanyaki cooking, but I can’t say that I would recommend Taki.  The restaurant seemed a mite understaffed as I had to wait nearly an hour for a table.  Mind you, I don’t put all of the blame for the wait on the restaurant.  I did not have a reservation so I did expect to wait, but the teppanyaki room was not very full which suggests a lack of wait staff and/or chefs for the evening.  I did get a free Guinness for my long wait and I was able to pass the time with another adventure of Nero Wolfe, the armchair detective whose genius is matched only by his laziness.

I ended up sharing a tale with a group of high school girls and it was rather amusing to hear their views on college as at least one seemed to think that partying was going to take priority over studying.  Ah, youth.

The meal was simply OK and definitely not worth the long wait.  It took quite a while for our drinks, soup, and salads to arrive.  As a gesture of goodwill, I was not charged for my soda.  The clear soup wasn’t very hot and needed a bit more salt.  The salad was quite good with the ginger vinaigrette dressing being right on the money.

My steak, chicken, and shrimp were cooked well, but needed more seasoning.  When all is said and done, I give Taki a thumbs slightly down.

After dinner, I returned to the inn where I grabbed a can of soda from the fridge as I looked forward to a long soak and shave.  When I entered my room, I was pleasantly surprised that my bed had been turned down with a caramel waiting on my pillows.  After a relaxing bath, I tuned in to the weather reports to find that the winter storm warning now engulfed the entire state of Iowa as opposed to just the south & central portions.  As I said earlier, snow was not due to hit the Des Moines area until 6am which meant it will have barely started before I hit the road to my next stop.  Luckily it will be moving slowly northward which means I should keep on its outskirts for most, if not all, of the drive.

The queen bed was quite comfortable with a thick blanket that was so cozy that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.  I finally forced myself to just so I could see what the weather was doing.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw it wasn’t too terrible.  A fine, powdery snow was falling and the weather report now said the Des Moines area was only expected to get 6 to 8 inches with little to no ice accumulation and it was the northwestern and southeastern parts of Iowa that were expected to be hazardous.  Now knowing my drive would be safer, if slower, I went downstairs for a bracing breakfast.

There’s nothing quite like a hot meal on a cold day to start your day off right and Clark and Lauren provided a terrific breakfast.  The meal started with hot ginger snap pears served with goblets of water, milk, and orange juice.  The main course consisted of a cinnamon roll, fried rosemary potatoes, cheese soufflé with salsa, and sausage patties.  I engaged in some conversation with Clark, Lauren, and another couple before returning to my room to polish up this article and begin my snowy trek.

Butler House on Grand is a fine little oasis in the city of Des Moines and the hospitality and cooking of Clark and Lauren will make your stay grand, indeed.

Sleeping Beauty to Grace Orpheum

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY FAIRYTALE COMES TO LIFE IN PERFORMANCE BY THE MOSCOW FESTIVAL BALLET

Tchaikovsky’s Classic Ballet Is At Omaha’s Orpheum Theater On January 23

Omaha, Neb., (December 18, 2015) – A cherished ballet featuring fairytale princesses and malevolent witches in a storybook kingdom will be performed one-night-only at the Orpheum Theater. Omaha Performing Arts presents The Sleeping Beauty featuring the Moscow Festival Ballet on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. The performance is sponsored by Bank of the West.

The Sleeping Beauty is part of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s glorious repertoire of storybook ballets, which includes The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. The Sleeping Beauty is a cherished ballet that transports audiences to a kingdom of fairytale princesses, malevolent witches, and a true love’s kiss.

One of the most renowned ballets in the classical repertoire, the Moscow Festival Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty is enjoyable for all ages.

Founded in 1989 by legendary principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet, Sergei Radchenko, the company brings together elements of the great Bolshoi and Kirov ballet companies. Russian dancers under Radchenko’s direction have staged new productions of timeless classics including Giselle, Don Quixote, Paquita and Carmen, as well as commissioned new works. Their last performance in Omaha was Swan Lake in April 2014.

Tickets start at $20, and are available through Ticket Omaha* at 402.345.0606,

TicketOmaha.com or the Ticket Omaha office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center at 13th and Douglas streets.

Special Guests MAX And Parade Of Lights Join R5’S Winter 2016 Sometime Last Night Tour

Monday – March 14, 2016 – 7:30 p.m. Holland Performing Arts Center

OMAHA, Neb. – December 15, 2015 – As they wrap up a stellar 2015 that included the release of their highly successful sophomore album Sometime Last Night and subsequent headline world tour of the same name, pop-rock quintet, R5, has announced emerging talents MAX and Parade of Lights as special guests throughout the band’s 20+ city winter 2016 tour leg in addition to previously announced opener Ryland.

Tickets for the March 14, 2016 Omaha performance are available exclusively at www.TicketOmaha.com, 402-345-0606 or at the box office, 13th & Douglas streets. Prices: $49.50 and $37.50.

Parade of Lights, an alt-electro band based in Los Angeles comprised of Ryan Daly, Anthony Improgo, Michelle Ashley & Randy Schulte, will be featured on the first half of the tour, beginning with its January 26 kick-off date in Stockton, Calif.’s Bob Hope Theatre. The group combines equal parts rock, new wave, and shoegaze to create a unique blend of 80’s influenced pop drawing on inspiration from artists like U2, Depeche Mode, M83, and even Madonna. On the strength of having their independent single “We’re the Kids” garner Top 10 spins on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation channel and receive favorable blog reviews, the band signed to Astralwerks Records in 2013. Upon releasing their Golden EP on the label in 2014, Parade of Lights saw the title song used by NBC for its Sochi Winter Olympics promos and subsequently featured in TV campaigns for ESPN, The Voice, Super Bowl XLIX, the Grammys, Oscars and Golden Globes. In June 2015, the band released their debut album, Feeling Electric. The full length got a huge boost when its title track was featured in EA Sports’ FIFA 16 along with the online trailer for the game. In the last two years Parade of Lights has performed and toured with Imagine Dragons, X Ambassadors, Awolnation, Smallpools, Fitz & The Tantrums, and The Neighbourhood among others. They have also played destination festivals like Bonnaroo, Firefly and Life Is Beautiful. In the summer of 2016, Parade of Lights will release new music and embark on their first European tour. More information about PoL can be found on their website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

MAX, a New York City-born pop-soul singer, actor and dancer who was named MTV’s 2015 Artist To Watch, will take over beginning February 24 in Red Bank, N.J. at Count Basie Theatre and continue through the tour’s conclusion on March 17 in Sioux City, Iowa’s Orpheum Theatre. Following in the footsteps of pop moguls Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars, MAX’s powerful acrobatic tenor commands attention. 2015 was a banner year for MAX – in February, he signed with Pete Wentz’s DCD2 Records and in March, he released the single “Gibberish” featuring HoodieAllen. The song was one of the selected tracks featured by YouTube for the 2015 YouTube Music Awards alongside songs by Ed Sheeran & Charli XCX, and its groundbreaking music video accumulated over 4.5 million views in just one week and has racked up more than 10.5 million views to date. MAX spent the summer on the road as a featured performer on the Boys of Zummer tour with Fall Out Boy, and Wiz Khalifa before releasing his DCD2 Records-debut EP Ms.Anonymous in September. In October, MAX embarked on his first headline tour across the U.S., which included multiple sold out dates. MAX’s devoted fanbase and original voice has given him an incredibly strong social media presence with over 1.2 million followers on YouTube, 390,000 followers on Twitter and over 940,000 likes on Facebook.

Currently, MAX is gearing up for the December 18 release of his newest EP Wrong as well as working in studio with Pharrell Williams, Wiz Khalifa, and other top producers and songwriters on his upcoming full-length album due in 2016. The singer has also contributed vocals to the debut release of rapper Taylor Bennett, brother of Chance The Rapper. MAX can be found on his website, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

R5’s extensive worldwide touring schedule has not been lost on fans and critics throughout the Sometime Last Night tour since its launch in July 2015. The Arizona Republic described the band as energetic and “super-talented,” noting that they are “unique in today’s pop music scene, eschewing the use of samplers, pre-recorded beats and trendy bass drops, and relying instead on solid songwriting played with a traditional guitar-bass-drums-keys setup.”

Of the band’s sophomore record, the Boston Globe praised that “with their new album, [R5] are striking out into writing their own material…their slightly funky brand of hooky spirited pop wouldn’t be out of place on playlists geared toward those who appreciated mid-period Maroon 5.”

R5 U.S. Winter 2016 Tour Dates

Featuring opener Ryland & Parade of Lights

Date City Venue

January 26, 2016 Stockton, Calif. Bob Hope Theatre

January 27, 2016 Fresno, Calif. William Saroyan Theatre

January 29, 2016 Pomona, Calif. Fox Theater Pomona

January 30, 2016 San Diego, Calif. Balboa Theatre

February 1, 2016 Tucson, Ariz. Tucson Music Hall

February 2, 2016 Albuquerque, N.M. Kiva Auditorium

February 4, 2016 San Antonio, Texas Majestic Theatre

February 6, 2016 Austin, Texas Paramount Theatre

February 9, 2016 Memphis, Tenn. Cannon Center For The Performing Arts

February 10, 2016 Birmingham, Ala. Iron City

February 12, 2016 Orlando, Fla. Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts

February 13, 2016 Clearwater, Fla. Ruth Eckerd Hall

February 16, 2016 Augusta, Ga. William B. Bell Auditorium

February 17, 2016 Knoxville, Tenn. Knoxville Civic Auditorium

February 18, 2016 Charlotte, N.C. Ovens Auditorium

February 20, 2016 Norfolk, Va. The NorVa

February 21, 2016 Richmond, Va. The National

February 23, 2016 Washington, District of Columbia

Lincoln Theatre

Featuring opener Ryland & MAX

Date City Venue

February 24, 2016 Red Bank, N.J. Count Basie Theatre

February 26, 2016 Portland, Maine State Theatre

February 27, 2016 New York, N.Y. Beacon Theatre

March 1, 2016 Providence, R.I. The VETS

March 2, 2016 Burlington, Vt. Flynn Center For The Performing Arts

March 4, 2016 Albany, N.Y. Palace Theatre

March 5, 2016 Rochester, N.Y. Auditorium Theatre

March 7, 2016 Reading, Pa. Santander Performing Arts Center

March 8, 2016 Cleveland, Ohio State Theatre

March 10, 2016 Chicago, Ill. Chicago Theatre

March 11, 2016 Minneapolis, Minn. State Theatre

March 12, 2016 Des Moines, Iowa Des Moines Civic Center

March 14, 2016 Omaha, Neb. Holland Performing Arts Center

March 15, 2016 Tulsa, Okla. Brady Theater

March 17, 2016 Sioux City, Iowa Orpheum Theatre

ABOUT R5:

Led by vocalist/rhythm guitarist Ross Lynch, R5 came together in 2009 and is comprised of Lynch’s siblings Riker (bass/vocals), Rocky (lead guitar/vocals), and Rydel (keyboard/vocals), and friend Ellington “Ratliff” (drums/vocals). R5 has rapidly emerged as an exciting new voice in the world of pop-rock. The band has moved one step closer to world domination with the release of their sophomore album, Sometime Last Night, the follow up to their hit debut album LOUDER, which rocketed to No. 1 on iTunes in ten countries upon its September 24, 2013 release.

Sometime Last Night and LOUDER combined have over 47M streams on Spotify. The band has recently appeared on Good Morning America, Ellen, LIVE! with Kelly & Michael and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

The band self-released their first EP, Ready Set Rock in 2010 and signed with Hollywood Records in April of 2012 and released their second EP, Loud, on February 19, 2013. The quintet starred in a five-part VEVO series titled “R5 on R5,” which saw cameras follow them on a 2013 sold-out tour that included shows in the U.S., Canada, Australia, England and France. The band made a triumphant return to Europe in early 2014 and recently released a six-part VEVO series, R5 Live in London, capturing the mania of R5 fans during a magnetic show in London this past March. The band recently brought R5: All Day, All Night to the big screen for one night only. The documentary takes a never-before-seen look at the band’s career from inception to the present and includes exclusive interviews, concert footage and footage from the band’s early years.

ABOUT AEG LIVE:

AEG Live, the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, is dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance. AEG Live is comprised of touring, festival and special event divisions, seventeen regional offices and owns, operates or exclusively books thirty-five state-of-the-art venues. The current and recent concert tour roster includes artists such as Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi, Carrie Underwood, Cher, Ed Sheeran, Enrique Iglesias, George Strait, Hunter Hayes, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Kenny Chesney, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Pitbull, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, The WHO, Trey Songz, and Juanes. The company operates The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and produces residency shows there including Celine Dion, Jerry Seinfeld, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, and Reba, Brooks & Dunn; is the exclusive promoter at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas; and produces limited-engagement performances at The Venetian Theatre including Diana Ross in April. AEG Live is also the largest producer of music festivals in North America from the critically acclaimed Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival to Stagecoach Country Music Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. www.aeglive.com

Gabriel Iglesias Brings His #FluffyBreaksEven Tour to Omaha

GABRIEL IGLESIAS BRINGS HIS #FLUFFYBREAKSEVEN TOUR TO OMAHA ON APRIL 14, 2016

Tickets To Comedian’s Show At The Holland Center Go On Sale December 18

Omaha, Neb. (Monday, December 14) – Born in Chula Vista, Calif., Gabriel Iglesias is the youngest of six children, raised by a single mother. Growing up, the family lived in Section 8 housing in Long Beach, Calif. It was during his childhood that he developed a strong sense of humor to deal with the obstacles he faced. In 1997, he set out to hone his comedic skills, and performed stand-up anywhere he could find an audience; including biker bars and hole-in-the-wall joints. Iglesias’ stand-up comedy is a mixture of storytelling, parodies, characters and sound effects that bring his personal experiences to life.

His unique and animated comedy style has made him popular among fans of all ages.

Iglesias brings his #FluffyBreaksEven tour to the Kiewit Concert Hall at the Holland Performing Arts Center on April 14, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets before the public on-sale by using promo code FLUFFY at TicketOmaha.com on December 16. Tickets go on sale to the public Friday, December 18, at 10 a.m., and will be available through Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606.

TicketOmaha.com or the Ticket Omaha office inside the Holland Performing Arts Center at 13th and Douglas streets.

Iglesias is one of America’s most successful stand-up comedians, and performs to sold-out concerts around the world. He recently had the distinct honor of being one of the few comedians to headline and sellout Madison Square Garden in New York, The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, and The Honda Center in Anaheim. This fall, Iglesias will be launching The Fluffy Breaks Even! concert tour.

Iglesias stars in Fuse TV’s “Fluffy Breaks Even!” (premiered Oct. 1), a non-scripted comedic docu-follow series co-starring his eccentric tour mates and fellow comedians Martin Moreno and Rick Gutierrez. Audience members will have an opportunity to see what it’s like for Iglesias to eat on the road, add up the calories and then try to burn it off and “break even” with a different restaurant and workout in every episode.

Iglesias co-stars with Channing Tatum in Warner Bros’ “Magic Mike XXL,” reprising his role as Tobias. Earlier this year, he lit up the small screen on the ABC sitcom “Cristela.”

Feature film credits include co-starring roles in 20th Century Fox’s animated film “The Book of Life,” “A Haunted House 2,” and the hit animated films “The Nut Job” and “Disney’s Planes.” Iglesias also starred in the theatrical stand-up concert comedy film, “The Fluffy Movie.” For the past three years Comedy Central has aired Iglesias’ hit series “Stand-Up Revolution.” The cable network also premiered

“Gabriel Iglesias: Aloha Fluffy” in an unprecedented two-night comedy special to over 15 million viewers. The special was a follow-up to his previous DVD specials, “Hot & Fluffy” and “I’m Not Fat…I’m Fluffy,” which have sold a combined total of over 2 million copies.

Defending Hilary

If you’re a member of the Omaha theatre community like I am than I imagine you were rocked by the startling news of the dismissal of the Omaha Community Playhouse’s artistic director, Hilary Adams, last evening.

From reading the multiple posts on FB, it is clear there is a lot of sadness, frustration, and anger at the news, but most importantly there are a lot of questions. Specifically, the question, why. Why did this happen? Why are we once again heading down a road that we visited not that long ago with Carl Beck and Susie Baer-Collins?

We may never know the truth, but I certainly think we have a right to know what happened and to have a say in things. The Omaha Community Playhouse is all about the COMMUNITY. And the community is the board of directors, the hard working staff and crew, the dedicated volunteers, the actors who offer their time and talent free of charge, and the patrons who pay their hard earned money to be taken out of reality for a few hours. In short, everybody. Without the community, there is no community theatre.

I’ll be honest. I do not know Hilary very well. We’ve only spoken briefly at auditions for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the meet and greet for Jeff Horger. Thus, my judgments of her as an artistic director are based solely on her work. Based on those observations alone I believe, to the bottom of my heart, that the Playhouse was in very capable hands with Hilary at the artistic helm.

In the short time that Hilary served as artistic director, I not only saw a continuation of the Playhouse’s legacy of producing great shows, but other positive changes as well.

One of the best changes initiated by Hilary was to the audition process. When I saw that Hilary made the auditions more of a private process, I was ecstatic. Not only did the actors have the security of knowing they had her full attention, they also had the security of knowing everything they did would be perceived as original since no other performer could see what the others were doing. I imagine nerves were also much lower since there wasn’t an audience watching the auditioners. This would allow the actors to give their very best and be judged in the best possible light.

I also praise Hilary in putting the COMMUNITY in Omaha Community Playhouse. As actor, critic, and patron, it has been a real treat for me to see so much new blood have a chance to shine on the Playhouse stages over the past year and a half. I think the casting during Hilary’s tenure put new vitality into the Playhouse product.

And her directing. After 20 years in the business, I know good directing when I see it and Hilary is a great director. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Man of La Mancha easily make my top 10 list of the best shows I have seen on metro area stages. And I especially loved her focus on the story of A Christmas Carol in this year’s production. She’s intuitive, inventive, and interesting and those are qualities essential to a good artistic director.

Since it is our Omaha Community Playhouse, dear readers, I think we need and deserve to know the full story behind this decision. I’d also like to encourage the Playhouse board to be direct with us about what happened. Perhaps with an open forum like we had a few years ago. Why was this decision made? Might we be able to talk about it? Is there anything we, in the theatre community, can do to help? Great things can be accomplished if we simply talk things out.

I encourage you to get the word out, Omaha theatre community. Let your voice be heard. Contact the board. Share this post. Let’s come together as the community we are and do some good just like we did once before.