An Independent Man in Independence, MO: The Silver Heart Inn

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It was a scorching summer’s day to start another of my little road trips.  But a little AC and some tunes made for a very quick and pleasant drive.

I was off to Independence, MO where I would be staying at the Silver Heart Inn, owned and operated by Perry and Melanie Johnson, as well as reviewing The Crucible for the Barn Players.

I only made one miscalculation for the trip.  With only an overnight stay planned, I had to be selective in the activities I chose to do.  I decided to visit the Truman Presidential Museum and Library and figured an hour would be enough time to get through it.

It was not enough time.

I did manage to get through Truman’s presidential years, but did not make it through the section detailing his personal life.  Rest assured, I will rectify this error if and when my travels bring me through this area again.

Truman was a very interesting President.  He was a common man who came from a period where you didn’t have to be wealthy to run for the Presidency.  He was a simple farmer who had deep ties to labor.  He wasn’t a good speaker.  He was put into power by a political machine, yet he was a incredibly honest man who vowed to get things done the right way.  Despite holding the prejudices of his time and place, Truman helped launch the Civil Rights movement after observing the horrible treatment of black people after World War II.  He made the decision to drop the atomic bomb.  Truman also had the biggest upset in political history when he was reelected to the Presidency in his own right when it was believed he would be crushed by his opponent, Thomas Dewey.  This was due to his Whistlestop Campaign where he rode a train through numerous communities to share his message, sometimes speaking at a dozen stops a day.

What I found most interesting about Truman was that he seemed to have no aspirations to be President.  It was his everyman quality (especially his ties to farming and labor) that secured his nomination for the Vice Presidency.  In reality, the Democrats were really looking for the next President as it was obvious FDR would not be long for the world.  In fact, he died shortly after he was reelected to his fourth term.

I also had great respect for Truman’s decency.  When his term of office expired, he was not a wealthy man and could have earned fat fees doing public speaking tours, but he refused to trade on the office of President.  Instead, he founded the Presidential Library which was the first in our country and I look forward to completing my tour of the museum some future day.

About 3pm, I headed to Silver Heart Inn to check in.  I pulled into the parking area, sidestepped a few chickens wandering about the property, and headed to the back door entrance where I was quickly greeted and led to my room.

I had been expecting to stay in the Roy Gamble Room, but was upgraded to the Napolian Stone Room instead.  It was one of the smaller rooms I had stayed in, but I enjoyed the rich brown of the walls, the soft and comfortable queen bed, and the gas fireplace.  I made my normal explorations and then killed a couple of hours reading Face to Face by Ellery Queen and brushing up on Silver Heart Inn’s history.

The Silver Heart Inn was built 1856 by local businessman, Napolian Stone.  The house used to be twice its original size and originally built in a T formation.  That changed when Judge George Jennings, the house’s owner in 1923 had the house split in half and moved to the same side of the street.  This was done as Jennings recognized that Noland Street (where the home is located) was becoming Independence’s main thoroughfare.  The inn, itself, was the back wing of the house.  The front wing fell into disrepair and was destroyed in the 1960s.

At 5pm, I headed off for an early dinner.  I once again dined at Corner Café, which you may remember from my trip to Liberty, MO about a year ago.

The restaurant was packed so I took advantage of my solo status to dine at the counter.  I ordered the Turkey Melt, one of the house specials, with a side of loaded French Fries.  Within five minutes of my hour, a plate of piping hot food appeared which I relished as I continued to read my novel.

Once fed, I drove to Mission, KS to enjoy another stellar production by the Barn Players.  It was one of the finest dramas I had ever watched and I could not wait to get back to the inn to start writing.  You can read the review here.

After I finished writing, I curled up in my bed for a restful night’s slumber.

When I awoke the next morning, I drew a hot bath and enjoyed a long soak before wandering downstairs in search of breakfast.

Breakfast was a rather pleasant, if quiet, affair.  I continued reading my mystery as I enjoyed a dish of yogurt, blueberries, granola, and cream for an appetizer followed by the main entrée of turkey sausage (I think) and an Eggs Benedict omelet served with goblets of water and orange juice.  After this tasty affair, I settled up my bill and headed off to worship services at St Mark’s before heading for home.

I definitely would recommend a stay at Silver Heart Inn if you find yourself in the Independence area.  It’s quiet and comfortable and you’ll get yourself a tasty meal (and some other perks offered by the inn if you’re so inclined).  You’ll just be minutes away from the Truman Museum and can’t pick up a little history if you wish.

Until the next time, happy travels.

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In the Garden of Evil

One girl’s lie to avoid trouble for dabbling in a voodoo ceremony unleashes a swathe of evil upon the city of Salem.  Under the hysteria of witchcraft, secret hatreds and jealousies are vented through baseless accusations sending innocent victims to the gallows.  Will a farmer burdened by his own secret sin be able to halt the onslaught?  Find out in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible currently playing at the Barn Players.

I have been involved with theatre for nearly 22 years.  I’ve acted, directed, stage managed, worked on crew, run lights and sounds, and reviewed shows.  Having experienced all of these different aspects of theatre has helped me to develop a sixth sense about plays and I’ve usually got a good feel for the quality of a show as I head into it.  As I walked into the theatre for tonight’s production of The Crucible, I had a feeling that this was going to be a pretty good show.  However, I must admit that my sixth sense was wrong.

This show wasn’t “pretty good”.  It was beyond amazing!!  It may very well be the very best drama I’ve ever seen staged.

Few writers could pen a tragedy as well as Arthur Miller due to his understanding of the human condition.  In The Crucible, he presents humanity at its basest and its stupidest.  It’s hard to fathom people being depraved enough to lie about their neighbors in order to steal their property or to satisfy a hidden grudge.  But it’s even harder to realize that supposedly intellectual judges could fail to see through such a farrago of nonsense and deception and forget that justice means innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.

The Barn Players was fortunate to have David Martin helming this show because his direction was transcendent.  He brought Miller’s story to life in its full glory.  He not only understood the story’s darkness, but he also found the glimmers of hope and humor buried in the tale and brought them to light as well.  His staging was impeccable and made full use of the entire theatre.  You couldn’t punch a hole in the quality of his cast’s acting.  He also did double duty on sound design which was so apropos from the creepy, haunting music heading into the first scene to the relentless drumbeat to close out the show.

This is one of those shows where I’d like to do a write up on every single actor, but, for the sake of brevity, let me assure you that there wasn’t a weak link in the lot.  Each and every one was fully immersed in the story which only brought the audience deeper and deeper into it.  But I want to especially note the work of Charles Christesson who brought intelligence, levity, and heartbreak into the character of Giles Corey; Scott Shaw’s Rev. Samuel Parris, the “man of God” more concerned with power and reputation than faith; and Emma Cook’s portrayal of Mary Warren, a servant stretched to the edge of sanity due to being the rope in a spiritual tug of war between John Proctor and Abigail Williams.

I was particularly impressed with what Michael Juncker dug out of the role of Deputy Governor Danforth.  He plays Danforth as a man of strong, if misguided, character.  He truly believes in the cause of justice and honestly believes he is doing his part to rid Salem of witchcraft.  Yet his appalling cluelessness is sickening as he can’t see through the histrionics of the accusers, puts the letter of the law above its spirit, and claims to be doing the will of God, yet ignores the undisputed expert on witchcraft and true man of faith, John Hale.

Jessica Franz’s take on Elizabeth Proctor is as strong as it is tragic.  Ms Franz well communicates the sickliness of the recovering Elizabeth and ably portrays the duality of warmth and iciness in the character.  Elizabeth wants to love and trust her husband, but has difficulty doing so due to an infidelity on his part.  When her warmth finally wins out, it makes her horror at dooming John Proctor due to a lie she concocts to protect his honor all the more believable and heartrending.

I loved Phil Howard’s take on Rev. John Hale.  Howard’s Hale is a good man.  He is a decent man.  Sadly, when all is said and done, he is also a broken man.  Howard presents Hale as a truly devout man dedicated to God and ending the scourge of witchcraft.  But he is also an intelligent and just man who is dedicated to discovering the truth more than anything.   Howard’s anguish is palpable when he realizes the truth behind the Salem witch trials and tries to mitigate the damage by persuading accused witches to give false confessions which will preserve their lives, but excommunicate them.

Abigail Williams truly is a witch, but not in the magical sense.  In Lauren Hambleton’s capable hands, you will experience one of the greatest villains I have seen on stage.  Ms Hambleton’s Abigail is unspeakably disgusting and diabolically clever.  What begins as a simple lie to avoid punishment for participating in a voodoo ceremony evolves into a cunning plan to rid herself of her perceived rival in Elizabeth Proctor for the love of John Proctor, with whom she had an affair, and a chance to revenge herself on the “hypocrites” (though some truly are) of the town.  Evil just oozes from Ms Hambleton’s pores and I really appeciated the smarts she brought to Abigail who enhances her lies through information she gleans from Rev. Hale’s questions and books.

Andy Penn’s work as John Proctor is a tour de force performance.  Penn brilliantly essays the walking paradox that is Proctor.  He is a good man, but is bowed by the guilt of his infidelity with Abigail Williams.  He believes in God, but hates the hypocrisy of his church.  He is willing to make a false confession to save his life partially because he doesn’t want to have his death be a lie about him being a saint.  Penn provides a clinic in acting as he finds beats within beats within beats as he creates a man you will admire for his strength and pity for his weakness.

Steven Ansel James has prepared a wonderful bare bones set with its extended stage, docks, and chalk drawings of trees, heretical words, and occult symbols.  Chuck Cline’s lights gorgeously animate all of the emotional moments of the show.  Jenny Knecht’s costumes perfectly reflected the Puritan time period.

At one point, Rev. Hale wonders if the devil has come to Salem.  The sad truth is that he did because the people of Salem opened the doors and invited him in by succumbing to their own evil desires.  But even in all the darkness and mayhem, Arthur Miller still manages to show where there is a kernel of faith, hope, and decency, the devil can still be overcome.

This play is storytelling at its zenith.  If you want to see compelling, powerful, thought provoking drama, then you need to buy a ticket and see The Crucible.  It’s the best thing going in theatre this summer.

The Crucible plays at the Barn Players through July 30.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $18 ($15 for seniors 65+ & $12 for students with ID and groups of 10 or more).  There will be an Industry Night performance on July 24 at 7:30pm.  All tickets for this performance will be $12 at the door.  For tickets, visit the Barn Players at www.thebarnplayers.org or call 913-432-9100.  The Barn Players is located at 6219 Martway in Mission, KS.

Open Auditions at Barn Players

Audition dates set for the Barn production of RUMORS!

Rumors

by Neil Simon
Directed by Bill Pelletier

OPEN CALL AUDITIONS:
Saturday, April 8, 2017 1pm – 5pm &
Sunday, April 9, 2017 1pm – 5pm
(No callback is planned at this time)
At St. Pius School
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS.

SYNOPSIS:
At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden’s Landing (Palisades) townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken, and wife, Chris, must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusion and miscommunication mounts, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:
Prepare: Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. Prior to auditions, please read and familiarize yourself with the play and the role/s that interest you.
Bring: Please bring a current resume and headshot. Also bring all known conflicts from April 30 through the June production dates listed below.
Rehearsal: Rehearsals will begin Sunday, April 30 and run Sunday-Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to approximately 10 p.m. Rehearsal will be at St. Pius School until the production moves to the Barn Players stage on Monday, May 8.

Additional Notes: Cast members are required to assist with strike following the final performance on June 18. Cast members may also be asked to assist with costume pieces.

PRODUCTION DATES:
June 2 – 18, 2017
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Monday, June 12 (Industry night performance) at 7:30 p.m.

All performances take place at The Barn Players Theatre, 6219 Martway, Mission, KS

CHARACTER BREAKDOWN
5M – 5F
NOTE : Age ranges listed for characters are suggested ages only. These may be flexible depending on the actors.

KEN GORMAN – (M – 40) A well-to-do lawyer. Wealthy, but by no means pretentious. Takes charge of the situation. Married to Chris. Halfway through the show, a gunshot causes his temporary deafness.

CHRIS GORMAN – (F – mid-30s) Another lawyer, married to Ken. Beautiful, easily flustered. Frantically tries to maintain normalcy at the party. Has recently quit smoking, which drives her to drink a bit more.

LENNY GANZ – (M – Late 30s, early 40s) – A wealthy accountant, distraught over the recent destruction of his new car. Starts the show with an extreme case of whiplash. Intolerant of the gossipy-lifestyle that he is often involved in.

CLAIRE GANZ – (F – Late 30s) – Lenny’s wife. Very concerned with appearances (hers and others’). Likes to gossip.

ERNIE CUSACK – (M – Early 50s – 60s) – A psychiatrist. Affable, loves his wife very much. Tries to be as helpful as possible cooking the evening’s dinner.

COOKIE CUSACK – (F – 40s – 50s) – Has her own cooking show. Suffers from extreme back spasms. Loves her husband very much. A bit absent-minded at times.

GLENN COOPER – (M – 30-40) A handsome man running for State Senate. Worried about his own reputation. Struggles with placating his wife, who is convinced he is having an affair (which he may or may not be).

CASSIE COOPER – (F – late 20s, early 30s) Glenn’s beautiful wife. Obsesses over her husband’s relationships with other women. Quick to anger. Obsessively rubs her quartz crystal to calm herself down.

OFFICER WELCH – (M – 30-50) – A city police officer having a rough night. Does not tolerate lying. Sees through the “classy” façade that these high-society types put on.

OFFICER PUDNEY – (F – 20-40) – Welch’s partner. A strong but silent type.

 

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller

Directed by David Martin
Assistant Direction, Set Design & Sound Design by Steven James
Stage Management by DK Evenson
Lighting Design by Chuck Cline
Costume Design by Jenny Knecht
Props Design by Valerie Martin

AUDITIONS:
Thursday, March 2nd
from 7:00pm – 10:00pm

At St. Pius Church
55th and Woodson, Mission, KS

EXPECTATION and PREPARATION:
Auditions will be an open call and will consist of cold readings from the script. Callbacks are by invitation only on Monday, March 6th from 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Please come to auditions with as close an idea as you can as to your availability for June and July. The rehearsal period will be a fairly standard Sunday-Thursday, 7-10 pm schedule. All efforts will be made to arrange a rehearsal schedule that allows for actors only to be called when needed, but please try to keep conflicts to a minimum. No conflicts will be accepted during the final week of rehearsal.

A NOTE ABOUT DIALECTS
All characters, with the exception of Tituba, are from the New England area and should speak with a more proper Americanized nearly British accent. No character should have a Boston accent, nor should they speak in full on British accents. The best way to think about it would be to think of an American Shakespearean actor aiming for a regionless dialect.

If you have any questions about the process for this show or expectations or to arrange an alternative audition time should those dates not work for you or anything at all, please contact David Martin at dmartin922@gmail.com.

PRODUCTION DATES:
July 14 – 30, 2017

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm

Industry Night is Monday, July 24th at 7:30pm

All performances take place at…
The Barn Players Theatre
6219 Martway in Mission, KS

SYNOPSIS:
The Crucible is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the late 1600’s. It focuses on accusations, trials, hearsay vs. evidence, and character assassination. This production will take those elements and paint a broader picture of persecution over the entire history of witchcraft along with historical moments of those wrongfully accused. Great attempts will be made to bring the audience in as pseudo-jury members for the trials portrayed within the play.

CAST BREAKDOWN (all ages listed refer to playable age and not actual age):

LEAD ROLES

John Proctor:  A local farmer known for his independence and temper. He is married to Elizabeth Proctor who is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams, in part because Abigail and John had a brief affair. John is also accused of witchcraft and eventually sentenced to hang. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

 
Elizabeth Proctor:  A quietly strong frontier wife who is honest to a fault and is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams. Married to John, she is spared the death penalty due to the fact she is pregnant. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

 
Abigail Williams:  Prior to the start of the play, worked as a maid for the Proctors until she was fired by Elizabeth under suspicion of an affair with John. The ringleader of the young girls in terms of creating the witchcraft scare in Salem. Reverend Parris’ niece. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

 
Reverend John Hale:  A young minister from nearby Beverly, MA who is called in due to his knowledge of witchcraft. At first, Hale attempts to carry out the court’s wishes, though he later believes the entire situation to be false and fights for the victims of false accusations. (Male – 30+)

SUPPORTING ROLES

Reverend Samuel Parris:  The minister of Salem. He is obsessed with keeping up his good reputation and assumes that anyone who does not attend church regularly or fails to recognize his piety is someone not to be trusted. (Male – 40’s)

Mary Warren:  Replaced Abigail Williams as maid to the Proctors. She is alternatingly weak and strong when faced with pressure from others. She is a mostly sympathetic character who seems to simply be in over her head. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth:  The chief judge of the court, he is power hungry and believes in wielding his power over any and all who are accused. According to Arthur Miller, he is the true villain of the play for he should know better than to let the trials proceed. (Male – 45+)

Judge John Hathorne:  A judge of the court who essentially believes Abigail against all evidence to the contrary. (Male – 40+)

Giles Corey:  A close friend to the Proctor family, his wife is falsely accused of witchcraft. He is frequently accused of various crimes himself, so he knows the law. He may resemble a town drunk, but he is smart, honest, strong, and outspoken. Must be visibly strong. (Male – late 60’s+)

Tituba:  Slave of the Parris family, Tituba came to Salem from Barbados. She has knowledge of a mystical nature and helps the girls become infatuated with magic. This character will speak in a Barbados dialect. (Female, African American – any age)

Rebecca Nurse:  Well respected and pious, Rebecca is accused of both witchcraft and infanticide by Ann Putnam – Rebecca had worked as a nursemaid for Ann. Married to Francis. (Female – 60+)

Francis Nurse:  Tries incredibly hard to clear his wife’s name and his other friends who have been accused. Married to Rebecca. (Male – 60+)

Ezekiel Cheever:  Clerk of the court responsible for crafting and carrying out warrants for arrest. (Male – any age)

Betty Parris:  The young daughter of Reverend Parris, the play opens with her being ill. This sets off belief that she was caused illness by witchcraft. (Female – 15ish, must look younger than the other girls)

Thomas Putnam:  A rich landowner trying to use accusations of witchcraft to buy up land cheaply from those convicted. (Male – late 30’s-40’s)

Susanna Walcott:  One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Mercy Lewis:  One of the group of girls experimenting with magic. (Female – 20’s, young looking)

Ann Putnam/Sarah Good/Martha Corey (these three roles will be combined):  Ann accuses Rebecca Nurse after seeing seven of her children die shortly after birth. Sarah is essentially accused for being strange. Martha (who we never see) has some questionable books about witchcraft and is eventually sentenced to die. (Female – late 30’s-40’s)

Marshal George Herrick:  A heavy drinker, Marshal Herrick carries out warrants and guards the inmates under arrest. (Male – any age)

NOTE – The Role of Hopkins has been cut.

For more information, please contact Eric Magnus, Artistic Director of
The Barn Players, at emagnitude@me.com

The Barn Players embraces diversity in all aspects of our organization. Non-traditional and equal-opportunity casting is encouraged.