February 12, 2016
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Night at the Gala

Each year, the Holy Rosary Catholic Church Annual Gala grows bigger — and better — says Christine Gilles.

“It’s actually a lot of fun,” says Gilles, Holy Rosary’s volunteer and stewardship director. “Everyone looks forward to it every year, and each time we try to make it bigger.”

The annual event, now in its 23rd year, helps raise money for something specific at the church or school. Last year, the funds went toward updating technology, such as getting new iPads for the classrooms. Gilles says this year’s funds will help purchase new playground equipment for the school.

Last year, the gala raised about $94,000, the second-highest amount in the event’s history. Gilles says she’s hoping to surpass that this year.

The gala features music by Anthony Orio and the Goodfellers, a Nashville-based band that is returning to the event for a second time. This year’s theme is “Black and White.”

The Holy Rosary Gala offers both a live and silent auction. Some of the items up for bid include dinner for eight at the Bonefish Grill, a two-week stay at an Orlando resort in March, free rounds of golf at several Evansville golf courses, as well as many other interesting items.

The gala is at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Evansville County Club, 3810 Stringtown Road. Tickets are $80.

For more information about the Holy Rosary Catholic Church Annual Gala, contact 812-477-8923 or visit hrparish.org.

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Swing and Shag

Evansville resident Tammy Jacobs and fellow members of the Evansville River City Bop Club wanted to bring a dance convention to Evansville. Similar events are common in bigger cities like Nashville and Louisville, but nothing like it had ever taken place in town. Now in its fourth year, the Swing Fling, which started as a one-day event, will take place over three days, Feb. 26 to 28, at the Holiday Inn North.

The Swing Fling features dancing in the evenings (until 2 a.m.!) and lessons during the day, with dancers who range in age from high schoolers to retirees in their 80s. The club has fostered a bigger interest in dance around Evansville since 2007, and Jacobs says she thinks the Swing Fling will help.

“Dancing in Evansville has remained kind of an underground thing,” she says. “Bigger cities host dance conventions like this, and we’re excited to try something on a bigger scale in our own community.”

The group hopes to attract about 250 people to Swing Fling this year, which is smaller than events in cities like Cincinnati and Indianapolis, but it’s “still a good place to start,” says Jacobs, who works as the Help Desk/IT Associate at Old National Bank.

There will be several different styles of dance at the Swing Fling including ballroom, waltz, Rumba, and East and West Coast Swing.

For more information about the Evansville River City Bop Club, visit ercbopclub.com.

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Silent Strength

University of Evansville alum plays stoic bodyguard on Netflix series
University of Evansville alumnus Nathan Darrow portrays a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

Behind the political force of Frank Underwood on the Netflix original series “House of Cards” is the stoic and ever-present force of Edward Meechum. University of Evansville alumnus Nathan Darrow plays Meechum, a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to protect Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, and his wife Claire, portrayed by Robin Wright. It’s a role that the 38-year-old Brooklyn, New York, resident calls “challenging and exhausting” because of the silent internal rumbling of the character he portrays in the political drama series based in Washington, D.C.

Darrow, a native of Kansas City, earned his bachelor’s degree in theater performance and literature from UE in 1998 before continuing his training at New York University where he received his master of fine arts degree. His extensive resume includes starring roles in numerous plays such as, “Richard III,” which was performed at London’s Old Vic, among other venues. In “Richard III,” Darrow acted alongside Spacey, who played Richard, which introduced Darrow to “House of Cards.” The award-winning series debuted in February 2013 and returns for its third season Feb. 27 on Netflix.

How did the University of Evansville Department of Theatre shape your career?

Going to Evansville prepared me to audition for conservatories. I ended up at a conservatory in New York (New York University). I’m sure I wouldn’t have the career I have if I hadn’t come to New York when I did. As an actor, I certainly developed quite a bit (at UE) due to the extraordinary talent and efforts of the faculty.

What led you to your decision to study in Evansville?

I had auditioned for John David Lutz the summer before I graduated high school (Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas). I started talking with him and eventually I visited the campus for a long weekend. I actually will never forget sitting in on John David Lutz’s acting classes and seeing the work to me that was incredibly impressive and mind-blowing and at the end of that work, he was pointing out what was working and him saying, ‘Here’s where you can go deeper. Here’s where you can go harder.’ It confirmed to me that I was at a serious place where the work of acting was viewed as something that could take a lifetime of exploring and finding its roots.

What roles did you play while at UE?

I was in a couple Shakespeare plays. There was an “As You Like It” (Jacques) and “Macbeth” (Banquo). I played Konstantin Treplev in “The Seagull” pretty poorly, but I got the shot to do it, which was cool. I was in a couple studio shows. I had a lot of opportunities there, in fact. I got the chance to do a lot of different things.

What classic role do you really want to play?

There are so many I want to play. There’s a couple I want to do again. I would like to play Biff Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” I would like to play Tom in “The Glass Menagerie.” I would like to play Edmund Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” again. I got to do it once a few years back. I think I got somewhere with it but I would love to get back at it. There are those parts that kind of stay with you in a weird way. They are still offering their secrets and I would love to hammer it out.

Talk about the all-star cast of Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey. What is it like working closely with them?

It’s extraordinary. They are two actors who are really playing above the rim. They work intensely and seriously but at the same time, they work with a lot of joy and fun. They challenge each other and they enjoy that challenge. They really bring all of us up, too. They are actors who really want the scene to happen when the cameras roll … It is very exciting to be making it right there. We are all trying to do our best work, and sometimes, we don’t, and that’s that. They hold it lightly and you count yourself fortunate. They are both fantastic examples of that.

What’s it like to play Edward Meechum?

It is challenging emotionally to play someone who keeps himself so very close to the chest, but still to know that he has come out of an experience — a kind of incredible and intense experience that he lives with — for that to simply vibrate in him and rumble in him without direct expression as of yet is challenging and exhausting. I am really happy to go at it every day I’m on set regardless of what I’m doing. I am very happy for the opportunity to take up the story of this guy right there in the moment. He definitely has stuff in there that’s not worked out and that’s a weird place to inhabit. You have that place in life but to actively go there is kind of something else.

Your role expanded in the second season. Tell me about your screen time and role in the third?

You will find out all that Feb. 27. That’s all I can tell you.

To watch Nathan Darrow as Edward Meechum in “House of Cards,” visit netflix.com.

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On With the Show

Special screenings offer audiences plenty to see
The broadcast of Lehár’s The Merry Widow will be presented live Jan. 17 at 11:55 a.m. with an encore showing Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m

A slice of New York City culture has made its way to the big screen in Evansville — but it’s far from the only way to get some world-class viewing opportunities on the local big screen. Even as huge blockbusters dominate the headlines, venues like AMC theater and the Evansville Public Library are offering movie and special event screenings that give patrons a chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy something completely different.

AMC’s live screenings of the Metropolitan Opera and Royal Ballet are broadcast by satellite to select theaters across the country, including AMC Evansville 16 on the West Side.

“Around here, a lot of people may not get the opportunity to see the Metropolitan Opera in person,” says Josh Boze, general manager at AMC West. “This brings the show to them.”

Boze says hosting performances of the opera and ballet in the theater provides viewers with an experience they can’t get at home. Typically shown on their widest screen in high definition and surround sound, it’s the closest audience members can get to the performance without actually being there, says Boze. 

AMC offers other unique screenings as well, including live sporting events like United Fighting Championship matches, as well as its most popular special event RiffTrax. RiffTrax is typically an older movie with running commentary from comedians Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (the former stars of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”) playing over the original audio. Boze says these events have the most loyal following and a good turn out.

For those who want something different on a smaller scale, the Evansville Public Library’s film series provides unique screenings in a more social and intimate setting.

The patrons who attend the Evansville Public Library’s Classic Film Series are a loyal group. Kaitlin Conner, reader’s advisor at the Central Library, attributes the program’s dedicated following to the relaxed feel and sense of community the event offers.

“People enjoy coming out and watching these films with their friends, or making new friends while they’re here,” says Conner. “Sometimes people will also bring a younger family member and introduce them to a classic film for the first time.”

The Classic Film Series meets the third Thursday of each month at the Central Library location. Conner says these movie nights tend to draw about 15 to 20 attendants, and she tries to provide a good variety in the movies they show.

“We try to get a nice mix of musicals, dramas and comedies,” says Conner. “We also try to have fun seasonal films, like ‘Christmas in Connecticut’ in December and ‘Where the Boys Are’ over the summer.”

The Central location also offers a series called Film Movement, which spotlights different independent and international films. The series is hosted by Dain Hill of the Tri-State Cinema Society, and Hill leads a discussion after each movie. Conner says even though the Film Movement series has a smaller turnout, it still provides a great outlet for members of the community.

“It lets people know what’s available at the library, that we’re not just a place with books sitting on the shelf,” says Conner. “It’s also a shared experience with others, and people tend to enjoy that a lot.”

For more on the Met Opera’s upcoming simulcasts at AMC, visit amctheatres.com/programs/the-met. For more on the Film Movement series, visit evpl.org.

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Horses and Hockey

Ron Geary has enjoyed business success
Ron Geary sits in front of the grandstand at Ellis Park. Geary bought the Kentucky racetrack in 2006.

Ronald Geary, 67, has done a bit of everything. During his very decorated career, he’s been a certified public accountant, a lawyer, served in a Kentucky gubernatorial cabinet, been the president of a bible college, and CEO of ResCare, a very successful, Forbes Magazine-recognized health care services company. And even after retiring in 2006, he didn’t stop. He bought Ellis Park, determined to make it a crown jewel of Kentuckiana, and a few years later, started a minor league hockey team, the Evansville IceMen.

As with seemingly everything Geary touches, each has grown exponentially under his leadership. Ellis Park now draws as many as 8,000 people on its busiest days, and the IceMen are enjoying national recognition in the East Coast Hockey League, a 28-team league with a national footprint playing premier AA hockey.

We sat down with Geary, a Louisville, Kentucky, native now living in Henderson, to talk about his professional success and the future of the IceMen and Ellis Park.

Why horses and hockey?
(Laughter) Well, I’m a Kentucky boy, so I really enjoyed horses as a kid. And I always wanted to buy horses. I have a brood mare operation. I bought a couple of wonderful mares, and my son researched stallions. We have eight horses now that we’ve raised. Some have been good, some not, but all of it was fun. And as for the hockey, people are always bringing me investment opportunities, many of them from nontraditional niches. So when a young man brought the idea of hockey to me, told me about the success of Swonder Ice Arena, about single A hockey, something I knew nothing about, I dug into it. And like many packages that have come to me, I decided it was something I could do in stages. I felt like it would be a great thing for the community. There isn’t much to do here in the winter, and I believed that Evansville really wanted a good, winning professional team of some type.

The IceMen have evolved much over the last few years. How do you see this latest ECHL affiliation providing even further benefit?
If you would have told me six years ago, when we were just a single A team, that we would be in one of the top three leagues in the country and Evansville would have a national reputation for being a hockey town, I would have said you were crazy. It’s just one of those things, everything has fallen into place, and a lot of it is because Tri-State residents, mostly Evansville residents, are really proud of their team, proud of the fact that we have a nice arena, great fans, a respectable growth-oriented franchise. I think we have some exciting times ahead of us.

You’re around professional athletes a lot. Do you enjoy that?
Yes, I think they are a special, rare breed. I like them. They’re competitive, which I am, too. They always find a way to do their best. You’ll see players, some maybe not as good as others, but they find ability from desire. They have an uncanny way of finding a way to win just because they want it more than the other guy. And that’s what life is all about.

What changes have you seen at Ellis Park since purchasing it in 2006?
We immediately set out to get national attention. So we bid on and won the chance to host a National Claiming Crown (in 2007). For that one day, the best claiming horses in the country came to Ellis Park, a whole day of racing. And on that day, we had the biggest day at Ellis Park ever, almost $700,000 in purses and $5 million in bets. It was the first time Kentucky had hosted the Crown and that got everybody back to thinking about Ellis Park on a national scale. From there we did everything we could to expand our coverage. And at the track we tried to do some new things to attract people, make it more fun, family-oriented. We set up picnic tables with umbrellas, tents, trying to give it a county fair feel. We added the popular camel and ostrich races, wiener dog races. And since then we’ve gone up substantially in attendance every year.

What does the future hold for Ellis Park, and how do you make sure it continues to compete with riverboat gambling?
We think the instant racing machines we now have can be the key to accomplishing that. We are close to getting a referendum on the ballot that would allow the people of Kentucky to vote to allow casino gaming at racetracks. Indiana Downs in Shelbyville and Hoosier Park in Anderson called themselves racinos with both slot machines and electronic gaming. They’ve done quite well, and we’re hoping that would allow us to continue being competitive.

Of all the roles you’ve held, which has brought you the most pleasure?
It has to be a tie between ResCare and working in public service. ResCare because it helps people with disabilities, and its mission was so strong, to help people live the best they could, be as independent as possible. It was such a wonderful thing to see so many of the clients we served lead more fulfilling lives. But I also enjoyed the public service aspect of being in a gubernatorial cabinet and being a secretary of revenue for Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. I loved that he was fiscally conservative. He said he wouldn’t raise taxes, and even though his administration led during a massive recession, he still kept his promise and just allowed us to run government like a business. We cut expenses and did a better job of collecting delinquent taxes. I just loved that. I felt like we were doing what was best for the state of Kentucky.

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Lights, Camera, Christmas!

Chip Rossetti, an independent filmmaker in Evansville, was contacted in April by a distribution company that wanted a Christmas movie. Rossetti didn’t have one — yet.

Rossetti immediately went searching for a script, and found a stage play from the 1970s titled “The Rented Christmas.” He rewrote it for the screen, brought in actors from as far away as Alaska, and shot the film titled, “A Borrowed Christmas.”

“We shot for five days here in Evansville,” says Rossetti. “Mostly at the home of Sherry and Kirk Wright (see Evansville Living May/June 2014) on Riverside Drive, but also a little bit out in Newburgh. Five days is a little faster than we like to do stuff, but because we wanted to have it ready for Christmas, we didn’t have a lot of time.”

“We wanted to create something the whole family could enjoy,” says Rossetti. “It is kind of a throwback. It is like the old classic Christmas movies. The test screenings we’ve done with it have been great.”

Rossetti Productions has been around for about 15 years, but it’s just been in the past three years that the production company has shot feature-length films. In that time, Rossetti and his team have produced 14 movies, all faith-based family films. Seven of them were shot in Evansville.

“A Borrowed Christmas” will be shown on Nov. 13 at Showplace Cinemas East. It will then run for a week at Showplace Cinemas South. It also will show on about 40 other screens across the country.

For more information about “A Borrowed Christmas,” visit rossetti-productions.com.

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Santa Comes to Town

For the 15th year, Santa is coming to W. Franklin Street. The Grinch will be there, too, but he’s not trying to steal Christmas.

It’s all a part of the West Side Nut Club’s Santa Land. Kids can sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what they want for Christmas, get a free picture, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Held each year since 2000, Santa Land also features other costumed children’s TV characters and a giant Christmas tree.

The event started as a way for children from economically disadvantaged homes to enjoy Christmas at no cost, says Santa Land Chairman Jim Farney. Over the years, that’s evolved into an event for everyone.

“It provides an opportunity for people, especially those on the West Side, to have a convenient place to bring their kids to see Santa,” says Farney. “It’s all free. It is a service we put on at no charge. Anybody is invited.”

The Nut Club does accept donations at Santa Land, and those go toward a scholarship the club sponsors at University of Southern Indiana.

Santa Land runs for two weekends, Dec. 13-14 and Dec. 20-21, from 3 to 6 p.m. each day. It’s located on the Nut Club property at the corner of Franklin and 10th streets. The pictures are taken in a large tent, so Santa Land is held regardless of weather.

“We’ll keep doing it as long we see the desire and the need for it,” says Farney. “We believe it is a good cause.

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Conducting Business

Nick Palmer leads the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra into its 49th season
Maestro Nick Palmer sits in front of the band shell at Owensboro’s Smothers Park.

When Maestro Nick Palmer first came to Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1998 to become the music director and conductor of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, he was immediately impressed by the community’s interest in the arts.

Before coming to Owensboro, he spent 13 years as the music director of the symphony orchestra in Dubuque, Iowa. Palmer has been writing music since he was very young, and that led him into conducting. A Hingham, Massachusetts, native, Palmer graduated from Harvard and earned his master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and doctorate degree from the University of Iowa.

Palmer stays busy. On top of his duties in Owensboro, he’s also the music director and conductor for the symphony orchestra in Lafayette, Indiana. He spends one week each month in Lafayette. Palmer also conducts two music festivals: Evening Under the Stars Music Festival in Massachusetts and the Dubuque Festival Orchestra in Iowa.

Palmer has been a guest conductor all over the U.S., in Europe, and South America for both orchestras and operas. He remains a Conductor Laureate of the Altoona Symphony in Pennsylvania, where he was the music director from 1996 to 2007. He was a recipient of the Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras as the nation’s most outstanding young music director.

The Owensboro Symphony Orchestra began its 2014-2015 season Aug. 9 with Concert on the Lawn, which had to be relocated indoors due to bad weather. The next concert will be Sept. 20 at RiverPark Center, and will feature 20-year-old acclaimed American cellist Cicely Parnas. The orchestra sells season tickets as well as single-event tickets.

Palmer and his wife Dorothy have four adult sons and live on a horse farm in eastern Daviess County, Kentucky.What led you to Owensboro?
I had heard that there was a wonderful orchestra here, a great hall, and lots of community support. I was looking to move on from the job I had in Iowa, so when I heard about all the great things going on here, I decided to apply. It was a long process, about 18 months from beginning to end, and I was thrilled to be offered the job.

Do you share musicians with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra?
Quite a few. Something like 25 people. We’ve always had a good relationship with Evansville, and that’s been a good thing for both orchestras. We schedule our concerts and rehearsals so musicians can play in both groups.

How did you get started as a conductor?
I was given an opportunity to direct some of the pieces I had written. When I was 16, that’s when I started as a conductor. Growing up in Boston, I had a lot of opportunity to perform. I played in several orchestras in the area and I was a member of the Boston Symphony Chorus. That was a great way for me to experience classical music as a performer, which I think is important as a conductor.

Owensboro has a solid foundation in arts and music. What is the level of support like for the orchestra?
I am thrilled with the level of support from the community. The city and county donate a lot of financial and other support. The community as a whole is very interested in supporting the arts organizations here. For a city of our size, we have a tremendous and vibrant arts community. Music has always been important to people living in our area. They hear it from an early age. I think there is a real appreciation for what we do, just because people already have a background in music. Owensboro is a wonderful city for collaboration. The different arts groups work together frequently. There is a lot of communication between the arts groups, and I think that’s easier to do in a small community.

How much of an asset is the RiverPark Center?
We have a fabulous facility that is kind of the cornerstone of all the downtown development, which is great for us. We are right at the center. When people come to the community, that’s one of the first things they see. For us to have our concert hall on such a significant piece of real estate is a big thing.

Do you have a favorite style of music?
I really like a lot of different types of music. We do an opera every year here, and I really like that. I enjoy the classics, but I also enjoy conducting pops concerts. I think that is one way we build our audience here.

How do you get musicians to travel to Owensboro from as far away as Indianapolis and Cincinnati?
There is a great attitude with the orchestra. People really love coming here. They are treated well by the symphony staff and board. To attract the best quality players from the region, you have to treat them well or else they won’t drive all the way over here.

What makes the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra unique?
We’re one of the smallest communities that has not only a professional orchestra, but also a music academy that is integrated into the structure of the orchestra. We have a wonderful facility, and our offices are located within the Owensboro Symphony Academy building.

For more information about Maestro Nick Palmer, visit nicholaspalmer.net. For information about the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, call 270-684-0661 or visit TheOSO.com.

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Lively Lincoln

Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln invite you to a Civil War ball in Rockport, Indiana, where visitors will be swept back in time to a different world to pay homage to the area’s colorful past.

Hosted by Friends of Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum — including actors portraying the Lincolns — this year’s ball will take place 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Spencer County Courthouse in Rockport. The grand march will start at 6:30 p.m. where couples will be announced one by one as they walk elegantly down the courthouse staircase.

In her ninth year volunteering for Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum, Nancy Kaiser explains the funds raised at the ball are used to rebuild one of the 14 Lincoln-era replica cabins on the grounds of the Spencer County attraction.

“Abraham Lincoln spent most of his formative years in Spencer County. I really love the history that he brings to the area,” says Kaiser. “Anyone who loves history and the Civil War time period would have so much fun; it truly takes you back in time.”

Due to the venue’s capacity, reservations are required and can be made by calling Nancy Kaiser at 812-686-2553. Tickets are $30. Civil War-period attire also is required, and easy-to-learn era dances are taught in advance at the event. Guests can participate in a silent auction and enjoy refreshments and hors d’oeuvres.

For more information about the Civil War ball, call Nancy Kaiser at 812-686-2553.

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Kerry Ann Mendez

From what to plant in the growing season to the effects of climate change in the Tri-State, those who have a passion for gardening can explore several different topics at the Ohio Valley Garden Conference Oct. 18 inside the Tropicana Evansville Conference Center.

The Southwestern Indiana Master Gardeners Association (SWIMGA) holds the conference every two years to further the group’s mission to educate the public about gardening. This year’s event will include speakers such as Paul Bouseman, botanical curator at Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden and Larry Caplan, extension horticulture educator through Purdue Extension Service -Vanderburgh County.

“We will have different vendors (selling plants and crafts), which people love,” says Martha Schriver, SWIMGA press representative for the conference. “We’re a nonprofit, with no paid staff. This is not a fundraiser; it’s purely an education event for the area. I always say if you want to know anything, ask a master gardener.”

The keynote speaker, Kerry Ann Mendez — creator of the gardening business Perennially Yours in Kennebunk, Maine, and a frequent guest on HGTV — will speak on different ways to garden such as terrace gardening and easier plant choices, plus how to cut time without sacrificing appearance.

“It’s about garden design solutions and exceptional plants for aging and time pressed gardeners,” says Mendez. “It’s really geared to anyone from their 20s to 30s whose lifestyle is changing.”

Vendors will be on-site along with plant sales.

For more information on SWIMGA’s Ohio Valley Garden Conference, call 812-708-0179 or visit swimga.org.