Monthly Archives: February 2014

Rotary Showboat Docks in Vicksburg

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By Sue Moore

Tradition! After 61 years, it would seem that most of the people in South County would know about the Showboat, but that was found to be erroneous, according to an informal survey of local residents.

No matter, it will take place this year on February 28, March 1 at 7 p.m. and March 2 at 2 p.m., with a spaghetti dinner option in the Vicksburg High School cafeteria, sponsored by the Boy Scouts, Troop 251.

The Showboat what?  There is a whole new generation that has yet to experience the hilarity and pratfalls of the show’s comedy writers who largely direct their jokes to kids in elementary school.  The chorus however is the saving grace as they blend beautifully in four-part harmony, some of the loveliest tunes for man chorus in existence, according to Chris Garrett, the show’s music director.

What used to be a standing room only, a whacky three-night stretch in the old high school gymnasium, is now a much more polished and modern performance in the Performing Arts Center.  It has nice plush seats compared to the bleachers, great sound system, nuanced lighting and fewer people attending.

The Vicksburg Rotary Club has been working toward keeping the old time songs, skits and jokes that held forth while polishing the script so it has some continuity and direction under the guidance of Ken Franklin.  The chorus has members who read music, sing beautifully and are directed by eight-year veteran, Garrett. This year, the theme is aptly put, “Does Anybody Have the Time?”

The ticket prices have remained the same, $10, for many years, with advance purchase taking place at Hill’s Pharmacy on S. Main Street, up until the Friday of the show.  Combo tickets for the spaghetti dinner and the show are a bargain at $15 each, with the dinner price set at $8 individually.  All Vicksburg elementary students have been provided with a voucher for a free ticket to the show when accompanied by an adult.  These need to be turned in when purchasing tickets.

Mike Tichvon, Rotary Club president and Showboat general chairman.
Mike Tichvon, Rotary Club president and Showboat general chairman.

The show is in the making for over two months with rehearsal beginning the first Sunday in January.  The script writing team starts work in August, developing a theme and polishing the jokes.  The entire effort is sponsored by the Vicksburg Rotary Club.  It is the one and only fundraiser the club puts on, with all the proceeds going to fund the many non-profit activities in the Vicksburg community.  Over the past 60 years, nearly $600,000 has been raised with the entire amount going back into the community.

Mike Tichvon, general chairman and Ken Franklin, director of the show, invite new and old alike to sit back, enjoy the jokes and take in the great music, by taking a step back in time when stage entertainment was king.

Boy Scouts Plan Spaghetti Dinner Combined with Rotary Club Showboat

Vicksburg Boy Scout Troop 251 posing on the steps of their sponsor, the Vicksburg United Methodist Church.
Vicksburg Boy Scout Troop 251 posing on the steps of their sponsor, the Vicksburg United Methodist Church.

The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, and Vicksburg’s very own Boy Scout “Troop 251” was founded just a few short years later, in 1917.  Fast forward almost one hundred years, to 2014, and you’ll find boy scouting in Vicksburg continues to flourish.

Vicksburg Boy Scouts Troop Band – 1920.
Vicksburg Boy Scouts Troop Band – 1920.

Currently there are over 40 boys in the troop, sponsored by the Vicksburg United Methodist Church.  Troop Leaders oversee and guide the program; which is totally ran, planned and managed by the boys, ensuring that Troop 251 remains an integral part of Vicksburg community.

Scoutmaster Kevin Borden encourages the scouts to stay busy throughout the year with troop meetings, various activities & events, and campouts occurring literally every month.

It is not uncommon to see the Scouts out-n-about in Vicksburg; working at the Historic Village, participating in the communities various parades, helping Generous Hands stuff backpacks, or stocking the food pantry at South County Community Services…and of course serving up Spaghetti Dinners at this year’s 61st annual Rotary Showboat on Friday, February 28 and Saturday, March 1 from 4:30 to 7:30 in the high school cafeteria.  Combo tickets may be purchased at Hill’s Pharmacy on South Main Street in Vicksburg.

In 2013, the scouts and leaders contributed well over 1,000 hours of dedicated community service to Vicksburg and our surrounding areas.

Boys Scouts march in Memorial Day parade.
Boys Scouts march in Memorial Day parade.

The Boy Scouts also include camping, the out-of-doors, and high-adventure within their program.  Last year,  Troop 251 participated in over 40 events and went on no less than 14 major trips; venturing to Ontario/Canada, Niagara Falls, Ohio, West Virginia, Mackinac Island, and other various points right here in Michigan.   Scouting has also kept pace with new and exciting “Extreme” scout activities, which many of our older scouts participate in.   How does Rappelling 14 stories down the outside of McCamly Tower, in Battle Creek sound?    Other activities include;  ATV and jet skiing, skeet and trap shooting,  or how about Zip-Lining down one of North America’s longest Zip Lines along 3,200’ of cable reaching speeds of 65mph?   Adding to a century of scouting values and history, the scouts have remained very relevant in the 21st century.   New Merit Badges like;  robotics, graphic arts, composites, welding, game design, geocaching, digital technology, and sustainability (just to name a few)  have been added to those more traditional Merit Badges of camping, orienteering, and cooking.  If you’re a boy between the ages of 10 ½ and 18, this stuff is right up your alley.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank that can be earned by a boy scout, with less than 4 percent of all boy scouts ever achieving this top honor.  Troop 251 has produced 39 Eagles Scouts in their near 100 year old history.  Eagle Scout Deric Blanchet is the latest recipient of this award, having earned his Eagle in 2013.  Deric planned, managed and oversaw the building of several “Flag Retirement Drop Boxes”, which was sponsored in part, by the Vicksburg VFW. Deric then distributed them to various government buildings and local business.

Any boy (age 7-18) or an adult who can spare a couple hours a month…who might be interested in the Vicksburg Cub and Boy Scouts, please visit the website:  www.vicksburg-scouting.org .  Anyone outside of the immediate Vicksburg area can visit: www.beascout.org.

Ken Franklin Directs, Sings, Acts and Writes the Showboat Script

By David Schriemer, MD

Dr. Ken Franklin, Showboat director.
Dr. Ken Franklin, Showboat director.

As the son of a military man, then an army physician himself, Ken Franklin lived in 35 different locales before he came to Vicksburg in July 2002. Ken, wife Terri, sons Matt and Jeremy quickly became part of the fabric of the community. That, of course, meant singing in the Showboat chorus. Ken sang in the bass section. Director Lloyd Appell had admonished the cast not to ad lib. But Ken had an idea at dress rehearsal. Being the new guy, he tentatively approached director Lloyd Appell, “How about when the guys dressed as chickens are clucking to ‘In the Mood’ I come out with a big Colonel Sanders Chicken bucket?” Lloyd approved and Ken’s destiny in the Showboat was set.

Ken was first featured in Showboat as Teddy Roosevelt (see any resemblance?) singing of his hunting prowess, “I shot the maximum the game laws would allow! Two game wardens, seven hunters and a cow!”

Joining the script committee with Tim Moore, Warren Lawrence, Lloyd Appell and newer members Karl Kerchief, Jim Thompson, Bob Donelson and Chris Garrett cemented his Showboat fate.

In 2006, at Lloyd Appell’s request, he assisted in directing the Showboat but missed the performance as he presented at a medical conference. 2007 saw his directorial debut.

Ken’s favorite scenes are the old mainstays of Showboat; The doctor’s skit (How many ways can you make Karl Kerchief, MD look silly) and the Newspaper Jokes Scene (where jokes never die, they are reincarnated.)

Ken has made a real effort to get high school students more involved. Son Jeremy and friends started an all male chorus in the high school called “Simply Men.” Ken made his son an offer he couldn’t refuse and “Simply Men” sang in multiple Showboats. The “Green Man Group” (high school musicians Jacob Carr and Alex Chioda in green body suits) drummed lots of youthful interest!

“I love it when the cast makes it their own.” says Ken. Characters developed by the cast have a way of returning year after year. Simpering bureaucrat Mr. Tweedly, developed by Tom Miller, pops up periodically to promote proper grammar and political correctness. Somehow the Tweedly version “Elderly Man River” does not have the gravitas of “Old Man River”. Rev Buff Coe’s Wonder Whiner’s plaintive cries are unmistakable and unavoidable. (Ken says the Methodist church elders suggested he use that voice to preach a stewardship sermon. He might have to duck the wallets thrown at him.)

Showboat has been a family affair for the Franklins. Terri Franklin performed as a character on the “Just Good Friends Boat”, son Jeremy sang with Simply Men and post high school has been part of the cast. This year, son Matt joins the cast and wife Debi works diligently behind the scenes with costuming.

Ken especially enjoys the collaboration that makes Showboat so much fun. Mike Tichvon  and Rotarians building sets, Mike Hardy painting scenery, Karla Stubblefield pianist extraordinaire, Chris Garrett musical director, the pit orchestra, the cast and the many costumers- Margaret Kerchief, Holly Fryling, Tangileen Klein, Marci Roth and Debi Franklin- work together to make for a memorable Showboat. Ken reports the costumers are the highest paid members of the Showboat.  He has to pay them with chocolate macaroons!

Ken has lived in Vicksburg longer than anywhere else in his lifetime.  Like the Showboat directors before him, Ken’s love for this community is expressed in the joy and frivolity of each Showboat.

Forty Two Years of Showboat Creativity for Lloyd Appell

By David Schriemer, MD

Dr. Lloyd Appell.
Dr. Lloyd Appell.

Lloyd Appell MD fondly recalls Showboat through the years. Lloyd became involved with Showboat in 1972 when then director Arle Schneider, DVM, asked him to be on the script committee. Arle and Lloyd had collaborated on the village’s centennial pageant. Lloyd had the crazy idea to go all the way back to the ice age to tell the story of the village. He had a Boy Scout troop stand under a massive white sheet representing a glacier and had them slowly walk across the football field leaving behind paper mache rocks, forming the local landscape. Arle was so enamored with the creativity of this idea he decided Lloyd had to be on the script committee.

Lloyd recalls Arle was the backbone of the Showboat for many years writing, directing, and acting. Lloyd had great fun with fellow scriptwriters John Scott, Jim McClelland, Arle Schneider, Tim Moore, Warren Lawrence and Charlie Kendall. They had three inviolable rules: 1. All jokes must be suitable and understandable to a fifth grader; 2. A joke was included only if at least two other committee members laughed; 3. They had to be equal opportunity. All ethnicities were insulted equally.

It’s all in the Family

Lloyd was tapped to be director in 1983, took a brief sabbatical from 1996-1997, but resumed again 1998-2006.  In the early days before cell phones and pagers, if Lloyd was on call for the medical practice, he had to take one of his children to the high school to stay by the phone while he conducted Showboat practice. If he was needed at the hospital they would call his home and speak with his wife Grace, who would call the high school office and speak with the child on phone duty who would summon Lloyd. It was a family effort.

One year, an audience member was feeling faint.  Dr. Appell was sought out backstage. Lloyd was in full make up with a flowing blonde curly wig and several arrows through his chest as General Custer. He was certain the patient would pass out if he showed up like that. Fortunately, another doctor was attending that night and took care of the situation. Lloyd went back onstage selling souvenirs at “Custer’s Last Stand”.

Lloyd remembers a few mishaps through the years. During the doctor’s skit, one year, patient Walt Morris’s belly actually got cut! Arle Schneider was strapped to a vertical wheel and then was spun on it, hitting his head on the floor with each turn. In rehearsal, a chandelier fell on Norm Skippers and Dick Coppes but fortunately neither was hurt. They did show up in hard hats the next rehearsal though.

Lloyd tried to discourage deviations from the script but some performers just couldn’t stop themselves from adlibbing. Audience favorite, Paul Jones had a few scenes one year where no lines were written for him. “Somehow” he ended up with a lot, to the delight of those watching.

A regular feature of the Showboat is the newspaper joke scene. While scenery is changed behind the curtain, two characters stand in front of the curtain reading the newspaper, reviewing the news of the day, telling malapropisms and jokes. “Did you hear George got fired from the orange juice factory?” “No, what happened” “He couldn’t concentrate. They had to can him.” Lloyd initially did those scenes with Swift Noble then Jim McClelland, Charlie Kendall and now Warren Lawrence.

The Prop Expert

Dr. Lloyd Appell, Showboat impresario.
Dr. Lloyd Appell, Showboat impresario.

When unique props were needed, Lloyd constructed them with remarkable skill and creativity. Through the years he has made a car with doors that opened and working windshield wipers; the engine and prop to the Wright brothers plane with cylinders that lit up as they fired; Pharaoh’s sarcophagus; a huge elephant head with a trunk that rolled out and ears that moved; an exploding piano (watch for that one again); and his greatest achievement, the “Lizard of Ooze.” The Lizard of Ooze stood about 10 feet high, its head turned, jaws opened and closed, lit eyes opened and closed and smoke came out of its nostrils. The prop itself drew applause from the audience. It is even more amazing that all the props were made in Lloyd’s basement. To get them out of the basement they had to be less than 29 inches in one dimension. The lizard’s head was built, cut in half to get it out of the basement and reassembled on stage.  Quite an engineering feat.

Lloyd’s favorite show was in 1990 when the crew went to “Storybook Land”. Lloyd had the idea that the backdrop would be a giant storybook. To change scenes, a giant page would be turned with the crew stepping through a door in the scenery. Bob Cohrs, in charge of scenery, said, “It can’t be done,” But Lloyd says, “Every year he’d say ‘It can’t be done’ then he’d go and do it.” Before the next meeting Lloyd made a model of what he envisioned. Bob showed up with an almost identical model. It got done and made for a memorable show.

Despite being very busy, Lloyd has relished his time working with everyone on the Showboat. “They’re such great people. If you need something, they’ll do it.” The list of people he’s worked with over the years is long and joyous from Arle Schneider who got him involved, scene painters Marilyn Vleugel, Steve Schimp and Dale Reno, set constructor Bob Cohrs, costumers Freddi Coppes and Jo Miller, music directors Jim Shaw, Todd Overbeek and Chris Garrett and a myriad of musicians and actors. It’s delightful when everyone “rows the boat” together. (Hint: Look for Lloyd Appell created watercraft this year.)

The Show Must Go On: A View From Behind the Scenes

Constructing the boat the singers and actors used on-stage required a big crew of carpenters. This group of men, headed by Bob Cohrs on the far left and Arle Schneider in the middle with the paint roller, spent many weeks each year, sprucing up the boat.
Constructing the boat the singers and actors used on-stage required a big crew of carpenters. This group of men, headed by Bob Cohrs on the far left and Arle Schneider in the middle with the paint roller, spent many weeks each year, sprucing up the boat.

By Sue Moore

It takes an enormous number of volunteers to stage the Rotary Club Showboat every year.  They come from throughout the greater Vicksburg area, which proudly boasts that the local talent pool is enormous.  Many chorus members have cycled through to sing, dance, and tell jokes.  The show would not go on however, without the many behind the scenes people who devote long hours to the success each year.

In 61 years, the show’s continuity and quality has been kept alive by a dedicated handful of music directors, most of them band directors in the Vicksburg school district (Bill Root, Jim Shaw, Tim Hofmeister, Chris Garrett)or one-time members of the band (Gerald Smith, Jay Crouch, Todd Overbeek).  The only exception would be Bethel Staffen who was the initial pianist and music director, and Lyle Bartlett who was a high school teacher with a music background.

Bethel Staffen – 1954/55
Bill Root – 1956/66
Lyle Bartlett – 1967/69
Gerald Smith – 1970
Jim Shaw – 1971/97 who took sabbaticals in 1980 when Tim Hofmeister directed and 1989 when Jay Crouch stepped on the podium.
Todd Overbeek – 1998/2004
Chris Garrett – 2005/today

The advertising committee for the Showboat program, worked behind the scenes in relative obscurity, but actually brought in the most money each year. Pictured here from left to right, Gen Landtroop, Richard Coppes, Arle Schneider, Warren Lawrence, Jim Shaw. Standing in back, Charlie Kendall and Jackie Lawrence.
The advertising committee for the Showboat program, worked behind the scenes in relative obscurity, but actually brought in the most money each year. Pictured here from left to right, Gen Landtroop, Richard Coppes, Arle Schneider, Warren Lawrence, Jim Shaw. Standing in back, Charlie Kendall and Jackie Lawrence.

The general chairperson of the show was a position long held by Tim Weeks (30 years), and for several years before him, Arle Schneider and Bill Weessies, then Bud Goldsmith, Matt Crawford, Don Lohman and Mike Tichvon since 2013.

Stage directors had a slightly different job, but just as important.  Arle Schneider stepped into that role many times, then Jim McClelland, Mike Coppens, Steve Thomas, and for many years, Lloyd Appell. Ken Franklin has been directing for the last seven years.

Costumes have been the purview of Freddi Coppes, Jo Miller, and now Margaret Kerchief, along with many helping hands to sew the cast into their intricate outfits.

Soloists today and yesterday get treated like royalty by the audience but they all participate in the chorus work too, giving their vocal chords lots of work.  Special recognition goes as far back as Henry Barrett, Bill Oswalt, Jack Hartman, Doug Springer, John Hill Jr., and for 31 years, Jack Fryling.

Building and designing the sets for many years fell on Bob Cohrs, Denny Boyle, to name a few.

The show has been blessed with two mainstays as pianists in 61 years, June Morley and Karla Stubblefield.

The Unique Role of the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat Captain of the Ship

By Warren Lawrence

Dale Muyskens, is captain of the S.S. Rotary Ann, with Ken Franklin in the background.
Dale Muyskens, is captain of the S.S. Rotary Ann, with Ken Franklin in the background.

What is it like to be in charge of the good ship S.S. Rotary Ann, the Vicksburg Rotary Club’s Showboat?

Of course, the main job of the captain is to try to make sense out of the crazy predicament that the Showboat crew has found itself in.  As far as captains go, each year brings its own challenges, its own memories, and as always, its own satisfaction of making a meaningful contribution to the greater Vicksburg community.

Every year the Showboat script committee insures that the vessel and its zany crew sails through new uncharted waters, that will test the crew from every point on the compass. And so far, after 60 years, they have done just that each and every time!

Over the years the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat has had some outstanding captains; Ken Otis, Swift Noble, Doug Springer, and Dale Muyskens to name a few. They have been given various names Interlocutor (from the old Minstrel days), Captain, Headman, and Skipper.

Warren Lawrence, the captain for many years.
Warren Lawrence, the captain for many years.

As the captain who mastered the ship after Swift Noble for a few years, the thoughts turn to the major challenge for the captain is the number of lines he has to learn.  At times it may appear to the audience that some of the on-stage conversations are casual or ad libed. But the captain must stay true to the way the script is written so that other cast members know when to respond.

Being on the script committee helped to know the plot and the direction the act was going. The main thing that helped the captain is the dedication of fellow crew members and the back stage folks. Everyone realizes that the production is a collective effort and all must do their part for the show to be a success.

“I remember in the middle of one of the past shows after a scene change the curtain went up and I stared delivering lines in a part of the script that was two scenes away. The cast immediately realized my mistake but joined right in acting their parts from the wrong scene. Finally, I realized my mistake and how they had picked up on it. Halfway through the dialog there was supposed to be a cast member entering from the back of the auditorium, running up to the stage shouting his lines while carrying a stretcher. Much to my surprise, right on cue, he came with his stretcher barking his lines. When the curtain closed and went up again we went back to the missed scene and the audience never knew the difference. What a great testimony to our local thespians!

Well, what about this year`s 2014 Vicksburg Rotary Showboat? Will there be any special captain happenings? Yes, but wait a minute!  I guess the reader will just have to come to the show to see what they are.

History of the Beginning of the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat

The Club, looking for a community program to raise money for the benefit of the Rotary Handicapped Children’s Fund, took the suggestion of a visiting Rotarian, to produce a musical program.

They had the help of an already existing group from the Lake Center area in Portage, who had been doing Minstrel shows for several years, to support the Boy Scouts.  This group planned and performed the first show in the Vicksburg High School gym on March 26 and 27, 1954.

The format was a traditional Minstrel Show with a chorus seated, first in a semi-circle of chairs, then on bales of hay.  It included ‘End Men’ and a white suited ‘Interlocutor’ with plenty of songs, specialty numbers and jokes.   Costumes for the first shows were stripped pajamas, with sewn-on colored collars and cuffs, bright painted shoes with glitter and neon-bright socks.  Traditional black-face make-up was used and black-face would continue to be the make-up until 1986.

The first shows were notable for many soloists, quartettes, octets, and specialty numbers (dancers and acts).  The chorus accompanied the soloists and sang a few sets of songs.  Gradually over the years, the chorus came to be featured more and, with the introduction of four-part harmony, became the focus of the show.  Also, a story line was developed and gained more importance with the strict Minstrel Show format, less prominent.

The first show had an audience of 1,100 and ‘good profits’ and the show became an annual event for the Rotary Club.  After seven shows, the club had netted $15,800 and played to about 17,000 people.