December 11, 2013

Sunday marks grand finale of 175th

'Birth of a City' to hit McHale Auditorium stage

By Amie Sites and Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — The grand finale of a year of celebrating the 175th anniversary of Logansport will be this Sunday and appear in a documentary-like form.

A culmination of efforts from many sources in Logansport will result in the production of “Birth of a City” at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Doug Schlabach, director of “Birth of a City,” describes the experience as being completely different from anything he has ever done.

“When you do a traditional play, you have a set design in mind and there are words so directors can find out how to put it all together,” Schlabach said. “Now I have to add music to it, with someone else’s vision, pictures to it, with is someone else’s vision and staging, which happens to be my vision. It’s harder than anything else I’ve done.”

The script for the production, which will have narration, a video montage, original music and recorded voice-overs, was written and compiled by Garry Williams. Williams used resources from Thelma Conrad, Kevin Burkett and Richard Copeland, and various books, articles and websites to compile the information. When he couldn’t find something already recorded, he researched the subject and wrote its history himself.

Several key players came together to make everything possible, Schlabach said. A photo montage by Rich Voorhees will be projected on screen and an original music score by Sam Piercy will accompany the production.

Two narrators will take the stage while the photo montage and recorded voice-overs tell the story of Logansport. More than 40 people recorded speaking parts of people in the city’s history like Little Turtle, William Ball, Charles Collins, Graham Taber and others.

The event can be compared to a documentary on stage, Schlabach said. Williams added that using real people’s voices creates an emotional experience.

“I didn’t just want them to know about the founding of the city. I wanted them to know how it felt,” Williams said.

Another key player in the event is Kevin Burkett. Burkett, the Logansport native now living in Pennsylvania, created the programs, their logo and a keepsake newspaper that guests will receive. Because Burkett has been helping out from 750 miles away, he said it has been overwhelming to be in Logansport and see how many people are involved in the show.

“Even though everyone involved has their own jobs, they have made sure to carve time to do something they think is important for people to remember the city,” Burkett said. “It will be a learning experience for younger people and a lot of reminiscing for those who are older and may remember some things.”

The event will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday at McHale Performing Arts Center, 1 Berry Lane, Logansport.

Admission for “Birth of a City” is $5, an amount that would have been three times as much had it not been for a contribution approved by those who oversee the city’s finances.

Ralph Anderson, a member of the Civic Players of Logansport, spoke before Logansport City Council at its December meeting.

“The Civic Players cannot afford this show at $5 a ticket,” he told council members. “We want this show to be affordable for everyone.”

Anderson said with the way the production’s finances currently stood, organizers would end up having to charge $15 a person. To keep ticket prices down, he asked council members to approve a contribution of $2,000.

The council members proceeded to deliberate, some more vocally than others. Councilman Bob Bishop asked how he could justify asking all taxpayers to help foot the bill for those who will attend the show.

Anderson said spread over the city’s population, it would only end up costing each citizen about 10 cents each. This small amount along with the positive experience the play promises should put taxpayers at ease, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a real work of art,” Anderson told council members. “I think you’re going to be proud.”

City council approved the expenditure unanimously.

Other corporate sponsors for the production are Logansport Savings Bank and Cole Hardwood/IDI.

Money raised through ticket prices will be split four ways between the Civic Players, Cass County Historical Society, Logansport High School student productions and the Logansport Arts Alliance.

Anderson described it as an once-in-a-lifetime show.

“The fact so many people took the time to do this show says something,” Anderson said. “This is a way to find out about your roots in less than two hours.”

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.

If you go: WHAT: "Birth of a City" WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday WHERE: McHale Performing Arts Center, 1 Berry Lane COST: $5