Category Archives: The Theater

Eric’s Promise by Melissa Schroder

EP2Ash Wednesday, 2002.  Eric Henry, a senior at Marian High School, was thinking about what his Lenten resolution should be.  His mother, Mary Molnar, recalls the conversation vividly;  “I was sitting on Eric’s bed, talking to him like I had so many times before.  We talked about his day and I asked if he had made any specific plans for Lent.  Eric had a big sweet tooth and had always given up candy for Lent so I assumed that was what he would do again.

“Instead, Eric told me he wanted to become a more giving person that year.  I was touched by his words and the sincerity with which they were expressed.  Eric went on to say he planned to commit more acts of kindness during Lent and was starting by donating several bags of used clothing to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.”

Tragically, Eric never had the chance to carry out his resolution – at least not directly.  Eric died in an automobile accident the very next day, on Valentine’s Day.

However, his promise lives on and has been fulfilled a thousand-fold, thanks to the work of his mother, his sister, scores of area students and hundreds of community volunteers who took up Eric’s resolve to be more giving.  His legacy lives on through their efforts under the simple banner, Eric’s Promise.


The movement actually began with a letter his mother wrote to her departed son.  “I simply wanted Eric to know his promise would be fulfilled,” Molnar said.  At Eric’s funeral the Marian chaplain, Father Dan Scheidt, read that letter.  About a month later during a memorial Mass at the high school, a large group of students brought bags of items to be donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and placed them around the altar.  Eric’s mother described the moment as the most touching in her life. “I had wanted to do something special in the memory of our son so his legacy of loving and giving would never be forgotten.  In that moment, I knew that the perfect memorial had already begun.”

In the years since Eric’s passing, over 150 tons of donations have been given to St. Vincent de Paul including clothing, household goods, furniture and food.  This year Eric’s Promise project began on Ash Wednesday and will run through April 18th.

The day of Eric’s funeral, one of his friends shared a quote with Eric’s mother and sister, Melissa Schroder, “It’s not how long you live, it’s how you live your life.”  Reflecting on that quote and how Eric’s Promise has grown over the last 13 years, Mary and Melissa observed, “It’s beautiful how one act of love and kindness can multiply into countless other seen and unseen acts of the same. When we share Eric’s story with students and businesses in our community, we remind them that we all have something to give. Eric’s life was short, but he made an impact on the lives of the people who knew him and maybe an even greater impact on the lives of people who continue to benefit from his promise.”

Thanks to Thom Villing for his creative contribution


My poem:

“Create and Give”

Our lives are engulfed with miracles and wonder

Let’s show our gratitude with a heart of thunder

No need to stand around and wait to act

The time is now, move with intention and tact

In times of darkness we see light

Create opportunities out of plight

Use our power to make a positive change

It only takes one act of kindness to arrange

Every action is an extension of you

Make that extension honest and true

Fall in love with everyone you meet

Be an example of what’s kind and sweet



Melissa can be reached at To be a part of this movement, simply be kindness, be a star in someone’s night sky and love selflessly.


Be Part of South Bend’s Future by the Office of Sustainability

Sustainability is a way of thinking that accounts for environmental, economic, and social impacts of activities both within city government and in the larger South Bend community. Becoming a more sustainable city means South Bend will have a stronger economy, bounce back better after disasters, and be a more enjoyable place to live and work. Working together towards sustainability promotes investments in our community, celebrates and helps preserve local assets, and cultivates our parks and open spaces.

The purpose of the South Bend Office of Sustainability is to make South Bend a more sustainable city.  To best serve the needs and dreams of the city we need to know what, as a community, is most important to you.

What are South Bend’s issues and assets?

What do you imagine for our city?

Your opinions will help identify projects and priorities for a strategic sustainability plan that will be promoted and implemented by the Office.

Help South Bend find creative ways to preserve natural resources, ensure social equity, and cut costs.  Sustainability opportunities such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and biking, connections between health and sustainability, reducing waste, and public outreach can build upon South Bend’s City Plan, the South Bend Parks and Recreation Plan, and the Smart Streets Initiative. We will use these initiatives to prioritize efforts that help bridge city functions or community groups.

Take our survey to have a direct impact in the creation of the future-focused, Sustainable South Bend. Share your values and priorities for a sustainable city so the South Bend Office of Sustainability can go to work with you.

 Be a part of South Bend’s future – share your opinions!

Take the survey at 



Rockne Remembrances

Fr. Robert Pelton began Notre Dame as a lay student in 1939, and after world wide travels, is living on campus in Corby Hall at the ripe old age of 93.  He’s the only priest on campus that was there for the 1940 Knute Rockne: All American filming, and for the World Premiere in October 1940. He was also the only man, other than Rockne’s son, at the 2005 dedication of the Jerry McKenna statue in Downtown South Bend who had seen Rockne in his lifetime. Fr. Bob’s career was renowned for his humanitarian work and publications, but his face lit up with the memories of Rockne and his undergraduate years at Notre Dame.

Fr. Bob Pelton
Fr. Bob recounting the excitement of the world premiere of Knute Rockne: All American in South Bend and at Notre Dame.

Fr. Bob came to Notre Dame from Chicago where his father worked at Northwestern.  At the age of 9 Fr. Bob and a friend managed to sneak past the barricades for the Notre Dame vs. Northwestern football game at Northwestern.  Although he wasn’t cheering for ND, he fondly remembers seeing Rockne on the sidelines. An animated coach in his trademark fedora, he led the Irish to victory over Northwestern disappointing the two young boys watching from beneath the bleachers. Flash forward 10 years and Bob Pelton, a first year a lay student at the time, is given the opportunity of a lifetime as a member of the Glee Club. Warner Brothers was filming Knute Rockne: All American on the Notre Dame campus and selected the Glee Club to sing the fight song throughout the film, and provide the music for the funeral mass that concludes the movie. Fr. Bob is not bashful to admit it was exciting to be in a real Hollywood movie.

The 1940 Notre Dame Glee Club with Robert Pelton in the 2nd row and a clipping from The Scholastic magazine 10-4-40.
The 1940 Notre Dame Glee Club with Robert Pelton in the 2nd row and a clipping from The Scholastic magazine 10-4-40.

That excitement was later amplified when South Bend was chosen for the October 4th world premiere of the movie, to bring all the pomp and circumstance of a true Hollywood fete to the community and the tiny ND campus of 3000 students.  Truly a collaborative effort between the city and the college, the Premiere involved events at venues around the city and at Notre Dame. Fr. Bob especially remembers the thrill of meeting Pat O’Brien, the star of the movie, in an elevator at the Joyce Center. Although he stuttered when trying to speak to O’Brien, he recalled that he was a “stand-out” guy, and a “really nice fellow”.

The other highlight of the great Premiere week for Fr. Bob was performing at South Dining Hall with the Glee Club on the Kate Smith radio show.  A popular entertainer in Chicago, Kate Smith brought her show on the road and broadcast it live from the Notre Dame campus.  With his family and friends back home listening, Fr. Bob and the Glee Club performed as part of the program, and were blown away by the beauty of Kate Smith’s performance of God Bless America, “she was something else!”.  The shadow of WWII was stretching to the United States and the event celebrated the patriotism of the US, an echo of the “All-American” image portrayed of Knute Rockne in the film.

“This was a big deal for South Bend and Notre Dame, to have all these movie stars come to town, and all the people!” It was the place to be Friday night as 200,000 people flooded the streets of downtown South Bend (population 100,000) to catch glimpses of the stars. Bob Hope emceed, Ronald Reagan, Pat O’Brien and Gale Page spoke to the crowd and the iconic photo below was snapped by the South Bend Tribune’s staff Photographer.  When I asked if he saw the movie downtown Fr. Bob replied, “Sure… that’s what you did, everyone did. We couldn’t go to the fancy events, all those tuxedo events but it was a really exciting time.”

This is what we hope to re-create this Friday night as part of Vintage First Friday.  An exciting time that highlights the energy of the city and creates memories for generations to come.  Fr. Bob noted that “the world premiere of a movie was a great way for Notre Dame and South Bend to come together. Like today, we have another great chance with this young Mayor (South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg_). It’s a good time for it.”

We look forward to sharing these memories 70 years from now with grandchildren, students and anyone who will listen.  Join us for the photo, and stay for the movie if only to hear the sweet songs of the Glee club performed. No matter what accomplishments we achieve, or wherever we may travel, we will have a picture of our community- brought together- and fondly remember that #weareSouthBend.



Cheers to South Bend: Citizen’s Bank

In honor of Knute Rockne week, we made several videos with the folks from Indiana Rug Co.  Terrifically hilarious (at least we think so), these videos highlight a few of the many things in South Bend that have changed for the better since 1940.

Here we discuss the Citizen’s Bank Building where people use to store their money but now they spend it on delicious whiskey concoctions. Enjoy!

Be sure to add your name to the list of folks who will become part of history!  Invite your friends, family, etc.. to be part of the fun!

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Are we having fun yet?

famAre we having fun yet?

It’s been 10 days now since we passed the big 1 year anniversary of doors open for events and I’ve wanted to share some thoughts with you, but haven’t known where to start.  Today it hit me though!  Hearing Andrew Berlin speak about leadership, looking back through pictures of some of the events we had and noticing the packed calendar we have for the month ahead I was struck by how awesome this journey has been.  The key question is “Are we having fun yet?” Granted, there have been ups and downs and events where I haven’t known which way was up OR down, but the memories have been priceless and I’ve been having a heck of a lot of fun.

I confess to having never been to a burlesque show, Rocky Horror shadow cast or Brew & View classic movie prior to my time at the State, and boy was I missing out. Drew’s “Why Not?” attitude has brought so many quirky events to DTSB, giving me the chance to experience totally new things I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, and introducing me to some really cool people.  Yes, we’ve had lovers and haters of our approach to renaissance but we’ve also provided a “home” to so many talented artists and performers who can shout from the marquee “#wearesouthbend” too!

I jumped in to volunteering at the State in the hopes of helping build community one low cost event at a time.  I simply wanted to find new ways for people to have fun.  I didn’t expect that it would look quite the way it has, but the innovative spirit that has come with each event has been inspiring. Not only are our performers having fun up there on stage, but the volunteers have been cracking me up and building a community of their own as they work behind (or not so behind) the scenes to keep things running (mostly) smoothly.  Our neighborhood has also grown closer as well with the Brew Werks Home Brew Store, Indiana Rug Company and Idle Hours folks working and playing together in our little corner of South Michigan Ave. There is nothing quite so delightful as sitting on a couch under the marquee on a warm summer day with Jack and Meredith chatting to folks about the upcoming events as they walk by wondering if The State SB is open yet.Presentation1

And the marquees! So many messages broadcast to DTSB giving voice to amazing opportunities and celebrating beautiful milestones with all those lights flashing.

We have come a long way in the first year (and 10 days) with chairs and lights and sound and booze and popcorn machines and stanchions and so much more.  All of that is good. But what’s even better are the memories we have made and the good times that have been had by all. If you haven’t made it down to the State SB yet, what are you waiting for? C’mon down and contribute to the ongoing history of this beautiful and vibrant community, housed in one of the best buildings in town.



One year ago today…

Happy Anniversary!  It’s been exactly one year since the doors of the theater first re-opened as The State, South Bend.  Ignite Michiana was the perfect way to usher in a new era for this classic and historic building, one built on community involvement, support, and celebration. Looking at the photos from the event still gives me chills and puts a smile on my face

Anniversaries are great times for reflecting. For me, it’s like the start of another cycle.  One that will undoubtedly not be the same and one that we hope will be better.  By looking back, we offer ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow.

The easiest place to start is with the numbers.  With the 50+ events we had last year and the 30+ so far this year, we are rapidly approaching our 100th event (yay for more reflection!).  Compare that against the 70 that the Morris held last year, granted they have much more complicated events and WAY higher attendance numbers (congrats to them being in the top 100 for the 7th year in a row!), and I’d say we’re definitely staying busy.

When I last did a look back in January as we reflected on 2013, I focused primarily on the accomplishments we’d made with community building.  Today as I look back, I want to take a different tact and talk about how I think we’ve contributed to entrepreneurship in the area.

I got a call about a week ago asking if we would be interested in potentially hosting the Lt Governor for a talk about entrepreneurship.  She was looking for places that were representative of the entrepreneurial energy in the city.  I was caught off guard a bit because I don’t often think about it that way but I know we’re trying to create a safe space for event entrepreneurs so it makes sense in that context.

As I was talking on the phone I mentioned the fact that a lot of the entrepreneurship in the city is oriented around entertainment. Again, this wasn’t something I had really thought on.  When people talk about entrepreneurship they seem to usually want to talk about technology startups but there are lots of ways to be an entrepreneur. One of the top things people want to see more of in downtown is retail and that’s going to take entrepreneurs, too.  It’s one of the reasons the entrepreneurs group 3 Degrees doesn’t have a focus on tech.

But the truth is that South Bend is full of entertainment entrepreneurs.  Think about all the events that occurred in South Bend for the first time in the last year: Ignite Michiana, The Color Run, South By South Bend, Circus of Art, Bittersweet Film Festival, Bizarre Coterie, Seitz & Sounds, Soiree En Blanc, Bazaar Sunday, Brew Fest.  That’s a pretty impressive list!  Add in the continued energy of things like Guerilla Gay Bar and there’s never a shortage of things to do in downtown.

And it’s not just the events that are growing, it’s the places to see them.  Take music for example. Used to be if you wanted to hear live music in DTSB you pretty much went to Fiddler’s Hearth.  Now you can see music every week at Chicory Cafe and LaSalle Kitchen & Tavern.  McCormick’s has been hosting a lot of shows as well.  Heck, they are even going smoke free for their next No Coast Social event (vol 8).  Who’d have thunk it?

So how does The State fit into all this?  Most obviously, we are another of those event venues.  The theater itself, when fully open including mezzanines and balconies, can probably seat 1500-2000 people.  The main level, at an occupancy of around 400, makes it easy to think of this as two spaces in one. There really isn’t anywhere else like that in the city.  Of course who can deny the historic charm of this beautiful building or overlook the memories of those who remember spending their childhood here.

Of course it goes deeper than just capcity and memories. As I said earlier, we’re trying to create a safe space for event entrepreneurs.  8 of the 10 new events I mentioned earlier took place, at least in part, at The State.  That doesn’t even include things like the renewed showing of Rocky Horror Picture show featuring South Bend’s very own Hot Patooties.  Not bad for a place that’s only been open a year!

How do we do it, you might ask? The answer may not be the obvious one.  None of the people involved here on a consistent basis, including myself, Mara, or Trish, are theater or entertainment people.  We don’t have backgrounds in music, movies, or dance but what we do have is big hearts and a passion for South Bend and seeing people succeed here.

Our recipe is simple: 1 part energetic entrepreneur and 1 part support from The State. We play to our strengths: we are open minded, we know how to work hard, we know how to change the marquee, we know how to get people excited, we know how to balance costs & expenses and we know how to learn and admit when we’re wrong (and believe us, we’ve been wrong and learned A LOT).

What we’ve found is that recipe works.  We’ve tapped into a wellhead of entrepreneurial folks who have great intentions and desire but just need a little support to get their idea off the ground.  Which is exactly what an incubator/accelerator should do.  Of course we can’t take on everyone’s ideas.  Sometimes we talk through an event and realize it’s just not feasible.  Sometimes we have events and realize they aren’t a good fit.  For example, if the event can’t bring in at least 100 people, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to show it here.  We’re just too big for that sort of thing.  Much like anything else, you live and learn.

So on our anniversary, we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us get where we are today.  Volunteers extraordinaire, patient promoters, energetic entrepreneurs, rowdy Rocky Horror fans and all the rest of you out there who have supported us in one one or another.  You have our gratitude, our thanks, and we’re looking better to working with on making this place even better, one event at a time.




Dillinger in South Bend?

I lived in sort of a time warp last summer as I worked with the State Theater Story Corps project. During the day, I was occupied with archives, interviews, and transcripts of dusty memories. I became the owners of the Blackstone Corporation or the ticket girl who was nearly swept away in a storm while she sold tickets to Mary Poppins in the ticket booth. In my off hours, though, I rejoined modernity and even volunteered at a few events at the theater. As I witnessed its everyday schedule, I began to puzzle through the theater’s new role in the community. It was as though it were being resuscitated after years of lifelessness, jolted into the modern world. I came to the conclusion that during that time of rebranding the State, South Bend was not sure whether to remember it or reimagine it. Many patrons recalled seeing movies there as a child or going to the State Theater Lounge in the early

2000s for line dancing and a beer. I came to realize that the marquee is vital to the State’s reintroduction to South Bend because for over 90 years, the marquee has been a constant. It fuses the old world with the new: current messages superimposed on an antiquated design.

As people drive by, they slow to look at the marquee, which is the undisputed visual centerpiece of the 200 block on Michigan Street. The pentagonal structure juts out over the sidewalk, and the burgundy red against the bright white of the building façade draws the eye. Architects who designed theaters in the early days of cinema were not just talented engineers; they were shrewd businessmen because they designed movie palaces based on the philosophy that “the shows starts on the sidewalk” (95). As soon as patrons stepped under the marquee, they were bathed in neon. It was the first part of the night’s entertainment. The marquee has evolved since its birth in the early 1900s. Formerly, it was delicate, flat, and provided detailed information in small print (Valentine 97). However, as the automobile staked its claim in American society, architects adjusted their designs to make marquees a sort of billboard for the vehicles passing quickly by; the letters grew, the information compressed, and the structure extended out over the sidewalk like a canopy (97).

It was a hot day in June of 1934 when a car full of armed men passed the State Theater on their way to rob the Merchants National Bank.

South Bend News Times July 2, 1934
South Bend News Times
July 2, 1934


We will never know whether they glanced up at the marquee as they drove by, but if they did, they may have noted the Saturday feature’s prophetic announcement of their arrival: Stolen Sweets. As the story goes, John Dillinger and his gang began to fire shots in every direction when they rushed out of the bank with $30,000. The police arrived more quickly than they had anticipated, so the men had to temporarily kidnap P. G. Stahly, the Vice President of the bank, and DeLos Coen, a cashier, to use as human shields (“Chief Avers”). The robbers escaped in their stolen car, presumably unscathed, but South Bend suffered. Stray bullets had wounded several bystanders, killed policeman Howard Wagner, and damaged structures on Michigan Street—including the State Theater marquee.

Recently, a reporter from the South Bend Tribune began a news story on the State Theater with this claim: “John Dillinger’s bullet holes are still there” (Harrell). It may be time, though, to set the story straight. In an article written just days after the robbery, the South Bend News-Times announced that based on eyewitness accounts, the police were “inclined to doubt” that Dillinger had been involved in the heist at all. Bank robbers are romanticized now as well as during their Depression-era reign of terror. They were folk heroes, taking back from the banks that robbed the public of their homes through foreclosure. It’s easy, then, to understand why South Bend would lay claim on a story that Dillinger, America’s Enemy No. 1, came to town. Did Dillinger shoot up the marquee or just the façade? The marquee, surely. What a mess, glass all over the sidewalk.

Even though it may not have belonged to John Dillinger, the bullet was real. Sunny McDonald, the State Theater manager at the time of the incident, found it atop the marquee (“Bullet Pierces Sign”). The details are murky for much of the rest of the day. Is that a bad thing? It’s not ideal, but I think we should be asking another question: What does this tell us about memory? I think the “Dillinger incident” reveals something important. Although we romanticize the past, that doesn’t necessarily mean the past was better. The robbery was, after all, a dark day for South Bend. The matter is more complex than that. We tend to invent what we don’t know, and that’s where lore grows. We return to the past because it still has a grip on our imagination.

by Erin Springer


Mr Elegante goes to ND

Flyer2 (1)

Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak at the Notre Dame MBA Net Impact Club’s Sustainability Symposium.  Fellow speakers included executives and founders from Patagonia the well known sporting goods manufacturer, Greater Good Studio a design firm in Chicago dedicated to tackling social problems, Dairy Management Inc a group that, among other things, helps sponsor the NFL’s Play 60 initiative, and A Safe Haven, a Chicago area non-profit that is fighting chronic homelessness and drug abuse, and winning.

I’m still not sure what I was doing among such an illustrious group of folks but I felt honored to have been invited. Talking with folks like these who have done so much is always energizing and the free flow of ideas helps spark my creativity.  Plus there’s that free dinner on Notre Dame’s dime.  As you may have heard, my belief is that free is always delicious!

My task for the conference was to run a case study group for about an hour and a half. I started off with an expanded version of my Ignite presentation to help people understand who I was, what I had been doing, and what they could do for me.  As I told them, it was a very Drew-centric presentation.  With a focus on sustainability, I had to come up with something that the attendees (mostly ND MBA students) could complete in a short time but that might have an opportunity to actually be implemented.

Last spring we had the opportunity to work with ND Business of Sustainability students on what sustainability at The State could look like, focusing on three key areas: HVAC, Waste Streams, and Social causes.  We’ve made good progress on the waste streams thanks to our trash hauler, Michiana Recycling, who does all the recycling sorting for us in a process known as single stream recycling.

But there’s always room to improve so for the case study I chose to focus on how to minimize waste from beverages because while it’s great to recycle it, it’s even better (from both an environmental and cost perspective) to not create the waste at all.

The students ended up with about 40 minutes to work out their ideas.  That’s not very long to work on something, but I was really impressed with what the participants were able to create, both in terms of the creative solutions and in how quickly they were able to assimilate the things that are important to me into their presentation.  With 90 seconds to present, they created posters for their ideas and gave me the elevator pitch on what it was and how it would help meet our goals.


Team number 1 came up with this reusable plastic cup.  I really liked the “one cup at a time” slogan as well as the I <3 State logo.  This group also did a really good job of defining other pieces we’d need to implement this solution.

IMG_20140215_104325Team 2 came up with this “F’in Goblets” concept.  Step 1 is hosting a fundraising event where people would pay to design a goblet, potentially ceramic, that would then get fired and hung up around the theater, creating a sort of art gallery of goblets.  People could then grab one of these and “rent” it for a show.  Using the mug would get you a discount and because the mugs would be constantly changing location, the display of them would as well.  Kind of like an ever evolving art exhibit.  I loved how this offered people the opportunity to add their creativity to The State as well as the boldness and moxie of the name.

IMG_20140215_104317Team 3 brought this creative idea using an existing camping cup product that is collapsible.  I’d never seen such a thing and was really excited about it. How cool would it be to see people wandering around the city with these hanging from belt loops and backpacks? I really liked how the design helped promote civic pride as well as the ways in which this campaign could extend beyond the boundaries of the theater.

After a difficult deliberation, we awarded the prize to the F’in goblets. All of the groups did a good job but the goblet team really excelled at applying the things that I thought were important about The State into their product idea and weren’t afraid to challenge conventions with their naming choice.  That’s the sort of thinking that has led to our success here at the theater.

So what’s your favorite idea? Think we could actually make these happen?  Let us know in the comments.  Who knows, maybe one day soon you’ll be watching a show and enjoying your favorite beverage from your own F’in goblet.



Don’t Dream it, Be it.

South Bend's Own Hot Patooties!
South Bend’s Own Hot Patooties!

There’s a cloud over the general opinion of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its band of highly devoted fans.  Those who attend midnight performances and yell at the characters while chucking toilet paper in the air are viewed as a group of oddballs with no lives and too much free time… and that’s just the audience. Members of a cast earn the reputation of being those weirdos who run around in their underwear in front of a couple hundred people every month. These impressions are merely superficial and require a little bit of digging in order to appreciate the cathartic and expressive outlets that they truly are.

It has always been my personal opinion that midnight showings are where all of the people who don’t fit in elsewhere can congregate and become the norm.  And then it becomes so much more than that because, inside the comfort and safety of a midnight showing, there is no norm, there is no constant. And because there is nothing to compare anyone to there is no judgment.  Anyone can walk into a showing of Rocky Horror and feel accepted.  That guy running around on stage in women’s negligée is a quiet and reserved person who spends Monday through Friday working an office job in finance. The girl yelling call lines in the audience has a massive fear of public speaking.  The audience members wearing as little as they can get away with are the types who are body-shamed on a daily basis because they don’t fit society’s perception of beauty.  At a midnight showing of Rocky Horror you can be whatever or whomever you want to be.  The movie’s tag line of “Don’t dream it, be it” is personified by every person in attendance.

I had cut my teeth going to midnight showings in my hometown of Louisville for years before joining the cast there.  I knew what I was getting into when I showed up for an informational meeting for a new cast starting up at The State Theater in South Bend…or so I thought.  I had lived in South Bend for almost two years before I walked into that meeting in August of 2013 and my impression of the city was not so great.  I had no friends; I only had a job and a small family consisting of my spouse and three animals that I spent all of my time with.  Now, I have the immense pleasure of hanging out with about 20 insanely beautiful people every week in rehearsals.  Then once a month we get to go in front of an audience and run around in crazy costumes while miming to a movie that’s nearing its 40th anniversary!  What’s not to love about that?

Getting in to character.
Getting in to character.

What can I say about the Hot Patooties?  That rag-tag group of people I call cast mates friends.  I can say that they’re some of the funniest, sharpest, and genuinely nicest people I’ve ever encountered.  I can say that, as someone who has been watching Rocky Horror for over a decade and has seen multiple casts, they put on one helluva show.  When it comes to shadow-casts, many struggle with the balance of putting on a technically proficient show and having a good time.  I’ve seen casts that have perfect costumes and everyone knows every part down to the smallest of gestures, but they lack any kind of life and energy.  Then I’ve seen casts with a ton of energy and no reverence for actually putting on a good show for their paying audience.  In my (somewhat) educated opinion, you’re seeing one of the finest midnight productions of Rocky Horror in the country when you come to see the Hot Patooties. You’re going to get a fantastic stage-show and you’ll have a good time watching it.

Joining the Hot Patooties has become my belated introduction to South Bend and the State Theater has become a second home.  I think that anyone who comes to our monthly offering of freedom of expression in a judgment-free zone will see all of these feelings (and more) exemplified in the energy presented on and off-stage.  We dreamt it, and we became it.

Check out the hot patooties on facebook at FB Hot Patooties and c’mon down to the State for our Lips & Lingerie show this Saturday, February 15th.

by John Magness


Play it, Sam

I went to a movie recently at the Normal Theater, an idyllic Art Deco venue in the heart of Bloomington Normal, Illinois. It is smaller than the State but run by an equally dedicated group of volunteers. Each time I see a movie there, I remember why I love theaters; the experience is different than viewing it in my own home. I pay more attention to the details, the crowd applauds at the end of the film, and the characters are somehow bigger in my mind. In a theater, the movie monopolizes all of the senses. Cell phones are silenced, lights are dimmed, and for two hours, all you know is the movie on screen and perhaps the person sitting next to you with whom (if you love them) you share a tub of popcorn.

 Ever since I was a small girl, classic film and the early movie going culture have fascinated me. I was raised on Ma and Pa Kettle instead of Nickelodeon, and my celebrity crushes in junior high were Wally Cleaver and the Fonz. I make movie references that only my sister would catch (though I miss just as many modern references), and the Hollywood figures I read about in my spare time are often as alive to me as the people I come into contact with each day. When people ask me why I love classic film, I can only say that I’m not sure how the fascination began, but the more I learn about film history, the more that love grows. Apart from its plot, each movie has its own creation story, and part of that occurs in the theaters where the films were first seen. For example, the State’s own Cosimo Rulli, district manager of Plitt theaters in the 1960s and ’70s, relates how going to see a war movie in South Bend changed his life:

 It was a long story why I joined the Air Force. I was workin’ at the theater, and in the movie Strategic Air Command, James Stewart, he plays pilot. He was actually in the regular Air Force, Jimmy Stewart. He was a regular colonel for a while, and he flew those B-52s, you know. Anyway, they had a recruiter in the lobby. And he got me all excited, say, You should join! What do you want to do, you go to college? I say, Oh, I said, I don’t have enough money to go to college. He said, I can fix it up for you. The Air Force, they give you an education and everything. Next thing I know, I’m in Chicago taking a test. (Laughs.) That’s why I kind of joined, I got all excited and all the air command and all that. I had a good time, though. I had four years good time.

 My single favorite part of a movie is its backstory. One of the age-old debates in psychology is whether we are a product of nature or nurture. John Locke, who believed we were born blank slates, would say that our experiences shape us; therefore, we are the product of our environment. The same basic principle applies to film: it is the product of the collected experiences of all the people involved in making it. A film is its artistic content and the story it tells, but beyond that, it is the lives of the actors, directors, set designers, and cameramen; the filming schedule that was not kept; the awards it almost won at the Oscars; and the cultural references that were born from it. Throw in elements like a world war or censorship, and the end product is even more complex.  And although my generation of millenials often dismisses classic film as irrelevant or inferior, most movies were in some way cutting edge at the time of their production.

 This Wednesday, on February 5th, Casablanca (1942) will be showing to kick of the Romance Classics series at the State. It won three Oscars at the time of its debut and has since been ranked among the best films of all time. Whether it is your first viewing or hundredth, the film is a must-see—especially on the big screen. And to enhance your viewing experience, here are a few snippets of the film’s wartime creation story (Warning! Contains spoilers):poster

On December 7th 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the Second World War. The next day a Warner Brothers reader began to evaluate the unproduced play “Everybody Comes To Rick’s” as a possible movie. It was perfect timing as studios raced to get patriotic pictures into production.

Howard Hawks had said in interviews that he was supposed to direct Casablanca (1942) and Michael Curtiz was supposed to direct Sergeant York (1941). The directors had lunch together, where Hawks said he didn’t know how to make this “musical comedy,” while Curtiz didn’t know anything about “those hill people.” They switched projects.

Many of the actors who played the Nazis were in fact German Jews who had escaped from Nazi Germany.

Because the film was made during WWII they were not allowed to film at an airport after dark for security reasons. Instead they used a sound stage with a small cardboard cutout airplane and forced perspective. To give the illusion that the plane was full-sized, they used little people to portray the crew preparing the plane for take-off.

Producer Hal B. Wallis nearly made the character Sam a female. Hazel ScottLena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald were considered for the role.

Warner Brothers claimed that people of 34 nationalities worked on the film.

No one knew right up until the filming of the last scene whether Ilsa would end up with Rick or Laszlo. During the course of the picture, when Ingrid Bergman asked director Michael Curtiz with which man her character was in love, she was told to “play it in between.”


Rulli, Cosimo. Interview by Erin Springer. “Cosimo Ruli Interview.” State Theater Oral History  Project, Indiana University South Bend. South Bend, Indiana. 24 June 2013. Print.

-Erin Springer