Darke County Center for the Arts 2019-2020 “Kaleidoscope” season has spun into history, engendering a plethora of emotions and expectations resulting from ever-changing reality. DCCA’s upcoming annual meeting will look at the details of the truncated presenting season as well as project into the unknown of the coming year; what follows reviews the ever-evolving patterns unfolding kaleidoscopically, although some of those patterns are far from lovely or delightful.
In an ever-changing environment during a season ending before COVID-19 disrupted schools’ schedules and life in general, DCCA’s Arts In Education (AIE) program consistently offered an endless variety of wisdom, joy, and inspiration. The Fitzgeralds — masterful fiddling, step-dancing siblings Julie, Kerry, and Tom plus their multi-talented guitar-playing friend Kyle Waymouth — opened the season performing in all local high schools September 17 to 20, introducing area students to Canadian culture and music in an energizing, warm, and welcoming performance.
Next, from September 30 through October 4, kindergarten through third grade students were entranced, inspired, and excited by DCCA’s presentation of DuffleBag Theatre’s “Peter Pan” — a vibrant troupe of Toronto-based actors celebrated the wonder of creative story-telling with warm-hearted imagination and hilarious antics. A cappella quintet VoicePlay amazed junior high school students December 10 to 13; while their fully orchestrated vocal sound filled St. Clair Memorial Hall with beautiful harmonies accompanied by diverse tuneful, rhythmic backing, the singers subtly offered life lessons urging youngsters to continue learning and growing while following their dreams. Ending the AIE season on another amazing note was “Guitarman” Jim McCutcheon who from January 6 to 10 skillfully blended his two loves, music and science, in “Seeing Things Differently,” a program for area fourth-through-sixth graders which musically extolled the wonder of how and why science works.
DCCA’s Artists Series got off to a truly rollicking beginning with the aforementioned Celtic music juggernaut The Fitzgeralds wowing an enthusiastic audience at St. Clair Memorial Hall on September 21; the authentic timeless sound of the Malpass Brothers filled Memorial Hall with traditional country music on January 18. A special event featuring singing duo Keifer and Shawna Thompson and Voice Play’s holiday show added verve and color to the season. But the endless variety of musical diversity was brought to a too-soon conclusion with cancellations of the highly anticipated appearance of legendary rock supergroup “The Hit Men” on April 18 and the spectacular closing concert by Toledo Symphony Orchestra on May 30.
DCCA’s Family Theatre Series at St. Clair Memorial Hall began on November 17 with Virginia Repertory Children’s Theatre’s lovely production of Margery Williams’ beloved classic “The Velveteen Rabbit” magically bringing to life the tale of a stuffed toy who becomes real because he is loved. Then on January 19, Lightwire Theatre’s Dino-Light utilized performers wearing costumes outfitted with glowing “electroluminescent” wire, blending art, theatre, and technology to inhabit and animate colorful creatures on the darkened Memorial Hall stage for a sold-out crowd. DCCA was set to welcome Bay Area Children’s Theatre production of “Llama Llama Live!” to another sold out audience on March 22, but you know what happened next — or, more accurately didn’t happen. In spite of well-laid plans that evolved and devolved, DCCA’s multi-colored season came to a crashing halt due to the spreading pandemic.
Likewise, DCCA’s Coffee House Series opened at The Bistro Off Broadway on October 3 with a delightful improv performance by DuffleBag Theatre, continued with a wonderful evening featuring Jim McCutcheon at the Union City Arts Depot on January 9, followed by a charming appearance at Arcanum Historical Society’s Wayne Trail House by Irish balladeer Siusan O’Rourke and guitarist Zig Zeitler, but came to a disappointing end before Luke McMaster’s sold-out show could occur at the Coffee Pot on March 26, or fiddler Doug Hamilton could work his magic at Montage Cafe on April 30.
In the meantime, the carefully planned 2020 season, dubbed the “Vision” year, has been examined, reviewed, revised, and is still less than clear. At this moment, DCCA officials cannot see a path to safely bring people together for the clarity and inspiration provided by the arts; the revolving reality of the “Kaleidoscope” remains in force.