Ephrata woman’s musical will be featured at Gretna Kim McCaul Armer

By on August 24, 2011

Amelia Earhart has taken flight once again under Gretna Theatre’s banner of the “American Hero Biography Series” of outreach musicals that travel to schools and civic groups. It will be presented as the finale to the 2011 season on Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse. Reserved seats are $7 each and once again all educators are admitted free of charge with school identification.

The program can also land in area schools. Educators can pick up booking information and other materials at the Aug. 27 production. They should call in advance and reserve both tickets and booking materials. If unable to attend, educators may request booking information be mailed to their schools. The dramatized biography “Amelia Earhart, Lost Hero,” with original music written and composed by Ephrata resident Kim McCaul Armer, debuted as a part of the outreach program at Gretna Theatre in 2000.

“We are reviving the show by popular demand,” states Renée Krizan, Gretna Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director. “The outreach program titled ‘The American Hero Biography Series’ is once again gaining popularity. A successful tour for two years in succession of the fourth show in the series, ‘Keeping Mr. Lincoln,’ has prompted educators to inquire about reviving the previous shows in the series. Our goal is to add the previous shows, including ‘The Road to Freedom’ and ‘First Ladies, Wives of the Presidents,’ one each year until all four shows are in repertory and on tour.”

The story of “America’s Flying Sweetheart” is aimed at middle school-aged students and traces the life of the aviatrix, from childhood to her rise to fame and her eventual final flight. The production comes with a work study guide for schools who wish to incorporate the historical material into the classroom.

“Amelia Earhart, Lost Hero” is the brainchild of Kim McCaul Armer. A former Gretna Theatre employee, cabaret performer and transplanted Canadian, Armer has performed at some of the biggest hotels and casinos from Toronto to Atlantic City. However, it was her experience as a mother of a middle school-aged son that inspired her.

“There seems to be a lack of product for that important and impressionable age group,” said Armer. “Earhart had always been a favorite of mine. She overcame many obstacles in her life and she never lost sight of her dream. She succeeded in a man’s world at a time when it was unheard of. We knew it would be a good message for the youngsters.”

Earhart was the product of what is now known as a dysfunctional family. Her father, whom she idolized, was an alcoholic who often uprooted his family. As a teenager she served as a military nurse in Canada during the First World War. She later said of her experience: “It was there that I realized what war actually meant. Instead of brass bands and new uniforms I saw only men without arms and legs, men who were paralyzed and blind: four years of desperate struggle.”

After the war Earhart began flying lessons with the pioneer aviatrix, Anita “Neta” Snook. Snook had reservations about Earhart’s skills, a feeling that was later held by many of her contemporaries, but the young flyer persevered and eventually began setting records. The promoter/publisher, George Putnam, whom she later married, hired her to be the first woman to serve as a crew member on a transatlantic flight. Although she was merely a passenger on the trip, Putnam ensured that she received much of the credit and all of the celebrity. Even President Coolidge cabled his personal congratulations to her.

The cast of “Amelia Earhart, Lost Hero” includes local actors Valerie Long Schultz and Candace Arndt, who have both performed on Gretna Theatre’s mainstage, and many other local stages. Schultz, who portrays Earhart, performed at Gretna Theatre two consecutive seasons, first in 2009 in “Cheaper by the Dozen”, then again in 2010 in “Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation.”

Arndt, a local educator herself, also appeared in “Cheaper by the Dozen”. The production is directed by Renée Krizan, who also serves as Gretna Theatre’s Director of the Theatre for Young Audience programs and this Outreach program.

Schools who wish to book “Amelia Earhart, Lost Hero” should call Renee Krizan at 964-3627. Tickets for the Aug. 27 performance are also open to the public and available for purchase online at gretnatheatre.com, by telephone at 964-3627 or in person at the box office beginning at 10 a.m the day of the show.

This production is presented by generous support of The Hershey Company, The Greater Harrisburg Foundation, The Kline Foundation, The McCormick Foundation, The Stabler Foundation, The Wells Foundation and Benjamin Olweine, III. More ARMER, page A17

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