Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: My Diamond Jubilee

Goethe Institut

Remaining Performances:

No more in the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, because that's done. But Ellouise Schoettler posts her tour dates on her site.

They say: "Genealogy Meets Entertainment as 75-year-old storyteller Ellouise Schoettler puts flesh on old family bones to weave this intriguing collage of romance, hunky heroes, love, loss and reunion. Come for fun – leave inspired. Don't miss this surprise Capital Fringe gem!"

Sophia's Take:  My Diamond Jubilee, is a title intended to celebrate storyteller Ellouise Schoettler's 75th birthday this July.  To a great extent this one-woman show is about how she has chosen, so far, to spend her time in life.  Yet, Finding Gus, the show's other title, may turn out to be more memorable for the audience of Schoettler's beautifully told story.

Tracing the genealogy of her family is among the endeavors Schoettler has taken on in the past 25 years.  The interest led her on a journey to uncover the details of the life of her late grandfather, Gus Keasler, who passed suddenly, while still a young husband to Schoettler's grandmother, Ellie, and the father of a toddler daughter, Louie.  The passions for storytelling and genealogy seem to go hand-in-hand.  Schoettler's desire to discover and create connections between herself, the past, and her audiences is evident in every word of her tale and the simplicity of her presentation.  She guides us through the journey with vivid detail and clarity.  With her we wade through the barriers of inaccurate record keeping and Ellie's unspeakable grief, to find a Gus that is memorialized in Clemson University football records as the strongest man to have worn the jersey up until that time.

You won't be missing the lack of spiffy production value in one of these shows, because she neither needs nor attempts to employ them.  A chair, a table with a picture of Gus and Ellie, and three pairs of glasses that allow for subtle shifts between characters, are all that accompany Schoettler to the stage.  No light or sound cues, just a voice and a vibrant orange blouse that links Schoettler to her grandfather's Clemson colors.

It is a mysterious gift, the ability to make an audience laugh and cry for a family that is not your own and to celebrate the life of a man to whom we have no personal connection.  Yet Schoettler's story works because so many of have someone we wish we had know better.  We can't help but be happy for her, and that life has given her the time required to find Gus, and that she has taken the time to share the tale.

See it if:  celebrating life and our connections with others sounds like a good reason to see some live theater.

Skip it if:  the past holds no secrets worth knowing or you can't get with the notion that less is more.

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