County’s 2015 offerings show off heart of the arts

Festivals attract thousands to COUNTY

Here in Hancock County, we love our festivals. With more than 50,000 in attendance during its four-day run, the Riley Festival in downtown Greenfield is the granddaddy of all festivals in the area, and 2015 was no exception.

The Riley Festival serves as a homecoming of sorts, as college kids and far-flung former Hancock County residents return home the first weekend in October for this annual celebration of Indiana’s poet laureate, James Whitcomb Riley.

This year’s “The Raggedy Man”-themed celebration welcomed back a variety of family favorites, including the Riley parade and the children’s parade of flowers, as well as introduced some new attractions, including a new zipline in the KidZone.

Two summer festivals with a focus on the arts were the Pennsy Trail Art Fair, conducted in June, and Cumberland Arts Goes to Market in August. Both of these one-day events combined art, music and food in a family-friendly atmosphere.

And with the holidays still fresh in our minds, we can’t forget the Riley Christmas Festival with entertainment, vendors, Santa on the plaza and the nighttime Parade of Lights.


In March, the Ricks-Weil Theatre Co., under the direction of Beth Ray-Scott, announced its 2015-16 theater season as a 70th anniversary commemoration of the end of World War II.

During the summer, audiences revisited the love story of Captain Von Trapp, played by Ted Jacobs, and Maria, played by Alexandra Kern, and their escape from the Nazis into the hills of Austria and Switzerland in the summer musical production of “The Sound of Music.”

The Ricks-Weil Theatre Co.’s upcoming production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” directed by Kathy Hoefgen, is scheduled to run in March 2016.


It’s hard to believe that Twenty North, the art gallery and event space managed by the Hancock County Arts and Cultural Council, has been open for a year. It opened last December but picked up steam after the first of the year, holding events such as The Beat, which took place in March. The Beat, sponsored by Hancock Arts, was a multi-platform event that featured beat generation poetry, dance, music and art in a celebration of the Beat Generation of the 1950s.


Hancock County is home to a lot of young actors who cut their teeth in the children’s programs and high school drama departments in Hancock County before taking their talent to bigger stages.

Among these most notably in 2015 was teenager Samantha Russell, who replaced a New York actress (who fell ill at the last minute) to star as Wednesday Addams in Beef & Boards’ production of “The Addams Family.”

Russell is a senior at Mt. Vernon High School and soon will settle down to select a college where she will continue her performance training.

CrazyLake performs ‘Legally Blonde’

In July, the CrazyLake Acting Co. brought a film favorite to the stage with “Legally Blonde,” a contemporary musical following Elle Woods’ journey to law school, where she must prove she’s more than a blond bimbo. The cast of mostly local youths featured Payton Cole as Elle Woods, and Harrison Kern as love interest Warner Huntington III.

Troupes bring film favorites to life

Three area high schools presented stage versions of popular movies in 2015. The Greenfield-Central Drama Department, under the direction of Ted Jacobs, brought to the stage “Mary Poppins” as its spring musical in 2015. New Palestine High School, under the direction of Stephen Beebe, performed DreamWorks’ stage version of “Shrek – the Musical.” On the north side of the county, Leigh Anderson directed Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” for the Mt. Vernon Drama Department.

Additionally, Ten West Center for the Arts in Fortville presented “Grease” with a cast of teens and young adults, and “The Little Mermaid Jr.” with younger children, most of whom came from the Mt. Vernon school district.


Dance East Ballet Academy, choreographed and directed by Dana Hart, presented “Little Things,” an original ballet, in December, for its third year of performance. As Hart’s fledgling company has grown, so has the “Little Things” ballet.

With an original storyline and a compilation of public domain music, “Little Things” combined the creative teamwork of several area artists, who worked together to create sets, costuming and choreography fitting for the story.


A year-end wrap-up of Hancock County arts would not be complete without mention of the most anticipated film to hit the screen at the Legacy since, well, “Revenge of the Sith” came out in 2005.

Currently showing on three screens, the 2-D and the 3-D versions of the latest film in the Star Wars series, “The Force Awakens” had fans lined up on opening night several hours in advance.

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Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or