Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unveiling the Cascade Theatre's 2014-15 Season

Have I ever told you the story of how I got here? No? Refresh your drink, settle in, and I'll tell you how I became acquainted with Redding and became the Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. And stick around, because I'm going to unleash the Cascade's 10th Anniversary Season on you. It's kind of a big deal.


You probably already know that I started out at Jefferson Public Radio as a teenage volunteer. Worked there through college, and then moved to Alaska where I continued working in public radio for years before opening a restaurant, driving a school bus, leading tours, acting as the town's only video producer and wedding DJ, and then I became a mom. But I missed radio. And on the very day I sold my bistro, on a lark I looked on the world wide web to see if there were any radio jobs out there I might be interested in, and it eventually led me back to JPR.

Long story short, there was an open position. I applied. Didn't think I had a chance. I got a phone interview. Then another interview in person. It took 8 months, but finally I was hired. But not for the job I applied for. And not in the city (or even the state) I thought I was headed to.

When I got the initial phone call letting me know that I'd landed a phone interview, the person who called me said he didn't work at the Ashland studios of JPR. He was stationed in Redding, where he was holding down the fort at JPR's Northern California studios. JPR has a studio in California? Whaaaat? He said he coordinated all of JPR's activities in the state. He rode herd over a few volunteers, was responsible for marketing and fundraising efforts, and hosted a daily radio program. And oh…by the way…he was helping JPR revitalize downtown Redding because the station had bought an old art deco movie theatre, and was restoring it, with the grand hopes of operating a great performance hall that would bring people and business downtown, hoping to create something beautiful and amazing in Redding.

"I want your job."

I actually said that out loud to him. I told him his job sounded fascinating. He was doing radio and so much more. He was doing something that I wanted to be a part of. And lucky me, they eventually decided to tap him for the position I'd originally applied for, so they gave him a big fat raise, moved him to Ashland and brought me to Redding to serve as the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio. A dozen years later, I'm so happy that things turned out the way they did.

I started twelve years ago this month. The first two years were full of some of the most amazing fundraising I have ever been involved with. Redding was so generous. Thousands of people gave to support our efforts, believing in what was possible. After raising more millions than you can count on one hand, the theatre was finally finished in 2004. It re-opened in the same week of August that the theatre had originally opened the first time around, back in 1935. Opening weekend was the first time I got up on the Cascade Theatre stage and addressed a crowd. I won't go into the politics of how I was able to finagle my way onto the stage, but I felt like I'd just staged a coupe. And all I wanted to do was to tell Redding to give itself a hand for bringing this beautiful building back to life.

Tell you what, though. I wasn't prepared for standing under a hot spotlight in front of 1000 people and addressing the crowd. I'd never gotten up on a stage before. All my speeches had been made all alone in a radio studio in front of one, lonely microphone. I was not ready for my first moment on the Cascade Theatre stage on opening day. I had rehearsed, I had notes written on my hand in sharpie, but then I walked out onto that stage in my pink dress, I was a deer in headlights for a moment. I pretended that I wasn't panicking, that I wasn't sweating balls, that my throat wasn't closing, that I couldn't catch my breath, but I was legitimately and honestly terrified.

Then the audience changed everything. People clapped. They were nice. They laughed when I tried to say something funny. Wish I could remember what that was. Maybe that was the time I pulled a ringing cellphone out of my bra. Well, whatever it was, I was still nervous, but finally calmed down, shook the nerves out of my voice and got down to business welcoming the crowd to a sold out showing of The Wizard of Oz. When I asked the audience to give themselves a round of applause, the theatre roared with the sound of clapping, and I knew I was in the right place, doing the right thing. And from that moment on, I've been completely at home as the Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre.

So here we are. 2014. Ten years down the road, and the Cascade is celebrating a decade of bringing amazing performances to Shasta County. I've been dropping a few hints around town and on stage here and there over the past few weeks, but finally, the moment we've all been waiting for is here. The unveiling of the 2014-15 Cascade Theatre Performance Series!  Remember, Cascade members get first crack at tickets starting May 30th, and the general public can buy tickets on June 17th. Memberships start at $50 with all kinds of perks besides early ticket purchase. You can get a membership here or by calling 530-243-8877.

You'll see some great artists return to the theatre, like Los Lonely Boys, Ziggy Marley, Jake Shimabukuro, Brian Regan, Natalie MacMaster and Garrison Keillor, along with some artists we've never had the pleasure of experiencing at the Cascade before, like Jimmy Cliff, Matisyahu, Kansas, The Temptations and Ian Anderson with the Best of Jethro Tull. My short list of must-see shows this season includes Jimmy Cliff, Matisyahu, Ziggy Marley and Sarah Jarosz & The Milk Carton Kids.We'll have a great 10th Birthday Party the first week of August, culminating with a sing-a-long version of the first film I served as Mistress of Ceremonies for. I'll try not to panic this time.

Introducing the entire Cacade Theatre 2014-15 Season (and today's playlist):
  • July 12          Los Lonely Boys - How Far Is Heaven
  • July 18          Arrival: The Music of Abba - Take A Chance
  • July 26          Kidz Bop - Party Rock Anthem
  • Aug 01          Jimmy Cliff - Reggae Music
  • Aug 03          Joe Diffie - Pickup Man
  • Aug 05          Creedence Clearwater Revisited
  • Aug 08          Wizard of Oz Sing-A-Long
  • Aug 20          Amos Lee - Sweet Pea
  • Aug 21          Brian Regan - Golf
  • Aug 25          Matisyahu - One Day
  • Aug 29          Dustin Lynch - Wild In Your Smile
  • Sept 09          National Acrobats of China
  • Sept 13          Chris Botti - Contigo En La Distancia
  • Sept 15          Ian Anderson: Best of Jethro Tull - Aqualung
  • Sept 19          Kansas  - Carry On Wayward Son
  • Sept 27          Manhattan Short Film Festival
  • Oct  05          SF Opera: Rigoletto
  • Oct  07          Dark Star Orchestra - Truckin'
  • Oct  16          Celtic Tenors - Danny Boy
  • Oct  23          Lee Ann Womack - I Hope You Dance
  • Oct  24          The Temptations  - Papa Was A Rolling Stone
  • Oct  26          Jake Shimabukuro - Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Nov 02          SF Opera: Attila
  • Nov 07          Ziggy Marley - Justice
  • Nov 12          Asleep At The Wheel - You're My Sugar
  • Nov 14          Sarah Jarosz & The Milk Carton Kids - Build Me Up From Bones & Snake Eyes
  • Nov 28-30     Cascade Christmas
  • Dec  04          Garrison Keillor - Coffee Jingle
  • Dec  05-07     Cascade Christmas
  • Dec  19          Tomaseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas
  • Jan   04           SF Opera: Mefistofele
  • Jan   29           Eric Johnson & Mike Stern - Cliffs of Dover & Mood Swings
  • Feb  06           Shaolin Warriors
  • Feb  11           Tommy Emmanuel - Beatles Medley
  • Mar  07           Duane Hampton Presents: Piano Artists In Concert
  • Mar  18           Cirque Mechanics
  • Mar  22           SF Opera: Capuleti
  • Apr  04           Buddy Guy - I Go Crazy
  • Apr  17-26      Peter Pan, The Musical
  • Apr  29           Natalie MacMaster - In My Hands
Today's streaming playlist also comes directly from the list of season performances, in chronological order.  Just click on the play arrow in the embedded playlist below the list, or go directly to the Grooveshark Playlist. One small mea culpa for sharing music of the actual supergroups Abba & CCR, but be rest assured that the groups reviving their hits are dedicated to being true to the original as possible. Kind of like Dark Star Orchestra, the band that brings back Grateful Dead concerts back alive, song for song, riff by riff.

Cascade Theatre Turns 10 by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Big Fat Greek Summer


The day after I graduated from college, my friend Lisa and I got on a plane headed for Athens. Greece, not Georgia. It was a decision that changed my life forever, and I owe it all to my mom.

To tell this story the right way, we should go back a few months, to the day Lisa - who was also my college roommate - got a letter from our mutual friend Hilary. Hilary had moved to Japan with her mom at 15, made  a crapload of money teaching English, and 4 years later decided to see the rest of the world, and ended up on the island of Crete. She wrote to Lisa, suggesting that we join her in the village of Παλιόχωρα (that's Paleochora to you), on the southwest tip of the island. She told us that she could help us find a place to live and jobs for the summer. She said she could even find us boyfriends. We could spend our days swimming in the Aegean Sea and our nights dancing at the Paleochora Club.

Lisa was up for it immediately, but I waffled.

I worked my way through college, usually holding down 2 or 3 part time radio and waitressing jobs while taking a full load of classes. But in my senior year, I started to get busy applying for public radio careers throughout the country.  I was a finalist for a reporter position in Massachusetts, and another news job in Alaska. I was afraid to commit to the Greece trip, because I thought I might miss the opportunity to land my dream job.

This drove Lisa nuts.

She was ready to go. Ready to quit her job, leave school, and move to Greece indefinitely. The only thing holding her back was her fear of traveling all the way to the other side of the earth by herself. If I didn't go, she didn't want to go. It was a lot of pressure on me, because I didn't want to let Lisa down, and I was excited about the idea of going to Greece, but I kept putting off giving her an answer because I was waiting to hear back from the radio stations I'd interviewed with.

Finally, mom stepped in and saved the day.

She told me these four words: You. Have. To Go.

Then she told me why.

When my mom and dad married in 1959, my father had a bitter ex-wife and two young daughters in Texas who didn't get to spend much time with their dad. Although he was supposed to get the girls every summer, many times their trips out to California were suddenly and inexplicably cancelled at the last minute. My mom and dad would make elaborate plans with the girls that never materialized, and they would suddenly find themselves with a whole, lonely summer with nothing to do and nobody to do it with. You can imagine how devastating it was for them to put all their eggs in one basket, and none of them hatched.

So instead they hatched a plan. It was the ultimate revenge on loneliness and ruined summer vacations. Every year they made two sets of plans: one if Diana & Vicki did show up, and another if they didn't. If the girls showed up, they'd head off to Catalina for a week on the beach. If they didn't show up, it was something else just as exciting and fun to look forward to. Something that ensured my parents that if the  girls trip was cancelled, that they didn't spend all summer moping around, crying in their beer; they had something else almost as fun waiting in the wings. Obviously, they would rather have the girls. But they knew that to protect their hearts, they had to come up with Plan B, just in case Plan A didn't work out.

My mother had already done a lot of thinking about my situation, and told me she'd figured there were several possible outcomes:

  • I could sit at home and wait to hear from my potential employers. I might hear back from them tomorrow….and then again, I might not hear back from them for months (it was months, by the way).
  • When I did hear back, it could be good news, or it could be bad. If it was good, then I could pack up my already packed up stuff and move to wherever it was I'd been hired. If word came quickly, then the only one who lost out on a cool opportunity was my roommate Lisa. If word took months, then we both lost out on an amazing summer.
  • If, however, I sat and waited the whole summer and the news was not good, then not only did Lisa miss out on the opportunity to go to Greece, but so had I. And I would be miserable, jobless AND without an amazing tan. And probably minus one lifelong friend.


My mom said there was only one real path to follow, and it was to buy an open ended round trip ticket to Greece immediately.

She said that if word came soon, then I could come back. Even if I only spent a few weeks in Greece, it would be a great way to relax and get a tan before starting a new job. If it took months to hear back, then I would probably have the summer of my life, she said.

But most importantly, she said that if I didn't take the opportunity to go to Greece and stayed home instead, and didn't land any of the jobs I was a finalist for, that I would be the most miserable, pathetic 22 year old in the county. But if I went to Greece and later found out that I didn't land any of the jobs I'd applied for, my mother assured me that I absolutely positively wouldn't give a shit.

And there you have it. Mom's final word.  So what the heck. I did it. We flew to Athens, took a ferry to Crete, then a 2 hour drive to the other end of the island, courtesy of Hilary's boyfriend Manos Savas.

Pretty soon I was sharing an efficiency apartment in Paleochora with Lisa, spending my days on the beach getting an almost all-over tan and spending my nights working at the Fortezza Bar until midnight, then dancing until 3am at the Paleochora Club with my Greek boyfriend Haris. I would borrow his Honda scooter to tool around the village, and eat greek salads every day, with locally grown tomatoes and huge chunks of feta cheese. I caught up on my reading. I learned to speak Greek like a 4 year old who could cuss like a sailor.
Paleochora at night
One evening a few months later, as I was walking through the village to work, Mrs. Savas ran out of her restaurant and flagged me down to let me know that my mother had called. I had a job!

As it turned out, I hadn't gotten any of the jobs I'd been a finalist for. Future NPR darling Elizabeth Arnold landed the job in Massachusetts. NPR's future Middle East correspondent Peter Kenyon, already in Alaska, got the other job I'd applied for in Anchorage.

Mom was right. I didn't care. Not one bit. I was so happy living on an island, in a little village of a few thousand people with nothing but fishing boats and tourists. It was an amazing life.

Then she told me that in Alaska, a domino effect had taken place. When one position opened up and it was filled by another Alaskan, it opened up another position. Which was filled by another Alaskan. Which opened up yet another position. And so on and so forth. My resume was passed down from Anchorage to Juneau to Petersburg. And Petersburg, as it turned out, wanted to hire me.

I was so content that I almost didn't take the job, even though I was running out of money in Greece. But I stood in the pantry of Mrs. Savas' restaurant to shut out the kitchen noise while my mom executed a conference call with the radio station in Alaska, where my future boss told me that if I took the job, I'd be moving across the world, to an island of a few thousand people, where the main industries were fishing and tourism.

And I thought...what the heck. I'd have a Big Fat Alaskan Adventure!

Today I was thinking about all the things to thank my mother for (besides giving birth to me) on Mother's Day. Of all the things on the list (which includes blessing me with her rich and beautiful voice, and for her decision to not only go into the public radio business herself, but for taking me to work with her when I was just a kid), her advice on the matter of Greece is still at the top.

Thanks mom. Today's playlist (a Best Of from a few years ago) is for you.

I'm interested in hearing from you: What's the best advice you've ever gotten from your mom?

You can check out the Mother's Day playlist directly from the Grooveshark website, or click on the play arrow in the colorful box below:
Mother's Day by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark