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The Daily Nonpareil

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Driftwood Inn weekly jam session a place for fun, camaraderie


Top, Driftwood Inn owners Tom and Roberta Lenihan outside their business on May 23. Above, Steve Powers plays guitar during the Driftwood Inn’s open acoustic jam night. At right, guitar cases rest on a pool table during the open jam night. Staff photos/Kyle Bruggeman

Mike Brownlee

he buzz of electric guitar riffs, conversation and fun hang over the Driftwood Inn on a Thursday night. A group of men stand at the front of the bar, most with guitars, one on a drum machine, with Bruce Talbott crooning the Chris Isaak favorite, “Wicked Game.” The Thursday jam session is in full swing. “It’s live, it’s free. People just enjoy hearing musicians get up and do their own thing,” said Tom Lenihan, who owns the bar with his wife of 24 years, Roberta. “It’s a lot of fun.” The jam has a “host” – who helps organize the event, makes sure musicians come up front to play and more – with the title currently belonging to Jerry Potter of Council Bluffs. With him on this night are guitarists Talbott, Steve Powers, Greg Vanscoy and Jim Spitznagle (on acoustic), with Dwayne Riche on a drum machine. Potter leads on the stage, discussing what song to play, talking about chords and keys, making sure everyone gets the chance to take the lead with comments like, “We’re gonna let Bruce take the lead on this next one.” Potter’s been playing guitar since he was 13, doing gigs since he was a 14-year-old newbie in a band working at the Golden Spike (now Goofy’s Corner) bar. “I’ve played in a lot of bands over the years, but I’m getting too old to stay out late, stay out ‘til bar close,” Potter said. “This gets me home early but still lets me play. And it’s a lot of fun.” The jam generally starts around 7:30 and is over around 11 p.m., give or take. The atmosphere is relaxed and the stage is available to anyone. “We call it an ‘open jam,’” said Tom Lenihan. “Anyone can come in and play their instrument.” Tom said violins and banjos are among the rarer sights at the jam, with a plethora of acoustic and electric guitars. The bar owner loves to listen to the music and sip on a beer, noting when asked if he plays, “I Couldn’t play a chop stick.” “You never know who’ll walk through the door,” Greg Vanscoy said during a break in the action. Potter jumped in. “You could play the same song every Thursday and it’ll MUSIC/See Page 3C


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Iowa Western student hopes to pursue theater after graduation ashlee coffey


eghan Hug has always been interested in performing. From the time she was 4 years old she was performing in dance. She did everything from ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, pom and lyrical dancing. During her time in elementary school, she started participating in choir. But once she hit high school, she discovered an interest in theater. The very first theater performance she did was in the musical, “Bye, Bye Birdie,” at St. Albert Catholic High School. “In high school, it was just a fun thing to do,” she said. “My friends were doing it, too, so it was a way to hang out with them and do something fun.” But even though she enjoyed theater, she didn’t plan on going to college to major in it – at first. Originally, Meghan attended Iowa State University in Ames, where she planned on majoring in advertising. After a year, she decided, instead, to attend Iowa Western Community College for general studies. While at Iowa Western, Hug said she took some acting classes just for fun, as well as auditioned for one of the plays. After that, she decided it was something she’d like to pursue. She even received a scholarship through Iowa Western to join the theater program. “I joined (theater) and the more I did it, the more I loved it,” she said. At Iowa Western, Hug said she took several different acting classes, a directing class – which she also had to act in – and several classes in the technical side of theater, which “is a lot of fun,” she said. She’s also been in five theater productions since she’s been at the college – most recently “The Playboy of the Western World,” which opened last month. The comedy, which is set in the early 20th century Ireland, told the story of Christy Mahon, a young man running away from his farm claiming he killed his father. “That (play) was challenging because not only did you have to learn lines, you had to learn an Irish dialect,” Hug said. “A coach was brought in to help us get the dialect right.” That’s not the only challenging part about being involved in theater, Hug said. It’s also very timeconsuming to learn the lines and practice over and over. “Also, everyone is going to have a different idea of a character and the way your director sees the character might not be the same way you see the character,” she said. “So that can also be challenging.” But overall, Hug said she loves acting – she doesn’t even get nervous anymore, except for the normal “adrenaline rush nervousness,” she said. “It’s an amazing feeling. It’s fun to be able to spend a couple of hours every night getting lost in being someone else,” she said. “It’s

Staff photo/Kyle Bruggeman

Iowa Western Community College theater student Meghan Hug on May 16.

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Driftwood Inn’s open jam a place for music, camaraderie MUSIC/From Page 1C sound different every time because of the variety of people that show up.” Reports vary on when the jam started, but its genesis lies with Talbott, who asked his friend Tom if they could start playing at the Driftwood. “We put a few people together and tried it,” Talbott said. “The first night there weren’t a lot of customers, but it kept the people here, here. The next week it was packed.” And the jam’s grown from there. “Brown Eyed Girl” gets a pair of women at the bar dancing, while Roberta Lenihan takes it all in. “As the night goes on you feel the excitement in the air build,” she said, sitting at a table just inside the front door. The couple bought the Driftwood Inn nine years ago and been having fun ever since.

“I’ve played in a lot of bands over the years, but I’m getting too old to stay out late, stay out ‘til bar close. This gets me home early but still lets me play. And it’s a lot of fun.” – Jerry Potter Roberta’s face beams when talking about the jam, talking about the camaraderie that’s built up among musicians and bar patrons alike. “As the night goes on you feel the excitement in the air build. Some of the talent we watch in here,” Roberta said, shaking her head in wonder. “It’s just amazing.” The jammers play Jimmy Buffet’s “Pencil Thin Mustache,” and puts smiles on everyone’s face. Riche, a now-sometime member of the Christian country-southern rock band This Side of Sunday, said he’s made

a lot of good friends at the Driftwood. “It’s fun meeting new people, different players, different styles,” said Riche. “You play together enough, you pick up each other’s style.” The musicians take on the Sublime classic “Santeria” before slowing it down with “Georgia.” Everyone at the bar is into the music, some nodding their heads, others with a smile on their face. “We play to entertain ourselves, to have fun,” Spitznagle said. “If others like it that’s all the better.”

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Hug to pursue the stage STAGE/From Page 2C fun just to get to be someone else for awhile.” When Hug isn’t acting or going to school, she’s likely to be found at a local movie theater or listening to music. “I love movies. I go to movies probably once a week even if it’s a bad movie,” she said. “And I really like to do anything involving music. I have a guitar that sits in my room and, even though I don’t know how to play it, I hope to one day learn how to.” Hug, who graduated this month from Iowa Western with an associate’s degree in theater, has been accepted to the Disney College Program, which is a national internship

program operated by The Walt Disney Company, located at the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort in Florida. “I’m excited to attend the Disney College Program because there’s a lot of different acting opportunities there,” she said. For anyone interested in getting involved in theater, Hug suggests working with a local community theater. “The more shows you can be in with different people is good because the more people you know, the better you’ll be in acting,” she said. “I would say if someone is interested in acting – just go for it – even if you fail. No one can say anything because at least you tried.”


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‘Wizard of Oz’ opening at OCP this weekend Bob Fischbach

World-Herald News Service

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Noah Diaz: Scarecrow. Council Bluffs native, Diaz, 20, never thought he would be cast in the iconic role of the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow. But the University of Nebraska at Omaha student said he hadn’t even planned on auditioning for the show at the Omaha Community Playhouse. A spur of the moment decision in which he thought would lead to casting in the show’s ensemble led to him being cast as one of the principal players. “‘The Wizard of Oz’ is one of my mom’s favorite shows,” he said. “She always said ‘Someday, you need to play the Scarecrow.’ So it’s funny that somehow I would end up as the Scarecrow. I would call it fate.” This isn’t anywhere near Diaz’s first performance – for the Omaha Community Playhouse or any other theater. He said he has been performing for years. He said his love of theater developed instaneously, beginning with his first taste of theater he experienced as a child. “Someone had put a flyer on the school bulletin board announcing auditions for ‘Hansel & Gretel’ at Chanticleer Theater,” he said. “I told my parents ‘I want to do this’ and they said ‘That’s great ... are you sure?’ And I really fell into it.” Diaz graduated from St. Albert High School in 2011, but continued doing theater. Though he admitted that he tends to lean more toward plays rather than musicals, he said he does like to expand his musical horizons on occasion. “I can sing, I think I sing well, but I don’t think I could walk into a ‘Les Mis’ audition,” he said. “I can’t say I’m a singer, I’m an actor who sings and dances. That’s why I was lucky to be cast as the Scarecrow, because so much goes into it musically. Nine times out of 10 I’m doing a straight play.” Diaz added the role of the Scarecrow has been very challenging, but fun. “I think it’s so famous because it such a simple character,” he said. “I walked into the rehearsal process knowing it wasn’t Shakespeare, but it has been as difficult. The audiences are expecting the Ray Bolger Scarecrow [from the film version] because that is the image in their mind. I have to respect that and do it justice while also bringing what I can to the role. That’s the biggest problem – being an actor and understanding that this is an iconic character; you have to do the role justice for the audiences. “It’s going to be an incredible show. The eight principals have all done a really great job at nodding to the iconic roles but we also bring our own touches to the roles.” The “Wizard of Oz” runs through the end of June, and Diaz said the day after the show’s final performance, he begins rehearsal for the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of “Sirens.” Outside of the theater, Diaz said he spends most of his time as a student who is majoring in American Sign Language with a minor in creative writing. “My family does a lot of things on the whim,” he said. “One day, my mother decided we were going to learn sign language. It’s one of those things that if you don’t keep up with it, you’ll lose it. So after a while, I forgot most of it. When I was deciding what to major in in college, I stumbled into it, and I really liked it. It has a theatrical aspect to it.” He added that there is a noticeable lack of theater productions in the Council Bluffs/ Omaha area that include sign language interpretation, which means the deaf community doesn’t get a chance to experience the wonder that is theater. “There’s little access in theater for deaf people to enjoy,” he said. “I understand you can’t have an interpreter in every show. I was in ‘Clyborn Park’ last February. and there was a performance that was interpreted for sign language, but there were only two people in the audience. I asked someone later if that was normal, and they said from what they could gleen, it was so rare to have an interpreted performance that a lot of people don’t know to expect one or don’t bother looking to see if there was going to be one. Someday, I would like to find a way to bridge that gap between theater and sign language.”

Noah Diaz will star as the Scarecrow in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

OMAHA – Probably no movie is more familiar and beloved to a wider age range than MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Millions have watched the 1939 best-picture Oscar nominee over and over on television. That meant an extra challenge for the design team at the Omaha Community Playhouse, where the musical based on L. Frank Baum’s classic book opens Friday for a monthlong run. “The movie is iconic, but we’re all bringing our own piece of the pie to it,” director Susan Baer Collins said of her cast and crew. The spoken lines are straight out of the movie, she said. But while she and her crew want to satisfy people who expect to see what they loved in the movie, the live show has to be a different experience as well, for both creative and budgetary reasons. Besides the cast, it takes a village rivaling the Emerald City to create and run “The Wizard of Oz.” About 25

staff, apprentices and volunteers have been working seven weeks building the set. The costuming staff of five plus 12 temporary hires and volunteers built 20-plus costumes, all from scratch. That includes stitchers, cutters, crafters, milliners, makeup experts, fabric designers and wig stylists. Design work began before Christmas. The running crew of about 27 backstage and in the auditorium will include 24 volunteers and apprentices controlling lights and sound, moving scenery and props, pulling backdrops up and down and stage managing, plus 25 dressers. Some take turns, so not all are there every night, but that’s still well above the average for a musical running crew. “THE WIZARD OF OZ” Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St., Friday through June 30; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays Tickets: $40 adults, $24 students Info: (402) 553-0800 or

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A rodeo for the community of Missouri Valley. That’s what Brent and Michele Watkins envisioned when they started the Mighty Mo Rodeo last year. After more than 1,200 people attended in 2012 the event’s second incarnation is set for Friday and Saturday at the Harrison County Fairgrounds. “This is all about the community,” Michele Watkins said. “It’s a family event, everyone comes out to have a good time.” Brent called it a “full-blown rodeo,” which will feature saddleback and bareback events, barrel racing, and several varieties of roping events, along with children’s activities. “There’s an event for everybody,” he said. More than 200 contestants from six states, many of them professionals, are expected to ride. Brent said the Mighty Mo falls during a busy time for riders and provides another stop on the rodeo trail. “There are several rodeos going on this week, I wanted to offer another one cowboys could hit while in the area,” he said. The rodeo will feature a “critter scramble” for children, with youngsters able to pursue rabbits, chickens and other animals. Catch it and keep it. A dance with live music by country rock band Switchbak is set for Saturday night, while the Fire and Ice drill team will perform feats on sprint horses. A mechanical bull will be on hand, along with a beer garden and food.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Michelle grew up riding as well and still occasionally competes in barrel racing and team roping events. Brent also grew up riding horses, including in some rodeos, and has dreamed of putting together one for years. “I love the sport of the rodeo,” Brent said. “No. 1, because of the animals. People sometimes have a misconception about rodeo – the animals are taken care of. That’s our pride and joy. They get taken care of better than some of us. “And No. 2, the atmosphere. It’s exciting, there’s always something going on. This weekend will be a lot of fun.” The Mighty Mo Rodeo runs Friday and Saturday at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, off U.S. Highway 30. The gates open at 6 p.m. and the rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12 and free for children 4 and younger. For more information find Mighty Mo Rodeo on Facebook.

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The Mighty Mo Rodeo will include saddleback and bareback events, barrel racing, and several varieties of roping events, along with children’s activities.

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