Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 17, 2013

Stars of stage and screen showcase Spring Chautauqua

Brent Brown
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — A little bit of Hollywood will highlight the Greensburg Community High School (GCHS) Chautauqua early next month.

And the faces of those who gather for presentations in the high school’s auditorium throughout the day May 2 and 3 will undoubtedly be familiar to anyone who’s turned on a television or visited a movie theater in the last 70 years.

According to John Pratt, Chautauqua organizer and GCHS history teacher, actors and actresses appearing in everything from Hollywood classics like It’s a Wonderful life to today’s television mainstays, such as AMC’s wildly popular The Walking Dead, are set to appear over the course of the two-day program.

As is to be expected with such a variety of performers set to take the stage, there’s a little something for everyone.

The aforementioned ‘Walking Dead’ is one of the most popular dramas on television today. Centered around a group of individuals striving to survive a zombie apocalypse, the hit AMC show recently broke cable network ratings records with its Season 3 finale. Actor Vincent M. Ward, who portrayed Oscar on the gruesome series, is planned to speak from 11:55 a.m. to 1:24 p.m. Thursday, May 2. Ward has also appeared in the star-studded 2001 film Ocean’s Eleven, and has found a niche on the small screen. In addition to his Walking Dead role, Ward has appeared on hits such as NCIS, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and HBO’s lurid vampire series, True Blood.

In stark contrast to Ward’s performances in programs not for the squeamish, Col. Gail Halvorsen’s actions are decidedly family friendly.

An Air Force pilot in the years following World War II, Col. Halvorsen took part in the Berlin Airlift and was famous for dropping candy alongside supplies he delivered from his plane. Halvorsen’s propensity for cheering up children with candy, earned him the nickname “The Candy Bomber.” German children, however, referred to Halvorsen as “Ugle Wiggly Wings” due to the fact he would “wiggle” the wings of his planes in order to signal candy was on the way to the children. Col. Halvorsen, 92-years-old and still a pilot, has been featured in multiple documentaries and books. He is scheduled to speak in the morning portion of the program Friday, May 3.

Col. Halvorsen will follow Karolyn Grimes Wilkerson; and though few will likely be familiar with her name, it’s Wilkerson’s unforgettable line from a classic movie that is sure to “ring a bell” with audiences.

Wilkerson played Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart’s daughter in Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday masterpiece, It’s a Wonderful Life. Her indelible line, one of the most famous in all of cinema, is arguably as well known as the film that contains it: “Teacher says, ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’” The child actress, now in her 70s, has spent the last few decades being an advocate for the treasured film, which is considered one of the greatest and most inspirational in history.

From one Christmas story to another, viewers will recognize Lisa Lucas as Addie Mills from the 1972 TV movie, The House Without a Christmas Tree. Lucas portrayed the daughter of screen legend Jason Robards in the Emmy-winning special. Lucas, who now works as a freelance journalist with some of the most well-known news publications in the country, will speak from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Thursday.

One more Christmas classic will be remembered in the Spring Chautauqua when Yano Anaya, an actor with a small role in the seminal holiday flick, A Christmas Story, presents at the GCHS auditorium. Anaya portrayed Grover Dill, one of the bullies in A Christmas Story, a comedy classic that tells the tale of young Ralphie Parker’s quest to receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

No Hollywood scene would be complete without the music associated with it, and this Spring’s Chautauqua aims to pay homage to some notable musicians of stage and screen as well.

Rodney Dillard, a member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame band The Dillards, will be the first presenter of the Spring Chautauqua, taking the stage at 7:55 a.m. Thursday, May 2. Dillard and his fellow band members have been nominated for two Grammy Awards, but it’s their performance as “The Darlings” on the Andy Griffith Show that most audiences are likely to recall.

Sonny Curtis is expected to speak at nearly the same time as Dillard. A fellow honored musician, Curtis was a personal friend of Rock pioneer Buddy Holly, and a member of Holly’s backing band, “The Crickets.” Curtis wrote the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show as well as the popular “I Fought the Law,” which became a hit for The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966.

About a decade after “I Fought the Law” became a radio mainstay, TV audiences tuned into the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show. In a style similar to that of Sonny and Cher’s popular ‘70s show, the Tony Orlando and Dawn show featured as many comedy sketches as it did music.

A member of that band, Joyce Vincent Wilson, is expected to appear shortly after lunch Thursday, May 2. Wilson today tours with The Former Ladies of the Supremes.

No history of film presentation can go on without mentioning the contributions to the medium by folks such as George Melies, a French-filmmaker who created more than 500 works in the silent era. Pauline Melies, the filmmaker’s great-granddaughter has taken on the role of family historian, and she is expected to highlight several of her great-grandfather’s pioneering works during her presentation.

Two actresses with similar backgrounds will also grace this Spring’s Chautauqua.

Emily Kuroda, who portrayed Mrs. Kim on The Gilmore Girls, is scheduled to speak alongside Takayo Fischer, perhaps most famous as Mistress Chang from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Both actresses are Japanese-Americans who battled racism and prejudice throughout their childhoods.

John Pratt called Fischer’s story “one of the most uplifting in Hollywood today.” Fischer has starred in films that featured some of the biggest names in the industry today: The Pursuit of Happyness (Will Smith), Moneyball (Brad Pitt) and War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise).

Kuroda’s television credits include Grey’s Anatomy, L.A. Law and E.R., among others. Kuroda and her family faced rampant racism in the years following the end of World War II, but she fought all the way and accomplished her lifelong dream of becoming an actress.

Last but certainly not least, is a presentation from TV actress Jeanne Sakata. Sakata, like Kuroda, appeared on the immensely popular 1980s series, L.A. Law, but she is also known for her work on Desperate Housewives. Sakata is an accomplished stage actess, winning an Ovation Award in 2002.

More information about the Spring Chautauqua is available via the Greensburg Community High School website (

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056