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Welcome to The Love. Impact. Community. Series. We hope you will take a break to read about the love and appreciation associated with the historic Embassy Theatre. We all need some lighthearted sentiments these days…a little warm and fuzzy insight and reflection on this nearly 93-year-old community gathering place.

Our community has such fondness and love for this downtown arts and cultural icon. And, the Embassy would not be what it is without the heartbeat of the staff who care for the facility and our patrons daily. Just as important is the dedication and support of our donors, volunteers, founders, sponsors, and community partners who move the Embassy forward.

So, enjoy getting to know the team inside and our lovely supporters on the outside.

Mike Brett picMichael Brett

Program Manager
Embassy Theatre

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? There are so many. I think it was standing on stage and having an impromptu conversation with Nate Bargatze about the theater he was going to be performing in that evening. Moments like that remind me of how spectacular this theater is, and it fills me with pride to be a part of it. I love seeing people’s faces when they walk in the stage door off the bus. Just about everyone has a ‘moment’ before they get busy.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Tom Waits! If his music was a building, I imagine it would look a lot like the Embassy.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? Having a nationally-renowned theater in an otherwise small city is amazing in and of itself. The fact that it was preserved and made successful through the efforts of volunteers for the pure need and interest of creating and preserving a place for music, art and education speaks well for our community and has a profound effect on the collective psyche of everyone in it.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I miss the people! It takes all kinds to put on and take out a touring show: getting to know new friends you only just met in the morning, building a relationship and working towards a common goal.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? Having the ability to engage with the amazing and creative people in our city and state to work on events that bring people together, and hopefully, spread joy and create memories.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? Sleeping and reading.

Crissy Moloney picCrissy Moloney

Stakeholder Services Manager
Downtown Improvement District

The Downtown Improvement District is an Economic Improvement District established by City Council under State of Indiana statute. Their services improve the business climate of the district and allow owners of non-residential real property to more easily assess their own economic potential. 

The Downtown Improvement District is governed by a Board of Directors and partners with the City of Fort Wayne and a wide-variety of public, not-for-profit, and private sector organizations to make Downtown Fort Wayne an attractive place to live, work and enjoy which is ready for commerce.

The DID’s mission statement is: “Advancing Downtown Fort Wayne as the vibrant, urban core of northeast Indiana.”

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? While the Embassy is highly valuable as a venue, its greatest treasure is its staff and their commitment to the community. While other theaters have, understandably, decided to close up shop for the time being, the Embassy has stepped up to the plate over and over again. They have been leaders in bringing organizations together to discuss ways to safely bring people downtown. They have found creative avenues to support artists. They have helped keep traditions alive in the middle of a pandemic. The Festival of Trees was an amazing example of creativity and tireless efforts to brave a new world to ensure that at least one holiday tradition remained accessible to the community both in person and virtually. It definitely lifted my spirits, and I’m willing to bet it lifted Bud’s spirits too!

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU or your organization? Personally, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with the Embassy for events and downtown initiatives. I have also rented venue space and, of course, attended shows and events. I absolutely love working with the Embassy and its staff on community projects. What many people do not know is that the ideas for events like Fright Night and Spring Forward Fest were the brain child of Embassy staff. Kelly (Updike) has a knack for bringing Fort Wayne organizations together for collaboration on these types of projects. It is safe to say that the Embassy continually adds to the vibrancy of Downtown Fort Wayne.

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? Just one? I have laughed, cried, laughed until I cried and been inspired at the Embassy. My very first memory of the Embassy was a visit during Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown in 2014. Having just moved to Fort Wayne, my theater-loving teens and I toured the Embassy. We were instantaneously fascinated with the beauty of the theater. I still love an Embassy tour. I learn something new every time. Also, I have to give props to the Embassy team for the virtual Halloween special. So fun!

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? The pandemic has presented both great challenge and amazing opportunities. My job and lifestyle seem to intersect most days. I find my fulfillment in supporting local downtown businesses and artists through these challenging times. You can pretty much find me and my husband walking downtown enjoying murals on any day warm enough and eating or shopping on the days is it not. We have also enjoyed road trips to Lake Michigan to listen to the waves crash. During the colder days, you will find me studying for class or watching movies, and virtual Embassy shows, of course!

Maggie Kole Hunter

Maggie Hunter

Education Manager
Embassy Theatre

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? My favorite memory continues to be kids of all ages coming to the Embassy for study trips or our Learn It Live programs. The look on their faces, the joy in their voices as they experience the beauty, awe, history, culture and majesty of the theater.  I experience the Embassy through their eyes, and it never disappoints.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? Not being from Fort Wayne, knowing this art deco theater was not destroyed is a testament to the community. I was involved in saving the theaters at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, OH. There is nothing more important than preserving a community’s heritage. It gives a city its history. Its heart. And the Embassy is definitely the HEART of this community.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? The best part is telling everyone that I work in the most beautiful building in all of Fort Wayne. I can go on the stage at any time and dream of possibilities.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? As the Education Manager, I miss the kids filling the whole of the Embassy with their curiosity.  I miss the volunteers of the education program that truly are the heart in telling the Embassy’s story. I miss the staff and the daily interactions and discussions.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Pentatonix, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Book of Mormon, The Prom, The Piano Guys, Ben Folds, and the list can go on.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? All is good. Change is always hard but actively participating in the change adjusts my perspective and attitude on what is truly important. I am more thankful and live each day with gratitude. Personally, I am still able to pursue my acting passion with theaters in the area. It’s just good to do what I love most! I also love to read. Have read so many good books! Learning and being able to participate in “there is no them” study with TELC.

Rich & Debby Beckman

Embassy Donors and Frequent Patrons

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU? We are big fans of the Festival of Trees, but also, we have enjoyed numerous activities and events ranging from SCORE! to Broadway to the Marquee Gala just to name a few. We love supporting the Embassy as members of the Marquee Circle. We look forward to its return as we move past the pandemic.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? With the risk of sounding like many others, the Embassy is a treasure – not only for our community but for surrounding communities as well. The Embassy offers such extensive programming that there is something to appeal to everyone. Of course, the building itself is totally amazing. We have had the opportunity to tour behind the scenes, which has given us an even stronger appreciation for the Embassy.

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? There are so many, though one annual event is special. Since our grandson, Elliott, was a toddler, we have spent Thanksgiving afternoon visiting the Festival of Trees with him and his parents. They live in Cincinnati so this is a very special family time. Seeing his eyes the first time he experienced all the trees was such a delight. With the pandemic, we missed our annual tradition in 2020 and look forward to the 2021 event.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? There has certainly been a lot of home time this past year. We seem to be navigating it well using the beauty of our neighborhood for daily walks, though the recent snow has left sidewalks less than great. We have done some home projects and lots of cooking (Debby’s stress outlet).

Mark McKinney pic

Mark McKinney

Box Office Assistant Manager
Embassy Theatre

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? The vision for the Embassy capital campaign project a few years ago. Being able to be a part and witness the Embassy evolve into a multi-purpose venue, and to see all of the renovations take place was absolutely incredible. The best part was being able to sign my name on one of the steel beams that is now a part of the meeting room on the 4th floor.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? I would say it is being able to interact with the patrons and provide them with the best customer service possible. I’ve assisted so many people over the years, and when you get those repeat patrons who love to work with you, and seek you out whenever they come to the box office, it makes you feel real good to know that you are going above and beyond for them and making their overall experience the best it can be.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? It offers so many diverse forms of cultural enrichment and education. Whether it be the Festival of Trees, Broadway shows, concerts, study trips, wedding ceremonies/receptions, or the Learn It Live programs, the Embassy provides more than just entertainment. It provides lasting memories. It enables the community to give back and help support and sustain this historic building for current and future generations to come.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? The excitement and the energy that’s generated from the patrons as they enter the building for an event. I miss seeing our volunteers, our part-time staff, and our police and fire marshals. I miss having some sense of a routine.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? Why? I would love to see Bruce Springsteen on the Embassy stage! He’s one of my favorite artists, and there’s just something about him that is so genuine and sincere.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? Taking walks with my wife whenever possible, watching a lot of TV shows/movies, listening to podcasts, and reading all sorts of books; anything that I can do to take my mind off of things for a while.

Todd Espeland headshot

Todd Espeland

Executive/Artistic Director
Fort Wayne Youtheatre

Fort Wayne Youtheatre has been educating, engaging and entertaining area youth and families with its classes, performances and theatre outreach since 1934. www.fortwayneyoutheatre.org

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU or your organization? Fort Wayne Youtheatre has been collaborating with the Embassy for a few years. We hold rehearsals for our shows on the fifth floor in the Journal Gazette Education wing, and the Embassy has hosted school shows for our Linda L Ruffolo Young Heroes of Conscience series.  The staff at the Embassy is the best. Easy to work with, great communication and they genuinely care about and are welcoming to the community.

I think it is important for Youtheatre to be rehearsing and holding shows at the Embassy. It helps our youth actors and patrons understand that the Embassy is theirs. It is an important artistic hub and is part of what lends value in the community. Bringing our youth into the Embassy to work and see shows helps them feel ownership of the Embassy and pride that it is part of their artistic development and heritage. It is really great to take a group of youth actors out onto the Embassy stage before the audience gets there and to tell them that they will be on that stage, performing for an audience in that beautiful house, just like thousands of other actors have been doing since 1928. It helps connect them to something bigger than themselves. 

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? The Embassy is where my wife, Cara Wade, and I had our first date.  In 2013 I had returned to Kalamazoo Michigan after going back to my hometown of Las Vegas to finish a Masters of Fine Arts at UNLV. Cara and I met on an online dating service. Cara invited me down to see a touring musical that was at the Embassy. I fell in love with her at first sight. This is why the Embassy is a special place for me.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? The Embassy is a total package. Most historic theatres like the Embassy are beautiful but do not have the technical capabilities to handle big touring productions, or they are shabby and in need of some love to return them to their original beauty. Most regional touring theatres have the technical capabilities to handle touring shows, but their modern aesthetics can be off putting. The Embassy has it all. It is a beautiful theatre that still has the grandeur of an early 20th century theatre, but it is also a space that can technically handle any modern touring show with its updated lights and sound system.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? Personally, Cara and I have been hunkering down at home and enjoying life with our two dogs in our wonderful 1930s Tudor home. Reading books, learning new crafts like cross stitch and linocut printmaking and doing a lot of cooking.

Brittneay King photo

Brittneay King

Events Manager
Embassy Theatre

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? My first Festival of Trees here was great. It’s awesome to see how the whole team comes together for this event that is a holiday tradition for so many!

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? The Embassy is so important because we bring art and culture to the community in a multitude of different ways that appeal to a plethora of people. Not only is the Embassy a place where you can see a national rock band, but also a place where the community can experience Broadway. SCORE! and the Learn it Live programming is also something that sets the Embassy apart.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I miss us being able to experience all of the things the Embassy has to offer from behind the scenes. I miss the hustle and bustle of special events and weddings as well.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? Being a part of an organization that is making a difference in the community.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? I am looking forward to having some comedy on our stage!

Amanda Miller – GKGC photo

Amanda Miller

Executive Director
Great KIDS Make Great COMMUNITIES

Great KIDS Makes Great COMMUNITIES empowers youth-serving adults by providing education and training on the application of positive youth development frameworks and strength-based practices to ensure that our community’s children have the opportunities and relationships they need to grow into productive and healthy adults. The organization is funded by Foellinger Foundation.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? The Embassy is such a pillar in our community, a preserved piece of Fort Wayne history, and a place where new memories are made. They’ve made such an effort to contribute culture and goodwill, and they play an important part in bringing people together.

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU or your organization? Through a grant from Foellinger Foundation, Great KIDS Make Great COMMUNITIES provides training and resources to youth-serving professionals in Allen County. With recent developments in our country regarding the pandemic and racial equity concerns, the Embassy was the among the first partners to step up and offer their venue as a safe and socially conscious space wherein Great KIDS could hold important trainings to further conversations of understanding amongst community members.

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? By far, the Festival of Trees. Christmas and Christmas trees have always fascinated me, since I was a young child. Also, I’m an enthusiastic concert goer and LOVE to take in a show at the Embassy. The atmosphere is unmatched.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? Professionally, Great KIDS has continued to be very busy, and offers training on any and all topics related to positive youth and family development. Personally, I have three small children and a husband with a busy job, so at home learning plus a very fulfilling full time job has kept my life quite full in spite of being at home more than usual.

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