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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.

Sam Strickland pic

Sam Strickland

Front of House Manager
Embassy Theatre

 

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? One of my absolute favorite memories was when Vince Gill (I’m a big fan) was here. Show days are always very busy for me between setting up all the bars and concessions, facilitating stagehand breaks, setting up dressing rooms and backstage hospitality and coordinating artist merch. I was busy getting the bars set up when Vince started his sound check. I listened while I worked and sang along with every single song, but when I heard the intro to “Go Rest High On The Mountain,” I stopped what I was doing, stood in the back of the house and listened. It was such an incredible moment to have the theater to myself and hear an artist that I am a fan of perform this song to an empty room. It gave me chills and still does when I think about it today. I will always carry that moment with me.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? We strive to bring quality entertainment to the community, but we do so much more than that. We are a place of tradition. It is incredible to see three generations of a family come in and marvel at Festival of Trees. I love seeing young kids come to shows with their grandparents and listen as the grandparents explain that they used to come to the Embassy as a child. It’s very heartwarming to know that families have a history with us.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? As Front of House Manager, I have a lot of different roles. Sometimes, I am all over the place behind the scenes for a show, or setting up a bar for someone’s wedding. At other times, I work on the floor for an event and get to regularly engage with our volunteers and patrons. House Manager for a show puts you in a unique position to manage an entire event. You see and hear things that other people may not. I can then take that information and put it towards making changes and improving things. And, one of my favorite things to do is go back to the start of my Embassy adventure and step behind the bar for a night.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I think what I miss the most is the chaos of a show day. I am usually one of the first people in the building to let a caterer in. After breakfast is set up for backstage hospitality, I then set up a break for our stagehands. Once that is ready to go, I can be found in the merch area doing inventory. Then, I head backstage to break down breakfast and get lunch set up. From there I usually work on making sure dressing rooms are set up and ready for the talent. Then bar set up begins.

Depending on the show, I could have up to 4 bars and a concession stand to set up. Our bartenders are great about restocking before they leave, so I usually don’t have to do a full set up, just minor details. During this time, I have my cell phone on loud and am available to drop what I am doing to head backstage, if needed. Once bars are set, I have a little bit of down time; this is usually when I am able to get to my desk to return emails. Then I usually head backstage to check on the caterer and make sure everything is going well and help get dinner set up.

This is around the time Embassy staff starts to arrive to work the show. I get the merch sellers introduced to the show rep they will be working with and get them acquainted with what they will be doing that night. Once I am done with that, bartenders have started to arrive. I do a final check in with them and get them anything they may need last minute. Once doors open to the public I am once again backstage, getting the meal area cleaned up. I usually check in with the promotor or tour manager to see if anything else is needed for backstage or the tour bus (usually ice). Once I do a final check backstage and everything is good, I am usually able to leave for the night. If for whatever reason we are short staffed on the floor or in a bar, I will stay through the end of bar service to help out in whatever way needed. Sometimes that’s bartending, making popcorn or helping patrons find their seats. It sounds like a lot and can seem like chaos, and sometimes it is, but I truly love the hustle and bustle of a show day. There really isn’t anything else like it. Knowing that at the end of the day, I played a role in making sure a show happened, and it went well, that’s something special to me.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? I have worked in the entertainment industry in some way since I was 16. A huge part of my love of music is a love of LIVE music. There is just something special about being at a show. During a concert, I always take a moment, usually during the most well-known song, and I look around. I look at this crowd of strangers and for a moment, we are connected…all there for the same reason…all sharing a moment of pure joy. That is something I have missed dearly during this pandemic, so I am dying to see big tours on our stage.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? I spent last summer outdoors. I went kayaking and camping with friends. I was able to take a long weekend with friends and go to Tennessee. We enjoyed the deck of our rental house, hiked the Smokies and went white water rafting. I also read a lot. I usually have a book in my purse. I also have a love of music, so there is usually always music playing. As far as TV goes, the Cooking Channel and Investigation Discovery are my go tos.

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Barb Richards

Chief Engagement Officer
Embassy Theatre

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? Art is important for quality of life; it’s what makes us different than animals. The Embassy can bring around the world art experiences to audiences in Fort Wayne who might never have an opportunity to experience them. Plus, we are a part of downtown, and it’s all important activity for this community.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I miss talking to people about the Embassy and sharing its history. I could filibuster a conversation about the Embassy.

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? Being able to do the Q&A with John Cusack, creating the first virtual Festival of Trees (FOT),  the 30th annual FOT and interviewing Mary Ellen Rice and Barb Wigham (got Barb on WPTA, the station she lead for years) and the grand opening of the hotel after renovations.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? I love to invite people to tour the Embassy that have never been in this building before (shocking, yes, to think that they have lived here for years and all they have missed!). Their reactions are priceless.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? I need Broadway back.  It feeds my soul.  And Jon Bon Jovi, acoustic.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? The toughest part is not seeing the Chicago grandkids often enough. I am grateful for this job, the amazing co-workers who have never faltered one step this past year. We just kept moving it forward.  I am also thankful for a circle of girlfriends who combine exercise and friendship.  Our mouths move as fast as our feet. Exercise is a must for my mental health.

Tom and Penny Mathiesen

Thomas & Penelope Mathiesen

 

The Mathiesens are longtime project, restoration and archival volunteers as well as Marquee Society Members.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? Saving the Embassy Theatre from the wrecking ball in 1973-75 was a Fort Wayne community project from the beginning: school children wrote letters to the editor and contributed their nickels and dimes; local government, corporations, and individuals made donations; and volunteers from all walks of life arranged fundraising activities, put on shows, and took care of the building during those first touch-and-go years.

Once saved and under the direction of its tireless and visionary early leaders, the Embassy provided a focus for downtown redevelopment, a home for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, a holiday tradition in the beloved Festival of Trees beginning in 1985, and a center for live theatrical entertainment. Over the years, Broadway tours, the biggest stars in comedy, musicians ranging from classical to pop to rock, one-person shows, local tribute bands, and on and on graced the stage, bringing people together downtown from all over the region.

The recent $10 million remodeling of the building to include a ballroom, rooftop venue, and enhanced meeting space has made the Embassy even more important as an educational, civic, and cultural center for Fort Wayne and the entire region. Even during the pandemic, the Embassy has found ways to fulfill its mission, and as the pandemic recedes, it has a central role to play in bringing people together once again to experience the regenerative power of the arts.

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? Our favorite memories are the Buddy Nolan Memorial Concerts, the Grande Page Organ series (there used to be 4-6 concerts each year), and the special shows commemorating anniversaries of the theatre. The 75th was the first of these we attended; we’ve been to all of the subsequent ones, and we look forward to the 100th!

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU? When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I spent a lot of time frequenting the great movie palaces lining Market Street, especially the Fox. When it was torn down in 1963, despite widespread community opposition, I promised myself that I would eventually find another grand theatre to help. On a visit to Fort Wayne in 1999, Penny and I stopped by the Embassy and asked at the Box Office if it would be possible to have a look at the theatre. Better than that, we were given a full tour and a complimentary copy of Ron Rhode’s recording on the Grande Page. Listening to the recording on the car stereo while driving home, we knew we had found the theatre!

Over the past 20+ years, it has been our great pleasure to help with the restoration of the lobby drapes and the historic Brenograph projector, and a number of other projects, most recently cataloguing and providing proper archival housing for the Embassy’s enormous collection of Brenograph and sing-along slides, historic photographs, original blueprints, records and documents of the Embassy Theatre Foundation from its beginning in 1972, and much more. Very few movie palaces from the 1920s have preserved their archives, and the Embassy’s archive would be the envy of most. It was very important to us as historians that the archive be properly housed and fully catalogued. Accomplishing this was both an honor and a pleasure for us!

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? As it turned out, the pandemic arrived during the final stages of work on the archive project, and this kept us busy, along with a few other Embassy projects. Penny is also active as a volunteer in the Genealogical Library at the Monroe County History Center. So we have not lacked for things to do!

Kevin Boughton picKevin Boughton

Box Office Manager
Embassy Theatre

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? Watching the crowd interact with the production RENT. Everyone there knew the whole musical and was so happy and excited to see and sing along with it.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I miss the challenge. No day was ever the same, and we all had to come up with on-the-spot fixes…”the show must go on.”

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? It’s a historic landmark of Fort Wayne and can help bring together all demographics of the city.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? Interacting with the people.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? Stevie Wonder. I just think this is someone we won’t give flowers to until he is gone.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? I’m used to it now. Been challenging myself to find old, obscure movies to watch.

Casey Keirn pic

Casey Keirn

 

Casey is the current chair of the Embassy Theatre board of directors.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? The Embassy is an irreplaceable historic gem and source of lasting pride for our community. Since 1928, citizens have peacefully gathered to experience art and entertainment in this beautiful setting, showing their continuous support throughout the years to ensure that future generations will have the same great opportunities. The theater is ingrained into our culture and critical in maintaining a vibrant community.

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? It is too hard to choose a single experience since I have been fortunate enough to see so many great acts on stage. So, I will tell you how my first experience in the building has shaped my passion for the theater. My first experience at the Embassy was in grade school, as we were lucky enough to have a field trip to see a performance. I believe it was The Nutcracker, but it was 35 years ago so I could be wrong! I may not recall the show, but I will never forget walking through the doors and seeing the grand lobby open up before me. I had never seen anything as ornate and beautiful in my life, and my eyes were wide open in amazement as we filed into the theater to take our seats. Twenty-five years later, I became a volunteer and repeatedly experienced the same immense joy of seeing patrons walk into the lobby for the first time with the exact look of amazement and awe that I had so long ago!

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU? I am a patron, volunteer, and passionate advocate who believes the Embassy should be enjoyed and cherished by all citizens in our great community.  That’s why I am so excited about the Embassy’s strategic efforts to expand educational programming, increase opportunities for local talent and promote shows that appeal to a wider variety of audiences.

Lucas Weick pic

Lucas Weick, CFRM

Chief Philanthropy Officer
Embassy Theatre

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? The thing I love most about my role with the Embassy is getting to meet some amazing people and learn their story. The key to fundraising is building those relationships with donors and funders, and in the course of that process I’ve had the opportunity to get to know truly amazing community members, leaders and visionaries. The best part of it all is that almost every single person I talk to has a special memory or story that involves the Embassy. It just goes to show how meaningful this building is to so many in our community.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? Why? I’m a big fan of comedy so if I could pick any performer in history, I would love bring back Don Rickles and see him on the Embassy stage. In my humble opinion, Don Rickles is the greatest comedian of all time, and it would be amazing to have seen him at the Embassy. The Embassy stage is really a great place for stand-up comedy, and some of the best performances have come from Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Steve Martin and Martin Short. I would definitely love to see any of those comedians return to the stage. Plus, who couldn’t use some more laughs after 2020?

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? My favorite memory is welcoming students in for the Embassy’s Learn it Live shows. For many of these young kids it is their first visit to the Embassy. Not only are they in awe of the performance, but they are also amazed at how beautiful the theater is. It’s also a lot of fun just listening to what these students have to say: “I feel like I’m in a castle” or “This place is 17 times bigger than my house.” Seeing kids engage with the arts and experiencing the Embassy for the first time is so special.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? The Embassy, and Emboyd before it, has been at the heart of the northeast Indiana arts and culture scene for almost 93 years now. Our community has changed quite a bit in that time, but the Embassy has not. All it takes is one step through the theater’s doors, and you immediately step back in time. The craftsmanship and artistry in the architecture of the theater and its lobby is as amazing as the world class performers who have stood on the Embassy’s historic stage. The likes of Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Gladys Knight, Steve Martin, James Taylor, The Avett Brothers, Mandy Gonzalez and Jerry Seinfeld have all performed on the Embassy stage. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself when I stand on stage and think back on all the legends that have stood in the same spot I am standing.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I miss not having people inside the Embassy enjoying a concert or show on our stage. It is really the most unique and ornate place in our region to experience the arts. Whether it is a Broadway production, stand-up comedy or a concert, the Embassy makes it extra special.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? For me, it really is family, friends and co-workers who have helped me get through the pandemic. Even though we live in a distanced world right now, being able to Zoom with family and friends is a great way to stay connected to those you care about most. And, our team at the Embassy is just amazing to work alongside as we handle the many curveballs the pandemic throws at us. This year would have been even more difficult to get through had it not been for the awesome colleagues that I have the honor work with.

Whitney Bandemer pic

Whitney Bandemer

 

Whitney was a two-term board member and chair of the board of directors for two years. She is the current chair of the Embassy Fundraising Task Force.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? The Embassy is a vital arts resource in Fort Wayne. It meets the arts needs of all ages with diverse programming. Examples of this include educational programs for children, a robust Broadway schedule (we love being members of the Marquee society each season), Summer Nights, black and white movies (my husband’s favorite) and shows from all kinds of performers. It is the only place in the region to experience this diverse arts programming.

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? This is hard because I have had so many memorable experiences. I will never forget standing in the front row at the 90th Anniversary Gala as The Avett Brothers sang my grandmother’s favorite hymn, “In The Garden,” unplugged. Then, there was my mother’s birthday at the Brian Wilson show. And, my last outing at over 9 months pregnant to see Leslie Odom, Jr. perform. Oh, and I can’t forget the opportunities to introduce Lea Salonga and Adam Pascal at the last two Marquee events. So many wonderful experiences!

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU? I love a grand theatre. When I was a little girl I remember when the grand movie house in my hometown closed. It was so sad. So, when I moved to Fort Wayne ten years ago I knew I wanted to support the Embassy. I went on to be a two-term board member and chair of the board of directors for two years. Currently, I chair the fundraising taskforce and hope to be involved with the Embassy for the rest of my life. It means so much to support a place full of history, grandeur, and continuous growth and advancement.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? My family has been fortunate to be able to “bubble” locally with my husband’s parents, sister, brother-in-law and their three children. That has made the last year much easier; we are able to celebrate holidays, have family dinners and regular visits. Otherwise, we have been spending a lot of time outside in any weather, listening to podcasts, reading books, and dreaming of returning to concerts and shows very soon.

Debbie Woodruff pic

Debbie Woodroof

Executive Assistant
Embassy Theatre

Debbie is a team member but has also served on the board, is an Embassy member and has left the Embassy a planned gift.

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? I have three that come to mind. First is our inaugural Marquee Gala with Billy Porter. He was and is such an awesome performer but also a wonderful human being. He was the absolute best star to have at the Embassy. Second is when we opened the Heritage Center; I was honored to work on that project. Third was the 90th Anniversary Concert. I worked behind the scenes on the Brenograph slides for the sing-a-long portion. I attended the event as a patron and when I saw all the parts come together – and especially the sing-a-long – it brought tears to my eyes.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? There is nothing like the Embassy anywhere else in Indiana. Growing up in Fort Wayne, I remember to this day seeing my first movie, the original Mary Poppins, at the Embassy in the 1960s. My dad’s best friend from high school, Gene Witte, was one of the volunteers who worked to help save and renovate the Embassy. As a history buff, I’m thankful that the Embassy was saved from the wrecking ball, unlike so many beautiful buildings and homes in Fort Wayne’s history.

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? I miss the hustle and bustle of the staff scurrying around making sure everything is in place, the excitement when the buses are unloading, sets coming together on stage and the sound that filters up from the stage when a band is doing sound check.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? I would say the variety. It’s fun to see all the moving parts come together.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? I would love to see Josh Groban at the Embassy. Several years ago he devoted an entire concert tour to performing in historic theatres. Unfortunately, he was booked for the tour and we were unable to get him. Most recently, he was on Broadway and would make a phenomenal Marquee performer, but would be a better draw for a packed house.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? I have been taking advantage of learning new techniques/experiences via virtual opportunities. I attended a virtual knitting conference and participated in several workshops learning new stitches/techniques and even meditation last May. I’ve also tried to keep in touch with friends and keep active in my church through virtual bible study, midday prayers and topical discussions on racism. I’ve also tried to give myself time and grace to just “be” with peace and quiet at times, turn off the world and listen to good music, and relax and be mindful of all there is to be thankful for.

Mary Jo Hardiman picMary Jo Hardiman

Chief Operating Officer
Embassy Theatre

What do you miss about having a full Embassy schedule and lots of activity in the facility? Whenever there is a sound check in the late afternoon before a show, there is a magic about it. The building comes alive; it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. I miss those afternoons.

What is the best part of your role at the Embassy? As the Chief Operating Officer of the Embassy, I get to see the passion that happens behind the operation/curtain/stage to deliver the best experience to all. Every staff member and volunteer are the key to what we do. To be a part of that and to keep strengthening and leading what we do here at the Embassy Theatre is a joy. I love the challenge of it. I am in awe of our staff. That is the best part of my role – getting to support and lead through the challenges while working with an incredible team in the most beautiful and historic theater.

What is one of your favorite memories as a staffer at the Embassy? This is difficult. There are so many wonderful memories. It was during the Brian Wilson show. A couple from Ohio arrived to see the show. I noticed they were enjoying the beauty of the theater lobby from the Mezzanine before the show. We started chatting, and they shared with me that they had their first date at the Embassy. They have been married for many years, raised their children, and had not been back to the Embassy since their first date. That evening at the show, they were celebrating their wedding anniversary. I also love it when someone sees our spaces for the first time.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? There simply is no place like the Embassy Theatre. For the community to have a national theater in the heart of its downtown, what an asset to the community. During this pandemic the Embassy made it possible for youth to continue to participate and have some sense of normalcy through our SCORE! program, the Summit City Vocal Classic, and Youththeatre rehearsals.

Who are you dying to see on the Embassy stage? Or what event are you looking forward to experiencing in the building? Everyone on the team here knows that the Festival of Trees is my favorite event I look forward to each year. When it comes to the stage, I would love to see Dolly Parton. I would also love to have the Indigo Girls and Tori Amos perform on the Embassy stage. I have an ever growing list.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? My outlet would be my family. I have a one-year-old that helped deal with the pandemic. I have relied on my easily adaptive nature. Plus, I have been so busy throughout the pandemic working through the challenges of it and planning for the future. I am certain that has helped.

Bob Nickerson picBob Nickerson

 

Bob is a current board member and was the very first president of the Embassy Theatre Foundation board of directors. He is considered one of the key founders of the foundation that saved the building.

 

What is one of your favorite memories at the Embassy? Having involvement with the Embassy over 60 years, there is more than a single memory. These are the most memorable experiences:

  • The first “Theatre Organ at Midnight” concert that Buddy Nolan and I produced after the organ was in presentable condition. Buddy feared a poor turnout but couldn’t believe it when the line to enter extended several blocks around the theater.
  • Receiving the charter for the Embassy Theatre Foundation (ETF) just in time to solidify the effort to save the theater.
  • Seeing the theater restored to its original splendor in the 80s.
  • Buddy Nolan’s Celebration Concert for his 50th year as an entertainer and theater organist.
  • Experiencing Itzhak Perlman solo or with grand piano accompaniment in the Embassy. The fully natural, unamplified, undistorted sound of Itzhak’s Strad filled the auditorium. The Embassy’s outstanding acoustical properties and gorgeous interior are part of what makes the Embassy a superb venue.
  • The 90th anniversary show that incorporated many of the elements that made going to the theater (movies) a grand experience, still to be enjoyed.
  • Completion of the projects to creatively reuse the old hotel part of the building. This has been an ongoing effort culminated by the last project that included the ballroom and rooftop patio.

Why do you feel the Embassy is important to the community? We who founded the ETF were convinced that the Embassy and the former hotel would be the ‘anchor’ for its part of downtown. This has been validated! The Embassy is a true architectural gem. It was designed by John Eberson who was a premier theater architect, and a perfect example of the “Motion Picture Palace,” and a venue unlike any other in the region. Further, the economic impact is substantial and has made it possible to be self-supporting – something rare in the historic theater world.

What has been your involvement with the Embassy and why is that important or fulfilling to YOU? What started with an interest in the theater organ became much more. I am one of the original founders. I have served a number of terms as a director, on a number of committees, and a Foundation Member fully committed to the Foundation and the Embassy’s mission. It is wonderful to see the original effort bear fruit and be so very successful.

How have you been dealing with the pandemic? What are your outlets? Watching more PBS, listening to more WBNI and, walking with our Japanese Chin named Piper. Also, community association involvement and some technical projects for our church.

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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