Garnett, The Chamber Players, Cora

(Frank) Today Around Kansas starts with a look at the strong community theatre in Garnett, The Chamber Players. Next get to know a 58-year-old movie star named Cora, the new elephant at the Topeka Zoo. Then enjoy another poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with playwright Edgar Lee Masters and his Spoon River Anthology. Stay tuned!Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) It’s really early on Wednesday so this must be Around Kansas, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. I know we talked about it ad nauseam but the thing is the years go so fast, so I guess the reason I’m bringing it up again is when we tell you about some really interesting places to go and all of that, don’t really put it off, go see them, they’re really neat places all around this great state of Kansas. (Deb) Don’t put it off and I’ve been working on the calendar lately because I’m looking at things that I have to do and places I’ve got to be. There’s no way to get everything that’s going on. We’ve got first weekend in October is coming up the Mini Sapa Celebration and Overland one of our favorite towns. But there’s just no way to get to everything that’s happening and Apple Festival at Old Prairie Town. There’s just so much going on and people who say that there’s nothing happening…like my granny used to say If you’re bored, you’re a boring person, that’s all I got to say because there’s so much to see and do. (Frank) Let’s go back to the Apple Festival at Ward Meade. Oh yes, brown bread ice cream, they make brown bread ice cream especially for that, it’s good. (Deb) Honey, everything there is good. (Frank) Have you ever had brown bread ice cream? Is that something that’s kind of unique to Topeka? Did you have that in North Carolina? (Deb) No, not that I know of, I never had it until I move to Topeka. (Frank) Okay, we’re going to do a story. I’m sure there is information around about the Bachmann Dairy in Topeka because they made brown bread. When I was just a little tyke growing up and living in Newton but visiting my grandmother in Topeka, they used to have horse-drawn wagons that came around, they were the ice cream wagons, with the bell and the whole thing and brown bread ice cream was the most popular flavor they had. Now War Meade got the recipe for that and they make the old Bachmann Ice Cream’s brown bread ice cream, so there I better get some free stuff now. (Deb) I think you just did a segment on that Frank that was great. Yes, more royalties headed our way as we speak. (Frank) So anyway, don’t miss the Apple Festival and all the others as well. (Deb) And all the others, every part of the state has got their unique flavors, unique traditions and all the cool things and the folks in the communities, this is one of the things that impressed me so much about Kansas when I moved here, is how hard people work in their communities to make these events happen and to keep the traditions going and they just care so much. And that’s true no matter where you are in the state. I don’t think I’ve found a community that is an exception to that, everybody works so hard to keep their communities going, keep them viable, keep them pretty and interesting and it’s just all those little things make Kansas a great state. (Frank) Now, you know the song “There’s no businesses like show business”. (Deb) I do. (Frank) Today’s the day. (Deb) Today’s the day, our whole show is show business. Stay with us.

(Deb) Welcome back folks. When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, we were pretty far back in the hills we had the Barter Theater, very famous theater in Abingdon, Virginia. Their theater troupe would go around, they probably had a grant to take culture to disadvantaged hillbillies like us. But they were a wonderful professional theater troupe and Barter Theater got its name because they survived the depression. The actors survived because people would trade chicken and eggs and produce to keep the theater going and pay the actors, so a very prestigious theater. But they came to our high school and staged Spoon River Anthology and I think that it’s changed my life. I will never forget what it felt like to sit in that theater and watch this very professional staging of what I then studied in literature class and Spoon River Anthology is just one of my all time favorites. I love it and love Edgar Lee Masters and imagine my surprise when I found out Edgar Lee Masters was born in Kansas. You can’t make this stuff up Frank. (Frank) No, a lot of talent here. (Deb) It’s just like weeds, we just grow it like weeds or like sunflowers, that’s it we grow talent like sunflowers in Kansas. And so Edgar Lee Masters if you haven’t dusted off your old literature book from high school lately, get it out because I know he’s in there. We all had snippets to memorize so take it out and read it in. (Frank) Spoon River Anthology. (Deb) It is difficult to find a more boring subject: a small town, a rural cemetery, the Midwest. Yet in the hands of playwright Edgar Lee Masters, it became one of the most enduring of America’s stories — Spoon River Anthology. Included in virtually every high school textbook, and staged by nearly every civic theater in the nation, Spoon River Anthology insured that Masters would never be forgotten. He is certainly remembered in his hometown of Garnett. When the town celebrated its 150th anniversary a few years ago, along with its favorite son, Senator/Governor Arthur Capper, and his father-in-law, General/Governor Sam Crawford, Garnett honored Masters with costumed readings from his works. Masters was born in Garnett in 1868, only three years after Capper. Soon afterwards, however, his family moved to Illinois and it was in small town Lewiston, Illinois, that he found Oak Hill Cemetery and the nearby Spoon River. Masters worked in his father’s law office before being admitted to the bar himself. In Chicago, he eventually became a law partner to Clarence Darrow, yes, the Clarence Darrow from the Scopes Monkey Trial. He wrote poetry and biography, including a biography of Illinois’s most famous son, Abraham Lincoln. Spoon River Anthology was originally a series of poems and was collected and published as a volume in 1915. It is a series of epitaphs, with each of the small town’s residents speaking from the grave. An anniversary edition was recently released and a reviewer on Amazon wrote: What I found was a book that was written in 1915, but that brings to life the voices of humanity louder than anything I’ve read in recent years. This book is more poetry than prose, but the stories of the residents of Spoon River that are collected within the pages are stories that are not soon forgotten. This book has moved me more than anything else I’ve read in recent years, and I highly recommend that others read this outstanding work of art.

(Frank) Back again. The Topeka Zoo, which is known as the World-Famous Topeka Zoo. (Deb) Thanks to Gary Clarke. (Frank) Gary Clarke put it on there and it really kind of stuck. Gary still does a lot with zoo when he’s not off on safari somewhere. (Deb) What an amazing man, he’s just one of the best people on the planet. (Frank) Yes, but the Topeka Zoo has really changed over the many years, there used to be monkey island and when I was a kid and you walk through the gates there was monkey island, it really looked like a castle and all that and the monkeys are there and there was a moat. You can throw peanuts to them and all that but that’s long gone, but the zoo now is just a wonderful place to go because it offers so much for all ages, really. (Deb) We got the bears now and I love the bears, I wanted a bear so badly when I was a kid. (Frank) Yes. Many years ago they had polar bears and of course during the summer they’d keep big blocks of ice in the water and all of that but we’ve had elephants for a long time but the next story is going to be about the new additions to our elephants. And one of them is a movie star. (Deb) Are we lucky or what? Not everybody gets a movie star retiring to their town so we are thrilled to have a pretty big movie star here in our midst. (Frank) Yes, her name is Cora. She started with Burt Reynolds. (Debs) How good does it get? (Frank) Have we got you intrigued? Well then stay tuned for this story. A movie star has moved to our capital city. Her name is Cora. She is 58 years old, and has quite a resume, having starred alongside superstar Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit 2. Not your usual svelte starlet, she weighs in a little over two tons. Before visions of weight loss plans begin dancing in your head, let us introduce Cora, an Asian Elephant. She arrived with her companion Shannon, a 34-year-old African Elephant, at the Topeka Zoo in August. According to the zoo’s press release, Cora and Shannon, along with their owners, have traveled across the Eastern half of the United States presenting an elephant educational program called Elephant Encounters for more than three decades. After one of the owners passed away, a decision was made to retire Cora and Shannon with the hope that they could remain together. According to Zoo Director Brendan Wiley, the Topeka Zoo was one of three zoos in the nation that house both Asian and African elephants together. We are delighted to have these two elephants join our herd and live out their remaining years in comfort and peace, Wiley said. As with all incoming animals to the zoo, the elephants will be in quarantine for a period of time determined by the zoo’s veterinarian. To give the elephants privacy during the transition, the elephant exhibit may be closed to the public during parts of the day. Brendan said, The zoo is extremely excited for the arrival of the new elephants and looks forward to introducing the new additions to the community. Shannon is disciplined and loves to be the center of attention. As with many adolescents, when she doesn’t get her way, she will sometimes sulk, dragging her trunk on the ground or sticking out her tongue. Her favorite toy is her blue barrel of which she carries with her wherever she goes. She enjoys treats, her favorite of which is watermelon. When Shannon was 18 months old, she was introduced to Cora. Cora, who is several years older, became an instant “mother” to Shannon. The two are inseparable. Cora is very passive. She will wait patiently for her turn. She loves attention and is very protective of Shannon. Cora is a very vocal elephant and can often be heard rumbling and trumpeting with delight. Cora and Shannon join Tembo, a 46-year-old African elephant, and Sunda, a 56-year-old Asian elephant. For updates, visit the zoo’s website and Facebook pages, and plan to visit them in person!

(Ron Wilson) Kansas was a key crossroads of several historic trails. There was the Chisholm Trail, The Great Western Trail, The Oregon-California Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. The cattle trails were the ones that came from the south. The Oregon- California Trail was a migration trail of people going west but it was the Santa Fe Trail that was a trail of commerce. “Along the Santa Fe Trail”. One of the great stories of the American tale is the history of the pioneers along the Santa Fe Trail. We picture those times from bygone day when traders went traveling down the Santa Fe. They left from Missouri and southwest they would go to search for riches in Old Mexico. They braved the hardships of hazards and weather; they connected this part of the world together. After the years of the Mexican-American War, came stagecoaches and fur trappers, gold seekers and more. There were bright senoritas, bandits, Indian attacks, Padres, muleskinners and freighters with packs, this was the great highway to the American southwest traveled by pioneers on opportunities quest. Here’s what makes this story especially great, the trail has more miles in Kansas than any other state. Looking back we marvel at how they survived as in our mind’s eye the old trail comes alive. We give thanks that those pioneers made their journey without fail as they tamed the frontier along the Santa Fe Trail, Happy Trails.

(Frank) And we’re back. (Deb) Frank you have so much experience in theater, he’s a drama queen, but you’ll really appreciate this segment on the Garnett Community Theater. They’ve got a great story down there. And I was just so impressed, this is how I found out about it, I have not been yet to the Garnett Theater but my friend Marianne Tennant who is very active and is President of the Board of the Leavenworth Community Theater or Civic Theater had gone down checked it out and told me all about it and I’m like that is such a great story we need to talk about them. And then when I realized the Edgar Lee Masters’ connection I thought, shoot, we just got to talk about Garnett’s Theater. It’s inside the church there and they’ve done some amazing things and Garnett, again, one of my favorite towns it’s so pretty, they’ve got so many things going for them not the least of which is Arthur Capper, who was born in Garnett. The first governor born in the state of Kansas in 1865 and he was very proud of that. Garnett’s just one of those other places that you’re going to have to take a weekend, check the theater schedule and see if they’ve got a performance going on and it’d be a great time to go take a scenic drive and check out the very pretty town, check out the theater troupe and just have a good time and have dinner and dessert. Is this a great country or what? With playwright Edgar Lee Masters among its native sons, it was probably inevitable that the folks of Garnett would form a strong community theater. The Chamber Players organized in 1991, and borrowed locations for years until patron Thelma Moore and the United Presbyterian Church entered the mix. The building was being sold and Thelma’s contribution, in addition to fundraising, made it possible for the troupe to have a permanent home in 2007. The exterior is much the same, but the interior has been remodeled to accommodate the dinner theater. Tom Emerson, Jr. is the group’s treasurer and described a unique feature of the operation that began when he attended a local high school production and the drama club sold desserts for a dollar. He approached them about serving their meals, keeping the tips and proceeds from desserts. This arrangement snowballed, and other groups like 4-H, cheerleaders, and music groups took advantage of the opportunity. Subsequently, 50 to 60 thousand dollars have been raised for these groups, a feat unto itself in any community. It is more remarkable considering there are only 32 performance nights a year, nights that feature original plays as well as classics by Neil Simon, Beth Henley, and other well known authors. Tom said the Chamber Players are committed to fostering an appreciation of theater for the next generation and has added a youth theater camp. Also to that end, the Chamber Players purchased land for their future home On The Square in Garnett. Planning is underway and fundraising has begun. To be sure, one day the students who are serving dinners will be on stage themselves and underwriting performances. If Edgar Lee Masters could speak from the grave, we think he would be pleased.

(Frank) The time has gone again, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) We’ll see you somewhere… (Both) …Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

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