Cincinnati '05, by Karen L. Hughes

 We left Champaign at 3 A.M. on Friday and arrived in Cincinnati at around 8:30. Just like last year, the first person we saw was Hal Stone (who, regardless of how wonderful Will Hutchins may be, is still one of the most brilliant, delightful people in the world). We hadn't even gone inside the hotel and already the convention was off to a perfect start!

Once inside, we ran into Randy Story, who is also tremendously kind and friendly and delightful (I'm probably a little bit biased, but you'll notice that the Cincinnati OTR convention is populated by some of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the privilege of meeting). Looked around the magical dealers' room for awhile and emerged with a few new treasures (Laura Leff's Jack Benny log, one of Hal Samson's beautiful convention t-shirts, DVDs of a couple of Jack Benny movies, etc.). Of course, the highlight of the dealers' room for me is getting to chat with the dealers themselves--especially my Jim! Jim Skyrm is a kind, caring, gentle person who is ALWAYS encouraging and supportive. I love Jim.

At around 12:45, Mama and Randy and I walked over to Famous Dave's for lunch, where we ran into Derek Tague, who joined us. We had a very happy meal that ended with a medley of songs from "1776," sung as we trooped back to the hotel.

When we got back, Rick Keating (who kept us well-supplied with Michiganian soda and ice cream) met up with Mama and me and the three of us sat in on part of the presentation given by the Blue Coal Trio. We had to sneak out early, though, in order to make it to the auditions on time.

We had been in the audition room for maybe two or three minutes when Steve and Rene Thompson and their son, David, came in. Steve's recent post on the Digest eloquently sums up the familial connection between everyone at the convention, so you can imagine how excited we were to see them. Auditions were fun--there are so many talented people at the convention! Steve and Laura Jansen, in addition to being two very nice and very funny people, are also fantastic at performing different voices and accents. Mama was cast as a little girl and a phone operator in a very frightening Ray Bradbury story, and I got to be a living mannequin and a murder victim.

The afternoon was wonderful: the Thompsons and Rick and Derek and I all piled into a car for a quick trip to Borders, then hurried back for the evening rehearsal and performance.

Rehearsal for the evening's re-creation of "Escape" was shortly after the auditions, and Meredith Grainger, who has a beautiful speaking voice, gave a perfectly creepy performance as one of the head mannequins. Hal Stone and Rosemary Rice were, of course, magificent as the captive poet and "maid," respectively. It amazes me how easily and believably they can both transition from character to character. They can play anything beautifully. So can Esther Geddes, who played the mannequin for whom Rosemary Rice was a maid. She is so kind and such a talented actress.

The performance went well. There was no music, since neither the Boogie Woogie Girls nor Ed and Nana Clute were there this year, but it was lots of fun anyway. Afterwards a group of about 10 of us (Mama and Daddy and me, Randy and his friend Michael Wilson, Rick, Derek, Meredith, and two others who, I am terribly ashamed to admit, I don't remember) went to dinner at Golden Corral. When we got back we chatted with Don Ramlow and Martin Grams and a few others for a very short while, but our 3 A.M. departure time had finally started to take effect, and the Hughes family retired before midnight.

The next morning we were up for rehearsal of "Bold Venture." Hal Stone directed this particular re-creation, and he proved to be just as gifted a director as he is an actor. He is very patient and helpful, offering wonderful advice and encouraging all of his performers.

The rest of the day was leisurely and happy: wandering through the dealers' room, talking with Jim a little more, going out to lunch with the Thompsons, heading back for the afternoon performance. "Bold Venture" and "Suspense" went well, and after the re-creations, Mama and Daddy and I just explored Cincinnati for a (very short) while. We headed back at around 4:30 so I could get ready for the dinner. Derek Tague was my delightful escort for the evening, and he and Rick Keating and I chatted with everyone down in the lobby (Melanie from Florida is a terrifically sweet person) while we waited for the room to be prepared.

At about 6:30 they let us in, and Derek and I sat at a table in the back with Rick, Mike Biel (whose daughter, Leah, couldn't make it this year because she's got an internship with Air America!), and two other very nice people whose names I don't remember (my apologies). Mama and Daddy and the Thompsons arrived for the Saturday night performances, and they were great. Rosemary Rice and Esther Geddes did a great job with the short "Dragnet" parody, and the "Our Miss Brooks" re-creation was very good. The highlight of the evening came at the awards presentation, however, when Steve and Rene won the Dave Warren Award!!! It was very exciting, and we are all tremendously proud of them.

And then it was time to bid a fond farewell to our Cincinnati Christmas. We all lingered in the banquet room for a little while, but bit by bit people started drifting away. We took some pictures and had a few last conversations (Rick played a CD of his radio play "Real Men," which Don Ramlow directed in January, for Mama and me), and at around 11 we began counting the days 'til next year's convention.

P.S.  In addition to talking with so many amazing people, I was also fortunate enough to receive hugs from many of them. Terry Salmonson was kind enough to pose with me for Daddy's collection of "Karen Gets Hugged" pictures, as were Bob Newman, Bob Burchett, Esther Geddes, Don Ramlow, and Mike Biel. Of course, many other members of our OTR family blessed me with their delightful hugs, but these were the newest additions to the gallery. OTR people give wonderful hugs! 

                                                                                                                                -April 18, 2005