Saturday, April 7, 2018

INTERVIEW: Senoia History Museum's Maureen

The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum (Senoia History Museum) is far more than a collection of the usual artifacts and drab placards. This museum is where Senoia history comes alive on the lips of administrators and visitors alike. The Senoia History Museum is all about its wonderful, lively stories! And they're offered with a generous helping of Southern Hospitality.

Doug and Maureen | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Doug and Maureen | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: Maureen Schuyler (right), Executive Director, and Doug Kolbenschlag (left), President, below an artist's rendition of Princess Senoia (top), and
two rare land lottery deeds with leather State seals.]

Founder, Charter Member, and Executive Director of the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum, Maureen Schuyler graciously made time to give me an interview about the museum and to share some of its stories. Museum President Doug Kolbenschlag joined us for the exciting, engaging conversation.

Already a fan of the museum from a previous visit, meeting and talking with Maureen reinforced what I'd suspected...that the Senoia History Museum is a delightfully special destination, one I'll visit again and again. They've grown exponentially since opening their doors in 2010 and are very much engaged with their local community.

Enjoy the interview, coupled with photographs of some of the artifacts found within...

wanderlust ATLANTA: First and foremost, how does one pronounce Senoia?

Maureen: The only correct answer is anyway you’d like. Longtime residents drop the “a” and pronounce it Suh-noy´. Many county residents and some locals pronounce it Suh-no´-ah, while most visitors pronounce it Suh-noy´-a. Actually we don’t know of any other Senoia in the United States so any way you pronounce it, we’re pretty sure you’re referring to our hometown. I stick with Suh-noy´; it’s hard to beat old school. As long-time resident Jane Hutchinson likes to say, “It’s Senoia ~ rhymes with 'boy'”.

Senoia Coke Bottle | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Senoia Coke Bottle | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: Coca-Cola started producing their signature Coke bottles in 1916 and
a few decades had city names embossed on the bottom of the bottles.
This bottle was was produced at a bottling plant in Senoia.]

wanderlust ATLANTAPlease share with us a little bit about how the museum came to be and how far reaching its collections are. Is there a particular focus?

MaureenIt was always the goal of the charter members of the society to have a permanent location for the collection, preservation and exhibition of Senoia's historical artifacts. To that end, in 1990 the society purchased the historic Carmichael home at 6 Couch Street, which was in disrepair, and spent years restoring it. In 2010, answering the call to establish a proper, functioning history museum, Maureen Schuyler with the guidance of charter member Nancy Roy and a small committee, researched the necessary steps for organization and operation. The museum opened July 2010 and continues to be open every Friday and Saturday from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Our mission is to preserve and promote Senoia area's history and all of our artifacts reflect just that ~ the Senoia area.

J.A. McKnight (1852-1924) | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
J.A. McKnight (1852-1924) | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum is housed in the Carmichael
House in Senoia's Historic District. The house was built by J.A.
McKnight circa 1870 and he was the first resident in this now historic home.] 

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat's the most significant/important artifact in the collection? 

MaureenThe 1827 framed land lottery deeds with leather State seals document the beginning of our heritage story and open up a dialog that can reach many aspects of our museum ~ our Indian presence, the land lottery story itself, and how the area grew from that time on.

1898 Map of Senoia | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
1898 Map of Senoia | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: 1898 map of Senoia. Note that the buildings colored in black are
the few that had been built with brick.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat artifact/fact/collection has the strongest Wow! factor?

MaureenVisitors seem particularly drawn to our two military cases of photos of Senoians who served our country. Our two wedding dresses always impress the ladies. The Riverwood Studios movie projector used for daily screenings during filming always elicits Wow! comments by virtue of its size and because the film industry is such an important part of Senoia’s story. And a new acquisition, the 1912 NCR cash register from Sewell’s General Merchandise Store also makes quite a statement. (Oops, that’s more than one item, but so much of our museum is Wow!)

Riverwood Studios Movie Projector | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Riverwood Studios Movie Projector | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: This Riverwood Studios projector was in use from 1959 to 2001.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat's the most unusual/fascinating/weird artifact in the museum?

MaureenWhat seems to be a lowly 12-inch ruler has one of the best stories we tell in the museum. Mail carrier Jim Baggarly used the inscribed ruler, and many more, to thank the people along his route when he retired. The inscription (have I tempted you to come and read it for yourself?) speaks to the character of Mr Baggarly - a sweet story of a direct descendant of one of the town’s founding fathers, Rev. Warren Baggarly. The best part of the telling is when someone who has lived here since the 1970s visits and tells us they still have their ruler!

Jim Baggarly ruler | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Jim Baggarly ruler | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: Upon retiring, Jim Baggarly left a 12-inch ruler with a special message
in the mailbox of everyone on the route he ran for 36 years.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWho are the most fascinating people represented in the museum, with artifacts on display? Who is that person/persons working behind the scenes?

MaureenIn a move that changed the destiny of Senoia, Frank Hollberg was responsible for the Atlanta-Birmingham-Coast (ABC) Railroad coming through and stopping in Senoia. When he learned that the ABC Railroad was planned for this area with a depot in neighboring Fayetteville, he set on a campaign to change the destination to Senoia, changing the very face and fabric of the town. At that time, Senoia had no paved roads and he realized, correctly, that a depot would make Senoia prosperous.

Behind the scenes, throughout our history, would have to be Princess SenoiaSenoyah Heneha, mother of Chief William McIntosh and member of the Wind Clan of the Lower Creeks, is the namesake of our town. In the 1980’s, the historical society commissioned a representative portrait of her by local artist Jo Ellen Macon and that image is our branding and our inspiration.

Not many historical society members know that Kathryn Welden has been a benefactor since the first time she visited the museum in 2011. Ms. Welden grew up in Senoia, now lives in North Atlanta, and still has family living in town. Her financial assistance and her enthusiastic support has helped us move forward in so many ways.

Night Watchman's Clock | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Night Watchman's Clock | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: This clock was used by a Senoian Night Watchman to verify that he was indeed making his rounds through downtown Senoia while her citizens were asleep.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat's been the most challenging episode/struggle/event in the museum's history? 

MaureenBecause we are located a few blocks from downtown, we struggle with community and visitor awareness. The Senoia Welcome Center certainly promotes us, we receive press coverage for all our events, we have a Facebook page and a website, but we still hear over and over, “We had no idea you were even here."

Raye's Embroidered Blouse | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Raye's Embroidered Blouse | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: In 1939, Raye Gray was challenged by her mother—as motivation to take up the art of embroidery—to have a blouse signed by friends and then embroider those names. Raye collected more than 120 signatures and embroidered each of them over a three year period. One of the names, coincidentally, belonged to her future husband.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat makes the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum a MUST-SEE for visitors and locals alike? Particularly, why should Atlantans make the drive to visit the museum?

MaureenI like to think of Senoia as a small town with a lot of history. Our long-time residents help us create the history, our new residents can learn all they need to know about their new hometown, and visitors can experience the rich heritage of one of Georgia’s most charming cities. Our town has lovely shops and excellent restaurants, but if you don’t visit the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum, you’ve missed the story of Senoia – that’s the special part.

Quilt Teddy Bear | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Quilt Teddy Bear | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: Wanda Glazier Jones made this Teddy Bear from quilts that her
grandmother and great grandmother made. The toddler chair, from the early 1900s,
was also donated by Wanda.]

wanderlust ATLANTAWhat was Senoia pre-establishment of Georgia? What Indian tribe lived here? Are they represented in the museum?

MaureenWe have a definite presence of Lower Creek Indian history, most documentation supplied by Chief Dode McIntosh, a direct descendant of Chief William McIntosh, one of the chiefs who signed the Treaty of Indian Springs (1825) ceding the land. Chief Dode was the honored guest at a number of events hosted by the historical society in the 1990s.

WWI Chaplain Hat | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
WWI Chaplain Hat | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

[PHOTO: World War I Chaplain hat that belonged to Senoia native Walter P.
Carmichael, Sr., the namesake for the historic home now serving as the
Senoia Area Historical Society Museum and where Carmichael grew up.]

wanderlust ATLANTAFor visitors who are as impressed as I am with the museum, what can they do to support the efforts of the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum?

MaureenMembership is an annual vote of support and a way to stay in touch with our progress, and we have various levels of commitment. Donations can always be made in-person, to our post office box, or on-line from our website. We are always interested in acquiring Senoia-area historical artifacts. And of course, just sharing the fact with families and friends that we are here in town, we offer an authentic experience in a historical setting, and we are the friendliest docents you could ever find...that would definitely help us gain awareness.

Telegraph | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Telegraph | Senoia Area Historical Society Museum | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
[PHOTO: In 1898, Senoia was home to the only Telegraph School in the South.]

I originally visited the museum last year, when Dub Pearman was serving as President. His remarkable knowledge of Senoia and the museum, and in particular his hospitality, were significant contributors to me wanting to make a return visit.

When I returned recently, Maureen showed me the same hospitality and I may have never before seen such enthusiasm for a museum as that which is self-evident in Maureen for the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum. We had such a lovely visit. I hope you too have the opportunity to have her as our tour guide when you visit.

On my second visit to Senoia, again for a Big Zombie Tour with Atlanta Movie Tours, I enjoyed a post-tour lunch at Nic and Norman's—owned by Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead) and Greg Nicotero (TWD Executive Producer, Director, Special Effects)—and then went exploring.

I stopped into the Senoia Welcome Center and they, who were very friendly, told me about the Senoia Area Historical Society Museum. I immediately walked there and the rest is history. On this most recent visit, I drove to Senoia just to go to the museum and was there for a splendid two hours talking with Maureen and further exploring the museum.

Of course, afterward, I went into downtown and enjoyed some ice cream, shopping, and people watching before heading back to Atlanta.

The Senoia Area Historical Society Museum is a mere two blocks from the center of Historic Downtown Senoia at 6 Couch Street, Senoia, GA 30276, easily walkable, but they do have a parking area. They're open every Friday and Saturday 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Ask for a guided tour! Now, go, enjoy some wonderful storytelling and Southern Hospitality at the Senoia History Museum!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Atlanta History Center's Goizueta Gardens

I love to stroll through the Goizueta Gardens at the Atlanta History Center this time of year, and the more off the beaten path, the better. On a visit last weekend, I only had time to visit three of the Gardens—of many!—and was grateful for the respite. 

Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

One of my favorite springtime destinations at the Atlanta History Center is the Frank A. Smith Memorial Rhododendron Garden. The swaths of bright colors this time of year makes it beautiful, yet, a less traveled garden, it's also serene.

Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The access path isn't blatantly obvious—one of the aspects that keeps it so serene, I think. It's to the right of the Kenan Research Center (pictured above), which I've visited a number of times in the last several months doing...research. 

There's usually a fascinating exhibit in this building, too, and it's where the Center's oral histories are recorded, for their Veterans History Project.

Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

The Sims Asian Garden is equally serene and peppered with statuary. Some of the flora you might see here include gardenias, evergreen azaleas, and Japanese maples.

Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

Not all the "fauna" is scurrying about, including the bewildered-looking turtle pictured above.

At the end of the Sims Asian Garden, traveling from the Kenan Research Center, you'll find yourself at the front driveway of the Swan House. You can walk toward the Swan House to continue your exploration of the 33-acre campus, just be mindful that you're not crashing a wedding taking place on the Swan House lawn!

Alternatively, you can cross the driveway into yet another garden...

Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor
Goizueta Gardens | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis S. Taylor

On the Swan Woods Trail you'll find an historic first. On Sunday, April 17, 1988, this portion of the Atlanta History Center's gardens was designated a Garden of Peace, the first in a global network of gardens for contemplation and meditation. 

"The Peace Tree", a 14-foot bronze sculpture by Soviet artist Georgi "Gia" Japaridze, was part of an art exchange with the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, Atlanta's sister city in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. The sculpture was dedicated on Sunday, September 24, 1989, with the mayor of Tbilisi in attendance.

The next time you visit the Atlanta History Center, I encourage you to explore the Goizueta Gardens...all of them! I've only touched on a few here and, as you can see, have only scratched the surface.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

INTERVIEW: Actress Jennifer Alice Acker

I've been a Jennifer Alice Acker fan for years! 

She's currently starring in "Freaky Friday" at Horizon Theatre, the sixth show I've seen her in over the last few years. You can imagine how excited I was when she granted me an interview over lunch at 5Church Atlanta

Let's get right to that interview and then I'll share a little bit about "Freaky Friday", Horizon's newest must-see show!

Jennifer Alice Acker | Photo: Daniel Parvis Photography
Jennifer Alice Acker | Photo: Daniel Parvis Photography

wanderlust ATLANTA: Who is Jennifer Alice Acker?

Jennifer: I'm a person—I'm more than my career—a person who loves family life, being outdoors, art and music. I love being an actor, director, and theatrical educator.I love beauty.

I'm originally from Connecticut, went to Florida State, and moved to Atlanta in 2011.

wanderlust ATLANTA: Why acting? Why musicals? What was the catalyst that launched your acting career?

Jennifer: I started singing in high school, doing two shows per year, and I love music, but even more I love storytelling.I enjoy the expression of emotion, the transfer of emotion, helping someone through changing something in their lives encouraged by a character I've played on stage. That's amazing.

Musicals are fun, rewarding, and I find myself firing on all cylinders when singing on stage. I love the emotional honesty, the singing, and sharing a 'frequency' with other beings. At first, acting felt like a scary career choice. I felt vulnerable, like my whole person was on display to be judged. But people kept telling me, "You're really good!

Abby Holland (Ellie), Jennifer Alice Acker (Katherine) | "Freaky Friday" | Horizon Theatre
Abby Holland (Ellie), Jennifer Alice Acker (Katherine) | "Freaky Friday" | Horizon Theatre

wanderlust ATLANTA: Tell us about your acting career, please.

     Favorite Role?

Jennifer: Katherine in "Freaky Friday", of course! 

Also, Maureen in "Rent". At first I felt reckless, but then there was a point in the production when everything gelled. It was one of those "F*ck it. Let's do this!" moments. I found my stride and it was so awesome!

(NOTE: Jennifer received a Suzi Bass Award nomination, for 'Best Featured Actress in a Musical', for her portrayal of Maureen in "Rent".)

     Greatest Challenges?

Jennifer: I think it's always confidence vs. ego. Too many egos = War of the Worlds! I think the truly great actors must be confident, yet not egotistical. They have to have lots of discipline, kindness, forgiveness, and trust.

     Greatest Successes?

Jennifer: The aftermath of landing the role of Juliette. People were coming at me asking about the iconic Juliette, offering opinions of what she should be. I didn't do that. I wasn't completely happy with the first few nights, but by the end of the run, I felt that it was one of my greatest performances.

     Most Desired Role?

Jennifer: I don't yet know when or where, but I want to play Hamlet! I'm not sure if I want to play him as a man or a woman, yet, either. As one of the most 'damaged' characters ever, it would be incredibly fascinating to portray Hamlet on stage. 

Other roles I'd like to play include Evita, Medea, and a couple of 'honorable mentions' would include the roles of Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors" and Lady Macbeth.

wanderlust ATLANTA: "Freaky Friday" is the largest cast Horizon Theatre has ever had on its stage. What's that been like?

Jennifer: It's been crazy! There are 19 of us! It's also the biggest cast I've worked with in Atlanta. We've expanded the dressing rooms to the basement and we've started calling back stage the "submarine". There's no room for error; precision is a must! 

One of the interesting things is that because it's a larger cast we've not had the opportunity to get to know each other as well as we would have by now if we were a smaller cast. I'm trying to connect with everyone, but while the space restriction has made it a more intimate experience, it's difficult to really get to know everyone as much as I would like. Still, we're having a great time!

wanderlust ATLANTA: In "Freaky Friday" you play the mother of a teenage high school student. Who are you channeling?

Jennifer: My own mother. And I've been playing roles as a mother since I was 15. To portray the the mother-daughter, daughter-mother relationships, I pulled from my own relationships with my mother and grandmother. Playing the daughter, well, I'd "observed" what a bratty kid was like when I was growing up, so that part was pretty easy.

wanderlust ATLANTA: What's your favorite scene in "Freaky Friday" and why?

Jennifer: The scene right after we switch bodies when we have to very quickly switch gears, right in front of the audience! Abby and I worked on our characters' charcteristics, explored tactics, planning next scenes...and it's been a lot of fun to perform with such responsive audiences.

Jennifer Alice Acker (Katherine), Brittani Minnieweather (Torrey) | "Freaky Friday" | Horizon Theatre
Jennifer Alice Acker (Katherine), Brittani Minnieweather (Torrey)
"Freaky Friday" | Horizon Theatre

wanderlust ATLANTA: What advice would you give an aspiring actor/actress?

Jennifer: Commit! Trust what you're doing. An audience can tell if you're not comfortable, so you have to be committed. If acting isn't for you, you can change your mind, just not in the middle of a performance. Again, commit, commit, commit.

wanderlust ATLANTA: What do you do for fun? To relax?

Jennifer: I like to eat, drink cocktails, and watch a good show with my fiancé. When we have time, we'll spend an evening watching a movie or catching up on a series, with a cocktail, and enjoy some lively discussion afterward. I also love fashion and although I don't go shopping often, when I do I go hard! I love being near the water...Sweetwater Creek State Park locally and the beach when I can get away. And I enjoy hanging out with friends!

"Freaky Friday" Cast | Horizon Theatre
"Freaky Friday" Cast | Horizon Theatre

wanderlust ATLANTA: What's next for you?

Jennifer: Professionally, I feel called to be a director. Personally, the next stage is "home". I'm in the middle of some personal growth, working on getting fully grounded. Some of the words that could describe my current path include simplicity, joy, intentionality, mindfulness...I'm working hard to be an agent for my own life.

wanderlust ATLANTA: What questions has a journalist never asked you that you wished they had?

Jennifer: "What scene actors have changed you?

There are those brilliant moments in acting when a fellow actor changes you. It's a wonderful surprise when it happens. Working with Ben Thorpe, he challenged me to be the most honest version of myself. Working with Jonathan Horne, he challenged me to be the most compassionate, kind person I can be. When these moments happen, they're profound and cherished.

Joseph Masson (Fletcher), Christian Magby (Adam) | "Freaky Friday" | Horizon Theatre
Joseph Masson (Fletcher), Christian Magby (Adam) | "Freaky Friday" | Horizon Theatre

About "Freaky Friday"

When an overworked mother and her teenage daughter magically swap bodies, they have just one day to put things right again before mom’s big wedding. Freaky Friday, a new musical based on the celebrated novel by Mary Rodgers and the two hit Disney movies, is a hilarious and heartfelt update of an American classic in which a mother and daughter really see what it takes to be a family when they experience each other’s lives first-hand for just one "Freaky Friday".

"Freaky Friday" Cast | Horizon Theatre
"Freaky Friday" Cast | Horizon Theatre

I've already seen "Freaky Friday" twice, plus the Sneak Peek—when you get to see a few numbers and meet cast and crew. And I'm certain I'll go's truly that fantastic! 

Get ready to massage your face cheeks after the show. You're gong to laugh, laugh some more, and laugh again. There may be a tear or two, but you'll find yourself mostly surrendering to the fast-paced hilarity breezing by before you. 

It's true, when sitting in the front row for one of the performances, I caught a breeze coming from all the activity on stage!

A little about some of the cast...

Jennifer Alice Acker (Katherine) is phenomenal, doesn't miss a beat! From overprotective mom to rebellious teenager to compassionate mother, Jennifer convinces audiences that she's all of that and more. And that lovely voice!

Abby Holland's voice is simultaneously powerful and elegant. She's vibrant, vivacious, and victorious as a singer and actress. You can't help but love her character.

Christian Magby (Adam) is as energetic and brilliant as ever. Keep your eyes on his career. He's already done so much, but it's only his beginning. Randi Garza (Savannah, Alexandra) is 'Mean Girls' come to life, totally convincing as a stuck up, snotty popular high schooler, yet a total delight in real life.

Jeff McKerley (multiple characters, the cop being a favorite) is as amazing as ever, true to what his Atlanta fans have come to love. Jill Hames (multiple characters) is amazing also, working in perfect harmony with counterpart Jeff's characters, yet standing out on her own.

Brittani Minnieweather (Torrey, Ms. Meyers) will have you in stitches! Whether sweating on the gym floor or frantically planning a wedding, Brittani is brilliant!

Joseph Masson (Fletcher) I'd seen in "Sweeney Todd" and he's even more wonderful in this play. He's 1,000% into his role and his acting is meticulous. And you can totally tell that he's having a blast!

A number of Horizon Theatre's Apprentice Company members are in this performance and they're fantastic! I've not met all of them, but I have had the pleasure of getting to know a number of them, each a distinct actor/playwright/director, yet they're symphonic on stage.A few personal favorites are Shaun MacLean, Alexis Young, Maariyah Espinoza, and Sloka Krishnan. I hope to get to know the others while they're still here. 

So, I hope you enjoyed the interview with Jennifer. She and I were always cordial at the theatre, but now she feels like a friend. She's one of those people who is warm, inviting, and one that makes an effort to make a connection. We talked about life, we talked about philosophy, and we regaled our mutual love of theatre. If you ever befriend each other, you're in for a magical, uplifting experience.

Now, get yourself to Horizon Theatre...there are only three more weeks to see "Freaky Friday". It's perfect for a group of friends, a mommy-and-me night, girls night out, a first date...pretty much anyone who likes to laugh will love this show! #htcLetsGetFreaky!!!

NOTE: I was voted to Horizon Theatre's Board of Directors last fall, however I've been a fan of and dedicated patron of this theatre for many years. My opinions on this blog are absolutely my own.