REVIEW: Avalon Faire sends Kilgore back in time

Avalon Faire Axe Throwers


The wonderland of the Avalon Faire in Kilgore takes a step back into the glorious days of old, and days that never were. The faire is found at 1076 FM 1252 W, Kilgore, 75662, and is open each weekend in April. Tickets may be purchased on-line or at the box office on-site.

Season passes are available for $75 which allows you to attend all five weekends and receive free water. Day passes are $12 for adults, $6 for ages 12 and under and the littles four and under may enter without charge. Tickets are not weekend specific.

This is the third year for Avalon Faire to open its gates in Kilgore. Upon entering the grounds, the clash of lances can often be heard as mounted knights on their fearless steeds’ joust to the roar of the crowds.

Sir Mordred (played by James Fortner), rides Asgard (Liberty), his destrier, to battle other knights from the Hanlon-Lee Action Theater. This is the group’s 24th year traveling the country to delight young and old alike.

The path continues through open fields lined with large shade trees that surround a small pond. Stages abound for the entertainers to work their magic upon the masses. Such crowd pleasers as Knightwings – a bird of prey exhibition, Dr. DeWitt and his Punch and Judy puppets and belly dancers from all over east Texas await the faire goers.

There are vendors scattered throughout the grounds with a plethora of wares on display. Need a new pair of fairy wings: Lydia Perlick handmakes the ethereal offerings at Faeward Inn.

Love the sound of a hammer striking metal? Stop by The Damn Yankee Blacksmith, and listen as Logan Talonsgrip tells a gripping tale accompanied by the melody of his hammer and anvil.

As you wander the grounds, be prepared to see elves or pirates. If you are lucky, you might even see a queen.

Come hungry and thirsty because treats for the palette await. The Dragon Pit offers typical faire food such as burgers and brats.

The Lusty Lemon has a lemonade that is outstanding and they offer reduced price refills.

There are bridges to cross, axes to toss, roaming performers and sights, sounds and smells aplenty.

Avalon Faire is small when compared to the Texas Renaissance Festival and Scarborough Renaissance Festival but it has some of the same feel, just on a much more intimate level.

There are not as many vendors, food stalls or entertainers but what is there is on par with a larger faire. Getting lost is not a problem as the site is not huge, but there is plenty to see and do throughout the day.

The atmosphere is exciting but laid-back and there is something to see around every corner as you wander across the fields, under the trees, across the bridges and through the woods.

Avalon Faire is worth the price of admission, especially as it offers a glimpse into a world that is not run-of-the-mill east Texas.

Cast list released for production, ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’


Guest Director Jason Richards is a KC alum with a love for theatre.  He and the KC theatre department will present Neil Simon’s classic American comedy, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” beginning April 20 in Van Cliburn Auditorium on the Kilgore campus.

Richards has a long history in theater and said “It is why I’m on the planet.” He has previous experience as a playwright and has written several plays with the last few being TSF’s, “The Princess and the Player” and “The Spirit of the Sea.”

The play is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 20-22, with a matinee performance 2:30 p.m., Sunday April 23.

General admission tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for KC students with a student ID.

Cast and Crew List:


Director- Jason Richards; Technical Director/ Set Designer- Meghan Potter; Stage Manager- Thomas Thornburg; Assistant Stage Manager- Amber Driver; Lighting Designer/ Light Board Operator- Nikki Newman; Assistant LD/ME- Hannah Garner; Sound Designer- Ian Kirkpatrick; Sound Engineer/ Board Op- Michael Rojas; Properties Master- Alissa McClain; Costume Design & Const- Sera Allen; Assistant Costume Design/ Wardrobe Head- Qualyn Stark



Eugene Jerome- Hunter Ballard; Stanley Jerome- Colton Askew; Jack Jerome- Raymond Robinson; Kate Jerome- Madison Gable; Blanche Morton- Stephanie Barajas; Nora Morton- Brittany Pelaia; Laurie Morton- Isabella McAvoy




The Sky’s the Limit: Revels 2017 Gallery

‘A great sadness’ ends with God and holy interventions


Moments in life that paralyze us with pain to a point of getting stuck; all of us in some way or another know this reality. The Shack is a movie where we can all place our selves in Mackenzie Phillips’ (Sam Worthington) position and change the story to meet our own set of circumstances. Directed by Stuart Hazeldine, this movie gives a new perspective on how to view God and the simple truth of his love and forgiveness.

A brief look back at Mack’s life as a child sets the stage for the deeper meaning on forgiveness. A church-goer with a loving wife, three children and good neighbors, Mack has a seemingly perfect life. He also has a secret that haunts him—a secret that has a way of coming to the surface after tragedy unfolds.

“A great sadness” falls upon the family when his youngest goes missing on a family camping trip. Dad is powerless against the evil, and the eldest daughter feels the guilt for horse playing at the wrong time. There seems to be no getting past the events that camping weekend left behind until God, or Papa, as Mack’s wife Nan (Radha Mitchell) has nicknamed him, steps in. Mack finds a short but sweet note left in his mailbox at the most inopportune time—during a snow storm with no visible tracks.

The note requests a visit from Mack the next weekend to “The Shack” the very place Mack would never want to go, its signed “Papa.” Even though he is certain it is a request from the evil that took his baby girl, he has no choice but to oblige. He sets forth on the journey that would forever change his life.

Armed with a gun and his painful memories, he returns to The Shack to find the same cold and empty place he left it. Shame, guilt, and anger nearly over power him when an intervention stops him. Heading back to the truck for home an intervention you hope for steps into his path, Jesus (Avraham aviv Alush).

In disbelief, Mack follows Jesus back to The Shack only to discover it isn’t at all how he had just left it. It has transformed into the most beautiful, amazing site. Mack can’t believe his eyes, he then meets Papa (Octavia Spencer) and Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara). He must be dead; he doesn’t feel dead. A painstaking journey of highs and lows —the movie-goer can tell this journey is not going to be easy.

No one is immune to evil in this world, according to the movie. It’s God who turns the evil into healing and good, even if it’s just in the individual who is stuck in their pain. Angry as anyone would be in this pain the many questions surfaced. Sin has its own way of punishing.

The sin carries the broken, the stuck, the angry through generation after generation only adding to the new generation’s sins starting from the beginning with Adam. Then if God knew all of this would happen then it must be God’s fault…. right? No, he never intended it to be a world of sin and judgment. If we sit in judgment of every person’s flaws and sin when we judge as God does what happens when it’s time to judge someone you love, will you be able to judge to heaven or hell? Mack finds out the hard way just what this means.

Mack begins to understand that every breathing soul is loved by Papa and is worthy of forgiveness if sincerely asking for forgiveness.

In my opinion, this is a miraculous story of love shown through the eyes of the Trinity. In the beautiful garden of life that looks like a chaotic mess, Sarayu shows Mack the bigger picture, a breathtaking view of good that only God can create out of bad. Believing God is working for your good and never letting go or losing sight of that is what keeps us joyful and happy in a world full of evil and sin, allowing love in and love to win.

Many people have expressed anger over the portrayal of God as a black woman, but they are missing the deeper meaning. It’s not about the color of skin, male or female; it’s about God knowing his child. By keeping things gentle, it was easier for Mack to accept what was about to take place.

The twist in the end lets you decide for yourself how to perceive Mack’s story. Whether to believe or not is up to you. I loved this movie and its underlying message was remarkable. God’s love, forgiveness, redemption and purification brings hope.


Famed ‘X-Men’ star takes on young protégé in finale


Before anything else, I have to tell you this: Logan deserves a second viewing, at least, before you can fully grasp the magnitude of the film.

Logan, directed by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and newcomer Dafne Keen, doesn’t feel like a superhero movie, at least, not in the blockbuster, “Marvel Cinematic Universe” sense that many of us have come to expect from this genre of film. There’s little levity in the story that’s told, and in the times that it is present, it is often ripped away violently. This isn’t like last year’s Deadpool, where the action and comedy intermingle constantly and drive the story forward. This is a finale for a character most of us grew up with, and the nature of said character necessitates a somber look at the universe he came into and grew up in.

Logan, to put it simply, is dying. The adamantium that made him the Wolverine is poisoning him from the inside, and the healing factor he’s been sporting around for years is virtually non-existent. In one scene early in the film, the audience watches as he has to forcefully pull out one of his claws, by hand, before bandaging the now-gouged hand. For a man who has lived for nearly a century and a half, Logan’s age is catching up to him.

In the same way, Stewart’s Xavier, in his nineties, is a shell of his former self, stricken by a neurodegenerative brain disease and forced to be constantly medicated to suppress his now-dangerous mind. Even while he brings some humor to the film, like spouting off random advertisements while refusing to take his medicine, you can’t help but feel some sort of sadness for the character. Neither Logan nor Xavier are what they once were, and the bitterness of that loss forms an interesting dynamic between the two, almost akin to a father and son’s relationship to each other.

This concept of age, and the following inevitability of death, is one of the main themes of Logan: nearly every character that Logan and company come across ends up dying, oftentimes directly because of them. Heads roll, literally. The violence shouldn’t come as a surprise to avid readers of the character’s comic book history; in fact, it, along with the foul language and overall cynicism underlying Jackman’s character, is a necessity in order to do the Wolverine justice.

But, even as the gore flies, there is still a small bit of hope present throughout the film, personified by Keen’s Laura, who, without saying much, communicates just as well as Logan through simple eye contact and grunts. She’s not innocent; after all, that first head that rolled? She cut it off. But all the same,    you can get a sense of the character through simply watching her interactions with the world, be it staring wide-eyed at a casino in Oklahoma, or silently asking for a kid’s iPod. She’s the one with the most innocence throughout the film, and the relationships she forges with Logan and, to a smaller extent, Xavier, are what drive the film forward.

It’s hard for me to explain all that happens in Logan without delving into spoilers, so I’ll make it brief: Logan, at its core, is about family, and the effects of loss and gain within the family. Logan, Laura, and Xavier have all lost something, but in the end, what they obtain through each other make up at least a small part of the regrowth they each go through by the end of the film.

Prison documentary sheds light on modernized slavery


The Netflix Original Documentary “13,” is an in-depth look of the 13th Amendment to present day. The 13th Amendment is the abolishment of slavery in the United States. Even though the act of slavery is gone in reality, through policies it has reinvented itself in different forms since the passing and ratification of the bill on Dec. 6, 1865.

Director Ava DuVernay explores a relationship between the abolishment of slavery to the mass incarceration of the prison population today.  History needs to be discussed before a person fully understands how the problem exists today.

Slavery ended with the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865).  The law has a huge loophole that has exploited many Americans over the years. Per the law “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duty convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Slaves were used in the South from an economic standpoint. The South needed to find a way to help them after the law was passed.  No one could be a slave or be in servitude unless they were a criminal.

Over 150 years have passed since that law has been put into effect, but some can wonder, “have we gotten into a new form of it?” This new form is not just targeting African-Americans, but people of all colors including white Americans. It became an issue of “Can you afford to stay out of jail?” The Netflix documentary “13“ focuses on this problem.

DuVernay worked over two years to get interviews with various people. She shows both sides of the argument without making the documentary seem like a biased one. She interviews activists, liberal and conservative law makers and scholars. DuVernay doesn’t just tackle abolishment of slavery, mass incarcerations and racial inequality, she explores the different terms that are given to colored people through the years of history.

In the documentary, the viewer sees interviews along with film footage taken over the years showing each progression of history where slavery ended to “convict leasing,” when it faded, the Jim Crowe system; when African Americans become a permanent second class status.  During the Civil Rights era and the collapse of Jim Crowe system, a new title now began to emerge: criminals.

As each U.S. President comes into power, laws are passed to handle the criminals and the reform of the prison system.  There is not a problem with being tough on crime, the problem is how once the criminal is locked up, they are forgotten. The treatment of prisoners is what needs to be investigated. Daily beatings and companies have prisoners make their products for pennies on the dollar compared to paying a minimum wage worker in the United States. In 2003, according to Prisoner Policy Website the maximum wage paid to prisons in Texas and Georgia is $0. The corporations are making millions and paying nothing for labor. This is a new form of slavery. There is an incentive to keep people in the prison system, and it’s all legal.

DuVernay explores the Alec Group which benefits off prison reform. This group consists of companies and law makers who pass laws in their best interest. In the documentary, it is explained how this group operates. This is not widely known to the American people, but it affects them daily with bills being voted into laws in our country.

DuVernay’s film also discusses the violence in America, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

People may think they have an idea about the prison system, but after watching the movie “13th” a person will be enlightened and realize they may not have a clue. Before I watched this documentary, I had some idea about the end of slavery and the prison system, but when I finished I learned so much more than I originally thought. It opens your eyes — the way it is laid out, to see how DuVernay can connect the end of slavery to mass incarceration, while using the laws which gave freedom has been exploited and it’s all legal.

Concept by Design

In his play, Middletown, Will Eno provides us with a dark comedic look at the infinitely connected nature of our lives. Eno bookends seemingly mundane moments peppered with impressionistic existential accents. Our routine day today observations are infiltrated with splashes of absurdity as we are taken on a comedic pilgrimage throughout the many intersecting points of the human experience.

Scenic Design Concept

I would like the set to visually communicate Eno’s portrayal of the intersecting nature of life. I would also like to visually communicate the mundane reality speckled with splashes of absurdity by grounding the two houses in reality but enhanced through vibrant abstract accents.

Lighting Design Concept

Through the lighting I would like to highlight a heightened reality by staying in natural color families but using saturated versions thereby creating a muted graphic stage novel. I think it best to utilize a standard area plot for maximum control over lighting angles and implied location as well as a subtle boost to concentrated areas of action.

Sound Design Concept

Continuing the theme of a heightened reality, the soundscape for Middletown will be comprised of unique realistic aural landscape for each location interspersed with acoustic underscores combining distinctly human instruments and the slightly removed automated sounds of computerized music. The journey should subtly morph from quirky upbeat punchy interludes to a somber musical expression increasing to a feverish pace ending in a cathartic ethereal composition.




Making Middletown; Technical director prepares for newest production


Photo by Lisa Harris/THE FLARE
Photo by Lisa Harris/THE FLARE

Question: As a newcomer to KC, how is your experience so far? Are you enjoying being a part of the KC team and do you plan on staying?

A: KC has been wonderful; although, I’m no stranger to the campus.  I started making a yearly pilgrimage every summer for TSF back in 2011 so I’m quite familiar with the campus and VCA, but it has been wonderful working with the students for the first time.  I do hope to stay on as full time.


Q: How do you plan on achieving a dark comedic look for the set? How do you plan on accomplishing this feel?

A : This show has an interesting dichotomy to it.  Just when you think you’ve figured it out it goes and changes on you.  The deeper meaning I’ve found in my journey through this heartfelt exploration of life’s meaning is that nothing is quite as it seems.  Life’s truths can only be hinted at.  I try to incorporate this into the design through suggested locations:  a hint of a house, a hint of a town square, constantly changing locations.  Most of the productions that I had researched kept a fairly stationery set.  Mr. Goodding and I agreed very early on that we liked the constant flow of scenery.  Fleeting moments if you will.  Life can change in an instant and so can scenery.


Q: Do you want the set to communicate to the audience, just as the actors do?

Photo by Lisa Harris/THE FLARE

A: A designer always hopes that the set communicates to the audience but the fine line many of us walk is how communicative do we want the scenery to be?  Scenery should complement the world the actors bring to life without detracting the audience’s attention.

Theater_MeghanPotter_byLisa Harris
Photo by Lisa Harris/THE FLARE



Q:  What emotions do you want the audience to experience while watching the performance and the different set changes?

A  : My hope for the audience is that they will appreciate the many comedic nuances Will Eno has written into his play while still being able to appreciate the deeper questions presented throughout the story.  The set changes aren’t particularly meaningful but much energy has been invested in maintaining a certain mood and flow present even in the shifts.  We shouldn’t feel taken out of the journey because a roof needs to disappear.


Review: Lady Gaga doesn’t need all the applause, applause, applause

On any given day I would consider myself a pretty avid Lady Gaga fan, however I was not completely on board with her half time performance for the 2017 Super Bowl. Now that’s not to say she doesn’t have talent, the woman definitely has major set of pipes. I just wasn’t so keen on all of the flashy special effects that accompanied her performance.

Yes, I’m aware that it’s the super bowl and that Lady Gaga is notorious for being over the top, however considering the short amount of time she was given to perform I feel as if her natural and raw ability to sing was over shadowed by all of the chaos. There wasn’t just a little bit of flare here and there to spice things up, but rather a million distracting elements meant to supposedly enhance the show.

Now, before everyone jumps at my throat and disagrees with me, ask yourself this, does someone of Lady Gaga’s caliber (who may I remind you was considered for Juilliard a.k.a the most prestigious music school in the country) really need choreography, lights, lasers, drones, showers of sparks, wire acrobatics, and giant stage art? Oh and let’s not forget all of the lanterns and cell phones lighting up the crowd. The answer is no. Her talent is pure enough that she could blow everyone away without all of the flash. In fact, the best part of the entire performance was when she toned things down and played the piano, showing off her incredible range.

My other issue with her performance was that while she may not have outright done anything political, she did hint at it in a very subtle if not mocking way. Her redemption of This Land is our Land was beautiful and a great opening, but following it up with Born This Way? Not so much. While I love that song and everything that it represents, it would be naive to say that she wasn’t suggesting at something that may have a hit a little closer to home with her fans and the current divisiveness in the world. But then again I guess there’s a loop hole to everything, especially when it’s a best seller.

Middletown to premiere at KC


Micah Goodding, the director of the KC’s production of Middletown, has a personal connection with this production. As an actor in the Middletown premier in London while he was in graduate school, Goodding expressed the complexities that come with directing and the weight of responsibility that this role carried and is excited about this being the Texas premier of Middletown.

Goodding’s experience in small towns as a high school theatre teacher and now as a theatre professor allows him to relate to the small town feel of this production.

His experience on both sides of the spectrum of theatre, as an actor and currently as a director, proves he can relate to the challenges of both arts.

“I think that directing is more challenging for me because it is more collaborative. Your job as the director is to respond to what all the other artists are bringing to the table,” Goodding said. “You have to create a unified vision out of all of these different parts and have your own ideas of what the show should look like, sound like, and feel like, well ahead of time so that you can communicate that to your cast, crew, and designers, and be ready to respond to what they give you,”.

Goodding compared being a director to being a midwife, because “you’re not really doing all of the work yourself. Your actors, your designers and your cast are, but you are coaxing it along.”

Goodding also said, “Directing puts you in to mind of a traffic light because you have to tell things when to stop, when to go, and when to slow down.

”Directing takes a lot more maturity then acting does because you have to let go and release control whereas acting is more of taking risks that are more personal,” he said.

This play was written so the characters could articulate the common fears, hopes, anxieties, and dreams that are beneath the surface of which all of human kind experiences.

“We should be able to relate on a deeper level and feel like ‘. Hey I know someone like this’ or ‘I can see me in this character’’’, Goodding said.

Relationships unfold between Mrs. Swanson played by Madison Gable, and John Dodge, played by Ian Kirckpatrick, who are the only characters who are actually named in the play. The remainder of the cast will be named by their job title but the play equally focuses on the entire cast.

Middletown is set to open on Thursday Feb. 23 in the Van Cliburn Auditorium and is written by playwright Will Eno. The play is about a town that could represent any town in America and emphasizes everyday experiences and relationships that are common while exploring the mystery of common existence.

KC Dancers to Perform with the East Texas Symphonic Band

On February 13th at 7:30pm a group of Kilgore College Dance students will perform to Pirates of the Caribbean for the East Texas Symphonic Band at LaTourneau University Belcher center.  This event is considered the grand winter celebration.  The mission of the East Texas Symphonic Band is to raise appreciation and awareness of wind band music in the east Texas area.  They focus on showcasing the excitement and cultural identity inherent in live performances and it gives adult musicians a venue in which to continue making music part of their live.

The East Texas Symphonic Band provides motivation and encouragement for young musicians to perform beyond the level of their school experiences. This program is designed to add valuable and accessible addition to the arts in the east Texas region.

The KC dance students will be performing for the public at this annual event.

James Snowden, the organizer and conductor of the group invited the KC dance department to perform at this event and take part in this musical showcase said, Angel Aulds, the director of the KC dance department.

Admission to this event is $5 (cash or check only) at the door for concerts held at the S.E. Belcher Jr. Chapel and performance center, with students and children admitted free.

Music Mondays: They Might Be Giants ‘Flood’ Texas

They Might Be Giants perform ‘Birdhouse in your Soul’ at their “Farewell for the Moment” tour in Brooklyn on January 2, 2016. Video shot by Bryan Patti.


They Might Be Giants will celebrate the 16th anniversary of their classic album ‘Flood’ at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin and 7 p.m. Friday, April 1 at Warehouse Live in Houston.

They Might Be Giants (TMBG) was formed in 1982 by friends John Linnell and John Flansburgh, who have added more members throughout the years to help broaden their live sound. Now, instead of the minimalism of their early show performed with Flansburgh’s guitar, Linnell’s accordion, and a drum machine, they have a full band and horn section touring and performing with them.

I got the opportunity to see ‘Flood’ live at The Beaumont Club in Kansas City in 2009. It was my first TMBG concert, and it was one of the most amazing days of my life, cementing me as a hardcore TMBG fan for life.

I recently saw them live in concert again at their “Farewell for the Moment” final Dial-A-Song tour show at 7 p.m. Saturday, January 2 at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. I hadn’t seen them live for seven years, but seeing them with such an enthusiastic and welcoming crowd of fans, I felt like I was home again. I stood in my coveted spot directly in front of Linnell below his keyboard, and sang along with him on every song. It was glorious.

Tickets to both Texas shows are $25.


John Linnell and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants pose during the early 90’s. Photo from Google Images.

If you decide to go, here is my personal track by track preview of what you will hear:

1. Theme from Flood -Great  introductory song to a great introductory album of TMBG’s.

2. Birdhouse in Your Soul – Arguably TMBG’s biggest commercial hit to date, and for good reason. The rollicking story of a blue canary-shaped nightlight is told whimsically through music.

3. Lucky Ball and Chain – TMBG’s more country and western influenced songs are some of their best, and nowhere is more proof of it than in this little tune.

4. Istanbul – One of their most popular songs due to its being featured on ‘Tiny Toon Adventures.’ A fun novelty song cover which never gets old.

5. Dead – Melancholy and somber tune about a man reincarnated as a bag of groceries. It’s really depressing.

6. Your Racist Friend – This song was recently featured as background music to an online video I saw about Donald Trump. It really does fit.

7. Particle Man – Another popular song featured on ‘Tiny Toons.’ A little annoying if you’ve heard it too many times, but still enjoyable, especially live with a crowd of people who also know every word by heart.

8. Twisting – Fun ’60’s sounding go-go music throwback. Reminds me of my sister Kelly dancing at the ‘Flood’ concert.

9. We Want A Rock – Fun tune with some of the best accordion work by Linnell on the album.

10. Someone Keeps Moving My Chair – This song sounds like nothing I’ve heard, in a good way, but gets buried in the middle of the album.

11. Hearing Aid – Great middle of the album weirdness from Flansburgh here. That’s all I can say.

12. Minimum Wage – Satirical 50’s ode to the workday. Oh, and it’s also mostly instrumental.

13. Letterbox – My favorite song on the album. Period. It must be heard to be believed. 1 minute and 25 seconds of pure bliss.

14. Whistling in the Dark – Creepy song which reminds me of the ‘Flood’ concert in Kansas City when Flansburgh almost dropped his bass drum on Kelly. Fun times.

15. Hot Cha – Another creepy Flansburgh song. Love the creepy Flansburgh songs.

16. Women and Men – TMBG’s ode to the sexes reminds me of a fanciful sea shanty. It is awesome.

17. Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love – My second favorite song on the album. Just beautiful.

18. They Might Be Giants – TMBG’s self-titled song which also has a fun country and western flair.

19. Road Movie to Berlin – Perfect ending song to a pretty perfect album.

Or, you can just listen to the entire album here. You should. It’s not long, you get a lot of songs for the value (in this case, free) and it may just change your life.

Throwback Thursdays: Celebrating love at Texas Frightmare Weekend

May 1, 2015 was the best day of my life. I realized it after the initial emotional shock wore off, and I will never forget the date as long as I live.

Myself, my boyfriend Bryan and my sister Kelly were taking our annual trip to the Texas Frightmare Weekend convention in Dallas, where horror icons and fans congregate every year to celebrate love of the fandom.

On Friday night, a “Phantasm Ball,” a party with the theme of the 1979 cult film “Phantasm” was held. Hundreds of people attended. There were drinks, food and even a photo op with a replica of the killer silver flying ball from the movie.


Bryan and I take a photo with the killer ball from “Phantasm.” Photo by Bryan Patti.

All of us were having a great time on the dance floor, but Bryan kept looking nervous and was getting distracted by his phone. I started to get upset.

“Are you okay?,” I asked. “Who do you keep texting?”

He quickly said he was telling his sister how the party was going. I thought it was a bit odd, but nothing to worry myself over.

Then, the MC stopped the music. “Ok, everyone,” he said, “there’s a guy here who’d like to propose to his girlfriend.” Bryan headed toward the stage.

“NO, NO, NO,” I initially thought, hating being the center of attention in a situation I could not control. I tried to stay as calm as I could muster.

I was in so much shock, I don’t remember what Bryan specifically said to me as he knelt down on one knee. All I know is he proposed and I said yes.


Bryan and I celebrate our engagement at the Texas Frightmare Weekend convention. Photo by Kelly Agee.

I do remember feeling a sense of numbness. Bryan and I had been together almost five years and the convention was a meaningful place to us both, so the proposal was not totally unexpected.

Still, I didn’t know how to deal with the conflicting range of strong emotions inside me. I quickly and discreetly snuck out to collect myself.

Sitting on a bench outside, I cried. I didn’t feel worthy of being engaged and felt lots of pressure. At the same time, I was excited a new phase of my life was starting.

Bryan and Kelly came out and consoled me. Kelly knew I was mainly upset because of my hate of being the center of attention. Bryan understood this was a big step in our lives, and held me to calm me down. WE eventually mae ou way back to the party, and had an amazing night.


Bryan and I show off my engagement ring in front of the Phantasm Ball poster. Photo by Bryan Patti.

Now, almost a year later, Bryan and I are still engaged. Not much else in our life has changed, but now I look more forward to Texas Frightmare Weekend this year than ever because of the special place it holds now in my heart.

Film Fridays: Malcolm McDowell at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2015

Filmed by Bryan Patti.

Here is my interview with actor Malcolm McDowell on May 3, 2015 at the Texas Frightmare Weekend convention in Dallas.

McDowell is an English actor whose career spans over five decades. He is known for his roles as Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s classic “A Clockwork Orange,” the title character in “Caligula” and Soren in “Star Trek: Generations.” He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.

Actor Malcolm McDowell and I pose for a photo. Photo by Bryan Patti.

Throwback Thursdays: How Harry Potter sparked the imagination of generations

 From Fanpop/anadoring.

With the unfortunate death of legendary British actor Alan Rickman today from cancer at age 69, I decided to focus my first Throwback Thursday article, which celebrates nostalgic things from childhood, on the Harry Potter book and film series and its effect on my life.


Sowing the seeds of fandom

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone book cover. From Scholastic.

The first Harry Potter book by author J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 1997 in the U. K. and in the U. S. as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the next year.

It reached the top of The New York Times’ best sellers list in August 1999. That was the same year I read the book.

Like most kids around my age – 11, the same as Harry’s in the first book – I was fascinated by the world Rowling created. It introduced me to modern British culture and the amazing fictional wizarding world of the main characters. My mom would read the books to me and my younger sister Kelly every night.

Every kid who read the books desperately hoped that a letter would come in the mail alerting them they were really a wizard or witch and would attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Everyone wanted to learn how to ride a broom and play Quidditch and wanted loyal best friends like Ron and Hermione.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book cover. From Scholastic.

I remember vividly a special trip to the mall with just my mom and I to purchase the fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately, that book also has an emotionally scarring memory. In November 2000, as my mom was reading aloud to us from the book, she suffered her first stroke. That was the last time she read out loud to us, and I never picked the book series back up on my own.

The height of the hype


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone film poster. From Warner Brothers.

A year later, in November 2001, the first Harry Potter film was released. It was the first movie I waited in line for and saw in a packed theater. It was astonishing seeing my favorite characters on the big screen.

Around this time, I first noticed the backlash from religious groups to the Harry Potter book and film series because it involved wizardry. In 2002, the religious comic book manufacturer Chick Publications released The Nervous Witch which said “the Potter books open a doorway that will put untold millions of kids into hell.” This made me glad I was raised in a family that supported education, reading and freedom of expression and made me sad that some kids weren’t allowed to experience the awesomeness of Harry Potter.

As each subsequent book and movie was released, the hype got more fervent. Although I never picked back up the book series again, I was an avid fan of the films.


Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint before the filming of Sorcerer’s Stone. From Google Images.



It was interesting to see the leads Harry, Ron and Hermione, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, become famous Hollywood actors and see the progression of their age and acting talent ad each movie was released. I loved seeing all the veteran English actors they got to play the adults, especially Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, and my personal favorite, David Thewlis as Professor Lupin.


David Thewlis as Remus Lupin in Prisoner of Azkaban. From Warner Brothers.

The third movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, was my favorite because of its elements of time travel and interaction between Snape, Black and Lupin. I also loved the fourth film, Goblet of Fire, because of its darker, more adult themes and casting choices such as Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory, David Tennant as Barty Crouch, Jr. and Ralph Fiennes as the evil Voldemort.


David Tennant as Barty Crouch, Jr. in Goblet of Fire. From Warner Brothers.

As every film came out, I started to see more and more Harry Potter merchandise being sold at places like Hot Topic, Books-A-Million and Hastings. “Potterheads” became the term for fans of the books and films.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book cover. From Scholastic.

The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in July 2007, right after I graduated high school. It became the fastest selling book in the U. S., with 8.3 million copies being sold in the first 24 hours. I went by the crowded release parties at Books-A-Million and Hastings that night and knew I was witnessing an important part of history. I’d never seen people get so amped up and excited to read a book before.

The release of the Deathly Hallows films was no different. Both films’ premiers had some of the biggest crowds at a movie theater I have ever seen. Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the highest grossing Harry Potter film with $1 billion in sales, and both the best reviewed and highest grossing film of 2011.

The future of Harry Potter

Harry Potter is now nearing its 20 year anniversary, and although the hype has died down a bit, fans still eagerly celebrate all things Harry Potter related.


Author J. K. Rowling in 2013. From The Telegraph.

J. K. Rowling is now one of the best selling and wealthiest authors of all time. She is active on Twitter and shows great appreciation towards fans of her work.

Pottermore, an interactive website for Harry Potter fans, was created by Rowling in 2011. The site allows fans to interact with each other and explore unreleased parts of the book series.

Universal Studios opened the Harry Potter section of its Islands of Adventure theme park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in June 2010, which has recreations of Diagon Alley and its shops featured in the books and films, as well as rides through Gringotts Bank, on the Hogwarts Express train, and even through Hogwarts itself.


Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. From Entertainment Weekly.

A film adaptation of the Harry Potter spinoff book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released in November 2016. It starts Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as wizard Newt Scamander and takes place in the U. S. In 1927. When I recently saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night, this was the only trailer that received applause after it was shown.

It was an exciting experience growing up seeing the success of the Harry Potter books and films. It’s amazing how it is still a huge part of pop culture. This shows its enduring legacy and the wonder and excitement the series inspires in people around the world. I am excited to see where the Harry Potter series will go next, and, even at age 28, still hope for that letter from Hogwarts. (I know I’d be in Hufflepuff.)