Beth SherkDrama has been in Beth Sherk’s blood since the first time she hung a curtain in the basement and put on shows when she was a child. She was a community theater actress long before she was a director, and taught drama for 22 years at Fork Union Military Academy. She has always been a writer.

“It is sort of an incurable condition. Theater is somewhat of an addiction for me,” she laughed. She is currently finishing a novel that she started when her son went off to West Point and ended up in Iraq. She has written other novels, including River’s Bend, which is available on Amazon.

Sherk tried to put into words the feelings she has for her love of theater.

“It is a unique, communal experience. Every actor, every crew person is necessary to the final product and even the audience has their part to play, for a play never becomes itself until someone is there to watch,” she said. “Theater has the potential to make people laugh at themselves and to think for themselves. Even if the play is less than profound, laughing and crying together is a bonding experience, a shot of good energy. I think it is a basic human need. Children play act all the time.”

The current president and the main director for most of the shows, Sherk has been with Persimmon Tree Players (PTP) for over 11 years but said she doesn’t feel it has been that long.

She talked about the early days of PTP, including her directorial debut of The Golden Goose. She recalled when they had a cast of children and adults and performed it three times on the hottest day of the summer at Fluvanna County Day in the picnic pavilion at Carysbrook.

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TravelFor Forney Shell, a tour guide at Monticello and a travel agent with Globe Travel, there is nothing better than travel – seeing other places and experiencing different cultures. Many never take the opportunity to travel until after retirement when “they have time.” Shell believes that age is irrelevant when it comes to learning about other countries and cultures and that people are never too young to start learning.

“One of my passions is to encourage parents to take their children on educational trips. If they can’t then there are other ways to teach about different cultures and people,” Shell said. Shell appreciates trips within a school context, such as when students visit Monticello, but believes exposing children to educational opportunities outside the school environment has great benefits.
Shell is not alone. Experts agree there are a number of ways that educational travel can benefit children and the entire family by promoting stronger family ties and increasing learning for both parents and children.

“Begin with finding out what the kids are studying in school, what did they study last year, what are they studying this year, and what they may study next year, and tie that in with educational opportunities during vacations,” said Shell.

Not all families have money available to travel overseas or even to various states in the U.S. But Shell said there are other ways to remedy that problem and still give children opportunities to learn. “Take them to an Indian, Chinese or Japanese restaurant if they are learning about Asian cultures, and learn about utensils such as chopsticks and different foods,” he said. “Try taking them on a day trip to a nearby Native American Indian powwow to learn about the different tribes that inhabited Virginia.”

Taking advantage of vacation destinations can also provide educational opportunities. For example, Shell said, a family that takes its vacation every year at Virginia Beach has many educational activities at its fingertips.
“I’m not saying a family should have the vacation revolve around education for the kids, because the family will want to have fun, but there are many things to do in that area including the Military Aviation Museum and False Cape State Park,” Shell said. There is something to interest any child, including a National Wildlife Refuge with wild horses, loggerhead turtles, bald eagles, varieties of migrating birds, and even endangered species. The entire family can hike, go surf fishing and even try animal tracking. This teaches them about the natural environment and why preservation is important. This form of education leaves behind the confines and structure of the classroom and encourages hands-on learning.

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Adele SchaeferLong before Adele Schaefer became president of the Fluvanna County Arts Council (FCAC), she was a volunteer in both civic and political activities.

“Let’s just say that volunteering and taking on projects has been in my blood for a very long time,” said Schaefer. While in Northern Virginia, she was an administrative assistant to a Virginia state senator and held managerial positions in two non-profit membership organizations: the American Psychological Association and the Psychological Association of Pastoral Counselors. Nowadays, she sells real estate and once owned her own real estate company. Currently, she is an associate broker with Monticello Country Realtors. Her experiences through her volunteer and paid work have given her the skills and patience to work though complex problems with deliberate thoughtfulness and to maintain a positive outlook while remaining gracious. A sense of humor helps too.

In late 2011 a friend who was on the arts council asked if Schaefer would like to come to an FCAC meeting since they were looking for new members.

“I had very little knowledge as to just what the council did, so decided to check it out,” Schaefer said. She had only attended two meetings when she received a call that the FCAC president, Bill Anderson, had suddenly died. “At a hastily-called FCAC meeting to determine who was going to take his place, I somehow found myself as the new president.”

Schaefer has exercised her interest in the performing arts as a regular in the alto section of the Fluvanna Community Singers. As a child growing up in Ridgewood, N.J., and Fluvanna County, she was exposed to her mother’s love of the visual arts. Patty Stoughton was one of the original founding members of the Fluvanna Art Association. But Schaefer preferred performing on stage.

“I had graduated from the old Fluvanna High School at Carysbrook in the late ‘50s and had spent many hours on the Carysbrook stage under the fine directorship of Mrs. Eleanor Talley. So, with those memories holding a soft spot in my heart, it isn’t hard to understand how I became involved with FCAC,” she said.

As unexpected as her newfound position was, Schaefer has made a concerted effort to keep the performing arts thriving in Fluvanna.

“The long-time FCAC members were burned out at that point and I didn’t want to see something that was so important to the community come to a slow end,” she said. “It took some time just to figure out what needed to be done and who the players were, but the council members were so very supportive and we all kept moving forward.” Add a comment


Scott and Joann MeinMention the words “film” or “movie” and Scott Mein’s face lights up.

Film is a passion of this ex-history teacher. Ask him anything on the subject and he will rattle off anything you want to know; his knowledge of films seems limitless.

He and his wife, JoAnn Mein, host a film club as part of the Newcomers and Old Friends at Lake Monticello.

“When I was a kid I was too hyperactive to sit and read for hours but my dad was a big storyteller and would tell us stories about when he was in the war [World War II] and basketball, which he loved,” said Mein. “I enjoyed these stories over and over again so that’s when I turned to movies for entertainment. I love the medium; they are my books.”

Mein reminisced about some of the old films. He recited the classic lines between Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando: “I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody,” from On the Waterfront, one of Mein’s favorite films. Mein agrees with Director Elia Kazan’s strong, gritty and dark vision, and credits stellar performances from not only Brando and Steiger but also Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint and Carl Malden. He called the film a true Hollywood classic that has withstood time by reflecting society and its struggles in a raw and enduring way.

When quizzed on Ronald Coleman’s famous line in A Tale of Two Cities, Mein nailed it: “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

The Searchers with John Wayne is one of Mein’s favorites, and he said Kirk Douglas in Spartacus delivered a compelling performance. He also named the Academy Award-winning movie Best Years of Our Lives as another thought-provoking film.

There are so many films and so many memorable performances, so many directors with varied visions bringing to life the writer’s meaning. This is what attracts and excites Mein. Sitting alone or with one or two others in distant corners of the theater, he watches the flickering images across the screen with focused attention and later walks out with a better understanding of the writer’s message. Add a comment


Linda Mullin and Susan WalkerMembers of the Fluvanna Art Association (FAA) walked through a door in an artisan building in Charlottesville Nov. 17 and emerged into The Glass Palette, an interactive glass studio owned by Maria DiMassimo and her daughter, Cara, who is known as the glass guru.

Against the backdrop of massive concrete walls stood tables full of bold and colorful iridescent and translucent glass. A variety of styles, shapes and patterns were represented, from thin delicate lacy plates to swirled candy stripe tulip-shaped vases, sculptures, sun catchers, jewelry, picture frames, mirrors and even a dress made in glass.

The dress, startling in its painstaking beauty, was the centerpiece in the room, and stood in front of a door framed with a bold mosaic of glass. Each piece of the dress was special in its design. The cobalt and soft blue circles of glass were woven into the dress with lacy, delicate brass chain link. The bodice, all in glass, gleamed under the bright overhead lights. The FAA members stood in awe, trying to imagine how Cara DiMassimo envisioned the design and executed it. There was even a photo of her wearing the dress, which she said weighs over 20 pounds.

Then it was the members’ turn to create. Maria DiMassio explained the process to those who had never made anything out of glass. She demonstrated the use of glass cutters, which to some looked heavy and industrial. She showed the proper way to cut tiny glass pieces, easily snapping them.

“You cannot cut yourself with these unless you deliberately put your finger in between the blades,” she said. Members laughed, which made them less afraid of handling them.

She discussed the variety of items members could make, from a little plate or bowl to earrings, a pendant, or even a Christmas ornament.

“Everything is created on the flat and then fired twice,” said Maria DiMassimo. The materials could be layered and overlapped, but would get tiny beads of glue on the corner. Add a comment