Already a natural performer as a kid growing up, Fort Wayne Youtheatre Executive Director Leslie Hormann had energy to spare and the creativity to write and direct plays which demonstrated her budding talents. By the time she reached third grade, it was clear she needed an outlet beyond her neighborhood.
“My teacher told my mother ‘Get her in theater because she never shuts up. And she’s always coming up with little plays and skits for everyone to do.’ So that’s when I started taking classes at Youtheatre. Then the directors were Janice McNellis and Larry Wardlaw, and I learned so much and had a great time.”
Those classes lasted her through Harris Elementary School and Lane Middle School, but by the time she reached Snider she was ready to replace her Youtheatre classes with her own high school’s plays. After high school and college, Hormann spent more than a decade teaching before her son was born.
“When my boy came along, I decided not to teach full-time so I could spend time with him, but I kept my hand in it by teaching drama enrichment for Southwest Allen County Schools.”
She also stayed active in the theater, and in a surprising turn of events one of those stage appearances at the Civic Theatre led to an offer to join the on-air staff of WXKE Rock 104 where, as Leslie Stone, she became a radio fixture.
“I was put on the morning show. At that time Buzz Maxwell had been put on the morning show and Doc West had been moved to middays, so for nine months I was the crazy sidekick, read the news and did funny little stories. But they brought Doc back to the mornings.”
Thus a new favorite morning team was born. The pair worked together for 13 years, during which time Hormann says they forged a close relationship. When she received a call from Linda Ruffalo, director of development at IPFW and a board member of Fort Wayne Youtheatre, she decided it was time to move on to other things, however.
“My son was getting ready to leave for college, and he’s my only child, so I was facing the whole empty nest thing. Then Linda Ruffalo called and said they were reorganizing at Youtheatre and would I be interested in coming in as the new executive director? I was ready for a new challenge. With my son leaving, I had extra time on my hands, and obviously I had a passion and love for Youtheatre.”
She accepted the position in June 2010 and quickly began revitalizing Youtheatre through a series of new projects which helped expand its reach into the community, chiefly providing youngsters in the area a taste of theater they might not otherwise not have gotten.
“My first big project was to start Storybook Theatre, which is a traveling troupe that visits preschools, schools and libraries. It gives kids who haven’t experienced theatre a chance to have it come to them, and it provides three benefits to Youtheatre. One, it’s a great recruiting tool because kids see other kids up there singing and dancing and acting, and they think, ‘Hey, I could do that.’ Secondly, it provides free theater to the masses, and thirdly, we focus on literature-based shows and have 18 different tours we can offer that tie into their curriculum. We do anywhere between 55 and 85 of those shows in the region every year.”
One of the perks of the job has been sharing a work relationship with Youtheatre’s Artistic Director Harvey Cocks, who Hormann calls “the Lee Strasberg of Fort Wayne” and a personal mentor.
“He teaches the senior and junior high school students, and I learn so much from his example. He’s so respectful of those students, and he has the best stories of anyone I know. He’s 89 years old, and you would never know it because he stays so young and spry from working with these kids. He’s taught me that if I want to stay young, keep working with kids because it’s keeping me young.”
Having already spent a good deal of time with young people as a teacher, Hormann has brought that academic mind set to Youtheatre’s mission, looking for ways to expand upon its methods of teaching.
“My background has definitely helped in our governance because I have been able to set academic standards and an educational rationale so that when you talk to schools and organizations about our programs, they know we’re legit. Theater is an academic area; it’s not fluff.”
In four years as executive director, Hormann has taken on a number of exciting projects, including the staging of Anansi the Spider which included the use of large puppets to augment the performances of her students. But she counts one experience as an early favorite.
“I think the highlight so far has been the collaboration with IPFW on Oliver! and the opportunity to have our kids learning from the ‘big kids’ who were such great mentors and taught the littler kids so much. And that experience provided a template for doing those kinds of collaborations so that we were able to collaborate with [University of] Saint Francis this year [on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory].
“We’ve also grown our outreach so much and have worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Urban League, Parks & Rec. Those are the things I’m most proud of – having that kind of community input and watching our reach in the community grow. And now that we have this great new black box theatre across the street, it gives us a whole new venue and so many new possibilities.”
Hormann still keeps active in radio, continuing to host her Sunday morning community affairs show, Closer Look, but most of her heart and energy is devoted to Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Although she doesn’t anticipate she, like Cocks, will still be working at Youtheatre when she’s 89s, she does plan to keep working with young students who are anxious to share her love of the theatre.
“I’ll always be working with kids, always be working in the theater or going to schools and reading in the classrooms. I’m already planning two years out for Youtheatre and have no plans to stop.”
Click on the headings below for full calendars
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Career Fair —Job and internship fair with more than 50 companies recruiting for over 1,000 positions, 12-3 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Walb Classic Ballroom, IPFW, Fort Wayne, free, 481-0689
Guided History Tour and Lunch — Tour of Allen County Courthouse and Swinney Homestead with lunch at the Homestead, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, March 23, tour begins at Allen Co. Courthouse, Fort Wayne, $25, 747-1501
Lizzie Shea — Premier of the Italian Friend ArtRuckus web-series featuring local actors and businesses, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, free, 424-7195
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Cloud Catcher w/Bison Machine, Big Money & The Spare Change — Rock/metal at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Crowder w/Britt Nicole, Tenth Avenue North, Andy Mineo, Colton Dixon, NewSong, Thousand Foot Krutch, OBB, Sarah Reeves, Steven Malcolm — Contemporary Christian at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $10, 483-1111
Marcus King Band — Blues at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $15-$30, 426-6434
Styx — Pop at Honeywell Center, Wabash, 7:30 p.m., $49-$125, 563-1102
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Columbia Street West Unplugged feat. George Gardner and Mitch Frazier — Acoustic at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke & DJ's — Karaoke at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at Checkerz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8-10 p.m., no cover, 489-0286
IPFW Music Faculty and Friends Showcase Concert — Classical at Rhinehart Recital Hall, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Jeff McDonald — Folk at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 489-2524
Jessica Brita-Segyde — Acoustic at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 625-1002
Lee Lewis All Stars — Blues/R&B at The Supper Club & Lounge, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 451-8223
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Conley at Mad Anthony Brewing Co., Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 426-2537
Open Stage Jam — Hosted by Pop 'n' Fresh at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., no cover, 478-5827
Outta Hand — Rock at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8-10 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Tronic — EDM at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 422-5896
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Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 432-8966
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Variety at The Venue, Angola, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 665-3922
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Jay — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Rack and Helen's, New Haven, 10 p.m., no cover, 749-5396
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9213
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 -.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Double Down, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 435-4567
Shotgun Prod. Karaoke — Variety at Paul's Pub, Kendallville, 10 p.m., no cover, 340-1318
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ w/Ben — Karaoke at Spudz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-7292
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
An Exploration of Perspective — Multimedia works by Deborah Robinson Miller, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday, March 24-June 24 (artist reception 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 24), West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Liberations of Line & Matter — Digital works by Adam Meyer, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Overlapping in the Proximity of the Sublime — Works by Ashley Beatty, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Semantic Sequences — Exhibition of letterpress prints by Stephanie Carpenter, assistant director of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102