Even as a small child in upstate New York, Lauren Nichols, artistic director for all for One productions, was a theatrical sort, happy to stage plays and performances with other kids in the neighborhood. In fact, she had a tight-knit community of friends which pretty much introduced her to repertory theatre.
“As a kid I was a voracious reader,” says Nichols. “We lived in a quiet area, but I wasn’t allowed to cross the street. We had the best backyard, so the kids would all play in my yard, and I was always coming up with role-playing and pretend games for us. There were probably some early indicators there of what my future would be. The older girls all loved horses, so I started coming up with stories and chose names for all the horses. There were a lot of scenarios, but usually something tragic happened to the horses.”
Attracted to drama, Nichols was living in Fort Wayne and attending Bishop Luers High School when her mother suggested supplementing the theatrical opportunities at school with something a little bit different.
“My mom took me to Fort Wayne Youtheatre, and she really had to drag me kicking and screaming because I thought that was just for littler kids. I did get cast for the role of the mother in Hans Brinker because I was taller than the other girls.”
More significantly, it was there she met Dennis Nichols. She had seen him perform and was attracted to his talent and, although he didn’t know, she says she had “a mad crush on him.” He came to know eventually. The couple married five years later and have now been married for 33 years. Both deeply religious, they attended Boston University where Nichols earned a degree in communications. They weren’t sure if theater was compatible with their deep faith and had set it aside for some time when an opportunity to teach arts enrichment classes led to a move to Los Angeles.
“We got to L.A., and the whole project fell through. At that point we were stuck because we had no money to come back, and [we] stayed for over four years. But we did hook up with Jews for Jesus, which is a traveling gospel team, and then we had our first child.”
During this time, Dennis was interested in doing a one-man play about Martin Luther, which led to Lauren penning A Mighty Fortress. But as their yearning to perform returned, they knew that, with one of them staying at home full-time, they couldn’t afford to raise a child as they wanted to if they remained in California.
Returning to Fort Wayne, they started looking for opportunities to produce plays. Nichols had long remembered her early theater experiences in Fort Wayne, particularly a performance of Inherit the Wind at the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. She also knew she needed to touch base with Youtheatre’s director, Harvey Cocks, to learn more about how to get a play produced. In 1991 they found a Lutheran church which allowed them to premier A Mighty Fortress.
“From that point we started traveling with the show, booking it in Lutheran churches, which was easy to do since all we needed was a chair and a tablecloth.”
In their efforts to promote faith-based productions, they met Sharon Henderson, now the executive director of all for One productions. Her connection with First Missionary Church provided the building block which would become all for One. After networking through Christians in the Theatre Arts and traveling with their productions, Henderson began to plan for something more substantial and grounded in Fort Wayne.
“I still remember Sharon gathering us around our kitchen table with the idea of a Christian theater group,” says Nichols. While the company didn’t happen overnight, the conversation at that meeting grew into the all for One. Another Nichols play, Sentimental Journey, which told the story of World War II and D-Day, provided new material for the new group. Nichols had written the play years before as a one-act, but she always felt that it begged for more. Once she further fleshed out the material, she credits Henderson with seeing its potential and helping all for One finally take the next step.
“Sharon is such a visionary leader, and she saw this as a way of honoring veterans and enriching and educating audiences. We were booked for two performances at the Grand Wayne Center, and both sold out, so we added a Sunday matinee. In all, 1,600 people ended up seeing the show, and there was a strong response that people wanted us to do more things like this.”
They also knew that to grow and provide a rich schedule of programming which Nichols says “should demonstrate a basic Judeo-Christian ethic but not be overtly Christian,” they couldn’t rely on only original material and began looking for published works to perform. They also began finding other stages in town for their plays including Founders Hall, where they staged The Curious Savage in 2002, and Canterbury High School, where they produced I Remember Mama in 2003. By 2007, they found a more permanent home.
“It took awhile to nail down what we were looking for, but in 2007 we contracted with the Allen County Public Library to use their new auditorium as our new home. It gave us a great location in downtown, and we were finally able to begin planning entire seasons rather than just one or two plays at a time.”
Nichols’ love of reading has paid dividends as she has adapted some classic works (most recently Jane Eyre) as well as continuing to look for works which tap into historic times and situations which challenge both the actors and the audience. She looks forward to providing more premiers in the years ahead. Having done much acting over the years and having been successful as a playwright, she’s learned that her childhood penchant for directing her neighborhood friends in elaborate stories was an indicator of what her future would hold.
“I think if you held a gun to my head and told me I could write plays, direct plays or be in them, I think I would have to say I’d rather direct them. When we did Turtle Soup this year, it was the 30th production that I’ve directed since 2004. I love production design, and I always have a picture in my head of what I think it should be. It took me awhile to realize that I’ve come full circle, that those early hints of playing with friends, that directing was always going to be where I landed.”
Thursday, April 27
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Community Unity — Community dinner, games and prizes, and neighborhood safety forum, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Jennings Recreation Center, Fort Wayne, free, 427-6028
Issues and Ales — Panel of experts discuss important issues in the community with audience Q&A , 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, Fort Wayne, free, 456-7005
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Chris Worth — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at River View Tavern, Decatur, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 724-3500
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
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Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
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Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
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37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 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, $6-$8 (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
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
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
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
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
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, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru April 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568