Will Read and Sing For Food Ends

Thanks for all your support since 2011. WRASFF has shut down for good. Our Dec. 21 show at the Astra Theatre provided the perfect ending for us.  Here is the Playbill text shared at our show. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about our show — but didn’t ask.

The Last Chicken Dance Liner Notes

By Scott Saalman

Things you might not know about Will Read and Sing For Food.

  • The original name was Will Read For Food. It consisted of about 75% story content and 25% music. (Selfishly, this was likely due to me not being able to play an instrument or carry a tune.)
  • We started in Oct. 2011 with a lunchtime show, followed by an evening show that same day, at Vincennes University Jasper Campus.
  • The original core cast consisted of Kris Lasher, Ray Major, Ed Walston and me. Since then, more than 100 musicians and writers—along with a couple of dancers and painters—have appeared in the show.
  • The initial admission was a canned good donation to Community Food Bank. Ultimately, audiences also donated over $14,000 to the cause. The food bank focus was inspired by the late-great singer-songwriter / humanitarian / hunger activist Harry Chapin, whose WhyHunger organization continues working to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment. (His daughter, Jen Chapin, has graciously performed in two WRASFF shows here in Jasper.)
  • Will Read For Food eventually overhauled its name to include the music factor into it, thus Will Read and Sing For Food. (It didn’t take long for me to realize people weren’t overly excited about attending a show that apparently consisted only of reading.) The show became 50% stories and 50% music, until eventually music took up 75% of the set list.
  • The show has two taglines: Dollar by Dollar; and So Much Talent So Close To Home.
  • First discussion of the show occurred between Kris Lasher and me during an August lunch at Los Bravos. The show was founded at that table.
  • In 2014, thru the hard work of the Dubois County Community Foundation (DCCF) and downtown merchants, WRASFF performed two shows in in one day in the moth-balled Astra, essentially kicking off the Astra’s revitalization effort. $4,700 was raised that day for the DCCF’s general fund.
  • WRASFF’s largest audience outside of a handful of Astra shows occurred at Shiloh United Methodist Church, when more than 200 people attended, mostly to have local educator and writer Kelly Schaefer read from and sign her then new memoir, Fractured Not Broken.
  • In September 2018, the show raised a whopping $67 for the library in Dale. 8 people showed up. As they say in showbiz, “The right people were there.”
  • In its eight years, WRASFF, thru the kindness of its audiences, has raised more than $153,000 for more than 40 charities and community causes, mostly in Dubois County.
  • WRASFF audiences helped raise $30,000 for global Polio eradication via two shows for the Rotary Club of Jasper. This high total was due, in large part, to matching grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Julie Dutchess rocks!
  • The Arts Council of Southwest Indiana, based in Evansville, presented WRASFF with a 2016 Mayor’s Art Award.
  • The very first story read at WRASFF was not even funny. It was called “This Old Table,” about the family Sunday dinner table I inherited when my grandmother died. The table, itself, was the centerpiece of the show.
  • The Dec. 10, 2016, Herald Saturday feature focused on WRASFF’s 100th show. It was written by Allen Laman, with photos by Sarah Ann Jump.
  • The City of Jasper proclaimed Friday, December 16, 2016, Will Read and Sing For Food Day, the day of our 100th show.
  • WRASFF was prominently featured in the Spring 2017 edition of illume, the alumnae magazine of the University of Southern Indiana, my alma mater. The story, “Quietly Making Noise,” was written by Connie Stambush.
  • Of our 150 shows, my mom has been to 140 of them, followed closely by my dad. She had to convince him to start attending—he’s a better person for it.
  • Aside from me, Marc Steczyk is the most consistent long-timer in the show.
  • The “Abbie Rumbach Years” of WRASFF drew many new people to the show. She’s still the most requested performer by our audiences. Not bad for the second-funniest person in the show. (I’m joking!)
  • Kyle Lueken, Debbie Schuetter and Megan and Isaac Gatwood are instrumental in giving WRASFF a fresh boost of energy over the past three years, jacking up the frequency of shows to sometimes three a month. Their endless dedication to the show has been nothing short of amazing. The time, talent and grunt work donated by them (never were they paid even a penny)—and by Marc—kept the WRASFF engine running.

Reflecting on the history of WRASFF and what it has meant to my life can be summed up by one word: friendship. 95% of the friends currently in my life had some type of tie to this show, either as a performer or an audience member who kept returning for more. I am rich in friendship thanks to this show.

Just as important, if not more important, WRASFF taught me a lot about the value of community—and how lucky I am to live in Dubois County. 150 WRASFF shows could not have happened without our sponsors and musical servants and court jesters and free media stories and the venues who sometimes cut us some slack on rental costs (a big thank you to Hedinger Beverage for the free space and free beer) and the countless employees and volunteers for charitable organizations we did shows for. Last but not least—thank you, dear audience. WRASFF did not raise over $161,000 for community causes—our audiences did.

It’s great to have been allowed to perform our last show in the beautifully-renovated Astra Theatre—what a drastic difference from our first show in here in 2014. It feels like home here. The Next Act folks have done an amazing job.

WRASFF and Next Act jointly agreed that this final WRASFF should be a freebie for you as a thank you for all the support you’ve given to both of us over time. Of course, feel free to make a donation to Next Act while you’re here—there’s still a financial need.

I hope you enjoy our final show.

Such a night!

Drive Safe. Sleep Warm. Spread the Word.

And Merry Christmas!

Cheers,

Scott Saalman

Dec. 21, 2018

 

$150,000+ dollars raised for community causes, WRASFF’s Final Five shows EVER!

shirt-leslie-backWill Read and Sing for Food has only five shows left before our 8-year run of public benefit shows ends. Show #146 is 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 1, at Sultan’s Run Golf Club, to benefit Anderson Woods Summer Camp. Show #147 is 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 21, Holy Family Fellowship Hall, to benefit Holy Trinity Catholic School. Show #148 is 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, at The Calumet, to benefit Jasper Endows Today and Tomorrow. Show #149 is 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Sultan’s Run Golf Club, to benefit Jasper-Dubois County Public Library. WRASFF’s final show ever, #150, called The Last Chicken Dance, is 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, at the Astra Theater. Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

The Ups and Downs of WRASFF

27 yearsBy SCOTT SAALMAN

What if we throw a Will Read and Sing for Food benefit show and no one comes?

That question has nagged me before each and every show ever since WRASFF’s fall 2011 debut at VUJC. To date, we’ve had 143 performances, representing a lot of worry.

Sometimes such uncertainty lingers clear up to five minutes before show time when not even one vehicle has yet to arrive at the venue.

Empty parking lots are humbling, especially when the previous show drew 100 people (a good number for us) — victory often has a short shelf life. As ever-faithful WRASFF core musician Kyle Lueken often comments, “We sure do move the needle.”

Of our 143 shows, we’ve been humbled 20 times (a conservative estimate). By that I mean 15 or fewer people cared to come out to support our charity of choice for that night. A single WRASFF show takes several hours of prep work. I take each empty seat personally.

WRASFF’s tagline is “Dollar by Dollar. Show by Show,” alluding to our dogged determination to donate our own time and talent show after show after show to raise whatever money we can for others in need. Those who show up typically make a $10 minimum donation to the charity at the venue’s entrance in exchange for live music and laughs (hopefully). We are compensated with laughter, applause and a free drink here and there. It’s sinful when a venue’s bartender doesn’t give the performers free drinks. Hedinger Beverage is the king of all WRASFF venues — they even give free drinks to the audience.

We know we can never be the major fundraiser for a charity. We are merely a Band Aid, albeit a dependable one, but never the cure. I’m still trying to pick my jaw up from the floor after learning the recent 100 Men Who Cook event raised $255,000 in one night for the very worthy Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization.

We did a show for CASA last February, raising $224,000 less than all those male cooks. You’d think just by virtue of having the word “food” in our name we could’ve done better. Maybe we should incorporate those goofy chef hats into our act.

In a recent show, we raised $67 for a library in Dale. In the room next door, something called corn husk dolls was also happening. A musical act maybe? I’m not sure, but what a great name for a band. Maybe we should’ve merged shows that night. Having both WRASFF and corn husk dolls on the same Thursday night was apparently way too much entertainment for Dale. Hurricane Florence was approaching the Carolina coast — maybe people in Dale were in a panic to get bread and milk.

Regardless that only eight or nine people (two being my parents) showed up, and regardless that one person was spinning with a spindle to make yarn throughout our performance (this happens at Springsteen shows all the time), Marc Steczyk, Kyle and I performed as if there were actually 13 or 14 people in attendance (we are professional like that). We were proud to learn that $67 could equate to the purchase of two new library books.

In eight seasons, the most money we’ve raised in one night was $17,000 for the Jasper Rotary Club’s Polio Plus charity event — in large part due to a generous match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Take that, polio!

My proudest WRASFF moment occurred in 2014 when then Dubois County Community Foundation Director Brad Ward convinced us to do two shows on a Sunday inside a then dormant long-in-the-tooth building on the Jasper Square called Astra Theatre. We were assured that all rats and bats would be eradicated from the premises by sound check. Downtown businesses joined forces, aired out and tidied up the old place, and WRASFF became the first official entertainment to perform a public show inside the Astra since being shuttered more than a decade before. The smell of popcorn once again wafted through the theatre that had provided golden memories for generations since the 1930s. A combined 445 people showed up, and $4,700 was raised for a community cause.

I’ll never forget the good feeling while looking out the Astra door to see a long line of people waiting to enter. It was a relief knowing all the parking spots were full for once, as well as most of the seats inside. We knew the Astra was the real draw, not WRASFF, but we take what we can get. Not long after, Next Act formed to revitalize the place, turning it into a small-town crown jewel for the arts in southern Indiana.

WRASFF and Next Act have always had a great relationship. We’ve raised several thousand dollars for them, and they have, at times, provided us a prominent community stage. Appropriately, the Astra will be the site of WRASFF’s very last show ever Dec. 21.

It will be our 150th show, our swan song, and, thanks to a handful of Farewell Shows between now and then, we will easily surpass the $150,000 mark in charitable donations raised through our shows for 40-plus charities.

WRASFF didn’t raise that money — our audiences did. They deserve the applause. Thanks, Dubois County. Here’s hoping you show up to fill some seats — while we applaud you one last time.

Show host Scott Saalman has led Will Read and Sing for Food since show No. 1.