Special Valentine’s Cabaret Shares the Love from Quad-Cities Theaters
It definitely takes a village to raise your spirits.
For this unusual Valentine’s season of love, Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse has organized a special musical theater love letter – marrying several Quad-Cities venues to produce the video compilation, “Let’s Fall in Love.”
A virtual celebration of love and the arts, the 75-minute program will debut Saturday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m., featuring performers not only from Circa, but the Black Box Theatre, Center for Living Arts, Countryside Community Theatre, Davenport Junior Theatre, Double Threat Studios, Mississippi Bend Players/Augustana, QC Theatre Workshop, Quad City Music Guild and The Spotlight Theatre.
The compilation will cost $15 – available through midnight on Feb. 21 – and proceeds will be shared among all participating theaters, organizer and performer
Ashley Becher said this week.
“We’ve always been talking about, since Covid started, doing something cooperative and would help all the theaters,” she said. “We know that everyone’s hurting and our community is so important in the Quad-Cities.”
After the online New Year’s Eve Circa show went well, Diane Laake from Circa suggested doing a Valentine’s
cabaret, and Becher said this would be a perfect time to include all the local theaters.
In mid-January, Ashley and her husband Bobby (who’ve been very active this past year with Circa and Davenport Junior Theatre) asked all local theaters if they wanted to participate and got great responses. The theaters were asked to submit not only songs, but how couples met doing theater.
The video includes touching anecdotes from couples about their love stories.
“We wanted to show for Valentine’s Day, how full of love the theater is,” Ashley said. She and Bobby sing “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” by Cole Porter for the cabaret.
“We’ve always been, and continue to be excited at the prospect of a strong, united theater community in the QCA,” Bobby said recently.
The wife-and-husband duo are creators and owners of the New York-based production company WhatFun! Theatre, founded in 2014 to produce theater for youth that’s smart, approachable, artistic and fun. Ashley and Bobby met in 2012 while touring South Korea, performing
and leading workshops for youths and families.
“We are so happy and we’re so thankful for the theater community – that they all wanted to work together, which is always great,” Ashley said. “Bobby and I always feel, wherever we go, we always want to bring everyone together, so that’s been a big part of our mindset being here in the Quad-Cities – uniting everyone. We really believe we’re all stronger when we’re supporting each other and lifting each other up.
“So it’s really been refreshing and lovely to see this community do that, and see other theaters support each other and lift each other up, especially in this hard time,” she said.
The selections for “Let’s Fall in Love” (all recorded separately) include –
- “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)” — Ashley and Bobby Becher
- “I Don’t Need Anything but You” — Anthony and Sydney Greer
- “Follow Your Heart” — Callen and Andy Sederquist
“Fly, Fly Away” — Megan Warren
- “When I’m Sixty-Four” — Brad Hauskins (featuring Heather and Lucy Hauskins)
- “Magic Changes” — Erin and Bret Churchill
- “When It’s Time/St. Jimmy/Letterbomb” — Augustana students Ryan J. Hurdle, Becca Casad, and Ravyn Davis
- “Love Is An Open Door” — Tristan Tapscott and Savannah Bay
- “I Just Wanna Dance With You” — Myka and Kelsey Walljasper
- “When You’re Standing Next To Me” — Jenny Stodd and Todd Meredith
“Always Be My Baby” tap dance — Ashley Becher (Circa), Jenny Hampton (DJT), Shelley Cooper (Augustana/MBP), Bethany Sanders (QCMG/Spotlight)
- “Falling Slowly” — Bethany and Adam Sanders
- “Fernando” — Lonnie Behnke and Bonita Barner Howes
- “Fever” — Lora Adams
- “As Long as You’re Mine” — Heather Herkelman and David Baxter
- Elephant Love Medley — Ashley and Bobby Becher, Tristan Tapscott and Savannah Bay, Erin and Bret Churchill (Circa); Myka and Kelsey Walljasper (CLA); Megan Warren and Chase Austin (Double Threat); Callen and Andy Sederquist, Anthony and Sydney Greer (QCMG); Bethany and Adam Sanders (Spotlight); Brycen Witt and Virgil Hajdys (Augustana/MBP).
- Spoken love stories from Max Moline and Abbie Carpenter (QC Theatre Workshop/DJT), Steph DeLacy and Taylor Bley (Double Threat), and Ian Sodawasser and Alexis Lotspeich (Spotlight Theatre).
The “Elephant Love” medley from the movie musical “Moulin Rouge” includes excerpts from “Your Song,” “Heroes,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “I Was Made for Loving You,” “One More Night,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Up Where We Belong,” “All You Need is Love,” and “I Will Always Love You.”
The Augustana students performed from the Green Day musical, “American Idiot,” which was originally scheduled for last spring, and was among the many productions canceled due to Covid-19.
From Circa bussing to wedding and baby
Myka Walljasper (a daughter of Circa ’21 favorite Tom Walljasper) and her wife Kelsey have an amazing love story.
They met bussing and running spotlights for Circa (1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island) over 10 years ago, when Myka was 16 and Kelsey was almost 19.
“She likes to joke that I ‘hated her’ because she was the new girl that came and interrupted our cool busser “group” (but this is totally not true!),” Kelsey said Thursday by e-mail. “Looking back, we definitely did not go ‘looking’ for one another. Our relationship was definitely determined by fate, I’m convinced.”
At first, they became friends and wasn’t until almost a year later that they actually started dating.
“You know those moments when you just ‘know’ that you have to be with someone?” Kelsey said. Hers was when she saw Myka in a 2010 production of “All Shook Up” at Center for Living Arts in Rock Island.
During “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” Kelsey recalled “that my only thoughts during the song were on her — that song has now become ‘our’ song and we used it in our wedding. Theatre was a passion that we both shared, but it also brought us together,” she wrote.
“I’m not at all surprised that we share a love of theatre to this day — not only is it a shared interest, but it’s something that brought us together in the first place,” Kelsey said.
“Theatre is a place where we can be ourselves — which is what draws us to it. As an LGBT couple, so often we felt that we needed to hide,” she said. “Theatre has never made us feel that way — the people we’ve worked with, the characters we’ve been able to immerse ourselves in — it’s always been an open door of inclusivity for us.
“And, selfishly, theatre always reminds me of the moment I first fell in love with Myka,” Kelsey said. “For her, she would say the same. Not only did we meet in a theatre, but we also continued to build our relationship in one. We met at Circa ‘21, continued to work together and grow, but then also performed at the Center for Living Arts with one another regularly.”
They were in shows together, such as “Rent” “Spring Awakening,” “Bare,” and more.
“We also helped with their children’s productions and this solidified our love for one another as we learned that we shared not only a common interest in theatre, but also our values and goals,” Kelsey said. “I will never forget the many, many deep conversations we’d have at the Center for Living Arts that really gave me a good look at the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”
“We thank theatre for bringing us together, but we also thank theatre for the many people that it gave us. Circa ‘21 gave us a family like no other,” she said. “The Bootleggers, in particular, were a huge support for Myka and I as we started our relationship.
“We like to think that our flirting was secretive and that no one knew — the truth is, everyone at Circa ‘21 knew and when we finally admitted to dating, they all gave us the same response: ‘finally!” Kelsey recalled. “We are so thankful for the love and support that they showed us then and continue to show us now as we grow our family.”
They also are thankful for Center of Living Arts and its loving owners, Dino and Tina Hayz — who they consider to be family.
“They have been a huge support for our relationship from the very beginning and have been at our side for many, many important milestones,” Kelsey said, noting Dino baptized her the night before their wedding (Sept. 27, 2014) and then proceeded to officiate the women’s wedding ceremony at Augustana College.
“Tina gave a beautiful reading. They both attended our son’s baptism, where they were officially deemed his godparents and spiritual journey guides,” Kelsey said. “Besides our family, Dino and Tina were the first people we told when we were expecting our son. They’ve helped us move into many apartments, they’ve been by our side for many of life’s adventures, and they’re always the ones we can count on when we just need a comfort meal, a glass of wine, and a warm hug.”
Myka and Kelsey went through a sperm bank for Kelsey to get pregnant in 2017, and their son Sawyer was born in May of 2018.
The Valentine’s cabaret is special to them because the theater community is hurting, Kelsey said.
“The people that we know and love and that supported us along this journey of love are struggling — along with the world,” she said. “Right now, more than ever, our world needs love. We hope that this cabaret brings love to those who need it right now or a smile to the faces of those who haven’t smiled in quite some time.
“We are beyond grateful for this opportunity to represent both Circa ‘21 and the Center for Living Arts and to help give our support to the very same people that never stopped supporting us,” Kelsey said. “When things got hard, they were always there to push us through. We hope that this cabaret does the same for whoever needs it — love can certainly conquer all.”
Circa and others pivot during pandemic
Compared to many other Q-C venues, it seems that Circa and the Speakeasy have been especially active in producing live in-person shows (some without an audience and made available online), most of which the Bechers have been part of.
“It helps that we’re able to work in small numbers at Circa, so that we can keep everything safe,” Ashley said. “Typically, that’s why Black Box has been able to do some shows as well. They’ve been able to keep it small. But a lot of these other organizations are used to doing large productions, and they need large audiences to support those.
“It’s great to be able to have those big casts you get at a community theater,” she said. “But it just makes it harder when you have to stay distant. I know a lot of theaters are starting to pivot to do online shows. We’re going to be promoting other theaters’ upcoming shows within this as well.”
“We’re all learning, you know?” Ashley said. “It’s so hard because this year has been such a big learning curve for everyone and you’re having to continue to learn new skills – which is great to be a lifelong learner. It’s definitely had its challenges, but we’re all having to sort of figure out new things.”
“We’re all having to pivot and learn some new things,” she said, especially in the video realm.
This isn’t the first collaboration among local theaters in recent months.
In November, Brent Tubbs of the Spotlight led creation of a “Save the Arts QC” video, featuring performers from the Spotlight, Black Box Theatre, Playcrafters and Music Guild in Moline, Circa ’21 and Center for Living Arts in Rock Island, and Davenport Junior Theatre.
The video was choreographed by Steph DeLacy, set to the inspiring “From Now On” from “The Greatest Showman” — featuring masked performers dancing outside local theaters. It is meant
to be shared with the hashtag “#savetheartsqc.”
“This pandemic has been devastating and a challenge for so many,” the Spotlight posted on Facebook with the video. “The Quad Cities rich theatre arts venues have been severely impacted. As a theatre community, we ask you to remember us this holiday season, because we are still here, and will still be here for you when we can come together again and celebrate all of the joys of live theatre and storytelling.”
DeLacy and Megan Warren also in recent months opened Double Threat Studios at Bettendorf’s Duck Creek Plaza, and plan to perform two student musicals each in the spring and summer – “James and the Giant Peach, Jr.” (grades 3-8) and “Newsies”: (grades 7-12) this spring, and “High School Musical, Jr.” (3-8) and “Hairspray” (7-12) this summer.
You can reserve viewing of Circa’s “Let’s Fall in Love,” starting Saturday at 5 p.m., at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/17497.