Keep it light!

My family emerging from Williams Tree Farm. That’s Fern in the front, then Angelo (blond), Jocelyn (teal hair), Sam (hoodie) and Jesse (hat).

I received an email a few days ago about the 2023 Bloganuary Challenge. That’s when WordPress challenges its users to write one blog every day for the month of January. Blog-anuary. Get it? Anyway, they issue daily prompts and a specific “bloganuary” platform to share your daily entries. It’s fun!

I participated last year. I didn’t stop at 31 blog entries. I kept going well into the spring. Once I hit my hundredth blog, I stopped counting. My goal was 100 but I don’t remember why. What I remember is that about the time it started to warm up, I became very busy producing the Rockford Fringe and I stopped blogging. I missed it, but I promised myself I’d pick up again in the winter. So here I am.

Today’s blog is my way of e_a_s_i_n_g back into blogging. I’m going to keep it “light” and wrap up today’s entry with this picture of our house lit up for the holidays. Thanks for reading! -Connie

Connie Kuntz is the producer of the Rockford Fringe, a playwright and the music and comedy director for Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago. She lives in Rockford, Illinois with her husband and four children.

In Rockford, we ‘shake our instruments with intensity’

Great news: I won a 2022 Action Micro-Grant to produce the 2nd Annual Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling event. That’s Wednesday, December 21, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. in Walker Park. Please save the date for this free, outdoor event. Everyone is welcome. Our first year was a wonderful success. Here’s some of the feedback.

"The jingle bells and drums were a GREAT touch. Hearing the different arrangements of voices - also very moving. What a great (new) tradition to add to our Christmas traditions
Thank you! I loved it so much." 

"LOVED IT!!! THANK YOU!!!"

"We loved it, Miss Connie. Thank you!"

"Wonderful project."

"We LOVED it! It was a surprise for my family and our guests and everyone was enthused and excited about it. THANK YOU for the book of poetry and the candy/chocolate for the kids! I certainly thought that a live poetry delivery in the dark of the longest night was a gift all in itself! Thanks for sharing all of these gifts with all of us!"

"It was lovely, Connie and family—thank you so much for the visit."

"Amazing! So loving. So in the spirit."

"Awesome!"

Now that I have “proof” that poetry caroling is fun AND I have a grant, I have time dedicated to recruiting more carolers! Join us!

Poetry caroling is similar to Christmas caroling. Carolers meet at Walker Park at 3:00 and I hand out scripts. We have a quick rehearsal to assign parts, check pronunciations and establish rhythm.

We walk through the neighborhood, gently shaking a variety of acoustic, handheld instruments. Once at the doorstep, we shake our instruments with intensity for a few seconds. Once our “guests” are outside, we share a curated arrangement of poems.

It’s tremendously exciting! The way the poetry sounds and feels outside in the cold, dark night is amazing.

Poems or excerpts from poems will be selected and arranged from (at least) the following:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Appalachian Elegy (select sections) by bell hooks

Let the Light Enter by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas

The poems selected reflect the spirit, hope, truth and love of the longest, darkest night of the year.

I’ll work on the arrangement a little closer to the date. The final “script” will move along quite nicely. We are at each residence for less than 10 minutes.

Everyone is welcome to come poetry caroling with us! All I ask is that you let me know you are coming so I print enough scripts and have enough snacks and wassail. I also will need to make sure we have the proper amount of cars organized for the caravan.

The details:

-Meet at Walker Park on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 at 3:00 p.m.

-I’ll hand out scripts.

-I’ll assign parts and lead a quick rehearsal to check volume, pronunciations, tone, rhythm, etc.

-Chugro will lead the caravan safely to each destination.

-The homes / places we are caroling will know we are coming. We are not “surprising” anyone. We are not going inside anyone’s home. We are not asking for anything in return. We are not caroling any houses that do not want to be caroled.

-The schedule is tight because it will be cold. Now…save the date! Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. -Connie

Fern and Angelo prep for poetry caroling.

The grant is made possible through a partnership with the Rockford Area Arts Council, Rockford Art Deli, and the Rockford Area Visual Artist of the Year (Manny Tang, 2021).

Will the forest city have a fringe festival?

Jesse surveying Walker Park (formerly Walker Elementary School) for a potential fringe festival.

There is a new initiative in town called “Forward for Fun” where every one of the Rockford’s 14 wards is being allocated several thousands of dollars in grant money for creative projects. I learned about this on Friday and was immediately excited. I talked to Jesse about it and he felt the same way. We have a certain calling for planning and executing public art-based events.

One of the first steps to acquiring a FFF grant is to float your idea past your alderman so yesterday, I pitched a Rockford Fringe Festival to Chad Tuneberg. In an email, I told the Republican it would take place at Walker Park the weekend July 8-11 with July 7 reserved for invite-only rehearsals. The outdoor event would embrace and offer diversity and variety in the form of an exciting lineup of live theatre. Gimme!

Maybe we could connect to this for electricity?

In a nutshell, I’d book several self-produced plays that would run one after the other on an outdoor stage that weekend. A weekend of seeing numerous original plays in one area could be a lot of fun. I invited the alderman to talk in person about this. There are many details to iron out including port-o-potties, electricity sources, fencing, food trucks, stage set-up, etc.. We’ll see what happens.

Last week, I applied for a different grant for a simpler project. It’s a small $500-grant and it would help me organize the 2nd Annual Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling event. Even if I am not awarded the grant, it’s not too soon to ask you to mark off Wednesday, December 21, 2022 for poetry caroling! Save the date!

Of course, I’ll continue to create and organize free, public events until I die but it would be nice to have some city funding and publicity behind them. Right now I solely rely on social media to get the word out. It just isn’t enough and has a desperate feeling to it.

But I’m not desperate; I’m compelled. There’s a difference. At least that’s what I tell myself.

It’s a short blog today, one that’s more of an update than anything. The reason is because Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 is resuming in person on March 22 (hallelujah!) and I’m part of the writer lineup so I need to focus my efforts on playwriting. I don’t want to kick off our live event with bad writing!

Until I get my play written, I’ll be posting very short blogs for the next several days. Until then, thank you for reading! -Connie