The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021

Lots of Laughs…

Are you ready for some laughs? Hey, hey, hey, it’s Etta May and Clean Comedy this Saturday! The Niswonger will open the doors at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. Make it a night to remember in Van Wert with four comedians in one night from just $25. Working hard all week deserves a laughter retreat. But just who is this Etta May that keeps you on the edge of your seat?

Etta May is coming to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center this Saturday.

Etta May has performed her brand of clean-comedy on Oprah, Showtime, Comic Strip Live, MTV, and as a guest commentator on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Winner of the prestigious American Comedy Awards “Comic Of The Year,” and so much more. In addition, she headlines the successful all-female comedy tour, “Etta May and the Southern Fried Chicks,” selling out theatres all over the country. Think Blue Collar Comedy Tour with better hair and a bigger attitude! In addition to television, Etta May is a regular on Sirius-XM Comedy Channels and the syndicated Bob & Tom radio show.

Born and in Bald Knob, Arkansas, Etta May grew up alongside nine older brothers, who referred to their baby sister as “the human sacrifice.” Etta May’s parents – her father, a potpourri farmer, and her mother, bedridden by constant childbearing – didn’t realize she was a girl until she needed a training bra.

She met her husband, Delbert, an aspiring truck driver, at a friend’s kegger. From across the yard, their eyes locked in a loving look, you know that stare that lasts a moment too long. Nine months later, she was blessed with a boy, and three more kids followed. “That’s where my comedy comes from. I just wait for my husband or kids to do something unintelligent, and then I write it down.”

She decided to take a chance on herself and follow her dream. Lots of hard work and drive, and a few years later, she wins “Female Comic Of The Year” at the American Comedy Awards. It’s the American Story we are all told that you can become anything you set your mind to in this great country, and for Etta May, it worked!

New Van Wert Live shows continue to be announced for both 2021 and 2022. Be the first to know by signing up for the LiveWire email and plug into our social media. Visit

POSTED: 10/18/21 at 2:56 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Ready to Laugh?

Why Comedy? Ten months ago, Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation, presenting Van Wert Live events, was deliberating programming for the unknown that the Fall of 2021 may bring. What we did know was that our audience would be ready for laughter. Immune-building laughter seemed the perfect gift of healing that the Niswonger Performing Arts Center stage could deliver. Beyond helping take our minds off the news, comedy is proven to have positive mental and physical health benefits that we could all use.

Mia Jackson, one of the four funny girls of Southern Fried Chicks.

“If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry” is a nonchalant phrase often used in culture and one that I often threw out in situations of light-hearted despair. Life does have a way of making phrases like this relevant to each of us. The pandemic certainly brought challenges to each of us in very unexpected ways and we are left grieving the loss of loved ones and fond routines. There is no one who has escaped the sorrow of this trying time.

Seeking out humor during challenges is vital and even more powerful when experienced together in society. Laughter is a common coping mechanism because increased stress and anxiety have terrible implications for our cardiovascular health and other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety. 

A study of 88 cancer patients monitored the effects of comedy videos on anxiety levels and vital signs both pre and post-surgery. Those who watched experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and blood pressure. Another study found humorous distractions, such as watching a funny clip, effective in increasing pain tolerance. Laughter is proven to help boost the immune system. Even modern medicine stands behind the belief that comedy chills you out, helps you deal with pain, and boosts immunity.

There are options for comedy right here in Van Wert with the perfect cocktail of comedy at the Niswonger. Up next is The Southern Fried Chicks serving up a delicious antidote for laughter at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 23. Life and love in the USA has never been funnier as when these top headliners take the stage. Think Blue Collar Comedy Tour with better hair and bigger attitudes. Then Jeff Allen makes clean comedy cool with a hilarious routine of The America He Knows at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 6. Jeff has been featured on America’s Got Talent, Netflix, Amazon, Dry Bar Comedy, Pureflix, Huckabee, Warner Bros., Bananas, Apostles of Comedy, Thou Shalt Laugh, and numerous other networks and shows. Jeff Allen has been all over the world making people laugh and now he’s bringing his medicine to Van Wert.

Whether you like to laugh-a-little or laugh-a-lot, Comedic medicine is what we got! 

Jeff Allen delivers with comedic routine The American I Grew Up In.

POSTED: 10/12/21 at 10:45 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Man in Black…

This Saturday, Live entertainment beckons at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center with Man In Black, Shawn Barker’s Tribute to Johnny Cash. This stage show is an accurate and energetic recreation of an American music icon that brings the legend back to life on stage for the fans of today and the next generation.

“When you love music as much as I do and people love Johnny Cash as much as they do there really isn’t much of a choice. I do what I do so people can continue to enjoy the music of Johnny Cash over and over again,” shares performer Shawn Carter.

Shawn has performed his unmatchable tribute to Johnny Cash all over the world touring in Australia, Europe, Canada and across the United States.

Shawn adds, “As one of his greatest fans, I am as loyal to his music as the next Johnny Cash Lover. Johnny’s music has feelings and that’s something you get best from a live show.”

Shawn Barker will perform as the Man in Black, Johnny Cash Saturday at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

So just who is this entertainer who has the striking resemblance, spot-on mannerisms and baritone voice that embodies the character and spirit of Johnny Cash?

Shawn Barker was born and raised in the metro St. Louis area where like most entertainers, Shawn’s first experience with music was attending church with his family. From singing in church, playing drums in the school marching band, or singing in cover bands and coffee houses, music and entertainment have always been in Shawn’s blood.

In 2004, Shawn auditioned for the part of Elvis Presley in the Broadway production of, “Million Dollar Quartet”. The director Floyd Mutrux, (“Dick Tracy” & “American Hot Wax”) recognized Shawn’s unique talent and requested Shawn to submit an audition for the part of Johnny Cash. Shawn agreed and was instantly cast in the part with Mutrux saying, “We have 100 people who can play Elvis, but we only have one that can play, Johnny Cash.”

It’s time to “walk the line” to the Niswonger in Van Wert on Saturday at 7:30 PM and be caught up in the revelry of an icon with a story that commanded the national spotlight and set the stage on fire!

POSTED: 08/09/21 at 8:54 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Something inspiring…

Summer is winding down, but the Fountain Park stage keeps lighting up! This Friday will give fans something to feel good about.

Christian group Building 429 will entertain in Fountain Park this Friday.

Christian group Building 429 will take the stage and share its award-winning music. Known for writing songs about big faith showing up in everyday moments, Building 429 has amassed a strong fan base whose members will be warmly welcomed in downtown Van Wert.

Since the release of its debut album in 2004, Building 429 has garnered widespread popular and critical acclaim, receiving numerous accolades all while delivering lyrically driven, anthemic hit songs with a consistent message of hope along with high-energy concerts in sold-out venues internationally. The band received a 2013 Grammy® nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for “We Won’t Be Shaken,” which debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s Christian Albums chart and launched the title track to No. 1 on radio.

Building 429 also received a 2014 and multiple 2012 “Song of the Year” Billboard Music Awards for “We Won’t Be Shaken” and “Where I Belong,” respectively, a 2014 “Group of the Year” KLOVE Fan Award nomination, and a “Best New Artist” GMA Dove Award in 2005. The group’s certified gold single, “Where I Belong,” became one of the longest-running Christian No. 1’s in Billboard’s history at 15-weeks and has well over 246 million accumulative audience impressions.

“Where I Belong” has staying power on stages, in homes, and at worship centers around the world thanks to its powerful message and affirmation despite circumstances that surround us. 
Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing, but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find.
So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.
All I know is I’m not home yet.
This is not where I belong.
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.
When the earth shakes,
I wanna be found in you.
When the lights fade,
I wanna be found in you.
All I know is I’m not home yet.
This is not where I belong.
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.

Lyrics alone are gratifying but set to music are much more satisfying. Savor their music like a psalm at Fountain Park this Friday night. It all begins at 7:30 p.m. in Van Wert, Ohio’s Music City.

POSTED: 07/11/20 at 12:34 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Submitted information

Encore Drive-In Nights launches as the must-see concert feature experience of the summer, with shows to air at drive-in and outdoor theaters across the United States and Canada. These all-new performances will be filmed exclusively for each one-night-only event, and include cinematic interviews and storytelling. The concert experience will deliver a front-row look at the world’s most iconic recording artists to fans across North America. 

The series kicks off on July 25 with an all-new performance featuring Blake Shelton, who will be joined by very special guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins. The event is being shown at the Van-Del Drive-In near Middle Point. Tickets for the show will go on sale July 14 at For more information, visit
The Encore Drive-In Nights series is presented by leading event production company Encore Live. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in theaters have proven to be a safe, creative way to deliver fans world-class entertainment thanks to their ability to engage and delight large groups of people in open-air layouts. 

Fans will experience the “Encore Drive-In Nights presents Blake Shelton with Very Special Guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins” concert feature and additional Encore Drive-In Nights shows from the safety of their personal vehicles. Drive-in theaters hosting the Encore Drive-In Nights will adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended guidelines as well as all state and local health mandates. Staff will wear personal protective equipment and enforce at least six feet of space between cars. The series will also use contactless payment and ticketing systems and limit capacity in restrooms. Guidelines around concessions will be enforced to abide by individual state regulations. For a full list of procedures that the Encore Drive-In Nights is employing to keep fans and staff safe, visit

“This is such a great way to enjoy music with your family and friends and stay safe,” said Shelton. “I’m excited we’re getting the chance to perform a concert for fans and we’re going to go back and play old hits like “Austin,” newer songs like “God’s Country” and we might even introduce something brand new! So fill up those popcorn tubs and get ready for some country music!”

Encore Live launched the series in response to overwhelming fan enthusiasm surrounding its June 27 ‘‘Garth Brooks: A Drive-In Concert Experience’ production.


POSTED: 07/11/20 at 12:33 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

VW independent/submitted information

For 64 years, Wassenberg Art Center has hosted the annual June Art Exhibit. Come home to one of the center’s favorite art traditions; The annual June Art Exhibit.

Forms that contain complete rules, a downloadable entry form, and labels can be found on the Wassenberg website at Entries will be accepted Friday, Saturday, Sunday, May 17-19, from 1-5 p.m. Entry is open to all artists 18 and older.

A non-refundable fee of $25 for Wassenberg Art Center members or $30 for non-members entitles artists to submit up to three entries. A total of $1,300 in cash prizes will be awarded. A free, public, opening party will be held from 6-9 p.m. Friday, May 31.

POSTED: 05/15/19 at 10:25 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

PERRY LUHN/for the Van Wert independent

Perhaps the most famous of the many plays written by the playwright trio of Jones, Hope, and Wooten, is Dixie Swim Club. It has been produced nearly everywhere: A funny, sad, and serious story of women long past their glory years, “Dixie” has come to be the standard by which these writers are measured.

There are quite a few other hilarious shows penned by this trio that are making the rounds of the dinner theatre circuit, giving loads of stage vets lots of opportunities to participate in the laughs. I guess I didn’t realize this, but just last year, I, myself, got to participate, appearing in the romp entitled Christmas Belles. It was a blast.

In fact, every one of the JHW shows I have been able to attend has been a blast, not only for the cast, but for the audience as well. On Wednesday evening at Vantage Career Center in Van Wert, I was able to see Off Stage Productions’ presentation of Farce of Habit. This story, which is a little bit romance, a little bit thriller, and a lot comedy, is next in store for the patrons of the group, which always has ’em laughing right after dinner. The OSP crew always delivers on the laughs, and I was primed to go.

The story revolves around an inn that is run by a couple with their own problems, but who somehow manage to accumulate more woes. But, hey, it wouldn’t be funny if they solved their problems too soon, right? The couple’s son is, God forbid, an actor in community theatre, to the dismay of his wife, who is unaware of his hobby and thinks he is cheating on her.  

The inn owners, Wannelle and Gene Wilburn (Kelly Smith and John Vining), each have their own cross to bear. She can’t give up caffeine and he can’t stop scratching. Everywhere. The two actors are a match for each other in parts which must be over the top. Some of Kelly’s facial expressions are precious and tortuous at the same time. Mr. Vining’s scratching is appropriately annoying. He really wants to fish, not help his wife out with the inn tasks. These two must carry much of the first act and they make it work.

Son, Ty, the theatre nerd, is hilarious, not just because of the incredible costumes he carries off, but because of the deadpan expressions he can manifest when the others are making fun of his attire. A fun role for Jonathan Denny. He did a great job in the five-inch heels. Ty’s wife (or is she?), Jenna, is played with verve by Rachael Dettrow. She is going to make her hubby pay for his “indiscretion” and plays him like a fiddle. She gets her chance to play dress-up as well later on.

In fact, if I had to characterize this script, I would call it a “comedy costume piece”. It seems like everyone gets to try something outrageous on, and director Matthew Krol and his staff have found some pretty outrageous clothes. They were colorful, appropriate, and well-constructed. I was always wondering what kind of crazy thing would appear on stage next. 


POSTED: 10/19/18 at 7:38 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Scott and Nikki Niswonger are presenting Dailey & Vincent at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert on Saturday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m. Get to know these Grand Ole Opry members and five-time Grammy Award winners.

More than 10 years ago, on December 29, 2007, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent had their first paid gig as a duo with a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. The duo became official Opry members last spring, capping a remarkable decade of building an award-winning career that now encompasses an eclectic mix of country, folk, gospel, and bluegrass music, along with television and comedy.

Dailey & Vincent will perform at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio later this month. photo provided

Dailey & Vincent occupy a unique space in popular music by forging a sound that honors their traditional music pedigrees, yet is edgy enough to appeal to more progressive audiences. That evolution has been both organic and a little calculated, borne out of trying to shake up their own routine.

“The first year or so we went out and did pretty much all traditional bluegrass and the second year we thought we had to come up with something different, so we went wireless with the vocal mics so we would walk around and sing,” Dailey told Rolling Stone Country over a plate of beans and cornbread before a Tuesday night performance on the Opry. “We were trying to make it more interesting.

“About two years later we hired a bass singer,” he continues. “When we did that, that got us into doing lots of variety — real gospel to quartet-style singing in both secular and gospel.”

Before they teamed up to become Dailey & Vincent, both men were already seasoned musicians with stellar reputations in the bluegrass and country communities. Dailey had spent nine years performing with legendary bluegrass outfit Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, while Vincent logged 11 years with Ricky Skaggs’ famed band Kentucky Thunder, as well as contributing to albums by Dolly Parton and others.

Vincent first met Dailey in 2001 at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards in Louisville, Kentucky.


POSTED: 10/17/18 at 7:40 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Paul Hoverman, coordinator of performing arts for The Van Wert County Foundation and Chancel Choir director at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert, has announced the rehearsal schedule for the Van Wert Area MessiahChorus.

Rehearsals will begin Sunday, November 4, from 3-5 p.m., in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, 113 W. Central Ave. in Van Wert. All singers are welcome.

Local singers and professional soloists sing “The Hallelujah Chorus” from the last community performance of Handel’s Messiah two years ago. photo provided

The performance will be Sunday, December 9, at 7 p.m. Rehearsals will be each Sunday afternoon from 3-5 p.m. leading up to the performance. The performance is the Christmas (Advent: Part I) portion of Handel’s Messiah,along with a few added selections from other sections of the beloved choral work.

Music books are available if singers do not already own a copy (Schirmer edition). Those participating do not need to be skilled singers, just interested in being part of a well-rehearsed and inspiring chorus. Of course, experienced singers are always welcome.

This biennial performance of Handel’s Messiahis a Van Wert tradition supported by The Van Wert County Foundation, in cooperation with First United Methodist Church. Professional soloists and a chamber orchestra will combine with the volunteer chorus to provide this Christmas tradition for the public to enjoy.

POSTED: 10/17/18 at 7:33 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Van Wert Civic Theatre has announced upcoming auditions for the comedy Dashing Through the Snowby the writing team of Jones, Hope, and Wooten. Director Steve Lane will hold auditions on Sunday, October 7, at 2 p.m. and Monday, October 8, at 7 p.m. at the theatre, 118 S. Race St. in Van Wert.

The cast can be as large as 18 or as small as eight, with actors doubling parts. Lane promises this show will be fun to rehearse, fun to watch, and fun to perform.

Dashing Through the Snowtakes place four days before Christmas in the tiny town of Tinsel, Texas, as a colorful parade of guests arrive at the Snowflake Inn to cause holiday comedy. A niece and nephew try to end a 30-year feud; actors from a touring production of A Christmas Carolarrive to fulfill a promise; Mrs. Claus and one of Santa’s elves attempt a lover’s rendezvous: and a family plans a spur-of-the-moment Christmas Eve wedding. Trina, the innkeeper of this inn, has more than she can handle coping with these lodgers.

This show is split into four scenes. Each scene has its own characters and plot arc. Once that scene is over, those characters are gone — with the exception of Trina, the owner of the inn who is in every scene; Mr Boykin, a bed and breakfast reviewer who is heard over the intercom in the first three scenes; and Lou Ida, the surly housekeeper and cook who is heard offstage in the first two scenes.

Show dates are November 29 and 30 and December 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, with 8 p.m. performances, except for Sundays matinees, which are at 2 p.m.

Visit www.vwct.orgfor more information.

POSTED: 10/04/18 at 7:19 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News