Feature Stories

“Shear Madness,” Longest Running Play in U.S. History at The Little Theatre

shear-madness-slider-1-768x308•August 17, 2016•

By Cheryl Murphy
For the News Progress

How could murder be funny? Just imagine a Carol Burnett sketch in cahoots with Law and Order. “Shear Madness” is a present day, whodunit play that is interactive with the audience and where getting a haircut is murder. The play is loaded with improvisations (lines made up on the spot) that turn current events and local references into up-to-the-minute jokes. Some local references I enjoyed were about area towns, Amish buggies, Coroner Lynn Reed, Dollar General, and McDonald’s. A few of the current events I caught were about Gluten-free products, Prozac, Grey’s Anatomy, Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlin, rooming with Blagojevich, Harry Potter, and Delta flights to nowhere. All this local and current-event fare keeps each show unique, loony, and contagious.

“Shear Madness” is also the name of the wacky beauty shop set right here in Sullivan where all ages can be serviced and the 70’s and 80’s hit songs play. Sexual innuendos are made, but those should go over the younger patrons’ heads while they listen for the online references, Justin Bieber jokes, and watching all the silliness. It’s on the order of the old-time comedy club routines. “Shear Madness” is adapted from a 1963 German play and actually debuted in 1980 in Boston where audiences were so receptive to the silly fun it has played there for 36 years. Washington D.C. picked it up and hasn’t stopped laughing for 28 years, and it has played in Chicago for 18 years. Recently, NYC has decided to get in on the craziness, too; it will be coming there soon. That makes “Shear Madness” America’s all-time favorite comedy.
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C.E.F.S. Annual Meeting Honors Accomplishments

Photo by Dave Bowers Pictured left to right are News Progress publisher Robert R. Best, Tracy Siegman, Sonya Best (seated), Arlene Aschermann and Vickie Bowers. The News Progress was one of the businesses recognized for its community service.

Photo by Dave Bowers
Pictured left to right are News Progress publisher Robert R. Best, Tracy Siegman, Sonya Best (seated), Arlene Aschermann and Vickie Bowers. The News Progress was one of the businesses recognized for its community service.

•August 10, 2016•

C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation, Board of Directors held their 51st annual board meeting in Effingham August 4 with more than 200 people in attendance. C.E.F.S. showcased their annual accomplishments in helping people and changing lives.

Jean Finley, board chairperson of the C.E.F.S. Board of Directors stated that, “the agency recognized board members for volunteering their time to guide and direct the agency.” Further, Chairperson Finley, stated that, “the agency recognized the 2016 family of distinction, Tammy Merrell of Louisville, who made a tremendous level of personal growth and achievement towards achieving economic security.” Chairperson Finley stated that, “Tammy Merrell’s successful participation in our agency programs exemplified our efforts in helping people and changing lives.”

C.E.F.S. Chief Executive Officer Paul White stated that, “during the 2016 annual board meeting 23 individuals and families were recognized who had overcome personal obstacles in achieving self-sufficiency.” CEO White also stated that, “the agency recognized 11 individuals, organizations, community partners and businesses that provided an outstanding level of community service to our agency during the past year.” White further stated that, “the agency honored 10 outstanding volunteers for providing excellent volunteerism, civic engagement and community service to the agency.”  Read More

St. Columcille Church Welcomes a New Era

Photo by Mike Brothers Tortured Crucifix Thirty years ago Father Tom Brown of Quincy sculpted the crucifix at Father Sohm’s right. Made from hand twisted wire coat hangers Father Brown intended it to represent the torture Jesus underwent on the cross.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Tortured Crucifix
Thirty years ago Father Tom Brown of Quincy sculpted the crucifix at Father Sohm’s right. Made from hand twisted wire coat hangers Father Brown intended it to represent the torture Jesus underwent on the cross.

Father Sohm is Pastor Emeritus

•August 3, 2016•

By Mike Brothers

Father John Sohm spent years bicycling around town while serving the 100 families at St. Columcille Parish in Sullivan over the past 20 years.

Father Sohm takes on a new role at St. Columcille as Pastor Emertis. He still resides in the rectory but has scaled back daily duties.

“I am thankful to Bishop (Thomas John) Paprocki for this appointment which allows me to reside in the Sullivan  rectory,” Father Sohm said. The 84 year old pastor has been hindered by health issues over the past few years, limiting his ability to serve the parish as he once was.

“Each parish is a family,” Father said of St. Columcille’s parishioners . “As a pastor witnesses the circle of confidence grow, he is inspired and consoled by being part of a huge family.”

For St. Columcille this means the loss of a full time priest. Father John Titus, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon will celebrate the sacraments with Sunday mass at the Sullivan parish. Read More

Central Illinois Airmen Deployed to Mid-East

Photo furnished Deploying Airmen of the 183rd Air Operations Group based in Springfield, Illinois, board a C-130 aircraft on the first leg of their journey to duty in the Middle East. Approximately 80 members of the unit will provide command and control of airpower to Air Forces Central Command and are expected to return home in January 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Kerr)

Photo furnished
Deploying Airmen of the 183rd Air Operations Group based in Springfield, Illinois, board a C-130 aircraft on the first leg of their journey to duty in the Middle East. Approximately 80 members of the unit will provide command and control of airpower to Air Forces Central Command and are expected to return home in January 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Kerr)

•July 27, 2016•

Approximately 80 airmen with the 183rd Air Operations Group in Springfield recently deployed to the Middle East.

The airmen will be providing command and control of airpower throughout the Middle East region. Trained to synchronize the efforts of air component operations, the deploying members are specialists in a number of aircraft and systems. They will be responsible for day-to-day execution of combined air and space operations supporting Air Forces Central Command.

Col. John Patterson of Springfield, commander of the 183rd Fighter Wing, referred to the group as, “great Americans,” praising their extensive preparation for this mission. He encouraged them to stay connected with family and friends while deployed and was sure he would be hearing good things about their performance. Read More

Playing Taps For Lovington Honor Guard Since High School

Photo by Darian Hays Lovington American Legion Commander George Clark (right) honors Aaron Fleming for his years of playing Taps for military rites, while Tom Brown Honor Guard coordinator looks on.

Photo by Darian Hays
Lovington American Legion Commander George Clark (right) honors Aaron Fleming for his years of playing Taps for military rites, while Tom Brown Honor Guard coordinator looks on.

•July 13, 2016•

Aaron Fleming has played Taps during military rites since high school, but his graduation from Millikin and entering SIU’s school of medicine in Carbondale will end on a high note.

The Lovington American Legion presented Fleming an Appreciation Award for his service July 9.

“I’ve known him since he was a boy,” Lovington Honor Guard Director Tom Brown said of Fleming, who has played Taps on his trumpet during honor guard military rites since high school.

“He and his dad are Sons of American Legion members, and Steve has helped for 40 years,” Brown said, noting both are EMTs with the Lovington Ambulance Service.

Handling around 50 military rites so far this year, the Lovington post honor guard assists the Bethany and Arthur posts in assembling up to 15 people needed to properly perform the ceremony.

One constant has always been Aaron Fleming, the solitary trumpeter playing Taps. Read More

“Chicago” Razzle Dazzles Sullivan

Chicago•July 6, 2016•

By Cheryl Murphy
For the News Progress

“ A story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery – all those things we all hold near and dear to our hearts,” announced executive producer at The Little Theatre on the Square John Stephens.

Yes, John, “Chicago” was a rip-roaring 20’s good time! Not your average Good VS Evil show, or was it? I found the audience cheering over and over again for the two main characters – murderesses in fact. But it was the 1920s in Chicago when everyone wanted to perform their own lives. Everything became a song or dance, a production.

A perfect example was the “Razzle Dazzle” which eludes to the fact that the press and courts of the time just might have let you get away with murder to make you the next star. Much of the show highlights that corruption in Chicago’s journalists, police, and justice system of the 20s. Definitely, the forefathers of today’s paparazzi could have had their start in Chicago of the 1920’s.

Hats off to Darren Lee, the director and choreographer of “Chicago.” Lee, himself, danced with Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 2002 motion picture ”Chicago” as well as toured with the Broadway National Touring Company of “Chicago.” Scene after scene it was easy to become a fan of his knowledge and expertise of this musical. Dozens of people exited the Sunday matinee commenting that this was the best presentation of “Chicago” they had seen among multiple venues. Read More

Hole in the Wall Plans Limited July 4th Opening

Photo by Bernie Sanders Pictured above is Shane Murphy.

Photo by Bernie Sanders
Pictured above is Shane Murphy.

•June 29, 2016•

The Hole In the Wall B.B.Q. brings apple smoked pulled pork barbecue near the square with a limited initial opening from 11-2 p.m. during Sullivan’s Monday, July 4th celebration.

Converting the building on the corner of Monroe and Washington streets has been a four month challenge for Shane Murphy.

“A Hole in the Wall” was just an idea I had to create a cozy place for good pulled barbecue,” Murphy said, noting everything he has learned from 20 years of family restaurant experience in Wisconsin has come together in Sullivan.

Shane’s wife Katrina, a Sullivan native, brought Murphy and his barbecue smoking skills south.

He has divided the former Lucky’s restaurant building to create a cozy Hole in the Wall atmosphere in the pulled BBQ location with seating for about 30 people.

The half-red building with a giant black Hole entrance offers an eclectic style inside. Inspired by family items and Murphy’s music and movie collection, he has assembled a time warp inside. Read More

Reflecting on Sullivan Singers’ Progress

Photo furnished Show Choir and Chorus Director Jeff Thomas balances district responsibilities.

Photo furnished
Show Choir and Chorus Director Jeff Thomas balances district responsibilities.

•June 22, 2016•

Brynna Sentel
For the News Progress

Last year the Sullivan High School Administration brought in a new director for the Chorus/ Singers program, Jeff Thomas.

Thomas, took a different approach to the Singers show this year. “The Sullivan Singers put together a mini, story based musical that contained elements of Jekyll/Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster.”

Thomas, incorporated many props and flashy backdrops as well as lead characters to help the story line along.

However, with every new teacher comes new challenges to overcome. “Balancing all my responsibilities across the district.” was one of the biggest challenges Thomas faced as a new teacher at Sullivan.

As a group the Sullivan Singers struggled the most with getting to know each other. “We had a really big group, and many of the older students didn’t know the new ones coming up. Obviously no one knew me!” The singers had to learn Thomas’s teaching habits. Thomas himself had to learn the best way to teach the kids as well. Read More

Little Theatre’s How to Succeed….Terrific

How to succeed•June 22, 2016•

The Little Theatre production of my favorite musical comedy, How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying), was terrific!

The principal performers — Corbin Williams, Jordan Cyphert, Sydney Troxler, Gus Gordon and Sarah Philabaum — are all remarkably strong and funny.

The dance numbers dazzle. Corbin and Sydney’s innocent faces perfectly belie their relentless guile as Finch and Rosemary, and the villainous Jordan never wastes a half-second that could be filled with style and wit.  Read More

Our Father’s Day Celebration at Coyote Cabins

Coyote sign_0428Faith Lutheran Invites Public

•June 15, 2016•

A free music and arts festival offers family friendly overnight fun at Coyote Cabins June 17 and 18.

“We were looking for a way to have an event to welcome everyone,” John White of Faith Lutheran Church in Sullivan began.

What has developed is a variety of musical performances with Saturday night featuring Firebox, the popular Effingham based bluegrass band heading the bill.

White emphasized the Christian based music from local bands throughout the day will blend with the sounds of DJ Top Hat and the Rockin Tater Show.

Finishing the evening entertainment Saturday is alternative music for the young people from Ashland and Sidelined.

“We were fortunate to partner with Jeff Crockett and Jackie Cisna at Coyote Cabins Retreat and Farm,” White said, pointing out once they had the venue, the volunteers of Faith Lutheran started building the free festival. Read More