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Review: “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Stage at Tyler Civic Theatre



15094473_1400116393332969_1774785478581322929_nBy John Baggett

“It’s a Wonderful Life” opened on December 2nd and will run through December 11th at Tyler Civic Theater, located at 400 Rose Park Drive in Tyler.  

It’s the holiday season. There is a lot going on around the city to get you in the spirit, from parades to open houses at museums, holiday concerts celebrating Christmas and Chanukah, and, of course, live theatre. Tyler Civic Theatre is continuing their current season and celebrating the holidays with their production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is the story of George Bailey (Jon Dickson), a man we meet contemplating jumping off a bridge after finding himself in a desperate situation on Christmas Eve. Before he can jump, he is greeted by Clarence Odbody (Richard York), an angel, second class, who is also George’s guardian angel. Clarence believes that if he is able to help George, he might finally earn his wings and no longer be “second class.” Clarence came to find George after not just hearing his prayer, but the prayers of his friends and family.

In an effort to show George that his life has meaning, he shows him basically a highlight reel of his life. Among his memories are the time he as a young boy (Aiden Pettypool) prevented pharmacist Mr. Gower (Allison Cambre) from accidentally poisoning a young boy with the wrong medication, how he took over his late father’s Savings and Loan business and helped his Uncle Billy (Bill Burgdoff) from losing it, and how the love of his life, Mary Hatch (Caitlin Pierson), went from girl he used to know to his wife. He even has recent cause for celebration, because his younger brother Harry (Grayson Lackey) has been declared a war hero, receiving the Medal of Honor from the President himself. Unfortunately, none of that is enough to convince George he has a great life. George is more preoccupied with a missing $8,000 that could sink his business, send him to prison, and wreck the life that he thinks is worth more if he were dead. Clarence grants George’s wish that he’d never been born in order to show him once and for all what impact the life of one man can have on the world.

15327471_1418888071455801_6757425462997105157_n“It’s a Wonderful Life” is an adaptation of the 1946 film of the same name from director Frank Capra, which itself was an adaptation of the short story, “The Greatest Gift” by Phillip Van Doren Stern. The stage production was written by James W. Rodgers, also known for penning “A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail.” The production at TCT is directed by Marlene Dickson, bringing this show to the stage for a third time, and produced by Chris Brantley, who was last seen on stage as Sebastian in this summer’s “The Little Mermaid.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is the ultimate feel good story, something Dickson clearly understands, and manages to make a story that has been a part of pop culture for seven decades still have an impact, or as the kids might say, “hit you right in the feels.” This is a story that has been told in various forms for years now, and yet this production still manages to make as much as an impact as it would the first time you saw the original film.

Much of this emotional impact absolutely comes from the cast. Dickson, and I mean Jon this time, who just finished playing the titular “The Great Gatsby,” very much channeling Jimmy Stewart here, is excellent as George Bailey. He has down Stewart’s mannerisms and cadence so much, if anyone ever decides to do a biopic about the actor’s life, they seriously need to cast him. He has fantastic chemistry with everyone on stage, particularly York, who has incredible comic timing, and if I could meet my guardian angel in person, I’d want it to be just like him.

As our antagonist, Mr. Potter, Sean Holliday is amazing. Holliday is an actor that has recently come onto my radar after his performance in “Random Access” earlier this year, and he is as loathsome (in a good way) here as he was heartbreaking in that show. Pierson is delightful as Mary, and, I’ll be honest, for a few hours after hearing her performance of the song “Buffalo Girls,” it was stuck in my head. Not a complaint. I hope to see her in more productions, because she is a very talented young actress that hopefully has a great career ahead of her. The entire cast is wonderful, and I want to name each and every single one of them in this review, but that would make this review go on forever, so, kudos to all of you, because you all did a great job.

I’ve been reviewing the shows at Tyler Civic Theatre since January 2016, and while I’ve enjoyed them all, this one is absolutely one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. I urge you to see this show. It’s a truly great show and is a great way to get you in the Christmas spirit.

For more information visit and to purchase tickets, go to

Around East Texas

Fall Fun in East Texas: Fall Festival Guide 2018

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Fall Festival Guide 2018

As weather begins to cool off, the fall festivals will begin. There is a lot of variety and fun planned for all ages!

September 14th-23rd: Art of Peace Festival, Tyler

The 8th Annual “Art Of Peace” – an East Texas celebration of Peace currently begins on Friday, September 16th and lasts through Sunday, September 23rd. You are invited to join as they celebrate peace, create community, and welcome new friends. Events include Day for Kids at Bergfeld Park, Peace Art Exhibit, Peace Meal, Services and more. A Peace Concert will be held September 21st at Liberty Hall, Downtown Tyler and will feature Trout Fishing in America. The aim of Art of Peace is to promote a spirit of creativity, compassion, and community through partnerships, fellowship, dialogue, social action, music, poetry, and art. For more info go to

October 13th: Lindale 2018 Countryfest & Harvest Hustle 5K, Lindale

Stroll through arts and craft booths, gobble a turkey leg, take a look at the car display, enjoy live entertainment, and bid on auction items – all at Countryfest 2018! Children will spend the day at a variety of activities including: The Texas Bank and Trust climbing wall, Lindale Police Department’s Kid’s ID Booth, and lots of carnival games provided by the First United Methodist Church. There will also be a 5K. This will be held throughout Downtown Lindale and at Picker’s Pavilion and The Cannery Stage. For more info go to

October 11th-14th: Downtown Tyler Film Festival, Downtown Tyler

The Downtown Tyler Film Festival is a celebration of storytelling through film in East Texas. They accept and show short films from all around the world, but have a special fondness for local independent works. Films will be shown each day at Liberty Hall, 103 E. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler. Go to for details. Tickets are: $5 for any single night (Thursday, Friday, Saturday), $10 for the Sunday Awards Ceremony and wrap party (food/drink included), or $20 for an all-inclusive producer’s pass (three film nights, award ceremony plus wrap party). In advance, you can buy them online from Liberty Hall or in person beginning September 9th at Gallery Main Street, 110 W. Erwin St., Tyler. On every festival night, the box office will open at 6:30pm.

October 13th: 3rd Annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games, Tyler

Grab your kilt and come see the Highland Dancers, bagpipes, Highland athletic competitions plus experience the food and fun designed for all ages. This is a free community event celebrating all things related to Celtic heritage. The DramBeauties, Kilty as Charged Pipers featuring Paul Watson & Matt Bowdin, The Dallas Highland Dancers, Charles Gunn Jr., and special guests will perform this year as well as the Twice Upon a Time Celtic Storytellers! Come and see all the exhibitors demonstrating sheep herding as done on the Scottish plains, War Horses large enough for only William Wallace to ride, Shetland Ponies from the outer Hebrides Islands, Highland Cows, and Blacksmiths will be fashioning Highland knives, Falconers and much, much, more! For more info go to or call (903)752-0980. This will be held at South Spring Baptist Church, 17002 US 69, Tyler.

October 13th-14th: Edom Art Festival, Edom

For more than 46 years, the small artists’ community of Edom in East Texas has hosted a festival for working artists presenting its talents to an appreciative audience of gifters and collectors. The festival is the premier art show in East Texas. High quality art, fine crafts, live music, and great food and wine fill the festival grounds behind the resident artists’ studios on the one main street in town, Farm to Market Road 279. This year’s festival takes place from 10am-5pm each day. Admission is free. Visit the resident artists’ studios on the main street, for which Edom is well known. While in town for the festival, visitors can enjoy local restaurants, The Shed and The Edom Café, and tour the gardens of Edom: Blue Moon Gardens, Blueberry Hill farms, Glenda Mae’s Daylily Farm, and The Farmacy, organic produce and more. The “artistic” atmosphere of Edom brings forth the “creative spirit” in everyone who visits. Go to for a detailed schedule of events, local lodging, and a move.

October 18th-21st: Texas Rose Festival, Tyler 

The 85th Texas Rose Festival will be held on October 18th-21st, with “Rock the Rose” as its theme. Amanda Elaine Hiles will reign as the 2018 Texas Rose Festival Queen. She attends Tyler Junior College and is a member of the Apache Belles. The 2018 Duchess of the Texas Rose Festival will be Ann Caswell Ferguson, a student at Baylor University. The Rose Festival activities include the queen’s coronation at the Cowan Center on October 19th, and the Rose Parade on October 20th. Texas Rose Festival Rose Show is free and open to the public, held in the Rose Garden Center. More details can be found at

October 20th: Harvest Wine Day

In celebration of Texas Wine Month, help Keipersol Winery put the vines to sleep for the season at this peaceful day in the vineyard including distillery tours and barrel tastings, winery tours and vineyard photo opportunities. Food will be available for purchase, but you may also choose to eat at any of the restaurants on the winery estate that will be open 7am-10pm (reservations recommended). The vineyard festivities will be from 11am-9pm. For more information call (903)894-8995. Kiepersol Winery, Distillery and Vineyards is located at 4120 FM 344 East in Bullard,

October 26th-27th: Fall Feral Hog Festival, Ben Wheeler

Come out and enjoy the Fall Feral Hog Festival Parade followed by live music, arts & crafts vendors, and a wild hog cook-off. This festival also includes a Fall Feral Hog Queen Pageant and more fun! The cook off starts on Friday and goes all night. Judging is at 12 noon on October 27th and winners will be announced at 1pm. For more information, please visit the Facebook page at or online at

October 26th-28th: East Texas Rose Comic Con: A Year of Anime, Tyler

This science fiction, fantasy, horror, and anime-based convention brings in stars of stage, screen, comics, and more. This is three days of geeky fun that you will not want to miss. There will be gaming, amazing vendors, celebrities, authors, artists, demonstrations, cosplay, musical and dance performances, and much more. Don’t miss the chance to meet some of your favorite stars, attend new special events this year, or see the amazing cosplay contest. Keep up to date with details at

October 27th: Dogtoberfest Craft Beer Festival and Animal Adoption Event

Craft beer and cute puppies join for a great cause! Join the fun with your four legged best friend October 27th (11am-7pm) at Dogtoberfest 2018! Held at Juls Event Center, 7212 Old Jacksonville Hwy., Tyler, Dogtoberfest is the culmination of adoptable pets from local animal rescue groups, pet-related vendors, local live bands, food trucks, and craft breweries. The Craft Beer tasting will take place indoors in the newly remodeled Juls Event Center! The ultimate goal of the day is finding forever homes for as many homeless pets as possible. They are currently seeking vendors, breweries, and more; applications are available online. For more info go to Contact: with questions.

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Around East Texas

Upcoming East Texas Festivals for 2018

2018 Festivals

East Texas is a great place for all kinds of festivals – from family fun to wine festivals, rodeos, and food specialties. Plan now for these future festivals.

  • September 14th-23rd – Art of Peace Festival, Tyler

  • September 21st-30th – East Texas State Fair, Tyler

  • October 13th – Lindale 2018 Countryfest & Harvest Hustle 5K, Lindale

  • October 11th – 14th  – Downtown Tyler Film Festival, Downtown Tyler

  • October 13th – 3rd Annual Tyler Scottish Festival & Highland Games, Tyler

  • October 13th-14th – Edom Art Festival, Edom

  • October 18th-21st – Texas Rose Festival, Tyler

  • October 20th – Harvest Wine Day

  • October 26th-27th – Fall Feral Hog Festival, Ben Wheeler

  • October 26th-28th – East Texas Rose Comic Con, Tyler

  • October 27th – Dogtoberfest Craft Beer Festival and Animal Adoption Event, Tyler

  • November-December – Rose City Christmas, Tyler

  • November 3rd – Red, White & Blue Festival, Bullard

  • November – 4th Annual Caring for Kids Benefit Festival, Tyler

  • November 10th – Heritage Syrup Festival, Henderson

  • November 15th-17th – Mistletoe & Magic, Tyler

  • November 15th-17th – Reel East Texas Film Festival, Kilgore

  • December 8th – Blue Santa Pub Crawl, Downtown Tyler

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Dory’s Garden: Inspiration Awaits Beyond the Lavender Gate…Literally!

By Barbara King

It’s literally a cornucopia for the gardener’s imagination, and it’s right off the Brick Streets of Tyler.

What was originally a hobby for landscape architect, Dory Hersey, has bloomed into a flourishing “backyard oasis,” meant specifically for stop and smell the flowers moments.

Garden artist Dory is celebrating the one year move from the Brick Streets to her current home and garden location and loving every minute of sharing and inspiring others to visit and enjoy the park-like setting. Driving up to the corner of Augusta and Rusk Streets, guests are immediately made welcome by the outside porch entrance to the “Garden Fancy” boutique shop, which is literally in Dory’s front parlor. Here you will find everything garden from colorful clothing and Seattle spiced tea to candles to succulents. It’s a warm, inviting cozy space where you will want to wander and discover scents and images. Dory has also created her own unique cards and calendars featuring her striking floral photos.

Dory’s passion for people and plants as living art is apparent around every corner in the outdoor space. Your entrance to the “secret garden” begins by entering under the lavender gate as Dory’s personal mantra becomes apparent: “Inspiration Awaits Beyond the Lavender Gate.” Following the gate is a colorful Morse code walkway leading to a ½ acre visual plethora of pots, plants, and garden paraphernalia. Signs throughout the garden tell the story, “Smell the Roses,” “Perennial Picks,” and “Under the Sea-dum.”

It’s a peaceful, lush space designed for sitting, walking, and gazing, complete with tables and chairs, where guests are encouraged to “bring their lunch and coffee and stay and enjoy the outdoors,” said Dory. The garden is the perfect tactile experience, as Dory says, “I wants my guests to touch and feel the flowers, pots, and plants and imagine how they would look in their own home.”

Dory’s Gardens was created for the exchange of ideas and inspirations, and Dory is the conduit for your gardening dream to become a reality. Dory’s personality looms large in the garden, and visitors are greeted with warmth as the conversation turns into a one-on-one tour of the garden. Dory inspires networking and sharing, so once a month she hosts a “stalk exchange” on the second Saturday of the month, and the garden transforms into a plant swap meet. Refreshments are served while you roam around to find new flowers, and gardeners are encouraged to bring extra starts and bulbs to trade.

Mother and daughter duo Morgan Chaney and Karen Nelson, who live in the neighborhood, love the “peaceful spirit” of the garden and Dory’s knowledge of “what works and what doesn’t in a garage apartment space,” said Morgan. They have also taken advantage of Dory’s unique workshops, held on the fourth Saturday of the month, recently finishing a colorful terrarium, utilizing different varieties of plants that look great in the apartment, according to Karen. The classes change monthly, usually ranging from $15-$20 with all material supplied, and you walk away with a floral treasure for your home. Private classes are also available with a minimum of four guests.

Bring your own container or buy a pot at the garden, and Dory will help pick out the perfect arrangement of plants suited to your lifestyle. The first Friday of every month, Dory picks featured flowers in their prime, so choice is great for new blooms to add to your beds.

The garden is the perfect destination for a family outing too, with hands-on play areas including a maze for kids and the very kid-friendly pond with the opportunity to feed the goldfish in the fountain. The garden has tons of seating areas to relax, but it’s not too spread out that you can’t keep an eye on the kids.

Dory promotes her love of the community by featuring ceramics, jewelry, birdhouses, and other items by local artisans. The garden is chock full of unique plants, herbs, shrubs, garden décor, outdoor furniture, tools, pots, and vibrant color as far as the eye can see.

Troy and Hillary McFarland, who were touring Tyler on a day trip from Dallas, did a Google search on “flowers” and found Dory. They brought their coffee and took a leisurely stroll around the garden, even though Hillary said, “We kill all of our plants and definitely don’t have green thumbs.” The couple said they were “amazed that this garden existed in an established neighborhood like this; what a great surprise! We were so thrilled that Dory spent the time to visit with us and explain the gardens,” said Hillary. The Dallas couple left happy with succulents and church window art for their home.

You can plan a private party in the garden or a dress-up birthday tea party with crumpets for kids with Dory’s guidance and creativity for a memory that will never be forgotten.

“Guests who visit become my new friends, and most come back and will sit and read, knit, enjoy a hot drink, or sit under the trees to feed birds and squirrels,” Dory said.

Visit Dory’s Gardens, and let your imagination soar! Dory’s Gardens is located at 600 W. Rusk St. (at Augusta). Dory’s Gardens is open Thursday-Saturday, 9am-5pm. For more info call (903)330-4663,, or look for Dory’s Gardens on Facebook.

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