The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Lunch Box Roberta Powell _ Birdie Shoemaker

Lunch Box

“In the time of a global pandemic, a community gathers online and starts sharing their memories of school lunches. The Good, the Bad, and the Leftovers. These memories of the past and a little bit of fantasy will help them get through the present.”

Instead of talking about how I got involved as an editor for this project, I thought it would be best to share this press release with the full story.


NAMRON Players Theatre announces the premiere of its new Oklahoma StoryWorks production, Lunch Box, on Depot TV on Facebook at 5 pm on June 4th.

Imagine, if you had spent nine months conducting workshops, seminars and over 50 interviews with individuals, families and groups to collect their stories of school lunch. Then you spend weeks distilling those stories down into a 90 minute script for public premiere in June by a company of Oklahoma professional actors.

The culmination of 11 months of work was on the horizon.

And then someone cancelled June.

This is what happened in mid-March to NAMRON Players Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence and Artistic Director Sheryl Martin.

Almost immediately, Sheryl announced on Facebook, “We are going to do it online.”

She set about doing a complete rewrite of the script, a script that was then rehearsed online and recorded independently from the homes and studios of the acting company, and, finally, is being edited into a video production for air on June 4 at 5pm.

Thanks to a grant from the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma professional actors Jane Gibbons, Terry Veal, Richard Lockett, Kathy Kelley Christos and Sue Ellen Reiman are featured in the production, with “cameo” appearances by local favorites Kym Bracken and Nicholas Bartell, and the debut of recent Norman North High graduate, Moira Mosely. A Norman Arts Council Arts Projects Grant, and private donors, covered the research and writing of the script for production.

Central to the creation of this new video is the work of Dennis Spielman of The Show Starts Now Studios, who volunteered his services to Norman arts organizations through the efforts of the Norman Arts Council and its Norman Arts & Humanities Roundtable. Dennis introduced the idea of producing the play as a series of vlogs, or video logs, recorded by the individual characters / actors. Local painter, sculptor, and scenic artist, Laura Sullivan, will provide some very special artwork for the production as well.

“I could not have wished for more talented, competent, and inspiring people to work with,” Sheryl says. “They took the script and brought it to life—everyone has made brilliant suggestions that have found their way into the show that you’ll see.”

Lunch Box, while a documentary play much like her first community-based script ,Potluck, differs from the earlier work in a fundamental way, Martin says.

“Changing the medium by which we delivered the play changed the way the play had to work.

“It went from being very presentational, with actors telling what are plainly other peoples’ stories, to being a show in which characters tell their own stories. But those stories are still the stories of folks in our community.”

The Depot has been a collaborative partner with Ms. Martin since the inception of the Oklahoma StoryWorks program in 2018. The Depot was scheduled to be the venue for Lunch Box, but that live premiere was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. For this reason, and many more, The Depot then offered to host the premiere of Lunch Box on its new enterprise, Depot TV, which airs on Facebook.

Lunch Box will remain on Depot TV for up to a week after the June 4 premiere. NAMRON Players Theatre also plans to stream the broadcast on its YouTube channel as well as other platforms.

“We had planned to offer a video element to our original theatrical productions,” Norman Hammon, Managing Director, “but, we had originally planned that to be a few seasons away. COVID-19 changed all of that.”

“It’s been too exciting a process to regret not doing it live,” Martin adds. “That said, I think we’ve created a show that will stand on its own, and that we can perform live, even after this crisis is past.”

NAMRON Players Theatre and the Oklahoma StoryWorks Project: Lunch Box are made possible through the generous support of the Norman Arts Council / Arts Projects Grant Program, the Oklahoma Arts Council Project Assistance Small Grant Program / National Endowment for the

Arts, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, Armstrong Bank, 2×4 Productions, The Depot, The Show Starts Now Studios, David Slemmons and the Friends of NAMRON.


The full film is now available to watch via YouTube and as well as a cast reaction video we made via Zoom.

Lunch Box Trailer

“In the time of a global pandemic, a community gathers online and starts sharing their memories of school lunches. The Good, the Bad, and the Leftovers. These memories of the past and a little bit of fantasy will help them get through the present.”


A bit of back story. With COVID-19 shutting everything down and hurting the art scene, I reached out to the Norman Arts Council to see if there was anything I do to help via film or live-streaming. They invited me to a Zoom meeting with leaders from other arts organizations in Norman where I offered some suggestions and my help.

One of the groups I connected with was Namron Players Theatre. Writer and director, Sheryl Martin, was trying to figure out how to do her play in the age of a pandemic. After telling me about the story, I suggested that everyone could do their parts as YouTube vlogs. Sheryl loved the idea.

In this article in The Oklahoman from Brandy McDonnell about how local theatres went online, Sheryl thanked me by saying, “Dennis is guiding us through the entire process. He’s doing the editing and making incredibly helpful suggestions. I am not sure that I could have done this without him – or if I had, I’m not sure I would be sane right at this moment.”

I’m happy to have been able to help! Editing for the film is complete. Lunch Box will premiere on Thursday, June 4, 2020, on Depot TV. Learn more at www.namronplayerstheatre.org

Campfire Monster Creation

During a race to get back to camp first, a pair of teens stumbled upon a paper cube that grows a monster. 


The story I am about to tell you happened on a starry October night at a place called Lake Thunderbird. Some of the locals referred to it as Lake Dirtybird on the count of the lake being murky from the clay soil. Still, it was a beautiful and beloved state park. Many of the trees were still green as Mabry and Heide raced passed them along the dirt trail. Earlier, the two had made a bet that the first one to the campfire would get the loser’s s’more.

“That s’more as good as mine,” Heide shouted from the lead.

“Don’t count your desserts just yet,” Mabry snapped back as she went off trail to get ahead.

Mabry’s shortcut did work. She did surpass Heide – until she tripped. Mabry cursed, causing her friend to stop.

Heide stopped and helped Mabry get back on her feet. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Mabry groaned. “Let’s call the race a tie.”

Heide laughed. “Only because I’ll feel bad eating your s’more. What did you trip on anyway?”

Mabry shrugged and pulled out her cellphone from her jeans. Using the flashlight feature, she scanned the area and found a cube of newspaper about the size of a baseball. The cube was densely packed. She picked it up.

“This is heavier than it looks,” Mabry commented.

“Really?” Heide questioned. Mabry handed her the cube. “Wow. This is heavy. Do you think it’ll burn?”

“Maybe. We can put it in the fire and find out.”

Heide tossed the cube back to Mabry, and the two walked back to the campsite where they joined their fellow students around the fire. The intimate group of teenagers were united for a weekend improv retreat. Standing together facing the teens were two of the “camp counselors” or improv teachers, Jessie and Nick, both in their mid-30s.

“Heide, Mabry, so glad you’re finally here,” Jessie said in a cheerful team mascot tone. “We got plenty of marshmallows and chocolates still.”

Nick noticed the dirt scuffle on Mabry’s clothes. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I tripped over this,” Mabry explained as she held out the paper cube. “Thought we could add it to the fire.”

“Go for it,” Nick encouraged, and Mabry tossed it in. 

Jessie clapped her hands, getting the group’s attention. “While everyone enjoys dessert, let’s play an icebreaker game where we each reveal something that scares us. We’ll go clockwise, and I’ll start first. I’m Jessie, and I’m afraid of ostriches.”

Jessie’s reveal garnered some giggles in the crowd.

Nick went next, holding a flashlight under his face. “Reverse Vampires. They crave sunlight! Also, Land Sharks.”

“Disease,” Mabry somberly answered, thinking of all the family she’s lost to sicknesses.

“Being burned alive,” Heide said as her marshmallow caught on fire from her impatience. 

Robyn pushed aside a streak of her white hair. “Being Followed.”

“Robyn, you’re like a black belt,” Jessie commented. “People should be worried about you following them. Michael, your turn.”

Michael adjusted his metal glasses and stumbled to confess, “Drowning.”

“Asphyxiation!” Shai jumped with an unexpected burst of excitement, eager to share.

The last person, Jeff, took a deep breath and, with a serious face, answered, “Sandpaper.”

The group laughed.

“What?” Jeff huffed. “It’s a texture thing.”

“Okay, okay,” Nick instructed, “let’s play another–”

The crackling fire collapsed into itself. The group went silent as they watched the paper cube pulsate with a rainbow of colors. The cube began to expand, like one of those black snake fireworks that grow when lit on fire. Then, it ramped up in speed, growing and forming an ash black ostrich with a shark’s dorsal fin on its neck and pectoral fins instead of wings. A green sewage cloud of disease-ridden gas seeped out of its mouth.

The creature let out a terrifying screech. The campers scattered every which direction as it whipped out its monstrously long tongue around Jeff’s body and Shai’s neck. The tongue was rough like sandpaper. Jeff and Shai pulled, clawed, and fought back. In retaliation, the creature flung them into a tent.

The creature spotted Heide running down a trail by herself. It spat out a fireball, catching Heide on fire. While Heide rolled around on the ground, the creature scurried down another path. 

“What the hell is that?” Robyn asked Mabry as they and Michael ran as fast as they could.

“Like hell, if I know,” Mabry snapped back.

“It’s like an amalgamation of our fears,” Michael commented, struggling to keep up.

Robyn turned her head back. “It’s following us!”

“Just keep running,” Mabry encouraged.

The trio burst out of the woods, leaving them nowhere else to run with the lake before them.

“Great,” Michael grumbled.

Mabry pointed across the lake. “Let’s swim to the other side. It’s not a long stretch. Maybe it can’t swim.”

“But who knows what’s in that lake,” Michael exclaimed. “There could be alligator snapping turtles.”

“It’s either that or face the monster,” Mabry laid out.

The creature screeched, prompting the three of them to jump and swim, with Mabry leading the charge. The teens were halfway across when the beast arrived at the shore. The creature paused as a powerful beam of light from a park ranger’s flashlight shined on it. The monster hissed and charged at the park ranger.

Mabry was the first one across. She watched as the park ranger firmly stand his ground as the monster lunged at him. The park ranger opened fire, his gun emitting an icy blue beam. The creature burst into a puff of smoke.

Before Mabry could process what she witnessed, her fellow campers walked out the water only to be greeted with the light of another park ranger. She had buzzcut hair and was short, at about five-feet tall, but stood with a calm authority that made her appear taller. The name patch on her green uniform shirt read, “Ranger Mists.”

“Are you all okay?” Mists asked.

“This–this land shark ostrich monster is chasing us,” Michael blurted out with no regard for how crazy he sounded.

Mists pointed her flashlight at the park ranger across the lake. He gave her a thumbs up. She led the light back at the teens. “You’re safe now. My partner took care of it. Where did you first see it?”

“I found this weird cube of paper that I tossed in our fire, and it grew from that,” Mabry explained to the ranger.

“Where’s the rest of your group?”

“At the Post Oak campground,” Mabry said. She started to feel uncomfortable with how comfortable Mists was with believing them.

“We’re part of an improv retreat,” Robyn added. “There’s us plus our teachers, Nick and Jessie, and then Heide, Jeff, and Shai.”

Mists put her hand on Robyn’s shoulder to reassure her. “Don’t worry. We’ll help them, and then this will all just be a bad dream.”

The silver bracelet around Mists’ wrist that was resting on Robyn’s shoulder emitted a calming white aurora that put the teens to sleep. 


I made a post on Facebook, “It’s my Birthday and I’ll kill you off at a summer camp if that’s okay with you. Leave a comment with something that scares you.” I took the fears they responded with and named a character after them. When writing this story, I wrote with the intent of telling this at a campfire.

Sleep well! 

Sergio’s Italian Bistro

Doing traditional Italian dishes with a personal twist, Sergio’s Italian Bistro offers fresh food in Downtown Norman, making sure every item is different from everybody else.

As we stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, Sergio’s Italian Bistro now offers evening delivery in Norman, curbside service, and online delivery through Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Doordash. For the latest news and offers, visit Sergio’s Facebook page.

I filmed this story before the pandemic hit the state. I had planned to go back and get some b-roll of the cocktails, but that’s when dinning rooms got shut down. This was the last story I had saved. Website traffic has plummeted as people aren’t/can’t go out. I’ll be doing articles to keep things going and maybe a video when possible or appropriate. I’ll be figuring things out on a day by day basis as that’s all I can do.

You can visit Sergio’s Italian Bistro at 104 East Gray Street in Norman or online at SergiosItalianBistro.com

Yellow Dog Coffee & Okie Baking Co

Co-housed together in Downtown Norman, Okie Baking Co, and Yellow Dog Coffee complement each other to provide tasty treats and drinks. Robert Wilson from Yellow Dog Coffee and Shannon Hanchett from Okie Baking Co talk about their origin stories, their passions, and what they offer.

Visit them at 109 East Tonhawa Street (facing Jones Avenue) in Norman. Parking Tip: The best place to park your car is a little south, in front of The Foundry on Jones Avenue, where there are stips of free parking. Don’t park in front of the building on Tonhawa as that’s reserved for a law firm housed there. 

Learn more about Yellow Dog Coffee at www.yellowdogcoffeecompany.com and Okie Baking Co at www.okiebakingco.com

I filmed this story before the whole COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. I want to share that people can still visit their drive-thru location, Cool Beans, to purchase coffee, muffins, and cookies. People can also email Shannon directly to order half dozens or bakers dozens at shannon@okiebakingco.com or call her at 405-213-2896. Yellow Dog Coffee is also offering curb-side pick-up of drinks and roasted beans.

Thank you to my supporters on Patreon for helping to make Uncovering Oklahoma possible, especially during this crazy time! Supporters get awesome rewards, like early access to my episodes. Big thanks to superstar supporters: Lynn and Steve Keller-Kenton Family and Revolve Productions.

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