Back to the home page Get your tickets here! See our complete season schedule Become a part of the show! This is how you can reach us! Our history and our mission


Violet (Musical)

Book & Lyrics by Brian Crawley
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Jake Wilhelm

August 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 2014
Doors open at 6:15, Dinner at 7:00, Show at 8:00


Dinner Rolls with Butter
Mixed Green Salad with Assorted Dressings
Breast of Chicken Chelsea
Parsley Potatoes
Green Beans with Dill
Peach Crisp with Whipped Topping

From one of most vibrant composers of modern musical theatre - Jeanine Tesori (Caroline or Change, Shrek, Thoroughly Modern Millie) - Violet boasts a score with which audiences immediately fall in love and a story that's unforgettably affecting.

As a girl, Violet was struck by a wayward axe blade when her father was chopping wood, leaving her with a visible scar across her face. With enough money finally saved she's traveling across the 1964 Deep South towards a miracle - the healing touch of a TV evangelist that will make her beautiful. Though she may not succeed in having the scar on her face healed, Violet is able to repair those that are lying deeper than her skin; and on the way she meets a young, African-American Soldier whose love for her reaches far past her physical "imperfections".

With its immaculately crafted, multi-genre score whose lyrics and book are from the fantastic Brian Crawley (A Little Prince), Violet is a powerhouse piece of theatre that needs no more than a few chairs and talented performers to take an audience's breath away.

"Violet has the most powerful score of any musical in years." -Howard Kissel, Daily News

“Here is a truly charming and meaningful new American musical: Violet" -Clive Barnes, New York Post

"A lovely piece, an easy-going but rigorous work filled with unexpected details, compassion for its quirky characters and especially, a score that uses southern popular and folk influences with unpredictable sophistication and flair." -LindaWiner, Newsday

Drama Critics Circle Award – Best Musical, Lucille Lortel Award – Outstanding Musical, Drama Desk Award Nominee – Outstanding New Musical, Outer Critics Circle Award Nominee – Best Musical

Produced through special arrangement with
Music Theatre International


Director's Notes

Violet tells the story of a facially disfigured girl as she embarks on a bus trip to be healed by a televangelist preacher. Along the way she meets a wide array of characters, including two soldiers that teach her about love, beauty, courage and faith. Set in the deep South during the early 60’s, Violet brings an amazing multi-genre score of music that is inspired by southern rock, blues, gospel and folk.

Just as the lead character, Violet, is taking the journey of a lifetime, I too am starting a new journey.  While I have acted in a number of shows, I have never directed.  I was actually in Violet as a freshman at Ball State University. I played the part of Monty. I fell in love with the show instantly, and after all these years (12ish) the show has never left my thoughts. I knew I wanted to do it again. And it has been such an exciting experience.  The cast is outstanding! They have worked their tails off since day one. Our Music Director, the wonderful Rosalie Geller, has done an excellent job teaching this very difficult music. I was extremely nervous coming into the process, but with the support of Rosalie, my stage manager Brian Wagner, Set Designers Dave Thompson and Fred Krauskopf, Costumer Melissa Junkin, and friends like Greg Stieber and Jim Hulbert, I have made it through it unharmed. I cannot wait to share this with our community.

The show itself has taken a journey as well. It premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon, under the direction of Susan H. Shulman, on March 11, 1997. It closed shortly after on April 6, 1997. It was then available for regional theatre productions, including Ball State. Other than a couple of special one night productions in New York, it wasn’t until April 20 of this year that it made its Broadway debut. Yes, it is still currently running on Broadway starring Sutton Foster, and yes, we got very lucky to snag the rights before they were closed off. So Kudos to Brian Wagner and Arena Dinner Theatre for making that happen.

The audience is asked to let go and use their imaginations with this one. Since the show follows a bus trip, there are tons of different locales in the story. Also, you will have to imagine the scar that stretches from the bridge of Violet’s nose across her right cheek. And there are also flashbacks showing her and her father’s relationship and her struggles growing up. So sit back and enjoy this very different, yet very moving story. Perhaps we can all relate to scars that are deep within us. Thank you and enjoy!


Actor Bios

MARY ALBERDING (Old Lady #1, Old Lady #2, Ensemble) - Mary is making her 11th appearance at Arena Dinner Theatre and is honored to be included in this truly incredibly amazing cast. Previous credits include Plaza Suite, Busybody, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, 1940's Radio Hour, The World Goes Round, The Butler Did It, James Dean: The Boy From Fairmount and Death By Chocolate. Other stage credits include Jessica in Curtains, Once Upon A Mattress, Meet Me In St. Louis, A Christmas Carol, and Footloose at Civic Theatre, as well as two Fort Wayne Youtheatre productions. “I am very excited to be part of the success of Jake Wilhelm's first production as a director and wish him all the best in the future. To the cast of Violet, you have raised the bar.  Love you all!”

WILLIAM ANDREWS-COOPER (Preacher, Bus Driver #1, Rufus, Bus Driver #4) – William is thrilled to be returning to Arena after last playing Young Scrooge/Nephew  in Scrooge the Musical in 2001. Favorite professional acting credits include: Little Richard Simmons in America's Next Top Bottom and Fatlataba in Ug! The Caveman Musical at TOTS,  J. Bruce Ismay in Titanic The Musical and Moose in Crazy For You all at Meyers Dinner Theatre. William is an award winning actor, director, sound and light designer having won a Best Supporting Actor Anthony Award for Biloxi Blues, an Eppy for Best Production for The Mousetrap and an Encore Award for Best Director of the 2013 Indianapolis season. While in Indianapolis he conceived and directed two musicals revues, Remember Your Hit Parade and Bubble Gum and Bobby Sox. Many thanks to Jake and Brian for letting me heal people! And this one is for Pookie!   

DANA BIXLER (Young Violet) - Dana Bixler is very excited to make her Arena debut. She will be a senior this fall at Homestead High School. Some of her favorite roles include Lois/Bianca in Kiss Me Kate, Marion in The Music Man, Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank, and Bielka in Fiddler on the Roof. She is excited to perform with her sister, Darby, and her dad, Kent, in another show. She would like to thank her mother and the rest of her family for their support.

DARBY BIXLER (Violet) - Darby is very excited to be participating this summer in her first Arena show. This fall, Darby will be continuing her education as an acting student at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her previous roles include Cinderella (Into the Woods), Younger Woman (Gint), Rebecca (Our Town) at IPFW, as well as Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance) at The Wagon Wheel Theatre. Darby is thrilled to be doing a show with her father, Kent, and sister, Dana, and would like to thank them, as well as her mother, for the unconditional support!

KENT BIXLER (Violet’s Father) - This is Kent's first time on stage at the Arena Dinner Theatre.  Kent has performed in a number of shows in the Ft. Wayne area including Mr. Hart in 9 to 5: The Musical, the Bishop in Les Miserables and Wilbur in Hairspray.  Other shows include Fiddler On The Roof, Gypsy, Cole Porter and Annie.  Kent is having a great time working with his daughters who are the two Violets in the show.  He would like to thank his wife and daughters for their love, patience and support.

ALEXIS CRAGHEAD (Hotel Singer, Ensemble) – Lexie is enjoying her first show with Arena as a member of the cast of Violet. She is also known for her performance as Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime at Northrop High School, among many other productions during her high school career. Lexie took a break from theatre to concentrate on her schooling and career, but is very excited to be performing again. She currently works as an account manager for a local business and enjoys getting together with family and friends and jamming with her best friend in their band, City Country. Lexie wishes to thank the cast, crew and director for all of their dedication and hard work to make this experience such a success and pleasure.

BILL CRAIGHEAD (Leroy Evans, Bus Driver #2, Virgil, Earl, Ensemble) – Bill was previously seen on the Arena stage as Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again, Sam and offstage as a member of the crew of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Previous credits include Xanadu (Terpsichore, Hermes, 80’s Rocker) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Caiaphas, Apostle, Ensemble), both at the University of St. Francis. A student at Indiana Tech, Bill is participating in their communications program and works as the Bar Manager for The Deck at The Gas House.

DEREK GULLEY (Radio Singer, Billy Dean, Creepy Guy, Waiter, Mechanic, Bus Driver #3) – Derek is making his Arena debut in Violet. About to start his junior year, Derek has a concentration in vocal performance at Otterbein University where he studies with James Flora. Past credits include Anything Goes (Sailor), How to Succeed in Business… (Mr. Bratt), Bye, Bye, Birdie (Albert Peterson), Hello Dolly! (Cornelius Hackle) and Chicago (Fred Casely). He has also appeared in various operas and oratorios while at Otterbein. Derek is set to travel to Ireland in January touring with the Otterbein Concert Choir. “I would like to thank my parents, Jeff and Deidra, for all their support and my instructors and mentors, James Flora, Curtis Shaw, and Robert Nance. Thank you to the cast and crew and everyone at Arena Dinner Theatre for making this experience a memorable one."


MASON HUNTER (Monty) - Mason has had a busy year of theatre after performing most recently at the Civic Theatre in Sisters of Swing and also in Spamalot. He enjoys improvisational comedy and writes and records his own music. This is his first show at Arena and he's having a blast! All his thanks go to his family and close friends and, of course, the wonderful cast of Violet. 


MAGGIE LEAVELL (Mabel, Ensemble) – Maggie is happy to be making her Arena debut in Violet.  A graduate of Northrop High School, she was a member of Charisma Showchoir and appeared in numerous productions including Holes, Ragtime, Guys & Dolls, Anything Goes and as Brooke Wyndham in Legally Blonde.  She has been seen in many Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre productions including Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Legally Blonde and Hairspray.  She also appeared in the University of Saint Francis production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Maggie thanks Jake Wilhelm for the opportunity to work with this awesome cast.


AMANDA SIMPKINS (Music Hall Singer, Ensemble) – Amanda is excited to appear in her second Arena production. She was previously seen as Sylvia in last season’s Stepping Out. Amanda graduated from IPFW with a BA in Theatre with an emphasis in musical theatre and a minor in communications. Her previous credits include Nancy in the IPFW/Youtheatre production of Oliver!, Frosine in IPFW’s The Miser along with many productions at the Civic Theatre and other community productions over the past ten years. Amanda would like to thank her family and friends, especially her parents, for always standing by her and supporting her dreams. “I love you, mom and dad. Thank you for everything.”


NICK WALTERS (Flick) - Nick is excited to make his Arena debut in Violet. His prior stage experience includes many shows on the Northrop High School stage, including Check Please, The Producers, Catch Me If You Can, and many Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre productions including, most recently, his role as Seaweed in Hairspray. He has also spent the past few years as a member of "Charisma", Northrop's show choir, and in the fall will be attending Ball State University to pursue a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. Nick would like to wish all of his castmates a good show!

FATIMA WASHINGTON (Gospel Soloist, Landlady, Ensemble) – Fatima is making her Arena debut with Violet, but is no stranger to the stage. After taking four years off to attend college, Fatima decided to pursue music full time. Most recently, Fatima has opened for Jagged Edge and sung back-up vocals for Trace Adkins while on the Shine On Tour with Martina McBride to thousands.  Additionally, she has opened for After 7, Keith Sweat, Bobby Valentino, the SOS Band, The Whispers, and shared a stage with Tony Award winner Heather Headley.  Fatima has toured New York, California, Chicago, Atlanta, Dayton, and various parts of Europe, including The Eiffel Tower in Paris, leaving indelible marks at every event. At home in Indiana, she started singing background vocals and recording voiceovers on various studio recordings for Sweetwater Sound. Fatima has performed for Down the Line Concert Series 2009, The Homeless Walk, Fort Wayne Urban League Black & White Ball, Indianapolis Sickle Cell Foundation, Indianapolis Black Expo, and Fort Wayne Magazine’s Women’s Night Out. On September 24, 2011 Fatima released her debut CD ‘A Part of Me’ to the world available on iTunes and Amazon. She would like to thank Jake Wilhelm for giving her the opportunity to add another facet to her career!

JAKE WILHELM (Director): Jake is the father of two beautiful daughters, Mackenzie and Mary. He is a server at Eddie Merlots and the lead vocalist for the band djenetic drift. He was most recently seen onstage here at Arena as Paul in Company and Gordon Page in Laughing Stock. Other recent credits include: Enjolras in Les Miserables at FW Civic Theatre, Almost, Maine and Chris Colcord's True Life Christmas Disasters, both at Arena, and the part of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar at the University of St. Francis. He is very pleased to be making his directorial debut with Violet and is very proud of his talented cast of friends and new faces. He would like to thank his mother, Jan, for her constant support and Eddie Merlots for being so flexible with his schedule during the shows he does. 


ROSALIE GELLER (Musical Director) - Rosalie is a graduate of Indiana University Jacob’s School of Music.  She holds a Bachelor of Music Education and Masters of Education from IU.  Rosalie is beginning her 28th year of teaching choral music in public schools.  She has been Director of Choirs and Vocal Music at Churubusco Junior-Senior High School, Homestead High School and is currently at Columbia City High School.  Her show choirs and concert programs are consistent finalists at competitions throughout the mid-west. Rosalie has appeared, directed or assisted in direction of over sixty plays and musicals throughout the United States.  Although she has been featured in leading and supporting roles at Arena Theatre, this is her first time to direct vocal music for an Arena production. Rosalie credits her parents and family with consistent support and encouragement as she continues teaching music and sharing the musical talents God has blessed her with.


© 2005-2013 Arena Dinner Theatre.