Making a Scene… Tanya Gertz / Luther Center Stage Series

This is the first of the 5 part series, Making a Scene – from our fall 2014 magazine.
Written/Interviews by Benji Nichols

CFLWe all know how great seeing a live performance can be, whether at a regional performing arts center, or your neighborhood tavern, but we don’t always think about the countless folks literally behind the scene, making those moments happen. Of course there are the performers, their support crew, audio and lighting techs, publicity folks, bartenders, door staff, and so many others. But what about the people who are at the helm of deciding who and what shows to bring to our region?

Inspire(d) caught up with five different leaders in the Driftless Region who are making amazing performances happen. From fine art, to rockabilly queens, to alcohol free rock and roll, and the Blues, these are the people who truly make it happen. Hats off to these fine folks and the amazing people that work with them to “make a scene” – say thanks the next time you see them (just look for the wizard behind the curtain – or more likely running around making it all happen!). Better yet, buy a ticket and go see the shows!

Tanya Gertz – Luther College Center Stage Series 

Tanya GertzThe Luther College Center Stage Series has anchored the touring performing arts in Northeast Iowa for decades. Since 2005, Tanya Gertz has been the Director of Campus Programming, rounding up staff to juggle hundreds of events moving through various spaces each year. The 2014-15 Center Stage Series kicks off September 13 with The Intergalactic Nemesis, and continues September 25 with the tap-sensation Rhythmic Circus. San Jose Taiko brings the beat October 4, and LA Theatre Works presents “In the Heat of the Night” October 24. A special primer concert with The Awful Purdies focusing on local food and farming will take place Sunday September 14 at Seed Savers exchange – the discussion after this show will be part of a theatrical production from the Working Group Theatre on the Center Stage Series this coming Spring entitled “All Recipes Are Home (April 11, 2015). There’s way more fun, Center Stage Series show info, and online tickets at: tickets.luther.edu

How’d you get into presenting events?

I have been presenting events in this big, whole-hearted way since I started at Luther. However, looking back, I should have seen the possibility long ago as I was often in leadership roles for special events at my high school and college. When I had very few funds in Chicago, I saw everything I could that was free and then all the theatre I could by volunteering anywhere that would take me!

Do you have a most “exciting” live moment?

A few years back, the dance company Diavolo was at Luther. They had this big ship-like set element and there was a moment a dancer intentionally flew off it and the entire audience gasped. It was pretty wonderful to experience that as a presenter – helping to create such a dramatic moment that everyone was connected.

If you could present one show with anyone in the world – past or present – who would it be, and why?

Oh, this question! I care first and foremost about the experience and gifts of each artist to our series. But if I had to choose, it would probably be some kind special gathering of great artists like Dolly Parton, Joshua Bell, Aretha Franklin, Martha Graham, and some young inspiring folks with them like Abigail Washburn and/or Time for Three (who have been here)! And, then once we’ve all had our hearts filled to the brim with great art and our faces lit up with joy, they would come out and greet the great people in our audience!

What are you excited about in the near future?

I am in love with the new series and the energy of it! I am very excited to have San Jose Taiko here andSan Jose Taiko offer not only the evening performance, but also a show for our local schools and multiple workshops in town and on campus. I love that they are the longest-running taiko group in the US, and that the artistic director is a woman. And, though it is next spring – I am unbelievably excited about our premiere of All Recipes Are Home… grown from the stories of the land, food, and farming in Iowa with the setting being at a Decorah family farm.

 

 

Chef on the Block: Winona’s Boat House

Chalkboard_WebIntro by Benji Nichols • Photos by Emily Kurash

Winona, Minnesota is a town rich in river history (that’s the mighty ol’ Mississippi in case you were wondering.) One of the winding sidetracks of that history includes the boathouses of Latsch Island, a small community of residents who live in floating homes just across from downtown Winona. You could say they represent a mindset, as such, of river life – living a little more intentionally, and holding a true sense of place. If you take those ideals, add a couple of entrepreneurial business partners, an empty building in Levee Park on the banks of the Mississippi, and great food and drinks, you get Winona’s Boat House.

With a rotating blackboard menu of whatever inspiration has hit daily, and a fun, worldly-yet-simple regular menu, the food can take you both around the world and right back home. The craft beer selection is great, and word on the street is that brunch – served Saturday and Sunday – is a total winner. Tip: Don’t leave without ordering a mimosa…and/or a Bloody Mary! From their regular menu, check out a (according to photographer Emily) “damn good” buffalo burger (pictured) or the chef favorite, the Boat House Lucy, along with pommes frites (including all the amazing sauces possible), or (another Emily favorite) tasty panko fried crab cakes. And any of the delicious desserts, of course!

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Second to the food, is the ambiance of the place. And they’ve got boatloads (groan)! The wrap-around patio facing the river equals summer night perfection. Amazingly, the Boat House crew has figured out how to enclose that same outdoor space, making it an almost year-round dining area, complete with a cozy stove and fun décor. But we don’t have to think about that right now – it’s summer! And it’s finally nice! So get out there and enjoy the weather, grab a cold beverage and great food, and soak in scenic vistas of the mighty Mississippi.

www.boathousewinona.com

 

MimosaWebName: Lyon Smith
Age (if you’re willing): 42
Restaurant: Boat House
Number of Years Cooking: 30

Formal training or live-and-learn?
Live and learn, that’s how we do it at the Boat House! We change with the seasons and always try and keep fresh, local ingredients and keep our menu interesting. Boat House would be considered rustic cuisine, with fresh, local ingredients, and beer of course. The kind of food you would expect if you were to visit a real boathouse on the Mississippi River.

What’s your earliest or most significant memory of cooking or being cooked for?
Hiking through the Bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley and gathering Morel mushrooms and trout fishing in the streams. Frying them up in a cast iron skillet with butter, salt and pepper with asparagus when in season. We still use that recipe; of course we get our trout from a local trout farm for the restaurant.

Why did you decide to become a chef?
Out of necessity. We love to cook and create! We live in a rural area and try to create interests in different tastes. A fusion of cultures and styles of cooking is combined to create delicious, adventurous choices for our customers.  Naturally, we started experimenting and learning out of sheer curiosity too!

What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?
The best thing I have ever made is probably the Boat House Lucy, which is a half-pound of ground beef with local Wisconsin cheese curds stuffed inside of the burger, caramelized onions, arugula, garlic aioli, and tomato on a Kaiser roll, topped off with truffle oil and served with fresh hand cut fries. People have told us it is the best burger they have ever eaten.

Do you have any monumental food fails you’d like to share with us?
Once, while making curry, I used cream de coco, instead of coconut milk, it ruined the curry, needless to say.

How about secret food indulgences you don’t normally talk about? Will you tell us?
Authentic Japanese Ramen!

What’s your favorite…
Ingredient: garlic
Dish:
fish tacos with guacamole
Cookbook: “Daniel Bouley: East of Paris: The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube”
Random (or not so random) kitchen tool: cast iron skillet
Vegetable: endives
Fruit: apple

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