All posts by Ben Tiscareno

Talent Show Reflections

This July saw a great amount of activity come to St. Helens, inviting engagement from town residents and welcoming visitors from around the county.  Large events such as the Columbia County Fair & Rodeo, various sized activities presented in the city’s Recreation Program, and the one-night-only Our County’s Talent Show hosted by ShoeString Community Players.  The talent show took place on July 28th, wrapping up a very hot month in an air-conditioned auditorium, with the spotlight on veteran acts and first time performers alike.

After the show ended, some of the volunteers went to pick up the sandwich board signs which had been placed around St. Helens to advertise the event.  With the sun going down, this quiet time provided opportunity to appreciate the entertaining & enriching performances they had just witnessed.  The energizing laughter and stirring of emotions during the show reverberated in their hearts with a freshness of the experience.  While helping load up the signs, it was a great chance to let the memories simmer; combining time serving the community in this small way, with enjoying the highlights of the talent show crisp in their minds.

Those highlights of course include the unique performances of the night.  Each act taking the audience members on a different adventure, through a different emotional journey.  A special aspect of the show was the connections forged between stage and audience.  For instance as performers entered the spotlight, their excitement and nerves could be felt by attendees in Olmscheid Auditorium.  Most of us were there to cheer on the folks bravely taking stage, full of our own excitement & encouragement.  We could also observe their focus and feel their satisfaction at showing off their talent.  Woven into this connection was the diverse waves of emotions each act took the audience through.  The haunted longing of Stefani’s “On My Own” from Les Miserable; the giggles when Linda’s musical voice put words to a song of her own creation called “The I Am Just like Taylor Swift Blues” performed on the ukulele, and the deep respect when we learned she also taught herself the instrument; the pure pleasure when Jon opened the show with his singing & piano skills, putting grins on faces and getting heads bobbing in the audience.  Another highlight was Keith, the Master of Ceremonies and his endless wit, providing light-hearted transition between acts.  These were some of the fresh memories being enjoyed while running around town picking up the sign posters & boards.

Then there were the teen and child performers, displaying incredible courage on stage while pouring their hearts into the acts they had been practicing.  The pair of cousins in
Yo Factor danced their yo-yos to music with remarkable skill; the older cousin confident and humble, the younger of the two displaying finesse and getting his entire body moving into the act.  Or the smallest performer of the night, needing a foot stool to reach the microphone, and not letting that deter from pouring his heart into “Remember Me” from Disney-Pixar’s CocoOne of the teenager acts performed a Patsy Cline cover of “Blue” that belonged on stage in Nashville – her beautiful voice resonating with such power, perfect pitch, a dash of that country sass, and a STRENGTH of presentation that filled every inch of the auditorium.  Just … wow! And who can forget the final act? A pair of T-Rex’s dancing to hip hop jams.  Many members of the audience were laughing so hard they struggled to catch their breath! When one of the dinosaur outfits began to misbehave and look narcoleptic, the young lady inside kept dancing, and it only enhanced the performance’s effect.  Proof in action that the show must go on!  Watching all of these youthful acts was a tangible example of how much courage we are capable of, a hint at the talents inside waiting to be unlocked, and a powerful reminder to step onto Life’s stage with all the fire in our hearts.

There was more talent brought forth in Our County’s Talent Show than the short list above.  It was an honor to have witnessed all the performances, and also a great value at just $5 a ticket!  As the evening was wrapping up beneath the setting sun, it felt right to enjoy the satisfaction of completing a successful night of local entertainment.  Not just appreciating this one night, but all the actions and careful attention which come before most productions:
– helping distribute promotional material,
– coordinating with other volunteers,
– efforts from multiple parties to recruit talent,
– reserving the space,
– all the planning and organizing ahead of time,
– and the work to put on the show front stage & back.
Investing time & energy into creating the experience of
Our County’s Talent Show was a genuine service to others.  Watching the show was a magnificent validation of that investment.  It is worth celebrating how it all paid off that late July night, when each act lit up the stage!  It is a great reward to witness the performers shine, and to feel their glow afterwards as they greet guests in the lobby.

It was in this heart space of feeling good that the volunteers for ShoeString Community Players went their separate ways after the show.  Some went out to dinner, others to put away equipment, and some to pick up the sandwich boards around town.  SSCP provides many such opportunities to serve our community through art & theater, and through supportive actions along the way.  As the sun dropped over the horizon, the sky began darkening quickly while we unloaded the sandwich boards at their destination.
Finishing this small, final task brought the sensation of finishing a successful production.  Which in turn capped off a successful month for our little town.  The auditorium had been packed up, performers gone home, signs taken down and the streets were quieting.  With another cycle of theater activity coming to a close, most volunteers were taking the time to recharge.  A very small handful were already dreaming of the next adventures that ShoeString Community Players will be creating.  Around the corner comes October, the Halloween season, and the Spirit of Halloweentown celebration for which St. Helens has grown famous.

Our Thanks to all the helpers and performers who made the 2018 Talent Show a success!
What opportunities to perform or build come next, waiting for SSCP members & volunteers?
Are you ready to enjoy the laughter and spooks appearing in town this October?
Are you ready to create some, with a group that specializes in making memories?

Not all performance talent takes place on stage – some waits down dark corridors, or haunts you in public.  Will you step into a role this October, and literally step up to create memories for your neighbors and town visitors alike?

Join ShoeString Community Players.  Watch our media pages.
And get ready to BE one of the attractions that draws folks from around the nation, as they come to experience St. Helens – the Town That Halloween Made.

One More Night of Talent Show Auditions

Last night there was singing in Olmscheid Auditorium. Laughter could also be heard drifting out of the room.  The sounds of music would occasionally rise from the portable speakers, or from someone’s instrument.  There were hats, and dresses, and colorful personalities of all kinds!  The first night of auditions for Our County’s Talent Show saw the first wave of local talent trying out on stage.

There was also paperwork (thrilling), a crack team of volunteers (love ’em!) to streamline the process, and a director on hand to guide those gathered.  The director’s antics were one source for the laughter heard throughout the night!  With the variety of local performers and the unique personas accompanying the talent, the ShoeString team was crucial to meeting everyone’s needs and making sure each act had their due time on stage.


And what about you?  Did you or your group miss last night’s chance to audition for the talent show?  Did you have a conflicting schedule and were unable to attend?  Are you still dreaming of picking up that mic and being bold on stage?  Then dream on, and fear not!  The knock of opportunity continues for one more night.  One more night for the chance to turn your dreams into reality.

Auditions for Our County’s Talent Show continue this Thursday evening.   Same place, at the Olmscheid Audition in St. Helens High School.

Same time, at 7:00 pm and going until every attendee has had their chance to try out.

Don’t miss your chance again!  Its time to put your doubts to rest, call in your crew, and show up tonight with your heart set on performing at Our County’s Talent Show.  We know you have the talent.  We know the interest & passion are there.  Our community here in Columbia County is ready to support and cheer you on stage!

Auditions are welcoming to a wide array of talents. Don’t be shy to bring your flavor to the stage, and let that light shine! Possible examples (but certainly not an exclusive listing) include singing, dancing, martial arts, in a band, magic, athletic prowess, gymnastics, tap dancing, playing a musical instrument, bicycle gymnastics, juggling, drumming, acting, lip-syncing, comedy, poi balls, building something to dramatic music, drawing with unique materials, unicycle stunts, combinations of multiple talents… to the very edge of entertainment! Let us see what creative expressions of talent you can bring to the stage, and let Columbia County experience your performance in Our County’s Talent Show!

Opportunity Knocks THIS week

“I would love to be in a talent show!  But…”

Nope.  No more “but…” this time. Don’t let a ‘but’ kill this dream!

We know you have the talent.  Can feel that burning itch to perform.  That passion to do what you love and what you’ve been practicing.  To share that skill & inner fire on stage, to a crowd that supports you.  No more waiting; no more ‘buts’ in the way. The time is now. This Summer of 2018 will be the start to your next chapter.  ShoeString Community Players is here with the sound of opportunity knocking.

That knock is Our County’s Talent Show!

It’s not a competition.
There are no judges to measure and compare you against other performers.

This is a welcoming stage to spotlight your talent to the community, put on by the ShoeString Community Players, supported by the community.

THIS Wednesday and Thursday (the 11th & 12th) at 7:00pm are your chances to audition to enter the Talent Show.  Come join us at Olmscheid Auditorium at the St. Helens High School. with your gear, your crew, your audition tape, your band, your team… and whatever else you need to audition for a spot on stage.

What age range of performers are we seeking?  ALL AGES!

What group size is ideal?  From individual performers to ANY SIZE group!!

What kind of talent are we looking for?  ALL KINDS!!

“What about singing, dancing, singing AND dancing, in a band, drumming, tap dancing, playing a musical instrument…?“  YES. Those are fantastic performance talents! We’d love to see you at this week’s auditions.

“How about demonstrations of athletic prowess,, martial arts, gymnastics, bicycle gymnastics, juggling…?”  ABSOLUTELY! The talent to practice and focus on those skills is one we’d love to have shining on stage! Choreographed or improvised, with music & lights or without, solo or in a group, please come show us what you have!

“I have fun with some things and am pretty good at some of them too. Not sure if they’re a talent though…”
That’s one reason we have auditions! 😀 Some talents are right in front of us, and others are creative ideas we hadn’t thought of yet.  Acting, lip-syncing, magic, comedy, to poi balls, to list more possible examples of creative expressions of your talent. Building something to dramatic music, drawing with unique materials, unicycle stunts, combinations of multiple talents, to the very edge of entertainment!  The time is now. You have been practicing, and you will be ready.

Our county has been waiting to cheer on your talent.

You have been waiting to ignite that inner fire, and show off your passion.

ShoeString Community Players is here with the opportunity to end the waiting.

Get ready to shine at Our County’s Talent Show!

Pre-register at the link below, or join SSCP at 7pm this Weds/Thur (11th or 12th) at Olmscheid Auditorium to audition.

Please Pre-Register at→

We are asking for a $10 registration fee that includes a ShoeString Community Players membership.  Scholarships are available for those in need!  You need to audition and be seen and heard!

Talent Show Auditions Happening July!

How do you build the interest & content to host a county-wide Talent Show?  When putting on a show that highlights local performers, how do you reach out to those talented individuals & groups wanting a chance to shine in the spotlight?  How can you inspire residents to boldly step forward and let out the performer inside?  And how do you notify the public that their friends & neighbors will be gathering to put on a diverse & entertaining show; one which will echo through Columbia County’s collective memories?

There are many options & steps to answer those questions. Some are newer and use modern technology, some rely on networking & human connection, and some are tried & true methods birthed in humanity’s history of hosting performance art. Volunteering for ShoeString Community Players is an invaluable opportunity to learn about all of these options, including the fundamental step of being visible to the public eye.

Saturday morning, before the Kiwanis parade, was one such opportunity. It was real ‘boots on the ground’ action creating one tested & successful solution to the challenges mentioned above – distributing sandwich boards around St. Helens.  A small crack team  gathered where the signs are kept.

We assembled each sandwich board with the audition call for Our County’s Talent Show, and placed them where they are most likely to be seen at locations where the residents can see the signs as they pass by, and folks can be inspired to come audition their talent! Or be inspired to become an audience in support of their friends & neighbors.  Distributing these signs is real call to action, to gather the most talented, and increase the impact of the Talent Show.  Yet to make it happen will required showing up, and giving it your all with one’s investment of attention & energy.

Volunteering provides a plethora of ways to be involved, as enjoyable or difficult as we choose when showing up to serve.  No two activities are quite the same, it’s live and unedited, and I find this quality makes volunteering for SSCP very exciting! This particular early adventure included aspects such as:

  • coordinating transporation
  • tasty coffee (a MUST have for any morning activity!)
  • great conversation
  • playing with hammers & staple guns
  • waving at local friends I’ve come to recognize in St. Helens
  • a humbling slip to the ground when too focused on taking a picture, in front of witnesses!
  • A LOT of hustle to finish before parade preparation time.

Where does the motivation come from to take these actions?  What could possibly inspire someone to show up and go through this experience, when there is no paycheck involved?  Life is busy enough, so what drives a person to make time for activities like this?  What drives us to come back for more?

Every person answers these questions differently. That diversity is part of what makes life & humanity so interesting, and keeps the wheels turning.  Sometimes the motive is like a burning coal in a person’s mind or in one’s heart, needing only a little fuel & fanning to ignite a bonfire of active service. Other times it is unknown when first showing up, and is discovered through deliberate steps along the way.  Some motives are shared with fellow ShoeString Community Players, and some are unique to an individual’s perspective.  The simple love of theater & the arts can be a significant driver to many volunteers for SSCP, which seems an obvious motive.  Strengthening the value of a healthy performance art culture, and the value this culture contributes to a community’s creativity & resilience, are other possible motives.

Having observed many friends & local acquaintances who possess a particular skill or talent, whatever their current audience size, I often wish more of our community could see them perform. I have been honored to witness many of you display your skill or passion, and have not yet had the chance for others. Volunteering to promote Our County’s Talent Show to St. Helens & Columbia County is a way to help you and many other folks shine your talent to an audience who previously may not have seen what you can do. To be impressed as I have been impressed, to share in the “Wow!” factor, and to make memories together.  These are reasons behind this volunteer’s intention when showing up to contribute towards the event’s success.

Drawing in more talent for the show and building a larger audience is another motive which resonates with some volunteers, and drives these promotion efforts.  Actually getting on stage and performing is not this writer’s strength. Yet these promotional activities create the opportunity to practice my own passions – writing and making connections in our community. ShoeString Community Players as an organization provides many such chances, and Our County’s Talent Show is one of the most exciting ones on the radar currently! Volunteering attention toward this event opens doors for moving about town, being neighborly and a part of this community, networking and building connections, practicing my passion while giving a platform for other talented locals to practice theirs, and using a wide variety of tools to give the talent show the greatest impact possible. What a great set of motives! And what a great time to be a part of creating something together!

From assembling the sandwich boards Saturday morning, to placing the audition calls in the public eye, to recording the experience, and now writing about what it was like to contribute this small but important piece. It is a learning process to step up and show up to be a part of something amazing. Our County’s Talent Show is the chance to invest your attention & interest, whether you are a performer, a volunteer, or an audience member.

Where will you find your place?  What passion are you already practicing, or perhaps have kept hidden and now feel the call to bring out? What individual talent or group performance are you wanting to share with your community?  In what way can you volunteer, contribute, audition, and co-create what will surely be a magnificent display of performances that will be remembered and talked about long into our future?  Our Country’s Talent Show is that knock of opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

Auditions will be held July 11th & 12th
7:00 PM at Olmscheid Auditorium, St. Helens High School
Our County’s Talent Show is open to ALL AGES…  Young kids and older adults need not be bashful.

The show invites individuals & groups to bring their passion and showcase their skills, ranging from singing, dancing, athletic prowess, in a band, lip-syncing, musical instrument, martial arts, acting, gymnastics, drumming, magic, to juggling, martial arts, singing, tap dancing, dancing, comedy, gymnastics, and to edge of entertainment and other creative expressions of your talent!  We are awaiting your presence.

Please pre-register at

We are asking for a $10 registration fee that includes a ShoeString Community Players membership.  Scholarships are available for those in need!  You need to audition and be seen and heard!

ShoeString Community Players Audition Call for the Annual Summer Musical

ShoeString Community Players is diving into an epic summer with this heart-warming musical.  As stated on “Helen on 86th St.” is based on a short story that is taught in high school classrooms across the country. The musical follows Vita Calista, a vibrant and unique 12-year old girl, and her dreams of stardom when her drama class announces that they are producing The Trojan Horse as a play. Vita wants nothing more than to be Helen on stage, but obstacles are in her way. It’s a story of loss, longing and acceptance, as seen through the eyes of a young girl wise beyond her years. Like the epic Greek stories it interweaves, “Helen on 86th St.” carries a message of hope and redemption that resonates with people of all ages. Will Vita achieve her dream of playing Helen of Troy? You’ll have to come support Vita through her struggles at home, in the classroom, and on stage to find out!

Auditions are being held May 29, 30 and 31 from 6:30pm-8:30pm.  Location for auditions is St. Helens High School- Loowit Room, Building B. St. Helens High school is located at 2375 Gable Rd.  St. Helens, OR  97051.


Character Descriptions and requirements:

Must be able to sing very well and some dancing.

ShoeString Community Players is looking for dedicated youth in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. There are roles for 11 girls and 3 boys, and 12 kids for a full ensemble from these grade ranges. Singing is a must for this performance, and some dancing. There is a need for 1 Female in her mid 30’s, 1 Female between the ages of 30-50, and 1 Male or Female between the ages 30-50. These cast members will have a Full Theater experience

Production crew



Stage Manager

Assistant Stage Manager

Props Manager

Costume Manager

Lighting/ Sound crew, Spotlights

House Manager

Set construction/ Painters

Backstage crew

For more information contact:

Shannon Vaerewyck, Director

[Visual link button to Audition Form]



The night Scarecrows came to McCormick Park

It was late October of 2016. The month long celebration honoring the filming of “Halloweentown” in St. Helens had been growing in excitement every weekend. With Halloween itself around the corner, the energetic pulse of the city was escalating to fever pitch – combining local enthusiasm, waves of tourist attention, family friendly events, and creepy shapes moving in the night. If you recall 2016 was the year that hundreds of eerie clown sightings were happening across the nation, with a number spotted here in town. The Autumn chill carried hints of other dark things being shaken loose beneath the surface.

With this atmosphere around town, people were paying more attention to their surroundings than ever. Reports began of strange shapes moving among the trees in McCormick Park; of creatures watching cars and pedestrians along Old Portland Rd.


More than just movement in the dark was being reported. Ghostly lights and inhuman calls were coming from deep in the undergrowth. A mysterious fog oozed out once the sun was down, and covered the nearby bridge.

Nights in the park had been quiet for months, after the city began closing McCormick Park’s campgrounds at sunset earlier that summer. But as late October approached this nighttime quiet began to change.

It was eventually discovered that ShoeString Community Players was hosting an extremely unique tour of the park after hours, introducing guests to “Scarecrows! Tales in the Dark”. This adventure into the darkest trails of St. Helens took courageous souls among the spindly trees and swampy ground. On this tour travelers  were able to uncover the twisted history behind the town’s scarecrow decorations. Along the darkened trails, the bravest among us could learn the true & forgotten purpose of why the scarecrows are put up every October. Those bold enough to take this tour last year came face-to-face with the hungry forces that the scarecrows protect us from…  and hear from previous residents of St. Helens who were not lucky enough to make it out alive.

We find ourselves here again. Once more it grows late in the month of October. The scarecrow decorations are in place all around town, as is tradition. The excitement and haunting atmosphere has returned to St. Helens, and Halloween is right around the corner.  Shapes are moving in McCormick Park after dark again. Haunted spirits and a more malevolent presence.

Gather your courage, gather your friends & your loved ones, and check out ShoeString Community Players’ presentation of the Haunted Tours in McCormick Park – “Scarecrows! Tales in the Dark”. An outdoor scare experience, unique to one of our city’s creepiest parks, with tales to be told on October 27 & 28. First tour at 7pm, and last tour at 10pm. Tours take place every 30 minutes – please arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time.

Will you brave the damp & cold of McCormick Park’s trails this year?
Are you willing to learn what hides behind the festive and sometimes silly decorations put up all across the city?
Will the scarecrows protect you, or take you to join them in the dark?

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A Haunted Tour Through Downtown St. Helens

“This is festival so cool! If I lived in this town, I would come down here and scare people all month long!”
– Pedestrian walking by an hidden performer, who is acting like a decorative scarecrow.

“I do live here. We are doing exactly that!”
– Performer, quickly breaking scarecrow pose to share their excitement with the startled pedestrian.

Last October 2016, during the Spirit of Halloweentown celebration, some town residents found themselves living in a dream come true nearly every weekend.  Living in a whole town of Halloween fantasy, putting on fun costumes, walking around the decorated downtown, checking out all the scarecrows.  Other residents volunteered to become part of the show, and created this Halloween land of dreams and nightmares!  Being painted in terrifying makeup, donning haunting costumes, and sneaking around downtown St. Helens coordinating fright after fright.  What an experience!

The targets of these haunts were groups of folks walking through our city’s streets and parks.  No – this was not part of some rude, unsolicited pranks against innocent victims and unwary visitors to our little home.  Well perhaps there were a FEW innocent victims… And no matter how wary the visitors were, the highly coordinated spooks still inspired more fear and fun screams than can be found during a typical weekend downtown any other time of the year.

Quiet main street in downtown St. Helens.  Deserted and lonely?  Or waiting with hushed breath for the ghoulish hauntings to begin?






Putting on these shows and coordinating all the different elements, including the scariest moments, cannot be done without committed participation from our volunteers and weeks of organizing ahead of time.  The results are absolutely worth the investment!  Volunteering for ShoeString Community Players last October was a significant highlight of 2016 for many of the participants.  The performances of ‘St. Helens Haunted Tours’ and ‘Scarecrows: Tales in the Dark’ easily qualify in my personal Top Ten most fun experiences!  Tremendous credit goes to the diverse group of volunteers who showed up for weeks, with minds & hearts full of the passion to perform in the various roles, acting and support crew.  An extra helping of credit goes to the directors, writers, and organizers for each production – sometimes they were the same person!  It can often be a challenge to create these shows, and then to channel all the different talents so they can come to life.

The creative and dedicated volunteers who made up the cast & crew of each production all shared in the same playful spirit.  Connecting with them was a delight for any volunteer or show attendee.  With the variety of talents brought to the table, and a solid team of directors to organize them, SSCP was able to deliver weekend after weekend of solid performances during 2016’s Spirit of Halloweentown celebration.  ‘Scarecrows’ transformed McCormick Park into a darkened nightmare, where the very trees and bushes came to life, reaching for those who came to hear the tales of lost souls.  The Haunted Tours through downtown kept the crowds uneasy in between scenes, never knowing which dark storefront or alley would spill out horrors from St. Helens’ history.  Frightful fun for the guests, and a tremendous blast for the volunteers!

Preacher who presided over the Damned, 
and a Soul who lost to his way to liquor and is lost in time.

After contributing to numerous performances throughout the years, it becomes apparent that the satisfaction from each show is largely determined by the players and personalities involved; more so than by the logistics alone.  SSCP nailed every aspect of their Spirit of Halloweentown productions last year, including being adaptable when unexpected plot twists arose on performance night.  After all, the show must go on!  This focus on having fun, and balancing plans with spontaneity, is cultivated from the 30+ years of history behind the organization.  St. Helens is fortunate to have ShoeString Community Players based in their city.  An active theater culture brings many benefits to the town, and our residents have many opportunities to volunteer for SSCP and make memories which will last a lifetime.

To anyone with a flare for theatrics – whether a lifetime of experience in the performing arts, or even a passing interest in being someone else for a show – please take this volunteer’s encouragement to reach out and be a part of this group.  You won’t regret the choice!  Written at the start of this piece is an exchange between a pedestrian and a performer.  It highlights something very special about our town.  There are people who dream about having opportunities to play like the ones created by ShoeString Community Players.  They are here in St. Helens, on you doorstep.  Opportunity is knocking.  Will you step forward boldly, and be part of making another dream come true?  Will you attend a show, and get sucked into a story until the fear catches you off guard?  Whether in the performance or in the audience, will you come add more memories to the splendor that is the Spirit of Halloweentown?

St. Helens Haunted Tours
Cast and Crew 2016

Voodoo Doughnuts for the guests who were celebrating downtown, whether they attended a show or not!


Children being bold and playing with the scary performers downtown. There is nothing to fear here. But watch out around the next corner…


In Search Of

Do you have a passion for musicals?
Is the Director inside of you craving to step out and take charge of a production?
Are you itching to take a musical chorus and give them direction, or to conduct an orchestra?

ShoeString Community Players is coordinating a summer musical, and is pooling talent from across the region. This is the chance you’ve been waiting for!

Individuals with a passion for performance, talent for stage craft, and who enjoy creating memorable experiences are invited to be a part of this summer production. Specific opportunities for Directors are available. If you have a talent and interest in directing a musical, a chorus, or an orchestra, and you are reading this right now, then you’ve come to the right place! ShoeString Community Players is seeking passionate members from the community who wish to invest their talent in this creative process. Could you be the next Director or contributor to this musical? Reach out and discover what waits for you behind this door!

With a history of success and a flow of enthusiasm from past participants, SSCP will continue to bring entertainment and community engagement through this summer musical.

“The Wizard of Oz” 2016
Mystery Hour Radio Theater: “The Shadow” 2016

If these opportunities are calling to you, or if your curiosity is leading you towards being a part of this production, then please be invited to submit your interest for consideration!

ShoeString Community Players