Ellouise Schoettler is an enthusiast of genealogy. My Diamond Jubilee is her first public performance telling her autobiographical story of Finding Gus. Based on how the performance is staged, it is easy to imagine that before she only told the story in the comfort of her home.
Ellouise, a bright-eyed woman, greeted each audience member as if they had just entered her warmly cushioned living room. What soon unfolds is Ellouises’s journey of a new found love for her family history.
Ellouise sits in a comfortable chair beside a small table on which rests two portraits, one of her grandfather, Gus Keasler, and the other her grandmother, Ellie Hall Keasler Baer. Though we soon learn that the catalyst for the story is the relationship formed between Ellouises’s grandparents, the tale itself is less a love story and more a story of family. As Ellouise points to the portrait beside her, we are drawn down a timeline starting in 1912 when Gus Keasler and Ellie Hall Keasler Baer first meet.
With sheer excitement, Ellouise shifts into drive detailing the fine moments that have led her to be where she is today. She hits each word carefully giving them full attention. She is, after all, a 75 year-old storyteller and this detail is not lost through the hour. She recounts the experience of meeting different family members from her father’s side for the first time. As we are introduced to them it becomes clear that she does not switch characters but remains the same Ellouise from start to finish. The effect is that we experience the story from her own perspective and through this feel her individual reactions to the events that take place.
The downside is that we do not get a fuller perspective of the people wo come to define her. Their character is only felt by Ellouise’s reaction, which is one of consistent joy. Though we hear the names of Ellouise’s mother, grandmother, grandfather and niece, we come to know Ellouise the best.
Ellouise has learned a tremendous about herself through her family history and this is evident in her testament to tell stories of them. Though young to the world of genealogy, starting only when she was 50 years old, she is evermore impressionable. Also, a self-starter in the age of blogs, Ellouise is a firm proponent of Twitter and Facebook, and utilizes both to share her stories with the world. And this is not her first appearance at Capital Fringe. She was here last year with another chapter from her life, Pushing Boundaries.
My Diamond Jubilee is a one-woman performance that intersects genealogy with rich storytelling. Perfect for those who have an appreciation for family history and genealogy. We as audience members are given a window into Ellouises’s family history that ultimately leaves us curious about our own individual history. Finding the names and dates are only the beginning of discovering the breadth of family stories, we learn.
It is a heart-warming sojourn that leaves one filled with appreciation for the individual discovery that can be born through family ties.
My Diamond Jubilee has 3 more performances at the Goethe Institute – Main Stage, 812 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC.