YELLOW SPRINGS – The Little Art Theatre is calling on the town’s native sons and daughters who have moved on to great things – calling them home to share their stories of growing up in the Village of Yellow Springs and moving on to success in the world.
Who better to share their story, and kick off this new series, than a N.Y. Times Bestselling author who grew up in this small, close-knit, community rich with culture?
The theatre’s “Homecoming Series” is a new way of fundraising – the brainchild of Executive Director Jenny Cowperthwaite, who said she wanted to try something different than the typical auction and dinner-style fundraising events.
As part of a visit home that included stops at Mills Park Schools, N.Y. Times Bestselling Author Chris Tebbetts kicked off the series this past weekend, speaking at the theatre before a showing of the film based off his best-selling book series, co-authored with James Patterson – “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.”
“Chris is an inspiration,” Cowperthwaite said. “So many of our natives have gone on to great success. We have amazing community spirit here. I just think it would be neat to see how these people are doing now.”
Made possible by a $2,500 grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, it’s the aim of the Little Art Theatre to host two of these events each year.
“I have a palpable pride being from Yellow Springs,” Tebbetts told a theatre full of people March 9. “This is a place where things happen that don’t happen elsewhere.”
After being introduced, Tebbetts kicked off his presentation slideshow with a joke:
“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”
“Good writing is as specific as possible,” Tebbetts said. “And it bridges the reader to a greater idea.”
Tebbetts talked about his early experiences in town, starting with the library, and all the events here that shaped his life as a now successful writer living in a small community in Vermont.
“We learn empathy through story,” he said. “The sharing of the human experience.”
He touched on topics like race and gender, and how growing up in Yellow Springs, these things didn’t matter because the community was generally “open minded.”
He talked about his experiences at the very theatre where he spoke, and the films and literature that shaped his point of view – Harold and Maude, Agatha Christi and Ebony Magazine.
“Any creative pursuit is inherently bound in optimism,” he said. “Yellow Springs put it in the water – put it in the air … You had to be here, grow up here, to understand. Just giving this talk has given me a resurgent gratitude.”
A 1982 graduate, Tebbetts said he found the world outside of Yellow Springs to be highly competitive.
“No one was stepping over me to put me in their films,” he said, explaining that he went from Northwestern University to New York City. “My pro film career lasted two days – two days standing in the rain in New York telling people they ‘can’t park here.’”
Getting a break as a writer, he said, took a great deal of work over the course of many years.
“Woody Allen once said that 90 percent of success is showing up,” Tebbetts said. “For me, it was showing up over and over again to finally be in the right place at the right time.”
The author then charted how his fateful meeting of one person, eventually linked him to an agent and an editor and a job writing a new middle school adventure series.
“They told me James Patterson was looking for a co-author,” he said. “Co-authoring found me through a series coincidences. None of it would’ve ever happened if I hadn’t been persistent and lucky … The harder I work, the luckier I am.”
Still, he said, coming home was important to him.
“I have a deep abiding love for Yellow Springs – as so many people who live here do,” he said. “I’ve had definite fantasies of buying real estate here.”
Brian Evans is a freelance reporter for Greene County News. Email him at [email protected]