Five Questions with Ellen Caroline Struve

 Cooler than most musicians. Ellen Struve

As a woman and a musician you know lots of guys. Some of them have wives. Most of the wives are not musicians, and that can pose problems because they don’t understand the lifestyle. Practice, performing, networking, the business end. And music is usually a sideline, not the main money gig, unless you’re lucky. These differences can interfere with a relationship, since there are only 24 hours in a day.

One of the musicians in Omaha I admire most is an alto player named Kevin Pike. He’s a very cool out and inside player (Meaning to all you squares, he can play “regular”and “off beat” selections.) I met his wife a couple weeks back; well I had met her before, but hadn’t tuned into her till a couple weeks ago, when we were all at the Iowa City Jazz Festival. After the Friday night performance, we ended up at a local watering hole. I found out that night that as cool as Kevin is, SHE may be the cooler of the two. (Hey, it’s not a contest, right.)

First, she’s a musician also. A flutist who was very serious about playing at one point. But secondly, she WRITES. She knew Iowa City because she went to school there. There is only one thing I like as well as a musician, and it’s a writer. And she’s a good one. A playwright. An acclaimed playwright with a current show at The Shelterbelt. Two one acts called “Mrs. Jennings Sitter” and “Mountain Lion.”

Ellen is also a mother of two and a real fun hang. I asked her five questions.

1) How’s the writing career coming?

Career implies payment and we’re talking playwriting here—so right now I’ll say the avocation is going gangbusters. I couldn’t be happier with this first production at Shelterbelt Theatre. I’ve got another production/project in the works and two plays crawling around in my head that I’m anxious to get on the page.

2) What are you reading right now?

Honestly? Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I never read it as a kid and it’s related to one of those plays in my head. Thus far I’m really enjoying it. Who doesn’t love goats?

3) How do you mix motherhood and wrtiting?

I’m lucky in that I prefer writing late at night. It doesn’t feel as lucky at 7:30am when the kids have to drag me out of bed, but it works out for the most part. I’ve also made some quality compromises. I really do enjoy cooking, but have decided that playwrights don’t bring homemade goods to events. Ever.

4) Being from Omaha originally, then moving away, and then coming back, what do you think Omaha could use?

I’m an urban development geek and have a master’s in arts administration, so it is something I think about quite a bit. I think the city needs an arts granting organization of its own, unrelated to the Nebraska Arts Council. I’m a big fan of the NAC, but Omaha needs an administrative leader who can think strategically about the arts environment as a whole and direct its growth from inside the city’s government. Other than that, the city could use a free outdoor classical concert series and a really great hot dog stand that also sells killer tamales.

5) What’s your next project? (After the run of Mrs. Jennings’ Sitter and Mountain Lion)

The Omaha Playwrights Group is looking to produce my series of monologues and scenes about the daily lives of jazz musicians called Nobody Gets Paid. I’m married to a jazzer by name of Kevin Pike and the show calls for a combination of sets and theatre (not musical theater, just side by side). Hopefully that will get on its feet sometime this fall.

More about Ellen Struve at: www.Shelterbelt.org

First published on July 18, 2009

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