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'Seasonings: The Essays of Jerry Klein' to be performed at Museum

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Roberta Koch tells the story of how she was feeling rather blue one day when she happened across one of Jerry Klein's columns in which he encouraged readers to look at the positive aspects of life.

"I did and you know, it changed my attitude. It gave me a new way of looking at things. And really, a lot of Jerry's writing can do that for anybody who reads him. He has made a difference for me and for a lot of people," Koch said.

That's why she compiled Klein's essays about the seasons of the year and wrote "Seasonings: Essays on the Joy of Living in Central Illinois" that will be presented Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Giant Screen Theatre at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

A fundraiser for the Peoria Historical Society, the show will be performed only once. Tickets are $15, or $12 for Society members.

Koch, a veteran director of musicals and plays at Corn Stock Theatre and Peoria Players Theatre, worked with Klein to compile the essays, then edit them into a script that includes biographical sections about Klein, who wrote for 55 years for the Peoria Journal Star.

"We worked long on the script because we wanted to make sure it flowed from spring to summer to fall to winter in a cohesive manner. It was fun," Koch said.

The script will be performed in readers' theatre fashion by local theatre veterans Bonnie White, Jim Wilhelm, Lee Wenger, Maria Lane and Paul Gordon. Enhancing the performance will be photography depicting the seasons taken and compiled by Dr. Joe Couri.

Koch said the excerpts from the essays "are 100 percent Jerry" and the biographical information came from extensive interviews she did with him while working on the script. "Even though I've known Jerry for a long time, I learned things about him I didn't know. It just adds to it," she said.

Klein was well known for writing about local community theatre in the Journal Star, but Koch said she found during her research for "Seasonings" that many people enjoyed his columns about any subject, the seasons in particular. "I asked random people around town if they knew who Jerry Klein was and almost to a person they remembered his writing. He really reached a lot of people," she said. "I don't think even Jerry realizes how many people he touched through the years."

Klein will be on hand Sunday for the performance. "He is looking forward to it. I can't wait for him to see it."

This is the second time Koch has presented a readers' theatre work to raise money for the Peoria Historical Society.

On Feb. 7, 2010 she and other local theatre veterans presented "Lincoln, In his Own Words" at United Presbyterian Church. The script was a compilation of famous Lincoln quotes interspersed with biographical information.