Christine Brewer–Advice for Frustrated Gardeners

What is your name?
My name is Christine Brewer, I also answer to Chris, Mom, Mommy, and by a very select few, the nickname “Sully.”

Is there a story behind “Sully?”
Yes, a group of us at the theatre have become a close group of friends and adopted the family name “la Fontaine,” and each member has a moniker chosen by the other family members. The name usually reveals itself somewhere when it is ready. The original members were Lee and Amy Hebb, and Karen and Will Heyser Paone.  They then adopted Katie Kennedy, and soon after myself and Steve and Caroline.  The original four all have crazy French sounding names based on things they like or that they just liked the sound of, like “credenza” and “velveeto” (so named for his love of cheese).  Steve is the Right Reverend la Fontaine, as he got his clergy card and married Will and Karen.  I got mine after coming to the rescue with a costume or prop fix, and someone said I was a miracle worker, like Anne Sullivan.  “Sully!” they said, “that’s your name!”  And so it was, and so it shall be.

What is your occupation?
I get paid to teach high school. I have taught for almost 25 years, and currently I teach Spanish levels 1, 2,3 and two levels of theatre at Clarke County High School.  However, when not teaching, I also work as a costumer, props mistress, director, and actor for community theatre, and I also teach acting classes there.

How does one become a Spanish and theatre teacher?
Really, teachers are frustrated actors, I feel.  We perform for a captive audience, 180 days a year. I loved Spanish and theatre, so I became a Spanish teacher and over the years picked up the classes to teach theatre as well.  When my principal found out my love and experience in theatre, I picked up those two classes.  Technically I am not certified in theater teaching (that wasn’t a thing when I first started) but you are allowed to teach a few classes out of your area with life experience.

How did you come to get bit by the theatre bug?
My sisters and I were always putting on shows in our basement, and my first show in middle school had me hooked. I am drawn to the sense of community and creativity, of making something together that will never exist in the same way again.

How old are you and where do you live?
I am 47 and at the moment, Martinsburg, West Virginia, but hopefully soon Charles Town, WV.

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been three times and it has been cool to see the construction progress each time. It’s probably finished by now, but I am not sure.

What strikes you particularly about the cathedral?
I like the architecture, and the fact that it’s been a work in progress. You see these awesome cathedrals in Europe and they’ve been there for centuries; this was great to see because it was fairly recent, give or take a hundred years.

Your favorite meal would be?
Really great lasagna, shared with family and friends.

Pet peeve?
People who put themselves down too much. Sometimes it is a cry for praise, but the negativity gets to me. Oh, also, talking backstage. But that’s very theatre specific.

Favorite movie?
“My Cousin Vinny.” I lived in the South for a while, and grew up in New Jersey, so it speaks to both sides of me.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…..?
Help with daily struggles

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?
I am married (for the second time, took time to get it right) to a wonderful man who works way too hard. We have a lovely, precocious daughter who make us laugh and makes us proud everyday.  

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Tap dance. I danced for years in school, and still pull out the shoes every once in awhile for a show.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Really learn to garden. I try every year, but it seems to end up with me throwing some plants in the ground, sprinkling some seeds and saying  “Ok, you’re on your own now, make me food!”

That’s funny.  Could I ask you to offer some advice to frustrated gardeners?  
Well, as I said, I don’t have the best results, but here’s what I’ve learned:

Watering is key–don’t go on vacation and expect nature to provide. It usually won’t. Get someone to water the garden.
Carrots aren’t worth the trouble–by the time they get big enough to pick, something under the dirt has beat you to it.
Soda bottle bottoms will protect seedlings from bunnies that like to chew new leaves. Starting larger plants instead of seeds will also deter them.
There are these things called squash larvae that will take out your zucchini plants in a week. However, since I usually get a bunch of zucchini before that, it is ok. I don’t know how to stop them. It’s probably nature’s way of saying “You have enough zucchini bread already!”
Nothing tastes better than a tomato from your own garden.

Thank you.  It sounds like you’re not giving up on it, and good for you.  Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
My life is very closely wrapped up in theatre, and I really enjoy the chance I get to be creative there. I love acting in non-musicals–I especially love the challenge of a drama or quick farce. I have created some amazing costumes and props over the years, and I take great pride in that. I’ve made jellyfish, dancing leg lamp costumes, more animals than I can name, and mermaid tails that are super cool.

Would you have a nominee for “most complicated costume you’ve ever made?”
Wow, that is tough. There have been quite a few!  The leg lamp skirts for “A Christmas Story: the Musical” were a little tricky to design, but not really to construct. I had to make Smaug, the dragon, for a production of “The Hobbit” and the body had to hold about 15 children who worked it like a giant puppet. That was tricky because of the scale. It had a paper maché head built on a halloween light up pumpkin, and the mouth moved and the eyes lit up. That was fun.  Last year “The Little Mermaid” had quite a few challenges–mermaid tails and tops that they could walk in but still hide the feet, Ursula’s tentacle skirt that had to fall off at the end, and the electric eels Flotsam and Jetsam that we made as puppets that wrapped around the actors’ bodies. I actually had a former student of mine help on those–she is an art student and designed the head piece that the actors operated. They were pretty spectacular on stage.

Christine, thanks so much for helping out with this and for letting us get to know you a little.  Good luck with the gardening.  Take care and God bless.