“Trail Magic” to be presented by Wandering Aesthetics at Balch Street Theatre

20 Nov

From Knight Arts,Published on November 19, 2014 by Roger Durbin in Akron, Theater


Wandering Aesthetics co-founders Kyle Jozsa and Benjamin Rexroad are taking some personal experience and expanding on it by collaborating with local artists and groups in order to bring a new play, “Magic Trail,” to the Balch Street Theatre.

Jozsa and Rexroad went on the 2,186 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail last year. Jozsa turned that experience into a series of solo performances under the title of Wandering Aesthetics’ “Mountain Cycle.” He related things that happened along the way.

Turns out, of course, that they weren’t the only ones to do that, or the only ones interested in turning someone’s experience into a theatrical performance. Eden Valley Enterprises took on the adventures of Emma Gatewood (affectionately known as Grandma Gatewood) – who was the first woman to walk the trail from Georgia to Maine, in 1955, solo and at the age of 67 years. She repeated the quest a few times more, finishing at age 83 in 1970.


Gatewood became well-known as one of the first ultra-light hikers (she wore only a pair of sneakers, while carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, and a piece of plastic for ground cover). She has been quoted as saying that you only need to buy some cans of Vienna sausage; the rest you can find in the wilderness. Pretty amazing.

Gatewood also helped establish the Buckeye Trail that runs through her native Ohio (and through the middle of Akron). She served as leader of the Buckeye Trail Association for several years.

Eden Valley Enterprises employed playwright Kelly Boyer Sagert and researcher Bette Lou Higgins (who both also live in Ohio) to put together Grandma Gatewood’s story.

Wandering Aesthetics is producing their play, “Trail Magic,” and performing it for only the second time in its two-year history. Jozsa will serve as director – the first time ever in this role for the actor. Priscilla Kaczuk will perform the role of Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, and Nici Romo will narrate the play.

In a telephone interview, Jozsa commented that Wandering Aesthetics is sticking to the text Sagert created, but they are modifying the presentation by having the narrator (a figure who bookends the narrative and who makes comments about Gatewood) be a magical trail angel. That way, he added, they can create, freeze-time scenes, as well as have the angel interact with Emma, thus creating more conflict to lend the drama some tension.

Wandering Aesthetics is developing a corollary project called “Boogers, Witches, and Haints” that feeds off the same kind of experience that they, like Gatewood, had along the extensive and often rural and wild route through the eastern half of the nation. That project will, according to Jozsa, be completed and performed in the spring.

Wandering Aesthetics was formerly called Heads Up Productions. Interestingly, the group used the basement of a local florist, Every Blooming Thing, for rehearsal space. Wandering Aesthetics, in conjunction with the Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture (CATAC), which regularly performs in the Balch Street Theatre, and with Ma’Sue Productions, another local group and an African American based theater company, hopes through cooperative efforts to make the Highland Square area of west Akron more active theatrically – to form a destination for small, independent groups that like to present new works. Wandering Aesthetics’ production in the Balch Street Theatre is a step in that effort.

After the final performance at the matinee on November 23, Wandering Aesthetics is hosting a reception (tickets are $10) to raise money for Eden Valley Enterprises in order to help them along with a current project to create a documentary film about Emma Gatewood.

Wandering Aesthetics will present “Trail Magic” November 21-23, at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, at the Balch Street Theatre, 220 S. Balch St., Akron; 330-990-5138. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online here: trailmagic.brownpapertickets.com.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk-Wins Award

14 Nov
Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery’s book about Grandma has just won the 2014 Outdoor Book Award — I think that means Emma won it , too! Read all about it at


Appalachian Trail tale tops 2014 Outdoor Book Awards


OUTDOOR READING — They call her Grandma Gatewood.  She carries an umbrella, wears a checked skirt, and she loves to hike.

In fact, she is the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.  After her first 2,000-mile hike, she did it again, becoming the first person – man or woman – to hike it twice.  And then for good measure, she hiked it a third time.

Grandma Gatewood is the subject of a new book which is one of the award recipients of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards, announced today.

If you missed the “Trail Magic” play last summer…..

24 Oct

Join the folks from Wandering Aesthetics staging of “Trail Magic” and help us raise funds and awareness about our documentary on the courageous and amazing Emma “Grandma” Gatewood.

*November 21-23, 2014; TRAIL MAGIC, the story of Grandma Gatewood, at Wandering Aesthetics; on November 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. or on November 23 at 2 p.m. at The Balch Street Theatre, 220 S Balch St in Akron. After the Sunday Matinee performance stay for the Trail Angels Reception at 3:30 p.m. to help raise money for our PBS documentary about Emma.
$15.00 – Trail Magic
$10.00 – Trail Angels Reception
$20.00 – Both (Trail Magic & Reception)
(The $20 Ticket is good to ANY performance of Trail Magic)
For tickets and information about TRAIL MAGIC or the Trail Angels Reception, please call (330) 612-3090 or purchase tickets online!

Film on Appalachian Trail walking Grandma gets closer to completion- By Steve Fogarty, Chronicle Telegram

21 Oct


Thanks to Steve Fogarty of the Elyria Chronicle Telegram who wrote a nice follow up article about our TRAIL MAGIC documentary project. You can read it at: http://edenvalleyenterprises.org/progdesc/gatewood/prgrmcmmnts/fogartyect10172014.pdf

Puffin Foundation West Grant!

9 Oct

Puffin West_2sm

We are happy to announce that the Puffin Foundation West has awarded us a grant in support of our documentary about Grandma Gatewood! This gift will go towards the matching requirements from our Ohio History Fund grant and puts us at about the half way point of our goal of $10,000.

We have been working on filming the documentary over the past year and if you haven’t visited our Trail Magic Facebook page recently, please do. Director, Peter Huston has been posting updated from the shoots which I think you’ll enjoy seeing.

In other news, I hope you’ll plan to join us in Akron for TRAIL MAGIC at Wandering Aesthetics on Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22,2014 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 2 p.m. There’ll be three performances of this one-act play about Grandma along with a Trail Angels Reception Fundraiser on Sunday. Check our calendar page regularly for up-to-the-minute information.

Bette Lou Higgins
Artistic Director

34 Years

6 Oct

34 Years of marriage, and was Emma’s toughest hike. This short section of our documentary takes the viewer from Emma Gatewood’s courtship, through marriage and on to her divorce. A time period of nearly 34 years that included raising 11 children and enduring ongoing abuse from her husband Perry.Here is a link the newest segment from our project

34 Years

This documentary is supported in part through a grant from the Ohio Historical Society

Ohio History

Ohio History

Aging in Maine Summit

29 Sep

We just returned from the #ciffX Camden International Film Festival in Camden Maine and their Aging in Maine summit hosted by #ciffX and Molly Murphy from #workingfilms. Working Films puts together filmmakers and important topics of interest for NGOS and other organizations.

Grandma Gatewood is a great example of #successfulaging and #aginginplace two hot button topics for agencies and organizations that facilitate elder services and support. This is an area that has dwindling resources to fund media and an increased need to reach potential funders, service providers and caregivers.

To learn more about how film’s like our soon to be completed story on Emma Gatewood can help your organization to connect with a supportive audience contact us on facebook.com/grandmagatewood or here on our grandmagatewood.com page inquiry form.TrailMagic_Ad_Sept2013aTrailMagic_Ad_Sept2014

Feisty Females- Emma Gatewood

16 Sep

Sharon Hall, a friend of our “Trail Magic” script writer Kelly Boyer Sagert let us know about this great blog site that features her story about Emma Gatewood.

Check out Sharon’s article about Emma Gatewood at http://historydepot.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/feisty-females-grandma-gatewood-part-i Enjoy!

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog

29 Aug

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We were pleasantly surprised and pleased to see that a story about Emma Gatewood and a clip from our project were on the Smoky Mountain Blog here is an excerpt:

Who was Grandma Gatewood?
In 1955, after raising 11 children, Emma “Grandma” Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail – at the tender age of 67! In September of that year, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

Then, in 1960, she hiked it again, becoming the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail twice. And, just to prove those first two weren’t a fluke, she hiked it again in 1963 – at the age of 75! After that third adventure Emma became the first person to hike the 2,179-mile trail on three different occasions.

To read the rest and see the clip go to


AT Half Gallon Challenge

6 Aug

This past June we witnessed one of the interesting rites of passage that thru-hikers partake in at the half way point on the Appalachian Trail. Sitting on the front porch of the little store at Pine Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania, the “Half Gallon Challenge” becomes an informal race among the thru-hikers to devour a lot of ice cream in one sitting. For most just finishing the half gallon is an accomplishment. No one seems to know when it originated, but I would bet that in Emma’s day ice cream was still such a luxury that she would have been truly amazed by this present day ice cream feast. Check out this short video that captures the fun of the challenge! 


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