Wednesday, September 14, 2011
by Rachel Baruch Yackley Daily Herald (post) 9/13/2011
by Rachel Baruch Yackley Daily Herald 8/31/2011
by Rachel Baruch Yackley Daily Herald 5/14/2011
by Rachel Baruch Yackley Daily Herald 2/22/2011
by Rachel Baruch Yackley Daily Herald 11/30/2010 “My show is largely autobiographical,” said Paula Poundstone, during a recent phone interview about her upcoming performance in Elgin. “Kids, animals, current events, myself and my experiences. I try to keep it informal, and I love talking with people in the audience.” One of the most enjoyable interviews I can remember, this wasn't all jokes, but a lot of conversation with a warm, witty, spontaneous woman, about what makes her so good at what she does. There was an incredibly funny moment when, while talking with Poundstone, I checked out her website (www.paulapoundstone.com) to check out what she calls her “Diner Cam.” Sure enough, there was a streaming video from a Webcam aimed at her cats' food and water dishes. Yes, that's plural: Poundstone's household boasts 16 cats, as well as a rabbit, a lizard, and a dog. Oh, and three teenagers. I was watching a couple of cats eat while we talked, and in popped Poundstone's smiling face, right by the dining felines. “Here I am,” she said, and waved at me. In essence, I saw her live, but it was like only getting a tiny bite of chocolate; I'd really like more. Her Elgin performance is set for 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, at the Hemmens. Details and tickets are available at hemmens.org. Improvisation is a big part of Poundstone's show, although she does make a few notes, especially about current events, which she reviews before going onstage, to help her remember “what's on the forefront of what I want to talk about.” During a weekend of performances in Bozeman, Montana, Poundstone experienced one of the reasons why she loves doing stand-up comedy. “This was three nights away from home; I rarely do that, as it's really, really hard on my family, and on me. Then I got some difficult family news, and I had to go to the theater. I wasn't feeling good, but I was marshaling my forces,” she said. “I went onstage and had such an incredibly good time. The crowd was so good. While onstage, I kept thinking to myself, ‘I am the luckiest person in the world.' I get to go to work and I feel uplifted. I really appreciate how lucky I am.” Performing onstage, in front of a live audience, is truly what inspires and drives this comedian. “There's something really important about being together with people. I talk to the crowd a lot. And I believe it has to do with the people who come to the show,” she said. Growing up in Massachusetts, Poundstone wasn't the class clown, but exhibited the ability to make facetious observations from a young age. She still treasures a report card note made by her kindergarten teacher, who said she enjoyed Paula's “humorous comments about our activities.” “I like the sound of laughter,” said Poundstone, “but it truly is in the eyes of the beholder.” In 1979 Poundstone began working on her comedy at open mic nights, while busing tables. She was 19 and still living in New England. “A lot of what I learned, I learned by watching others who didn't do it well. You kind of watch others' mistakes,” she said. “When I started, it was hard to get work. So I took a Greyhound bus around the country to see what people were doing in other cities. I'd get off the bus someplace like Denver. I'd spend the day there, go to clubs, and talk with comics.” Eventually she settled in California, where she made a home, a family, and continued to pursue her comedic passion. Not everything Poundstone does is for the purpose of making others laugh. A National spokesperson for The Association of Library Trustees Advocates Friends and Foundations, Poundstone said, “I do stuff with Friends of the Library. I help them promote and fundraise. Libraries are often one of the things on the economic chopping block, but they're really one of the best deals in town. Socioeconomically, they are a really important link.” An avid reader herself, she mentioned that books on tape have been a staple, shared with her family especially while driving. “My kids listen to ‘Harry Potter,' read by Jim Dale, over and over again,” she said. “My kids don't watch TV, but I wish I could tell you that made them voracious readers. They're just so busy, with homework, (school) orchestra, and more.” Poundstone is also a writer; her first book, “There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say,” was published by Random House, and she is working on her second book. She also co-authored three math books in the “Math With a Laugh” series with Faye Nisonoff Ruopp, and “A Prairie Home Companion's Pretty Good Jokes,” with Garrison Keillor. Her first comedy CD, “I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Maine,” is also available. In addition, she is a frequent writer for the Huffington Post. Poundstone can be heard regularly on the NPR weekly news quiz show, “Wait Wait …Don't Tell Me,” as well as on NPR's “Morning Edition.” Although she doesn't watch TV, she has appeared on Letterman, Leno, and Craig Ferguson. A panelist on “Wait Wait” for the past 10 years, Poundstone enjoys the spontaneity of this radio show. “We all know, going in, that it's based on the world's news, but I don't have jokes prepared ahead. I love that feeling, like being a batter in the batter's cage,” she said. The recipient of several honors, Poundstone was the first woman to win an ACE (the cable EMMY) for Best Standup Comedy performance, and was the first woman invited to perform at the White House correspondents' dinner. Earlier this year, she was invited to serve as judge in the humor category of the 2010 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the largest recognition and scholarship program for teenage artists and writers. Adults and kids are welcome to her show, but like many comedians, Poundstone said, “It depends on what offends people. I curse occasionally; I don't limit myself.”
by Rachel Baruch Yackley; Daily Herald 11/9/2010 Sundresses may be the last thing on your mind as the weather turns colder, but it's just about all Ruthie Ratke thinks of these days. This local resident and lifelong seamstress is spending her time coordinating an effort to make 1,000 dresses by Thanksgiving, which will be donated to young girls in need in Africa and the Philippines. Each of these dresses is made out of a pillowcase, with the help of numerous volunteers. The idea for this project came from, “a friend from my church, Hosanna Lutheran Church in St. Charles,” Ratke said. “She heard of someone making dresses out of pillowcases for children in Haiti. I talked with my pastor and he said let's go for it.” Since then, Ratke and her volunteers have been working steadily to reach their goal. “We're using our own pattern, basically cutting off the top (of the pillowcase). The side seams are already sewn, and the hem is there. Then it's just cutting armholes and binding the armholes and the top, and putting ties on the top. It's a quick and easy sundress and takes about 20 minutes to make,” Ratke said. Volunteer sewers have been adding their own embellishments to the dresses, too, such as colorful ribbons and decorative buttons. Dress sizes will fit girls approximately 3 to 10 years old, as king-size pillowcases can be used for taller girls. Ratke has an immediate and ongoing need for donations of new and gently used pillowcases, double fold bias tape, and half-inch elastic. “As I get supplies, I'm making packets for volunteers. Each packet is one dress. Every Sunday, people pick up packets and bring dresses back to me. We're up to 100, so far,” she said. “I am committed to making sure every pillowcase is made into a dress.” Hoping to set up a sundress “sweatshop,” where the brunt of her goal can be tackled in one day, Ratke said she has to receive more supplies before this can be scheduled. “My church does a ministry every Christmas of shoeboxes filled with toys. We're thinking of adding the dresses into the shoeboxes,” Ratke said. This 1,000 Dresses Project may go on beyond the Thanksgiving deadline, as Ratke would like to see it become an ongoing effort. She also said that extra dresses will be sent to “needy girls in our own country.” This is a ministry project through Hosanna Church, but “it was my idea, and I'm the one doing it,” said Ratke, who added, “It is open to anyone; you don't have to be a member of the church.” Ratke began sewing 56 years ago when she was but a child. Over the years, she worked as the wardrobe mistress at a televised fashion show at Navy Pier, as the costume mistress of a local dance studio, and made most of her children's clothing when they were young, as well as drapes and decorative items for her family's home. She recently realized one of her dreams when she opened her own store, A Thimble Change, 1303 W. Main St., in St. Charles, in March of last year. “God has blessed my business, and this is my way of saying ‘thank you,'” said Ratke. “And the outpouring of people who want to help is awesome.” Among those who are participating in this project are students in the St. Charles East High School Fashion Design class, who are making dresses as part of their Charity Project; St. Charles North High School cheerleaders, who are collecting donations of new and used pillowcases; and local Girl Scout troops. Anyone interested in helping Ratke reach her goal of 1,000 dresses can pick up packets with everything needed from Hosanna Lutheran Church and A Thimble Change. Donations may also be dropped off at these two locations. Ratke's store is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Hosanna! is at 36W925 Red Gate Road, St. Charles. For details, visit www.athimblechange.com.