Monday, October 5, 2015

Lights, Camera, Action - Live Theater in All Saints Cemetery

A chill spread through the night air and a slight breeze accompanied visitors who attended the second "Voices from the Past" Cemetery Walk at All Saints parish in St. Peters, MO.

After assembling in the gymnasium and being given instructions by Diane Valentine, producer of the night's event, our group of Bunco friends, former co-workers, family members, husbands, and new friends turned on our flashlights and followed Jo Ann Prinster, one of seven docents dressed in period costumes.

Our group's first stop was inside All Saints Church--the "newest" of our four parish churches, whose cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1874. The original church, founded in 1823, is the ninth oldest parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Inside, we heard about the parish's rich past and were able to get a close-up look at some historic documents and vestments, like the hand-stitched one shown here, which was on display for this special evening.

From the church, we trekked to the cemetery to hear first-hand accounts from actors depicting men and women whose lives shaped the story of All Saints. The characters included mothers, widows, farmers, immigrants, a Civil War soldier, a murder victim, a nun who began her religious life at 16 and served for 72 years, and the beloved pastor who founded the first school.

The noteworthy deceased portrayed during "Voices from the Past" and the years of their deaths were:  Gerturde Auchly (1920), Joachim Ohmes (1880), Aloys Schneider (1940), Sister Frowine Schneider (1931), Christina Schulte (1858), and Father Nicholas Staudinger (1883). If you noticed a lot of German names in that list, it's because many German immigrants and their families have a rich tradition in All Saints parish.

All the actors did outstanding jobs, but for selfish reasons I was especially interested in the performance of Aloys Schneider (on the left), played by Don Goeller. Don did an excellent job capturing the essence of Schneider's sad story.

Aloys Schneider had the bad luck of being husband number six of the infamous Emma Heppermann, also known as the Potato Soup Black Widow, who made headlines in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

While we were instructed not to take photos of the actors, I was given permission to take one of Goeller in the character of Schneider because he is the character whose script I wrote.

After the performance, I spoke with Goeller and told him what a great job he did as Aloys, and he told me how much he enjoyed playing the role. I have to admit, seeing and hearing my words and stage direction played out in a live performance was thrilling.

After our tour, we joined the six other groups of visitors, along with the actors, docents, and helpers in the Parish Center, where we were treated to hot apple cider and donut holes. Yum!

It was an inspiring and educational evening spent with many old friends and a few new ones. The proceeds of the special night will be used to help support the restoration work on the church and cemetery.

I'm already looking forward to the first weekend in October 2017 for the third "Voices of the Past" cemetery walk.


  1. I'm glad you got a picture of him. Still sounds too spooky for me, though!

  2. This sounds really neat. Congratulations on writing the script. We have a ghost walk in Ripley. My friend, storyteller Granny Sue Holstein, leads the walk and tells local ghost stories, along with appearances by the Jackson County Players.

  3. Oh what a fun experience. I so enjoyed it when the actor's guild and writer's guild collaborated and did this in Valhalla Cemetery. Those character actors and depictions are amazing.

  4. Donna--You're a freelancer. A playwright. What next? A novelist?

  5. Hi Janet,
    Your ghost walk sounds like a lot of fun!

    Hi Linda,
    It is amazing how actors become the characters they represent.

    Hi Sioux,
    I'm working on it. ;-)

  6. What a fun evening! I love All Saints. It's a beautiful church with such a rich history, and I'll keep on the lookout for "Voices of the Past" next year. And how neat about writing the script, Donna. I know your wonderful words made Aloys's story come alive.

  7. It must have been so exciting to see your words brought to life. Congrats, Donna!

    Critter Alley

  8. OK, that sounds pretty awesome! What a unique venue for sure!! Wish I could have been there!


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