Proud father

'Nutcracker' dad enjoys vibrant arts scene

Kent Bixler, photography by Ellie Bogue

Kent Bixler, photography by Ellie Bogue

When Kent Bixler takes the stage in Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” this month, it will mark a decades-long stint as the father in the lavish opening party scene. A cherished tradition for the community and for Bixler himself, the chance to partake in this annual performance is just one opportunity Bixler has seized to take part in area theatre and arts events, and he has happily shared that passion with his family through the years.

Originally from Medina, Ohio, Bixler was active in theater in high school and college, eventually earning a degree in music education and teaching junior high and high school choir. Although he and his wife Jill lived in Florida for a time, when daughters Darby and Dana arrived, they knew they wanted to be closer to his family in Ohio and hers in Pennsylvania. Bixler could see how vibrant the Fort Wayne arts scene was and has immersed himself since, sharing the ride with his family.

In fact, this past summer, Bixler realized a dream of sharing the stage with Darby and Dana, as the three each held significant roles in Arena Dinner Theatre’s staging of “Violet,” a musical which allowed the Bixlers to showcase their many talents.

“Both of the girls were with me, and it was a great opportunity to do that. Darby had the lead role, Violet, playing her at 25. Dana played Violet as a younger girl in flashback scenes, and I played the father. I shared the stage with Dana more since it was really the story of the adult Violet looking back on her life, but it was really a great show and most of them were sold out. In fact, by the last performance they were turning people away at the door.”

Although “Violet” marked the first time they shared starring roles, Bixler and his daughters also performed together in last year’s Civic Theatre production of“Les Miserables,” where the girls were cast in the chorus and their father played the bishop. That show earned Kent Bixler his first Anthony Award for Best Supporting Actor.

“I was tickled to win that. It really is an honor to be nominated, but then to win something like that is really a fun thing.”

Bixler tries to balance his love of theater with his full-time job as an underwriter for K&K Insurance, but he stays busy, following up “Les Miserables” with a starring role in “9 to 5,” also at the Civic. Darby recently left for New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, while Dana, a senior in high school, is looking for college programs in theater as well. Watching young talent bloom is another reason he enjoys his annual stint in “The Nutcracker,” a role he looks forward to each year.

“I enjoy the show itself and the tradition that it has in our community. But I also love watching the younger performers come up over the years. They start out as little kids, and years later I see them dancing en pointe and in larger roles. Performing with the ballet and the orchestra is such a tradition for me now and such a big part of Fort Wayne’s holiday tradition.”

First appeared in the December 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.

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