female writer keynote speaker on creativity

The Best Thing Anyone Has Ever Said to Me


Spiritual Musing

by Angie Mack Reilly @2021

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To the Audience

What do you think is the best thing anyone has ever said to me?

Can you break it down to one word?

How about breaking it down to four letters?

What do you think the word is?

On the count of three, please say your word out loud.

One. Two. Three.

OK. One of the words that I heard was…..Love?

OK. Who said “love”?

No. It is not love.

So What Was the Word?

The best word that any other human being has ever said to me came from another multidisciplinary artist named Kevin Ramsey. I don’t think that he even knows this. But he will soon find out!

Soar. S-O-A-R.

Kevin said, “Soar”. I can’t quite remember when he first said it. It might have been in a Facebook birthday message or an email. Maybe he said it when I saw him at the Milwaukee Rep on the eve of the pandemic.

I spontaneously hear this word during times that I feel alone or discouraged. Upon hearing it, I find immediate comfort and courage. Hope begins to flood in. I encourage myself to think bigger. I feel myself straightening up my shoulders and standing taller.  I am reminded that I am a pioneer and that feeling alone and discouraged is part of the territory.

Personal Accounts

Oddly, I have only had an eagle fly over my head three times in my life. Those three times were within the last year.

A spiritual friend of mine once had a vision of me as an eagle. Rather than flying, as eagles do, I bobbled along in the ocean on a small square piece of wood. My mate was floating on the piece of wood with me. However, my mate was not an eagle. He was another type of bird. The message was that I needed to quit bobbling in the water and fly.

When I hear the word, “soar” I am reminded that God has a calling on my life. That calling is personal. I need only to follow God’s lead on this dance of life. I am a spiritual being with a spiritual calling and God knows how much time left. The deeply spiritual walk is solitary. The creative walk is solitary. For me, solitary is best.

Tell Someone to Soar Today

When I hear the word, “soar” I feel like someone is cheering me on. Someone. Oh yes. One. Do you know how much courage and confidence that gives me? Maybe he is an eagle, too. Perhaps he has known the lonely and discouraging road.

In my opinion, cheering someone on to soar is what the highest form of love is all about.  If we love someone, we will want what is best for them even if that means letting them go.

Not Everyone Has this Mentality

As a lifetime leader and mentor in the arts, I operate in this ministry of encouragement without even thinking about it.   In all honesty, I want those around me to soar.  And many of them have.  I live, breath and operate with this mentality for others.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone has this mindset and it has caused me much grief and disillusionment at times.  I have sometimes felt used, abused and discarded.  I have seen others feel used, abused and discarded.  My efforts have legitimately been sabatoged and ignored at times.  Sometimes I feel that people would rather pirate my talent for their personal gain rather than encourage and support me to flourish as a creative.  I know that I am not alone in this.


So when someone like Kevin says to me, “soar”, it means more than anyone can ever know.  So thank you, Kevin.  This has been a critical message to me during a very difficult time in life.  I pray that you keep soaring as well!  I am thankful for genuine people like you!

Just Fly!

Blues Research music history

Angie Featured in Milwaukee Arts and Entertainment Journal


The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Chasin’ Dem Blues Examines Forgotten History

by Livia Peterson, Cream City Arts (January 17, 2020)

Grafton City Blues initially premiered at the Rep in 2008. Musician Angela M. Reilly collaborated with the playwright Kevin Ramsey. “Kevin reached out to me as he was doing research for the musical,” she says. “He had found out about the record label around the time that PBS History Detectives aired a nationally televised segment about the rare record label based out of southeastern Wisconsin.”


grafton city blues: Angie interviews playwright kevin ramsey for the milwaukee rep 2007/08 season


“Grafton City Blues” Interview with playwright Kevin Ramsey

Last season Stackner Cabaret audiences were treated to a spirited world premiere production of SAM COOKE – FOREVER MR. SOUL, written and directed by Kevin Ramsey. When he was here last year, Kevin learned about the history of Paramount Records that was located in Grafton, Wisconsin. One person who has assisted him in his research was Angela K. Mack, co-founder of Paramounts
Home,, and Music Director/Instructor with the North Shore Academy of the Arts. Here, Angela interviews Kevin about his exuberant world
premiere musical, GRAFTON CITY BLUES.

Angela K. Mack: Where did you grow up and how did you get introduced to the world of theater?

Kevin Ramsey: I was born and raised in New Orleans. I grew up a stutterer as a youngster. My sister got me involved in a summer theater program as a form of speech therapy at the Free Southern Theater, which was one of the oldest African-American theater companies in the southern region. I guess you can say I found my passion at age 12.

AKM: How is Grafton like New Orleans?

KR: A river runs through both of them. Their musical traditions and contributions are very different. New Orleans is the birthplace and Grafton is one of the cradles.

AKM: What were your greatest sources of inspiration for this musical?

KR: I was fascinated by the idea of the blues being created and recorded in this very small rural all-white town. I was introduced to a brief history of Grafton by Cecilia Gilbert [a former Rep board member and the City of Milwaukee’s Permits and Communications Manager for the Department of Public Works], who I met last season when I was at The Rep doing the Sam Cooke project. It was a most educational encounter. Ms. Gilbert spoke enthusiastically about Paramount Records and other intriguing Wisconsin history, including Bronzeville. I have set the play in an attic in Milwaukee’s historic Bronzeville district. Actually, my set designer, Jill Lyons, suggested the attic. Originally it was set in a basement. I loved the attic idea especially because the piece deals with conjuring up the past and the spirit world. The attic made it feel not so earth-bound. The show is a stylized retelling of stories and tales woven into a musical blues rap discourse celebrating Paramount Records and the blues.

AKM: What is the main message of this musical? Why is it important for this message to be told?

KR: I would say the question explored in the musical is: what do we do with our legacy and how do we use it? Each audience member will be effected differently, I suppose. As humans we are usually in search of a connection with where we have come from and how we fit in.

AKM: Are there any subtle twists or contradictions you use to convey the message?

KR: Certainly. It’s the blues; and the blues is full of contradictions.

AKM: Describe your first trip to Grafton, Wisconsin, in one word.

KR: Intriguing.

AKM: Why is GRAFTON CITY BLUES a great fit for you as a playwright?

KR: It fuels my love for history and music.

AKM: What aspects of this musical are you the most pleased with?

KR: Thus far, I am extremely excited about the cast assembled: Jannie Jones, Jeremy Cohen, Eric Noden and Juson Williams. They will knock your socks off. In terms of the musical, once we are in rehearsals and in front of an audience I will let you know.

AKM: Is the story more historical or historical fiction?

KR: I think a mixture of both. Recalling history can be very challenging. Whose history are you recalling and from whose perspective? My process was to find as much historical information as possible and then throw it all away.

AKM: What do you want your audience to go away with?

KR: An awareness of the legacies in one’s own ‘attic’, as well as a deeper appreciation for the early pioneers of blues music.

AKM: How has this musical inspired you personally?

KR: I am inspired to listen more deeply to the world around me.

AKM: Both of the musicals that you have written so far for The Rep, SAM COOKE and GRAFTON CITY BLUES, are about African-American musicians. Do you think that this is a niche that you would like to continue pursuing?

KR: Actually, I’ve written four musicals. I grew up surrounded by music, interesting characters and events. Music and stories are in my blood. I am committed to the historical examination and retelling of the African-American musical experience and its artistic contribution to American and world cultures. So, yes, I will.

Rescued from

Chasin’ Dem Blues as a Historical Music Consultant with Playwright Kevin Ramsey




Shepherd Express ARTICLE