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Passengers unload in front of a Delta Air Lines sign at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Oct. 13, 2016, in Atlanta. Georgia lawmakers punished Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines on Thursday for its decision to cut business ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of a shooting at a Florida high school that killed over a dozen people. A tax measure, which was stripped of a jet-fuel tax break, passed the GOP-dominated Senate 44-10.


Meghan Burnham as Roxie Hart sings during rehearsal for 'Chicago' Wednesday night, Feb. 28, 2018, at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Twin Falls.

And All That Jazz: Magic Valley Repertory Theatre stages 'Chicago'

TWIN FALLS — “Chicago” is a dark production.

The musical proudly announces that murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery are traits humans hold most near and dear to their hearts. The set is all black with minimal props. And most of the actors wear strappy black costumes.

On paper, the show sounds like it should be a complete drag.

But in practice, the Magic Valley Repertory Theatre’s production of “Chicago” doesn’t have to be as razzle-dazzle as other shows. The bleak subject matter and dark setting help the charismatic cast really shine, ensuring that nothing distracts from their performances.

“This is an amazing show about terrible people,” Director Jared Johnson said.

“Chicago” is a satire musical about two murderesses, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, who are awaiting trial after killing their lovers. They quickly become celebrities with the help of smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn, manipulating the media into sensationalizing their crimes. Roxie and Velma battle in the press to stay relevant using any means necessary.

While the power of the media can be a polarizing topic, Johnson said he hopes it makes audience members think come to their own conclusions.

Right in the middle of the stage, between the pitch-black set and the charming performers, is a live jazz band. It’s the first time in 10 years that a full band has been used in a production at the Orpheum. Ryker Harrison, the musical director for the Magic Valley Repertory Theatre, said the play showcases the band more than any other recent show.

The bare-bones set is used to give the performers plenty of space to dance and move.

In most plays, the set includes things you see in everyday life, like a home or a street scene. But the nature of “Chicago” doesn’t allow for a traditional set, Johnson said. The only set is a second level from which the cast descends.

“Chicago” is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The music is catchy, and as Roxie (Meghan Burnham) said, the show taps into people’s morbid curiosity.

“Chicago” has been a long time coming for Jonhson. Before he worked on this show, he wanted to practice with a dance-heavy play, so he warmed up in 2016 with “Cabaret.”

It’s also been a long time coming for Hailey Hillstead, who plays Velma. Playing the character has been a dream of hers for years.

“I’ve secretly always wanted to be Velma,” Hillstead said. “It’s been a challenge tapping into that evil side of myself.”

W-i-n-n-e-r: Twin Falls 13-year-old takes top honors at regional spelling bee

TWIN FALLS — Emily Fouts spelled “isinglass” without hesitation March 5 to become south-central Idaho’s top speller.

The 13-year-old knew the word. Isinglass is a kind of gelatin made from fish, but more importantly, it was in a packet of spelling bee words she’d spent hours learning.

“I studied that really thoroughly,” she said with a huge smile after.


Times-News regional spelling bee winner Emily Fouts, an eighth grader from Vera C. O'Leary Middle School.

It paid off for Emily, an eighth-grader at Vera C. O’Leary Middle School in Twin Falls. She won the fourth annual Times-News regional spelling bee at the L.A. Thomas Gymnasium in Kimberly.

Emily will represent south-central Idaho at the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 27-June 1 in National Harbor, Md. She and a parent will receive an all-expenses paid trip. It will be a huge trip for Emily, who has never traveled outside of Idaho.

PHOTOS: Times-News Regional Spelling Bee, 2018

Students qualified for the regional competition by placing at their school’s spelling bee, generally, in first or second. The Times-News printed 17,000 spelling bee guides in November 2017 to distribute to every first through eighth grade across south-central Idaho to help them prepare for school-level competitions.

In total, 43 students in second through eighth-grades from 20 south-central Idaho schools competed during the spelling bee.

After the event, Rebecca Fouts wiped tears from her eyes as she hugged her daughter. She had been on edge with anticipation as Emily progressed in the competition.

“I’m really proud of her,” she said. “I hope she’ll use this experience to know what she’s capable of.”

Fouts said her daughter was incredibly nervous on the way to the spelling bee. Emily said she wasn’t expecting to win, especially when she heard other students spell words she didn’t know.

She was among three spellers in the championship round, all from Twin Falls. Others were Eyouel Abate from Vera C. O’Leary Middle School and Abigail Burrill from Bridge Academy.

Eyouel got out on the word “sukiyaki,” a Japanese dish consisting of thin slices of meat. He came in third place.

Emily and Abigail faced off for a few final rounds until Abigail finally misspelled “synchronous.” They high-fived, shook hands and congratulated each other.

College of Southern Idaho President Jeff Fox was the pronouncer for the event, and Times-News interim Editor Alison Smith and reporter Mychel Matthews were judges. Each word was selected from an official bee list. Students could ask a few questions, such as for a word’s definition.

When students spelled a word correctly, they heard a bell ring. If they spelled a word incorrectly, they returned to the audience to sit with their family.

During the first round of the spelling bee, Sawtooth Elementary School student Will Hawkins received the word “xylophone,” the most complicated word up until that point in the competition. He spelled it correctly. In the second round, he correctly spelled “jaguar,” but was out in the third round with “flotilla,” a small fleet of boats.

Kimberly Middle School student Hannah Reed got another complicated word in the first round: “huckster,” a dishonest and aggressive salesperson or advertiser. Oregon Trail Elementary School student Ricky Roper brought his hand up to his chin, stopping to think for a moment midway through attempting to spell the word “wikiwiki.”

Harrison Elementary School student Jally Zi got the word “aria,” a melody sung by a single performer, in round two. She asked for the definition, for Fox to say the word a few times — including with his mouth away from the microphone, and there was an uncomfortably long silence in the gym as she thought about how to spell the word. After more than a minute, she asked Fox to repeat the word again. The audience began fidgeting. Jally started spelling: “a,” and after an even longer pause, she continued: “r-i-a.”

The bell rang, and the audience erupted with applause.


White Pine Elementary School's Victor Pugh breathes a sigh of relief after spelling his word correctly during the Times-News Regional Spelling Bee Monday evening, March 5, 2018, at LA Thomas Gym in Kimberly.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A free Reptile Revue begins at 6 p.m. at CSI’s Herrett Center for Arts and Science on North College Road in Twin Falls. Showing of “Earth, Moon and Sun” and “Wall of China” follows at 7 p.m. in Faulkner Planetarium; tickets: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.

Times-News publisher Travis Quast to take job in eastern Idaho

TWIN FALLS — Times-News and Elko Daily Free Press Publisher Travis Quast is stepping down later this month to lead eastern Idaho publications.

Quast made the announcement Monday and his last day is March 23. He starts April 2 as regional president and publisher for Adams Publishing Group.

“It will be tough to leave such an incredible and talented staff and wonderful community,” Quast said, but added he’s looking forward to the new opportunity.

Lee Enterprises — the company that owns the Times-News — is recruiting and interviewing candidates for publisher and expects to fill the position in the near term, said Nathan Bekke, vice president of consumer sales and marketing for Lee Enterprises.

In his new job, Quast will oversee about a dozen publications, he said, including the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, Post Register in Idaho Falls, Standard Journal in Rexburg and Teton Valley News in Driggs. He’ll also provide oversight for the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah.

There’s a trend of having a regional publisher over multiple newspapers, Quast said. He said he’ll look for synergies among the group — which includes daily, twice-weekly and weekly newspapers — and ways for them to work together.

Eastern Idaho publications have a good reputation, he said, noting there’s unmatched dominance in the region with Adams Publishing Group.

“I’m excited to be joining that team and building on the success in eastern Idaho,” he said.

Quast, a Burley native, has been Times-News publisher for five years, beginning in March 2013. Previously, he was vice president of sales and marketing at the Idaho Statesman in Boise.

“I felt like the luckiest guy in the world to be able to be publisher of my hometown newspaper,” he said.


Times-News Publisher Travis Quast speaks to the audience before a group of panelists talk about refugees and the center that helps them at the College of Southern Idaho Tuesday evening, Sep 22, 2015, in Twin Falls.

He said the Times-News‘ coverage of refugee resettlement was one the highlights of his time as publisher. The paper reported the facts and took a role in the community of answering questions and helping people understand the topic, he said.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” he said.

Quast said he had no plans of leaving the Times-News, but received a phone call asking if he’d be interested in the Adams Publishing Group position.

There are very few places he would have considered, he said, but he has family connections in eastern Idaho. His wife, LaNae, has family in Pocatello and the couple’s daughter, Maddy, is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg. The couple also has a son, Ian, who’s in high school.

Noah Berger, Associated Press 

A man watches flames consume a residence as a wildfire rages in Ventura, Calif., Dec. 5.

Twin Falls raises rates to continue recycling program

TWIN FALLS — How much is too much to recycle? The city is putting its cap at $100 per ton.

The City Council on Monday voted unanimously to continue with Twin Falls’ recycling program through PSI Environmental Services Inc. But the decision to recycle will come at a cost for residents, with city utility bills increasing by 42 cents per month. Not only that, but whenever the cost to recycle exceeds $100 per ton, those collections will be going to the landfill instead.

While all the residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting were in favor of recycling, the Council recognized that some people are on a fixed income. The breaking point of $100 per ton will keep the rate increase low while the city waits to see what the market will do.

“The economics of recycling are in dramatic change, and we need to buy ourselves some time,” Councilman Chris Talkington said.

The new rates will likely go into effect in April and will equate to an increase of $5.04 per year per customer.

Recycling has been around in Twin Falls since 2005. While it once brought in some revenue, recycling in more recent years has cost money. PSI Environmental Services paid close to $110,000 in 2017 for this service, and has asked the city to share in those costs.

Recycling has become more expensive in recent months, and particularly since China stopped importing from the U.S. due to high contamination. In February, it cost $136 per ton to recycle out of Twin Falls.

Under the Council’s decision, PSI will take recycling to a sorting center only when the costs are $100 per ton or less. The business will share 50 percent of those costs, and the rest will be paid through the increase in residents’ bills.

When recycling costs are more than $100 per ton, the material that’s collected will go to the regional landfill at a cost of $37.50 per ton.

The Council also talked about the need for more community education in an effort to reduce contamination — either from filthy containers or from people putting things in the recycling carts that can’t be recycled.

Two students representing an environmental club at Twin Falls High School came and spoke to the Council.

“We have made it our mission to make recycling more convenient,” Club founder Cheyon Sheen said.

At first, the club got burritos, waffles and “wishful recycling” in its recycling collection bins at the school. But after some education efforts in classrooms, “now we hardly have that,” she said.

Sheen offered the club’s assistance with community education. A representative from the College of Southern Idaho’s Sustainability Council also offered that group’s support.

“I think it would be a shame if we would lose that ability to recycle,” Twin Falls resident Dennis Crawford said.

Other options presented at the Council meeting were to stop the recycling program altogether, saving residents about 40 cents per month after considering costs at the landfill. On the other end, the Council could have raised rates higher to cover the cost of recycling even above $100 per ton.

“Somewhere in the middle is the ability to respond as the market shifts,” Twin Falls Utilities Billing Supervisor Bill Baxter said.

PSI had recommended paying for no more than $80 per ton to recycle, but Mayor Shawn Barigar and other Council members recognized that recycling costs have been above that for the past five months.

“I would hate to go toward this middle ground, raise rates and dump everything,” Barigar said.

He asked for monthly reports moving forward so the city has more information to work with as it considers the utility rates for the next fiscal year.

Vice Mayor Nikki Boyd was absent from the meeting.

Also at the meeting, the Council:

  • Confirmed the appointment of Cindy Bond to fill the Urban Renewal Agency board seat vacated by Brad Wills; and to appoint Andy Hohwieler and Doug Vollmer to the board with terms beginning in July.
  • Voted to support Twin Falls School District’s plant facilities levy and encouraged residents to do the same. Early voting takes place this week, with election day on Tuesday.
  • Approved a resolution to declare the city’s intent to sell its Hansen Street building via auction, with a public hearing scheduled April 2.