From Camino to "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Joanne McCoy- In August of 2017, I left home to walk the Camino de Santiago. Although I am a veteran traveler, I had never attempted a solo trip. Still, at the age of 62, with little to no hiking experience, I decided to act on a dream that had been manifesting itself to me since I was a little child: I would walk the Way of Saint James.

The Way of Saint James is an ancient pilgrimage trail also known as the Camino de Santiago. Five hundred miles long and thousands of years old, it begins at the base of the highest peaks of the Pyrenes Mountains in southwest France and ends at the Cathedral de Santiago where the bones of St. James the Elder, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles, are said to rest. Since the early 9th century, millions of pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago seeking grace, peace, strength and forgiveness.

Last year, I made my own Way. With no companions, speaking neither French nor Basque nor anything but “school Spanish,” I set off from the medieval village of Saint Jean. I carried only 15 pounds of gear on my back, a set of hiking poles, and a special document from the Vatican allowing me to stay at the pilgrim hostels and eat at the pilgrim tables along the Way.

Before the sun had set on Day One, I had met a remarkable group of people from all over the world. We didn’t stay together over the entire journey, but our paths were to cross frequently over the next 40 days. We shared everything—water, food, music, clothing, advice, laughter and encouragement. With our eyes on Santiago, we were all the same. Some of us made it. Some of us didn’t. A few walked every step. Others stuck out their thumbs and hitched a few miles or jumped in the back of a pony and cart, or took a bus or train when exhausted or injured. We listened to our hearts and we didn’t judge. It was as if we were one body, all just walking each other home to Santiago.

It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I’ve been looking for ways to revisit parts of it, emotionally if not physically, for the past year….

Yesterday was Day One of Rehearsals for the ensemble cast of "Stranger in a Strange Land," the community story play that will be part of New Spire Arts Stages' Grand Opening Weekend performances on January 19, 20 & 21.

Thirteen performers and I came together as strangers at 2:00 P.M. By 8:30, we had connected with one another in a way I’ve rarely experienced before. With encouragement from the multi-talented Celeste Miller, and after hours of experiments in dance, music and storytelling, our group of 14 had not only become friends with a deeper-than-casual knowledge of one another, we had also formed the basis for a true ensemble cast.

It was kind of magic, really.

I came to the group with my Camino experience to share. I've never felt more like a stranger in a stranger land than I did on my pilgrimage. But thanks to God's grace shown to me by my fellow pilgrims, and the kind and generous hospitalateros (inn-keepers) along the way, I lost my sense of "otherness" and felt welcomed into the rolling, ever-changing community that is the Camino de Santiago.

As we prepared to leave the theater last night, I realized that I had just experienced another "stranger in a strange land" experience. Nearly everyone else in the ensemble is an experienced actor or gifted dancer, all well-acquainted with Dramaworld-- that "strange land" of grease paint, spotlights and improvisation-- that I've never stuck my big toe into before yesterday. A stranger in a strange land indeed!

It's clear to me now that this foray into performance is the next step for me in learning to do things that scare me....that take me out of my comfort zone, that make me STRETCH, without needing to be *perfect* at it.

Just like the Camino did.

This time, my fellow cast members are my fellow pilgrims. Most/all are more experienced than I (just like on Camino)-- but we are all sharing this road, encouraging one another-- bringing each other out of that sense of "otherness" into the joyful together that is community.

It feels good to be back on the road again.

I'm thinking of all of you, fellow pilgrims and Camino angels, with love and gratitude this morning.


To keep up with Joanne's journey, check out her Facebook page The Last Pilgrim

Teacher Spotlight: Christine Mosere

Christine Mosere spent most of her theatre career in NYC where she discovered her love of the Bard while working with a First Folio Shakespeare Collective. As an actor/director/producer, she worked with such great companies as La MaMa, Playwrights Horizons, Primary Stages, and was a Founding Member of The Peccadillo Theatre Company. She has worked as Managing and Development Director for theatres on both coasts including with nationally recognized Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle and most recently Maryland Ensemble Theatre. She is currently working as Head of the Theatre Education at New Spire Arts and Producing Artistic Director of the new-to-Frederick Endangered Species Theatre Project.


What inspired you to teach?

After leaving college, I headed to NYC. Once there, I jumped into acting classes so I wouldn’t get rusty while waiting for work. My first New York teacher was Ron Stetson, a direct disciple of Sandford Meisner, who told us to stay curious and be constant learners. Even when our training was done, he said to, “Go out there and work and when you aren’t working -- learn every other technique. You have a foundation, now decorate that house.” And I took that to heart. Any time I wasn’t acting or directing, I was back studying – Method, more Meisner, Uta Hagan, Stella Adler, Tim Phillips, etc. One day it dawned on me while I was directing a show that I had a lot to offer students. I tried my hand at teaching in-between acting jobs and I loved it. It was a way to pass my passion for acting and directing onto others.


What is your favorite musical/theatre performance to watch?

Honestly, this changes pretty regularly. Many times, my favorite is the last one I saw. I recently saw Hamilton at the Kennedy Center – and as expected, it was FANTASTIC and is my current favorite. Before that, it was a wonderful piece at Olney called The Invisible Hand. And locally, I laughed and smiled all through Other Voices Theatre’s Christmas show. It was for young audiences, but this young-at-heart thespian just enjoyed it so much.


Out of all the roles you’ve played, what has been your most memorable?

I’d have to say my most recent role is the most memorable. Louise in “Always… Patsy Cline” produced by Free Range Humans -- right here in Frederick. What a blast. I’ll never forget that crazy wonderful character.


What advice would you give an up and coming artist?

I’d pass on the advice I was given by Ron Stetson… be curious and always willing to learn! And I’d add, if opportunities don’t come your way, make your own opportunities!!

Obama White House Staffers Are Coming to Frederick!

West Wingers Book Release
Saturday, October 27 @ 4pm


Celebrate the release of West Wingers with some of the Obama White House staffers who contributed to the book! We're pleased to have Rumana Ahmed, Gautam Raghavan, Stephanie Valencia, Brad Jenkins, and Frederick native and Maryland School for the Deaf alum Leah Katz-Hernandez join us to talk about the book and their experiences in the West Wing.

Queer & Proud Open Stage Night

Thursday, October 11th at 6pm

New Spire Studios
115 E. Church Street, Frederick MD 21701


Join New Spire Arts, the Frederick Center, and SHE/THEY for an Open Stage Night as we celebrate National Coming Out Day and local queer artists! What is an open stage night? We will make the stage available for any type of artist that wants to perform. Sing a song, read a poem, do a dance - the stage is open! Featured artists include Chris August, Ash Cheshire, Jess Bryant, Anna See-Jachowski, Yvette Naomi, Joseph Mullhollen, and Sam Bagels.

Want to attend but unable to afford tickets? Email us at There are a limited number of discounted tickets available so we ask that you please pay if you can. Every ticket feeds a queer artist!

New! Upcoming Events at New Spire Arts

We're only a few months away from the grand opening of New Spire Stages located at 15 W Patrick St! To give our community a taste of what’s to come, we'll be hosting events this fall at New Spire Studios located at 115 E Church St.


Story Circles: Diane Macklin

Sunday, September 23 @ 3:00pm
$15 in advance / $20 at the door

Join us for an afternoon of storytelling with Diane Macklin! Macklin is well-known in the region for her dynamic, high-energy storytelling for audiences of all ages. She is trained as a multicultural mediator in conflict resolution, facilitating hope, peace and justice through interactive audience participation, often using world folk tales and creative personal narratives. Diane is a story griot and workshop leader, actor, MD State Arts Council Educator, resident storyteller for the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, life member of the Griots Circle of MD and the National Association of Black Storytellers.


POETRY SLAM with Sonya Renee Taylor

Thursday, September 27 @ 6:00pm
$15 in advance / $20 at the door

Sonya Renee Taylor is the Founder and Radical Executive Officer of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation. Sonya is a former National and International poetry slam champion, author of two books, educator and thought leader who has enlightened and inspired organizations, audiences and individuals from boardrooms to prisons, universities to homeless shelters, elementary schools to some of the biggest stages in the world.

Slowly But Surely: New Spire Stages Update!

Things are moving along at New Spire Stages on West Patrick Street. Yes, we are responsible for the sidewalk closure but please don’t hold it against us, we promise it will be worth it! We are excited to announce the walls of the black box theatre are almost complete! Just think, the chaos in this photo will be transformed into a brand new, flexible black box theatre. Our grand opening is only six months away...

FREE Mini Workshops at New Spire Arts!

Join us for FREE mini workshops every first and third Saturday! The whole family will be entertained by drama games, music, circus, and more! First Saturday Open Houses are from 3:00pm-5:00pm and third Saturday Open Houses are from 10:00am-12:00pm. Workshops are appropriate for elementary age kids and up.

All Open Houses are held at New Spire Studios at 115 E Church St. There is free parking behind the building which can be accessed by making a left from Church St onto Chapel Alley and then another left into our lot.


July 21, 10:00am-12:00pm

Musical Theatre Sing Along, Acting & Soolah Hoops


August 4, 3:00pm-5:00pm

Belly Dance & Circus


August 18, 10:00am-12:00pm

Musical Theatre Sing Along & Voice Acting

NEW: Fall 2018 Semester Classes!

Summer's barely started, but it's time to start thinking about fall! We've got over 25 new classes and workshops for all ages and interests. With our awesome new website, finding a class has never been easier!

You can search by genre or age range to find classes, or you can search by series, which filters based on our education programs.


Join Us for the Opening of Presence Art Show

Presence Art Show, the opening show for a zine and collective developed for (and by) queer youth in the Frederick area, will be held on June 16th at New Spire Arts. Come by between 5pm and 11pm on June 16th to support queer artists in Frederick!

You can read more about the teens behind the show in the Frederick News Post.

First Lady of Maryland, Yumi Hogan, Visits New Spire Arts

Thank you to the First Lady of Maryland Yumi Hogan for attending the opening reception of the veterans art exhibit To Honor and to Serve: The Arts & the Military. The exhibit includes over fifty artworks created by veterans, military family members, and civilians interested in the impact of war and trauma.

First Lady Hogan visited New Spire Spaces to see the pieces on display there and for performances by two veterans, Jacquelyn Bengfort and Michael Carrasquillo.

She also made remarks at VOLT Restaurant, where the rest of the works from To Honor and to Serve are on display. To Honor and to Serve is on display from April 13 through June 2.