The Storysmith is coming to Hernando County–and she comes accompanied by the spirit of a legend.
Marking the first presentation in the 2020 program of Academia Hernando, a not-for-profit lifelong learning organization that seeks to inform, educate and inspire adult learners in this area through a series of weekly lectures, nationally known storyteller Susan Marie Frontczak will present “A Living History: Meet Erma Bombeck” 10 a.m. Jan. 17 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2301 Deltona Blvd. in Spring Hill.
Frontczak–also known as The Storysmith–will appear in character as author and columnist Bombeck, often called “The Woman Who Made the World Laugh” (https://ermabombeckcollection.com/). She treated her column “At Wit’s End,” which appeared in 900 newspapers nationwide, and best-selling books like “I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression” and “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank,” as a microphone for the traditional housewife. Her presentation explores the origins of Bombeck’s career as a humorist, and shares her witty but educated views regarding everything from marriage and children to the everyday performance of housekeeping and lawncare chores–all while trying never to break a sweat and to live up to society’s ideals for the prim and perfect housewife.
“Erma Bombeck understood that you have to be able to laugh at life to get through it,” said Frontczak. “She said that journalists had “beats.” Some covered crime, some covered education, or politics, or sports. She covered the “utility room beat” – everyday experiences. I hope the audience allows themselves to recognize themselves, and have a good chuckle.”
Bombeck joins other luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Shelley, Clara Barton, Irene Castle and Marie Curie in the cast of characters that the Storysmith brings to life through her Living History presentations, which she delivers around the country at schools, organizations, senior centers, concert halls, churches, storytelling festivals, and other venues.
“The idea of presenting as Erma Bombeck came through a call for proposals from Ohio Humanities for their summer touring program Ohio Chautauqua on the theme “American Legends from the 60s and 70s.” The troupe would include five historical figures,” she explained. “So many historical characters that fit the theme were very serious. Erma felt like a good balance, and appealed to me.”
Frontczak is also a Bombeck fan.
“I remember Erma Bombeck. I used to compete with my mother to see which of us could snag the monthly Good Housekeeping magazine first, in order to read Bombeck’s column,” she said. “Furthermore Ohio was Erma Bombeck’s home state, so I felt I had a good chance, and my proposal was accepted. Of course Erma Bombeck as Living History has proven to be popular to a wider audience as well.”
Although she passed away in 1996, Bombeck’s work still resounds with readers.
“Erma called attention to the struggles of women whose lives otherwise felt invisible and taken for granted,” read information provided at the Academia Hernando website (https://www.academiahernando.org/). “She let women across America know they were not alone.”
While portraying historical luminaries like Bombeck, Frontczak herself has become a woman of note.
Coming here from Colorado, Susan Marie Frontczak has performed living history programs for 19 years across 42 states and nine countries abroad. She has worked with the Smithsonian Institute, the International Museum Theater Alliance, Colorado Humanities, etc., has done voicework for theatrical CDs and other recordings, and has published books and plays, as well as stories in national magazines. She also has won 11 awards and honors for her work.
Frontczak is the first featured speaker in the 2020 Academia Hernando adult education program, which claims its origins as a division of the learning in retirement unit of the University of South Florida and originally was called “Mondays in Brooksville.” Incorporated as a 501(c) 3 domestic non-profit business Nov. 18, 2010, Academia Hernando this year features an itinerary of eight guest speakers/educators.
“Here in Hernando County, we have a lot of things to do–from golfing to kayaking. We wanted to start a program in this area that offered intellectual stimulation,” said Diane Ryan, marketing representative for Academia Hernando. “A program that offers lifelong learning.”
Ryan says that representatives of Academia Hernando, a volunteer-run program, travel and conduct a great deal of research to find just the right mix of speakers, who are paid for their time.
“We like to offer a diverse mix of different topics,” she said.
This diversity is evident in the newest Academia Hernando schedule, which also includes the presentation The Irish on Broadway by Jason Fortner Jan. 24, Butcher and Douglas — Protecting the Everglades by Ann Ottaviano Jan. 31, The Golden Age of Piracy by Robert Jacobs Feb. 7, Women Inventors Who Didn’t Make the History Books by Sheryl Long Feb. 14, Neil Armstrong: Boy Scout, Pilot and Hero by Hal Hultman Feb. 21, The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I by Stephanie Keating Feb. 28, The House that John Built by John Schloder March 6. The spring semester culminates with a bus excursion to Ringling Museum for subscribers only.
Although open to everyone, Ryan says that the program is widely attended by senior women aged 60s through 80s.
“The programs are very well-received, and they offer a social aspect,” she said. “Those who attend enjoy one another’s company.”
Academia Hernando speakers also enjoy their participation in the program.
“I’ve had such a good time with Academia Hernando audiences,” said Frontczak. “It is a treat to speak to people whose minds are so open to ideas.”
And aside from being educational and social, Ryan says that the Academia Hernando program is affordable as well. The cost for the series is $65 and includes the bus excursion to the Ringling Museum. Walk-in guests will pay $10 for individual lectures, if space is available. For information, call (352) 515-0300 or (352) 600-7508, e-mail [email protected], or visit academiahernando.org. And for more information about Susan Marie Frontczak, visit
“Ultimately,” said Ryan. “The goal of Academia Hernando is to inspire people to learn more.”