Music, a Movie, and a Nod to Route 66


She’s been retired for more than a decade, but a local woman with strong artistic passion is busy working on a project she hopes is destined for the big screen.“I promised myself before retiring, that I’d explore creativity in all aspects of my life,” said Terri Ryburn...and she has.

Ryburn, who holds a doctorate in history from Illinois State University has written plays, had plays published, does standup comedy, is writing a memoir, and performs in a local acting troupe.

Terri Ryburn

“I put myself out there, and it can be scary, but I think back to that retirement promise,” Ryburn smiled. Her latest project involves one of her former ISU students and a screenplay--thanks to a chance social media encounter last summer. “I read a Facebook post promoting a show called The Best of Hank and Rita: A Barroom Operetta,” said Ryburn. Lo and behold, it featured Ann Rosenquist Fee, one of my favorite students. Ann plays Rita alongside actor Joe Tougas who portrays Hank—her husband.”

The show goes something like this: Fictional couple, Hank and Rita, are a singing duo who hit it big in the 70’s. But now it’s 1986, and the couple’s fame is dwindling fast. Instead of performing big concerts in urban areas—they’re playing to diner crowds and small town bars. Hank (Joe Tougas) doesn’t know it, but his wife Rita (Ann Rosenquist Fee) is planning to leave him. She just needs one more “good” performance before calling it quits.

Ann Rosenquist Fee and Joe Tougas star as Hank and Rita. Photo courtesy Terri Ryburn.

“I called Ann because I had a sudden flash--I saw this show as a movie,” Ryburn explained. “After buying the CD and seeing it live with my good friend Kathi Davis, I got really excited. I told Ann, ‘we love the music, we love the concept, and we want to bring Hank and Rita to Bloomington.’ Ann agreed!” Ryburn’s plan (with the help of friends) is as follows:1.) Shoot/edit a short film starring Hank and Rita this winter. Cinematographer J.J. Painter is lending Ryburn a hand. 2.) Submit it to film festivals this summer. 3.) Use the profits to fund a larger movie on Route 66.

“As a historian, I would love to call attention to Route 66 and the communities along the way,” Ryburn smiled. “Even more, The Best of Hank and Rita offers something for everyone. It’s funny, sad, entertaining (there’s love, adventure), it has great music, really a universal story.”

To help pay for the short film, Ryburn is performing standup comedy at the Eagles Club on Thursday January 28th, at 8PM. But that’s not the only gig raising money for the initial project. Rosenquist Fee and Tougas are bringing their live show, The Best of Hank and Rita to Bloomington on January 29th and 30th. Like Ryburn’s comedy—it will also be performed at the Eagles Club.

“I’m learning to live without fear. I’m learning, growing, and having fun,” said Ryburn. “After all, everything you say ‘yes’ to, leads to something even more fantastic.” The hope is there will be a big turnout for each performance so Ryburn, (and Hank and Rita too), can make this cinematic dream—a reality. Perhaps that’s the last “good” show Rita is looking for.

A Night of Standup Comedy with Terri Ryburn              Thursday January 28th Eagles Club 313 S. Main Street Bloomington 8PM Tickets: $10 at the door

The Best of Hank and Rita – LIVE in Bloomington! Friday January 29th/Saturday January 30th Eagles Club 313 S. Main Street Bloomington Doors open at 6:30 (cash bar, snacks available)/Performance at 8PM Tickets: $15 in advance at or $20 at the door (if available)

The short film will be used to solicit funds for the full-length feature film. To donate to Ryburn’s project, call 309-452-5325 or email