June 19 - 28
Buskirk-Chumley Theater

Meet Motormouth!

Coach’s wife loves role in “Hairspray”

By March Creps

When Lee Martin married her husband, she knew his life as a basketball coach would create some challenges.

Chuck Martin, who is now an assistant coach for the Indiana University men’s basketball team, would need to move when opportunities presented themselves. And move they did.

0001The couple, originally from New York City, spent three years in Philadelphia before moving back to New York for two years. Then the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, for two years then back to New York state for six.

“So we’ve been around different places,” Lee said in a recent phone interview. “It makes sense for me to just kind of stay home and go with the flow.”

For some trailing spouses, it can be difficult to find yourself in a new town, but Lee kept busy raising the couple’s three children and finding her own happiness in each city.

Lee is a singer who, while they lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, attended Marist College and joined its gospel choir. The experience put her around young people who gave her a different perspective and also welcomed her children when a babysitter was unavailable.

“Honestly, me singing in the gospel choir was probably the best thing ever that I was able to do,” Martin said.

In June 2014, change came again. Chuck Martin took a job under IU men’s basketball coach Tom Crean, and the family would move from Poughkeepsie to Indiana. Lee had never been to Indiana, and she wasn’t sure what to expect. Cornfields came to mind.

But she found the area beautiful, with a university that brings diversity to the community. “It’s really nice, and everyone is so friendly,” she said.

Settling into Bloomington, Lee was looking for an opportunity to spread her creative wings. When the family went to see Crean’s daughter in a production of “The Little Mermaid” by Stages Bloomington, Lee asked if there was anything similar for adults, and she was directed to Cardinal Stage Company.

Lee went home and checked out Cardinal’s website, where she learned she had just missed auditions for its upcoming production of “Hairspray.” Knowing she loved that particular musical, Lee emailed Cardinal, which graciously offered her a chance to audition during callbacks the next day.

Auditioning for “Hairspray” wasn’t easy, since it had been years since Lee had auditioned. But the blood-pumping nervousness she felt didn’t make her want to run. It energized her to think of the hard work that would be involved if she was told “yes.” And she has no fears of hearing “no.”

“This is not a do-or-die moment in my life. I’ve had so many pages in my book in my life that I’m OK if they say no to me,” she said. But she wasn’t told “no.”

“Eventually, I got the part (of Motormouth Maybelle), which is awesome. It takes a minute for you to kind of put yourself out there, but the one thing that I have learned from the moves is to put myself out there sooner and quicker, so you can get the best out of living in the moment and in the community,” she said.

Finding and following her own passions is a little easier now that her children (17-year-old Ashley, 12-year-old Jordan and 10-year-old Justin) are a little older. And throughout all the moves, Lee hopes to set a good example for her kids that change can be good.

When Lee turned 40 years old in April, Jordan gave her a magnet that said “courage.”

“He said, ‘Mom, I got you that magnet because you put yourself out there and you tried out for something, and it takes courage,’” Lee recalled. “That they see it and they understand it — that was the big thing for me, that he got it.”

“Hairspray” has a relatively big cast with lots of young people, including IU students. The young people inspired Lee to apply for IU’s bachelor of fine arts program, where she’s been accepted. She’s also been strengthened by the support she’s received from those students.

“They’re so nice, which is totally not what I’ve experienced in New York with auditions,” Lee said.

The cast and crew are quick to compliment Lee, which has been quite a boost to her ego.

“Now when I go home, my head is all big. I don’t know if I’m going to fit into the door,” Lee said with a laugh.

Being a part of Cardinal has helped Lee transition to life in Bloomington, and even her husband has seen the positive influence being involved in a musical has had.

“He’s like, ‘Who are you and what have you done with my wife?’” she said.

Bloomington is full of trailing spouses, and while it isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Lee has taken chances as much as she can in all the moves the family has made. And those chances have led to some great experiences that she wouldn’t have had if she’d stayed home and closed herself off to change.

“You’ve got to do something for yourself, because if you don’t, you’re going to lose the opportunity to live in a different city and an opportunity to grow,” she said.

Not all of Lee’s interests focus on singing. She’s learned to sew and make home improvements. She finds various ways to keep busy and is motivated to learn new skills.

“For me, I just knew — I’m very creative, so I needed to keep myself busy,” she said.

The opportunity to perform on stage has been rewarding.

“This is the 20-year-old version of me. Everybody’s enjoying the whole path that I’ve taken, so it’s been a very good experience so far. It’s not an easy thing because, as a spouse, you’re constantly giving up and putting your dreams aside,” she said.

That lifestyle is something Lee is comfortable living, and she said she’s never had an issue with it.

“I think it’s been such a great learning experience,” she said.



If you go

WHO: Cardinal Stage Company.

WHAT: “Hairspray”

WHERE: Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave.

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. June 20-21, 25-28; 2 p.m. June 20-21, 26-28.

TICKETS: $12.95-$32.95. Available at or call 812-336-9300.