“The glory of God is man fully alive.”St. Irenaeus
BERT HEALY“But, still, remember folks.”
“Smile, darn ya smile.”from Annie
|These girls bring it|
Tonight, the final curtain closes on the Red Barn Theater's (RBT) production of Annie. Since June 9, the rest of my cast mates and I have been driving up to “the Barn” for rehearsals and, for the last nine nights, performances. Tonight's show will mark number ten. With only one exception, we've been honored with standing “O's” every night. (Personally, I'm of the opinion that no matter how Daddy Warbucks, Hannigan or Rooster do the orphans save us every night. They're just so dang cute who wouldn't give a rousing ovation for them?) Hannah C, who plays Annie, has done just an outstanding job along with her fellow orphans from the New York Municipal Orphanage.
|I'm the mug in the middle|
For me, I've had the blessing of playing Rooster, my first real villain role. In '08, I was blessed to play Fagin in the RBT's production of “Oliver!” and in '09, Mayor Shinn in “Music Man”. Fagin is a thief with a heart of gold and Shinn is but a blowhard. But Rooster? There's just nothing redeeming about him (okay, the audience loves the Rooster – when in doubt, crow louder is my motto). But in the end the crowd loves it when he, Lily and Hannigan get their comeuppance.
The long and short of it is I've had a lot of fun.
SCENES FROM "THE GREEN ROOM"
|We're just getting into character...|
|She's the cat's pajamas|
Having fun is why I do community theater. I'm not in it for the money (“Wait, there's money in this?”). I don't do it for the acclaim of the folks who attend the fellowship of which I serve as pastor (Um, they are wonderful people but they are just not community theater kinda folks). I do it for the fun of it and because it helps my heart come alive. I suppose being a person of a religious persuasion I should have some spiritual reason for allocating so much time and money to playing around. “Building relationships” or “witnessing opportunities” are reasons that probably could pass muster if I had to defend them before a board of overseers. Gratefully, the leaders I work with and am submitted to are not wired that way. I've never asked for their blessing but they have never insinuated that I needed to. No, I'm in it just for laughs.
And for the people. I love to make people laugh both on stage and behind it. I love the people I get to work intensively with for nearly five weeks running. Donna/ “Lily”, the woman who plays my cohort in crime, is just so much fun to be with. Long before we make our big entrance in Act 1, Scene 7, we've already had our fill of laughs out back. The fact that she is so doggone beautiful means I just look better standing next to her.
|Between scenes in "the green room"|
The “green room” (in stage terminology, the place where actors hang out before and in between scenes) for this show happens to be the large grassy area behind the Barn. Every night at my invitation ten minutes before the show opens the majority of the cast gather together to pray for God's blessing on our performance as well as for each other. For the rest of the night, the 8-10 plastic chairs in this same area are full of members of the cast visiting, talking, sharing things light and, at times, not so light. I love to hear people's stories and, as in previous shows, I've heard bits and pieces of some of my cast mates' journeys. Only one or two refer to me as “Pastor Jeff.” Most of them call me “Jeff” or “Rooster” (which I want to believe is a term of endearment for them and not villainy). For a lot of them I'm probably the first (or only) pastor they've ever known in this way. (I'm not inferring that their pastor or priest is uncaring or indifferent; it's just that they probably don't hang out with him as they do with me.)
Tonight is strike, always a melancholy moment for me. A world is disassembled and put away for good, never to be replaced. I'll part company with the fedora I've loved sporting these past nine nights. In Red Barn tradition we'll sign the wall and then say our good-byes. And that's the hardest part of this whole thing. Sure, I'll bump into them at Wal-Mart or chat with them from time to time on Facebook, but we won't have opportunity of sitting in chairs in the Green Room again for a long time – really, if ever. People move away, get married, take other jobs, get away from theater. Case in point, before this show I hadn't worked with Kevin/ “Burt Healy” since Music Man ('09), Nancy/ “Ms. Hannigan” and Donna/ “Lily” since The King and I ('07). So, you never know when this might be the last hurrah together. That's what I'll miss the most when the stage is swept for the last time and Billy, the house manager, turns the lights off: chatting informally in the “green room” with some wonderful people I love, waiting for our cue to go out on that stage and make 'em laugh.
It always does my heart good. And in that I think God is pleased.