This actually happened yesterday. Last night to be specific. But the happiness lingers till today.
And I just now talked to Jeanne on the phone about it all.
Perhaps I have mentioned that my friend Jeanne is a lifelong thespian. That’s THesPian.
As in acting. In plays. On stage.
So when I heard about this play … A Bad Year For Tomatoes … being held as a fund-raising kind of thing by a community church group … and the fact that Jeanne was to be on stage the entire time … and it was a comedy … and she seemed as though she really wanted me to come see it …
Well, what else could I do?
So yesterday evening I drove in … and out … of the place for an evening of laughter.
The room held maybe eighty people … ten tables of eight each. And as I sat down I swear the centerpiece … a small tomato plant … shuddered in fear. Who says plants aren’t intuitive?
Plan A was that I would be seated at the same table as her husband and a few friends of theirs. Nice idea. Except it didn’t work out exactly like that.
Plan B ended up with me sitting at a table next to the husband-and-friends table … with a great group of people. Although an introvert by nature, I seem to make friends wherever I go.
There was the couple who lived in the same neighborhood where my Grandmother had lived. There was the nice lady who asked politely for bread, then started telling jokes. And the man who was dealing with recurring cancer.
There was the older, older woman who told the story of the grandson who insisted on giving her trinkets … “I don’t NEED any more trinkets, you know?” she said. “But he spends money on trinkets. What is going to happen to them once I am gone? And I TOLD him I didn’t need any more trinkets. But did he listen? Oh no he didn’t.”
I started to feel a little sorry for the unknown grandson.
“I told him I wanted to go out to lunch somewhere. Just him and me. Lunch. That’s what would make me happy. Spending some time with him.” And I realized that she wasn’t so concerned with the trinkets or the eventual disposal of the trinkets. She wanted to spend time with the family she loves.
Then there was the young woman. Okay, so she looked like she was 20 going on 12. And she was positively glowing. I commented on her apparent youth.
“My husband is in the play.” she bubbled. “He has a really good part. And he is really excited to play the part. But if you think I look young, you should see him. He looks like he is about 8.”
There were no parts for eight year olds.
“They had to spray his hair grey to make him look older for the part.” she continued. “And it really works.”
Not to give too much away about the plot, but he played a Hollywood Agent. I’m thinking Hollywood Agents probably wouldn’t be caught dead with grey hair.
Being an engineer in real life, this was his first acting role … so he was clearly pushing himself beyond his comfort zone. Between practicing lines at home each evening with his wife, and attending all the rehearsals with the cast, you would think that would be enough.
But he also recorded the lines, and listened to them each day on the way to and from work in the car.
I found myself silently rooting for him to do well. Not many people challenge themselves to do something which would be otherwise uncomfortable … and I admired him for the effort.
After eating dinner … I did mention it was Dinner Theatre, right ?… so after eating dinner and getting a killer recipe for the chicken (see below) … the play began.
And it became apparent what one reason might be for Jeanne to want me to come see the play.
Plot: Woman of a certain age (my age) gives up career (acting) to go to a cute little house in a cute little town for a year … to write a book.
Sound strangely familiar?
Except I do not have neighbors like this woman had. Talk about crazy.
Jeanne was splendid, as always.
Now I am no judge of theatrical ability. But their hearts were clearly into the whole production of the thing. And the audience was clearly enjoying seeing their friends in the show.
I wish I had taken a better picture of the cast above. On the far left was the woman whose make-up resembled a cross between Bela Lugosi and Nosferatu … dark circles under bulging eyes … complete with cape and green hair.
Yes, green hair.
You can just see part of her cape in the picture above. And if I understand correctly, she was also the Director of the play.
The man with the dark hair began the play with a long beard (fake of course) playing a classic mountain man of few words. At first I thought maybe he was not acting well. Until I realized how cleverly underplayed he was actually acting his part. What my friend Linda would call a “yupanoper”. Few words. Few syllables. All in the delivery.
By the end of the play he had lost the beard … was sweetly sympathetic … and I wanted to take him home with me.
The rest of the characters were flamboyant to say the least. And the laughter reverberated off the walls.
When it was over, one woman came up to Jeanne to tell her how much she had enjoyed the play.
“I was diagnosed with cancer this week. And I have done nothing but cry since then. Until tonight. I just wanted to thank you for giving me some laughter again in my life.”
And you know, what she said really is the truth.
In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t whether the parts were ideal … or whether the lines were delivered perfectly … or even if the lines were delivered at all.
It was about people. People enjoying life. Enjoying each other. Enjoying the food. Enjoying the friends onstage. Enjoying the laughter.
And that was the best part of it all.
Secret Recipe For Church Chicken
8 Boneless Chicken Breasts (maybe thinned with a mallet)
3/4 C Grated Parmesan Cheese
3/4 C Crushed Corn Flakes
1 packet dry Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
Combine Parmesan Cheese, Corn Flakes and dry Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing in a bowl. Dip each Chicken Breast in melted butter. Dredge in dry mixture until coated.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.