Thursday, May 31, 2007

Visiting Jeannie's Family at Freeport

Since Gerald had softball tournaments on his mind, he was quite agreeable when I casually noted that if I went home with the Eilers from Aidan's party, I could stay a week with them. Then he could come up as planned for Elijah's 8th grade graduation and pick me up. I kept meaning to call Jeannie and see how their schedule would be this last week of school. But last Thursday night, I fell asleep on the couch and failed to call her before their bedtime. With two working parents and three children in different school and numerous activities, their lives are incredibly busy, and I worried that one more person in the house could be the burden that broke the camel's schedule.

At this point I decided not to come up here, but a couple of things worked together to cause me to at least throw the idea out to Jeannie. We were set to leave in a hour or so to spend Friday night with the Taylors, when I finally reached Jeannie. Since I would be car-less, I knew I could not help with transportation, but I told her maybe I could help somehow while here. "Just come up and we'll have fun," she encouraged. And we have had.

After the parade, program, indoor picnic, straightening her art room for the next day by removing the now dried paper heads, and catch-up chores for Jeannie and Rick on Memorial Day, we were getting ready for bed and discussing the next day and week when Jeannie gasped and said, "Oh, I've not made arrangements for Cecelie's getting to school. Her baby sitter had to be out-of-town this week."

In the crowded over-full weekend busyness, it had slipped her mind. And there I was in Freeport delighted to be able to walk to and from school with one of the prettiest and sweetest blond second graders in the universe. Jeannie has a small picture in her home that says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:6. Suddenly I felt directed and right where I was supposed to be.

The last two nights we have gone down to Freeport's majestic Masonic Temple for the area theatrical awards established by Dan Stevens of the local AdPix newspapers--Village Voices and Freeport Focus. With a theatre arts background himself, Stevens appreciates all the excellent directors in the local high schools here in Northwestern Illinois. He knows how much work and personal sacrifice such teachers make to see a play or musical to completion. He wanted something done for the theater students similar to conference all-star programs for athletes.

With the two-night donation of the Masonic Temple for rehearsal on Tuesday and the award show on Wednesday, Stevens was able to offer proscenium arch experience to some high school students who had only previously performed in a gymnasium, where probably only the first few rows of the audience saw much of their performance. Now here they were in costume and putting on an excerpt from their school's musical where John Philip Sousa,Elvis, and many other notables have performed. How in the world kids remembered lines from last fall is beyond my comprehension, but these players are extremely talented and versatile enough to do whatever is required of them.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my granddaughter Leslie rehearse on Tuesday and remembered again the fun we had last fall when ten cousins--counting Aidan--descended on her backstage after one performance. Then on Wednesday night we saw not only Freeport's scene from Pajama Game, but also EPC's (Eastland and Pearl City combined) Charlie Brown, Warren High School's excerpt from Seussical, Orangeville High School's from Hello Dolly, and Acquin High School's from Guys and Dolls . While the judges exited to decide which school received the 2007 traveling trophy, we saw a slide presentation of all the schools' year in theater.

The evening began with a recognition of all the directors from these six schools spreading across the stage and receiving a check for their school's program. A bright red cloth was pulled away to reveal a table full of trophies to be presented for various aspects of theatrical production as well as for individual performances. Recognition was given for make-up, lighting, costumes, an original play written by a local director, best special effect, best set design, and a Bright Star Award for a returning student.

Individual awards included male and female leads in musicals and plays and also male and female supporting roles in musicals and plays. This allowed 32 students to be highlighted with individual pictures in the beautiful program booklet, and each time the individual trophy was awarded, photos of all four of those particular nominees were on the large screen in front of us.

Other students were seen in the collection of play/musical photographs in the program booklets, but I hope we were all aware that many hard-working students weren't able to be recognized. Some danced, sang, and acted with great talent and enthusiasm in smaller parts and made the shows what they were, but their names were not the noticed ones except by their families, neighbors, and classmates. Other students climbed ladders, hammered boards, did make-up, and performed other work and often were not even seen by the audience. These are the students who really deserve praise.

Naturally I was pleased when Freeport won the traveling trophy, but I have to admit the biggest thrill for me was when Leslie was given the trophy for the Musical Female Lead. Although I had seen none of the other schools' musicals, I had to wish her nominated cohart Ryan Werntz had gotten the top male award because they played off each other so well.

I know how hard Leslie works, and I was delighted be there and see her receive this recognition of her work. Leslie acknowledges her talent is God-given, but I know that she has made every effort that her gift is not wasted. Her mother recognized that even as a toddler that Leslie would act out whatever she was telling about. As Jeannie heard her daughter singing, she recognized something very special, and she made sure this child lived in the midst of good music and videos and productions by talented performers.

I have to be grateful to the efforts of Jeannie's entire family for all the fun I am having in Freeport. For two evenings, schedules have necessarily focused on Leslie, but I have seen nothing but acceptance on her siblings' parts. But then they know their parents are equally committed to them and the development of their gifts. Frankly, I can barely wait to see Elijah walk the boards at Freeport High School next year.

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