Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Weekend Away

It had been much too long since we visited Mary Ellen and Brian’s family in central Illinois.  When I heard that Brianna had the lead in their school’s musical, I knew I had to be there.  This news was extraordinary because Brianna had never sung in public before.  Yes, we knew she was musical since she played first chair clarinet and participated in the state band, but even though both her parents were singers, Bri had never expressed an interest in being a vocalist. Nothing like starting at the top! We drove up Friday afternoon and went straight to the school.

Lincolnwood Junior and Senior High School at Raymond (just a little south of Springfield) have an outstanding auditorium for a school its size, but there has not been a long tradition of theater there.  Mrs. Weatherford came six years ago, if I understood correctly what she said when she honored Patrick Crawford for six years’ participation in drama under her direction.  Brianna came to Lincolnwood as a freshman; and although she participated in the chorus or in small parts each year, she had never aspired to a lead role.  She doubted that she could act, but she definitely can. (I have always noted that shy students are often extremely effective on stage.  Shy is not a completely accurate way to describe our Brianna because in so many ways she is self assured and deservedly quite confident. Yet she is often quiet, never pushy, nor does she have to be in the lime light.)

Despite the lack of a good sound system or sets for quick scene changes, Mrs. Weatherford has managed to gradually increase the difficulty of the annual musical each spring,. This year’s presentation of Guys and Dolls, based on Damon Runyon’s story and characters, was the most challenging school production in her career there, and the results were most impressive. The amount of talent for a school that size was evidence of her hard work and the training she has provided the kids.

Brianna seemed a natural Sarah Brown, and the twinkle in Patrick Crawford’s eye made him an excellent Sky Masterson. Tanner Butler was quite believable as Nathan Detroit, and Alicia Benning as Miss Adelaide was as believable as anyone could be to have put up with a fourteen year engagement. Her smile was adorable, and I enjoyed the beautiful smiles of all the Hot Box girls.  They had obviously been well coached.

Despite the dinner Brian treated us to after the show, I had to have a muffin when we reached their country home and Trent greeted us with hugs and hot homemade muffins.

Gerald broke his record by going to both nights performances.  He knew I would want to see both nights as I always try to do when we visit the Freeport grandkids’ shows.   I explained to him that each performance is different, and it was just like wanting to see both games in a double header or all three games in a weekend series.  I still expected him to stay at home the second night, but he was right there to applaud with the rest of us.  Getting to meet two of Mary Ellen’s friends I’d heard her talk about was a special treat for me.

Jeannie had driven down from Freeport with Cecelie and they’d stopped by Illinois State to pick up Elijah for the Saturday performance.  So Brianna had a couple of cousins in addition to her brother Trent and her friends there that night.  When she got home from the cast party, I am sure the younger generation had another party downstairs.  I don’t know what time she got home because after we all visited and feasted on Mary Ellen’s buffet, Gerald and I headed to bed.  But since Jeannie had told her two that they would need to be back on the road at 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Cecelie was concerned because she heard Bri tell her mom she’d be home by 3:30.  Mary Ellen had to explain to us that was a standing joke between them, but Bri would be home at a decent hour.

Brian reminisced throughout the performances because his high school had also done Guys and Dolls.  He had been Nicely Nicely Johnson and his sister Vicky had been Miss Adelaide.  Watching his pleasure at those memories reinforced what I have always known:  Theater participation provides students with invaluable group bonding and gives them perks that last a lifetime.

We slept late Sunday morning and had a leisurely breakfast and then visited more before we headed into Raymond again to worship together.  It felt good to pray with others for the victims of the Boston bombers.  After church, we drove to Litchfield to the same restaurant where we’d had dinner after the Friday performance.  We lingered as long as we could before we had to be back on the highway to head home to Southern Illinois.

Baby green leaves on the trees lining the roads were accented with the white and purplish pink blooms of the occasional dogwood or redwood. Despite the chilly winds, it was a beautiful day.  Gerald was driving, and I was relaxed. My lunch soon demanded a siesta that no amount of trying could postpone.  When I awoke, we were almost home.  It was good to have been away.  It was also good to be home.

No comments: