Last year one of my dear friends decided to fulfill a long time dream and start a community theater group. Because of her history in the community as a high school music teacher, drama director, and church choir director, she has contacts galore with people of all ages. A perfect opportunity presented itself - the ability to host the group in her church (St Paul’s Presbyterian Church) - and thus, Paul’s Players was born. Despite her many friends and connections in the community, it hasn’t been easy. This is not an affluent area, nor is it one that really champions the arts. But she has persevered, getting enough donations of time and money to mount three shows in the past year as well as a successful musical theater camp for middle school students. All this while continuing to work as the music and choral director of the church, as well as serve on the Board of her local AAUW chapter, be an active participant in her grandchildren’s lives and activities, and travel on several nice trips this year.
Not a bad resume for a 70 year old retired teacher, is it?
Her plan this summer was to produce a multi-age production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It’s a fun show, she’s done it several times in her career, and was excited at the prospect of getting a group of 40 or 50 young people between the ages of 8-21 involved in musical theater. She had a group of eager adults ready and willing to help out and we were all excited about working together.
As it happened, staffing was the easiest part. Turnout for auditions was really light. In fact, it was frightening. Despite massive publicity - including personal visits to all the middle school and high school classrooms in within three neighboring cities - as recently as this past weekend we barely had enough people to make up the cast or children’s choir, with the show just about four weeks away.
Most importantly, we didn’t have a Joseph.
But while many of us behind the scenes were getting ready to write the whole thing off, my friend never did. She kept coming up with people she could call, remembering students from past shows and putting out direct invitations. She spread a net far and wide, casting it out among young people who had found their way onto her stages during the past several years.
Lo and behold, the phone call she had been waiting for came in yesterday afternoon.
“I have a Joseph!” she crowed on my voice mail. “In fact, I have TWO!” And she proceeded to tell me about two young men who had responded to her message within minutes of each other. Both of them recent high school graduates, both of them still finding their way in a difficult world, not quite sure which road to travel.
“The best part is,” she said eagerly, “I know doing this show is going to help them."
Her ability to remain positive - to keep the faith - is astounding, and it’s one of the things I admire about her. It’s a lesson I’ve taken with me from the years of working with her in the classroom and on projects like Paul’s Players. Whenever I’m tempted to throw in the towel, to say “that will never work!” I remember times like this when it seemed as if we were doomed.
And then we got a Joseph.