Our Season Sampler this year was - so far - the best ever. In the midst of Cinderella rehearsals, auditions for Twelfth Night, and other high maintenance projects we really didn't have an opportunity to create the Season Sampler. To make matters worse, the rain was scheduled to hit our event date and the scene we intended to do for Twelfth Night, one of our young actors broke his leg just days before the event. And our facility had scheduled the performance venue with another event that tied up the entire building, meaning that we were out of finding adequate rehearsal time.
I am a woman that likes structure (not rigid structure just structure). So this was soon becoming a big question mark. Nevertheless, the energetic Peter was by my side and came to me days before the event saying, "I found two actors to do a scene from Twelfth Night." What? Are they going to read from a script? It could work - it won't be what we are expecting, but it could work. Peter replies, "No, I told them to be off book and we will have a couple of hours to rehearse". Okay. You are the Artistic Director so this is your vision and show.
To my amazement, not only did people come in the rain but we had a wonderful crowd. Then minutes before I was about to open the doors, Peter says, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to have Velina and Marcus do a little number?" I just walked by thinking 'not possible'. So I hear Marcus Shelby on the piano and Velina working on a last minute performance. Good luck to us all. . .
The doors open and the people came. New visitors, old supporters, and those in between. Peter was outside with me greeting people and just before we are about to start a little girl and her mother were halted at the door. The little girl did not want to go in. It appears that she was afraid of the dark. The mother tried convincing her daughter that she would be fine. Then Peter stepped in and took patience and time to speak to the little girl. He showed her that there were special places that had illumination and he was holding her hand. I even ran upstairs to give the girl a small flash light we keep for ushers in the main office.
The little girl did manage to make it into the theatre with the flashlight I had provided, but she was still uncertain. While this was going on there was a video playing, but I could see that Peter still wanted the little girl to calm down. However, the video would soon be ending and Peter would be introduced and called to the stage. Oh, no! What would happen if he left the girl and mother now?
Then Peter decides to include the little girl in the program. When his name was announced he held the little girl's hand and escorted her onto the stage with him. It turns out Meredith (the little girl) knows herself well. She doesn't like the dark, but she does love the light. And with that Meredith took her entrance and was so comfortable on the stage in front of the crowd and began inviting another child on stage to join her and even tugged on Peter's sleeve a few times when he was making his announcement to the audience to give him some direction on what he should do.
Then the scenes began and the children in Cinderella did an outstanding job! (The adult actors were good too). Then the scene from Twelfth Night with less than 2 hours of rehearsal was so flawless people asked if that was the chosen cast. And finally Marcus Shelby spoke and invited Velina Brown on stage who gave a great jazz vocal performance (that was created only 10 minutes prior).
Afterwards, Peter and I went to the lobby and I helped our six interns from USF with ticket voucher sales. The event was just incredible. And I am so proud to have Peter at the helm of our artistic leadership. He's truly the best!
- Sherri Young