Have I said I’m in a play? Well, I am – at the Center On The Square dinner theater in Searcy, Arkansas (www.centeronthesquare.org ). Opening night is one week away.
The play is The Homecoming, based on a book by Earl Hamner, which was the basis for a movie, Spencer’s Mountain, starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara. This movie was later adapted for a television series and the Spencer’s family name was changed to The Waltons, which can still be seen on Hallmark Channel. I play Grandma Ida.
There are, of course, seven children in this play – from Clay-boy to Pattie-Cake. Most of these little actors are a product of the KidStage program at the Center, and they know how it’s done. They are quiet backstage, they know their lines and blocking and are having fun doing it right. When “Clay-boy” spoke too soon, “Pattie-Cake” reminded him that she was not finished speaking. This brought amused asides from the adults in the wings: “Don’t step on my line,” “I’ll be in my trailer,” “I can’t work like this.” But we were kidding. There’s not a prima donna in the bunch and they are going to steal every scene.
This is not my first time to be onstage with children. In The Miracle Worker, the story of Hellen Keller and her teacher, Annie’s efforts to make Helen behave at the dinner table erupts into a wholesale food fight – right there on stage. I played Aunt Ev and the toddler cast as Helen’s sister was afraid of me and, one night, screamed so that the “maid” had to come on stage and take the baby off so the audience could hear our lines. The dog Helen makes friends with was a very good “actor”, but backstage wanted to eat the food props. There’s an old saw that actors should avoid being onstage with children, animals or food and that production was a triple threat.
Being onstage is one of my most favorite things to do. So, if I’m not here for the next few days, you’ll know where I am.