The closer we get to opening night of Heart-A-Rama, the more I think about those people who won't be with us. This year, we lost our friend Nancy Rutherford. Although Nancy hadn't performed with us for a few years, we thought of her as part of our HAR extended family.
Nancy had an elfin quality about her...tiny voice, delicate gestures, dancing eyes, bright spirit...and a happy heart. She most enjoyed roles in which she could sing and dance a bit, although she would willingly play a tree stump if asked. Nancy embraced what HAR is about, enjoying every minute on and off stage, and being proud of what the organization does.
Nancy's first year in HAR was also my first year, and neither of us knew what to expect. Ironically, for first timers, we both got huge parts. And so, we bonded. Together, we were determined to do our best. We showed up at rehearsal early, had our lines memorized before everyone else, and tried to figure out who was who in the organization as quickly and as accuratly as possible.
Since we had created such an amazing first impression, Nancy put a little plan into action! I mentioned that we showed up early for rehearsal, well, we also stayed late. After our melodrama, a small musical would rehearse featuring a chorus of flowers and bushes that popped up from beneath the stage and sang the McDonalds "two all beef patties" theme song. Nancy wanted to be one of those flowers in the worst way, and she convinced me that I wanted to be one, too. Still not knowing how the whole show came together, Nancy boldly marched up to the musical directer and announced that she and I would be flowers. From there, she informed the costume committee that they needed to make two more flower heads! And just like that, we became part of an overcrowded garden of dazed and confused petunias. For years, Nancy and I would laugh about how dumb and gutsy we were that year.
I'm glad I have that memory of Nancy's laugh.
Marilyn Lloyd is another friend that comes to mind when I think about special people who have honored us with their time. Marilyn had a twin brother, and she enjoyed sipping coffee on her screened in porch. In addition, tons of people adored Marilyn. She reminded me of a little bird for some reason. She had a musical cadence to her voice, and she had a powerful and positive aura. During her long, long battle with cancer, Marilyn looked at each new development as just another bump to get over; and she got over most of them successfully and with courage and good humor. Toward the end, she started arranging lunches with small groups of friends...tender little goodbys.
Marilyn worked backstage for many years, and relished the opportunity to sneak on stage for a quick appearance, provided she was fully disguised as a duck, a tomato, or something equally ridiculous. She was on my writing committee; we reserved the wicker chair in my living room for Marilyn because it had a footstool. She'd settle in, put her feet up, and, right on cue, my dog hopped up and draped herself across Marilyn's ankles. Marilyn didn't ask for much, but she did request that I have a roaring fire. I know that she loved popcorn...not the microwave kind, or the rubbery stuff from a bag. Marilyn liked the good old-fashioned popcorn made in a popper and bathed in butter. Her face lit up when she opened my front door and smelled wood fire and popcorn. I wish I had a picture of that lovely face to share with you.
Come see the show if you can...we still have tickets for April 22 and 29. If you do, I hope that you will feel the sense of belonging that radiates through our cast and crew...we are at home for two weeks each year...making strangers into friends...remembering our past...and creating a future for healthy hearts.