While preparing for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, I was diagnosed with leukemia. The Monday before Thanksgiving in fact. Just a few days before our opening night. Needless to say it came as quite a shock.
After Pageant was finished I continued to see my oncologist and, at each visit, I was asked about any “new pains or problems.” I had been occasionally experiencing a slight pain in my right side but nothing significant. As a precaution I was sent for a CT scan of the abdomen which revealed a small tumor on my kidney. A later MRI revealed that the tumor was, in fact, cancerous. This was in late January/early February.
I needed surgery and was not sure of the scheduling. I did not audition for Mousetrap for that very reason as I didn’t want to possibly get cast then have the surgery become urgent and get scheduled during the show or rehearsals because the recovery time was going to be significant. My work schedule coming up was pretty busy through the summer of this year and, being self employed, I had to work to get paid.
Fortunately the surgeons, after more testing, decided surgery could wait until July. In the meantime, my daughter Elizabeth auditioned for Shrek and was cast originally as the White Rabbit but her part was later changed to the Wicked Witch. Surgery was scheduled for July 20, which was just before opening day for Shrek.
Director Marc Hammes let me come to the last two dress rehearsals before the show so that I could see her perform but I did not get to see the actual full theater performance of Shrek.
I am now recovering and doing well. Still fatigued some but nothing I can’t handle. There were a number of people with On Stage who checked in on me including Marc and several others. Even some of the actors with whom I worked called and emailed. It was very touching to have that contact and means more than anyone knows.
Russell with his make-up artist and co-star, his daughter Elizabeth.
by Russell Pope, Sr.
I don’t know that I can identify a single “hardest” part of these acting jobs that I have loved. It is a great deal of work with the travel from home three times a week and time away from family and chores (though that is not necessarily a bad thing!). It is a huge commitment of time and energy.
However, being on the stage and entertaining the audience is such a fulfilling “reward” that the hard work and time invested is more than worth it. And it is really fun! I have met so many good people and learned so much. Pulling the curtain back on the inside of a production, and working behind the scenes, gives me a much greater appreciation for the shows I have been to see in the past and shows I will see going forward.
One of the best parts of these shows has been the additional time spent with my daughter Elizabeth. We live in Oxford and it is about a 25 – 30 minute drive to the theater. We drive to and from rehearsals and the performances together. We are able to talk during these drives about so much. From school stuff, to her friends, to homework, about life issues, to just silly things. But we have the common experiences that have brought us closer together.
I have always been an active father with our six children and their activities but this experience has been instrumental in expanding our relationship. We both seem to look forward to these drives and times together. They are the highlight of the week oftentimes.
My proudest moment as a dad, relative to working with On Stage, came when we were reading through the script to this show for the first time. Elizabeth got a prominent part in Pageant and had a memorable role in Shrek. She has a much smaller role in Fruitcakes.
There was one role that I, during the first reading, whispered to her that I thought she would have been perfect for. Her response was that she was really glad the girl who was cast in the role got it. When I asked why, she responded that “Well, she had a small role in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and auditioned for Shrek but didn’t get cast. I’m really glad she got a bigger part in this show. I don’t mind the small role. I’m just glad to be in another show with you, Dad.”
That brought a tear to my eyes but is typical for her attitude and caring for others.
My name is Hendley Jones; I am 14 years old, and I played Little Beebo in the On Stage Christmas production, Fruitcakes. It's is a comedy written by Julian Wiles about a runaway boy who meets all of the weird people in his new runaway town.
Our director Marc Hammes does a fantastic job directing a play. He knows when we're struggling and when we need help. He always knows what we're supposed to be doing during the production. He will help us if we need help with lines, blocking, or pretty much anything. We are so lucky to have him as our director.
Practicing in a show for OnStage is extremely fun, despite all of the hard work and sweat that you pour into it. You get to meet a lot of new faces and develop a relationship with them. If I have a bad day, I can always look forward to coming to rehearsal because it'll lift my spirits.
This show has really built up my confidence on the stage in front of people. I've learned to create the backstory of the character who you are playing; don't be yourself. Have fun with acting. You get to be somebody else for a while; take advantage of the opportunity.
It's definitely more fun to play a character you're nothing alike rather than someone who acts or behaves exactly like you. Little Beebo is absolutely nothing like me. This makes playing him in the show so much more entertaining.
This is my 3rd production with OnStage. I was previously in It's A Wonderful Life as Tommy, and A Christmas Story as Flick. I also do productions with my school. I was Simba in The Lion King and Gavrocche in Les Miserables.
I think everyone should be part of OnStage because the process of putting on a show is amazing, especially as it gets down to the last week or two of rehearsals. If you have stage fright, it's okay. You can still be part of a show. You could help with the tech, props, or even just advertising the show to friends and family. Anything helps.
Thanks for all who came to see the show!
Thank you everyone who auditioned. We were impressed by each participant and their talent which has made the casting decisions all the more difficult.
Please note all the positions that are still available. We have need for a stage manager, prop gatherers, light and sound operator and set crew. Please contact me if you wish for more information on these positions.
Again, thank you all.
Vanya: Rick Gove
Sonia: Amanda Rempe
Masha: Harriet Kilpatrick
Spike: Gryffin Nix
Cassandra: Heidi Siberon
Nina: Ashley McMillan
Hi! I'm Jennifer Rice and I'm playing Alice in our current production of Fruitcakes! This is my first lead role and I'm quite nervous but feel confident under the direction of the famous Marc Hammes.
Marc is very hands-on and constructive. He gives freedom to be creative as well as guidance to make my character even better. He's right there on stage with you. I like that. The production is underway and coming together quite nicely.
I have also played Judge Harper in Miracle on 34th Street and a church lady in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The difference in this role is having more lines, and also a bigger responsibility to the show in general. With this lead role, I have learned the better I know my lines, the better I can perfect my acting ability through movement and expression. Now that I know my lines, I can explore and really make it my own.
I can relate my character, Alice, in the way that she is a kind-hearted free spirit. We both like eggnog too!
All ages are going to enjoy this amusing yet touching story of eccentric small town folk. It will definitely be a "holiday gift" to our community.