Each summer we treat our Upstarts (15- and 16-year-old campers) to a play at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) in Lewisburg, West Virginia. This past summer the play that they would be attending would be The Lucky Stiff, a musical comedy.
I heard of the premise of the play when I attended the Lewisburg Rotary during the first week of July. Cathey Sawyer, the GVT’s artistic director, is a Lewisburg Rotarian and mentioned that the club president would be the mysterious “guest body” on the night of July 18, 2014, the same night the Lewisburg Rotary had booked for their club to attend the theater.
I had previously gotten an email from GVT saying that the Lewisburg Mayor would be the “guest body” at another performance. All this was starting to seem pretty curious.
So I went to Cathey after the Rotary meeting to ask if this “guest body” role — Was it a revolving position?
And that’s when things got cooking.
Cathey replied, “It is. Do you want the role when your campers come?”
It didn’t take me long to an offer an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I had been on stage in college and I was more than ready for my comeback!
The trap is set
The date of July 26 was set for the Upstarts to have their night out at the theater. When I called to make the reservation, I also got my costume instructions. I was told to be at the theater at 6:30 and to wear black shoes, tan slacks and a blue sport coat. They would provide the shirt.
I was pumped. I only told Bonnie and Jane Anne Randolph (our Head Hopper) that I was going to be in the play. But I told the Upstarts that I was really sorry, I wouldn’t be able to attend the play with them because of a Rotary function. 😉
I arrived for my theater call on time and was shown to the dressing room which I shared with three other cast members who were all students at Marshall University. I received my shirt — flowered and light weight — and then was introduced to the cast.
It was explained to me that I would be in a wheelchair the entire play, be wearing dark glasses, and had to appear dead.
One of the cast members suggested that I could look at the audience since I would be wearing dark glasses the entire play. I immediately thought, “Not a good idea.” I’d probably crack up seeing the Upstarts’ reactions.
Other cast members who would be interacting with me told me what they would be doing so I wouldn’t be surprised. I thanked them and waited for the show to start.
At the five minute “places” call I was escorted to the wheelchair and waited for the play to start.
I assumed a posture where my head was slumped to the right, but I could still tell what was happening. It was fun being on stage again and feeling myself being whirled, pushed, yanked, kissed and slapped as a dead body.
But I think the crowning moment was the curtain call. It was set up so that all the cast members came back on stage to the applause, but I was the last one on so I was center stage! That was a thrill.
After we received our curtain call, thanked the pianist, and bowed again, we exited the stage. I congratulated the cast — they were the ones who spoke the lines — changed my shirt, and exited to the front of the theater to see the Upstarts as they were leaving. They all crowded around me, told me that they didn’t realize who I was until near the end (I kept wondering why I didn’t get a lot of laughs) and then they sang my song in the GVT lobby. That was very cool. 🙂
Many other local people who had just come that night for the play said what a good job they thought I did. Well, I didn’t miss any lines nor did I fall out of the chair! It was a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Oh, got to go — Hollywood is calling!
— Sam Dawson III, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls