Mike Cline: Theater ties stretch into community

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2011

Today I submit for your reading pleasure what I would call a public service announcement. It is intended to help folks who may have just moved to our wonderful city and county, or for citizens who may feel they do not have a satisfactory social life.
This is not part of a judicated ěcommunity serviceî obligation. Iím writing of my own free will. Thinking back, however, I did meet and become friends with several local judges because of what I am about to suggest. And it certainly canít hurt to know a few judges along the way. Never know whatís going to pop up in our lives.
But if you find yourself going home and locking the door behind you every day and crashing on the sofa in front of the television, hereís something you might consider. Get involved with Piedmont Players. Thatís what wife Julie and I did some 40 years ago after we had been married and moved to Salisbury.
Both of us liked live theater and participated in some high school productions in the old home town. So I decided to venture over to Catawba College (Piedmont Players did their productions at Catawba in those days) one night in the early 1970s to audition for a part in ěArsenic and Old Lace.î
Iíll confess that I hadnít been so nervous about anything since the day, at age 16, when I took my road test to get my driverís license.
But when the evening ended and the director called out her casting selections, she called my name. ěAre you crazy,î I thought to myself, ěIím not an actor!î
Apparently, then Salisbury Post critic George Raynor agreed with me when he published his review of the opening night performance some eight weeks later. He wrote that the production was terrible, and I seem to recall he wasnít much impressed with me either. Yeah, it hurt, but I had lots of fun doing the show and met some wonderful people, including future mayor Stanback, Dr. Honaker, Dr. Hales and the late John Hartledge.
Trying to remember back so far, itís difficult to recall every show I did and in what order they were presented. But specifics I remember are being in ěOf Thee I Sing.î It was at this time that wonderful Patsy became a friend. Debbie, too.
Then, with ěFiddler on the Roof,î came Diane. Kent came with ěThe King and I;î Bettina, John and Cris with ěGuys and Dolls;î Kathy with ěMame;î Ann with ěDamn Yankees;î Jeff with ěThe Sound of Music;î David and Karen, Scott, Nancy, Becky, Cindi, Ketti and Susan in Piedmont shows as well.
And Jake, yes, he as well.
Susan had worked with me at the Capitol Theatre. It was my first summer in town, and she was leaving for college in the fall. Poor thing spent much of that summer in that non-air-conditioned box office, ticket booth, whatever, on the West Innes sidewalk. David had spent a summer dealing with me at the Terrace Theatre. Incredible that they both will still speak to me today.
Iím trying not to get myself in trouble here by leaving folks out, because Julie and I have met so many great people doing local theatre. So please donít throw objects at me the next time we see one another.
Throughout the course of our friendships, weíve shared illnesses, births, deaths, divorces, weddings, and some gray hair (or loss of). Not just passing acquaintances, but lifelong friends.
And it all came from ědoing shows.î Lots and lots of great memories ó Patsyís standing behind the pole, Karlís projecting pie crumbs during the second act because a lady forced him to eat a piece of apple pie during intermission, Julie pouring a glass of iced tea over the head of obnoxious Peter, Kentís being ěpulledî by the law as he turned into the Keppel parking lot. So many more.
And the parties … not just cast parties closing night. Virtually every night we went somewhere after rehearsal ó some places from the distant past that included The Prince of Pizza, Samboís, Shoneyís, Cagneyís, the Firehouse. Or peopleís homes.
I should make it clear to folks that there is a lot of time and work involved in bringing a live stage production to life, but I assure you the enjoyment will far outweigh the work involved.
Over the years, Julie and I participated in around 30 shows. We even portrayed a married couple in one show. David and Karen did the same.
Neither one of us has done a show in quite a while. Things happen ó children, for instance. And as they grew, like many, we found ourselves at dance recitals, piano recitals, soccer games, baseball games (lots of baseball games). You parents know what Iím talking about.
As for my layoff, I did ětry outî for a Piedmont show last year. I didnít get a part, but thatís OK. Itís part of the process.
I expect things really havenít changed much since Julie and I ětripped the lights fantastic.î Sure, the location has changed, and now the youngsters have their own theater, which is fabulous. But Iím sure, theyíre having as much fun as we did … way back when.
I know Iím all the better for the time I spent doing local theater. My life is filled with wonderful friends.
And I owe it all to Piedmont Players.