Go and Chase Your Dreams

Guest blog by Kerri Roberts

On the stage, the music begins, the story ignites with melody and lyrics, movement and nuances of character. The energy of the others there with me and those engaged from the audience thrills and drives me.  It fills me with a passion and satisfaction like absolutely nothing else.  I had almost forgotten.  It’s been a long time.  Like riding a bike it all came back to me, and I realized once again that this is what I was made to do.  But there’s been quite a journey since the last time I was here and I have quite a different perspective.

I can relate to George Banks when he sings, “A man has dreams of walking with giants; to carve his niche in the edifice of time.”  I know that feeling.  I had dreams of New York City.  I had a husband with a heart to go with me anywhere, to support my dreams.  We had a plan to pursue it.  And then we were surprised with our first sweet baby boy.  I knew in an instant that my dreams were changing, growing. That maybe in this life we get to chase many dreams – not just one.  And different dreams must take priority in different seasons of our lives.  And though I was still able to do a good deal of singing during that time and two shows at Town Theatre, (The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast), my priority was growing into my new role and experiencing new dreams as a mother.

In 2008, another new dream took our family to Zambia, Africa.  And we spent the next 7 years living and working there.  The things we saw, the people we served, the experiences we lived changed us for the better, forever.  For 6 of the 7 years we were there I didn’t sing at all.  I wrestled with who I was, with the significance of my life and my passion for music in light of the things I now knew about the world.  Then last year I had the opportunity to put together a series of opera and musical theater programs with 3 other American friends who were also living in Zambia.  For the first time in years I felt alive doing what I love the most.  And I realized the significance of it.  Joy.  In the faces of those who watched, privileged upper class and the destitute poor.  What I was doing brought joy, to me and to others.  In addition, doors opened for relationships to be formed that otherwise would not have been.  Those performances may not have changed the world, but they changed the atmosphere for those groups of people for that space of time, and I was so grateful.

Roberts family
Kerri and her family pose after opening night of Mary Poppins. Photo provided by Kerri Roberts.

Over this last year our dreams have expanded yet again and brought us back to the States.  In this new season in my life, I feel the overwhelming desire to pursue things that make me feel alive.  Not simply for my own joy, but because I get to help shape the dreams of the 5 little people entrusted to me.  This is why I decided to audition for Mary Poppins and why I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this stellar production!  Not only have I had the chance to rediscover the absolute joy of being on the stage, but my husband and kids get to watch me do the thing I love most.  And because my 3 daughters are also in the show I’ve had a front row seat to watch them try something new, and love it too!  This is why our community theater is so important.  We need places like Town Theatre that give people like me the chance and the space to chase our dreams and to bring joy to the lives of others, right here in our own hometown!  I feel so blessed to be a part of Town’s family.

I don’t know how my dreams may develop, but here is what I’ve learned.  Maybe my life’s ambition is not to carve one niche in the edifice of time, but to use the gifts given to me to make at least small imprints on the lives of those I touch – my family, my friends, or audiences in a theater.  Perhaps the pursuit of one dream doesn’t have to mean death to all other dreams, but there are ways for one dream to actually fortify and strengthen other dreams!  We are all gifted in various ways.  May we all learn to look for the joy and be willing to expand and grow as our dreams change and take shape.  The smallest gift, when used to change the atmosphere of one life, for even a moment, creates a ripple that can change the world.

All It Takes is a Spark… Chasing Dreams… Anything Can Happen if You Let It

Guest blog by Betsy Jackson

Betsy and her son Nathan getting ready to fly a kite! Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Last summer my family was introduced to the theatre experience when my youngest child Nathan was cast as Michael Darling in Town’s production of Peter Pan.  Not knowing what we had gotten ourselves into is quite an understatement.  Right before our eyes something magical happened! I will never forget the way my heart felt, or the tear that dripped down my face when I saw the first full run of the show.  It is a feeling as a mother that will stay with me forever.  There Nathan was chasing his dreams without any fear of what was to come, and loving every minute of it!  I’ll have to admit watching the show made me a little jealous! I had always wanted to do something like that, but unlike Nathan I was afraid.  

It was in the production of White Christmas, that the news had spread that this year’s summer show would be Mary Poppins.  There was immediate excitement among our household.  It’s practically all that was talked about for months.  Even during a family trip to Disney back in March, no one wanted to leave Magic Kingdom until we found Mary Poppins and got her autograph.  I think it was then that a tiny little spark welled up in me that maybe I too wanted to be a part of something this fantastic.  I remember telling family and friends that I was thinking of auditioning myself.  To be honest I got some differed responses. From, “YOU? What are you going to do?” (to which I responded, I don’t know, maybe I’ll ‘Fly a Kite’) to “Oh my gosh that’s awesome, you should!”  Still I had not completely made up my mind.  But then the night came for auditions and with the help of a friend, I chased away my fears and I did it!  I remember driving home that night thinking, no matter what, I was so proud that I had overcome my fear and auditioned for a show! Something I had always dreamed of doing.  

So here I am.  A member of the Mary Poppins cast.  And Guess What?  I get to “Go Fly a Kite” with my sweet Nathan right beside me! Ha! There are no words to describe the feelings inside of me.  My heart is so full!  Not only do I get to share this experience with my child and the rest of the cast, but I get to share this experience with everyone who walks through the doors.  What a Feeling! To know that I was a part of something so great, that for a moment, even if just for a few hours, everyone in the audience can forget their troubles, worries, or fears and feel the excitement that Mary Poppins brings to life!

From the lighting, the sets, the music,and choreography to the cast and crew, this show is one you don’t want to miss!  You can have a “Jolly Holiday” with Mary or “Step in Time” with Bert and his sweeps, but one thing’s for sure… You will leave feeling SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!

Mary Poppins a Practically Perfect Family Experience

Guest blog by Hans Boeschen

After revisiting aspects of my bachelor life while my wife, Lou (Warth) Boeschen, worked on Town’s last show Spamalot, I decided, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” And that is precisely what I did. 

Working on Mary Poppins these past few months have not only provided an opportunity to meet new people and collaborate on a great work of art, it has also given my wife and I a common experience we will always remember together. As I look around at my cast mates, I realize that Lou and I are not the only family creating summer memories. By my count, there are 11 families with at least two members in our cast and crew.

What an experience to share the stage with mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, and friends who might as well be family. After all, bringing families together is precisely what this experience is about.

Hollywood has recently presented a convincing argument that the story of Mary Poppins is really the salvation of George Banks. Based on the stage version, however, I would disagree. I will not pretend to know P. L. Travers’s true intent with this iconic story nor have I read any of the books beyond the first volume, but I feel the true spirit of the musical is about the entire Banks family. While George definitely has the most drastic growth, each of the family members learn their role in the survival and support of the family unit.

As our families continue to work on this production, we hope you and yours will join us as on this magical journey as we learn more about what it means to be a family.

Hans performs as the Park Keeper in Mary Poppins. Photo by Helen Hood Porth.

Personal & Professional Development…the Poppins Way!

Guest blog by Jennifer Simmons (aka Mrs. Brill)

What does professional development have to do with Mary Poppins?

Well, when you are a theatre teacher it has a lot to do with it! During the school year I teach theatre to middle school students.  Every day, I get to talk theatre with budding young actors, actresses, stage technicians, and playwrights.  I am teaching, coaching, and directing these students constantly.  At the school level, you often do literally everything for the show EXCEPT perform.  That’s where this summer’s production of Mary Poppins comes in to play (pardon the pun).

Jennifer Simmons in action
Jennifer rehearses for her role as Mrs. Brill, the housekeeper. Photo courtesy of Christy Shealy Mills.

Aside from directing many different productions for the school year, I am a mother and a wife.  Finding time to be able to do anything outside of my current obligations is often hard.   It had been a while since my last show (a couple of years, in fact) and I had gotten that “itch” again to perform.  I saw the auditions for Mary Poppins and was pleased to see that most of the rehearsal times and all the shows would be held during the summer months.

I actually hadn’t auditioned for anything since I officially started teaching two years ago.  Being back on that side of the casting table, so to speak, was a wonderful opportunity for me to remind myself of what my students go through.  While I am often discussing the mechanics and logistics of auditions, I had lost sight of the nerves and the butterflies that come from the unknown.

The rehearsal process has also yielded a great deal of self-reflection.  When you are the director, you are looking at the big picture – the overall story that you are telling.  However, as an actor, I had forgotten how much fun it can be to focus on a singular character arc.  Even when Mrs. Brill isn’t on stage, I find myself during the rehearsals wondering what it is that she would be doing at that moment during the show.  While I often have my students create a character profile and think about their character beyond the script, this process has sparked some new ideas and enthusiasm for how to tackle this topic in the classroom.

I’m also eager to be behind the scenes for the flying process.  I’ve never had the opportunity to be in a show where an actor has been flown, and so learning more about that process first-hand is exciting.

I cannot wait for this show to open.  The entire cast is incredibly talented.  (Side note:  It is a test of my acting for me to NOT break out into uproarious cheer after Ruth Ann McKee sings “Brimstone and Treacle”.)  Shannon Scruggs’ choreography and staging are excellent.  In fact, I dare you not to smile during “Step in Time.”  Bring your family and friends for a night of jolly good fun!