Stepping in Time at Town

Guest blog by Christy Shealy Mills

I only intended to do the one show — Annie — in hopes of enabling my twenty-something- year-old son to meet new age appropriate friends. While his position as dance instructor/Tumblebus teacher had provided a multitude of new acquaintances, most of them were under the age of five.

I was delighted to make it into the ensemble, along with aforementioned son, as well as 12-year-old daughter, after the nerve-wracking audition with a theatre full of hopefuls of all ages. That spark set off a wildfire and we have been constantly making that one hour drive since walking into that sea full of theatrical strangers, many who have since become great friends.

Babb and Mills
Christy Shealy Mills as the Birdwoman poses with Agnes Babb. Photo courtesy of Mills.

I have watched with great and ever-growing admiration as one of those friends worked her magic on many cast mates during rehearsals for the ten musicals I have taken part in alongside her. Truth be told, at first it was with just a tinge of uppity-ness when I learned that SHE was the dance captain. I wondered what made her so special. It didn’t take long to figure it out. I have seen other new-to-Town Theatre dancers (especially dance teachers, who are used to being in charge) exhibit the same misguided attitude, although not outright and openly. One has to be tuned in to notice it.

As a dance teacher, I know how hard it is to correct a student without squashing their confidence or causing a bit of defensiveness. It takes just the right amount of gentleness combined with firmness, which is why Ag is the perfect dance captain.

Agnes Babb has exactly that right amount. She is the epitome of grace and tact, which she puts to good use when assisting actors, many with fragile egos. I have often observed how she says “hey, can we go over this step?” (yes, to me from time to time), when she really means “hey, you are doing this step wrong.”

Agnes would never utter those words, or anything that could be offensive, even if true, to a cast member. She accomplishes what needs to be accomplished and always leaves the subjects feeling more confident and certainly appearing more polished. Of course, I wasn’t there for the first 60-something shows she did at Town, so this ability to “fix” without offending could be a learned trait, but I believe it is an innate quality. Even when calling us to review before going onstage, it is never with an air of bossiness, which folks in any degree of leadership positions tend to possess.

To my way of thinking, a dance captain is like a drum major in a marching band. The job is to keep the morale high, keep them instep and often to run interference. Agnes does all this as if by second nature. She is one of the many reasons I think so highly of Town Theatre. Agnes Babb is just as gracious offstage as she is graceful onstage. I am thankful to Ag for helping us to always “Step in Time.”