Picture of students using computers in the library

Sand Shark Holiday Spectacular

December 23, 2013

On Friday evening of December 20th, I attended Beaufort Theatre Company’s “Holiday Spectacular” performance of “The Honky Tonk Angels” at USCB’s Performing Arts Center. As in most shows I go to I was a bit unsure what to expect-- but I found myself delightfully surprised. Not that I expected any less of the fun, lively, and spectacular performance put on by Beaufort Theatre Company, but the ambiance moment to moment of the entire night took my heart into a land of complete bliss. Perhaps it is the holiday spirit, perhaps it is the life of this region, or perhaps it is something so much greater… I opt for something so much greater.

I bought my ticket online through the USCB Center for the Arts site under the “Shows and Tickets” tab with the “Buy Tickets” option. As I stared at the screen my mouse hovered the areas marking available seating. This takes some very critical thinking, as seating in a performance is more often than not a complete gamble. The back seating was an option but so often with my choosing of the distant seating would come my sitting behind someone who shops in the “Big and Tall” store. I hovered my mouse over seating to the sides of the auditorium—but my memory did not hesitate to remind me how so often I have sat on the side and found myself observing the wall of the scenery, and quite frankly as interesting as walls can be, I would much rather be able to see the action of the story. I surfed my mouse arrow over rows: two, three, four, five, and six-- each were filled. The first row however was not, in fact two seats center front row were highlighted as taken and the surrounding seats: vacant. “Hmmmmm…” I thought, as I so often do, “well… center front row is better than far side left or right first row, and depending on how full the seats become I may have to scoot in to accommodate a couple or  family wanting to sit together anyhow and maybe some company of my own to sit next to (the already marked occupied seats) won’t be so bad… ehhh what the heck” and so I took my gamble and clicked purchase seat A213.

That night I drove to the theater. My next critical thinking activity was finding a parking spot. I knew exactly where I wanted to park and strategically landed in the precise spot I hoped for--it’s a USCB skill. I placed the car in park and suddenly heard a loud honking. As I was in the process of questioning my recently deemed USCB parking skills, I saw a tall, beautiful, blonde girl jump out of the car next to mine, run to my window and proceed to knock enthusiastically… I suddenly surfaced out of my baffled astonishment and into sweet recognition of: Gracyn Mix, one of my Governor School for the Arts and Humanities theatrical peers. “Holy cow! Gracyn Mix!” I shouted, I attempted to jump out of my car but mostly fumbled out of my car and hugged her, and the “how are you?” questions, and the “oh my goodnesses!” began to fly. I learned Gracyn has been living in New York and recently did a show with one of my Juilliard peers whom I had lost touch with years ago. That night, not only did doors of reconnection open to my cherished high school friend: Gracyn Mix and beloved Juilliard peer: Ryan O’Byrne, but with her kind mother who would drive us on the four hour trips back to the residential high school, her awesome father who photographs the perfect moments (see below), and a flood of sweet memories from my past and brilliant hopes for the future. How is it these moments work? These moments: combinations of place, time, choices, plans, movements-second to second, and suddenly surfaces these moments: where we are reconnected, or reawakened, or re-inspired, or reminded, or-- all of the above. Frankly to myself it remains a brilliant mysterious design, and one I am extremely gracious for!

Gracyn (R) and I (L)

Gracyn and I

We said our farewells for the time, venturing into the theater in search of our seats, and just when I thought things could not get better this night, I met my front row companions… If you remember, I had thought long and hard about my seat selection-- and rewardingly so, as Lanny and Deborah, actually welcomed me to the front row-- as if they were expecting me! The entirely vacant row was magically filled with the palpable energy of their brilliant smiles and their charismatic and elegant vibes. Lanny introduced himself with a gallant handshake and introduced me to Deborah who gave me a smooth and graceful nod. We chatted of our origins, careers, and familiarity of Beaufort performances. I also learned this was not Lanny’s first time sitting next to a writer, as he proceeded to tell me a story of his first paper making audience member experience. He described watching the opening of a new musical performance in New York. Lanny detailed how he repeatedly found himself drifting to sleep during the show and how his entire body began to lean to the left and consequently began to share the seat of the stranger next to him. His company  to the show (to his right) elbowed him continually in fits and efforts to awake him, yet Lanny found himself drifting again and again. As he and his company were leaving the show he could not help but notice the gentleman whom he accidentally made his pillow, had pen and paper and was scribbling away. The following morning Lanny decided to read the review of the performance in the paper, and what do you know it was described by the writer as “soporific”. Lanny paused at this point in the story, turning and asking me “Do you know what soporific means?” I told Lanny I did not, and he defined it as sleep causing or sleep inducing. The writer evidenced the soporific quality of the performance by the gentleman sitting next to him who kept falling asleep on him. I gasped with a "noooo!" and then burst with laughter and shock at Lanny’s story. Furthermore the story was made complete when Deborah followed it by saying to me “I hope you have broad shoulders”.

Lanny, Deborah, and I discussed the front row vacancy, convinced everyone behind us must believe we are VIP attendees with the entire row to ourselves. Lanny proceeded to share with Deborah and I all of his front row experiences which included his front row attendance of the Rockettes --he said he could see the beads of sweat on the performers’ faces, meanwhile Deborah and I "ooed" and "awed" at the idea. Lanny was filled with stories and witty words that served as a show before the show. Lanny shared how his daughter studied and performed alongside Taye Diggs, the actor known for his bandleader role in the musical movie Chicago and his role as Dr. Sam Bennet in the drama series Private Practice. My perhaps favorite Lanny quote from the night was when he called himself a thorn between two roses (Deborah and I), but Lanny is indeed far from a thorn.

As the lights dimmed and the show opened I was delighted to be able to laugh with Lanny after the first number was followed by character Charilee referencing the aforementioned Rockettes in her enthusiastic response “Eat your hearts out Rockettes!”

For the remainder of the evening I was entranced with “The Honky Tonk Angels”. If the “beer can littered, country classic, Christmas decorated two story bar” set with a live band on the second story had not sparked your interest prior to the show most surely the show would. The ladies (characters: Angela, Darlene, Sue Ellen, and Charilee) had each an all inspiring energy of their own. I now know my ambition as I age is to instill such fun and charismatic excitement in my own life. The women, in --closer to what I call “the wiser years” (in this case 40 and up) -- had the spunk, sass, and beauty of 20 something year olds. The impression I wrote on my program was “older ladies are rocking it, they are HOTT!” Each actress had a voice fitting of their character, my particular favorite was that of character: Charilee played by Smooth Jazz & Blues Singer-Songwriter, Jan Spencer. Her voice was indeed jazzed-incredibly, uniquely, and beautifully stylish, funky, smooth, and lived in filling up the air with ease. Now, I am no musical expert-- far from it, but when I hear a sound I like I surely know it-- these ladies each had such distinctive voices, Penney Smith playing Sue Ellen had an incredible higher range that I found to be fluid and bold, Elaine Lake playing Darlene had a sweet and uninterrupted tone that fed her character’s country star desires, and Velma Polk had a voice as unflinching and smoothly space filling as her character Angela.

The women came together on this night, and fell into the world of their story, with great fun and adventure both as actress and character. They sang Christmas classics like “Rockin’ Round The Christmas Tree”, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Silent Night”, and so much more. A total of over 35 songs throughout the night and the entire room was tapping their feet or sinking into the sound, curious as to what the next number would hold, and each number did indeed hold a treat all of its own. In the song, “Feliz Navidad” Sue Ellen had the men of the audience sing along, which she followed by having men sing along within her ideal dating range (a certain age and annual salary combination) at which point no man's voice was heard and she was saddened until she conveniently found a gentleman on the first row to serenade; which was dearly precious and sweetly hilarious. Throughout the night these wild characters created moments like this one to pull the audience into their world, Sue Ellen and Darlene found audience members to go on stage and dance, Darlene and Angela ventured into the audience to hand out candy canes, and in the midst of a song number Sue Ellen gave me a wink.

The hilarity and creativity of the show was certainly embraced by the audience with warmed hearts of the messages shared and wide imaginations stretching with each moment of the story. Some of the favorite numbers included “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” in which Darlene sang about a squirrel she snuck into church as a young girl that escaped and crawled up different congregation members Sunday clothes-- giving them each a revival of their own. Darlene had a puppet squirrel on her hand that had a dance number all of its own and truly brought that squirrel to life. “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas” was an awesome rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” that Angela and the Angels sang, the classic line “these are a few of my favorite things” included a few favorite things being hostess snowballs, flannel shirts, spam, and hunting dogs. Yet by far one of the highlights of the night just may have been in the numbers that involved a cardboard-made Santa Sled, and a “little old lady” cardboard / cane-made vehicle, where the little old lady in “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” brilliantly morphed into “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (character Cherilee playing Santa, Darlene playing the reindeer, and Sue Ellen playing the hysterical Old Lady).

The night came to a close with a perfect ending to the story for every character on stage, each full of hope, love, and joy which they poured into the audience with songs like “What a Wonderful World” and Hoyt Axon’s “Joy to the World”.

This night was a spectacular one for myself. Between reuniting with friends, making new ones, and watching the power of friendship on stage, this theatrical experience was clearly evoking the entire night. It was from the moment I parked, to before the show ever began, in the journey of the show, even in my exeunt (in which I ran into and shared a hug with USCB Chancellor Upshaw in the hallway), and finally in thanking Jan Spencer (Cherilee) for a delightful performance, who returned to me a thank you for my front row smiles. A spectacular night indeed.

Yours Truly: Sand Shark Spectacular,

                                                          Erin Dailey