Closing night

godspell_castIn May 2001, I was at the cast party for my first community theater production, St. Clair Theatre Guild‘s The Music Man. I’d been fortunate enough to play Harold Hill, and the experience made me hungry to keep acting. I was sitting with Sue Daniels, our director, and her daughter Beth Trudeau, who’d played Marion Paroo, and we were talking about shows we’d like to do. All three of us agreed that Godspell had to be on that list, and Sue had, in fact, been trying to get the Guild to consider producing it for several years, to no avail.

I wanted to do Godspell because, like The Music Man, which got me to an audition after years of threatening to do so, I’d loved the music since I was in high school. I’ve also seen Godspell more than any other show, having seen four different productions, each unique due to the venues they played in, the actors involved and the individual directors’ visions. By the time I got involved in theater in 2001, though, I was 38 years old, and already assumed I was a bit too old to be in the show, but I put the show on my “future plans” list in case I ever got the chance to direct. Last year, I started thinking about directing the show again, and ordered a perusal copy from Music Theatre International and started jotting down production notes. Then I got the artistic director job at SC4 and had to put Godspell on the back burner… again.

Fortunately, Sue was also thinking about Godspell, and convinced the SCTG board to approve a production this fall. Since the Guild’s usual venue was unavailable, Sue then convinced the board at her church, St. Peter’s Lutheran in St. Clair, to let the Guild use their sanctuary for two weekends. It’s proven to be a great venue for Godspell, very intimate yet with great acoustics.

Despite all of this, I wasn’t going to audition. Like I said, I was too old: Godspell is a young person’s show, right? So I told Sue I’d do lighting design and operation for the production, figuring I could fit that into my schedule at the college. Then only one guy auditioned the first night (our eventual Jesus, Randy Mrock) and I decided to go to the second night of auditions. I remembered my conversation with Sue eight years ago, and I knew how much the show meant to her… and to me. I was cast as John the Baptist/Judas, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of rehearsal, performance and post-show fellowship with a great cast and crew.

In the second act last Saturday night, I had one of those out-of-body moments that occasionally happen to actors on stage. I was standing with the rest of the cast behind Karen Getz and Kelly Copley as they sang “By My Side” to Randy as Jesus, and I realized, “hey, I’m in Godspell!” I almost started laughing (I’m glad I didn’t, because it would be kinda inappropriate at that point!).

So it comes to an end tonight. To the cast and crew of Godspell, I thank you. Thanks for letting me be part of your journey. Thanks for making a 46-year-old man feel like a kid again. Every show has its memories, but I promise you I will never forget any of you or what being a part of Godspell was like for me.

And Sue, I owe you more than you will ever understand, from The Music Man to tonight. This one’s for you.

Author: Tom Kephart

Actor, director, writer, theater instructor. Social media guy. Sings for beer in karaoke bars.