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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

sherylmeI’m in the “air lock” room, waiting for everyone to get in and fill the elevator-size space. Even in dim light, I know it’s untidy, well used. A fat electrical cord stretches across the black floor.
“When I open the door,” the Director says, “follow me, watch for cords.” The next room was dark, too, but opened to a stage flooded with blue lights. In the ninety-four-year-old theater, constant current activity apparently cloaked the expected smell of antiquity. We followed the director across the stage to the opposite wings.
“You will wait here until time to enter. Remember if you can see the audience, they can see you.”
How did I end up here? My friend Sheryl, a mystery writer, and I came to see Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. Out of my program fell a jury summons? I, along with five other audience members, would spend most of the play on stage as jurors. “These are NOT speaking parts,” the director emphasized with a smile. We would sit in the jury box the rest of the play except for a fade out when the scene would be briefly switched. We had watched the first act from comfy theater seats.
The Wayne Densch Performing Arts Theater is in downtown Sanford, Florida, a small town on Lake Monroe, and north of Orlando. Charming, cozy, comfortable and small-town friendly, it is a jewel in the historic town. We walked by art galleries, quaint shops, cozy restaurants and an open farmer’s market on the way to the theater.
My fellow jurors were great fun, improvising “non-speaking” ways to relate to the audience, but in the end, we followed the rules. We were older except for one young, high school student with a spiked, blond hairstyle. He takes acting classes, so backstage was probably not new to him. He volunteered to run back for the water bottle I left in the lobby during recess and offered me his chair backstage, winning big points for the younger generation.
Another in the young generation was the actor who played court clerk. After the play was over, bows were taken and curtains closed we exited the jury box. The clerk was there to take the hands of ladies and help us down. Perhaps he’s a method actor who really gets into his parts, but I think he was just a well-bred young gentleman.
The actors were lined on both sides as we left the theater, happy to shake our hands and talk.
Did I forget the play? Not intentionally. It’s just that my “role” added such a dimension to the experience. The actors were all local and amazing, so much so that it was easy to forget they weren’t real as they pleaded with the jurors.
The Director asked us after the play if we figured the murderer out. I did. But I missed one clever clue Miss Christi slipped in. He also told us she added to the ending of the play because she thought the murderer got off too lightly in her story.
Some days are absolutely magical. This was one of them.

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Multi-generational epics bore me. Just give me a good read about an important slice in someone’s life and I can be swept away. So I find myself verging on vertigo in my real life. Epics are difficult to avoid when you have lived through a few decades. You can’t say, “No, just highlight this part or that.” The parts string along like toilet paper on your shoe until you find yourself tangled in a true-life multi-generational epic. Well, if not epic then situation.

This is what brought that on. We are planning a few upgrades on the home we have lived in for almost thirty-two years. One son re-roofed for us a few years ago, his friend installed new windows, and another re-habbed the master bath. Our son-in-law (an electrician) upgraded the power box. Strangers installed carpet. How did that happen? Now for a second stage the same friend will tile the other bath, the neighbor kid, now all grown up, will do the plumbing. The son of our son’s best man will do exterior painting.

In that mix of characters are a father fighting for custody of a child, another denying his child until DNA evidence turned him into a real father. That son is being a real father to his new child. A couple of young fathers being fathers with or without marriage, a worker with great promise ending back in jail.

Do you need a scorecard? The point is almost all these very competent workers we knew as children or knew their parents before they were born (except the jailed one). We are aware of many of their most private struggles and successes, many poignant slices of their lives. Those slices now strung together form the ingredients of an epic.

Okay, it’s just a house that needs work and has no other significance. I’ll just curl up with a book of short stories until it is finished. Sometimes I think too much.

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