by RoxyRegionalTheatre on March 21, 2014

I began Much Ado About Nothing in abject fear. I’ve never started anything new without that night-before terror. I’ve had it since childhood.

I’m not sure if it comes from having parents who never finished grade school. They couldn’t — The Great Depression — everyone had to work at something. My mom coped with alcohol. My dad took the only job he could get, truck driver. In my youth I thought, because of it, others looked down on me.

The night before I began Much Ado, I was channel surfing and up popped Laurence Olivier in Hamlet. I often say that God speaks to me through Ted Turner and TCM. Lord Olivier was Hamlet; he had directed the film as well. It was as if a higher power was telling me, “You’re going to do alright tomorrow.”

A few nights later, overwhelmed thinking of Les Misérables and the enormity of it, again I was channel surfing and found Paul Lukas and Bette Davis in Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine. Lukas says to his children, “Remember when we read Les Misérables and Jean Valjean stole the bread?” I had seen that film many times, but I had never noticed the Les Misérables reference — another pat on the back from the universe.

I went to the Ovation Awards at the Customs House Museum on a bleak, damp Sunday afternoon. The weather did not deter the loving parents who came to see and hear the Grace Notes Youth String Orchestra under the supervision of Simone Parker. Young Artist Awards went to Clare Grady, Will Silvers and Jeremy Carey. Mike Andrews received the Artist Award, while the Business Award went to Glenn Edgin of The Framemaker fame.

I had been short one large white tablecloth for Much Ado. I spied one onstage at the awards ceremony, so I asked Alan Robison if it was the museum’s. He said no and directed me to Chrissy Booth, who likewise said no and told me to ask Charlsie Halliburton.

I hadn’t spoken to Charlsie Halliburton since 1983 when she asked my advice on a set for a dance recital. I was then new to Clarksville, having brought little with me other than my Yankee attitude. I made suggestions, and that was that. I never heard from her again.

Years later, Rosalind Kurita set me straight: “Didn’t you understand you were supposed to do it?” And I would have, if I had understood Southern etiquette. If I could, I would give anything to go back and un-step on all of those toes and listen with my older head but hear with new ears, as Claudio says in Much Ado: “Thus answer I in the name of Benedick, but hear … with the ears of Claudio.”

Without a hitch, though, Charlsie lent me the tablecloth.

Tonight at 8pm in theotherspace is the final performance of Brief Encounters: A Night of Short Plays by Darren V. Michael. Tomorrow at APSU’s George and Sharon Mabry Concert Hall is A Mabry Songbook at 7:30pm.

See you at the theatre!

[John McDonald]

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