Huntington Playhouse Stories: On angels' wings
Part three of a multi-part series reflecting on the history of Huntington Playhouse, which will close at the end of this year after nearly six decades as the home of community theater in Bay Village.
The director, Tom Castro, called three hours before curtain. "Can Moira be an angel tonight?" he anxiously asked my wife, Eileen.
Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, began the last weekend of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," the holiday show at Huntington Playhouse. My son Jack, who was 11 at the time, had been cast as Ollie Herdman, one of a family of "rotten" children that bully their way into a church Christmas pageant, but to the surprise of everyone, their disastrous interpretation of the Christmas story turns out to be quite touching.
This was Jack's second show at Huntington after my wife had seen him through the children's theater program there the previous summer. His sister Moira, who was four years younger, had actually been "acting" longer than her brother. She appeared as a mouse, two different lions and a frog at various times in a show that ran 24/7 from the time she was 3 until my wife had the brilliant idea to buy her a "school kid costume" so she wouldn't wear a tail to kindergarten.
It was my job to get Jack to rehearsals and Moira accompanied us, content to sit with her coloring book as I watched director Castro work with his cast. It was impressive to see him control and cajole the group, which was largely made up of children, without ever having to raise his voice. That skill, I'm certain, is why the beloved fifth-grade teacher was elected to the Lakewood Schools Faculty Hall of Fame.
"One of my angels is sick and since Moira has been to all the rehearsals ..." the director continued. "Let me ask her," my wife replied. Without looking up from her coloring book, Moira said, "Which one?" and then, "I guess it doesn't matter, I know them all." Apparently at 7 she had mastered the art of multitasking, coloring while learning multiple acting roles.
The "balloon angel" had fallen ill. A juicy role for a 7 year old. In the context of the story, the mom that made one of the angel costumes used a sheet with a balloon print on it rather than white. This angel's entrance always guaranteed a laugh.
Castro had drafted us "stage dads" to play firemen. That Friday I appeared with my son and daughter on stage and I couldn't have been more proud. As she had predicted, Mo hit her marks like a pro and got the big laugh. We were beaming with joy.
The next day our family arrived early to get ready, met by a somber-faced Tom Castro. "The balloon angel" was feeling better and her grandparents were coming to the show. "I need to put her back in the show tonight," he said with remorse. Then he turned to an assistant and asked, "Do we have another angel costume?" "No," came the reply. "I can have one in 10 minutes," my wife interjected. In her closet with the mouse, two different lions and the frog costumes was an angel outfit as well as alien and princess attire. "Get it," Tom smiled, "we'll have four angels tonight."
Tom had her perform in the final matinee as well. Mo was pretty young and I'm not sure if it mattered to her if she stayed in the show or not, but it mattered to me. I'll always remember his kindness.
Sadly, Tom Castro passed away on Oct. 30. He will be missed.
I encourage you to go see a show at the Huntington Playhouse to show your support for all of the good people that worked hard to bring you this final season.
Citizens For Bay Village Community Theater is working to form relationships with civic groups, not-for-profit organizations, government and businesses in Bay Village to provide a true community effort to keep community theater an active and vital part of our city. We have established a dialogue with the Metroparks board and are working to develop a proposal that will allow community theater to remain on the Huntington Reservation. Join our Facebook group, Citizens For Bay Village Community Theater, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for updates and our meeting schedule.
Patrick M Meehan
Patrick is Vice President of Education for the newly formed Citizens for Bay Village Community Theater. An organization whose goal is to continue to provide Community Theater and Theater Education for the City of Bay Village.