Brazosport Center Stages held its annual business meeting and appreciation night on August 8. Missing only the food and drink, BCS members gathered online via streaming technology. I can’t tell you how they did it. I was barely able to tune it in on my computer.
Except for the unusually boring presentation of the financial report, the meeting was excellently produced by Mr. Dennis Ulrich. (Disclosure: The person serving as treasurer at the time of the meeting occasionally writes for SOTLJ.)
The centerpiece of every appreciation night is the presentation the Superstar Award. The suspense actually centers around whether or not there will be an award since it is given from time to time to people who have made extraordinary lifetime contributions to BCS in acting, directing, theater technical areas, and governance. The minimum standards for the award are high and have eliminated some significant talent whose primary contribution has been in acting, say, or design. The award is decided by the theater board of directors and it is not unusual for several years to pass without a new Supertar.
But we have a new Superstar in 2020. It is Susan Moss who has acted (in many roles), directed, served as president of the board, and worked in a variety of tech positions to see that Brazosport Center Stages never misses curtain as advertised.
One of my favorite of Susan’s many performances on our stage was in the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County in 2016.
You can see photos of Susan on stage at my Flickr site. I have selected a few an placed them in a Susan Moss Superstar album. See them here.
Hover over the table with your friends. Everyone is commenting about how pretty the layout is. Stab an olive with a twice-used toothpick. It’s about saving the forests after all. Or glance furtively around the table. No one is looking. Grab one between thumb and index finger. Double dip the cheese melt with a cold green bean. No one noticed that first bite. Dip the other end. Hands are clean and dry. Now reach across the table and shake hands with a friend you haven’t seen in at least a week or two. On the return from that greeting, swoop down and land a chunk of sweet pineapple.
Moving on to the new year.
The crowd is still forming. Scotch eggs, maple-iced doughnuts, French roast coffee, artichoke dip, veggies, nuts, wassail. Before the morning passes, sixty or so friends will crowd in around the table, serve a plate, exchange greetings, and tell tales of the year gone by, hopes for the year ahead and mostly true stories from all the walks of community life.
Our love is manifest in food and words.
How will we greet 2021? There is virtually no safe and healthy way to do it the way we have been doing it. But January is so far in the future. We can hope.
How spoiled we are in the Brazosport area to have Brazosport Center Stages performing in the Center for the Arts and Sciences. The summer musicals are a tradition our community looks forward to each year. Families make their plans around them. In fact, sometimes entire families are involved in shows, on stage and backstage. Each show involves large numbers of volunteers, cast members of all ages, and an adoring community filling the house for most performances.
Sadly, there will be no summer musical in 2020. Evidence is accumulating that there is nothing quite like a group of energetic singers in a closed space to spread coronavirus. Center Stages generates a large portion of its income budget from the summer musical each year. And they, in turn, pass on a sizeable share to support Center operation and maintenance.
Peter Pan was the show planned for 2020. Maybe it will happen some other time but not this year. Another lesson in the things we take for granted.
Brazosport Center Stages opened “The Miracle Worker” last weekend in the Freeport LNG Theater at the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences. As often happens with community theater productions, the cast took this one down to final rehearsals making bystanders like myself think there was no way this offering could gel, And, yet, as often happens in community theater, it did.
“The Miracle Worker” presents the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Helen became blind and deaf due to an illness during her infancy. Her mother remembered only one word that Helen attempted to say before she was stricken — water, or as her mother Katie Keller reported it in the play’s script, waawa.
With only primitive ability to communicate, Helen was an angry and often violent child. Her loving family did not know how to deal with her except to indulge her demands. Her behavior became an onerous burden to the lives of the Kellers, so much so, that they hired a governess to work with her when Helen was seven.
The governess was Anne Sullivan. Their story is well known, especially since the 1962 film with Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke. You can still see the local production this weekend (September 20-21).
Over to the right, at this time, you will see some photos from the invited dress rehearsal. I saw the play opening night and I can tell you that you will be rewarded with performances by some impressive new young talent and also by some of your favorite BCS veterans. More photos follow below.
Tonight is the 75th annual meeting of the membership of the community theater group now known as Brazosport Center Stages, located in Clute, TX. It began as the Little Theatre in Freeport and moved, along with a sister organization, Brazosport Music Theater, into the new Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences facility in 1976. Twenty years later, the two theater groups merged to form Brazosport Center Stages in 1996.
Brazosport Center Stages and I were both born in 1943. We only got to know each other after our family moved to Lake Jackson from Houston in 1982. Gradually over the years we became integral parts of each other’s lives.
I have an album of old proof sheets of film photos going back to the late 1980s when I first asked DeDe Dunn if she would allow me to take some rehearsal shots of “The Nerd.” She opened the door to me and the theater folks have always since welcomed me with my camera and I have been able to store up a lot of memories over the years of our relationship.
I love theater photography. Other people take care of lighting, posing, hair, makeup, costuming, movement and all I have to do is hit the shutter button. And – surprise! – actors almost never mind standing in the light and having their picture taken. After years of having subjects turn their backs to my camera and never apologizing (mostly my children), I now had a source of interesting and enthusiastic subjects. In all the years of photographing actors at BCS I have had exactly one get angry and tell me to get the camera out of her face. She was older then than I am now. She was entitled.
You can spend as much time as you would like viewing some of the later digital files on my Flickr site. There are thousands of theater shots. I am an amateur photographer and I have learned a few things over those years. I have also spent a little on cameras, lenses and software. I hope there is some improvement in the photos as a result of my learning and investment.
But BCS has meant so much more than a place to practice my photography avocation. I have even ventured onto the stage in a few roles over the years. I had the privilege of presenting the role of FDR, I hope with some dignity, in this Republican bastion in Annie, 2001. Then I was the somewhat shy racist, Karl Lindner, in Raisin in the Sun somewhere in the 2000s. Then I had the experience as a septuagenarian of taking a role with a large number of lines in Camping with Henry and Tom, 2013. I felt absolute terror at every performance knowing that so many of my friends were watching. I had never even heard of flop sweat before and suddenly I was producing it in buckets. The difficulty of trying to remember and say all of Thomas Edison’s many lines in that play cured me of further attempts at acting.
Yet, for all the joy I have taken from Brazosport Center Stages, I really value it most for what it contributes to our community. I have watched generations of young people move through their own activities and then out into our nation and the world to apply the things they learned about planning, communication, teamwork and how to respect themselves and others. At an early age, they were able to have friends who were adults and share peer responsibilities with them. I have seen it in my own kids and I have seen what a valuable experience theater was in their lives.
So, happy birthday Brazosport Center Stages and many happy returns. What you add to the education of our young people – and old people for that matter – makes all of us a little more civilized, reasonable and loving. I am looking forward to celebrating with you tonight and some of the friends we have shared over the last 35 years. You are a treasure in all our lives.