9. November, 2006. When Kim and I first learned that she was pregnant with Robbie, we agreed to keep it to ourselves for a little while. But, see, when something awesome happens, I just have to tell somebody, so I devised an intentional slip-up on a touring booking to let the rest of my unit in on the secret. We had just gone to McDonald's for dinner on the way to a show. I had already had a lot to eat that day, but I still got a pretty large meal. As we drove away, I made the comment, "I don't know why I'm eating so much today. You'd think I was the one eating for two, and not Kim." Then, suddenly, eyes wide, "Oh crap! I did not just say that! You did not just hear that! You can't tell anybody!" It must have been pretty convincing, because I actually used that as an example in a directing exercise once of the way some people just can't keep a secret when they're really excited about it. This was months later. The other guy from my unit was in the cast I was directing at the time, and when I finished talking I realized he was staring straight at me, his jaw dropped a bit.
"You did that on purpose?" he asked. "Oh...yeah," I said a bit sheepishly. "Wow. That's awesome," he said.
Now, I've been called a "stinker" because I never like to out and say this sort of thing. I always leave the obvious hint and let whoever I'm telling put the pieces together for themselves.
Well, okay. Guilty. After we kept our little boy a secret for a few more weeks, I got the green light to let the folks at work know. Before every performance of Rock Nativity, the cast would meet back by the mail room for announcements and prayer. As they were all headed back for one particular evening's meeting, I caught the stage manager and asked if she could give a prayer request. I asked her to have everyone pray for my wife, because she was really struggling to deal with the morning sickness. Then I waited outside the doorway. A few minutes later, a single high-pitched "WHAT?!?!" told me everything I needed to know. A few moments later, my friends came back through the door to offer fairly shocked congratulations. And me standing there, accepting them with that goofy I'm-going-to-be-a-daddy grin.
10. February, 2006. I'm what Midwesterners call "ornery." If you know me, you know this. I can also be a bit of a bully, though only in good fun. In the winter of 2006 I had my first acting role at the Players in The Boxcar Children. This set a precedent that lasted from 2006-2008: I was only ever cast in shows I didn't audition for. I joked with the director of this show that he cast me based solely on my portrayal of three sharks and a giant octopus in James and the Giant Peach. Boxcar was also the only time I've ever had a love interest in any show. Really, in any show since high school. I guess you look at me and you just don't see romance.
Anyway, I don't remember where the conversation started, but as my co-star and I were about to go onstage for the final scene of the show, she made some comment like, "I don't know, I think I might be stronger than you." Again, I have no idea where this came from, as it came out of one of the sweetest, nicest, most delicate ladies I've ever worked with. But somehow or other, it came up. And so, what the audience saw in that final scene was the young couple, finally "together," holding hands and admiring the four Alden children's meeting with their grandfather.
In reality? We were playing "mercy" the entire scene.
She hasn't talked smack in the five years since ;-)
11. September, 2008. I was co-teaching a class of four kindergarten-age girls (and one second grade boy who was unfortunately put into this class since the 2nd and 3rd grade class didn't make) where the focus was expressing emotion on stage. When I say "co-teaching," I really mean "assisting the actual teacher," because I don't have a whole lot of theatrical exercises for kindergartners in my back pocket. It was actually a pretty good team-up, though, since the other teacher and I were also teaching a 7th and 8th grade class that semester where I sort of took the lead. It evened out.
We were doing an exercise where we asked the kids what emotions certain colors reminded them of. We started with blue. The first little girl said blue made her think of sad, and she was sad because her little dog that she loved had run away, and she looked and looked for it but couldn't find it, and she cried and cried because she's afraid the dog is lonely and that she maybe won't ever see it again.
It was pretty sad. But it got worse. Later in the day, we were doing a similar exercise with pieces of music instead of colors. We played a happy song, and the kids all said it made them happy. We asked Lost Puppy Girl, and she said it made her happy to think that maybe her puppy had found a new home and that maybe he was happy with somebody else. Literally every single exercise ended up coming back to this girl's lost dog. The other teacher and I started to wonder if we needed to ask her parents if she was going to be okay. It was actually starting to get a little bit uncomfortable.
Class ended, and parents came to pick up children. Lost Puppy Girl's dad was the last to come. He had scrubs on and sported hair with enough product in it that it wouldn't even think about moving for a week. I was at the top of the stairs by that point, about to disappear into my office, and the other teacher was downstairs by the front door seeing them out.
"What did you do in class today, sweetheart?" he asked.
"I talked about how my puppy ran away, and how it made me very sad and I cried because I was afraid she was lonely." The door slowly swung shut behind them, but not before I heard the rest of the conversation. First, there was a pause, then the father said, "You mean, for pretend?"
"Yeah." Click. Door shut.
My co-teacher whirled around with a stunned look that I'm sure mirrored mine almost perfectly, and we both fell to the ground laughing.
12. May, 2008. "Whiiiite dresses, for the ladies down at Lane..." Lane was the name of the women's prison we were at that day. In the spring and summer of 2008, we partnered with a local prison ministry to take one of our touring performances (it was Paragraph) into both men's and women's prisons across this part of the state. The man in charge of the ministry was named Zeke. Zeke is a former convict, and his testimony is powerful. He's also one of the craziest people I've ever met. His heart for prison ministries is amazing. And while his zeal often made him a bit unbearable, I'm proud and glad to have worked with him.
On this particular day, we were performing in the second of two prisons within driving distance of this particular city. (Sorry, I don't remember exactly where it was) The day before we had played the men's prison; today it was the ladies' turn. Zeke was strumming a tune on his electric autoharp about all the ladies being daughters of the King and returning home from prison with change lives, never going back to the messed-up situations that had landed them in Lane. Then it would never be plain white prison garb for these ladies. They'd where white dresses ("And pink dresses, and red ones, blue ones, purple ones...") again. And you could see tears trickling from these women's eyes into the corners of their smiles. (Just thinking about it, I'm getting a little choked up)
I believe this was the time we started our show and were interrupted about fifteen minutes in. Another actor and I then had to sit on the stage in our positions while guards came in and called roll for all hundred-and-something ladies in the room. It was sort of a sobering reminder that we weren't in the cozy confines of our happy little actor lives.
These ladies laughed like no one else through the show. They outright cheered at points. They had the kind of reactions you can never expect from the folks who pay forty-one bucks for a ticket. It was probably my favorite performance of the year. After we were done, Zeke did a bit of preaching. He preached about being hidden in Christ. He told them that when Christ held them, nobody could take them back from Him. He said, "As soon as you leave here, next time that hammerhead comes up to you to mess you up again, you tell him, 'Nuh-uh, not anymore!" He used an illustration where he took a tennis ball and said, "This here is you." He then placed it in a plastic bucket labeled "Christ" and snapped the lid tight. He pounded on the lid a few times, shook it a bit, then just looked up at the ladies and said, "'Nuff said, all right?"
Zeke led the room in a prayer, and by the end of it more than thirty women had given their lives to Christ. I realized then how my state was really no different from theirs. All any of us had to offer our Maker and Lover were filthy rags. That day, God allowed me to play a part in an event that saw those thirty-some women trade in their filthy rags for white dresses.