In Our Own Words CCP

New Writings About the Cumberland County Playhouse (site © 2015 by CCP) Email submissions to:

Month: December, 2014

CCP’s Production of “Cats”

Dave & I have been group ushers at CCP for nearly 13 years now and have had many interesting experiences. I think there is one that we have most frequently repeated to other folks when describing the caliber of theater we are blessed to have in our chosen “home town.” It happened one night after we had ushered for, and stayed to watch, a performance of Cats! As we were leaving the theater after the show we overheard a couple in front of us talking about how much they had enjoyed it. The man said, “You know, that was every bit as good or maybe even better than when we saw it in London!”

Lynn Miser

© 2014  Lynn Miser
Used by permission

Still Moved by “A Sander’s Family Christmas”

I have lost track of the number of times that I have seen A Sanders Family Christmas. The 2014 production is among the best that I have attended. What always surprises me is that, in spite of the repetitions, I continue to shed tears of emotion in the poignant moments of this play.

Ed Thornblade

© 2014  Ed Thornblade
Used by permission


Working in the Applause Gift Shop

We have experienced much enjoyment and satisfaction volunteering our time to make the “Applause” gift shop a success for the Playhouse. An individual approached us recently to mention, “if it wasn’t for the volunteers there would not be a successful, entertaining Playhouse.” I thanked her from all of us. She replied again, “I mean it.”

The warm camaraderie is a personal reward to us.

Howard and Donna McQuay

© 2014  Howard and Donna McQuay
Used by permission



Twenty Six Years of Volunteering

Twenty Six years ago we made a wonderful decision to become Playhouse Volunteers. We had recently retired from N.E Ohio and were anxious to settle into a new community. Volunteering meant distributing posters, doing mailing, ushering, working as greeters and house managers, making crafts for the craft table, but mostly–meeting wonderful people.

The productions opened a whole new world to us. Our lives were enriched by people like tiny Helen Byrd, Mary Crabtree and many, many others. We have seen many changes, but enjoyed every minute of the adventure.

We are grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of the Cumberland County Playhouse.

Steve and Mary Lou Knowles

© 2014 Steve and Mary Lou Knowles
Used by permission

A Simple Twist of Fate

On a busy interstate on-ramp in San Antonio, Texas stood a much thinner, much hairier version of myself–backpack slung on one shoulder and thumb extended in hopes of flagging a long-hauler to put some miles beneath my feet. The year was 1973 and it was not uncommon to find young, aimless drifters like myself traversing America’s highways.

This was not my first time in San Antonio. A month earlier I had rolled into town to participate in “Festival,” San Antonio’s springtime celebration. During the revelry I happened to meet a young lady with whom I became fast friends and a whirlwind romance ensued. But, as was my wont in those days, I soon said my goodbyes and thumbed my way off to Mexico. Within a week I was flat broke, so I headed back north, finding myself on that particular on-ramp at that specific time of day.

A car pulled over and I jogged up to meet it. Opening the door, I was surprised to see a friend of the young lady with whom I had shared so much weeks before. “Somebody’s going to be happy to see you!” he said. That was 41 years ago, and I’m happy to say that the young lady (my loving wife, Lee) and I are still together. It was a simple twist of fate that brought us together, pure luck that I was standing in the right place at the right time. Perhaps some things are just meant to be.

I suppose you could say the events of our life together, the triumphs and the tragedies, the laughter and the tears, can all be attributed to that simple twist of fate. Certainly, without her we would not have sold off our existence to move to Oklahoma to care for her ailing father. After his passing we would not have been in the position of looking for a new place to settle. Was it mere serendipity that led my finger along a map to stop on Dayton, Tennessee? Perhaps some things are just meant to be.

We had not been in Dayton very long when, by chance, I picked up the local newspaper. There was an audition call for the town’s historical reenactment of the Scopes Trial, a new play called Front Page News. I thought this would be a great way to get involved with my new community and was more than a little surprised when I landed the role of William Jennings Bryan, and more than a little delighted when I was asked to reprise the role the following year.

Then fate steps in again. The Scopes Festival Committee went into a partnership with CCP to handle the production of the play. That’s when I met Jim and Annie and many other Playhouse regulars who sacrificed their time and energy to help us be successful. As fate would have it, just by chance, CCP was also putting on a production of Inherit the Wind and had yet to cast the role of Matthew Harrison Brady (Bryan’s fictional counterpart). When offered the chance, I found it hard to refuse.

So through a simple twist of fate I found myself, untrained and inexperienced, standing on the main stage toe-to-toe with the incredibly talented stars of the Playhouse. A humbling experience, to say the least, yet one I shall always cherish. Much can be said about a structured life and the importance of having purpose and direction. Yet in one’s life fate will lay before us opportunities that we dare not pass by. Call it chance, call it luck, call it what you will. I call it a simple twist of fate. Or perhaps, some things were just meant to be.

George Miller
Dayton, Tenn. 2014

© 2014 George Miller
Used by permission

The Feelings that the Arts Evoke

Some things you hear folks talk about when you are little, and you have no recollection of it whatsoever. Then, there are some memories that are embedded into your very being that you will never forget. You remember everything so vividly like it was just yesterday… and it still affects you today.

It was 1976 when I had my first Playhouse visit; I was four. My grandparents came to town and we came to see Tennessee, USA!  We sat in the center section, about row G or H, and I sat on my dad’s lap in the aisle seat. Let me just say that my arts experience up till this point was The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. This was totally different–you couldn’t holler at your brother or sister if they walked in front of the TV, and you had to be still and quiet (pretty tough for a four year old).

Well, I don’t recall having any problem being quiet or sitting still. I remember being mesmerized by everything going on. All those people dancing and singing; my parents laughing, it was wonderful. I do remember being a little confused that a man was talking on a rotary phone that wasn’t connected to the wall. There was a part in the show where people came dancing and singing down the aisles. This was just fantastic; it made you feel like part of the show. It was all great and grand until I turned my back to look at some of the folks on stage when this man coming down the aisle grabs my arm! Looking back, I’m sure he was just engaging the audience, but to a four year old, this was “STRANGER DANGER!!” He scared me about half to death and I started crying. I hugged right up into my dad’s neck till I got calmed down. Well, I watched the rest of the show without a hitch. That was the beginning of my Playhouse influence.

My older sister then got involved with the Playhouse. She was in shows, worked backstage and in the light booth. Mary used to give out the material and patterns for her show costumes, and my mom would sew them. We saw every show she was in or worked on for 3 years. I remember the makeup from Godspell, the big honkin’ angel in Look Homeward Angel, the train scene from Music Man, and the dresses the girls wore in Carousel.

Fast forward about twenty years and I got a job in the box office. When I came into the building for my first day of work I wasn’t nervous. It kinda felt like coming home since CCP was woven so much into my past. It was like I belonged! After working here for twelve years I have really learned what the Playhouse is all about … Family. You get to be a part of something that is way bigger than you. You get to impact people’s lives every day whether you are on the stage, backstage, box office or admin offices. Just as that man walking down the aisle when I was four impacted my life, I get to do that to others. Yes, he made me cry, but he also made me feel … and remember. I remember the crying was only for a few moments, but the laughter and joy I felt on that day, and the laughter and joy I saw on my families faces, is still with me. It’s a memory I will cherish forever.

Katy Parrent


© 2014 Katy Parrent
Used by permission

A Solid Foundation

After my first professional acting gig was over, I found myself training to work at a restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA. On a whim, I decided to drive down to North Carolina for a regional combined theater audition. The Blue Man Group called me back, but so did this guy I had never heard of: Jim Crabtree.

A few days later I had to send Jim a video submission as an additional callback, and I waited with bated breath.

A week later, Jim left me a voicemail.

I rushed out of the restaurant after my shift to listen, hoping it wasn’t a rejection message. I sat in my car crying as I listened to Jim’s message, offering me the role of Vera Sanders in Sanders Family Christmas. I actually listened to it twice, just to make sure it was real. I had landed the gig! That joyous moment has been burned into my memory forever.

I quit my job at the restaurant, left Pittsburgh, and drove towards Crossville.

Looking back, I realize that I found my artistic footing at CCP. I learned what it feels like to do a theatrical run that is longer than two weeks. What it mentally takes to do three completely different shows in one day. How wonderful it is to perform for patrons that care deeply about the actors. That working with the same people in a rep situation is one of the most valuable experiences you can have as an actor. How being directed by Rhondda Wallace, would push me to achieve things I never believed that I could do. That one Sanders’ show could turn into a variety of exciting opportunities.

In 2004 I left CCP to continue my life in NYC, but I have never forgotten where I came from. Thank you Jim and the CCP crew for helping me forge a solid foundation for art, and for life. Best wishes for the next 50 years!

April Lee Uzarski

© 2014   April Lee Uzarski
Used by permission

the man with the lumberjack voice and the lady with the angel eyes

in the beginning there is fear    shaking     nausea
the desire to run and
hide hide    hide away
alone    safe

but a great distance from the laughter of people

then, the man with the lumberjack voice and the wavy hair
hands me a mask
gives me a place to plant my feet
a direction to point my whirling rivers of sand and blood
and fever

the lady with the angel eyes
and sparkling laugh
looks at me                   smiles
plays a chord                                      on the piano

rivers of sand and blood and fever
pour though my mouth
taking shape as they hit air
magic horses

the man with the lumberjack voice and the wavy hair
and the lady with the angel eyes and sparkling laugh
find another trembling soul
and another
and another
and one by one
give each of them a mask
a place to stand                words
the courage                                 to pour out

the horses      the wind in the horses

the people watching the horses        horses
and the man with the lumberjack voice and the wavy hair
and the lady with the angel eyes and the sparkling laugh
marvel at this pouring out of rivers

of sand and blood and fever

there is joy              laughter                where before

there was only fear

Bobby Lynn Taylor

© 2014  Bobby Lynn Taylor
Used by permission

A History in “Songs” I Was Privileged To Sing

“In The Beginning,” I got to remind audiences that “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.” Next, I played it “Cool” until I had a blast helping make “Magic Changes” on the Playhouse stage. Dancing dreams soon came true, and, as the Gershwins tell us, I was dancing and I “Can’t Be Bothered Now.” Such wonderful memories of that show, and, try as they might, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Song-and-dance became my routine at CCP, and the next show prompted the question “Isn’t It Kinda Fun?” that such a wonderful theatre can provide so many in a community many a “Grand Night For Singing.” Through thick and thin, CCP, you continue to “Pick Yourself Up,” dust yourself off, and continually produce beautiful, professional, and inspiring work. Jim and Annie: “You’re The Top.” You continue to make the Playhouse so “Easy To Love.” And my memories of Mary will always be, as Mr. Porter put it, “De-Lovely.” So, to all my beloved theatre family that create magic and beauty on the boards of the Cumberland County Playhouse, “Before The Parade Passes By,” “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” and help celebrate 50 incredible years of CCP magic. Oh, and “You Can Play With Your Food” at the celebration. I give you full permission. And, as I sang in my final performance on the Playhouse Stage:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnéd luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act V, Scene 1

Jeremy Benton

© 2014 Jeremy Benton
Used by permission


That’s the last call you hear over the dressing room monitor before the show begins.
“Places, please.”

I have been lucky enough to spend the majority of my adult life answering to that call. I’ve taken my place in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis; in the hot summer heat of Houston, after shopping at the famous fish market in Seattle, just after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, after smelling the summertime pines in Maine, and in the snow for Christmas in Denver. I’ve traveled the country answering that places call.

I hear “Places” tonight in my dressing room at the Playhouse as I rush to put on my wig and I smile. My PLACE. Something an actor hears almost every day – countless shows a week – and yet, something an actor is always searching for.

A Place …
Their Place …
Their Home.

I hear “Places” over the monitor at the Cumberland County Playhouse and I smile … just like I did in 1993 as an insecure young girl taking her first professional job six hours from home. I remember how Jim Crabtree took a chance on me, how Annie always made me feel welcome, and how honored I was to share the stage with Mary. So many lasting impressions and faces and memories to make my life feel full as I set off to other places in search of my future. Before Portland, and New Haven, and Dallas, and New York. I smile, here now, after returning countless times, because I realize this is my place, my home.

“Places, please.”

I gladly take mine … here … now … at the Cumberland County Playhouse, because of this place, this family, this community. I gladly take my place on stage tonight next to my friends, loved ones, students, and co-workers. I gladly take my place because finally I have found my place …

This place I call HOME.


Weslie Webster

© 2014 Weslie Webster
Used by permission

The Smiling Woman

“I could smell you from the back row,” would not, normally, be taken as a compliment. However this was the intent of the smiling woman as we stood in line at Krogers. I was there buying something to burn on the grill on the back porch of The Big House. The smiling woman was there buying herself a treat after watching a performance of OKLAHOMA (yes I still sing it in my head as I write) where I played Judd Fry, the twisted farm hand who’s musical soliloquy “Lonely Room” first frightens, then saddens, then frightens again as he shares his obsessions.

Of course I didn’t really smell badly as that would have been discourteous to my fellow actors, especially the lovely Wesley Webster who played Laurey Williams, but this is the magic of theater. This smiling woman had suspended her disbelief to not only remove herself from the reality of the Playhouse but also to fill in the sensory cues of the world created by Rogers & Hammerstein and lovingly brought to life by the cast, crew, and FAMILY of C.C.P..

As I write this (thank you Bobby Taylor for asking) it’s easy to suspend my own disbelief and transport myself back 21 years to when my wife Jessica and I stood in Mary Crabtree’s lake front home surrounded by friends who had gathered to throw us a Wedding Shower. I can still summon the smells of Mary’s Christmas decorations mixed with the pot luck dishes, hear the voices of fellow actors, many of whom have since passed on, and feel the love and warmth of the C.C.P. FAMILY who are still putting smiles on the faces at Krogers and elsewhere.

Patrick Cogan

© 2014 Patrick Cogan
Used by permission

The Who, What, and Where Challenge

Those three words keep popping into me head.

It started when I was watching our playhouse production of “Damn Yankees.” I kept thinking of the Abbot-Costello classic baseball routine.

Now I am in the cast of “Scrooge, the Musical” and those three words keep coming to mind regarding old Scrooge.

So I have yielded and decided that for this Advent Season, I will focus on those words.

WHO – for Scrooge, there is only one WHO of importance in his consciousness – and that is Scrooge. He hordes everything for himself and himself alone. Family relationships mean nothing. Employees are tools for his own end. Neighbors and towns people are a bother. He curls himself up in his own little small world, isolated by the fact he has no other outside WHO to challenge and model what he could be.

Advent is a time to focus on the source of our strength and seek direction from a WHO that is worthy of our commitment and dedication.

As a pastor, I turn my attention to Jesus. I see in his temptation experience a kind of advent – a time to prepare and anticipate the mission ahead. And his focus is on his WHO – a God of love and grace to whom he is attached.”

His WHO conclusion, “Nevertheless not my will, but Yours be done.”

For Scrooge, the WHAT is clear. He sings the song, M O N E Y.

His WHAT could do a great deal of good, but it is dormant of value beyond his own small needs.

Advent is a time to consider our various assets, called gifts Biblically, and the way in which they can be of use beyond ourselves. As Dolly would say, “find a way to spread them around.”

I have discovered this year an outlet for some of my retired gifts and I will use this season to seek other opportunities in my future journey.

Finally the WHERE for Scrooge becomes clear – all around him are possibilities to spread the gifts that can bring about positive change and help to create a world in which community and graciousness is a reality.

I am writing on “Giving Tuesday.” Too bad we need to be reminded of the challenge to give.

My WHERE this advent is to consider how I can help others to believe in their worthiness and value. Too many place their importance on what they have accumulated in worldly terms. What we need is to see our worth in the unique gifts we can share with those we are privileged to experience – at home, work, play and beyond – gifts of the heart and spirit.

Our advent challenge, I believe, is to rediscover that attitude of togetherness and kinship that can so easily get lost in our hyper-media kind of world. And to have the courage to believe that creation is not complete until we find the joy of peace and good will.

Three challenging words: WHO, WHAT, WHERE.

Bob Ochsenrider

© 2014 Bob Ochsenrider
Used by permission

A Player’s Perspective

I am on the stage. The show is beginning. My fellow players take their appropriate positions. The music starts and it is “my move.” I stand up, clear my throat (to capture the audience’s attention), and walk briskly to the table at the far end of the set as a lady in the audience, about four rows up, is adjusting herself and noisily empties the contents of her purse onto the floor in front of her. She almost makes me forget what I am doing. I snap my attention back to my destination, the table, where I pick up a glass of water to take a drink and carelessly pour its contents down the front of my shirt. Was that supposed to happen??? They will never know. We are, after all, professionals, and you shall never know either.

warren weaver

© 2014 warren weaver
Used by permission

“It’s a Wonderful Life The Musical!”

I was bored. I wanted to try out stage work. All my life I had participated in church plays, sang cantatas, and been involved in choir. School had also played a huge role in my desire for stage work. In the high school I attended, our options were either PE, Gym, or Contemporary Dance. I loved to dance, so I took two years of it, and that’s all I knew about dance. I needed more classes in other styles of dance, but that’s not what got me on the stage in 2009. When I came back to Cumberland County, summer of 2005, I decided it was time to give performance another try, but at the Playhouse this time. I tried out for “It’s a Wonderful Life” and was accepted. There were voice try-outs, and auditions for roles in the play.

Every rehearsal was fun. Learning the songs for the musical was a trip; however, I got through them and enjoyed adult choir. The musical was whimsical, fun, fascinating, and joyful. The scenes gave the audience a feeling that indeed we were having the most fun–up there. I was told by another actor that my dancing looked good. I was on top of the world. The time spent at CCP made my big dream of being on a big stage come true.

Betty J. Taylor

© 2014 Betty J. Taylor
Used by permission