2:04 AM, Dec 10, 2012
Written by Geri Kolesar
“It was 1978. Under the stage lights stood 10 Walnut Hills High School students, the cast of “Godspell.” They had spent weeks together rehearsing, becoming a team, and they were about to perform.
Flash forward 34 years, and under the stage lights at the same school stood 10 high school students, a different cast in the same play. They too had spent weeks together rehearsing, becoming a team, and they were about to begin their third of five performances.
The audience was filled with alumni who had performed or watched Walnut’s first production of “Godspell” back in 1978. Even the director of that original production was in the audience.
What had drawn a theater full of people back to their high school on a sunny Saturday afternoon, decades after they had graduated?
One of the 1978 cast members, Stephanie Sargent, died last year, and her classmates chose to honor and remember their friend in this way. The current cast and crew, in turn, chose to dedicate their production to their castmate across the ages, a woman they had never met.
Tom Peters, chair of the Walnut Hills Theater Department and director of the production had uncovered a program from 1978 and placed copies on the chairs reserved for the alumni. “We are honored to perform this show for you,” he said, “and your presence brings to life what this show is about – friendship.”
Friends had come out to honor a friend who had died. Simple enough.
Or maybe not.
Following the show, several alumni took the stage. The rest of us in the audience, together with the current cast members, watched and listened as four people once on the stage as characters in “Godspell” now sang a song. It was the same song they had sung to their director at the close of the production in 1978, written by one of their cast members and expressing appreciation for each other and their experience of coming together as a team.
By the end of their song, let’s just say more than a few of us were sniffling and wiping our eyes. Later, when Mr. Peters asked cast members to share their most significant experiences with the show, they didn’t talk of the weeks of rehearsal, or walking around in knee pads for hours or eating too many pizza dinners. They commented on the alumni presence at their performance and the song they sang.
Being in the theater that day was about something more than a bunch of people watching a show with a group of reminiscing alumni. It was about the students of today feeling connected to students from decades ago who had a similar experience within the same walls. It was about honoring a woman many of us had never met. It was about feeling part of something bigger than the moment, when differences are ignored and boundaries melt away. It was about friendship.”