Apr 27

A Play for Peace


EIGHT ENCHANTED EVENINGS: The enthusiastic cast family of Central Florida Community Arts’ South Pacific, April 2015.

There Is Nothin’ Like a Play

LOVE is at the heart of community theater.

LOVE is at the heart of community theater.

This post is my love letter. To the thirty or so cast, crew, and orchestra members in Central Florida Community Arts’ production of South Pacific, directed by Donald Rupe. Over the past two months, I had the honor of serving with this congregation of talented people in the show that may well be Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most epic musical. Yet even more indelible than the show’s wartime drama, conflicted romances and beloved tunes, are the people whom I came to know and love. So although this well-received production (reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel, Broadway World and Archikulture Digest) closed yesterday, I just can’t make myself Wash That Show Right Outta My Hair.

HAPPY TALK: On and off the stage, casts share so many little moments of spontaneous love.

HAPPY TALK: On and off the stage, casts share so many little moments of spontaneous love.

I’m in Love with a Wonderful Cast

Community theater is all about love. Even more than professional theater, it’s inherently passionate. That’s because actors and other artists enthusiastically volunteer to do what they LOVE. People of different backgrounds and experiences come together. They become an instant family united by a clear common goal: to create a memorable, moving experience for others.

Music director Jason Bailey and our awesome orchestra members made R&H tunes come to full life.

Music director Jason Bailey and our awesome orchestra members brought the dramatic South Pacific score to rich life.

The act of working together toward that goal creates more than a great show; it creates great love. Overwhelming, energetic, unadulterated love. Love that is then freely shared with an audience.

For me, the juxtaposition of this powerful love with the current news headlines was equally dramatic and ironic. Even as hatred and violence continued to crescendo and play out tragically on the world stage, I experienced growing love over the course of rehearsals and shows. Love for my fellow players. Love for the theater. Love for life itself.

A Labor of Love

BEFORE: an ordinary church parish hall.

BEFORE: an ordinary church parish hall.

As anyone who’s ever been involved in theater knows, a play is actually a lot of work. The set alone for this show required untold hours, during which Rupe, technical director Paul Thompson, scenic painter Luciana Noguiera, and other dedicated volunteers transformed a typical church fellowship room into a tropical paradise on the fringe of War World II. The result was a uniquely intimate, immersive theatrical experience, which happened to also be a successful first in the space for CFC Arts.

You Have to Be Carefully Taught

Differences can create distrust outside the theater. But here, ALL CHARACTERS WELCOME!

ALL CHARACTERS WELCOME! In the real world, differences sadly often lead to distrust. But in the theater world, everyone is loved.

It’s far easier to destroy than to create. (This was true even of our set.) It’s not difficult to hate and condemn. Any weak- and/or narrow-minded brute can be persuaded to do those things. And throughout history they have–time and tragic time again–inflamed by rhetorical tinder, executing some ‘greater’ purpose ordained by those vying for more power, even (and often so) purportedly ordained by a higher power.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, creating something with other people–in this case, a show–is arguably the most positive, powerful thing that can be done in the world. All creation comes from love. It’s virtually impossible to do one without the other.

So my final takeaway from such a fond tour of duty in the South Pacific is this: Art creates love, the only antidote to war, and empathy, the surest cure to conflict. Call me A Cockeyed Optimist, but I think there’s hope for the world yet.


AFTER: a magical vision of the South Pacific, a set as vibrant and compelling as the show’s cast.