Without that, you might just as well be made of bronze

The cast of The Philadelphia Story

Once upon a time, I did community theatre. In April 2001, I was 25-years old. I somehow landed the part of 15-year old Dinah Lord in The Philadelphia Story. The play takes place in the few days before the wedding of Tracy Lord, Dinah’s sister. Mark Ferman (4th from the left in the picture) played our father. The title of this post is something he said in the play.

The Philadelphia Story was the best experience I’ve had acting in a straight play, and is one of my top five theatre experiences ever.

Fast forward 15 years. During this time, Max and I left New Hampshire, and community theatre. We adopted two kids and all of the activities that go with them. Then Jerry Brown signed SB277, so back to New Hampshire we came. Live free or die!

The biggest reason we chose New Hampshire was our friends. We knew people here. We know people here. Max and I both wanted to do theatre again. The week after we moved, Max auditioned for and was cast in a play. On the night that Jackson and I came to see it, we saw Mark and his wife Nancy.

Mark had been president of the Nashua Theatre Guild when I was its secretary. In my mind, there were really three people who embodied NTG, and Mark was one of them. After we left NH, Mark started a dinner theatre company. He continued acting and producing, I know. Mark was quite the decent actor, and reliable too. As a person, he was competent, cordial, and sarcastic as hell. Mark had the driest sense of humor. Example: I had a strict word count for program bios. Mark went over his words by one-third. So I told him he had to remove one-third of the words. He did so by deleting every third word.

During the last 15 years, he had had some health problems, so he had lost weight – someone told me 80 pounds, and I believe it – and had worked very hard to overcome them. When I saw him that night, I told Jackson that Mark had played my dad in a show once, so Jackson said, “So he’s my grandpa?” Mark enjoyed it. I had been looking forward to working with Mark again.

Yesterday, I received a message from a dear friend of Mark’s, another theatre person whom I call friend. Mark died in his sleep. At his funeral today, I found out he was just 57-years old. This was totally unexpected. His wife was just desolate. I saw many members of the theatre community make time on their Thursday morning to attend the Mark’s funeral – he was, after all, a pillar of our community.

You might say that Mark’s death illustrates the point, “Live every moment as your last.” But I say, what a crock! If you told someone that they had a very brief, finite time to live, how many would say, “OK, I’m going to wash the dishes, go to work, pick up the kids…”? I know if I’m ever told I have a matter of weeks to live, I’m crowdfunding a family trip to Disney World. (Seriously.) But the dishes must be washed, the rent must be paid, the kids need their parents. But Mark’s death is certainly a reminder that we never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so we should love a little more, yell a little less, and laugh as much as possible.

Mark leaves behind three children. I knew two of them when they were very little. We used to have rehearsals at Mark’s house. We got in trouble if we woke his daughter’s Furby. These kids are now college grads and a college freshman. At the funeral today, I did hug Nancy, and spoke with her briefly, but I didn’t go to the kids, because why would they care about this old friend of their dad’s that they surely didn’t even remember?

When I was sitting in the temple, waiting for the funeral to start, I realized that I should have talked to the kids. When my mom died, I loved hearing about how she touched other people’s lives. I wanted to tell the kids something about their dad – that even 12 years after I’d last worked with him, I remembered what a truly great guy he was. He’s someone I was happy to work with and for. And maybe that I do know what it’s like to wake up one morning and one of your parents is dead.

The New Hampshire theatre community lost a great man this week. He will be sorely missed. Me, I’m missing what will never be. I know his family and close friends are missing so much more.

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