Beloved Drama Dock director deserves community support

Tomorrow is my birthday. It is also the night we open Drama Dock’s “Oklahoma.” My youngest child and I are both in the show’s chorus. While it has been wonderful to finally have a chance to sing and dance with Will after doing so with his two older sisters, I do it with melancholy because the woman who started me on this path is taking a break.

I tried out for “Annie” almost five years ago. I have long been a singer, but always dreamed of learning to act and do musicals. To my surprise, I was cast as Grace Farrell, the woman who finds Annie in the orphanage. And the woman who “found” me at that audition was Libbie Anthony.

My oldest daughter was in “Annie” with me. I have many memories of Emma and a cast of orphan girls rolling down grass slopes outside the Burton Church, doing dance steps and, my personal favorite, all gathered late at night at our opening night party at The Hardware Store, arms around each other and singing “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” at the top of their lungs. I continued working with Libbie the next year in “Oliver,” this time as the producer, with my daughter in the cast, and in “The Wizard of Oz,” as Glinda the Good Witch (and both daughters in the cast).

Over the years, my son has asked repeatedly if he could have a turn to be part of the magic. Now that Will is 9, he finally had a chance to be part of the action in “Oklahoma,” with Libbie directing again.

However, Lib had some health problems that had been developing for a long time, and she was forced to leave the show several weeks ago. She has been recovering for the last few weeks, and should be home in time for the show, but will only be able to be in the audience.

As we go through our final week of rehearsals, I find myself feeling such huge waves of sentiment and gratitude for the woman who put my family on this path. 

For me, Lib played all kinds of parts. She played the part of a director, teaching me how to act and teaching my children how to dance and sing. She has played the part of big sister, becoming a core part of my family, as she always will be, joining us for holiday meals and conveying such love and tenderness towards my children that there is no question we are related. 

My favorite memory of these family musicals came during “The Wizard of Oz.” We were doing makeup, and two of us started softly singing “a-wim-oh-way, a-wim-oh-way” over and over. Before you knew it, other people jumped in and the entire cast did makeup over an impromptu performance of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” It was magical. We were all grinning and laughing, joining in with harmony. I remember looking up in the mirror and seeing Libbie in the room, standing back and taking it all in.

I remember once going to an Ober Park outdoor concert with Libbie. We walked onto the lawn, and I heard a series of shrieks. I looked around in alarm, and realized it was a horde of orphans from “Annie,” all running across the park because they had seen Libbie arrive, and they were diving in for hugs. After the kids drifted away, I remember looking at my director and saying, “Man, it’s tough to go out with you.” She just smiled, full of such great love for musicals, for kids and for things like going to concerts at Ober Park. 

I went and saw Lib at the hospital a few weeks ago. I called home to check in and put my kids on the phone with so they could say hi. I knew that Emma and Lilly would want to say hello. It was nice to realize that young Will also wanted his turn to say hi to her. As I watched Lib’s face while she talked to Will on the phone, I said a prayer of thanks for the role this woman has played in our lives.

I know there are many families like mine out there, whether your kids were in “The Sound of Music,” “Annie,” “Oliver,” “The Wizard of Oz” or are in “Oklahoma.” Drop Libbie an e-mail. She should be home by the time you see this. 

In the meantime, come and see “Oklahoma,” yet another offering in five years of fantastic Drama Dock family musicals. The songs are wonderful and the sets and costumes are first-rate. The show also brings in new families, starting new traditions. Who knows what song they will sing while they do their makeup?

— Lauri Hennessey is a mother of three and runs a public relations firm on Vashon.

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