The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 21, 2013

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Laundry can wait; the theater beckons

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

PITTSBURG, Kan. — As I write this, I am surrounded by piles of dirty laundry, which explains why I can’t find any clean underwear or matching socks.

I cannot with certainty remember what day my children last bathed. And none of us has been to bed even close to an appropriate time since July began and for much of June.

We’ve had to come to grips this summer with letting go of our usual disciplined and healthy routine. It’s called theater.

What gives me comfort and reassurance is that there are at least 100 other people from throughout the region who also are surrounded by piles of dirty laundry and have nothing in their refrigerators but leftover Chinese takeout.

We’re all part of the cast and crew of “The Wizard of Oz,” which opens Thursday at Memorial Auditorium as Pittsburg Community Theatre’s summer show. We began work six weeks ago.

I play the minor role of an Ozian and help with moving set pieces, while my 8-year-old son and 12-year-old son play dual roles as Munchkins and Ozians and also assist with moving set pieces. It has benefited them in countless ways, and it has been a privilege for us to work with the fascinating array of unique and talented people who make up the cast and crew.

I could write a story about each and every one of them.

Joella Reid, my seventh-grade drama and vocal teacher and now Aunt Em, has baked dozens of cookies so during rehearsals she can put actual cookies in the basket she carries on stage and offer them to her farmhands as a treat. (The rest she froze in order to have enough to get through five performances this week.)

Pam Hurt, whose daughter Cassie Hurt-McLarty has many roles in the production, goes to work at midnight delivering The Joplin Globe in the Pittsburg area and gets done about 6 a.m. She is at the auditorium faithfully each evening to work as a crew member behind the scenes, creating and moving sets, helping with costumes, and supporting Cassie whatever it takes. It’s a wonder she’s still standing.

Greg and Angie Shaw and their daughter McKenna have taken turns bringing their 3-year-old dog, Bear, to rehearsal each night so that we have a live “Toto.” He’s a trouper. Greg, who is the theater teacher at Pittsburg High School, also has been directing a show this summer in Kansas City. McKenna performed in a Kansas City show, and Angie maintained an OB-GYN’s hours and jockeyed between the two towns.

At least two young performers have been commuting each evening from Joplin, Mo., another from Galena and another from Carthage, Mo. Their parents, who get them here by 6:30 p.m. and watch them rehearse until at least 10 p.m., are to be commended.

Dance director Kaye Lewis, who also commutes from Galena, is burning the candle at both ends while in simultaneous rehearsals for “Alice in Wonderland,” which her Midwest Regional Ballet based out of Joplin will perform this fall at Memorial Auditorium.

Barbara York, the 64-year-old mother of the show’s musical director, Megan Gabehart (and herself a veteran Kansas City concert accompanist, music director and composer) has put in hours and hours at the piano each evening for weeks as the rehearsal accompanist.

The bond we share is that we all are there for one reason, which is to create something out of nothing, and to start with an empty stage and a head full of ideas and transform that into two hours of hopefully flawless entertainment that will end in applause — perhaps even a standing ovation.

Sadly, by Sunday evening we again will have an empty stage. But we will have memories, and so will our audiences.

To heck with the dirty laundry. It will get clean eventually. Until then, on with the show!

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.