I’ve taken to the stage for what only my mom would describe as the “performing arts” exactly three times in my life.
In my final performance, I played the Mouse King in a nonmusical production of “The Nutcracker Suite.”
I had all of two lines, if memory serves, one of which went something along the lines of, “Get them!”
It wasn’t quite a soliloquy, but I delivered the pronouncement with a pitch and a cadence that would have made Sidney Poitier proud.
I was just 8 years old and in the third grade at the time, but I was proud.
Had they handed out Tonys for Best Supporting Role in an Elementary School Play, I surely would have, well ... I would have had Mom’s vote anyway.
I dig way deep into my résumé today because I’m about to end my 36-year absence from the stage.
Someone please notify TMZ.
Paul Lockwood, president of the nonprofit TownSquare Players, McHenry County’s oldest active community theater group, has invited me to participate in one of the group’s upcoming performances of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
The musical comedy will be staged Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons beginning March 8 and ending March 24 at the Woodstock Opera House.
My single appearance will be at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24.
Yes, the encore production. You won’t want to miss it.
Or maybe you will, I don’t know.
To summarize, the Tony award-winning musical centers around a fictional spelling bee at a middle school in – where else – Putnam County.
What’s unique about this comedy is that four audience members are selected before the curtains open to join the ensemble cast on stage. The audience members play some of the spellers competing in the bee. They actually have to spell words, after asking such standard questions as, “What does the word mean” and “Can you please use it in a sentence?”
Lockwood and other TownSquare Players staff thought that it might stir greater interest if they sought out local public figures to fill one of the four audience spots in each of the nine performances.
In addition to myself, he’s lined up:
• Woodstock High School Principal Corey Tafoya for the March 8 production;
• Woodstock Independent publisher Cheryl Wormley on March 9;
• Two-time defending McHenry County Bee champion Lucas Urbanski of Immanuel Lutheran School on March 10;
• Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager on March 15;
• McHenry County College President Vicky Smith on March 16;
• And McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt on March 22.
He still is working on wannabe stage actors for the March 17 and March 23 productions.
“I think it will provide a lot of fun and amusement for, we’re saying, a PG-13 kind of audience,” said Lockwood, who is co-producing the play along with retired Johnsburg High School drama teacher Roger Zawacki, who also is directing.
While I admit that I’ll be stepping outside my comfort zone, I also think that I’m more worried about embarrassing myself in the spelling competition than I am with stage fright.
Even though I’m a “newspaper editor,” I’m no Lucas Urbanski.
There’s an old saying in our business: Every editor needs an editor.
And those who edit this column or any of my other ramblings know that I’m not much of a wordsmith. If it weren’t for spell-check software, I likely would have been forced out of the industry a long time ago.
My 12-year-old son regularly beats me at Words with Friends.
But it’s all in fun, even if it’s at my own expense, and for a good cause.
The performance arts are an important part of every community. And like many arts groups since the Great Recession hit in 2007, the TownSquare Players could use a boost.
“Financially, we’re not as solid as we would like to be,” Lockwood said. “We’ve got some outstanding loans that we need to be paying off. This is the last show that we will be producing for this season. We’re hoping that we get a lot more people in the seats.”
So if you’re open any of these dates, consider seeing “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” And if you want a chance to be one of the audience members who gets on stage, get there about 45 minutes before showtime.
Tickets are priced at $23 for adults and $20 for students and senior citizens. You can buy tickets at the Woodstock Opera House box office or online at woodstockoperahouse.com.
• • •
Welcome back: You might have noticed last week that we announced that Jason Schaumburg is returning to the Northwest Herald to replace me as editor, effective March 4. I’m taking on some new responsibilities for our parent company, Shaw Media, as group editor of all of our publications in Chicago’s suburbs, including this one.
Schaumburg is familiar with McHenry County, this newspaper and many of our readers. He served as assistant managing editor and managing editor from 2004 to 2009, and as sports editor and assistant sports editor before that.
He and I are going to be grappling over this space on Sundays. I’ll let you know who wins (or maybe he will).
Hold your applause, though. I won’t be going away completely. I plan to continue to be involved in the Northwest Herald, both behind the scenes and on these pages.
Neither he nor my boss, publisher John Rung, can get rid of me that easily.
• Dan McCaleb is group editor of Shaw Media’s suburban group of publications and, until March 4, editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.