Monday, July 13, 2009

You've Got To Be Carefully Taught

You've Got To Be Carefully Taught

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you

- Wicked
There's nothing like a little trip down memory lane, particularly when it involves going home again. But it's always most rewarding when you stop and take in the landmarks of your life.

Less than two months ago, I filled in some of the blanks on my own personal back story. In my April post, I detailed how I became a bona fide theatre devotee after taking in a London production of Annie 30 years ago. In addition to discussing my genuine excitement about that trip, I also alluded to my burgeoning theatre interest leading up to it:

Prior to this trip, I could probably count the number of times I had seen stage performances on both hands, and with one exception, they were all high school productions (Bye Bye Birdie, Don't Drink The Water, Fiddler On The Roof, Gypsy, Harvey, Oklahoma!, Romeo And Juliet, South Pacific and You Can't Take It With You). Mind you, I really enjoyed seeing each show, especially those under the expert direction of Homestead's musical director Sonia Simonsen, but they only hinted at the overall experience that professional theatre would afford.
Over the course of this past weekend, I returned home to Mequon, Wisconsin for the reunion of the Homestead High School's Class of '79. In addition to being able to see so many of the dear friends from my formative years, I was thrilled to see the one and only Sonia Simonsen herself, a major landmark teacher and director in my life. Not only did she helm several of the shows listed above, but she also directed me in my one true stage role when I played Lieutenant Joe Cable in Homestead's 1977 production of South Pacific.

Sonia has long since retired from teaching and now makes her home in Florida. But she made the trip to Mequon, and were we ever glad she did.

As you can see from the photo above, Sonia still has that unmistakable twinkle in her eye. She has managed to maintain that same incredible wit and outspoken tell-it-like-it-is vitality that her students came to respect, admire and love. And how could I not adore the woman who first opened my eyes to stage musicals and their mesmerizing capacity to tell moving stories? It was Sonia who directed the very first stage musical I ever saw -- Gypsy -- way back in the mid-70s at my then future high school.

Then is it any wonder that the musical I (and so many others) routinely rank as the best musical of all time is also my unequivocal, hands-down favorite? I had no idea until this past weekend that Sonia, an accomplished actress in her own right, has even portrayed Mama Rose. Would I have loved to see that! Fortunately, she sang a few lines for me, and I was spellbound.

Seeing Sonia was an absolute highlight of a weekend filled with extraordinary memories. Fortunately, it also provided me with a long overdue opportunity to express to her my deepest appreciation for first exposing me to the limitless magic and wonder of musical theatre. Without Sonia's influence and passion for the art form, both instrumental in shaping the person I've become, I have no doubt that my life could have been dramatically different.

Sonia, I know you read this blog. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the landmarks you have placed in my life. I know I'm who I am today because I knew you as a landmark teacher and director. I'm especially grateful to count you among my cherished friends.

Now, let's plan on seeing each other at a Broadway show!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 13 July, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I should have also mentioned that prior to our class reunion, many from that South Pacific cast gathered together. It gave me a wonderful chance to see old friends from the Classes of '78 and '80 who had been in the production with me, including the wonderful ladies who portrayed Nellie Forbush and Bloody Mary. Too bad our Emile de Becque and a few others couldn't be with us, but we were certainly thinking about them.

At 13 July, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

What a wonderful tribute! She must be a remarkable person and you are so fortunate. I'm so glad you got to see her and had such a great time at your reunion.

Every child should have a teacher like Sonia Simonsen in their life - someone who inspires them and gives them confidence. I know just how you feel. I had a professor in college who was the first person to tell me that I was a good writer. And it meant everything to me.

And you know how much I love those lines from "For Good."

At 07 October, 2009, Anonymous TaylorSwift said...

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