I spent a really fun hour recently doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: watching kids audition for Music Theatre of Wichita. The young performers ranged from tiny to teenage, but they had one thing in common: nervousness. I swear one little girl didn’t blink once the whole time she was in the rehearsal room in the basement of Century II.
About a dozen were let in the door at a time. With each new group, Music Theatre of Wichita’s producing artistic director Wayne Bryan stood up and welcomed them and told them how happy he was that they were there. And when the wide-eyed wonders sang a solo, he had a personal comment for each and every one of them.
First they stood by a board that measured their height. Each had a folding chair to sit on. Some looked stiff, some folded their legs up under them and some swung their feet at breakneck speed. Some were more self-assured than others, but I liked them all. How Wayne decides on who gets to hit the big stage is beyond me. I got to hear solos of “Castle in the Sky” several times, but the 8-year-old boy who sang “Gary Indiana” about did me in. Each group showed off their dancing ability doing the routine Josh Larson taught them earlier. And Wayne would walk up and down the line as they sang together “Getting to Know You.”
After everyone had their turn, Mary Sue Dymak would tell them to stand up and follow her to the exit door. Josh would usher in the next group of hopefuls. Pianist Helen Griffin played whatever music she was handed and gave everyone an encouraging look as she played.
“I love this. I’m living my bliss,” she said.
And when the talented, fortunate kids got the call from Music Theatre of Wichita a couple of weeks after the audition day, no doubt it was a blissful experience for them.
“Now the girls who made fun of us when they were young are playing,” she said.
Sally is 92, and she is one of two of the last living members of the group that was founded with Katie Elkouri, Marybelle Jabara, Helen Jabara, Wanda Jabara, Joyce Laham, Julia Bayouth and Sis Kallail. Later on, Martha Sharp, who is still living, became a member.
“We had so much fun, and we used pennies,” she said. For more than a half-century, they met weekly and enjoyed each other’s company sharing the good times and the bad.
“We all got along so well, we also took our husbands and went square dancing and other things,” she said. “Lots of good memories.”
Sally chuckled when she told me how they told their husbands they couldn’t die on a Tuesday.
“And only one of them died on a Tuesday,” she said.
When I told her about the long-time poker group I wrote about recently, she said, “Well, 40 years is a long time, and there’s a poker hand in the game we played. It was a fun thing we did for many, many years.”