Thursday, April 6, 2006

patsy (a tribute)

In the autumn of 1988, I met a person who would end up having a huge impact on me. Her name is Patsy Miller. At that time, Patsy was assisting a woman named Carol Thomas Johnson in a production of "Oliver!" for Northwestern College. It was my first year there and little did I know the adventure that lay before me and the friendship that I would form with Patsy. Below is a letter I wrote to her as a tribute to celebrate a very special occasion tonight. See, Patsy recently retired from Northwestern College...

And you should know that Patsy did not have an easy job while there. It's not easy being a theater director for a conservative Christian college in the United States. You have to "walk a fine line", as the saying goes.

And you should also know that Patsy did the best she possibly could at walking that line, but there were lots of "bumps in the road."

So, it brings a smile to my face to see that, now, at last, Patsy is receiving a small "reward" for all her heartache. The college has transformed a space on campus into a small "black box" theater and is naming the new space in her honor. And tonight, a show will be performed in that space that Patsy directed as one last "hurrah". Apparently, at some point during the evening, folks from past shows will have a chance to honor Patsy with some words of gratitude and "congratulations". Since I could not be present at the event, I wrote this...

Dear Patsy,

I do wish that I could be there on this, your special night. Please know that, even though I cannot be there in person, I am with you in spirit.

I also want you to know how deeply I appreciate you and all you’ve done, not just for the Northwestern College theater department, but also for me personally.

I still remember the first time I “met” you. I was auditioning for Oliver! in September of 1988 (my, I’m getting old!) and I remember you sitting next to Carol Thomas Johnson, who was at that time the director of the show. You were assisting with the casting and I can remember thinking you were a rather, in my mind, “eccentric” character! Carol fell ill about a week into rehearsals, so you took over. I can remember one night in rehearsal when we went over and over and over—and over again—and again and again and again one little paragraph in a scene that was about two-thirds of the way into the show. At the time, I despised you for being so “picky”, but was I ever glad you kept on me when opening night came! In fact, your determination and commitment to me as a person and an actor, and to art that glorifies God with excellence, stuck with me through all the shows in which I participated at Northwestern and has stuck with me even to this day.

There are two things I can say about you, Patsy. You love God and you love people. I remember your commitment to lead your actors in prayer as well as reading and applying Scripture to our lives before each rehearsal. I remember your concern, with each production, that the content of the show stretch our faith even while you strove to honor God with it. I recall how you responded in a Christ-like fashion whenever you were wronged by various people in various ways. You never fought back, but laid down your rights, just as Jesus emptied Himself in grace.

I also remember doing life with you. Not just as an actor, but as a friend. I remember sharing meals with you. I remember driving your sporty little car. I remember how you allowed me to not only receive ministry from you, but also to partner with you in ministry in various ways. I remember how you “gave power away” as you asked various students to take on responsibilities like coaching, discovering new techniques together, or designing costumes, or posters and such.

And I remember my last show. On closing night, after the performance, you had taken a nasty fall and needed someone to drive you to the hospital. I remember the love I felt for you that night as we rode together in silence. I had spent hour upon hour with you over the course of four rich years. I remember the gratitude I felt towards God for the privilege of having a friend like you. That’s because, I remember your belief in me as a person. And that belief continues on, even today, as I labor with my wife in Spain as a missionary. Even still, even today, you continue to support me, not primarily as an actor, but first and foremost as a person, as a brother in Christ. And that’s why, even today, I continue to thank God for a friend like you.

Thank you, Patsy. Enjoy this night. God knows, you deserve it.


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