The Divas: Nori Morton, Sally Gilles, Debbie Barber-Eaton, Sue Centurelli, and Jill Sharpe Compton.
Divas Find the Heart of the Community
Sometimes an experience is way more than the sum of its parts.
For me, it was like that last weekend with the production of the musical revue Jerry’s Girls at the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center. If you saw the show, and there were a lot of you, thanks from me and CAMP. If it didn’t mesh with your plans, I’ll leave it to others to remark on what transpired on stage. But whether you were there in person or not, this tale says a lot about five straight women who came to do the show for CAMP Rehoboth—their generosity, character, and confidence—as well as what our community had to show them in return.
First about the women. I’ve worked with these talented performers for over thirty years, in dozens and dozens of productions, and although they have been dubbed The Divas, that only goes to their talent, not any egos or attitude. When I told them I wanted to do a fundraiser for CAMP Rehoboth, they all volunteered to donate their time and energy for rehearsals and shows.
To the best of my knowledge, the only slightly diva-ish moment came in a series of emails from the ladies asking what kind of stools they would be using on stage. Did they have backs? Did they swivel? Counter or bar height? Cushions? The questions were pretty insistent.
Producer Steve Hoult had not secured the stools yet, but we were being peppered pretty heavily with questions. I stopped the email barrage when I told them that as soon as we knew, we would send them a stool sample.
Meanwhile, the revue was originally staged with six women. Then, last minute, one couldn’t do the show; we were a diva down. The remaining five divvied up the missing diva’s numbers lickety-split and put the whole thing back together in little more than 24 hours. There really is no business like show business.
One diva got a taste of the Rehoboth gay esthetic as she drove to CAMP on Friday afternoon, her hair still in rollers. A car with two men pulled up alongside her at a light, rolled down their window and said, “Excuse me, but we don’t DO that in Rehoboth.” I’m lucky they didn’t make a citizen’s arrest, leaving us two divas down.
By Sunday, after two packed houses, just before show time, one of the gals got something in her eye and couldn’t even open it. Our tech crew/emergency response team sprang into action, running to get Visine, an eye wash cup, even an eye patch should it be needed. The diva must go on, and she did so with sunglasses. For those concerned, it turned out that she had a clump of Rehoboth’s legendary pollen in her eye, successfully treated by an eye doctor on Monday. And now I’m looking for a pirate show where we can use the eye patch prop.
But the thing that struck me and the Divas the most about the show was the audience. While we want and encourage diversity at CAMP, I have to say there was just a smattering of representation from our wonderful straight but not narrow community. Make no mistake, we want our straight friends and neighbors here at our events and shows, so please tell your friends! I know that my pals who did show up loved the experience. Frankly, there was even less of a sprinkling of young people, straight or gay, and we are working to encourage and welcome that demographic, too. Maybe if we were singing from the Gaga repertoire, not Hello, Dolly, we might have had more luck.
But as the Divas looked out at the sea of faces, they saw a packed house of middle-aged gay people smiling, laughing and even cheering—and the Divas could not stop dishing about the audience.
“The reaction was amazing, so warm and effusive, and loving!”
“We don’t have audiences like this in Annapolis, Washington, New York, anywhere else! Can we take these people with us?”
“I’ve never seen such smiles or had so much fun!”
And this was before we got to the music from La Cage aux Folles. When the Divas broke into “I Am What I Am,” singing the words, but knowing they were dedicating it to much of the audience, all hell broke loose. People sang along, many with tears in their eyes, from pride, joy or pent up history. The performers were moved beyond words.
For me, it may have been the most wonderful theatrical experience ever. I got to work with my long-time colleagues and dear friends and share their gifts with my wonderful community. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach; and For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries. Contact Fay Jacobs.