Gwen Osborne on Stage
Gwen Osborne, who plays a central role in CAMP Rehoboth’s upcoming production of Tiny Beautiful Things, is feverishly studying her lines. She comes across this piece of wisdom:
“Love is the feeling we have for people we care about. It can be fleeting, everlasting, conditional or unconditional….”
It strikes a chord. It will be among the easiest lines for Gwen to learn. From her loving family growing up, to her love of community, to her lovely 26 years with her partner Katie, she has lived a life full of love.
That love started early for her. Her life began in Baltimore, but her dad decided early on that his kids needed a home where they could go to the beach and have a large place for family to gather. He bought a parcel of land in Ellendale in 1975. The family still owns the land, and it still serves as a gathering place for friends and family to come together and connect. This need to connect, to be a gatherer of community, has always been part of the fabric of Gwen’s life.
Move forward almost 30 years. Gwen and Katie started Sign*A*Rama, first in Rehoboth, then in its current place of business in Georgetown. They just happily retired and sold the company, but they left their mark on the business, making Sign*A*Rama an important part of the community, sponsoring charities and helping organizations like CAMP Rehoboth. Their philosophy: Give of yourself, and you get it back.
Along with organizations such as animal shelters and Meals on Wheels, CAMP Rehoboth has been a large recipient of Gwen’s largesse. She is an active member of the CAMP Rehoboth Chorus, and has been in several plays presented by the organization. When not singing or gracing the stage, Gwen is a loyal volunteer and now that she is retired, plans to do much more. When not working away at CAMP Rehoboth events, she supports her church (Epworth United Methodist Church), which brings her nearer to the spirituality that is an important part of her core.
Gwen has always loved the theater, but that love had been unrequited most of her life. So, what changed in the last five years? How did Gwen find herself performing in shows? She credits it all to the late Bob Hoffer, a volunteer at CAMP Rehoboth and a member of the Board of Directors. Bob saw her singing one day and, sensing that she could glow onstage, talked her into auditioning for a play at CAMP Rehoboth. She has been glowing on the CAMP Rehoboth stage ever since.
In Tiny Beautiful Things, Gwen plays the role of Sugar, a writer and a married mom with two children. On a whim, she takes a job of an anonymous online advice columnist, only to discover that she needs the many Letter Writers (played by other cast members) as much as they need her.
In Gwen’s words, “Sugar is a broken soul who has come through her own personal devastation and sees that she can help others. Her heart is the best thing about her. She has never lost it, and it has given her strength.”
Director Russell Stiles agrees. He thinks the world of Gwen, and sees some of Sugar in her. Her kindness, her giving soul. He is delighted with the entire cast (Gwen, Matty Brown, Diana Counts, and Rick Welk). He has worked with Gwen, Diana, and Rick at either CAMP Rehoboth or Possum Point Players. Matty is a newcomer to the stage, just as Gwen was a few years back. Each player performs many roles in the play, and the ultimate goal of director and actors is to develop personas for each character, and find the inspiration to really feel the emotions behind each one. It’s a blueprint for a good show.
“Love is the feeling we have for people we care about.”
Words to live by, whether for Sugar or the many Letter Writers in the play. Or for Gwen Osborne, a person who strides through life believing that you give of yourself, and you get it back.
Tiny Beautiful Things is based on the book by Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos. It will run August 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and August 22 at 2:00 p.m. at the Elkins-Archibald Atrium at CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, 37 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach. Directed by Russell Stiles, it features Gwen Osborne, Matty Brown, Diana Counts, and Rick Welk; Teri Seaton is Stage Manager. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased in advance at eventbrite.com. COVID precautions will be in effect for these performances. ▼
Michael Gilles is a playwright, actor, and director from Milton, and a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.