Inauguration Of Responsibility…….#236 (the 90’s)

A celebrated occasion that beholds the beginning of progressive events in a young mans life.   A commencement and inauguration of responsibility,  the family members no longer an exponent of parental supervision,  relinquishing their authority and decreed decision-making in their son’s behalf,  Robert Willson was graduating from high school.   The Chaparral High School event finding Robert’s parents,  sister, and grandparents all present for the occasion, his Grandmother Willson flying from California to be present for the celebrated event.  Gary discovering the ceremony much like most graduations,  having attended his daughter Marlo’s in Oklahoma City,  but what really impressed him about this one was the closing song.   Gary never a musician to be impressed with lyrics,  but  the lyrics of   “A Irish Blessing”  a choral presentation would forever remain an  ardent part of his son’s graduation.   “May the road rise to meet you.   May the wind be ever at your back.   May the sunshine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again.   May God hold you,  May God hold you ever in the palm of his hands. “

Celebrated Willson family

Robert and Grandma Willson

Graduation fulfilled,  Robert venturing in the 84 Chevrolet Blazer journeying westward,  his wayward travel  taking him to California.   His ambition, to visit his west coast family,  arriving at his Aunt Nancy’s and his grandmother’s residence in Columbia,  five miles north of Sonora.   All was not pretense,  the youth finding he was called upon to avail his cousin Sarah,  her husband Randy having injured his back in a work related incident.   With new carpet being installed in their residence,  Robert called upon to provide the muscle for moving furniture.   His journey was not without substance, taking time to explore the pacific coast,  the youth now proclaiming  “ surf’s up”,  a Kansas youth able to experience the realm of the wave driven pacific ocean,   a vast difference from the land-locked patronage of Kansas, viewing the world  thru the eyes of a young person fining responsibility.

Man of La Mancha set

The full-page ad in the Wichita Eagle Beacon certainly received Gary attention,  The Man of La Mancha was being presented at Century II.   What caught his engrossment was the production company having acquired the actual stage setting used for the Broadway production,  the paper displaying in full color the majesty of the set.   Gary knowledgeable of the musical,  especially its characterization of Don Quixote and having been well acquainted with the story and composers whom have written musical depictions.   Gary’s favorite, Richard Strauss,  having composed orchestrated tone poems about Don Quixote, Don Juan,  Ein Heldenleben ( a hero’s life),  Gary  admiring the suite from the opera Der Rosenkavalier and of course Strauss’s most recognizable theme,  “Also Sprach Zarathustra”,  better known to the American Public as the opening theme from the movie “A 2001 Space Odyssey”.     Gary asking his wife Jan if she would like to accompany him for the Saturday afternoon presentation,  but her knowledge and interest in the arts reflected her Murrow family upbringing in Kiowa,  a salt of the earth family, but rather lacking in recognition of the artistic expressions of the world.   His enthusiasm was building as He journeyed to Wichita’s Century II,  knowing that the Mitch Leigh’s musical composition would be an imminent presentation highlighted by the song  “The Impossible Dream” ,  its stature  a prominent display in the world of music.   Arrival at the Century II Concert Hall, an abundance in attendance,  Gary discovering that the only available seating was in the balcony.   As customary when  attending the symphony or concert performances his attire was always fitting for the occasion,  a suit or sport coat with tie.   Standing in line to acquire a balcony admission,  a lady with a young girl approached him,  asserting that they had an extra ticket in the orchestra section,  her husband unable to attend, asking Gary if would he be interested in purchasing it.   Gary inquired as to the price, the lady acknowledge she would accept the same amount as the $13.00  balcony admission.   Joining this newfound acquaintance and her daughter,  Gary was astonished to find himself in the season ticket holders reserved section,  seated 15 rows,  center stage from the performance,  miraculous seating for a musical dream about to come true.  With its conclusion, the performance of The  Man From LaMancha  exceeding all expectations.

The Orpheum Theatre before renovation

The Orpheum Theatre before renovation

Keeping abreast with other activities in Wichita,  Gary again noticing a presentation in the Wichita Paper,  a subject of interest aroused.  For many years vacant,  the Orpheum Theater at 200 N. Broadway was attempting a resurrection.   A Theatrical Enterprise was trying to raise money to revive its longevity,  the Wichita Community Theater and Center for the Arts actively involved in the project.   The paper announcing a musical production to be presented in the once prestigious but long abandoned structure,  a musical written by Wichita’s David and Kenneth Gale,  featuring local cast member,  entitled  “ Frankenstein The Musical“.   Gary taking notice to an highlighted addition to the newspaper announcement,  “Due to the ongoing construction, it is advised that you bring a coat as the building is without heat” ,  an intruding dissemination to put in the newspaper.   Arriving , Gary was impressed with the aged structure,  the theater built in 1922 an endowment of the past heritage of the city.   Entering the lobby was analogous to stepping back in time, the cold building showing remnants of its historic past.  The presence of a once proud theater organ sitting in the foyer, removed from its prominent stature inside,  the once snack amenities counter still in disrepair,  the building having a chilling effect in concert of keeping with the title of the present musical presentation.   The theaters spacious 1300 seating capacity,  a proud stage looking down on the lower level orchestra pit, the balconies with their ornamental statues showing their age,  the figurines still symbolizing the decor of a colorful past era.

The Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre

       The musical was without orchestration, but utilizing a choral group with recorded effects,  the format not a matter of substance,  but a disquisition of the individual.   The audience receiving a critique pamphlet to be deposited upon leaving, Gary finding this first production somewhat lacking in structure,  but the rationale was warranted.  This first production  a journey’s start with endless possibilities, the attendance marking  support for a restoration of a once proud land mark and prominent icon of Wichita’s theater history.  The Journey home, Gary realizing he had attended the reincarnation of a living entity, a once proud theater destined for destruction brought back to life to live again.

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