Norman: Grab somebody and hold on

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter
Charlie Norman

The outdoor Christian musical drama “The Promise” is now in the midst of its 32-year run at the Texas Amphitheater here in Glen Rose. With a cast/crew numbering over 100, extraordinary folks from all walks of life, sing, dance and act their way through the gospel story in this unique epic production of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

So it was some 25 years ago when all four members of the Norman clan (me, wife Carolyn, son Charles -- age 10, and daughter Noelle -- age 7) were privileged to be a part of “The Promise” family on and off for several years. My son actually had a major role in helping narrate the story early on in our involvement, and daughter Noelle followed her brother in a similar part a couple years later.

Because Charles had a pretty good singing voice back then (don’t ask about now... he’s pretty sensitive about it), we were able to ride his coattails into roles ourselves. Well, at least three of us were. Carolyn and Noelle auditioned and were selected for various parts, and I was relegated to ticker taker/usher. Whatever...

However, a few weeks into first season, I got my chance to be on the big stage... at least that one time. Seems as if the cast was lacking men to be “crowd’s people,” and I was recruited from my ushering job to fill in. Duty called. I’m thinking, hey, hey, this could be my chance for the Big-Time! So I got all dressed “down” for my role of doing nothing but milling around in various scenes (“NO singing, Norman,” I was told by the producer).

One gal/family friend, Pam, was assigned to look after me and just make sure I stayed out of peoples’ way, and got on and off stage at the proper time. After a scene or two, I started getting the hang of this, and began to feel comfortable being out there on stage and in the lights. Maybe a little too comfortable.

OK, here’s what happened: it was in the “Baptism at the Jordan River” scene wherein “Jesus” (portrayed by Joel Lagrone) is baptized by “John the Baptist” (portrayed by Allen Conley), and lots of “crowd’s people” are participating in and observing the ceremony. I’m out there with my security friend Pam and we’re taking it all in. Then I noticed my son Charles (shepherd boy this particular night) across the way holding a baby goat in his arms. That’s pretty neat. Maybe I can just meander my way over there, say “Shalom” to my son, pet the goat for a minute or two, and make it back to Pam before the scene is over, and with plenty of time to exit the stage.

Beforehand though, I had been instructed that if you ever get out there and the scene ends abruptly, and the lights go out, beware, you won’t be able to see. Just grab ahold of someone, anyone, and hang on! They’ll lead you off stage --- ‘cause you definitely don’t want to be stuck out there on stage with those huge heavy props being rolled in and out (it’s dangerous).

Besides, spotlights will be coming on for the next scene within 30 seconds. You guessed it. Scene ended before I knew it, and Pam was not in sight. Actually nothing was in sight. I couldn’t see anything. Everything went dark! Uh oh... this is not good! So, being the good “understudy crowd’s person” I was, I reached out and grabbed the first person I could get ahold of.

It was this guy scurrying by me ever so quickly. I grabbed his arm/cloak, and I wasn’t letting go. I heard him shouting something like “What are doing!? Turn me loose! Leave me alone!” But I held on for dear “my opportunity as a wannabe actor” life. Next thing I know, this guy sort of hops into an area about the size of a small closet. I follow him.... that is, for about five seconds. Let’s just say I was quickly shown I did not belong in the quick-change room for “Jesus”.

His two assistants hoisted me right out of there. They had about 45 seconds to get him ready for the next scene. And I was definitely not welcome. By this time, I’m realizing ushering might be the truer calling. Whatever, again... still I gotta go somewhere and it’s dark out there.

So I feel my way around, trying to get off stage, I hear music start, and man, I’m thinking “Uh oh, this is NOT good and I better do something and fast.” Being the smart guy I am (though I can’t seem to find an exit anywhere, go figure), I know if I can get BEHIND one of those big 20 x 25 ft. stage props, at least I know the 3,000 people in the audience won’t be able to see me. So that’s what I did. I felt a little like I was living vicariously in an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

I hid behind that stage prop for at least for some six minutes until the scene was over. I will say, at least I saw “Jesus” from a different perspective. The thing is, when this show was over, boy, did I lay low. I stayed clear of Joel for a few weeks. Thank the Lord, Joel actually didn’t know who I was at the time.

That was a good thing. By the end of the season though, I had gotten to know personally this fine, talented man, who for years portrayed of “Jesus” oh so well. Joel became a family friend and more importantly, even played a part in helping my own dad come closer to the Lord Jesus --- the paramount purpose of “The Promise” in the first place.

So as it was, and this first season was winding down, I knew I had some confessing to do. I had to tell ol’ Joel it was ME who was hanging onto him that night, hindering and obstructing his path to the quick-change room. Like the Good Lord himself, Joel already knew, but was just waiting for my confession. As in real life, there’s never a bad time to admit to one’s transgressions. I was guilty all right... and forgiveness was just a confession away.

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.