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October 21, 2016
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Oh joy! Oh rapture!

Eleven-year-old Grace Lorino, left, and Maredith Parks, 10, of Forestburgh, NY were among the first to sign up to audition for “The Wizard of Oz” at the Forestburgh Playhouse.

Since I own a television, there was no escaping the imminent possibility of what some folks claimed might happen on May 21, 2011. According to the onslaught of information, we were in for quite a ride. Words like “judgment,” “evil” and “sin” kept popping up; therefore I was a bit hesitant to dismiss it out of hand, and made my plans accordingly.

Just in case, I made reservations at the Liberty Free Theatre (LFT, www.libertyfreetheatre.org) for Thursday, well in advance of the impending end of the world, to catch Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie.” According to mythologist Joseph Campbell, “We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value—the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about.”

Since experiencing good theatre makes me feel alive, I checked Wikipedia, which says: “Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (16 October 1888 – 27 November 1953) was an American playwright, and Nobel laureate in literature. His plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism and were among the first to include speeches in American vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair.”

Director Chet Carlin had a firm grasp on that concept, as did actors Michael Frizalone and James Heisel. As always, the LFT offers up a coffee klatch (of sorts) after each performance and I was struck by the many different interpretations of O’Neill’s astonishing use of the language and what his intent may have been in writing “Hughie.” I will not be sharing my theory here, but would encourage all to go and experience it, sans my take on the production (other than to share that I loved it). The theatre has extended the play’s run to June 5, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Pre-Rapture, I spent some personal time outside playing with Dharma (the wonder dog) and reveling in the joy that is life in the Catskills, inspired by the words of Scottish poet George Byron: “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.”

With the onslaught of news channels reminding me that time might be running out, I ran out to the Forestburgh Playhouse ( www.FBPlayhouse.org ) to catch the auditions of local children to play munchkins in the summer production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Not for the first time, I was reminded of the words of the scarecrow himself (with whom I most identify) who beams with joy as he exclaims “Oh joy! Oh rapture! I got a brain!”

I prefer to think “I got a brain” too, so taking the doomsday prophecy with a grain of salt, I observed the kids singing and dancing with “expression of great joy,” “carried away with pleasure” and “filled with ecstasy” (the Webster’s dictionary definition of rapture.) Kids from all over the Hudson Valley turned out in droves for an opportunity to participate in the beloved classic, and there is clearly talent amongst the smaller set. “Judging” by my observations, there will be many proud parents and families cheering them all on throughout the summer-long production.

There were Facebook events (and even some private parties) galore, rejoicing (?) in the possibility of the Rapture... so naturally, I played along—snapping pics, engaging in thought-provoking conversation with my friends and fellow sinners, hoping against hope that the news feeds were wrong.

Six p.m. (EST) came and went with a lot of fanfare, but little substance, and I breathed a sigh of relief, while feeling oddly disappointed. I recalled the sage words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who once said, “The rapture of pursuing is the prize the vanquished gain” and in that moment, realized what winning feels like. To my chagrin, I’m still here. Are you?