Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dr. Myrlene Kennedy

Every year around this time of year I get a bit nostalgic about a great time in my life.  I long for the days in high school when I would be memorizing lines, learning songs, and staying after school for long rehearsals in preparing for the annual high school musical.  I don't mean Disney's cheesy show.  I don't mean just ANY high school musical.  Really.  It.  Was.  Legendary.

I never could do it justice with the words describing it, and I hated for people to think I was wishing for my "glory days" or even bragging while trying to explain the awesomeness that was the Friendswood High School Musical.  I tried to tell my husband and when he did end up seeing it one year he was very impressed with the quality and talent, but I still knew deep down that he didn't get it.  He didn't experience it.  And I actually feel bad for him.  He missed something very special.

Tears come to my eyes thinking of my beginning with the musical in Friendswood.  I was a wide-eyed freshman, just happy to be in the chorus, as were all freshmen….every year.  It was 1988 and the musical was Mame.  It was breath-taking.  The seniors seemed like Broadway stars.  My part was just making sure I got on the stage for the chorus scenes.  I still have nightmares to this day about missing my cue or forgetting my lines.

The music was directed by my music teacher, a beautiful opera-singing Carmen-like voice and character, named Jane Ann Quevedo.  The drama teacher, Ms. Bennie Nipper, was new to me but like most drama directors a little nutty, and the choreography was by the sweet young drill-team director, Sondra Schaaf.  The entire show was produced by the scariest woman I'd ever heard speak and I was pretty sure I just wanted to stay out of her way.  She was the assistant principal of Friendswood High School, Dr. Myrlene Kennedy.

The next year I went to audition in front of all of these same ladies and to my surprise, and everyone else's I got the lead.  I have no idea to this day how that happened, except I was so shy and maybe a little afraid of boys like Marian Paroo.  They all seemed to be matchmaking as they told (now Baptist Pastor- foreshadowing?) Freddy Nelson and I to endure our first kiss (pretty sure it was his first kiss ever too!) in front of the entire cast on that bridge made by the Art class.  I don't remember much about the next few years, but I do remember the dress rehearsal critiques by alumni rock stars of the FHS musical, backstage quick changes, and the Great Fire of 1991.  I remember standing on stage in my pajamas with Rhett Perry in Pajama Game, and marrying Kevin Kabell in 1991 my senior year in Showboat.

…and I will always remember that I eventually made Dr. Myrlene Kennedy smile.  I remember beginning to feel at ease with her and not so afraid as she encouraged me to come out of my fear, like a coach pep-talking a player onto the field.  I learned that under that tough outer shell, she saw something in me I didn't.  In her own unique way, she inspired me to be more than I was.  My senior year I spent a lot of time in her office, as an office aide and I think just skipping classes. :)  She challenged me to take a math class that wasn't on my "on-level (loser) path".  She "Baptist Bet" me (read: no $ in this for anyone at all) that I couldn't do it.  I couldn't take Pre-CALCULUS.  And sure enough, I got a B.  I really showed her!  :)

Later after college I invited her to a senior recital I was having at my Dad's church in League City.  She honored me when she took the time to come, and her comment while leaving was "You should've gone to Baylor.".  Haha!  Oh I loved her.  Not many people can say that they were close to their….assistant principal in high school.  I thought of her as a great influence in my life.  We kept in touch and I got that amazing Christmas newsletter in the mail every year.  I loved that she loved her family.  She even had me call her sister on several of her birthdays and sing Happy Birthday to her.

I will miss her.  She passed away today, and I know all of her kids will miss her.  There must be thousands of us.

I think I heard that she was engaged once, but looking back I see that she had one love.  It was Friendswood High School.  The musical was her baby, and she had many kids.  Anyone who graced the stage can remember it like it was yesterday.  We were all blessed to know the woman that first scared us to death, but later challenged us and encouraged us to live life like we're on stage…

 I wish I could have hugged her one more time or heard her voice one more time.  I wish I could tell her how much I loved her and will forever be grateful that once upon a time, she believed in me.