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      MAMA SANDERS by Thomas Putnam

      Every now and then I see facebook post from Ellen Schafer. Ellen got married a number of years ago and moved down to Sullivan County. She was a teacher here at the middle school and continued teaching for a while down there. While she was here, she ended up in a number of productions and served on the HG board of directors for a while. She was also active in Wellsboro Women's Chorus; the woman loved to sing.

      As I said, she was in a number of productions and audiences came to look forward to seeing her on stage. “Ellen Schafer's in it? I'm going to see that one!” I won't list all of the shows here but a few stand out. The NUNSENSE series of little musicals suited her just fine—except the hot habit. We produced four of them and she was in every one as the goofy Sister Amnesia. In one of them she interacted with the audience and ad libbed through the whole thing.

      SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN was a little musical with a Baptist family traveling band. She played the mother of the clan and made the character her very own. We've thought of producing it again sometime but can't imagine anyone who could play that role. Her “testimony” in the second act about the June bug is something no one in the audience will ever forget. Really; it was that hilarious and unique.

      Ellen played my daughter in WALK RIGHT UP which is by a Canadian playwright whom we invited to attend our production. We then took the show to the PACTFest. It was a tough play as a family wrestled with the debilitating effects of a stroke on the father. Ellen was as at home in that drama as she was in her goofy characters.

      One of my favorite memories is her involvement with our production of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS which we did on a hot summer at Don Gill School. The actress who played the maid called me one morning and indicated that her vertigo was acting up and that she just couldn't go on stage that night. I called Ellen. “Could you go on in this role tonight?” Ellen, always up for adventure—as you know if you see her fb posts—said sure. My memory is a little fuzzy about how much time we spent with her that day in preparation, but we figured the maid might always carry around a little tray to bring in glasses of iced tea or something and Ellen could keep a script on that. As I mentioned, Ellen is a good ad-libber and she got through all her scenes just fine.

      I was standing at the back of the multi-purpose room which we annually transformed into a theatre, watching the show, and then I realized that I had forgotten to tell her about one particular entrance. Down the hall I ran, through the back rooms to the stage, crossed behind the curtain as a scene was playing, to Ellen on far stage left. She was following along with her script but hadn't a clue about the next entrance. I told her she needed to burst on stage now and sing a high G. “When?” she asked. “Now”, said I, and pushed her on stage at which moment she let fly a high G sailing onto the stage and ad-libbed her way as if she knew exactly what she was doing.

      The audience didn't have a clue of all that had happened backstage. Those of us who were backstage loved every minute of the challenges and joys and surprises of live theatre. None of which is possible on a recorded on-line performance.

      Ellen, it would be great fun to have you on stage—and backstage—again.

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