In 1994, the Cranford Dramatic Club was putting on The Tales of Hans Christian Anderson for their annual children’s theater production. My father, a second generation member of the theater, figured that since he was auditioning, he might as well take me with him and let me give it a shot. After a disastrous first audition where all I did was cry for my Daddy, I was given another chance, and was cast in the show as a villager named Gretel, a gosling, and the girl who held the Emperor’s cape. I didn’t have any lines, but I still took my roles very seriously. After all, I had a family legacy to uphold.
My grandparents, Sue and Richard Chandler, moved to Cranford from Cape Elizabeth, Maine in 1966. Some of the first friends that they made in the area were members of CDC. My grandmother had been a dancer as a girl, and my grandfather was a natural ham, so it didn’t take much coercing to get them to join the club.
My father, Marc, spent most of his high school years watching my grandparents in various performances and club events, and after returning from college in 1976, he became a member as well. In addition to performing, both he and my grandfather helped build sets at the theater on evenings and weekends. In the 90s, my father began designing sets as well. This gave him some unique opportunities, such as performing on sets that he designed and helped build, or, in the case of last season’s production of The Mousetrap, designing the set for the production of a show that he appeared in when the theater first produced it 35 years prior. My mother, Judi, also spent most of my childhood doing props for various shows, and has served as a board member for several years.
Because my parents and grandparents were almost always at the theater, so was I. It has been nineteen years since my first appearance on the CDC stage as Gretel Gosling Capeholder, as it has become affectionately known in my family, and I have spent a good portion of those nineteen years at CDC. I have rehearsed, performed, watched rehearsals, helped my father and grandfather work on sets, collected props for my mother, and helped out at performances everywhere from backstage to the concession stand to the ticket window. I know where all of the props are kept, since I spent most of my childhood playing house with them. I can’t take five steps into the costume loft without recognizing something that I’ve worn on the stage. I’m as familiar with the theater as I am with my own home. In fact, I think of the theater as a second home
I have done many amazing shows at CDC, but this month, I am stepping onto the stage to play Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. For me, the past two months have been spent watching films, reading biographies, and rehearsing and memorizing lines, so that I can portray a young woman who, in my opinion, is one of the most inspirational who ever lived. Many people know the story of Helen Keller; the struggles she overcame, and the amazing things she accomplished in her lifetime. But in remembering Helen, people often overlook her teacher; the woman who first opened her mind, then remained by her side every day for almost fifty years. For me, this is an opportunity to bring Annie’s story to light, and give her the attention and respect that she deserves. It is an opportunity that I have wanted for years, and one that I do not plan on wasting.
To say that CDC has given me a lot over the past nineteen years is an understatement. At a very early age, it gave me a passion for every aspect of theater. Being an extremely shy child, performing on stage gave me confidence. The shows that I have done there have given me friendships that I still cherish to this day. When my grandfather passed away, it gave me a place to go to feel close to him. When I was going through a very difficult time in my life, it gave me back my drive and motivation. It gave me a place to perform on stage with my father, mother, and younger sister. It gave me the opportunity to meet and fall in love with an amazing man. And now, it is giving me the opportunity to play one of my dream roles, on a set that my father designed and built, carrying the suitcase that my grandmother took with her to college. The show closes three days before my birthday, and I could not ask for a better gift.
- Corinne Chandler
Cranford Dramatic Club
“Life is a theatre set in which there are but few practicable entrances.” - Victor Hugo