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From the Publisher's Desk – My star doesn't shine so bright (Dec. 17, 2014 issue)

“We have all seen many nativity plays over the years. Plays about a variety of perspectives regarding the birth of Christ…”
These are the opening lines to “The Innkeeper’s Story,” an original play written by Jody Moore for Erwin Presbyterian Church. I have watched the church produce a different play each year that I have attended. This year I was feeling festive and decided to offer my to fill a role if needed.
Although I have seen several adults in the productions each year, this time offered only one possibility – the part of narrator. All I had to do was sit on the pew, use the microphone and read the script. We had gone over it numerous times. The last run through of the play, just before the live performance, was very good. The cast put aside their scripts and ad-libbed beautifully.
For the live performance, I decided to do the same. I felt inspired. In the middle of trying to be funny, I got tongue tied. I didn’t know what was going to come out of my mouth next.
The live spotlight is not my friend. I never have done well with public speaking and personally think my voice sounds goofy. When I travel out of our area, I always get the request “Say something for us.” It’s like trying to get a baby to speak those few words it has recently learned or that dog to perform the new trick in front of a new crowd. Everyone gathers around and waits with anticipation for the show to begin.
I have always been shy, although not so much now, as when I was a child. These days my mouth operates faster than my brain. I will be on a roll at work with wit and humor, having the staff laughing. Then, there is that moment my mouth speaks faster than my brain has analyzed the statement. Dead silence hits like running into a brick wall on roller skates. At this point, employee Keeli Parkey will usually say “You went to far Mr. Whitson.”
She actually calls me mister. Somehow we got off on that foot around here. Now most of the staff is referred to as mister or miss, followed by their last name. Trust me, it is more out of fun than it is out of chain of command around here.
Anyway, back to that shy guy named Keith. I write these articles and express myself in written words. I sit at my desk space, staring at the computer, while composing columns. When I get out in public and someone mentions they read this or that in my article, reality hits and I sometimes become embarrassed by my openness. Let’s face it, if you read this column regularly, you know far more about me than I know about you.
Shy Keith didn’t have to stand in front of the congregation Sunday night. He just sat off to the side on a pew and read his lines. Most importantly, was remembering to turn the microphone on and off before and after saying the lines. Did I mention there were only three parts to this starring role? I didn’t think so.
One of those lines was near the end where I say “Please join us in singing ‘Joy to the World.’” The key words in there are join “us” as “we.” I don’t sing. (Note to self: TURN MIC OFF BEFORE PRETENDING TO SING.)
You see, that fear is from scars due to another Christmas play I was in years ago.
It was third grade. I was in Miss Helen Wattles’ class at Elm Street School. I was also part of Miss Wattles’ choir group, a part I obviously didn’t have to audition for. Maybe she let me in the group because my mom taught with her in the same school.
The chorus would meet at the old YMCA building on Main Avenue and practice various songs. To be truthful, I wanted to be in choir because Lori Brown was. I never knew how she felt about me, but in my mind, Lori was my unspoken girlfriend at that time.
Miss Wattles’ class was doing a Christmas play for school. It was on the big stage in the auditorium. This was the same room where we would go each week and sing, as a student body, to the tunes of “Nothin’ Could be Finer Than to be in Carolina in the Mornin’” and “I Dream of Jeanine With the Light Brown Hair,” while Miss Wattles played enthusiastically on the piano from one song to another.
For the Christmas play, yours truly was selected as Joseph. Wow, this was a starring role. Of course, a doll represented Baby Jesus, and I couldn’t be Mary. So, Joseph was the next biggest role available. I had no speaking part but I was going to shine all decked out in my Nazarean apparel.
After securing the role, Miss Wattles called me up to her desk one day, prior to the production. She wanted to share the good news – not to witness to me about Jesus but the good news that Joseph would be singing a song in the play. This was even better.
She had me perform the song for her right there, beside her desk, in front of everyone. I gave it my all. Afterwards, I walked to my seat feeling proud. I didn’t have a speaking part but I had my own solo.
For some reason the song got cut from the production after Miss Wattles heard me sing. Maybe I was off key slightly. I really didn’t get a chance to warm up. It came time for the live performance, on the big auditorium stage at school. The seats were full. I stood there in the spotlight, staring down at the manager, while… lo, I uttered not a word.