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Tread the boards and take a bow

by Margaret E. Davis
| June 3, 2023 12:00 AM

Sometimes you get lucky just by showing up.

A couple of weeks ago my stepsister called to see if I wanted to attend a theater piece our niece was in. She said, “She’s been working on it all week.”

I’ve missed all of our niece’s other extracurriculars, including a recent three-hour tennis match, so this represented a last chance this school year to see her perform.

Our first clue it would be no ordinary show was when we arrived at Glacier High School and saw the cluster of chairs set up outside, a crowd already waiting in expectation, with the Swan Range as the backdrop.

Audience members craned their necks murmuring, “Where is she?” and wondered what the reaction would be. Little did we know we’d stumbled into a big deal: the retirement event for Marcy Maroney, who has directed umpteen productions in her time with the English Language Arts Department at Glacier (and before that at Flathead High).

The crowd hushed as Maroney came into view with her handlers and she stopped in her tracks when she saw us. Her favorite comfy chair had been placed front and center in the audience. She was ushered to it and a quilt placed on her lap.

With that, emcee and colleague Ivanna Fritz struck up the show, a lineup of scenes from just a few of the plays that Maroney oversaw in 16 years with the Wolfpack Theatre Company.

The blitz of theater highlights included classics staged long ago such as “The Glass Menagerie” and “God’s Favorite” to “Henry IV” and “Something Rotten!” Some performers had acted under Maroney as far back as the mid-1980s. One, Greg Adkins, came full circle to become a colleague of Maroney’s at Glacier and was himself inspired to coach, teach and direct.

Current students from freshmen to seniors took part, and some former Wolfpack actors returned from college out of the area to perform, such as one who came to sing the aching ballad “Santa Fe” from “Newsies.”

Then we were roused by “Will Power” from the recent “Something Rotten!,” a number about Shakespeare updated to this century. “Can you feel it?” the singer sang, then sotto voce to Maroney, “I’d like to feel you a little bit later.”

We laughed, we cried, and if we sometimes strained to hear some lines amid the wind and traffic, it didn’t matter because the positive energy spoke volumes. At the end, the guest of honor in her easy chair fell quiet but recovered enough to bounce up with thank yous and to squeak, “I’m overwhelmed.”

We were, too, by the talent and exuberance of the actors. Two of them introduced themselves and their scene, saying directly to Maroney, “Thank you so much. We love you.”

What a marvel to see a living resume parade in front of you, and to have honed hundreds of students’ strengths and sparked creativity, all while asking kids to risk self-expression and to experiment and expand their options and skills.

Veteran actor Terrence Mann has said, “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theater will make you good.”

Margaret E. Davis, executive director of the Northwest Montana History Museum, can be reached at mdavis@dailyinterlake.com.