Above (L to R): Austin the Unstoppable cast members Katie Lugo and Carol Foose, and stage manager Erica Leigh attend Game 2 of the American League Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros.
NOTE: Carol Foose, a 2016-17 GSP Educational Touring Theatre cast member, has returned this season to join the cast of Austin the Unstoppable, which is currently touring Houston schools and organizations through a grant provided by Novo Nordisk in conjunction with its Changing Cities Diabetes program. During the next few weeks, we will be sharing Carol's thoughts from Houston as she chronicles her experiences on the tour. Below is the second installment.
“If you can affect just one person, you have done your job.” – Ms. Johnson, nurse, Montgomery Elementary School
We have officially completed our first full week of performances with eight shows under our belt. Our audiences have been incredible! This show is written in such a way that encourages strong audience reactions. When the students share with us, their comments are insightful, their questions are challenging, their stories are vulnerable and inspiring, and their joy is absolutely contagious.
On Tuesday, after our performance at Scroggins Elementary School, Gilberto, a fifth-grade student, introduced himself as an aspiring actor. With a glimmer in his eye, he was telling us about a One-Act Play Festival in which he recently competed, leaving with the award for ‘best actor.’ With great poise, he asked us for any advice as he continues to look for opportunities that would keep him busy on the stage. His excitement was palpable and contagious. Though sitting in an hour of inescapable Houston traffic on our way home from the performance, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was thinking about Gilberto’s passion that reminded me of my own, inviting me to contemplate that I am doing exactly what little fifth-grade Carol Foose dreamt of doing all those years ago. Seeing the glimmer in his eyes re-ignited the glimmer in my own.
On Thursday, we performed at the wonderfully welcoming and energized Montgomery Elementary School. Rachel Johnson, the school nurse, had an overflowing sense of generosity. After our performance, she endlessly praised the show, asked for our pictures, and even took a selfie in front of our bright, new, shiny banner that proudly displays the show’s title. Rachel Johnson is inherently a bright woman and will, without a doubt, brighten even the dreariest of days for whomever is lucky enough to meet her. On her way out, she stopped and thanked us again. She explained that as a school nurse, this show really had a great impact on her because she observed the great impact it had on her students. With tears in her bright eyes, she told us that she had a few students who visit her office daily to check their blood sugar levels, and that one particular student asked for a healthier snack today so that they could grow healthier and stronger like Austin. She said, “If you can affect just one person, you have done your job. And you have done your job!”
Between the incredibly fulfilling performances, we have also managed to explore more of Houston. On Tuesday, we visited the Pit Room for hand-crafted Texas barbecue. The restaurant was recently featured in Texas Monthly Magazine. My mouth is watering, even just writing about the delicious barbecue. We went back on Saturday night for (even more) barbecue and karaoke. Wednesday was National Taco Day, a wonderful holiday to celebrate in Texas. The entire Unstoppable Team visited Torchy’s Taco’s for mouthwatering Tex-Mex, enjoying an extra free taco with every purchase. On Friday, the Astros won in a playoff game against our northern neighbors, the Boston Red Sox, with Carol, Erica, and Katie cheering from the stadium. “WOOOSTON!!!” After the game, Erica and Katie joined me on a lovely walk around Willow Waterhole Greenspace surrounded by a beautiful sunset. I have also begun volunteering at BARC, the city-run animal shelter where I met many furry friends and friendly Houston residents who enjoy rolling up their sleeves to help their community.
I am still running in the mornings, trying to stay active after eating all of that delicious barbecue and Tex-Mex. Throughout the past week, the water-stained furniture and drywall that lined the streets has disappeared. Houston is still strong! The city is beginning to look more like itself. Though the relief efforts will continue for months to come, and at times, the efforts might be challenging, it is a challenge the community is facing with pride.
Onto week 3! We have eight shows lined up this week...eight more lucky opportunities to be Unstoppable!
The Astros beat the Boston Red Sox 8-2 in the playoff game on Friday. WOOOSTON!!
Enjoying the Sunset at Willow Waterhole Greenspace
Gorgeous views of the Houston sunset from Willow Waterhole Greenspace.
Enjoying some of Houston’s best Barbecue at The Pit Room!
These soggy smiles were waiting out a rainstorm during the set load-in, taking shelter in the van.
Sammy is one of my many new furry-friends who currently resides at BARC, a city-run animal shelter in Houston.