Saturday, October 24, 2009

Essie Simms, Alan Flannagan, Lynn Keeton and "We the People"

Posted by Bruce Miller
It was a good afternoon at Westminster-Canterbury.

First, the latest news about Essie Simms. Phil and I had a chance to drop off some flowers at Essie’s room in the health care section of W-C today. There is still a “no visitors” sign on her door, but when the nurse told Essie we were there with flowers, Essie asked if we would step in for a few minutes.

In terms of appearance, Essie looked the best we’ve seen her. In terms of speech, she was talking in entire paragraphs—short paragraphs—but still her communication was improved since previous visits at St. Mary’s. She had a smile on her face, but stated that she was still feeling “pretty punk.” She appeared still to be unable to open her eyes.

She asked us to thank those who have been sending cards and including her in their prayers. She seemed to want to continue to hear from people, to want to be cheered up. She seemed a little down that her recovery was progressing so slowly. So please keep those cards and letters coming.

Essie appeared to be very tired, so we visited with her for only about three to five minutes before allowing her to rest.

We were at Westminster-Canterbury to present a 35-minute performance of We the People, a musical revue featuring authentic 18th century songs tied together by a historical narrative. The program was directed by Chase Kniffen, and beautifully performed by Chris Stewart, Ali Thibodeau, Aly Wepplo and Eric Williams, with Sandy Dacus recorded on piano.

We the People was performed twice for W-C residents and their guests, once at 4 p.m. and once at 7 p.m. Barksdale’s appearance was funded by Neil and Sara Belle November. A fun time was had by all.

We presented We the People for the first time in the summer of 1975, as a program created to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial. At that time it was called Jubilee. In the audience for this afternoon’s performance were Alan Flannagan and Lynn Keeton, a husband/wife team of Richmond actors who just moved back to town after decades of success in New York. Lynn was in the original production of Jubilee with Phil, Dianne Graham, Steve Rosser and myself in the summer of 75. When Steve Rosser and Dianne Graham left the show to return to the University of Richmond, Alan and Lynn West took their places, and the five of us toured the show for many months.

It was great to see Al and Lynn today, and truly weird to see them at this performance of We the People. Both Al and Lynn were at W-C to visit with Lynn’s Aunt Florence, who has been a W-C resident for the last year.

I visited also with my own mother, who is 93 and lives with advanced Alzheimers. It was GREAT to see her face light up when she saw Phil, whom she hasn’t seen, I imagine, for over a year.

So welcome back to Richmond, Alan and Lynn. It will be great to bring you back into the fold after your years of Broadway success. Essie, get well soon. We really miss you. And everyone, remember to be kind to your elders. Every ounce of attention we give is returned many times over within their appreciation.

I’m proud that Barksdale is so actively involved with Central Virginia’s growing senior citizen community. It's a privilege.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

J said...

Essie Simms
c/o Westminster-Canterbury
Health Care Services - Room 9335
1600 Westbrook Avenue
Richmond, VA 23237