So did you grow up in York? Where did you attend high school or college?
Yeah I grew up in York, except for the 18 months my family spent in California and I miss it. We left it and, like Tony sings, I left my heart in San Francisco. So both places are kind of home. I went to high school in York and I went to college at Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota. I wasn’t really given a choice.
My parents said “You WILL go to college” and I said “okay, do I get to pick?”
“Well where do you wanna go?”
“That’s all boys.”
“You’re going to Mount Marty College”
“Because it’s a Catholic college, and your big sister’s on the faculty there so you’ll get a faculty discount on your tuition. That’s where you’re going.”
You know I didn’t really want to go to college, but I did, and I’m not sorry I did. I got my degree in communications and art. I was going to be an art major, but I fell into communications via the campus radio station. God help us. I would the play the most strange things, I had very eclectic tastes. They said “you can bring your own stuff in if you want to play it, just don’t make anything obscene.” Fine. So I’m playing some pretty rowdy stuff during lunchtime, and they’re looking at the instructor and he says “What is this?” and they go “That’s just Sue, don’t worry about it.” So I was allowed that freedom, thank God. And when I got out of college and came back to York I worked at the radio station here for awhile. And I was the only lady there except for the receptionist. I did a DJ stint and I ran the thing for Sunday mornings, and covered meetings as part of the news network that they started here. We won top awards in the state for our news coverage. And they told us, you know, “Don’t be shy, call up the governor! If there’s a story about him, call him up and ask him what he thinks about it.” And it got so I could call up the governor on Easter Sunday evening and go “Well, Jim, what did the bunny bring you?” I had a good rapport with him, that was cool. Ernie Chambers, who was not our senator, I could get comments out of [our senator] okay, but if I really wanted to get a good sound chunk I’d call Ernie Chambers and ask him what he thought. I loved [his comments], absolutely loved [them].
Were you involved with anything theatrical before the Playhouse?
No, I was not. I was always interested in it, I always enjoyed going to the shows. I saw the very first production that Yorkshire put out here. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and I went to it and I thought “Yeah!” So many people went to it and were excited. People didn’t realize we had so much talent in the area, I guess, and I’m glad it’s continued and grown. And it has it’s own place now, [before] they had to rely on the high school or they would do it downstairs of the Legion Club and have dinner theatre. They’d done it at Chances ‘R too, they did “The Little Hut” down [there]. I got involved with Yorkshire kind of slowly, but I was always interested in helping paint the sets and stuff, so I helped do some of the palm trees for “The Little Hut” and that was great, I loved it. Just to look on the stage and say “Ah, I made that.” It was fun.
So you really enjoy the technical side of it?
I like the painting and the building, and they would say “Hey, we need something for “Man of La Mancha,” we need your special lettering on this.” So I helped with the cover of the program for “Man of La Mancha” and different stuff like that. Now that I can do, and that was fun.
You also did some signs for “The Producers,” right?
Yeah I’ve gotten more involved with [props and set] stuff. Also, Raz and I were in “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge and Marley. He was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He had this little hood on and the end of his nose just barely stuck out. It was a nonspeaking role, but he was good and if I had the brakes on my chair all I had to do was pull one and he would sit up. That was his cue to get up. He was fine, he was less nervous about it than I was. But it was cool, I liked it. It was done reader’s theatre style and I thought “Thank God!” because I’ll never remember my lines. And forget about blocking! But, you know, it was fun. And I asked Karla when she had tryouts for “Leaving Iowa,” I read for that and she said “Are you gonna be really disappointed if you don’t get a role?” and I said “No, I’m just here to try out and read” and she says “Well would you like to be my Assistant Director?” and I said “Sure!” So I was AD for that and that was fun. As assistant director I was there for all the rehearsals, making sure people knew their lines, especially when they were going off book.
Now, you bring Arazi to set buildings with you--
He brings ME to the set buildings. He pulls the chair. And you know he’s like, “Every time she paints I swear I get new eyebrows.” He rolls those eyes at me. He is KING of the side eye. He’s a good kid. They say that a service dog operates at the level of a 4 year old human child. And for somebody who never really wanted kids I’m thinking “Really?” There are things the Playhouse has offered for me to do, in terms of new tasks, such as “How would you like to help with the kids auditions for the summer theatre?” I said no, but I ended up doing it anyway. I got in there and got into it and I really liked it and I thought “This is cool.” It was fun to see all the different kids who wanted to try out. So many kids came in for the first time and they got parts and just to see them light up, that was really cool.
I’m just starting my second year on the board, and when they said that they were looking for board members they said you have to be a member of the Playhouse, and I thought, well, I’m already a member so I’ll apply and if they take me, fine, and if they don’t take me, okay. I’ll try again later. Well they needed bodies, so I was like, okay! I’ll do this.
So what are your other interests? I know you talked about there being a Writer’s Guild in York at one time.
Art and music and writing. I do a lot of calligraphy. I’d also like to get back into my drawing, I kind of miss it and I wasn’t that bad at it so I’m thinking “let’s try to get back into it and see if I can improve on what I had” because, you know, you use it or you lose it. The writing, I still like to do that, that’s fun. Mostly humorous essays and poetry, that’s what I focus on. The Writer’s Guild lasted for 30 years, and then people died or moved away or started college. It was neat to hear everybody else because we would read our stuff aloud. We also put on things at the Playhouse, where we would read our works and kind of do it as a fundraiser for the Playhouse, which is something I’d certainly like to see there again. I would be interested in working with that. We’d do that on a Sunday afternoon, it was kind of in between times.
So what’s been your favorite show to work on?
Well, working on the trees for “The Little Hut” well that’s what got me into it, so I’d have to say that was the springboard. But I also liked doing the stuff for “The Producers.” They said “this is going to be boring, this is going to be tedious,” “well, what do I have to do?” They said “You have to glue these little sparkle things to this board” and I thought “Bring on the sparkles! Let’s do this!” They’re going “you don’t mind this?” and I say “Hell no! This is gonna look great!” So, yeah. Bring ‘em on. Working on things for the Playhouse, putting things together for them is very “zen,” you can really just zone out and do it. So yeah, I enjoyed it.
How does staying involved with the Playhouse help you or affect how you deal with the neuromuscular disease, if you don’t mind me asking?
It helps keep me going. Because it’s staying creative, it’s being involved with a whole different bunch of people than my usual circle, and it constantly changes because there are new actors that come in for shows and there are always new duties to do with the Playhouse. One of the most horrible things that can happen to somebody, whether they’ve got a chronic illness or not is being isolated. Hell to the no. Let’s get out there, get involved, stay involved. I’m a firm believer in doing as much as you can, the best you can for as long as you can. So, that’s got to be crucial.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Hmm. I’ll share you the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me. And it was my hero, John Kay from Steppenwolf, I got to meet him when I was a teenager. I hope everyone who gets to meet their hero has their hero be as nice to them as John Kay was to me. When I first came down with this, when I was first diagnosed, I was scared to death. I called him and I told him what was going on and I said I was scared he said “I’m going to tell you something right now. No matter how many people are praying for you and pulling for you, what you’re going through is essentially something you have to go through and deal with alone. Once you get your mind wrapped around that you can do one of two things. You can either be your own best friend and help yourself and do as much as you can for yourself, or you can be inward and just kind of receding from everything and tear yourself apart faster than any disease ever could. It’s all up to you.” Stay strong, only the strong survive. And I think, in a nutshell, well--that’s this nut in a shell.