In a world that has changed so much – even in my (relatively) short lifetime – it always brings warmth to my heart to hear of the random act of kindness. Did I give away my age? The heartbreaking simple deed from a stranger that makes your day just a bit brighter, the gracious gesture from your next door neighbor, or the unexpected surprise given by a loved one are all things that hit the heart. You know, that little elbow jab to the heart that makes you want to grab your chest and whimper in feelings? Of course, you won’t see me break down emotionally… not in public, no, never. Not me. Nope, you are mistaken, that wasn’t me.
Well, not too long ago, a stranger asked me if I needed help pushing my 300-pound scooter up-hill after tens of cars passed me by without a second look. After I had broken down, picked up my belongings that scattered across busy Highland Drive, and found my new sunglasses bent from the disaster, it was heartwarming to hear her voice of willing help.
There’s something about Les Misérables that always brings out Utah audiences. Last time Les Misérables came to Pioneer Theatre, the show ran several weeks longer than scheduled. I think it’s that soul-grabbing feeling. It’s that tale of a reformed brute taking in a stranger’s child as his own. And the fact that it’s a classic doesn’t hurt, either, I bet.
The combination of my recent scooter tragedy and re-watching Les Misérables led me to this topic. What random acts of kindness has the cast experienced? Here are some elbow-jab-to-the-heart tales, accompanied by everyone’s very best “Strength of Jean Valjean” pose.
MAGGIE SCOTT/Young Cosette
“On one of the very first days of rehearsals for this play, we ran out of gas about half-way down the canyon…. We had to pull over and started running down the road to see if anyone would help us. And this couple pulled over who had just come back from skiing in Park City. They pulled over, let us in their car and they drove us down to meet our carpool so we could come down to rehearsal. It was really cool.”
ZOE HEIDEN/Young Cosette (left)
“I said to one of my friends, it’s going to be hard to (keep up) with school since I’ll be missing it. So she volunteered to help me keep track and copy papers for me. That was really nice of (her) because I love getting A’s in class.”
ABIGAIL SCOTT/Young Eponine (right)
“When I was in first grade, I was running a fun run for my school and I tripped. Somebody from the side of the road helped me up and helped me tie my shoes so I could get back.”
“When I was in like, fourth grade, we were about to take the important end-of-the-year CRT test. It was a timed test. Right about when we were about to start, my pencil ran out of lead. So somebody gave me their pencil and got another one for themself, so I was able to pass the test.”
CHAD COUDRIET/Ensemble, u/s Enjolras
Chad credits his wife, Joanne, for the kindness of marrying him. “We both like to laugh a lot, we’re both very adventurous. And we continue to grow together.” Ladies, hold on, he’s taken…. hence, wife.
ERIK AGLE/Ensemble, u/s Marius
“My random act of kindness…. were acts of kindness towards my wife, at a time where it was really a favor to me. A couple of years ago, I was on a tour and my wife was still living in New York. She was pregnant with our second child and toting our three-year-old daughter around in the subways… random strangers would always help her carry the stroller down and up the subway stairs. I felt horrible being away from her and it was nice that they made her life a little bit easier when I wasn’t around.”
JOE CASSIDY/Jean Valjean
“I had a very simple but kind act. I’m going to withhold his name… well, no, I won’t. I’ll brag about him. It was John Lithgow. I was lucky enough to understudy a couple of roles and it worked out so that I went on for both those guys, back to back. So, like, a week for one guy and a week for another guy. And by the time they got back, there had been a series of vacations among all our principals, and finally, by the time those guys were done and I was back on my ensemble track, everyone in the show was back. As we were getting ready, all of the people were doing their pre-show stuff and everyone kind of going, ‘Oh, isn’t it great, the whole family’s back”… The next day, I had a note on my dressing room table from John Lithgow. It was this beautiful note saying, ‘I walked past when people were saying that and I thought that you may have thought that was a reflection of your work.’ And he wrote this note assuring me otherwise. That was an incredibly kind thing to have said, totally unsolicited and wonderful and nice. And that’s the kind of classy guy he is, in addition to the being a huge celebrity that he is. I’m an even bigger fan of his now, if I wasn’t already.”
DAVID SPENCER/Bishop of Digne, u/s Thénardier
“Somebody that knew me, that knew I was going to school and that I was struggling financially… somebody in the community that I lived in, they just kind of slipped me some money and said, ‘Use this for your tuition.’ Between that and a little bit of a scholarship that I had, I paid tuition that year. It came out of the blue, I had no idea.”
“I can’t think of anything specifically, but I live in New York City and everyday I see something. I see it all the time with people helping strangers on the subway, people helping tourists. You hear that New York is full of bad people, and it’s not… I’m happy to live there and be a part of this. Here’s my New Year’s resolution for this past year, to do something for somebody… and not expect them to say ‘thank you’… but to just do it for yourself. That’s why you do it.”
“It was my first year in New York, and I was almost literally to wit’s end. I was working 65 hours a week, Monday through Friday at two temp jobs, and additional hours on the weekend. Not sleeping, not really eating, I was just trying to pay my rent and almost got to the point where I was thinking I had to move home because I was at the bottom of the barrel. A friend of a friend, who didn’t even really know me that well, gave an envelope to my friend with my name on it. There was a large financial sum. The person had just heard what I had been doing to pursue acting, and that money was able to help me, basically, stay afloat. Shortly after that I booked my first job. It was totally unexpected but it saved my life literally.”
ASHLEY GARDNER CARLSON/Ensemble, u/s Cosette
“My neighbor, just the other day, mowed my lawn because my husband and I are always too busy to do it. It always astounds me when people do things like that, because I honestly think that if I were in that position, I’d like to say yes, I really would… but I’m not quite sure!”
MATT STOKES/Ensemble, u/s Javert (lifted up by JEFFREY SCOTT STEVENS/Ensemble)
“When I was a kid, I was a bit overweight and for the first time in my life I stuck up for myself and called out someone on, essentially, bullying me for being overweight. A week later, the same kid came to bully me again. An acquaintance of mine, who really wasn’t a friend, per se, jumped in front of that kid and said, ‘Man, when are you going to grow up? It’s not funny anymore.’ That was almost as monumental as me standing up for myself because it meant that me standing up for myself expressed that I was worth being cared about, if that makes sense. To this day, that guy has a special place in my heart, because he not only heard what I said, but he also validated what I said by bringing it back around.”
“My high school acting teacher, who taught me everything I know about theatre, has continually supported me throughout my career. He is sort of my mentor. He has come to see me in every production that I’ve done, no matter where it is in the country… The first production of Les Mis that I ever did was in high school (with that teacher). And now, here I am, doing it professionally for the first time. So him believing in me to do the role then in high school has given me the confidence to perform and do it now. I attribute me being in this performance to this teacher that I had in high school.”
Lansia is a semi-pro social media artist – having blogged professionally and casually. An art major herself, Lansia loves to support and participate in the creative community: theatre, film, music, photography, writing, performance and art just to name a few off the tip of the tongue. In addition to her writing, she loves to cook, eat, travel, play, adventure and rock the headphones. Find her personal blog at http://daphnelcc.wordpress.com.
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