Being on the Ark

By Julie Ballantyne Brown


The cast of Two by Two on The Ark. From left to right: Tom Varitek as Ham, Kathleen Duffy as Rachel, Mark Wagner as Japheth, Mike Moseley as Noah, Sue Delosier as Esther, Brian Townsend as Shem, Julie Ballantyne Brown as Leah, and Leah Paige Cooley as Goldie.

The curtain has just closed on our first show of the season, Two By Two. I had the privilege of being a part of the eight (nine, including God) person cast that brought the story of Noah and the ark to life. I’ve been on a boat, seeing imaginary animals, for the past ten weeks and I really couldn’t be happier about it.

Like many people, up until last spring, I had never heard of this musical, but I listened to the music a few times and decided to give auditions a shot. When the cast list came out, I was excited to be a part of such talented group of people. Truth be told, I felt a little intimidated at first and hoped that I could hold my own. I just didn’t want to screw anything up! Some of it was definitely a challenge for me; I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone for my character, Leah, but it was a good thing, and everyone was incredibly supportive of each other as we all made the characters our own. Our director, Mary Jane Town, was clear in her vision and very patient with all of us as we became a family, on and off stage, in just a few short weeks.

I had grown up listening to the story of Noah, his sons, and their wives, but really hadn’t given them any sort of deep consideration. In my mind, they were always a part of that impossibly holy group of people in the Bible that I could never be a part of. Noah is described in Genesis as “a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God”. (Genesis 6:9, NKJV) I never once considered them to have any sort of human foibles. They weren’t relatable; heck, the women didn’t even have names. While the story itself was always fascinating, the people were just a detail to me, until recently.

As I got to know my “Leah” and the rest of the cast better, the story started becoming a part of me, as shows tend to do. The family began to be real, not just some flat characters in a story, but people who had been the only eight people on Earth for a time. How would they have responded to the many challenges that would have come their way? During down time at rehearsals, we discussed what we thought the family would have done. How would they have passed the time? (Songs, repairs?) Did they take baths on the ark? (I voted yes.) What, exactly, did they eat? (Grains? Jerky? Extra animals?) Would our kids all have to marry each other? (Eh…yes.) These are some of the issues that surface when thinking of the prospect of spending a year in close quarters with seven other people who, by the way, have to repopulate the world when it’s all over. No pressure. We did have a lot of fun sorting through it all and finding out what happened to our characters after the Flood, but it would really be a scary experience in real life.

By the time the show opened on September 16, we were ready. The crew had done an amazing job with the set, lights, and sound, overcoming every glitch with style. The voice of God could be a gentle rumble or a roar so loud that it shook the floor. The rainbow, God’s promise to never flood the earth again, was set to go. The orchestra was ready. The house lights went down, the stage lights went up, and off we went.

And then… it was over. Nine performances flew by in a flash. We sang, we danced, we argued onstage, we hugged, and we cried over and again to mostly full, responsive houses, quite an achievement for an obscure little show. We bonded even more as we told the story of the original eight castaways to a new audience each time and the shenanigans abounded backstage, as did the doodles. (What happens on the ark, stays on the ark.)

Now it’s all over and I’m fighting off a good case of the end-of-show blues, but my experiences working on this show have turned into some pretty wonderful memories. Two By Two was special and will always stay with me. I’m proud that we got the season off to a good start and am looking forward to cheering on my fellow Guild members in their shows, here at the Guild and elsewhere.