OKEECHOBEE — Love is in the air at the Okeechobee Community Theatre (OCT)! Not only are they “Getting Sara Married” (the title of their latest production), but after the surprise ending on opening night, they are also getting Rebekah married. Rebekah Albano, a newcomer to Okeechobee and to the Okeechobee Community Theatre plays the role of Heather, a wealthy young woman who is unloved by her fiancé. Although the evening does not end well for Heather, things look much more promising for Ms. Albano.
David Womble began his dramatic career with the role of the teacher’s son in “The King and I” when he was seven years old. He has appeared in many roles since then, but this year his dramatic flair reached a new level when he interrupted the curtain call in order to propose marriage to Ms. Albano. Just when the audience and Ms. Albano thought the show was over, Aunt Martha, the eccentric matchmaker played by Laurie Garner, announced that she was not quite finished with her work, and she ushered Mr. Womble onstage. Mr. Womble rushed in carrying a bouquet of roses and announced, “Aunt Martha told me you have been single for two whole hours now, and I thought I better grab you before anyone else does.” As the audience watched, Mr. Womble got down on one knee and proposed. When Ms. Albano accepted, the audience erupted with applause.
Although this was the first unscripted marriage proposal at the OCT, it was not the first OCT love story. Many couples have met, fallen in love, and married after meeting at an audition, or during a show. One of the most well-known couples is probably Ron and Jacque Hayes, who have co-directed the theatre for many, many years. Mr. and Mrs. Hayes met in 1986 during the production of “6 Rms Riv Vu.” Mrs. Hayes moved to Okeechobee in 1985, and after a year of acclimating herself to a new town, she decided it was time to get involved in the community.
Mrs. Hayes has always had a passion for theatre, working as stage manager at a little theatre and participating in drama programs in high school and at camp, so investigating the Okeechobee Community Theatre was a natural first step in that direction. When she walked into the auditions, she immediately realized that the handsome man in the suit was actually her neighbor. She had often noticed him outside washing his car. Mrs. Hayes says, “As soon as we met, it was a mesh. We are so much alike. We think alike. We complete each other.” She felt that right from the start they were a team. From that moment on they were inseparable, and with few exceptions, have worked together on every production the theatre has done.
Jeff and Sue Howell met in 1987 during auditions for “The Paisley Convertible.” Mrs. Howell was directing the show, and when Mr. Howell walked in, both she and Mr. Hayes knew immediately that they would cast him, and for Mrs. Howell that meant not only casting him in the show but also casting him in her life and not long after, they were married.
Doug and Pat McCoy both participated in several OCT plays together before they officially met. Mr. McCoy was in the orchestra while Mrs. McCoy was onstage, and their paths never crossed until one day in The Oakview Baptist Church choir loft they began talking and realized that they had a common history. Their love of drama and theatre drew them closer together, and they participated in many shows over the years both before and after their marriage. Mrs. McCoy remembers one of her favorite shows, “South Pacific,” when Mr. McCoy caused her to doubt their future together.
“Doug was not onstage much in that show,” she explained. “He had long periods of time when he was backstage with nothing to do so he would LEAVE and go across to the laundromat to do his laundry! It drove me crazy.”
Although Mrs. McCoy had her doubts, love found a way, and they are still happily married with four children.
Many couples have enjoyed working together both onstage, back stage, or ushering during the 37 years since the theatre began. The Okeechobee Community Theatre is not just a group of people who enjoy theatre, they are family. They love and care for each other, and they are always ready to welcome new members into their family.
If you are lonely, looking for friends, want to get involved in the community, watch for the audition announcements sometime in August, and then come on out and join the family. Who knows? Maybe you will be a part of the next OCT love story.
Cathy Womble is a freelance writer.