Writing My Life

Now and Then


… from Fraulein Rottenmeir to Yente …

G. E. is NOT a play-goer! I’m not sure why this form of entertainment doesn’t appeal to him as much as watching the University of Utah football games or the Jazz basketball games. But it just doesn’t. Over the years, I’ve dragged him to a performance here and another there, but those rare occasions failed to change his opinion about live theater.    

Because G.E. adores my mother, he escorts Mom and me to the Hale Theater every other month to enjoy their wonderful productions.    

Pre-play dinner: Mom, Connie, Randy, Me, G.E.


He playfully grumbles about going, teasing both of us all the way to the theatre, during our post-play dinner, and all the way home. But we can see right through him. He really does enjoy himself! Sometimes, he even likes the plays, but most of the time, he loves seeing how much Mom and I get into the action.     

For example, last night, we attended Fiddler on the Roof –  now who canNOT be swept up in the humor, the love, the poignancy, AND the music of that play? When Tzeitel and her tailor wed, the party is so inviting that Mom and I couldn’t help but clap and holler right along with the cast. I’m not sure at what point I realized we were the only two audience members so enveloped, but I did turn to see my red-faced husband chuckling and shaking his head at his “dates'” antics!  

Relief Society Skit, circa 1980?


Yes, I do LOVE theater and was once a drama major. As I’ve shared before, I not only performed in plays, I wrote scripts for various situations: Christmas plays, Relief Society skits, and Road Shows*. Of course, I    

Elves: Julie, Janeen, & Connie; Santa: Cousin Fred; Mrs. Santa's legs: Me


starred in my own creations, but I also acted in junior high, high school, college, and church productions. None of the roles were big ones, but they were INTERESTING.    

For whatever reason, I was often cast as the villainess .  While participating in a summer drama workshop as a 16-year-old, I performed in the play Heidi as Fräulein  Rottenmeir, the SUPER ornery housekeeper! Of course, I longed to play the part of Heidi or Klara – lovely heroines, both – but I soon learned how much more fun it was to play the foil!    

High School Drama Workshop 1964


While living in Frankfurt, Germany, however, our small servicemen’s congregation  of the LDS church presented The Diary of Anne Frank, and I played Mrs. van Dam – the whiney, selfish mother of Peter. Because she was more petty than she was vicious, I didn’t enjoy playing that nemesis as much as some others. If you’ve seen the play or movie or read the book, you might remember that the robust Mrs. van Dam ate more than her share of what little food there was. Ironically, I was about 5 months pregnant when I took that role, and unlike the overweight woman whose girth shrunk during the days of scarcity, my  character became MORE rotund. (Note: Upon reflection, I find it interesting that we presented this play in Frankfurt – Anne’s birthplace AND home to Nazi Germany and Fräulein Rottenmeir!)    

Years later while pregnant with my 4th son, I played the part of Wormwood,  

Renae as Wormwood


 Screwtape’s incompetent nephew and fiend – NOT fRiend, FIEND. My friend Lisa created a short adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic The Screwtape Letters for another church activity. I was nearly 8 months along,  and I still can’t believe I didn’t go into labor as I danced and leaped about the stage, escaping the wrath of Wormwood’s irate uncle . It was a great time, however, and boy,  I wish I had a picture of Wormwood/me  – looking more like Tweedle Dee or Dum than a desperate devil.    

Another interesting character I portrayed years earlier was a mannequin in a one-act play at Brigham Young University.  That was actually a fairly demanding part. Think LIVE MANNEQUIN –  no moving, blinking, breathing for minutes at a time.  Lots of lines though. The “Muggle World” –  non-magical folks – now knows that store-room dummies can talk, thanks to Old Navy commercials.    

I have to admit that I sometimes think about auditioning for community theater, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve smelled the grease paint. And G.E. DID remark that he could see me on stage, having the time of my life with the villagers of Anatevka! I’d LOVE to play the crotchety matchmaker Yente!    

* Roadshows, 15-minute skits acted by members of an LDS ward were performed over and over in all the wards in an LDS stake in a single night. Performers traveled between church buildings in a caravan of cars on a tight time schedule. They began as entertainment for weary pioneers and blossomed into a full-blown theatrical tradition in the 1950s and 1960s. At the roadshows’ pinnacle, the LDS Church sponsored an all-church competition, bringing regional winners to Salt Lake City for the final competition (Mormon News Today, Aug. 1, 1999).