It was an honor to work with the genius writer, Bill Anderson. Reverend Fred Herwaldt saw something special in the script of “Beyond the North Star.”
Don’t Let Anyone Kill Your Dreams
By Richard Mabey Jr.
During my year of battling rheumatic fever, when I was 12 years old, my Grandpa, Watson Mabey would often come to visit me. Grandpa would reminisce about the good old days, when his father William and his brother Earl, worked on the old Morris Canal. Great Grandpa owned and operated an icehouse that stood along the tow path of the canal. Grandpa and Great Uncle Earl helped their father with the work of running the old icehouse.
One of the things that made Grandpa’s visits with me, special to him, is that my bedroom was the very same bedroom that Grandpa and Great Uncle Earl shared in their childhood. Grandpa loved to tell the tales of life along the old Morris Canal. After Grandpa would leave, from his visit with me, I would hurriedly write down all that Grandpa had told me about life along the old Morris Canal. I loved my visits with Grandpa.
In September of 1967, I turned 14 and began my freshman year at Boonton High School. Early on in the semester, my English teacher gave the class the assignment to write about a person who had a positive influence upon us. I chose to write about Grandpa Mabey. I worked really hard on the essay. I poured my heart into it.
Well, long story short, I got a grade of C- on my essay. I was heart broken. Just to put salt on the wound, my less than kind English teacher wrote: “Emotionally sloppy. Maybe, Mabey’s next essay will be better.” Sadly, not all the teachers at Boonton High School were all that kind.
I kept that essay. Over the months and years I rewrote it and rewrote it. I never again submitted it to any of my teachers at Boonton High School again. But, I did submit to my English teacher during my freshman year at college. I got a B+ on it. I was on the road to success!
Over the years I did many, many rewrites of the story. In 1984, I had a second bout of rheumatic fever and was in and out of the hospital with one full year’s strict bed rest. It was during that time period that I converted my essay into a play. After I got well, I began the process of submitting my play to theaters, small and large, throughout America. Bottom line: no positive acceptances came back.
Then, in 1988, I was directing Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town.” I chose this great actor, Bill Anderson, for the role of the “Stage Manager.” Bill was a fantastic actor. By the third rehearsal, Bill had totally memorized all of his lines. And his role had a LOT of lines in it.
The living room scene from “Beyond the North Star.”
Well, long story short, Bill and I became friends. I mentioned to Bill that I was working hard to get my play produced. Bill asked me if he could read it. I loaned Bill a copy of my play and he was impressed. I tend to be a bit down-home and easy going in my writings. Bill asked me if he could put some punch in some of the scenes. I told him that would be fine.
Well, one thing led to another and Bill and I ended up doing a rewrite of the entire play, while we were in rehearsal for “Our Town.” Bill Anderson is a genius. He has a real gift for putting a firecracker in a scene. He had a real talent for heightening drama in any situation, that happens in a stage play.
The greatest group of actors ever assembled; the cast of “Beyond the North Star.”
Well, the story doesn’t end there. After we completed our total rewrite, I happened to mention to my minister, Reverend Fred Herwaldt that I was writing a play. Pastor Herwaldt asked me if he could read the play. So, I loaned him a copy of the revised play. Well, the next time I saw the good pastor, he told me that he was very impressed with the play that Bill and I wrote. Long story short, Pastor Herwaldt recommended to the Lincoln Park Police Athletic League that they produce “Beyond the North Star” as a fund raiser for their building fund.
Well, low and behold, Bill Anderson and I produced and directed the play. It was a huge success and made over $23,000.00 for the Lincoln Park Police Athletic League’s fund raising campaign. In short, it was a miracle.
What always amazed me is that my English composition that got a C-, that I had written in my freshman year of high school, ended up to be a big success as a stage play. There’s a lesson to this story. Don’t let anyone kill your dreams!