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The show must go on for Woodward community theater

Despite a tornado striking Woodward on April 15, cast members of “Titanic: The Musical” will perform the play this weekend in their second round of performances.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: April 27, 2012

As the crimson curtain opens at the Woodward Arts Theatre, you see a man in a gray suit in front of a model ship, singing about creating a floating city.

Soon, a young man playing Frederick Barrett, the man who tends the ship's furnace, enters the stage and begins to sing a song, asking the question, “How did they build Titanic?”

Just a few days earlier, the actor was in the theater's basement with a cast member, taking shelter from a present-day disaster — one that almost derailed the Woodward Civic Opera's presentation of “Titanic: The Musical.”

Friday and Saturday, these Woodward residents will perform the play for a second weekend; their first performances were last weekend. They've been practicing since January for a play that almost didn't happen.

Six people — three adults and three children — died after an EF3 tornado struck Woodward during the early morning on April 15. The tornado demolished 89 homes and 13 businesses in western Woodward, and at least 28 people were reported injured.

One hundred years ago, on the same day that the tornado struck Woodward — April 15 — the Titanic was sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 1,500 people died, including passengers and crew.

Onstage in disaster

The night the tornado struck, Woodward resident and actor Charlie Burns and cast mate Eryn Brooks had planned to have a small remembrance for the Titanic passengers who died.

“We were so caught up in our own disaster, we couldn't remember that one,” Burns said.

Burns and Brooks were on the stage of the downtown Woodward Arts Theatre when the tornado struck. They were working on finishing a life boat for one of the final scenes. They took shelter in the theater basement as the tornado spun about two miles away.

After the storm passed, they went to their neighborhood, where they saw the devastation. They rushed to the home of fellow cast member Bill Stanley nearby and saw his truck beneath a tree. Neighbors had just pulled Stanley out from the wreckage.

Buried in rubble

Moments earlier, Stanley had awaken to a tornado blowing off his roof and ripping away the walls of his home. He was buried beneath loose installation, with his head uncovered, the rain spitting in his face.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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