Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Theatre

For this story you may want to curl up with a mug of hot grog or some other Elizabethan juice of substance. I am going to tell you of how our humble auditorium transformed from a standard-issue school assembly hall into a kind of theatre.

Before I became I associated with the school, there was a first-grade teacher, Orlantha Ambrose, who was also a concert-level violinist. She started an after-school program called "Strings by the Sea," where she taught little kids to play the violin.

The program was a success and she was a great teacher, but Orlantha wanted to shake her life up and decided to return to the country of her parents' birth, Sri Lanka, to start a "Strings by the Sea" with other children.

She succeeded with the program and her parents went to visit at Christmastime to hear her young students in concert. During their time together, Orlantha's father, Dr. Anton Ambrose, took his wife, Beulah, and daughter to the seaside for a holiday.

Dr. Ambrose woke one morning and, while discussing breakfast with Beulah, heard Orlantha in the next room shout, "Mom...Dad...water!"

The threesome ran from the tsunami. They made it out of their rooms, out of the lobby and out of the hotel. Across the street, Dr. Ambrose saw a truck that could get them further. He looked back to see Beulah tying her shoe and that was the last time he saw his wife alive. He lost his wife and daughter that day. Dr. Ambrose survived by clinging for hours to a tree.

I don't know what I would do with so much sorrow, but I will tell you what Dr. Anton Ambrose did. He renovated our worn auditorium into the Orlantha Ambrose Center for the Performing Arts. It was repainted and new floors and seats were installed. We now have a lighting board and a sound system. When the Shakespeare Club performed "Romeo and Juliet," we were the first group to be seen in the warmth of colored lights with amplified CD music to enhance the production.

I wrote Dr. Ambrose a thank you note and said, "Shakespeare gave these children the words but you gave them the magic."

Dr. Ambrose's nephew, Rohan Fernando, directed a documentary about the family's tragedy. "Blood and Water" tells the story of Dr. Ambrose returning to Sri Lanka a year after the tsunami. The film is enlightening, brave and encouraging. It can be located in its entirety, I'm told, at the National Film Board of Canada.

Thank you, Beulah, for your daughter. Thank you, Orlantha, for your legacy. Thank you, Anton, for continuing the good work of arts and children on days when you simply may have wanted to hide.

I learned that to be an actor you can’t be embarrassed.

My favorite part in the play was when both Viola and Sebastian where on the boat.

I loved learning my lines and learning them.

The day of the show I saw the audience I was scared but this year I learned to be brave.
—Meara, 5th grade


  1. Thanks to Dr. Ambrose for channeling his grief to make a positive cange in the lives of these children. And thank you Mel for chronicling it!

  2. And thank you for reading their stories.


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