By Joe Cabral, Former Theater Teacher
August 2nd, 2014
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Joe Cabral and I’m honored and humbled to have been asked to say a few words to you today. I was the Director of Theater at Belmont High School, and knew Abby as a young woman and young actor.
Abby had a magical quality and compelling presence on stage. You couldn’t not look at her, because she was so fully present and engaged. And that smile! Oh, what a smile!
As an actor in our children’s theater productions, she had an energy that wowed our elementary school audiences, and invited them in. I remember looking at their faces as Abby would sing and dance her way through the aisles of the theater, clapping her hands and getting them to sing along. It was infectious!
She was cast in three of our festival productions that made it to the state finals: Personal Effects, Women and Wallace, and Laundry and Bourbon. Both Personal Effects and Laundry and Bourbon went on to win 1st place.
Abby’s work as the character Elizabeth in Laundry and Bourbon her senior year was recognized as outstanding by all three adjudicators, and it truly was remarkable. She worked with imagination, intelligence, and commitment. There was a mind/body connection in her work that just wasn’t present in many young actors.
There’s a scene in the show where one character wants to physically tear apart another, for assailing her with a barrage of insults. Abby’s task was to stop her from doing that. The challenge was that the actor she needed to stop was much bigger and stronger than she was, and kept getting away from her. We must have run that chase scene more than 25 times before Abby finally almost tackled her and placed her in a bear hug. She won!
Her perseverance and work ethic allowed her to consistently strive for excellence; her careful preparation – the confidence to take risks and fully live in the moment. Abby possessed a tremendous amount of humility, and was a kind and generous young woman. She was an inspiration to me, and to all those she came in contact with.
Our last production in her senior year was the musical Once on This Island. Abby played the character Erzule, the Goddess of Love. How appropriate that seems now. In it she sang the song “Human Heart” and its message is universal.
I’m privileged now to be the head of the theater department at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and am happy and thankful to have a recent graduate, Kat Ward, and our musical theater teacher, Gina Fiore, perform that song for you now.