The lights are low, the auditorium packed, and the evening’s emcees are decked out in sparkling gold suits and top hats straight from A Chorus Line. Within ten minutes everyone is clapping, as Bob Jacobs, Eileen Schofield, and Debora Green strut and kick across the stage, doing justice to the song lyrics. They are one singular sensation.
“We wanted to do something big this year,” Jacobs told the audience. Big, because it is a big year for L’Arche International, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. He also expected a lot of surprises: “Every year we go extemporaneous because then you never know what is going to happen.”
Jacobs was right about both: The annual L’Arche Solidarity Talent Show, held March 8 at Marymount University in Arlington, was large in size and spirit, and there were moments that made the audience gasp, laugh, and cheer. Members of the Ontario House performed their rendition of “Stop in the Name of Love,” there were multiple homages to Taylor Swift, and L’Arche’s own James Brown, Calvin “Sonny” Clarke, made a repeat appearance. “This Man will make your liver quiver. This man will make your bladder splatter. This man will make your knees freeze,” Enrique Guzman announced in his introduction.
There were also sounds that soothed and touched the heart: Haikus of remembrance from John Cook, Garrick Jordan singing “Wade in the Water” while washing the feet of his fellow man, and renditions of “Lord, I need you,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“Music has been this thing that unifies our home,” said Matt Pecoraro, of the Sixth Street House.
Unity is what the Solidarity Talent Show is all about. The event raises awareness of the L’Arche communities around the world, of which there are 145 in 40 countries. “We are connected to all these other people,” said Luke Smith. The money from the Solidarity Fundraiser, including the talent show and a bazaar held before, amounted to more than $7,500 which will help support sister communities in Latin America.
The bazaar showcased the Kandinsky-esque artistic talents of Schofield, and other work more in the style of Rothko. One piece by Mary Ruppert included seashells collected near the L’Arche homes in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to art, cookbooks, houseplants, children’s aprons, and jewelry were for sale. There was face painting and henna tattoos. You could even purchase experiences: a solo from Garrick and a chance for two to play golf with John Cook and Fritz Schloss, for example.
Browsing the bazaar felt like stepping into a family reunion. There was joyful conversation, hugs, and even kids chasing each other around the hall. The kids had their place on stage, too, with a dramatic reading of The Cat In the Hat Comes Back.
The Solidary Fundraiser is the one time each year when everyone in the community gets together to perform, and they invite others to come, to get to know L’Arche’s mission and its members. “It brings out the ham in all of us,” Jacobs says. Schofield agrees: “I like being on stage. I can surprise people.” Her favorite performance was when the Highland House turned The Love Boat into The L’Arche Boat.
The highlight of the night for others, at least according to an informal poll, was when Francene Short came up on stage to dance. “She really let go,” said one audience member. In past years, Short has slid behind the curtain, but this time around, she stepped into the limelight.
“It is good that she trusts all of us,” said Jacobs, “to appreciate who she is.”
But of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise at all. As Dottie Bockstiegel rhymed in the show’s finale, with the entire gang as backup: “As we look around we see, lots of solidarity.”
-Contributed by an anonymous volunteer. See more photos of the night on Facebook.