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Friday, May 24, 2024

Beloved entertainer Sandie Hawthorne to take stage for last time

Sandie Hawthorne in costume for her role in the play Old Hams
Sandie Hawthorne in costume for her role in the play “Old Hams.”

Sandie Hawthorne is ready to face the final curtain. It happens this week when she appears in the play “Old Hams.”

“I’m 81 and this could be my swan song on stage,” said one of the most influential local theater personalities in The Villages for the past 20 years. “I’ve directed and performed in many productions —  but this will be my last.”

Ironically, Hawthorne is playing an 85-year-old woman in the play “Old Hams,” which runs Friday through Monday at 7 p.m. in the Mulberry Grove Recreation Center.
“I’m playing old, and for me that’s not hard,” Hawthorne said with a laugh. “I’m the oldest person in the cast and I’m playing the oldest character.
“Look, doing this play at 81 has been a challenge. It made me realize that I am getting older. But I love theater.”
Hawthorne has been meeting challenges her entire life. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 20s.
 “I’ve lived through some dark times, “ she once told me. “But my life in theater has been great and it still is. I’m in a wheelchair. I can’t tap dance with my legs. But I can with my hands.”
Hawthorne has long been a dynamic force for The Villages Musical Theatre, and The Villages Theater Company.
 In “Old Hams,” Hawthorne plays a seer, or fortune teller. She tells the future to old movie stars, living in a home for retired entertainers.
“Sandie is a hoot; she’s funny as hell,” said  Patty O’Toole Desai, director of the play. “But she’s very serious about the role. As an actor, she is a marvel; a true gem.”
Desai met Hawthorne a couple of years ago, when Desai came to The Villages. “She is so knowledgeable about theater, and has helped me so much.”
In addition to acting and directing, Hawthorne served on the Villages Musical Theater’s board of directors.
“Sandie made so many contributions that moved us forward as an organization,” said Bill Krone, local actor and also a board member. “I can’t think of anyone in The Villages who, through acting, directing and leadership, has been more influential in maintaining the quality of theater in our community.”

Sandie Hawthorne as been a fixture in entertainment in The Villages for many years.

Krone learned first hand of Hawthorne’s theatrical skill. Early in his Villages’ career back in 2009, she directed him in “Annie Get Your Gun.”
“I quickly learned how much she knows about theater,” Krone said. “She taught me stage basics along with subtle acting techniques and methods. The lessons she gave me then, and in our work together over the years, have helped me to this day.

“I have seen her work on the stage as an actor several times. There is no one better. You watch Sandie, and you learn.”
Among the musicals Hawthorne directed: “Always…Patsy Cline,” “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “The Music Man” and “South Pacific.”

Director Sandie Hawthorne, right, goes over a scene with Yuri Sohn and Dave Newell in “South Pacific” in 2019.

In many ways directing and acting has been therapy for Hawthorne in her constant battle with MS.
“When I’m doing something I love, I don’t think about it (MS),” she said. “I’ve got a lot of spunk in me and I keep thinking that multiple sclerosis is a nightmare that will one day go away. In my brain, I have vivid dreams of walking, running and moving on stage.”

Mary Jo Vitale, popular local singer and actress, also has MS.  She has been inspired by Hawthorne.
“This disease forces you to look at yourself,” Vitale once told me. “You can’t let it get you down and you’ve got to live life to the fullest. That’s what Sandie is all about.”

Sandie Hawthorne with her husband Jon right and sons Doug far left and Brad 2
Sandie Hawthorne with her husband Jon, right, and sons Doug, far left, and Brad.

Sandie Hawthorne and her husband, Jon, have been married nearly six decades. They have two sons, Doug and Brad.

“Now, as I get older, I find I depend on Jon more than ever,” she said. “We love living in The Villages.”
Hawthorne is hopeful for the future of local theater here.
“I enjoyed working on all the shows I’ve directed and acted in,” she said. “I have a lot of hope for local theater in The Villages, but the future is very challenging. There are many bills to be paid for these shows, and a lot of expenses. And there is a lot of competition.”
Now, approaching the final stages of her career, the actress is ready for a new role.
“I try to live simply,” she said. “But drama keeps following me around.”

Tony Violanti writes about music and entertainment for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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