Letter: Donk’s Theater passes the baton to next generation
At Donk’s Theater’s "Lil’ Ole Opry" Saturday night in Mathews, it was "Stars of Tomorrow" night—the stars were bright and ran the gamut from cute to WOW! So much of the "something’s missing in our world today" message abounds. Something really important wasn’t missing that night as I sat with a good, large crowd of folks from six or eight states and one foreign country—to witness a human drama.
I think I happened in on a "Family Reunion" that spoke of what life is all about. What really matters is a baton of values and traditions that many Americans have lost and don’t really know how to pass on to the next generation. On this old, historic stage where many of the greats of country music have stood, three generations, as best I could count, unabashedly loved and appreciated each other and captured the transmission of a culture. This was real, more than a stage, a group of people paid more than lip service to what they value. It wasn’t broadcast on radio or television (though I believe it is far more valuable than most of what is televised)—but a transmission of greater importance was happening. What they do and who they are was being handed to the next succeeding generation.
A sense of lasting spirit and soul was there. It was fitting that Uncle Jimmy, the emcee, and his wife Carolyn had a 45th anniversary the next day. Kids of the kids in the family of performers, ages 3 or 4 to 21, and everyone in between were there. The patriarchs and matriarchs, their children (who are no longer children) and their children (who are still children) were on stage and behind the scenes making this event possible. Few places exist where you can clearly see this important element of family, society, culture and values passed on.
The next generation stood up and sang and played with all their hearts—was hugged, patted, and loved. Family pride! The usual bass player and the drummer stepped aside and the "kids" did themselves proud taking over and grabbing all the microphones. Some were so cute, the crowd burst into cheers and applause. "Little Miss Brenda Lee" recorded the iconic "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" at age 13 (though it was said she was nine) and, yes, 53 years later, another rising star belted out songs no less wonderful and full of potential but at a real age nine. Cute and WOW!
National and family pride may be hard to grab hold of these days—they get distorted and they are too often served as "spoiled imitations." But, yes, Virginia, they still do exist—and a heaping serving was put on the table Saturday night in this living, legendary place. I left smiling, touched, moved, singing and grateful—having experienced (even as an observer) something of lasting significance, the soul and spirituality of this event. On full display here was a vanishing way of life—in stark contrast to all the things that seem to so deeply divide us. We are not divided, we only let forces fool us into believing we are—let’s stop it here—we are family and we are one! We all have our place, our gifts, and our part of the puzzle to give.
Donk’s "Stars of Tomorrow" reminds us all of so much that is good and lasting and what being a human being on this planet at this moment is all about. Wherever we are, whoever we are—we each have our unique transmission to make. Thanks for the reminder and for sharing your Family Reunion.