“A Funny Little Thing” Got me Back into the Swing of Things

by on March 16, 2010 · 9 comments

in Culture, From the Soul, Health, San Diego

Mccray - scene 01

Nothing has helped me get back into the swing of things more, after losing my sweetheart, than getting up on stage and giving life to a delightful old goofy character named Wilmer in a play called “Funny Little Thing.”

Wilmer, like I have been in real life, is crazy about his wife, Paula, and she feels the same about him as my Nancy loved me – in spite of the little “things” that come along in a marriage, the irrelevant minutia that Wilmer and Paula, like Nancy and I did, zip by with healthy “Don’t sweat the small stuff” attitudes.

What a fun role and it was just what I needed to discover if I could ever, again, focus my attention, for any reasonable length of time, on something other than the nagging emotional pain that for so long was caught up in my heart and soul like a cat entangled in a sack full of yarn. When your blood runs cold with such a high level of grief your ability to listen and empathize with others suffers as they drift in and out of your attention span like a lecture on nuclear physics delivered in a dead language.

But one can’t remain hidden inside one’s self if one crawls inside a character in a play because there are other characters with whom that character must engage and all the characters, together, have to take words and actions off a page and give breath to it on stage. And it wasn’t too long into the process that I realized I had to crash out of myself heart first to keep up with the talented *actors with whom I was cast. We had a blast. Through George Ye’s relaxed and collaborative style of directing we made playwright Quinn Sosna-Spear’s cute “Funny Little Thing” stand up and sing with humor and joy.

Mccray scene Quinn

Giving Quinn her due.

Quinn, a teenager, has an incredibly wonderful way with words and a big part of what sold me on doing a play after having not acted in a while was I love playing scenes born in young people’s minds. In my day to day work, I do it all the time. And this gifted young woman will entertain audiences for a long long time if she so chooses. I see her about to join other outstanding playwrights who got there start in San Diego, courtesy of Playwrights Project: Josefina Lopez, a playwright and screenwriter of “Real Women Have Curves” fame; Annie Weisman and Karen Hartman whose world premieres of their plays, “Be Aggressive” and “Alice’s Wild Ride”, were staged at La Jolla Playhouse; Jim Knable, whose plays have run throughout the country.

Playwrights Project is well known here and beyond for inspiring and developing young writers and just doing something with them was, in and of itself, a selling point as far as getting me to rise out of my deep funk and create a little magic. I’ve had the honor of being around this august organization as an actor and a board member pretty much since it hit town 25 years ago.

What a gift to youth Playwrights Project has been, offering them, among a number of programs, an opportunity to enter a play in its annual California Young Playwrights Contest and if they win they get to see their scripts come alive on stage honed by the talents of professional actors and directors. At theaters like Cassius Carter Centre Stage at the Old Globe and the Lyceum in the heart of downtown.

The contest is going on right now with a deadline for submissions set for June 1, 2010. I could sure see a kid from OB with all they get to see daily scripting something exciting and bold, something steeped in poignancy and soul.

Anyway, the sweet sounds of laughter and applause I heard while performing in “Funny Little Thing” just a little while ago will ring in my heart forever. Life “don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” and I’ll forever be indebted to Playwrights Project for its role in launching me back into the swing of things.

*Reed Willard (an OBcean), Wendy Wadell, Katherine Harroff and June Gottlieb. Look for their names whenever you’re looking for an evening of theater and sit back and enjoy yourself. They’ll give you a new lease on life.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Gwen Pierce March 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Wonderful article! I’m so happy to hear that your performing again, getting back into the swing of things.



Reed Willard March 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm

It was such a pleasure working with you Ernie!! You are full of so many talents, acting being one of them, and I sure hope I get to work with you on stage again! And PWP is indebted to you, just as you are to them, for bringing the wonderful play to life and making it a total success. Keep on writing and acting!


Dave Sparling March 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

The feeling of joy one gets on the stage is magnified with age. It truly can be a fountain of youth. Keep going Ernie.


George Ye March 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm

A gift you have given us all by helpging devleop Playwights, and what luck had having had the opporutnity t0o work with you, and learn from you in the process!


Shirley Sprinkles March 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

Love the article! You’re getting better every day in the art of written expression–but who’s surprised? My confession to you, Ernie, is that I’m patently JEALOUS! How I wish I could act! If only I lived in San Diego, I could join you on stage–maybe!


Ernie McCray March 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Come on down, Shirlgirl.


Terry Connor March 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm


Great to hear that you are acting again. Nice to lose yourself in another character. Whatever you’re involved in seems greater with your presence. I think this part couldn’t have come at a better time for you. I hope your heart and soul continues to free itself from the entanglement of grief. So many of us feel your loss. This was definitely a step in the right direction. I’m so happy for you.


Kim March 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm


I have had the pleasure of witnessing you on stage several times. Glad to know you are sharing your acting talent once again. Would enjoy seeing you act in the next production. Anything planned yet? Happy Springtime (almost)!


Ernie McCray March 18, 2010 at 8:54 am

Nothing planned yet.


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