On the last night of the performance of Miracle on 34th St. something very special happened.
Let me start with a little background. We were having a surprise birthday dinner for Paula, Paul's mother at Mikatas restaurant. A lady that worked at the Macon Little Theater saw dad with his long white hair and beard and asked him to audition for the roll of Santa Clause. Lewis Chapman, my dad, was asked to play a role of Santa in Miracle on 34th Street for the Macon Little Theatre.
My dad had never acted a day in his life so this was very unusual for him. On the other hand my mother Barbara Chapman was in the drama club in high school. She never professionally acted, but acted her entire life. Lewis always supported Barbara in whatever she wanted to do. I guess you could say Barbara was in the spotlight and Lewis was the big strong man behind the scenes. Lewis has always been the big strong and tough guy so for him to play Santa, well....
Playing Santa didn't come easy, it became a family affair. Grant you, Lewis had the hardest job learning all those lines, not truly sure how he did it. But his kids kicked in also. Donyal nearly remade the Santa suit fitting him perfectly, and gave him a place to stay while in Macon. Steven loaned him a trench-coat to make his look complete. Donyal shopped for bunny slippers, a hat and I found a cane. Keep in mind Santa had 6 wardrobe changes in the play - Yes 6. With that many wardrobe changes some assistance was needed.
For the entire play and dress rehearsals either Donyal or I were there to assist every night. That allowed us the opportunity to see Santa in action. Most nights he was spot on, one night he was a little off but every night he gave it his all. Staff and directors of Miracle on 34th Street were more than patient and understanding as Dad started his first time acting debut. Every night the scenes were a little bit different but the story was always the same. Santa Claus believed in fairness, happiness, kindness and love to all, even for the Yankees.
On the last night of performance as I turned to go back into the dressing room, for just a brief minute I thought I saw my mother, Barbara. It nearly took my breath away. As I look back on that night I do realize one thing - I believe she was there every night supporting, cheering, and smiling as dad gave the Performances of a lifetime. I just think that was the only night I really got to see her. Happy birthday Mom we all miss you. 2/6/39-2/7/93 Photo Taken December 20, 1968 at Charlie Thomas Chapman's house (Our PaPa) — with Donyal Chapman Tripp and 2 others.