I just discovered that an old teacher of mine, Arden Flom, died in July. God rest his soul. The article in the Herald (and the tributes in the comboxes beneath it) reflect the profound impact Arden had on the lives of a great many people, and I would like to add my voice to them, for what it’s worth.
Arden Flom saved my life. That’s not an overstatement. You know those statistics you read about teen suicide? I came this close to be being one of those statistics in the winter of 1977. I was an American suburban garage band pagan. Unbaptized, without a clue about the gospel, “without hope and with God in the world” as St. Paul puts it. The previous spring I had graduated from high school and, in so doing, had shed the nurturing cocoon of my adolescent friendships. Suddenly, and without warning, I was thrust into an endless round of work (stock clerk at a pharmacy, surrounded by people who disliked me and whom I disliked, all marinated in the endless, tinny drone of late 70s rock like “Dream Weaver” and “Frampton Comes Alive”, the soundtrack they listen to in Hell) and school (sundry classes marinating me in nihlism, relativism, and the Pointlessness of It All). I had not a clue about why I was here, what I was supposed to be doing, or why my life was any more important in the Grand Scheme of Things than that of a housefly. Depression, of the blackest and most overwhelming sort, settled in by February and I was seriously wondering if there was any reason to live.
Things changed, by chance (if chance it be called) when I was invited to go see a production of “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” at the Everett Community College Playhouse on February 25, 1977. I don’t remember a lot of dates in my life, but I remember that one because (as is the way with youth) that was the day that a flame sprang up in my heart as I watched the show and I thought to myself, “I could do that!” The whole evening was wonderful and I came away resolved that, come hell or high water, I would audition for the next show and I would get the best part in the play.
I went to Arden’s office, met with him, and told him I was interested in auditioning. He was very gracious, gave me the information about audition times, and I showed up on the appropriate day. I don’t remember much about the audition itself except that it was fun (he was auditioning for a farce called “Bullshot Crummond” which was a send-up of those British serials from the 30s with the crime-fighting WWI veteran, his somewhat ditzy girlfriend, her father the eccentric scientist, and the bald and monocled German and his femme fatale partner in Evil. The plum role in the show was a part in which one actor played seven supporting roles ranging from the scientist to the hero’s buddy to the snooty waiter to the hunch-backed henchman. It was the role everybody desperately wanted and I was electrified when the call finally came (after hours sitting by the phone) in which Arden told me I had it.
Arden was a great director. Patient, creative, ready to let the actors bring as many ideas as they could to the part (and ready to tell them—gently—when those ideas were not so hot). Over the two years I was with his theatre department I received two great gifts: a basic sense that life was worth living and a joy at the creative process. Those gifts were an excellent seedbed for the supernatural seed of the gospel of hope and I owe it to him that he was the solid driving force of the EvCC theatre department who made it happen for so many years both before and after my time there.
May his soul rest in peace through Christ our Lord. Amen.