By Ashley Jayne
Ingham County Chronicle
At 7 p.m. Feb. 20, the curtain rose for the Blue Light Players presentation of “The Music Man,” performed in honor of Ingham County Deputy Grant Whitaker.
The Blue Light Players, according to director and producer Dan Southwell, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its purpose is raising money for the families of police officers who have died or been critically injured in the line of duty. Each year, since its establishment in 2005, the theater group has put on a show in February at the Albert A. White Performing Arts Theater, and donated the proceeds to the family of a specific officer. In 2015, the Feb. 20 and 21 shows were dedicated to Whitaker, and the shows on the following weekend were dedicated to State Trooper Jeffrey Werda.
According to lead actor John Franke, ticket sales were higher for the 2015 show than for any previous Blue Light production.
“I have been in the Blue Light Players for 10 years and the turnout gets better every year,” said Franke. “This is the first year that we have sold into the balcony.”
Southwell wrote in an email that, in addition to the money, the song “Goodnight my Someone” was dedicated to Whitaker’s family during the Feb. 20 show. Two members of the Ingham County Honor Guard presented a red rose to Whitaker’s mother and his fiancé.
For some cast members, according to Southwell, the value of helping these families goes beyond the monetary donation.
“We view these dedications as a celebration of their life and acknowledgement of the ultimate sacrifice these officers made for their communities,” wrote Southwell. “As you may have seen in the show program, a number of the cast members come from law enforcement families.”
Lead actress Paula Sheynerman said the best part of being in the Blue Light Players is the opportunity to help people.
“I don’t have any personal connections to law enforcement,” said Sheynerman. “I just love that art can be a gateway to such a beautiful thing. We can help someone out simply by doing something we love.”