BWW Interview: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER's Pamela Bob Makes Broadway Dreams Come True
A video of two daughters surprising their mother with a ticket to Motown The Musical went viral this past Christmas, especially within New York theatre circles - but no one was quite sure how the family, who had struggled to pay for the ticket, was going to actually get to Broadway.
Pamela Bob, a swing in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, decided to do something about it.
"I had a deep, innate sense that these were good people. People I wanted to know," Pamela told BroadwayWorld. "As an actor who experienced my life long dream come true this past year when I got my first Broadway show... I felt like it was my responsibility, and the theatre community's responsibility as a whole, to pay it forward to the very people who support our dreams."
When Pamela first saw the video of Lysanias, a traveling nurse living in Birmingham, receiving her ticket to Motown, from her daughters, Kwanfari and Afftene, she was struck by the genuine, selfless love between the three women.
"When she said through her tears 'someone was listening', I felt like she was talking right to me," Pamela said. "I can't explain it. After all, isn't that what we all want? To be heard? To matter? I felt so compelled towards these women. I don't know why, but I felt like I knew them."
Pamela and some other members of the Broadway community were concerned about how the family was going to make the trip happen for Lysanias. Pamela told BroadwayWorld that several people were offering backstage tours or meet and greets, but she wasn't sure how Lysanias was going to get to New York at all.
"What I couldn't get over was, if they could only afford one ticket, which happened to be a back row mezzanine seat... how in the world were they ever going to fly her to New York City, or have her stay in a hotel?" Pamela said. "It really weighed on me and I couldn't shake it."
Pamela decided to contact Robin Sindler, producer of The Today Show, with whom she'd hit it off while filming a segment last August. She asked Robin if there was anything they could do for the family.
"I assured her that the entire Broadway community would be behind this, if they wanted to include us, and that this family was absolutely deserving," Pamela said, adding that it did occur to her in that moment that she'd never even met these women. She decided she didn't care - their video was testimony enough.
There was nothing Robin could do, but she pointed Pamela in the direction of The Today Show's "Wishing Well Contest", a new feature that allows viewers to nominate someone who needs help making a dream come true. Pamela nominated the family and, a few weeks later, saw familiar faces on her screen - Lysanias and her daughters had won.
"I... was just as surprised as the rest of the country on Monday morning when the story ran! They found the family!" Pamela said. "After it aired, I immediately called Robin and asked, 'Are they as wonderful as they seem?' to which she responded 'Yes'. My heart soared."
Pamela and Robin worked together to secure hotel rooms, plane tickets, meals, and entertainment for the family starting the very morning the segment aired. "In the first three hours after the first segment aired, we had secured 85 percent of the trip... And you know what? It was easy," she said, adding that several companies, including Rent the Runway Magnolia Bakery, stepped forward to help make the trip a success.
In addition to seeing Motown, Lysanias, Kwanfari, and Afftene also received tickets to see a matinee of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, where Pamela met the three women in person for the first time. "We held each others' hands, and I knew in that moment, that this was meant to have happened, and I was meant to know these people," she said. "This dream of theirs ended up being completely reciprocal in its power. I felt like the lucky one."
The whole experience served as a reminder of the power of theatre for Pamela. "What we do actually matters," she said. "It is a vital part of the human experience, and its power should not be taken lightly. We, as artists, sometimes don't realize how lucky we are in the midsts of our crazy lifestyles. We have the privilege to do this thing that touches people's souls. That is a gift."
Pamela has kept in touch with the family, especially Afftene, the younger of the two sisters. Afftene studied theatre at Duke University and considers herself an aspiring actress and singer. Pamela said she remembers the importance of mentors in her career and believes that the trip was a turning point for Afftene and her own career.
"To my great delight, we have forged friendships and a very special bond that will last for a very long time," Pamela said. "They call me their 'angel', but really, I think they are mine."