Stage Right! honors Noble as 'Heart of the Arts' in Greensburg
John Noble's favorite musical is always the one he's watching or participating in at the moment.
Whether he's on stage or in the audience, performances move him so deeply that the moment the music begins, he always gets a lump in his throat, he said.
“When I'm at a show, everyone knows I'm there because I can't hide my happiness,” Noble said.
His true enjoyment of the arts isn't what sets him apart.
His unwavering support of the arts isn't it either.
His encouragement for students' involvement in the arts comes close.
When you combine them all, however, Stage Right! knew it didn't have to look very far for the recipient of its first Heart of the Arts award.
“He's the go-to guy in the community. We know we can always count on him,” said Christine Orosz, executive director of the nonprofit Stage Right!, which she founded in 1998.
The performing arts school and professional theater company will embark on its 15th year by honoring Noble and searching for new space in Greensburg's Cultural District.
By the end of March it will be leaving its location at 100 N. Main St., where S&T Bank will move. Its shows are presented in other venues, like the Palace Theatre, the stage at St. Clair Park, the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center and area schools for its “Books Come Alive” program. Classes will continue, the group reported on its website.
Roughly 200 students, ranging in age from 4 to 18 years old, will go through Stage Right! during the school year.
It will hold the Heart of the Arts Gala on Feb. 2 at the Latrobe County Club. Plans call for it to become an annual event.
Tony Marino, artistic director at Stage Right!, said in planning this signature event, the organization wanted to thank someone who has helped them over the last 15 years.
The only person that came to mind over and over again was John Noble.
“Anything John takes part in, he goes all in,” Marino said. “He truly believes it's important for children and youth to experience the arts, which ensures the health of the next generation of art appreciators. We need more people like John Noble to support the arts in the ways that he does.”
One of those ways is through “Westmoreland Night of the Stars,” which Noble founded to showcase high school and homeschool students' plays every May at the Palace Theatre . It has awarded more than $100,000 to local high school musical theater programs.
Orosz said Noble frequently comes to rehearsals to watch students perform.
“You watch his face and he loves what these kids are doing,” she said. “He nurtures them; he's the consummate cheerleader for all those kids.”
Noble, 56, grew up in DuBois. He liked to sing but only when no one was around.
“When I was five, I watched ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' and nothing was the same after that,” he said. “I fell in love.”
He'd sing in the car to Frank Sinatra, sing when he was cutting the grass, and his mother would have him and his sisters sing while she played the piano for party guests.
Noble said he was so incredibly shy, he would close his eyes tightly while he sang — to disappear.
It wasn't until he was 35, at the encouragement of his brother-in-law that Noble auditioned and was cast in his first play as Captain Georg von Trapp in the “Sound of Music.”
With only a few performances under his belt, the Greensburg Civic Theater then called upon him in 1994 to star in a performance of “The King and I” at the Palace.
“I was finally able to leave the audience and join the fun,” he said.
But Noble had never seen the “King and I”, so he watched the movie before he accepted the part.
“We didn't have DVDs or YouTube,” said Noble, who starred last month as Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in the production of “Annie.”
“We'd have to wait for it to come on TV — ‘The Wizard of Oz,' ‘Peter Pan,' ‘Singing in the Rain' – I'd watch them all and sing at the top of my lungs.”
Noble said none of his path happened by design, but it all worked out in spite of himself. His career as a mediation lawyer also falls along those lines.
For Noble, being a trial attorney for 25 years was another ‘show' in and of itself when performing for a jury. But for the last six years, he's been a full-time mediator.
“That wasn't by design either, it kind of found me, but I found I was successful at it,” he said.
He does admit that he may have had a hand in his children's interest in music.
One daughter is an understudy for a Broadway musical in New York, his son has toured with the Civic Light Opera and another son is an expert guitar player.
“My kids didn't have a choice, we would always play ‘name that tune' and sing songs when I bathed them,” he said. “Now they're making a living out of it.
“I feel really blessed that I found something that I love so much and am so passionate about ever since I was five,” he said. “To be publicly honored for something I love to do is very moving.”
Michele Stewardson is a freelance writer.