When Clara Sue Arnsdorff, 73, moved to Bellevue with her Air Force family (husband Gordon, son John, and daughter Susan) in the late ’70s, many things in what seemed like just another short-term assignment turned out to be key ingredients for a sweet life.
“The Air Force sent my husband’s whole unit here in 1977, and we have been here ever since,” Arnsdorff says. “We loved the area. Good schools, kids were settled nicely, so we stayed until my husband retired. Both kids attended Hastings College and got excellent educations. All because we moved here.”
It’s funny how helping out becomes habitual for some folks. When the Arnsdorff family was still new to Bellevue, it was the younger members who set the stage for their mom’s backstage life promoting the Bellevue Little Theatre.
“I blame that on our kids. When they were 7 and 9, there was an open audition at the Bellevue Little Theater for the first of a series of family shows to be done there, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’” Arnsdorff says. “Both kids auditioned, and our daughter was chosen. I had absolutely no idea that some 35 years later I would still be so involved.”
The next year, Arnsdorff’s son John, then age 10, was cast in “Oliver,” then “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
“The list continued for some time. I guess I became a familiar face down there. When the publicity person moved on, I was asked to take over the job,” Arnsdorff recalls wistfully about the amount of time and effort that went into spreading the word in the ’80s. “Back then, all the info had to be mailed to the newspapers, radio, and TV stations, and I used our old Apple to type that up, print it, and mail it.”
It didn’t take long for Arnsdorff to become a permanent part of the Bellevue Little Theatre team.
“After a couple of years, I was asked to be on the board of directors, and I have been active there ever since,” Arnsdorff says. “I have been corresponding secretary for about the last 10 years…and I must say that the job actually involves much more than ‘corresponding.’”
As co-chair of the play and director selection committee, Arnsdorff is tasked with reading and selecting the plays and musicals to be staged at the Bellevue Little Theatre. She even invites the directors for each show.
Arnsdorff says her life in theater has taught her about patience, empathy, and understanding.
“As you get older, I think you appreciate more the everyday struggles of families and working moms. Raising kids is a full time job. I was fortunate that I was a stay-at-home mom, but that luxury is fast disappearing,” Arnsdorff says. “Volunteering has helped me to be more empathetic. It reminds me that we have to be patient with volunteers. It’s hard sometimes. Many expect volunteers to be experts at their jobs, but it doesn’t work like that. We have to share ideas, be ready to admit errors, and move on to make things better. We have to listen, but be open…that is hard.”
Visit bellevuelittletheatre.com for more info.