Fifth time’s a charm

Nancy Frick, president of the Old Academy Players in East Falls, has waited 15 years for this kind of news.

A play she wrote, Four Weddings and an Elvis, was recently selected to be published by a division of Samuel French Inc., the largest play publisher in the world.

Unfortunately, the news came on one of the worst days of her life.


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Her husband, Mike Gavanus, had just been struck by a car while riding his bike in Phoenixville, shattering three of his ribs.


Gavanus calls it “the infamous day of 10-10-10,” less than four weeks from opening night of Nancy’s play.


“When I saw the hood of that car, I thought my life was pretty much over,” Gavanus said about the accident, with bulging eyes and a contagious smile.


Gavanus was rushed to a hospital in Paoli, where he spent four days in recovery.


While passing time in the hospital lobby, Frick came across the unexpected e-mail from Baker’s Plays, saying it wanted to publish her play and include it in their official catalogue.


To Frick, this type of catalogue is the “Bible of every community theater.”


So the e-mail was wonderful news, but Frick admits that at the time, “I didn’t really process it.”


And her husband “was so out of it, I couldn’t even tell him.”


The devoted wife and play director had other things on her mind.  She had a husband in pain, and a production just weeks away from opening night, which happened to be the same play that just received high recognition.


Oh, and one other little issue: Gavanus had a leading role in the production, which opened on Nov. 5. 


Initially, his chances of bouncing back in time to hit his cues on opening night did not look good.  He was immobilized for two and a half weeks.


After that, though, he dragged himself back to rehearsals, aching ribs and all.


He says the love for the stage and commitment to the cast brought him back.


“You don’t want to let anyone down,” Gavanus said. “I’ve been on the stage with people with 102 degree temperatures, different ailments, surgeries… you have to be like on your death bed not to do a performance.”


Frick modified one scene because it called for quick movement that Gavanus wasn’t able to do.


Gavanus plays Bryce Canon, one of two aging has-been stars seeking new fame. He joins three other couples in their separate quests for a Las Vegas style wedding.


One of the lines has special significance to Frick.  The main character has been married four times and as she prepares to walk down the aisle for the fifth, she says “Fifth time’s a charm.”  Ironically, this is Frick’s fifth show submitted for publication and the first to be selected.


Even before the big news, cast members would say to her ‘This one’s going to be the one’ and ‘The fifth time’s a charm, Nancy!’.


“It’s been a real roller coaster.” Frick said. “It’s been a month of highs and lows and right now we are sailing.”


As for Gavanus, he plans to get back on that bike this spring.


The final productions of “Four Weddings and an Elvis” run through this weekend. Friday and Saturday performances start at 8pm. Sunday’s performance starts at 2pm. Old Academy Players is located at 3540-3544 Indian Queen Lane. Call 215-843-1109 for reservations. For more information, visit

Check out Nancy Frick’s MindMap on NewsWorks.


This video from last year’s production of “You Can’t Take it With You,” is a behind-the-scenes look at the theater where Grace Kelly made her acting debut.  (Gene Ashley/WHYY Videographer)

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