Great accomplishments are often measured by awards, accolades, finances or followers. Ask any athlete competing for fame and fortune at any level and you will find training as well as commitment. The arts have long been considered a frivolous pastime, a hobby, a luxury, but in the Biblical sense, they are a necessary part of honoring and pleasing God — an intimate communication with the Great Creator. Ed “Tiger” Verdin did not set out to be an actor, director or playwright, it just came naturally. God gave him a gift, a love and passion to tell stories. This is his journey.
Were you involved with theater at Franklin Senior High?
It’s funny how it started. I was a shy child, deathly shy, and my best friend (the late) Tyra Yarber was a year older than me. He called asking me to help him direct the lights for a show. I became interested climbing the (light rigging) trees. It was fun. That started me on the technical side of theater. Mrs. Diane Wiltz, who was my theater director at Franklin High, was the reason why I started acting. She saw something in me, that “it” factor. She told me, “I’m going to get you on stage” and I said “No ma’am you’re not.” My junior year I decided to take her speech and drama class. She was passing out scripts with the role or stage crew assignment at the top. When I turned it around, knowing it would say lighting tech, I saw a name, the lead. Obviously she had given me the wrong script for “Up the Down Staircase.” She said, “no” and “it’s for a grade,” then walked away. Of course I was a ball of nerves, way outside my comfort zone. Opening night at the beginning of the show I ran through the crowd and the moment I reached the stage, turned around and the lights hit me, that was the day the love of theater came into my life. All the shyness I had for 16 years went away. The theater bug bit me and she hasn’t been able to get me off stage since.
Did you go back to tech?
I did tech for shows, but if there was a role, I was in it. Fast forward to today, I never thought arts would be my life. I had dreams of being an attorney, which is really just an actor when you think about it. I went to UL and said I’d never come back to Franklin, pretty much like every hometown person does. We think the grass is greener elsewhere. When they opened the Teche Theater, Tyra called, and said, “We want you to play Bob Cratchit (in A Christmas Carol).” I didn’t audition, they just gave me the role. I did the role and the theater bug bit again. Then Tyra, Mrs. Wiltz and I did “Driving Miss Daisy,” — my theater family — I’ll take that show with me to the grave — my two theater mentors and me. After the next show they asked me to join the board.
What was your career then?
I was a paralegal in Lafayette. Fast forward we decided to move back to Franklin. I became enthralled with theater. We’re now in our 19th season. I have four children and they are all involved. We’re a theater family. We reprised “A Christmas Carol” and I played Bob Cratchit. My youngest son played Tiny Tim, my wife played Mrs. Cratchit, my oldest son played young Scrooge, my middle son played a Cratchit child and the baby, who was 6 months at the time, played a Cratchit child. It was a family affair. I loved raising them inside that theater. They help paint, clean, fix chairs, help sell concession. Not just teaching them theater, but community pride and volunteerism, being part of the community. I hope out of everything I ever tried to teach them, I hope that’s what they take away, being part of the fabric and the quality of life of Franklin and Acadiana. I hope that’s what they take away.
Were you raised to have the level of faith you have now?
My mother and father had a good faith life, but it wasn’t pushed on us. When I was able to say, no I’m not going to church this weekend, they didn’t fight me on it. They thought we’d make our way. Through high school and college, I didn’t step foot in a church. Then when I met my wife, she invited me to church. I was in a sense, jealous of her relationship with God at the time.
Then, you know those things that we don’t understand, or question what happened? They are life changing moments — then God shows you, if you’re paying attention. I’ve tried to make my own way many times. When you finally stop and say why am I trying, I should let God try, let God “do,” he puts people in your life for a reason. We’re all interconnected. There were times when things happen we question and people you haven’t spoken to in years call. You go “Wow!” You start to learn to sit back and let it happen, not try to make your own way. Let Him bring those people into your life. Looking back at my career and now being a nationally recognized playwright — I don’t say that much — because I feel God wrote my first play, “Undying Love.” That’s the story of a husband and wife caught in one of the towers during 9/11.
Was that your first script?
I was actually writing a musical, which I’m not necessarily a musical fan. My first love is drama. Only because I feel it is easy to make people laugh, but it is harder to make people feel emotions such as anger, sympathy and sadness, you know. That’s something Samuel French and the Dramatist Guild said I have a knack for, to pen deep dramas. That’s why I was accepted into the Dramatist Guild.
How did you become aware of the Dramatist Guild?
It’s actually strange. I produced “Undying Love” at the Teche Theater in September 2015. Because I know marketing and PR, I marketed on Twitter and Facebook. They look — they wanted to know who had the royalty. (Samuel French) is a royalty company. They wanted to make sure it was available, or did I pay the royalty? When they learned I was the playwright, they wanted to know what it was about. Because of the marketing, they enjoyed it. December 2015, I got a call from them wanting to know more. I placed it in their Off-Broadway Festival and came out in the finals. The Dramatist Guild expects you to submit plays, so I’ve kept writing. In their day, Rogers and Hammerstein, Steven Sondheim were members of the Dramatist Guild, even on the board. They decide if you get in.
What is the best part of theater arts for you?
Working with kids, even my own kids through the arts, is my passion. The hundreds and hundreds of kids I’ve mentored on that stage, inside that building, means a lot to me. Especially now, many of them are grown and have kids of their own. We have those special memories together. I call them my theater kids. Who’d have thought a theater educator and a shy little boy would go on to tell this special story, and that our relationship is still strong today.