By Michael Buhler
Megan Fuqua got the surprise of her life on Friday, April 12.
The Goddard High School student, who played Hero in the school’s performance of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, was performing in a dance in the final scene of the play when Josh Gomm, who played Beatrice’s on-stage husband Claudio, said, “How would you like to dance with your hero?”
That’s when her father, Mitch Fuqua, walked out on stage as he returned from a deployment in the Middle East, surprising his daughter and leaving her shedding tears of joy.
“I was so happy,” Megan said through tears. “I was glad he got back.”
Mitch was also proud of his daughter, who he got to watch perform from offstage.
“First of all, this isn’t her usual element,” Mitch said. “She just likes to stick in the background. I got to actually see the whole thing. I was very impressed. It was good to see her step out of her comfort zone.”
Mitch, who has been deployed in Qatar for the last six months as a technical sergeant in the United States Air Force, was not even sure he was going to make it back to Goddard at first.
“Right up to the beginning of (last) week, we didn’t think I was going to make it,” Mitch said. “Then I told my wife that I was going to be able to make it, and she had to do all of the groundwork. It was her and Josh and (GHS drama teacher Jamie) Oettle that set everything up and had it all planned out. That little piece at the end there I think was Josh’s idea.”
However, Mitch wanted his return to surprise his daughter from the start.
“That part we had agreed on,” Mitch said. “When the first discussion came up, before we found out that I might not make it, that was kind of how we wanted to do it, only they tied it in better. We were just thinking that we were going to do it when they gave the flowers to the performers. I was just going to present flowers to her. But the way they did it was way better.”
Gomm got the idea to surprise his co-star when he was chatting with a friend earlier last week.
“I was driving Arianna to school the other day, and she told me that she had to tell someone this,”
Gomm said. “She explained to me that Megan’s dad was coming home from being deployed. So I had the idea of bringing him up on stage at the end. We talked to Mrs. Oettle and set it up. I even came up with the cue line and everything. It was an honor being able to bring a soldier home to his family.”
Oettle found out about the surprise the day before last Friday’s performance.
“Last Thursday, I had two students come to me and explain to me he was coming home,” Oettle said.
“We kind of threw it all together, so it just worked out.”
But keeping it a secret was not easy.
“It was hard to keep it a secret,” Oettle said. “I’m not a great secret keeper and this was such a great secret. I let the administration know and they wanted to make sure our district knew. And that was about it – other than that, we just kept it under wraps for two days.”
Gomm got the idea to add the cue line at the end of the play, which he knew would throw his castmates a curveball, but one that would be worth it.
“It was pretty hard, but I knew it would definitely be worth it when I saw her face when he came out on stage,” Gomm said. “I knew everyone was going to hate me and be like, ‘What are you doing? This isn’t
in the script,’ but then they’d see him and be like, ‘Ohhhh.’”
And ohhhh, it definitely was worth it.
“You can’t put it in words,” Mitch said. “I’ve seen my friends do it, but to actually get to do it was great.”
Like Megan’s father, Gomm was thrilled to be a part of the moment.
“It’s not really manly to admit, but I cried,” Gomm said. “My dad travels, but not for more than two weeks at a time. Not seeing a family member for eight months has got to be hard. A reaction like that, you just cant explain it.
“It was a very amazing moment. I am extremely happy to be a part of it.”
Added Oettle: “I’d do it over and over again. I couldn’t have directed a better moment.”
What is even nicer is that Mitch is home for good – no more deployments overseas.
“I’m so happy he’s back,” Megan said, overjoyed.
Megan Fuqua reacts after being surprised by her father, Mitch. See video at tsnews.com.