There wasn't a dry eye in the house, Saturday night, when Westfield High's Theatre Boosters presented the "Remembering Reema Cabaret” in the school theater.
Current students, staff and alumni — many of whom drove long hours from out-of-state — gathered to perform a series of songs, scenes and reflections honoring Reema's dancing and acting talents and her joyous spirit.
Just 18 and a 2006 Westfield grad, she was one of the shining stars of Westfield Theatre — and also a victim of the Virginia Tech tragedy. So UVA student Kevin Knickerbocker, who acted with Reema at Westfield, came up with the concept for the show; and his mom, Lori, produced and directed it.
"WE'D PLANNED a Broadway cabaret for that night but, after April 16, none of us had the heart to put it together," she explained. "And we wanted to involve the alumni because Reema was friends with so many of them."
All proceeds raised will fund an endowed scholarship in Reema’s name within the Westfield Theatre Boosters scholarship program. To donate, send checks payable to Westfield High School Theatre Boosters, 4700 Stonecroft Blvd., Chantilly, VA 20120 and write “Reema Samaha” in the memo line.
Students performed scenes and songs from Westfield plays and musicals she'd been in, including "Godspell," "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Oklahoma." And her parents, Joe and Mona Samaha, generously provided family photos of Reema that were shown to the packed theater on a large screen.
But most impressive were the many original songs, poems and dances her classmates wrote and performed for her. And as they did, they did so with heavy hearts and eyes full of tears. And sometime, the tears overflowed; but they regained their composure and carried on for their friend.
Senior Elizabeth Reed also gave a remembrance of Westfield's other Virginia Tech victim, Erin Peterson. She said Erin and Reema had walked into French class together on April 16, so she knew they were still together, having a "dance party in heaven."
Jim Mitchell, himself an actor and the father of two Westfield Theater grads, Pat and Tara, told Reema's parents, "Joe and Mona, you helped this whole community with your strength and grace, and we thank you for that." Mitchell then sang a Welsh lullaby, in Welsh, saying, "If I sing it in English, it'll make me cry."
THEN WESTFIELD Theater Director Scott Pafumi read a paper in which Reema had written her reflections of her four years in the theater department. He'd given her an "A" on it and found it right before Saturday's program began.
She wrote about "knowing that dreams become reality and there's hope for the future." And she said how much she loved being a part of Westfield Theater. "I feel so nourished and cultured," she wrote.
Reema told how proud she was to get the lead in "Arsenic and Old Lace" and to be named dance captain for "Oklahoma." She said she made many friends in theater and that her experiences in it showed her the possibilities she had.
And to Pafumi she wrote: "I shall be going on to Virginia Tech, your alma mater. Theater will continue to live on in me, no matter what may come, and I thank you for that."
Pafumi then performed a song he wrote especially for Reema, called "Cloud to Cloud." Referring to her, he wrote, "All the angels are joyous now ... as she teaches them to dance from cloud to cloud."