Thursday, August 21, 2014

To all the theater men I've loved before

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Theater and men.

They go together for me like shrimp and grits, like wine and cheese, like Baby Jane and Blanche. I even met my husband through the theater.

So indulge me while I take a trip down Theater Memory Lane.

Today, in honor of Throw Back Thursday, I want to acknowledge just a few of the exceptional men I have had the privilege to know and love because of theater.


Ok, so my brother Ray and I have not done theater together since becoming adults. But I had to include him, because he was my first partner in drama, on stage and off. And he's a much better singer than me.

I met Robin during my first production in Charleston in 1989. Our rehearsals were interrupted by a rude guy named Hurricane Hugo, and our production of "Annie" was postponed due to a ruined theater. But it all worked out - we had an extended run at the Dock Street and it gave me more time to know this fabulous guy. A guy who became my mentor, roommate, knitting instructor, decorator, acting coach, and friend for life. He also introduced me to the man I ended up marrying, whom I kissed at the party where this picture was taken. Win-Win!



Richard was my first director in Charleston during "Annie" in 1989. I was blessed to have him direct me again for my "comeback" in 2012 as Miss Hannigan in - you guessed it - "Annie." In 1989, I knew him as a big deal director who had worked with Bob Fosse. These days, I know him as my brother-in-law. He's still a big deal.

I went on to perform in numerous musicals and comedies. I don't have pictures of all of them. Some names have escaped me. But here are a few who remain stuck in my memory as well as my photo album.


Ty - Floral genius, beautiful curly hair,  and one of the nicest people I've ever met.

Marvin - Pro-bono attorney, a generous man who works hard for the less fortunate, a complete crack-up on stage. Thanks to him (and this play "Egad! What a Cad") I will never again hear the word "arouse" without laughing.

Marty - All around bad boy and a perfect villain. We didn't stay close, but we did two shows together and well, some people just stick with you. Besides, I love this picture.


Ah, Godspell! What a show! Stringing Jesus up on an oil derrick and dressing up like a tattered saloon singer! So many memories, so many men - Dutchboy Dennis, Bruce, Larry, Frank, David, the cowboy whose name I can't remember, and of course Robin. During this show, I caught the eye of an audience member who turned to his friend and said, "Man, I gotta meet that girl!" Later he married me. Stalking isn't always a bad thing.

And then there are my Chopstick Theater men. For a few years I was privileged to work professionally in theater. Meaning that's all I did and I got paid for it. Yesssss.


These two guys, Steve and Mark, were and are dear to me. Steve was the one who invited me to join his company. Mark came down from New York to work with us and never left. They have been inseparable ever since. When I left the company, they directed my wedding together. Their wedding gift was a green satin 1950's coat I wore as Margaret Mitchell in a street performance. I still have it. And hopefully I still have their big hearts.

This is from a school tour in North Carolina and Virginia with Mark, Dick, and our beloved Michael. Dick is the most amazingly generous person I've ever known, a teacher extraordinaire. Michael played the flute at my wedding. I can still hear his big bass voice in my ear, followed by the most ridiculously high pitched laughter ever to come from a tall black man with braids. He left us far too early and I still miss him.

Tripp always lived up to his name, as we never knew exactly what he was going to wear or say or do or construct as a stage. But somehow it always worked. He played an Indian warrior to my tempting colonial preacher's daughter; my character was pretty lewd and I was always thankful I could trust Tripp not to laugh or take me too seriously. Thanks to his A/V expertise, I also have an excellent wedding video. Thanks, Tripp, wherever you are.

Standing with Dick are Keith, Tom and Nate. As you can see, they like to pose, eat, and goof off. While Dick is still teaching in dear old Charleston, Tom teaches drama in Indonesia while Nate teaches in China. I'm not sure what Keith is up to. Probably trouble... :)

Bradley is funny, smart, and talented, a true Renaissance man and loving husband and father of two amazing kiddos. Like me, he left theater for a long time but has started to dabble again now that the kids are older and he has the spouse's permission. We are all better off for his dabbling.


And then there is Hunter. What can I say? Hunter is the most hilarious person I've ever known. He is also the most talented. On stage, he gives it everything he's got, and that's a lot. Off stage, he'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He's a generous soul who thinks deep thoughts while keeping everyone in stitches. Hunter, I salute you....ffffrt!


The late Robert Ivey, Bob to his friends. In his production of "The Sound of Music" at the Charleston JCC, I played Mother Superior to a bevy of Jewish nuns. And I had the time of my life. It's the only time Bob and I ever worked together, but he was the one who looked at the new guy I was dating, some guy named Morgan, and said, "So, when are you getting married." Affirmation from your friends is a wonderful thing.

That was my last show for many, many years. In 2011, I did a few children's shows at the request of a friend. I was scared but it turned out to be more fun than I had expected. If I had pictures from then I would share them, but unfortunately I don't.

Then I was asked to play the role of Miss Hannigan in "Annie." I didn't want to get pulled back into theater. I was mostly terrified that I had lost whatever small talent I ever had. But....how do you turn down an opportunity to play Miss Hannigan? So I did it. It was a  good decision. I had the chance to work with many wonderful people, including some of my old cohorts. I got to meet a lot of new people, too numerous to name.


I got to work with this Bubba guy. He might look familiar. He played a well-loved character on the hit TV show Army Wives. Across the nation people wept when he was tragically killed off. But you can't keep a good bubba down. As my bubba, his Rooster met my Hannigan with playfulness and energy to spare. Off stage, he was very quiet but onstage he brought 110% every time. After every show, he and his band played in bars until the wee hours. Me? As his much older sister, this girl went to bed!


And at long last, I got to work with this guy. Even though we met because of theater, this was the first time he had been cast in a play and the first time we had ever been onstage together. He started off playing one small role, then ended up playing 5 roles in just about every scene! If Shakespeare was right and all the world's a stage, I'm so happy that I get to play with my leading man for life!


A recent addition to the list is Bryan. I met him this year during "Evita." He is funny and excellent and a delight to work with. He mentored my 12 year old daughter who worked backstage for the first time on a mainstage production. She learned so well that he insisted on having her back for two more productions. When I saw him sitting in Evita's wheelchair and quipped, "But you are, Blanche...you ARE in that wheelchair!" he immediately knew the movie I was quoting. Any guy who can inspire my child and recognize Bette Davis movie quotes is an A+ in my book.

There are a few guys I haven't mentioned, like Paul and Chris, John and Stan, Andre and William. That's only because I don't have pictures. But know I love ya just the same....and who knows, one day you might get your own post!

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