It seems that it is that time of year as we approach the winter that I am reminded of the passing of the seasons.
How I view that passage has changed over the many years, especially now that I am in the near winter of my own life. And I have been around long enough to wax nostalgic about it.
Today I want to acknowledge that which has passed and that which is new for Old Town Playhouse.
Recently, we have lost two friends of the Playhouse.
One, Bart Ingraham, was a long-time performer and friend to many. He left us far too soon. I will miss his rich baritone keeping me on pitch.
The other was Bev Attwood, an icon of the Playhouse. Bev was the Grand Dame of the Playhouse through many of my earlier years at the OTP. She arrived in a whirlwind as we began doing musicals in the early ‘70s and lit up the musical stage for decades after as a performer and director.
She performed in many shows,but she will always be remembered for her portrayals of some of the most iconic roles in musical theater: Auntie Mame in “Mame,” Mamma Rose in “Gypsy” and Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly.” She also was a consummate director of Golden Age musicals: “Anything Goes” and “42nd Street” stand out.
She and husband Vern were instrumental in securing the OTP home on Eighth Street as well. Hall of Famers both. Though they left active participation 25 years ago, her larger than life mezzo-soprano still rings out in the theater and will for years to come.
Now, though, we ring in the new. Any community theater knows how quickly things change as one group of show people are supplanted by another group.
Within five to seven years there is almost always a complete turnover except for those whose commitment goes above and beyond.
One of those people arrived in the early ‘00s as a student in the Young Company, and has been a dedicated volunteer and employee ever since.
Melissa May first appeared on the scene in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” with the Young Company (then called TCCT). She took classes in musical theater. In 2009 she appeared in the OTP production of “Cats.” Despite her performance work, it was her dance skills that the OTP took note of first.
Having been dancing since the age of 2, it was her ability to effectively teach dance that brought her into teaching with the Young Company and the newly established Musical Theater training program developed by Education Director Mychelle Hopkins. Melissa was hired to teach and choreograph for the YC, eventually directing many of their shows as well.
Her skill extended far beyond teaching. For OTP she has done it all from custodial to administrative to box office, acquitting herself admirably every step of the way. As Mychelle Hopkins moved toward retirement, it became clear the most logical person to take her place was Melissa. So recently, she joined the full-time ranks here at OTP, and like all of us wears many hats.
Melissa is currently the Education Program Manager for OTP. As such she oversees the future of the YC. She is also our resident social media guru, staff liaison to our Volunteer Committee, and a regular box office assistant (as time permits). Melissa brings an uncompromising level of determination and energy to all the facets of her work. She is responsible for developing the YC online class structure that is serving many members of the community so well. We hope all will get to know this talented young woman as she makes her presence felt at OTP and within the community. It’s good to know the Playhouse continues to be held in capable and caring hands. Currently she is directing a Holiday Cabaret that we expect to stream live on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.