Category Archives: Tributes

Moonlighting Math Teachers

Guest blog by Hans Boeschen
Director of The Buddy Holly Story

In 2011, three years after moving to Columbia from Nebraska, I walked into my first ever community theatre audition. I had been involved in school productions since the second grade, was just shy of a minor in theatre, and had, at that time, been teaching high school theatre for three years. I had never tread the boards in a community production, however. That first audition, almost eight years ago, would change my life.

That was when I met Lou. Boeschens

Since that time, either Lou or I have been involved with 25 productions ~ on the stage or on the production team. (I am well aware of Lou’s extensive involvement in Columbia community theatre long before we met. I will forever be trying to catch up.) In seven of these 25 shows, we were lucky enough to be working together.

This production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is not only my first time directing for Town Theatre, but it is also the first time Lou and I have joined up as director/musical director. It has been such a joy to have Lou by my side throughout the process. Many times our dinner conversation has been about the show. To be able to ask her about a directing choice or work through a transition has been such a wonderful resource. She has been my biggest supporter, my rock, and my sounding board (pun intended). Not to mention, she is an amazing musical director.

I believe the true power of the theatre is in the connections it builds. Whether those connections be amongst the cast working together for months, the audience who see the raw emotions of each actor, or within the community at large as we examine what life is about through the stage, theatre unites us. I consider myself extremely lucky that the theatre brought Lou and me together and that I get to be a part of such a vibrant community theatre environment.

I am continually thankful for Town for providing a safe space for two math teachers to moonlight as thespians.

My Kind of Town ~ Gabe Flores

gfloresheadshot“My only performance with Town Theatre was as Jerry, the drummer for The Crickets in Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story during the 2008-2009 season. This was a pivotal moment in my life and, looking back, I can see how that time was so formative. Having extensive performance experience in the rock and roll and marching band worlds, I had a minor interest in live theatre. On a whim, I decided to show up to an audition and try something new. I decided to audition for the drummer and rest, as they say, is history.

In a previous life, I was dragged to the theatre unwillingly. I begrudgingly sat with arms crossed and barely allowed myself to enjoy the show. During my brief residence in South Carolina, I had a hard time finding a home or community to call my own. Little did
I know it was going to be in the theatre. My fondest experience of Town Theatre was realizing I was part of something wildly different than I had ever expected. One of my favorite memories of our show was the first time I was told we were sold out. To me, that validated my choice to spend time in the theatre. Another memorable time was finishing the show to a standing ovation that lasted long after the curtain had dropped. It only got louder when we returned for the curtain call.

After returning to my native Florida, theatre became a borderline obsession. I spent years as a theatre reviewer and used that time to “educate” myself about all types of shows. I have since directed multiple plays and musicals for schools and theatre festivals. I also
started writing my own plays and eventually wrote a musical. Shows I have been associated with as director, playwright, composer, musical director, actor and stage manager have been seen in New York, Florida and Kansas City.

My time at Town reinforced my drive and desire to work in collaboration. It also taught me the magic of the theatre. Many of life’s problems can be solved, or at least examined, in some sort of way by the theatre. Whether it’s a series of solving problems, relating to strangers with similar interests or just turning off the world for a couple of hours, these are skills I learned in the theatre. I now put art and passion first. Thanks to my time at Town Theatre, I live a very fulfilling life. I look forward to an opportunity to return and repay my debt someday, somehow.”crickets

Reflections on West Side Story – Take Three

Editor’s Note: In our current production of West Side Story – we have three “veterans” of Town’s 1998 production. David Swicegood (Director) and Tom Baldwin (Doc) penned their thoughts earlier in the series. TAKE THREE is courtesy of Kerri Roberts who is playing the role of Maria. 

In the summer of 1998 I was 21 years old, preparing to start my senior year of college, and engaged to be married. I was privileged to study voice at Columbia College with the incomparable Lanny Palmer, who encouraged me to go and audition for West Side Story at Town Theatre. I was not a Columbia native and had not been involved in any theatre outside of Columbia College where I was active in opera, and Columbia Classical Ballet where I danced for four years during college. I had absolutely no idea about the community theatre scene in Columbia. I remember being so nervous about auditioning, but so excited about the potential of doing something new. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the audition process except the director, David Swicegood saying to me, “I’m SO glad you could sing!” I immediately felt welcomed and right at home in that little old theatre! It’s been that way ever since.

I genuinely have no negative memories associated with the 1998 production. It was, in fact,  truly ground-breaking in my life. I had been a singer. I had been a ballerina. I had been in operatic productions. For me, West Side Story was the first time that I experienced the thrill of doing all the things I loved – singing, dancing and acting – all in one medium.  I came alive with it! That was when I first discovered my passion for musical theatre. David was such an easy, kind, inspiring director, who truly loved what he was doing, and the environment of the show was always positive in my memory. I remember the week of intense choreography sessions when Maurice Brandon Curry came to teach us the whole show! Maria doesn’t dance all that much, but it was still so fun to learn from Maurice and to watch the rest of the cast, many of whom would not have called themselves dancers, come together and nail these iconic dances! Christopher McCroskey was our music director and working with him was also a pleasure. This production team, along with Janet Kile as the costumer, worked together so well to create a show that was truly a joy to be a part of. I felt nothing but encouragement!

For sure, the best part of West Side Story 1998 was the people. David, Christopher, and Janet are all still very dear to me and I treasure any chance I get to see them and/or work with them. Brian Childers was so talented and such an easy stage partner as Tony. It has been so great to watch him go on to have a successful career! That was when I met Shannon Scruggs, who has become a friend, a director and a colleague for whom I am very grateful! Agnes Babb and Lou Boeschen are also “Town family” that I first met in West Side Story! I have such fond (and funny) memories as stories of all the Jet and Shark guys and girls, some of whom actually came to my wedding a few months after this show closed. I’ll never forget the connection with Robby Sweet (Chino) during the last scene of the show and the tears in his eyes almost every time.

When I learned that Debra Bricker Brewer would play the role of Anita, I remember feeling very intimidated. She had been a ballet teacher, known for her sharpness and demand for excellence. But she embraced me as a sister rather than a student and we had the best time playing these roles together. She killed it as Anita! We still squeal out “Querida!!!” whenever we see each other!

Tom Baldwin was just as precious as Doc the first time around. And although Maria and Doc are only ever on stage together in the very last scene, Tom was always encouraging to me and kind. He only ever called me Maria after that! Who would have thought that 20 years later we would serve the same church in worship each week and be getting to reprise our roles in West Side Story 2018?! The first time he was technically too young to play Doc and this time I am technically too old to play Maria, but we’re making it work!

Will and KerriOf course, I could never leave out Will Moreau.  West Side Story 1998 was also his first show at Town Theatre, so we were “newbies” together.  Will played the role of Bernardo, Maria’s protective older brother. He was much more experienced and mature in his craft than I was, but he quickly came alongside me and encouraged me.  He saw my potential and never missed an opportunity to tell me what he thought about it.  After this show, we didn’t work together in the theatre for 18 years! BUT we reconnected through the world of social media while my family was living on the mission field in Zambia, Africa. I didn’t know that much about Will and his personal passion and work in 1998. But I got to know him over the years by watching and reading about his life online! And he did the same with me.  We developed a true respect and affection for one another over the years.

When I came back to the States and got reconnected with my theatre family at Town, Will was one of the people I was most excited to see! Everyone loved being around Will! We would chat whenever we would see each other around the theatre. Then when the audition announcement came out for My Fair Lady we giddily talked about auditioning! He was SO excited about the possibility of playing the role of Alfred P. Doolittle, as was I about playing the dream role of Eliza Doolittle! The day that we got the call offering us the roles of Alfred and Eliza we both happened to be at the theatre.  Will came running to the lobby to find me and we hugged and jumped around squealing! I will always treasure having that show together. It gave us the opportunity to spend time talking about life and faith over coffee, to play family again on stage (however dysfunctional), and to share in the comradery of a fantastic cast.

Last fall, just a couple of weeks after Will had actually gone to share about Native American culture with my youngest daughter’s class, we lost him so suddenly. One of the kindest, most genuinely loving people I’ve never known. I am grateful to have called him a friend. To have played his daughter on stage, but first to have played his little sister back in 1998. Thank you West Side Story for not only being a catalyst for discussions on love, racism, bigotry and violence but also for being the place in my own life where passions and treasured relationships were born! I’m so grateful!

REFLECTIONS ON WEST SIDE STORY – TAKE TWO

Editor’s Note: In our current production of West Side Story – we have three “veterans” of Town’s 1998 production. David Swicegood (Director) penned his thoughts earlier this week. TAKE TWO is courtesy of the one and only Doc, Tom Baldwin. 

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Tom Baldwin as Doc, 2018. PC: Go Flash Win.

Doc’s Memories of 1998:

West Side Story (1998) was my first show at Town Theatre after an eight-year absence. I had just played Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Workshop the year before and was just starting to get the “theatre bug” again. I remember going to the open audition where I sang my eight bars (of something) and tried to dance. Jennifer Austin (who became a lovely friend) was the dance captain. She started giving out a lot of dance commands to a lot of experienced dancers (and me) and, needless to say to anyone who knows me…I didn’t shine. Well, the cast was going to be doing Maurice Curry’s choreography so, as also holds true for Joy’s current wonderful choreography, they were going to need some pretty good dancers. That’s the kind of show it is. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew I was in over my head. I had made a pretty good Freddie Eynsford-Hill, i.e. sings pretty but don’t move too much, but I knew I was no Tony. And, I was 40. What was I thinking?! All I knew was that there were all of those great Leonard Bernstein songs and I wanted to be part of them and the twenty-somethings (that includes you too, Ag and Candice!) who cherish this classic work. This thing, West Side Story, builds a bridge across generations. So, I went home, despondent, thinking I wouldn’t get a call back from David. I popped my VHS tape of the movie into my VCR and started listing to the opening overture. When it gets to “Maria,” tears start streaming down my face. I made a decision to do something that I would never recommend to anyone who auditions for shows (but, it merely worked for me). I decided to crash callbacks. The night of callbacks, I was sitting down front with my sheet music in my hand ready to sing again and then David touches my shoulder. I look up and he says, “I don’t need to hear you sing again, but I want you to hang around”. So, I did. Apparently, “Doc” had been cast, but whoever was going to do it had to drop out (probably Bubba Fulmer J).  I read for “Doc.” I was cast as “Doc.” The rest of the experience was just funny, touching, exhilarating and one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had.

Here is a list of fond memories from the show:

  • True, real life brothers, “Womb-to-tomb”, “Sperm-to-worm”, Brian and Mark Childers (“Tony” and “Riff”).
  • The night that Jonathan Monk (“Baby John”) and Will Moreau (“Bernardo”) couldn’t spin Doc’s combo back staircase/storefront for the last scene with Tony and Doc. Will said, “Doc! The latch is stuck!” LOL
  • Baby John, Chino and Doc singing the “Maria” echo from the wings.
  • Brian (“Tony”) letting out an “Ow!!…Ow!!!!” one night when I clocked him real good!
  • Lee Reynolds (“Glad Hand”), during a rehearsal, standing in the circle looking serious in the Tony death scene in a tweed coat and heart-covered boxer shorts.
  • Debra Bricker (“Anita”) thinking I was shy. Ha!
  • Robbie Sweet (“Chino”) – An all-around good guy and a good friend.
  • Kati Baldwin – My seven-year-old daughter standing in a chair on the front row, applauding during a curtain call with a look of wonder on her face.
  • David Swicegood – How do you make it look so easy when it obviously ain’t? Grace in the face of adversity should be his middle name.
  • Shannon Willis (Scruggs) – You grew up to be quite a woman from the little teenager that I once knew.
  • Kerry Grimsley (Roberts) – Wow! You’re still here! Still brilliant and beautiful. I get déjà vu all over again when you turn the gun on the crowd. It’s good to see that some things haven’t changed.

 

Reflections on West Side Story – Take One

Editor’s Note: In our current production of West Side Story – we have three “veterans” of the show one being the director, David Swicegood. David directed Town’s 1998 production and it was stellar. Here are some of his memories of that show that you may enjoy.

“One of my fondest memories of West Side Story in ’98 was, having David Swicegoodcast almost the whole show {at least in my mind}, but I still hadn’t seen a Maria. The last person to audition was a lovely young dark-haired girl who looked EXACTLY how Maria should look. I closed my eyes and said “Please God. let her be able to sing!” Well, her name was Kerri Grimsley {now Roberts} and when she began singing I literally cried! Her voice still takes my breath away, and I couldn’t be happier to have her play Maria again, as beautiful as ever and a voice possibly better than it was 20 years ago.

I also had a “youngish” man named Tom Baldwin who auditioned for the role of Doc, a non-singing but important character role. The script described the character as being in his 60s and Tom was much younger than that! I had a good feeling about Tom however and cast him as Doc. He was so good! I thought about him when I found out I would be directing the show again and, to my surprise, he came to auditions! And now he’s the right age to play Doc! He actually wrote on his audition form “I am the ONLY Doc!” And he is.

My long-time friend Maurice Curry came down from New York to collaborate with me as the choreographer for the show in ’98 and did an amazing job! We tried to get him to come back and do it again, but due to his responsibilities as the Executive Artistic Director of the Eglevsky Ballet Company in New York, was unable to commit to it this time. The wonderful Joy Alexander took the helm as Choreographer and has been AMAZING!! Things DO work out!

During the ’98 show, I also got to work with a very talented young lady named Shannon Louise Willis, whom I had directed in The All Night Strut, my first directorial job at Town Theatre. She was Rosalia in ’98 and was fantastic, as she always is! I directed her again the next year in Sweet Charity, and you probably know that, in addition to singing, directing and choreographing at Town, she is now the Executive Director of the theatre. Just shows you that when theatre is in your blood, it’s there forever.

I also would like to mention that several of my ’98 cast have gone to professional careers in theatre, film and television including Brian Childers, Mark Childers, Melinda Schmidt {now Wrenn Schmidt professionally} and Jennifer Austin. I’d really like to think I played a small part in instilling in them {and all the cast, then and now!} a love of performing and especially the joy of live theatre.

One last memory to share ~ I had finished casting the show in ’98 except the role of Bernardo. I got a call from Sandra Willis, Town’s Executive Director at the time, and she sort of whispered: “Bernardo is in my office!” I asked her to see if he could wait a few minutes and I raced to the theatre and met Will Moreau who, of course, became Bernardo. It was his first show in Columbia and Will became a household name and mainstay of Columbia theatre. Not only was he a good actor but also a great friend and tireless advocate for many causes until his untimely passing last year. He is greatly missed and will long be remembered for his contributions to our city. Rest in peace, friend.”

~David SwicegoodWSS will

MIXED EMOTIONS…

MIXED EMOTIONS…

It is with both sadness and excitement that we share the news that Jamie Harrington, Town’s long-time Youth Theatre Director, will be departing at the end of the summer. Jamie has accepted a job with Dutch Fork High School as a theatre educator. Jamie has been with Town for more than a decade instructing our youth as well as assisting our Technical Director and directing/performing in some of our main stage shows. We are truly happy that Jamie is off on another adventure and are grateful for her service to Town. While we will miss having her here, we are excited about the opportunity to partner with yet another theatre educator in the school system. We also are excited that she plans to be back as a main stage show director.

While we announce this departure, we welcome the arrival of Scott Vaughan who will take on the role of Youth Theatre Director. Scott currently serves as the theatre instructor at Satchel Ford Elementary School and, in this capacity, brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and talent to the table. Scott has performed on the Town stage as well as throughout our local community and the country.

Our youth theatre program will continue to be served this year by Megan Douthitt, Assistant Director, and Jeremy Reasoner, Musical Director. We are excited to have this team together. Details for our fall 2018-2019 program may be found here.

In honor of Jamie, Town is establishing a scholarship fund that will allow students to participate in our youth theatre programs who financially may not be able to do so. If you would like to contribute to the fund in Jamie’s honor, you may donate here. Simply note your contribution is in honor of Jamie Harrington. Or, send your donation to Town Theatre, 1012 Sumter Street, Columbia, SC 29201 with an indication that your gift is for the scholarship fund.

Will Moreau Goins Memorial Fund at Town Theatre

Town Theatre is grateful to honor the request of the family of Will Moreau Goins to establish the Will Moreau Goins Memorial Fund at Town Theatre. Will was an integral part of the Town Theatre family for the last 19 years and we will not be the same without him.

To contribute to the fund, gifts may be sent to Town TheFor 19 years, you illuminated our lives and our stages.atre at 1012 Sumter St., Columbia, SC 29201. Or, you may give online here and note that the gift is a tribute to Will.

Town was also humbled by the invitation to remember Will at the reflection service held Friday, Nov. 24 at Palmer Memorial Chapel. The remarks, delivered by Town’s Executive Director, Shannon Willis Scruggs, are included below. They were presented on behalf of the Town Theatre board and staff, the many cast and crew members who worked with Will and audiences who enjoyed his craft.

We will continue to remember Will’s family in our thoughts and prayers and stand alongside everyone who is still mourning the loss of this bright light.

“Thank you to the entire family for the invitation to remember Will this evening.

Almost everyone who knew and loved Will continues to struggle with his passing. It doesn’t make sense ~ it doesn’t seem real. I keep waiting for him to run down the theatre aisle, 15 minutes after rehearsal has started, with that hand waving in the air and that sheepish grin on his face as if to say, “yes, yes, sorry I am late…”

But, as much as we want it to, that won’t happen again. And it hurts. And, that is also why tonight is challenging. It forces reality into a situation that has broken many hearts.

One of the first lines on Will’s theatrical resume says, “Will Moreau refuses to fall into any simple/typical category.” On stage, Will took on characters ranging from A to Z. His roster of roles is so varied and complex. And, be it in the ensemble or as the evening’s emcee, Will was fully dedicated to each of his characters, making them his own. His life away from the stage also mirrored that refusal to be “typecast.” Will spent his time involved in and with so many different groups ~ cultural, historical, educational, religious, artistic ~ whether he was the leader or was being led, just like with his stage characters, he was 100% committed.

I am also reminded of how Will would submit a bio for the playbill. It is pretty customary for folks to thank family and friends for supporting them in their shows. And, it is also a pretty regular occurrence for people to send in paragraphs that are a tad long for the available space. And, yes, Will did both. But this is what strikes me now ~ Will’s final sentence in each and every bio that he submitted was almost always identical. He would say, “Will dedicates his performance to God, his family, his true friends and his teachers/colleagues for their support.” Will would take the time to make sure that if anything had to be cut for space, we knew that it was important to leave in that dedication. We could take anything else away, but he wanted that consistent, unwavering expression of thanks to be one of the final statements for an audience to read.

I can only assume the heartache caused by Will’s absence will be with us for a long time. But, I believe there is healing in remembering how he lived. He showed us how to take on life in all of its variety ~ and to do so wholeheartedly. And, in the midst of it all, he reminds us to never forget (and to constantly acknowledge) the support provided through faith, family and friends.”