Post by David Wilson with an intro by Town Theatre
The most special parts of Town Theatre are her people. Many of us have Town Theatre stories – and we love to hear them! When we happen upon one that touches our hearts, we like to share. This story does just that. Thanks, David, for being willing to document just what this experience has meant to you.
“Howdy, let me make the first of two introductions. My name is David Wilson. I am 39 years old, married with two young children. I am a transplant from… yup, you guessed it, Ohio. In Ohio, I was a Field Technician for a major telecommunications company. In 2016 I developed an auto-immune disorder that attacked my joints. This not only made my daily life difficult, but I was also no longer able to climb telephone poles and ultimately ended up on disability. My condition is made worse by the cold. After several pain-filled Ohio winters, we made the decision to relocate to Columbia last summer.
The second introduction is for my Grandpa Sam. He passed in March of this year. He was a pastor for 55 years. He was highly educated with two doctorates. I have witnessed him many times go without so that others could eat or be warm. He was quiet, yet he had presence. He was also a skilled craftsman. When my grandparents bought their house it was 1,100 sq. ft. When they moved out it was 1,700 sq. ft. with a 2,000 sq. ft. workshop in the backyard. As a kid, I spent many summers with him in said workshop.
After getting established with doctors in Columbia, I was put on a medication that makes me feel 80% better on most days. Better enough to start enjoying my life again. In a chance encounter at my church’s Easter breakfast, I happened to sit at the same table as a former director of Town Theatre. My previous theatre experience came up, and I was encouraged to audition for Town’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was interested. I hesitated, though, because although the medication was making me feel better, I had spent the past six years being sedentary. I needed to rebuild my strength and stamina. The choreography of Joseph… was helpful for that. Over time, I got to know Town’s staff and the current director. I guess I had made enough of an impression so that when the new technical director needed an extra hand building The Music Man set, she reached out to me to help.
During my first week working with the technical director, I was horribly rusty.
The skills I had cultivated during those summers with my grandfather had gone unused over the last six years. As I was getting back into the swing of things, I consistently had the voice of my Grandfather in the back of my head. Every time I turned on the table saw it was his checklist running through my head. He had dyslexia, so he was compulsive about checking measurements, a habit I picked up. Even though the Miter saw has a LASER guide on it, I still used his method of gauging where the cut should be. And a lot of other small things that you only get from gentle mentoring.
The first I thing I helped the technical director with was a huge brick wall. In The Music Man, the brick wall is the exterior of the library where Marian Paroo works. The wall also serves as a tool for scene transition. It is heavy and comes in and out frequently throughout the show. I am also on the crew for The Music Man and the primary operator of the wall. I jokingly requested to the Town director that I be listed under cast in the playbill as “Brick Wall.” She laughed but then offered to let me name it.
After looking back on my time helping with the set building, I realized that there is a little bit of my grandfather in everything I touched on that set. When I took the job offer to help the technical director, I thought of it as a litmus test to see if I could get off of disability and return to full-time work someday. I didn’t think it would help me work through my grandfather’s passing, but that’s exactly what it did. I can’t think of a better moniker for that wall than “Sam.” Besides my fond memories of being in his workshop, the wall represents him in many other ways. Like him, it has presence. As he held two doctorates, he was frequently at a library. The level of craftsmanship and dedication that has been put into not only the wall but this show is something he would appreciate. My involvement with Town Theatre has come at an interesting time in my life. I have rediscovered a part of myself I thought had been lost. Not only am I acting again, but I am also learning to sing and play an instrument. Grandpa was very musical as well. It’s interesting to me that a theatre could act as a form of therapy both physically and mentally.
There are seven more shows that I will be lifting and lowering “Sam.”
When the curtain falls for the final time on The Music Man, a team of dedicated people will dismantle “Sam” and its components will be stored for future use. For me, when I see those brick pieces used on a future set, it will bring back fond memories of building something with my Grandpa all those summers ago. Everyone else will be unknowing bystanders of his talent, skill and mentoring. That is the way of things. We all have our heroes that we learn and grow from. I am fortunate that a piece of my hero will be a part of something that will bring hundreds of people joy.”