Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Actor's (Not Quite Nightmare) Profoundly Deep Dream

I had a dream about Fry Tuesday night. It started out like one I've had before, most recently over this past summer. Sort of an "Actor's Nightmare" where you're at the theatre but don't know what you're doing there, or on stage and can't remember the show you're in, the lines you are supposed to be saying, and everyone else acts as though you should and do.

This one was about acting class rather than performance- a situation that would be more uncomfortable than nightmarish for me. I wonder if other professions have "nightmares"? Like a teacher's nightmare where you don't know the school, the class or the material. Or the Dr's nightmare where you're doing a surgery that you've not been trained to do. Sorry- that's an interesting tangent to explore another time!

We were in the conference room. I didn't recognize anyone else, but Fry was there, however, he didn't realize he had passed away. He was irritated that everyone was ignoring him. No one was listening to him or doing what he told them to do, because they couldn't hear or see him. It was very "Scroogish", like when the ghosts transport him around the past, present, and future and he yells at the people in the scenes he's being shown, or even at his former/future self, but no one can hear him.

Except in this case, I was the only one who could. Throughout the dream this predicament was only slightly unsettling for me, odd given the fact that in real life if Fry walked into the conference room and talked to me now that he's gone...I would really think I'd lost it.

Anyway, once Fry figured out I could hear him, he started rattling off all these directions for me- how to teach, what to cover, what the others needed corrected on, etc. Meanwhile I frantically ran around trying to fulfill his wishes and convey his directions to the class, who all looked at me like, "Who do you think you are, BILL FRY????"

Dreams for me are like plays, where you are mid action/line/emotion, and BOOM! Lights out/back up in another scene entirely.

We were in my car, my OLD car, my parents' old car actually. Ford Fairmont, shit brown to match the rust. I was giving him a ride home to his apartment. I did this many times in real life (many of us did- Fry never had a driver's license) so it's wasn't so strange to be in the car with him. He puffed away at his More cigarette (dark brown menthols in the green box. Do you know why so many actors smoke menthols? Because actors are poor and mooch cigs off everyone, and most actors HATE menthol cigarettes, so if you are a cheap actor who can get used to them you are more likely to discourage other cheap actors from stealing/mooching them off of you.)

Sorry. Back to task.

We chatted on the ride home, Fry seemingly still oblivious that he was no longer of this world.

Well...Fry never was "of this world" to start with- so far the dream wasn't all that odd.

Then we arrived at his apartment. Here's the weird part. I asked to come up. And he said yes. Now...I don't think I ever asked, and I know I was never invited into Fry's apartment. I've always been insanely curious as to what it was like (his office was terrible- ashes everywhere, books falling off the shelves, etc) so I just wondered how he lived. I pictured highly disheveled, books stacked to the ceiling, photos stuffed in between them...

But in my dream, the place was very tidy. At least the kitchen was, and that's really all the further I went.

I know that Fry's real life apartment would not have a basement, but in my dream it did. And he opened the door to show me that because there was something about it that was upsetting him he wanted me to look at.

I peeked down the stairs, and saw a several actors, in period (Where's Charlie?) costume, strolling around, in some fog, with lots of lights (Rick Lombardo show????) One woman with a 1900's dress and parasol, saw us and motioned for Fry to come down there. I felt it was an after life/otherworldly place, and knew I couldn't go with him. I started to say, "He doesn't know yet-" and the woman raised her hand up slowly, finger to her lips...

shhhhhhhhhh.....inaudible as a mime.

Then she smiled warmly to me and nodded that she understood, and gave me a pleading look, inquiring if I could help him down.

I looked at Fry.

He stood peering down to the stage full of actors needing direction, like he knew somehow he needed to get down to them, but was unsure of his footing on the basement stairs.

He hesitated, not ready to go.

Then he turned back toward me, his hand still on the door knob, looking as though he couldn't decide if he should shut it in front of or behind himself.

Again the woman looked at me for help, and I could feel how much they were waiting for him. That they needed him...and it was where he needed to be.

I looked at him, started to cry and said,

"I love you Fry. I'm sorry I never told you before."

He hugged me, holding onto me tightly before pulling back away.

Then he said, "Oh Jennifer...I know that. And you know I always loved you too."

Then he walked down the stairs, and disappeared with the rest of the cast who were awaiting him.

And I woke up.


I do love you Fry.
And I do know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Monday morning I woke up feeling out of sorts. It's the same feeling I have always experienced when a show ends, a really fantastic ensemble piece, and we strike the stage. The set is dismantled, the costumes returned to the rack outside the wardrobe room to be cleaned and rehung for another show. The dressing rooms are wiped clean. All that remains as evidence of the production are the memories of those who performed, worked, or saw the show. Everyone takes part in strike, with few exceptions for age and frailty, before anyone can enjoy the cast party (otherwise everyone is enjoying the food, and two people are tearing down the set.)

Then comes the party. A celebration of a job well done, either at the theatre or when we were really lucky, at the fantastic estate of Kathleen and Bill (Doc) Howland, complete with swimming pool and trampoline for summer shows, and a basement with a pinball machine for winter ones. Oh- yeah and peacocks and ostriches running around the compound.

My good friend Patric, the one in the middle with the glasses, used to cry at the cast party.
Heather Howland (on the right of this photo rehearsing Pied Piper with Lisa Kurtz), who was Kathleen's daughter and occupant of the aforementioned residence, reminded me so in an email the other day. I used to feel so bad for Patric. I had been doing shows since the age of 5, so I didn't quite get why he was so sad. Maybe it was just his first show, I reasoned, and he'll realize that you just immediately audition for the next one, and within a week of rehearsals it will be just as fun, with new friends and some old, as the last play. But I recall Patric crying at the end of most of the shows we did together those first few seasons, and I felt helpless to console him because I really didn't understand it.

However, as I grew older, and had a few magical moments with cast, crew, director myself, I began to grasp why Patric mourned the end of the show.

Fry's Memorial was Sunday night. Waves of nostalgia came to me the weeks before scanning all those pictures. In a way, I felt I was living through all those rehearsals, classes, performances, strikes, and cast parties once more. Then the Memorial came, the show if you will, with an audience filled up with many of those same characters, now all grown up, grown older, than they were the last time we shared the stage.

And of course I cried off and on throughout the evening, like Patric at a cast party.

I haven't done so myself for every show I've ever worked on. But as Patric grew out of it, I seem to have grown into it. As I get older, my teachers, parents of my friends, and some friends of my own have left me. Now each season, whether they be of the theatrical or literal kind, feels like a gift to drink in, savor, fully soak up, and then tuck away for reminiscing and waxing poetic later.

In Fry's Arena, an actor, director, or stage manager, were fully involved throughout the production. The crew, who often came from the acting class groups, ventured in during tech week and were instantly equally vested. When the stage was struck, everyone who had occupied your every spare moment for days, weeks, or months slipped silently (or not) out of the stage door one last time. You knew you would never again be in the same room together as an ensemble, and were left feeling a mixture of relief and mourning, the degrees of which depended on just how wonderful or horrible the experience was.

When it was the right combination of cast, crew, direction, and character, the loss can put you in an incredible funk the first few days you resume your "day job" life.
There were a few standouts in my Junior/Youth theatre days-
A Christmas Carol

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

The Homecoming

Pied Piper

Little Women

and The Butterfingers Angel, etc.

But I usually applied that "just throw yourself into the next show" theory to chase the post show blues away.

In adulthood, there have only been a few such times -Anne of Green Gables,

Jesus Christ Superstar (at the Guild),

The Glass Menagerie
(with Kathleen directing, my mom as my Mother, and Keith and Tom from Fry's class with me) and

The Miracle Worker (at Kent Stark), after which I got into my car to leave the theatre the last night, and cried the whole way home.


I wasn't ready to let the show, the people, my character, or the moment go. I knew walking to my car, before even pulling out of the parking lot, that the show, the cast, the experience was a rare, fantastic, magical moment in my life, and had already become a memory that will fill me with longing for years to come. You never know if it was the last time that will happen. And after going back to college for my BA, and burning myself out working or acting in nearly every production at Stark for a few seasons, combined with working full time, single motherhood, the play ending usually fell into the relief category. I have not done a show in over five years. That's never happened to me before. And sometimes I fear my curtain has done called.


That same feeling of strike, has haunted me the past few weeks, whenever I connect with a Junior/Youth Theatre alum, and start talking shop. By last week, as I sat in Fry's office sorting through and scanning pictures, the waves caught up with me in a flood of nostalgic loss. Not just for Fry.

It was seeing all the kids I was "raised" with, in the photos, trapped in time, in black and white, mid sentence in improv or rehearsal, building a "machine" in class, constructing a set, learning to apply their makeup. It was Pat Hemphill adjusting a costume, Fry and Kathleen, in their late 30's I imagine, on stage together in The Gingerbread Lady. I sent that picture to Heather, who responded that it was her mom's first play at the Guild, and her first time working with Fry. It was a meeting of minds that would grow to a best friendship for the rest of their lives.

There was a picture of my brother, pre-accident, the only clear figure in a "whirling" exercise or dance of some sort, while everyone else was a blur around him.
And there was another of him and his best friend Geoff Mize doing a scene for rehearsal or class.

Frozen in time.

I could just sit there all day frozen along with them- an awkward 12 year old, wishing to be grown up and join in with her older brothers and their fabulous peers- to me the "Greatest Generation" of kids to grace Fry's stage. At least to the watchful eyes of a 12 year old on the brink of adolescence, a year before tragedy would likely freeze so much of that time for me, as the time "before"-

Before the accident took my older brother from us
Before my mother had to quit her dreams to care for him
Before all those kids grew up, left town, moved on.

And after...
I remember a sadness in that theatre, as the news of the accident spread throughout the day during classes, me sharing it with those who hadn't heard yet. I recall it was the annual costume sale, and I was sad my mom wasn't there so I could buy some of my old costumes like we always did. Classes and plays continued, "the show must go on,"but the first of many ghosts, a classmate dead the other disabled for life, had already befallen our small family like company of players.

That sadness followed us, followed me the next few years of shows. It wasn't truly healed until I came back in my 20's, rejoined Fry's class and made a new generation of friendships.

I have been pining for the Players Guild since I left the second time, to pursue other theatre experiences and gain my BA in the subject at the Kent Stark Theatre. And I made many lifelong friends there as well. But with Fry's death I feel a need to return "home" as I said in the other blogs.

But how?

How when there are so many ghosts in those halls for me...

some literal- Kathleen, Pat Hemphill, now Fry...
Others figurative- my brother, our cast/classmates, tech directors, artistic directors, fellow actors and crew members...all moved on.

Damn Fry and that all that sensory memory stuff he taught us. All I have to do is ring the buzzer and have someone buzz me in- it starts right there. Then if someone's pounding together a set, if lines are being read, if there's a sewing machine stitching, if I smell sawdust- Ha! Dust in general- make-up, hairspray, feel the velvet of a curtain...

I am instantly transported to another time, another place.

And up until last month someone would be there who knew, who remembered it all with me.

How to put that all behind me? Audition? Do another show, meet new people
make new memories?


It came to me this week, when responding to an email from Fry's niece, Barb, to whom I had given my blog and email address at the Memorial Sunday night. I had wanted to talk to her at his graveside service last month, but never having met them I didn't feel it was the right time. We are the same age, and both writers! Heather has said she can just see Fry in Heaven, sitting around smoking cigarettes catching up with Kathleen, Pat, and Maggy, while Gretchen reminds him to hit the ashtray with his ashes (for God's sake!) And from that table, it would seem that Fry is still directing me, arranging yet another new friendship somehow.

Thanks Fry.

"VERY Good!!!! There! there! there!"

Barb wrote to tell me that she read and enjoyed my blogs about her uncle, very gracious if you ask me, since I'm so long winded. ;) She also asked if and what I was teaching at the Guild. I replied I hadn't even approached anyone in a position to make it happen about that possibility yet. In all honesty, the prospect of teaching one class to honor a man I took thousands of classes from seems daunting. Where the heck to start?

Later in the day I started mulling it over again. Was there anything we didn't cover? Was there something I wished we had at the time?

I thought of all the amazing classes, and eclectic instructors he snagged for us-

Lare Sattler for Juggling
My mom and Anne Meiser for puppeteering
Kathleen for classic theatre
Lauren Landis for mime
Jim Brothers for Tae Kwon Do
Duane Brubaugh for make up
Karen Ziemba (tony winner!) for dance (Will never forget that Tapico song!)

Then it came to me. As a young writer, the one thing in all those years we never did and I always wanted to-

Playwriting- monologues, scenes, one acts...

How obvious!
And of course instantly the lesson plans fell into place.
I am typing up my resume now!

Barb wrote to me about her writing. She's been published in Renaissance magazine, something I'm sure made her uncle, a closet poet and playwright, very proud. She said after the family's had a chance to read through the poems, she would be happy to get together with me to read them.


What an honor that would be.

Maybe we can use them in the class somehow.

I think Fry would really like that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tribute to Bill Fry

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is,
and respect for what he may become.

-Louis Pasteur

I found this quote yesterday morning, as I was trying to dig back in to everyday normal life- dishes needed done, laundry for 6, and soon to be 3 Anna wanted some attention back from her mommy's constant computer work scanning pictures, and finding and writing to old friends.

I needed a day or so to gather my thoughts and wits about me, to do this latest blog (but I'm sure not the last, as writing this one turned into a draft for the next) about the Memorial Service Sunday evening for my late teacher, Bill Fry.

It's no small task to write about a man who likely shaped my life more than any other person I have ever known. Even more impressive he did so completely unintentionally, and likely unknowingly, though I hope the latter's not the case.

The quote impressed upon me, a very Fry-esq theory of teaching theatre, and life lessons in general, to kids. I have been trying to help my husband understand just what was so amazing and unique about a childhood in the theatre, community theatre in particular, Fry's youth theatre program in specific.

I finally came up with this- I know of no other arena in life, where adults and children become peers, equals, cohorts, friends, as they do in the theatre. Not all of them, of course. There are grouchy adults and precocious children who can't get along anywhere. But for the rest of us, no where in the world save the stage, can we all stand together, and share the responsibility of a production's success or it's failure. I remember when I was tiny, around 5, that adults herded us from dressing room to green room to stage and back again so we wouldn't miss a cue. I witnessed this with Tiny Tim in my adult stint of Christmas Carol.

But by the age of 8, I was on my own for entrances and exits, for memorizing my blocking and lines, showing up on time, making my entrances on cue, and saving a scene from someone's else's missed line.

I had larger parts than adults, smaller parts than younger kids, no parts and handled props, worked lights, painted sets....

Right alongside adults doing the same things.

And at the post rehearsal/production gatherings- Tim's Tavern, John's Bar, Ruslees, Butlers, Taggarts, Sparta Lounge...

Got kicked out with everyone else, whether it had been the adults or the kids that got out of hand and ornery.

Where else in the world do you have all that?

Sunday night was very hard. I saw people I had seen off and on the past 20 years, one or two I hadn't seen since 10th grade, and a few I may never see again.

And we all know that ensemble won't likely ever be gathered together again in the same theatre in my lifetime.

The night started with a reception given by Fry's family, nieces I had seen at the funeral.

The upper lobby was packed with people from every decade since the Players Guild opened in 1970. There were folks I didn't expect to see, and some missing I was counting on reconnecting with. I hoped those in the latter group all knew about it and had some reason they couldn't come, but I feared that not everyone found out in time to make it who wanted to. I had been busy trying to track down everyone I could think of, but was still thinking of a few more on Sunday.

We all settled into our seats and heard speakers- Joe Martuccio MC'd and kept the night flowing from tribute to tribute.

Carla Derr gave a very poignant speech about Fry, only losing her emotional hold when she said,

"I love you Fry and I will miss you..."
I'm sure I was not alone when my grip slipped emotionally right along with her.

Then the cast of Quilters and Nunsense sang a few of their songs from two of his favorite shows. Toots didn't think she could do it, but of course her training and talent won out and she made it through.

Fry's niece Barb has inherited some of her uncle's wit and perfect comedic timing. She started off talking about always seeing her uncle as "one of those theatre people" to the family, which of course had the biggest laugh of the night. Her thoughts on her uncle were profoundly heartfelt. And I wished we had known his family as much as she said they wished they had known him.

Joe presented a gift of all Fry's poems to Barb and her sister, some of which had been read throughout the night. A few were full of grace and beauty, a couple full of "piss and vinegar." (Side note-I gotta get a copy of that "Now my Cockles only Cackle every other day" one. I can remember him rattling that one off, in the green room, out of the blue so many times. I don't know that I knew then that he actually wrote it- at 38 no less, two full years younger than me!)

Jodi Wilson, the board President-elect, spoke as well, moving me to tears again, briefly sharing her life long history at the Guild having been under Fry's direction countless times. She also announced what we were all hoping for, that the Arena theatre (a name that always sort of irritated Fry because it's wasn't actually accurate for a three sided theatre) will from now on be

The William G. Fry Theatre

(though I think for some of us it will be "Fry's Arena" for short. There! There! There!)

David Sponhour narrated a fabulous slide show, while Steve Parsons played magic on the piano. Pictures covering the history of the Guild according to Fry, on stage
and off, images of kids in shows- learning, maturing, growing and moving forward, while Fry watched, taught, and learned as much as the lessons he shared, for the last 35 years.

Elizabeth Mapp read Heather Howland Bobbit's letter about Fry and Kathleen's dream turned reality of creating an incredible, safe, disciplined, creative theatrical environment for kids to learn about theatre and about life.

Erin Ianni read a touching tribute to Fry for her mother MaryLou, who didn't think she'd be able to read it herself. And I realized at that moment that though I had at first wanted to speak as well Sunday night, I never tried very hard to let anyone know it. I just knew all my professionalism would have turned to mush the minute I tried to put my love for Fry into words in front of an audience. Fry did it at Kathleen's funeral service, and I just don't know how he managed. I guess he was just that good. :)

Rabbi Spitzer spoke, shared a letter from his son that summed it all up perfectly. In the letter, Gabe Spitzer reminisced of a rehearsal where a young cast member did something "unmentionable with his nose, then showed it to the rest of us..." the rehearsal came to a screeching halt, as everyone laughed hysterically. According to Gabe, Fry just sat there, waiting for all of them to wear themselves out, then said something like, " put that energy back into your performance..." I'm paraphrasing but you get the gist of it. All of us had a "giggly" rehearsal almost every show, and Fry knew by instinct to let it play out, pass, and then move on from it.

These things are what made him a genius of a teacher.

When the Tribute ended a few of us mentioned Tim's Tavern. My brother Jef and I headed over there, where only Keith Berger, Jane Lasse, and Barry Wakser were gathered. It seemed empty, for even if no one else wanted to go out after rehearsal, Fry would join anyone who would have his company, smoke a More cigarette, and talk about theatre.

We discussed the history of the Guild, the need to archive the history while there are still people around who recognize the performers and the plays in all those pictures. We discussed the future of theatre education at the Guild, how we all took all those amazing classes for granted. How you must be forward thinking, but not forget the lessons of the past. If it's not broken don't fix it, and if it is, when did it break, what was abandoned that should be brought back, etc.

I left there feeing loss, inspiration, gratitude, and determination. More on where I'm headed with all of those tomorrow.

It was a fabulous tribute to an incredible life. Amazing that a man who led a very simple existence, didn't own a car, walked to work every day of his life, and made a living doing something he loved, could have made such a deep and profound connection to so may people, and shaped so many lives. I'll say it again-

There never was a more contented soul.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Wink and A Nod from Fry

So no sh#t there I was, checking my email last week. One of my old theatre friends, one of my last, close friends on staff at the Players Guild, sent me a message with the subject:

"Pics of you with Bill Fry."

My heart skipped a beat. I thought perhaps she found some old pictures of us from rehearsals or classes, or in costume. I hoped she found the picture of us from his birthday party, but I really thought that was a long shot. I wrote back to say I'd stop by the next day to check them out.

I took Anna with me to the theatre on Wed afternoon. We entered the stage door, as I have a million times since I was 5, only now I can almost easily reach the buzzer to be let in (it's still a stretch, but I remember a time before I could hit it myself.) We heard pounding from the main stage to our right, and I took Anna in to say hi to Craig (the current tech director.) Craig is another old theatre friend, though for me he represents Kent Stark rather than the Guild, as the Stark stage is where we met and did most of our shows together. He also was one of my young guy friends who helped me tremendously while I was a single mom, mowing my lawn for me several times a summer so I wouldn't have to kill myself trying to keep up.

Then Anna and I headed down the perilous stairs that kids have been tripping down for generations, though a few decades ago the Guild did invest in some stair grips to help (but I still held onto Anna and the railing tightly.)

We went into the secretary's area. This used to be a very posh little office for Gretchen Kloes, the PG's secretary throughout most of my youth. Gretchen was very organized and had beautiful shelves full of interesting objects, as well as a sliding dividing panel that locked the office up completely when she left. I believe the panel fell by the wayside years ago, and now the office area is overstuffed with cubicles, shoving two other desks for other staff members in there. Sad to see it now all crowded and unkempt.

Gretchen was quite fond of me (like I said I USED to be this tiny shy and polite little waif once upon a time.) She would always let me (but not the other more precocious kids) look at her fascinating collection of large geodes that she had on the shelves. I thought they were magical with all their light refracting facets-surely more precious than diamonds, and I handled them with the utmost care and respect.

Gretchen retired when she became ill with cancer. She bravely fought it many years and passed away a long time ago.

I sometimes think the Guild's Golden Age walked out the door with Gretchen. She was a force to be reckoned with, ran a tight ship, took crap from no one, and oversaw the care of that facility, brand new when she started there, as if it was her own home.

I didn't see my friend Carrie behind her cubicle, just an older woman (secretary?) who I believe was Janet Barry, the wife of Nick, the actor formerly known as Scrooge throughout the 1980's.

Then Carrie popped out from her desk, and handed me an envelope. Most were pictures of me and castmates from Anne of Green Gables (1991) that I had taken on my own camera and given the doubles to Fry.

But the last pic...

Was taken 5 years ago at his 70th b-day party. There I am, very thin, full of single mom/working full time/theatre BA pursuit, with a very proud looking teacher.

It is a fabulous picture, isn't it?

I don't always believe in everything about that "Secret" stuff- you know, put your request out to the universe and it will happen sorta thing. But, my friend found this picture, and hadn't even read my blog to know I had been looking for it.


All I have to say is...

Thanks Fry. And just so you know it will be on my desk, when I have my own cubicle somewhere in the depths of theatre catacombs while I'm teaching kids the lessons learned from years of careful and accidental study with you. ;)

Carrie and Josh, the Managing Director there, have allowed me another honor. I will be taking my scanner down there next week and scanning all the other pictures Fry left in his office so I can send many of them off to any of my former Junior/Youth theatre classmates I can find. The past few years I've attempted to get in contact with my former Players Guild Youth Theatre alumni, hoping to host a reunion while Fry was still around to take part in and enjoy it. Regrettably, I was busy, disorganized, with other projects always landing in the way of that one.

I had located one man, Dallas Hardcastle, on, but hadn't heard back from him or his older brother Terry. I only knew Dallas briefly, from a few plays and classes he took part in, but was much closer to Terry.

We met in one of Fry's classes when we were around nine years old. The last time I saw or spoke with Terry we were in high school. Then he moved on to professional theatre throughout the US, where he's had a lovely career. I got married, had kids, got divorced, went back to school, got remarried, had a has changed a lot since we last spoke. So has Terry's voice, which is why when I received a voice mail from him on my way into the theatre, I had to listen to the message twice to really believe it was him.

My mom, my brother and myself all have contact with several of my Youth Theatre friends or their parents, and I started a Yahoo Group a while back hoping others would search us out. It fizzled, and I never got back on task. But I think of all of them often, as we really were such an extended family all those seasons. To me those people represent my childhood, my adolescence, my therapists, my gurus, my mentors, my friends. And even though I am still determined to host such a reunion...the loss of Fry's presence will make for a heavier night than it could have been.

Life does always find a way to intervene those best intentions, doesn't it?
And when it does, we wait for death and loss to inspire.

I haven't talked to Terry yet, as we have played phone tag all week. As soon as I post the final draft of this, I will be trying his number again, and this time won't let anything deter me from speaking with him.

I had fully intended to call Terry back while I was reminiscing in Fry's office, so I could start our conversation with, "You'll never guess where I Fry's office looking at a picture of you from Butterfinger's Angel..."

But, I underestimated the effect of the theatre, the office, the pictures, the scripts, and Anna's patience level for being in the "bowels of the theatre" as Fry like to call them.

Fry's office was formerly a tiny storage room called the Triangle Room, for it's shape and lack of any foreseeable function in it's design. We used it for props that belonged to or were currently in use for youth theatre my brothers and their friends likely used it for other more secretive purposes (damn teenagers!)

It became his office around the time I became a teenager, so I am not privy to any other "functions" it served, with the exception of being the only approved designated smoking room after the Guild became a smoke free building in the 90's. I have a feeling that was quite a heated campaign between the pro smokers Fry and Pat Hemphill (the then costumer) and the pro- smoke free facility since it was years before state law would mandate it anyway. In the end they compromised on two unlikely designated smoking areas- the wardrobe room and Fry's office, with only paid staff allowed to smoke in them. Now having your only designated smoking areas be a room filled with costumes to be damaged or ignited, and another about 3 x 5 feet, with no ventilation leads me to believe the board knew it had some good people it couldn't afford to lose over cigarettes. And though smoking rights were to be for staff only, fry gave sanctuary to other smokers, especially in the dead of winter. A few times I tried to hang out in there myself, but the smoke was so thick you didn't need one of your own to be smoking.

And now, as Anna immediately pointed out to me when we went in there...

"Mommy this room smells funny!"

She didn't like it in there. There wasn't much to do, just old nicotine filled scripts and ghostly black and white photos of students gone by.

It was a convenient and private office for Fry, not just for smoking as he was still able to do that anywhere in the theatre when the office was Christened his domain. He had formerly been upstairs where at least a little natural light coming in the first floor entry door and two story windows, could bounce it's way down those treacherous stairs and into the office hallway. In contrast, Fry's triangle room office was devoid of ANY light save the incandescent one, or a lamp he put in there so it could be darker and less distracting during performances. Before his office moved down there, he could only watch from the audience (helpless in a crisis) or in an uncomfortable metal chair backstage of the alcove entrance. Most directors leave the show to the stage manager after it opens, which a good thing sometimes, as I have worked with those who can't handle the mishaps without blowing a gasket. And several miserable times I have worked backstage with a few directors who have shown me my share of glares or lectures for fubars that inevitably accompany live theatre performances. But...

I never remember once in thirty plus times of working with him, a similar experience from Fry. Even though he was there every night just in case, he always let the stage manager/cast/crew handle any unexpected "drama" calmly waiting to discuss what happened if necessary before the next show in an attempt to avoid an undesired repeat performance.

I have seen him annoyed, perplexed, impassioned, disgusted...

But never angry. And now that I have teens and am around teens and am in my 40's I must say for that alone that Bill Fry may have been the greatest actor of all time.

He taught many, turned off some, but in the end affected most of us more than any other teacher we ever will have.

There was a lot of closure in that office last Wed. There will be even more at the memorial service next Sunday I'm sure.

We all need that when we lose someone, especially those who's meaning in our lives we can never grasp until they aren't around anymore to share it with them.

After the picture I had never seen surfaced, Terry left me a message, and then I spent an afternoon re-living my amazing childhood onstage...

I feel like I'm entering the III Act of my Players Guild career. The stage was set in Act I, the plot was furthered in Act II, and now the purpose comes with Act III. Ok that's a bit cheesy I know...

It would have made Fry roll eyes, say "Oh GOD don't be CUTE Jennifer. (Laughing) There! There! There!"

It's time for me to make good on a promise I made to Fry the last few times I saw him - one of those times right before that picture was taken. I am finding my way back home, to teach kids theatre, the way Bill Fry taught me. Now that he's gone, I feel the baton must truly be passed. I could get in a few other smaller theatres I'm sure, who due to their overhead have much less pressure for the Youth Theatre programs to perform. Unfortunately, the Guild is no where near the facility it was, back when government supported arts, and businesses endorsed the rest.

Decades of neglect from lack of funding have made large community theatres lose ground and become in danger of folding or turning professional. And that would be a terrible loss for Canton, for theatre, for all of us.

And since I'm still around, the only one really left from those days that still goes anywhere near the Guild, I feel a responsibility and a calling...

Back to my home, my sanctuary, my stage...the place where dreams begin.