I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for this recognition and also Tom Powers for his "eloquent" introduction. I am far more comfortable being the bestow-er, than the bestow-ee with things like this, but I guess turnabout is fair play. I am truly honored to be included with the previous "Yeomen of Regard" who have contributed so much to The Sudbury Savoyards over the years.
In the early years, I had no idea what Betty Farmer and Will Ford were creating, I was just running around the church or backstage with my friends Vicki Farmer and Lisa Ford. I was absolutely enthralled with playing dress up, and the fact that my favorite Sunday school teacher was wearing fairy wings and a tiara, and my English teacher was wearing tights and a cape, well, I wanted to be a part of that! But as Tom mentioned, you had to be sixteen to participate in the cast of a Sudbury Savoyard production.
Upon arrival as a freshman at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School I promptly joined the Drama Club and had a blast working closely with Harriet Rogers. I was involved both on and off stage, eventually becoming the Make-up Chief. Harriet even arranged for me to receive make-up tips from a friend of hers, Jack Stein.
In 1976, several of my drama geek friends and I stormed the Savoyards for the first production of The Sorcerer. I didn’t have my license yet so Marylee Marsh drove me to rehearsals. Since my "techie" friends were very familiar with the temperaments of that theater, I believe we were the ones who showed the Savoyards how to break into the light booth when you got locked out by climbing down from the catwalks through the ceiling tiles, or how to prevent the circuits from tripping with a wire coat hanger . . . not to mention the graffiti I left up in the catwalks. Unfortunately, I never got up there to check on it before they tore the old theater down . . . just as well . . .
I did go off to Syracuse University to study Interior Design, and dabbled some in theater there. In 1983 I was back on-stage for HMS Pinafore, the first time performing with my sister, Donna, which was a lot of fun.
In 1989, Sudbury was celebrating its 350th birthday with a big event on the Lincoln-Sudbury field where I bumped into Dick Sewell who said "come back to the Savoyards, we’re doing Ruddygore". And, according to Tom, the rest is history . . .
Speaking of history: I like to save stuff. I can’t bear to throw anything away because I know that once I do, I will need it for something. I also like to collect things, assuming everything is going to be a significant historic relic some day. I also like to take pictures, tell stories, and share the past.
I did have a hard time finding photos of myself for the display board because I am usually the one behind the camera.
It’s been amazing to watch The Sudbury Savoyards transform from a group of church members raising funds to build the sanctuary to an actual organization with a Board structure, bylaws, and philanthropic goals.
In 1984, Sally Osborn, along with her husband, David Larrick, and member DJ Oakes, was instrumental in drafting the company’s bylaws and structuring the board as we know it today. Sally was elected the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1985 and helped create our first database and the Task Lists. Sally passed away in 1995 and in 1996 when David was selling their house, he sent out a message that he had all these boxes of photos and notebooks and did anyone want them, otherwise he would have to dispose of them. I believe I was the only one to respond. I remember spending hours sorting through these treasures, putting the photos into the albums we have all enjoyed, and sorting through the notebooks of Producer, Costume Designer, and Chairman from years past. The relic I enjoy most is the 4” thick bound book of green and white stripe computer paper that is the original task list document.
Thus began the position of "Company Archivist" which I, and my basement, still hold onto today. With the help of some original members, I have been able to create a timeline going back to our first production of Trial by Jury in 1961, as you can see on our lobby display boards "48 years of The Sudbury Savoyards". Will Ford was kind enough to donate many files, one of which contained a budget from an early production, and the rental receipt from the high school for $350. I am hoping that some day the Paro’s will part with the only existing copy of the 1961 playbill, of which I was allowed to photocopy but immediately return to their safekeeping.
One thing I find quite unique is the company still has some of its original doctrines. We still don’t require the chorus to audition, something that not everyone may agree with, but by keeping that tradition over the years we have attracted a number of participants who turned out to be exceptionally dedicated members in other ways. Frankly, if the chorus was required to audition, I wouldn’t be here as I tend to sing whatever part I’m standing next to.
So now I must mention the "Pirate" story. In 1993, The Pirates of Penzance had a cast of 75 with the majority, of course, being women. There were 4 of us having absolutely no fun so we approached Sally Osborn, the Stage Director, and asked if we could be pirates, especially since there were so few tenors. She agreed. At dress rehearsal they gave me scars and a glued on beard, even my own mother didn’t recognize me. After the show I asked the make up guy how to remove it and he said "hold your breath" and ripped it off. I had those marks on my face for months afterwards.
The Sudbury Savoyards is also a training ground for novices interested in trying their talents in new ways. First-time Directors, Conductors, Designers, Producers, and Actors are always encouraged to try a new discipline within our ranks.
I had never designed a set, at least not the scale of one of our productions, so in 1999 I expressed an interest and was given the task. Thank goodness I had the support and guidance of those already familiar with the scope of that kind of project, that being Tom Powers and Ron Dallas, for which I truly value their expertise and friendship (even though they called Iolanthe the set from hell). Tom and I have our own tradition, on Dark Night we would pronounce a set finished then take each others pictures on our favorite part of it.
I treasure my Savoyard friends. Who else would dress up as Big Bird for a Christmas decoration? Or play an antique melodian and sing Dickensian Christmas Carols in Victorian costumes? There was even a Mikado-themed surprise birthday party with everyone in kimonos . . . I wouldn’t normally think of things like this without the influence and assistance of some very talented (or twisted!) associates.
My parents were never big G&S enthusiasts but would diligently attend to support their daughters, occasionally not even recognizing us. They only became really big fans in 2000 when Steve Malionek started conducting the orchestra, after that they couldn’t wait to attend a performance.
I’ve also discovered a new calendar, called "Savoyard time". It’s a bit unnerving when you reference everything by a particular show, such as "that took place between Ruddigore and Gondoliers, so that would have happened in 2000" or "we can’t schedule that, it conflicts with "Put-In" and "Monster Sunday"." Creepy, isn’t it?
Once Utopia is settled, I do intend to form a 50th Anniversary Committee to start plans for our 2011 production and other events.
Since 1993 I have been helping to bestow the "Yeomen of Regard" honor on so many deserving members. I am truly honored, and humbled, to now be amongst them. I would like to thank the "Yeomen" who are present: Betty Farmer, Nancy Burdine, Bev and Roy Paro, Janice and Ron Dallas, Tom Powers, and especially Steve Malionek for paving the way.
And I sincerely thank The Sudbury Savoyards for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the organization and help create what it is today.
2009 Yeomen of Regard Honoree
February 28, 2009