Monday, March 30, 2009

Civic Volunteer Album: Meet Dave Lahr.

The "In the Wings" series of blog posts highlight the directors and actors of each Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette production. And while it makes sense to promote them on the blog for their hard work -- actors are the face of a production, and directors are the brains -- there are whole groups of volunteers who go unrecognized, not only on this blog but also perhaps by the playgoing public.

The "Civic Volunteer Album" will highlight various Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette volunteers who more often than not volunteer behind the scenes of productions as stage managers, designers, backstage crew and much more. They are the backbone of each production, working hard to support what everyone else can see and hear on stage.

In 1952, Dave Lahr attended a Little Theatre production of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! in which one of his friends played the youngest boy. The Little Theatre preceded Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette in mounting theatrical productions in the city.

“Little Theatre had its productions at Duncan Hall at the time,” Dave said. “Three of us bought tickets and sat in the balcony to see our friend. Of those three boys, I was the one who was bitten by the theatre bug.

“I’m still suffering from that bite,” Dave said, jokingly.

That initial exposure has led Dave to be involved with several productions at Civic Theatre, with all of those hours being spent building sets. His first experience was working with Tom Moran. The two still collaborate on several productions each season.

“I love to go to live theatre, and I knew that Lafayette had one of the best venues for live action. I was sure someday I would be helping somewhere,” Dave said.

Along with building sets, Dave has served on Civic Theatre’s Board of Directors for six years, serving as president for two. He also has been actively involved on the facilities committee.

A few seasons ago, Dave auditioned for the first time – for the 2006-2007 Civic Theatre season production of On Golden Pond – for a special reason.

”I auditioned as part of a deal with my 12-year-old granddaughter,” he said. “She wasn’t sure that she wanted to try out for a part with a group in Frankfort, Illinois. I told her that I would try out for Norman if she would try out for her show. Two weeks later she called and said she got her part, and asked when my auditions were. So I auditioned.”

Although Dave wasn’t cast as Norman, he said Arliss Jeffries did an excellent job in the role. He also said the production was his favorite in terms of working on the set, designed by John David Collier, and watching the show, directed by Mark Allen Carter. Other favorites include My Fair Lady, Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol and Jesus Christ Superstar. He said the largest set that he helped to build was last summer’s Civic Under the Stars production of Disney’s High School Musical.

Dave has several favorite Civic moments, but two especially stand out for him. The first was Gerri Fish’s performance in The Road to Bountiful. He said he shed a tear because she was so moving.

The second moment took place at a recent annual membership meeting.

Susan Kisinger tricked me into attending the meeting to give the Managing Director’s Award to Tom Moran and me,” Dave said. “Any time you share anything with Tom Moran is a special moment.”

Dave acknowledged the talent of the Civic Theatre volunteers and importance of the Civic Youth Theatre program, saying, “There are many talented actors, directors, musicians, dancers, singers, costume and scene designers, set designers, decorators and builders associated with Civic and I am blessed to work beside them in their quest for good theatre. And one of the things I’m most proud of is the success of the Civic Youth Theatre program. For those of you who have been around for a while, think of the talent that has emerged from the CYT workshops, classes and productions. We will keep growing with young people like that.”

Dave concluded by explaining what a prospective volunteer may experience when participating in a production.

“You will never have more fun in your life,” he said. “You will feel rewarded when a production is finished. You will meet some of the most talented people in the area. When I look back on the years I have spent at Civic, I feel fulfilled. I hope you will too.”

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