By David Hennessey
In 1998, I drove down Route 8 from Fountain for the first time and saw Lanesboro nestled below the bluffs like a picture post card. It was magical. Little did I know I’d spend more than two wonderful decades here at the Commonweal. My artistic journey continues, but now at a slower pace.
I will partially retire in 2020, cutting my hours to one-third time. I’ll continue acting when there are suitable roles and will work as needed with our development team, but Jeremy van Meter will be the principal contact for the MDC. Meanwhile, I’ll keep handling advertising sales in our season program.
In short, I will take a step back, but I am definitely not stepping away.
How could I? The Commonweal has been the perfect artistic home for me. I love working with a resident ensemble of both seasoned artists and new apprentices. We all learn from each other and have a chance to assess our artistic growth annually with Hal and Adrienne. Those assessments shape the roles we’re assigned, and I’ve been lucky to play more than 50 — from likable characters such as Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life to despicable liars like Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird, plus appearances in world premieres by Jeffrey Hatcher and Scott Dixon (#teamscotty). As with everyone here, I’ve also had many behind-the-scenes roles over the years including costume shop manager, Elderhostel organizer, student matinee scheduler, underwriter recruiter, company calendar manager, writer, editor and audio description trainer.
Along the way I’ve collected meaningful memories both off and on stage. Once, a couple who had just lost half their income told me they decided to keep season passes in their reduced household budget. They had just seen The 1940s Radio Hour, and it had lifted their spirits, reminding them why our work was crucial.
And when Phillip Muehe, then a directing apprentice, asked me to join the apprentice cast of Tigers Be Still, I accepted, even though it added to my heavy stage schedule of four other shows that year. When the first-night audience leapt to their feet at the end of the show, I felt like I was in a credit card commercial.
Extra rehearsal hours: 50. Added gray hairs from lack of sleep: 32. The smiles from my young colleagues after an opening-night standing ovation: Priceless!
Hey, I can’t possibly step completely away from memories like those. So I’ll see you all next year . . . sometime! 🙂