Friday, July 15, 2005

Bill Allman Remembered

Reflections on Bill Allman: A Friend Remembers

Bill Allman was a very special person in my life. He was not only a personal friend, but a professional colleague. He was not only responsible for my becoming involved in Berea Summer Theatre and the BW Theatre program, but furthered my son’s theatrical career by casting him as Younger Patrick in ‘MAME.’ Bill’s passing leaves a hole not only in my heart, but in the very essence of the theatre community.

John Nolan, who was a performer at Berea Summer Theatre, Bill’s student at BW and the last Managing Director of the BST before it was closed under questionable conditions by the college, represented Bill’s many friends at the memorial service held on Sunday, July 31. Here is a brief segment of his speech:

William Shakespeare wrote in ‘AS YOU LIKE IT’: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

Our beloved Billy did play many parts. He was a much-loved son, brother, father, father-in-law, grandfather, neighbor, teacher, director, colleague, showman, and mentor.

And within-and above -all of those roles, Bill Allman was that most treasured of all gifts -- a true friend.

Although there are many different stories about Bill, they all have common elements. Bill was a warm, kind man, with a broad, inviting smile and an infectious laugh, who never met a person he couldn’t talk with (and, parenthetically, probably did talk with). He was generous to a fault, with a heart as big as all outdoors, and our world is a much richer place for his having been a part of it.

Bill was a remarkably humble man, too. In an interview he gave in 1996, Bill said : “I’d like to think that somewhere along the line in my teaching and working with plays, that maybe one moment I’ve had just a little bit of effect on somebody, and then that person goes out and there’s a little bit of me there.”

Billy, Billy, Bill. This room is full of people, and the many others whose schedules did not allow them to be with us today, stand as an absolute testament to the fact that you did have a profoundly powerful effect on many of us, and that we are proud to carry you with us, in our hearts, wherever we go.

No reflection on the life of Bill Allman would be complete without some mention of Berea Summer Theatre. In fact, the two were nearly synonymous in the minds of decades of loyal theatregoers who remember Bill welcoming them at every performance.

Bill’s life was one long, loving, entertaining show. So, in the words of the master himself, please join me in completing Bill’s most quoted line: “If you enjoy the show,
please tell your friends!”