Robert E. Gard Award

Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer
Presented to volunteers over 65 who have faithfully served community theatre for over 25 years

2017 Honoree
Sally Barnes (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma)
Sally BarnesSally has for more than 25 years been the most active theatre volunteer in Tulsa, and perhaps the entire state of Oklahoma. She has served as a stage manager or performer in over 60 productions with seven different companies. Sally has not only been a star stage manager and performer for the past three decades, but has remained active in the administrative and board aspects of several companies. She continues to be active as the Treasurer (and previous President) for the Oklahoma Community Theatre Association and has worked on workshops, conferences, and festivals since 2012. Sally was a guest of honor at the state capital when Theatre Tulsa was presented the Oklahoma Arts Council Governor’s Arts Award for Community Service. Her commitment and loyalty to Theatre Tulsa remain invaluable.

2017 Honoree
Gloria Filean (Des Moines, Iowa)
Gloria FileanGloria has been involved with the Des Moines Community Playhouse since her early teens, when she and a friend began as ushers. She is in the Playhouse ticket office at least 20-30 hours a week—longer during season ticket renewals. She is the face of the Playhouse for many of its season ticket holders, and her passion and commitment is evident in everything she does—including the exceptional and personal service she provides all guests. In her work for the Playhouse, Gloria has served a six-year term on its board of directors, and helped with raising funds and event planning. Gloria’s husband, Art, has served on the board and capital campaigns, and her children have also pitched in as volunteers. For more than 50 years, Gloria has given her time, talents, and treasure to the Playhouse, and to many local charities and nonprofits.

2017 Honoree
Barry Fuller (Memphis, Tennessee)
Barry FullerBarry has been a volunteer extraordinaire for 46 years. At 87, Barry commands the stage and respect of his fellow actors. “I was never a leading man,” says Barry, but with his thirteenth appearance as Scrooge at Theatre Memphis’ annual production of A Christmas Carol, he leads all other actors in the theatre’s 39 year history of presenting that Memphis holiday treasure. Barry’s characters have stood out over the years, with several performances earning him Memphis Theater Ostrander Awards for theatrical excellence. In 1997 he was awarded the Eugart Yerian Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ostranders ceremony. Barry has performed at many other theatres in town as well—directing, acting, and even a little choreography from time to time. His energy is bright and accessible, and he always brings a consummate professionalism to everything he does. For these past 46 years at Theatre Memphis, Barry Fuller has certainly “blessed us, everyone.”

2017 Honoree
Rita Heizer (Billings, Montana)
Rita HeizerRita celebrated her 85th birthday on January 24, 2017. She has been an active volunteer at the Billings Studio Theatre since 1983—34 years of continuous service to the theatre. Rita has served as chair of the play reading committee, and also as that committee’s secretary for the past 15 years. She has served as interim Executive Director, stage manager, assistant director, costumer and props person on too many productions to number. In addition to being a local award winning actress, Rita is also a talented pianist, playing for numerous rehearsals and auditions. She was the first recipient of an award named in her honor—“The Rita,” created to recognize an individual who has served beyond what one would consider a normal volunteer…..a Super Volunteer, if you will—that’s Rita!

2017 Honoree
Gerri Nichols (Troy, Ohio)
Gerri NicholsA founding member of Troy Civic Theatre (TCT), established in 1965, Gerri Nichols is the only original member still continuously active with productions. Over the past 50 years, she has worked tirelessly as the theatre’s primary costumer, providing the costumes for over 110 productions. As the theatre’s stock of costumes and props has grown, an off-site storage warehouse—the Gerri Nichols Annex—was obtained, and Gerri has taken on the often thankless task of Annex Supervisor. Over the years, she has been recognized for her designs, earning countless Barnstormer Awards (determined by audiences), as well as Dayton, Ohio community theatre awards, and Ohio Community Theatre Association regional and state level awards. Beyond her work in costuming, Gerri is also director of the TCT Repertory Company, which brings performing art into the community through readers theatre and song.

Previous Recipients
1982  L. K. Boutin* (Des Moines, IA)
1983  Ruth Kenyon Tate*
          (North White Plains, NY)
1984  Emma & Alan* Bowlsby
          (Indianapolis, IN)
1985  Roberta Kendrick* (Minneapolis, MN)
1987  Peggy Greene* (Topeka, KS)
1988  Alice B. Rogers* (Memphis, TN)
          Hilda Greenquist* (Racine, WI)
1989  Mary Peckham* (Omaha, NE)
          Lil Williams* (Ardmore, OK)
1990  Dick Brown* (Des Moines, IA)
1991  Mary Dwyer* (Sheyboygan, WI)
1993  Firth Chew* (Spokane, WA)
1994  John Edmands* (Racine, WI)
1995  Ruth Cole* (Midland, TX)
1996  Holley R. Webster* (Wallingford, PA)
1997  Jean Mitchell* (Grand Rapids, MI)
1998  Dottie Griffith (St. Joseph, MI)
1999  Betsey Reeder (Memphis, TN)
2000  Jane Margison (Riverside, CA)
           Robert Montgomery (Bremerton, WA)
2001  Heddie Kent (Concord, MA)
2002  Paul Sturner* (Tonawanda, NY)
           Isabella Ward (Dover, DE)
2003  Charlotte Hall (Fort Thomas, KY)
          Fred Normand (Rome, NY)
2004  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)
          Jo Pruden (Fort Shafter, HI)
2005  Hal Robinson (Royal Oak, MI)
          Sherman C. Ward, Jr.* (Haddenfield, NJ)
2006  Marge and Ted* Ressler (Dover, DE)
2007  Rosemary Green & Louise Carpenter  (Ocala, FL)

2008  James N. Alexander, III* (Haddon
         Heights, NJ)
         Peg Brandon (Winter Haven, FL)
         Henry Pope (Walla Walla, WA)
2009  Rae Cohan (Newport Beach, CA)
         Max Polley (Davidson, NC)
         Willa Wye Rockett (Belmont, MA)
2010  Arthur Delo, Jr. (Jersey City, NJ)
          Martha Kovacsi* (Bay City, MI)
          Madge Levinson (Toledo, OH)
2011  Geri Becker (Venice, FL)
           Wayne Pressnall (North Platte, NE)
           Bennett Wood (Memphis, TN)
2012  Don Mansfield (Jackson, MI)
           Judi Schweppe Johnson (Eugene, OR)
           Richard C. Whaley (Annapolis, MD)
2013  John Lynn* (Mundelein, IL)
           Charla Rowe (Fort Washington, MD)
           Richard Sherwin (Tallahasee, FL)
2014 Alvin Blasco (Streator, IL)
         Ron McDaniel (Danville, IL)
         Barbara Tarlin (Wellesley, MA)
2015 Ruth Behrend* (Hartland, WI)
2015 Guy Dillaway (Weston, MA)
2015 Jean Endrizzi (Duluth, MN)
2015 Richard and Elaine Albright (Aurora, IL)
2015 Libby Kafka (Sharon, MA)
2016 Beverly Allen (Helena, MT)
         Barbara Christensen (Hartland, WI)
         Margi Ritscher (Ansbach, Germany)
         Susan Tucker (Concord, MA)
         Dr. Charles "Bud" Vear (Hillsdale, MI)

20152015 2015


Robert E. Gard

This award is named in honor of Robert E. Gard, because of his lifetime commitment to theatre at the grassroots level. He taught playwriting at the University of Kansas and at Cornell, became a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, Humanities Division, and remained a fellow, and held numerous Rockefeller Foundation grants for many years. He later helped to found, with Professor Alexander M. Drummond, the New York State Playwriting Project, and helped to establish a statewide training program for New York State playwrights. In 1945 he received an offer to join the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, where he established the Wisconsin Idea Theatre Conference. He remained as director of Arts Development until, at age 70, he retired from all administrative duties. Gard founded the National Community Theatre Center in 1958 and conducted a national survey of the American Community Theatre in 1957-1958 for the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1967 Gard led a team, which surveyed the American Theatre for the National Theatre Conference. In 1967 he received the first large grant made by the National Endowment for the Arts for work with smaller communities.

Gard's list of citations is long: Kansas Theatre Hall of Honor; Pabst award for service to nationality groups; Distinguished Citizen Award from the Governor of Wisconsin; Member of the Finnish national Academy of Sciences and Letters; National Chairman of Fulbright Theatre Committee; Distinguished Service Award, Wisconsin Theatre Association; and many other awards and citations. The Robert E. Gard award was established in 1982, following Gard's offer to fund a "superior volunteer award" to be given annually to one or more persons who have served their theatres faithfully for many years in an unpaid capacity.  ACTA (later AACT) decided to name the award in Professor Gard's honor.


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