Robert E. Gard Award

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

2016 Honoree
Beverly Allen
Helena, MT

Ruth BehrendBeverly Allen has provided unmatched service to the Grandstreet Theatre in Helena, both onstage and behind the scenes, during the theatre's 40-year history.  Over three and a half decades, she has immersed herself in all aspects of theatre and says she feels personally "enriched by the multigenerational relationships." Her particular gift is set building and painting. Colleen Mockler, another long-time friend of Grandstreet, says, "We found a picture from 39 years ago showing Bev painting the set for South Pacific (1976), and so we walked upstairs and showed it to Bev--where she was painting the set for Beauty and the Beast (2013)." Pete Hardie, first Resident Scene Designer and Technical Director at Grandstreet said, "Bev Allen is an exceptional volunteer and overall positive force for good in theatre and in life. Dedicated, creative, and hardworking people like her keep community theatre going. We'd be lost without her." And, for Beverly, the feeling is mutual; "As the Grandstreet family grandmother, it keeps me young at heart. I can't imagine living in a community without live theatre."

2016 Honoree
Barbara Christensen
Hartland, WI

Barbara ChristensenBarbara Christensen joined the Lake Country Players in Hartland, WI in the spring of 1970, making the group her theatrical home for 45 years. Through the years, Barb has been involved in all things theatre, both on and off the stage. She has acted, directed a multitude of productions, served on many backstage crews (props, makeup, lights, costumes), and most recently as a member of the board of directors, costume room committee, and reading committee chair. Barb's very first role was in Calamity Jane, and her last stage acting role was the cantankerous mother (and mother-in-law) in Moon Over Buffalo. She is and has been an instrumental part of Lake Country Players. Barb has lived in Hartland for over 25 years, and currently shares her apartment with two furry children, her cats, Sterling and Pumpkin.

2016 Honoree
Margi Ritscher
Ansbach, Germany

Margi RitscherMargi Ritscher has tirelessly and consistently served the U.S. Army Europe Entertainment Theatre program for over 25 years, longer than any other U.S. Army Entertainment volunteer. Since 1995, Margi has been a prolific and valuable volunteer director, choreographer, musical director, costume designer, and performer in over 85 productions. Her enthusiasm, commitment, and selfless service, in addition to her generous and gifted mentorship, has greatly impacted the development of both adult and youth volunteers. Overall, she has contributed much to the Entertainment mission of serving volunteers, directly increased the quality of life at U.S. Army Communities in Europe, and assisted the Entertainment staff in supporting soldiers, civilians, and their families. "What makes an Army community theatre so different from a state-side theatre is the high turn-over rate," she says. "One hardly has the same people over an extended period of time, and these people, ranging in age from 4 to 70, always come with vastly different levels of experience. This, however, is a large gift, because it truly makes the theatre a place of education for absolutely everyone involved."

2016 Honoree
Susan Tucker
Concord, MA

Susan TuckerSusan Tucker has been a member of the Concord [MA] Players for more than 40 years. When gold and purple threads of light weave into an Alabama sunset on the stage, Susan is at the lighting board. When an actor reaches for his prop so surely placed that he knows he doesn't have to look for it, it is Susan who has placed it. She is the script doctor, crew chief, mentor, the designer, the doer, and the unflappable stage manager. Susan builds bridges as well. As a representative for the Players of Concord and the eastern Massachusetts regional theatre community, she has also served on boards for several community theatres in neighboring towns. Susan frequently functions as mediator, negotiating difficult compromises in the interest of communities at large. She is the spine of the Concord Players organization; her acumen in the theatre is surpassed only by her quiet grace and unassuming demeanor. In Susan's words, "Putting on plays is a collaborative process. It's about problem solving and working towards a common goal. It can be a joy and mighty stressful. But, when it all comes together on opening night, it is quite magical."

2016 Honoree
Dr. Charles "Bud" Vear
Hillsdale, MI

Dr. Charles "Bud" VearDr. Charles "Bud" Vear (Hillsdale, Michigan) began his involvement with the Sauk Theatre in Jonesville, Michigan, in 1968, and now, 48 years later and nearing 90 years of age, continues to volunteer on and off stage. In 1972 Bud and his wife Gloria chaired a fundraising committee to purchase the Jonesville Community Building and, after modifications, the Sauk Theatre was born. Bud's biggest role was playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and he was right at home playing the father of a large family, since he and Gloria have 12 children. In 1979 the Sauk Theatre suffered major damage when old wiring caused a fire. Bud and Gloria again led a fundraising drive which helped to rebuild, renovate, and update the theatre. Bud spent over a year creating a 200-plus-page book to commemorate the theatre's 50th anniversary, including pictures and memories from volunteers throughout the theatre's history. Bud is currently a trustee on the board, and in 2013 led a major fundraising drive to completely upgrade the theatre's lighting system. Says Bud, "The opportunity to be part of community theatre history has been a privilege, and the success of our little theatre has been a testimony to the volunteer efforts of many people."

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)

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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