From Behind the Barn
News from the Sedona Arts Center
by Rod Abbott
The weekend of June 3 marked
the ending of the musical STIFFS, but even more, it was the
last production and final performance of the performing arts
arm of the Sedona Arts Center’s Charles Raison Theatre.
company writing, producing, performing: Michael Gilbert, Theresia
Hawkins, John Reynolds, Dev Ross, Chris Vaglio, and Debbie
Winslow charmed the final audience and received a standing
ovation. There followed a “Remember When Party” in the theatre,
attended by 60 to 70 avid theatre supporters. Bobbi Leahy
and John Wade from the Performing Arts Committee organized
the affair with tasty hors d’oeuvres and wine just outside
the theatre. Following the grazing, the crowd gathered in
the Charles Raison Theatre to reminisce with Wade as the Emcee.
Even before the program, one
could pick up on many stories of the Art Barn and its past.
Bob Fleisig and Les Heyborne reflected on the many sets for
the productions that they had accomplished as well as the
work they did with the “grunts” as they were benevolently
called, while building the theatre itself.
First on the program was Winslow,
who is not only the Administrative Director of the Arts Center
but also has performed in many of the shows on stage in the
Charles Raison Theatre over the years. She recalled that the
first production in the newly renovated theatre (named for
her mentor, the late Charles Raison) was Love Letters. Winslow
called attention to a plaque near the door to the theatre
with all of the names of the many volunteers who had virtually
remodeled the theatre into the present day facility.
Winslow recalled for the audience
many of the shows and incited the audience to remember many
humorous and touching incidents. She pointed to the seat in
the third row of the raised portion of the seating, where
Raison used to sit. Isabel Joynt occupied the seat in the
audience and was brought to the podium by Wade, who reminded
the crowd of the tremendous contribution both Joynt and her
husband, John, had made over the years to the Center. She
recalled that it was in 1969 and 1970 that her husband had
fire-proofed the exhibition hall and small stage therein.
He had a construction company and made significant contributions
to remodeling the barn and constructing a theatre. She recalled
the year 1971 and a Mardi Gras night that cost $5 to enter.
Dick Levy could not attend
since he was visiting his son in Fargo, ND, and was in attendance
at his granddaughter’s graduation; however a tape he had prepared
and left with Wade was played for the event. Levy
reminisced, and to the amusement of the audience, Levy
recalled some of his famous bloopers.
Noel Schwartz recalled for
all how he had come to Sedona and been hired for the choreography
of a play from which all the dancing numbers had been removed.
Schwartz had a storied career with the Center and the theatre.
In the middle of one of his remembrances he was interrupted
by Dean Spotts and the two of them broke out in a dance number
to which they both sang and danced. It was a great number
and recalled the fun they had had at the theatre in many productions.
Two plaques were given for
many years of contribution to Dick Levy and to Gordon Yates,
who was in Colorado and could not attend. Bob Blaustone received
the plaque for him. Blaustone was interrupted by a presentation
of a stool so that he could stand up above the podium.
Many other significant contributors
reflected on the years of productions and wonderful meaningful
relationships that had developed through the performing arts
arm of the Art Center. In no other form of the Arts is there
such a bonding with people within the production of finished
product as develops in the performing arts. Those involved
in the production and then in the deliverance of the final
product over time develop a closeness and camaraderie that
is unique in the art world.
The work - from sets production
to lighting to sound, costuming, writing, choreography, acting,
directing and the many other jobs necessary for the final
product form relationships that are close and shared experiences
that become impossible to replace. The house in which all
this takes place as the final product is like the artists
studio and contains many ghosts of past performances. It is
with a seen and unseen tear that those memories fade as the
For one last time, as each
took the stage and the lights brightened, the memories flowed
through all attending and each held hands with yesterday while
the joy and sorrow of those years played upon the senses.
They all vowed that the theatre will rise again in Sedona.