Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, August 16, 2009.
Nomination speech by Carol Finley
The first day I walked into the Dayton Theatre Guild, thirteen years ago, there was Blake Senseman greeting all who walked in the door, making newcomers feel welcome as well as catching up with old friends. Since that day, I have watched Blake do that very thing countless numbers of times, drawing new folks into the theatre, making all feel valued. Since then, I have had the opportunity to watch Blake handle many different roles, and have had opportunities to learn from him.
One of my favorite Guild shows is Old Wicked Songs, not just because a well crafted script was handled beautifully by two very talented actors, Gil Martin and Ben Magnusen, but because I watched an empty stage turn into a period appropriate, continental room that was at once inviting and slightly shabby, with no detail overlooked –- and it was completed for the cost of two cans of paint. Blake can transform nothing into something wonderful. From old world elegance in the Constant Wife and Long Day's Journey into Night, to a current day post office mail room in The Cashier, no detail is too small to fuss over. Many of you are still talking about the set and props for A Little Night Music at the Dayton Playhouse –- all blue. I wasn’t around to see that, but I keep hearing about it. From Taco Bell flavored Night of the Iguana to Third Reich abstract in The Action Against Sol Schuman, Blake's set designs are memorable. In many respects, Blake has earned the title Artist.
But, Blake’s talents do not end there. Many of us are still chuckling over the devious Dr. Drabble in The Dice House, Dub in the Texas trash trilogy at the Guild, and a few of you are humming along to Nathan Detroit’s tunes from Guys and Dolls with the Tipp City Players. We also hold dear Blake's performances in Six degrees of Separation, A Thousand Clowns, Wallis, Much Ado About Nothing, The Man Who Came to Dinner, or in any of the 40 + shows in which Blake has performed. In addition to the Tipp City Players and the Dayton Theatre Guild, Blake has performed with Sinclair Community College, The Dayton Playhouse, First Stage Productions, Illumination Theatre, Soiree Musicale, Wright State University as well as with the Muse Machine in-school tours.
Blake is a renaissance man, he designs and builds sets, yes. He acts... But I have already told you about that. Blake has a couple directing credits as well as stage management experience. In addition, Blake has been properties master for a number of shows at the Human Race Theatre Company, The Dayton Theatre Guild and The Dayton Playhouse. Blake's standards are high. Where some might say, "It’s good enough, leave it alone," Blake does not. The item sought must be the correct item. When you ask Blake to handle properties, he will find the most obscure items imaginable -– things you didn't even know existed –- but indubitably add the right touch. If the prop isn't available, Blake will fashion it from scratch using spit, glue, duct tape and cigarette holders. Not only that, if you need a prop and ask Blake if we have one, Blake not only knows if we do, but exactly where it is in the Guild's collection. With nearly 65 years of collected props -- that is no small feat. When we began our move to our new location, Blake took 3/4 of a gym floor full of props and turned them into two rows of neatly organized tiers where each table nestled next to another table, chair with chair, etc.
In addition to all I have already mentioned, Blake is the consummate board member, serving on the board of the Dayton Theatre Guild for more years than I have been around to count. There is no task too small, and none too large. Blake can always be counted on to lend a hand and complete necessary tasks. From flood to fire to multiple moves, Blake will get the job done.
While we had to endure a period during which Blake took time off from the theatre to care for his mother, I cannot imagine a theatre community in Dayton without Blake –- I hope I never see it.
-- Carol Finley
Acceptance speech by Blake Senseman
Whenever someone asks me how I first got involved in theater I usually tell them I auditioned for Dr. Robert MacClennan who directed Hamlet back in the late 1970s. Sorry Mac, that's not quite true. Actually, I was cast as the second letter "i" in the word Thanksgiving in my third grade class holiday pageant. How unforgettably humiliating that experience turned out to be! I was petrified but somehow I got through it. And for some reason, that remains a mystery to me, I continued to be drawn to the theater arts right up to adulthood.
Each new experience bolstered my confidence and I learned something new every time. Eventually I gained experience in other technical areas of theater as well. I grew as an actor not just from acting but mostly, I think, from the people I worked with...the directors, other actors and crew -- many of whom I am now proud to call friend.
But then that's what theater is about isn't it? People? As actors, we get gratification when, for a brief moment, we step outside ourselves and become someone else to tell a story. And, when it's good...hah...we're gratified to know we've touched those who were listening to our storytelling.
Everyone... actors and audience goes home happy...well, goes home thoughtful...or challenged possibly. They may even go home depressed...I mean really...How many people die in Hamlet Mac? Nine? Eleven? I know, I know...I died when I missed an entrance in that one scene because my supernumerary character was in the green room playing cards but I digress.
I feel blessed that I have had through the years tremendous support from family and friends. I wouldn't be standing here if I hadn't received such encouragement. That's the truth.
Many thank you's are in order and I'm very sorry I don't have time to name you all. Thank you Fred, Carol, Greg, Mac, Jim Payne, Marsha, Jo Goenner, Paul Lane, Ralph, Gil, John Riley, and Kenny. Also to my leading ladies Henni, Kim and Barb. Thanks and love to my two sisters who are here tonight, Gayle and Peggy and my other family as well. And thank you to all my friends outside the theater circle some of whom are here...especially John.
When I received the email notifying me of my election to the Hall of Fame I was...stunned...yes I was Greg!...and once again...petrified. But unlike my stint as the second letter i, I'm not humiliated....I am humbled. Thank you so very much.