Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, August 22, 2005.
Induction speech by Barbara Jorgensen
Good evening, Dayton Theater friends. I am privileged to be introducing Greg Smith as a 2005 Theater Hall of Fame inductee.
I met Greg for the very first time about fifteen years ago during a rehearsal for The Man Who Came to Dinner. Our characters, mine -- a mild mannered maid, and his -- an exuberant houseguest, were simply to exchange polite welcoming greetings. To my surprise he walked over, whisked me off the ground, and swung me completely around leaving me stunned and a little breathless.
He still does that to me. Not the whisking and swinging part -- that would be problematic for both of us -- but I am still stunned and a little breathless when I find the theater transformed by a beautifully designed Greg Smith set constructed almost entirely of styrofoam, or when I watch him as an actor become a character that I forget is really Greg Smith, or when I see him as a director draw the very best from his cast and turn some words on paper into a glimpse of life that is vital and alive.
This big ole Wetherford, Texas boy made his way to Dayton, Ohio in 1983. Within six months he had discovered the Fairborn Playhouse, and he was on his way. He has directed at the K-O, Beavercreek, and Brookville theaters, for the Waynetown Players, Firstage Productions, Dayton Playhouse, Human Race, and the Dayton Theatre Guild. He has also performed in most of the theaters mentioned. He was a production coordinator at La Comedia, is a lifetime member of the Dayton Playhouse, and an active member of the Dayton Theatre Guild currently serving as its board chairman.
He was technical director for the Dayton Playhouse from 1988 to 1994. It was supposed to be a part-time, 35 hour a week job, but you know Greg... In 1995 he teamed up with John and Marty Riley and they created Firstage Productions which was dedicated to bringing brand new shows to the Dayton area. It was a critical and creative success and their three year commitment stretched until 2001.
Since 1984 Greg has also been the resident costume designer for the Dayton Sweet Adelines and he directs their annual show. He designs sets for a large dance studio in Brookville with an annual recital that lasts for three days.
Keep in mind that he did all of this while working at his "real" job as a visual information specialist at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He retired not long ago with thirty-three years behind him.
But Greg never really stops, so he turned his previous part-time job at Entertainment Unlimited into a full-time one as their chief designer and, in his words, troublemaker. We have seen his spectacular work at each one of the Hall of Fame dinners.
When I think of Greg I am reminded of the old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movies where someone says, "Let's do a show!" and the next day it's ready to go. Greg could do it all as his own company. He could design and build the set, design and make the costumes, do the hair and makeup, and direct himself in all of the parts. His talent knows no bounds.
Several years ago he said, "Wouldn't it be a good idea to have a Dayton Theater Hall of Fame?" His enthusiasm swept us along, and the next thing we knew there was a Theater Hall of Fame. A year or so later he said, "We should have area-wide theater awards and let's call them the Daytonys." Again we were swept along, and here we are tonight at the 4th annual Dayton Theater Hall of Fame inductions and Daytony Awards dinner. It is right and fitting that Greg enters the Dayton Theater Hall of Fame. It's his baby.
Often he overextends himself and says, "I'm taking a break from theater for awhile." His friends know better. There will be another project, a new show, a new idea, and a new challenge. The Dayton theater community will be the better for it. And I'll be stunned and little breathless again.
Ladies and gentlemen, my friend, Greg Smith.
-- Barbara Jorgensen
Acceptance comments by Greg Smith
With apologies to John-Michael Lander....."I did it...I did it...I walked right down that hall without my hair on. I feel neckid but I did it."
This is so weird....being up here....
I’m pretty sure I know how the nomination/selection thing worked.
Terry said. “Well, here we have a nomination for Greg Smith.”
And Tina said, “If he’s inducted, does that mean he won’t emcee?”
Terry said, “Yes.” Jennifer and Tina both said...”He’s got my vote.”
It’s all about opportunity. Opportunities come to all of us......you just have to take it.
Almost twenty-five years ago, I left Kansas to come to Dayton Ohio. Little did I know that my life would never be the same. I was a relative late-comer to the world of theatre. Actually I didn’t even realize there was such thing as community theatre until a co-worker asked if I’d like to come and help paint the set for Hello Dolly. I said....sure. That was in the fall of 1978. By the spring of 1979, I was acting, designing sets, making costumes, building props and had even become a director because someone asked me if I though I could direct Gypsy. I said.....sure. I learned that it is amazing what you can do when you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t know any better.
By 1983, I had twenty five shows under my belt, had served on the local theatre board of directors, and and was pretty sure that I knew all there was to know about community theatre.
Then the opportunity to come to Dayton came to pass. I took a job at the Air Force Institute of Technology and immediately attempted to locate a community theatre that would allow me to continue my new and exciting hobby. I found the Fairborn Playhouse and that is where my theatre life in Dayton began.
As luck would have it....I auditioned for Allegro and got cast. And what a cast and crew it was. It included Joan Harrah, Barbara Kerr, Lloyd Bryant, Brian Spitler, Dodie Lockwood, Sue Jackson and Terry Morris. Yes...THAT Terry Morris. And THAT was my initiation into the theatre scene of the Miami Valley.
In 1987 my life changed forever when I met Ron Kemper and was reluctantly adopted into his family. Almost as dysfunctional as the family I have in Texas, they welcomed me nonetheless and continue to play an important part in my life. About the same time, I was offered the opportunity to be the part-time Technical Director & Set Designer for the Dayton Playhouse. I took the job, moved into to Dayton and walked in thinking I knew everything....Jim Payne quickly put that notion to rest.
Since I came to Dayton, I have had the good fortune and opportunity to become involved in theatre at the Fairborn Playhouse, K-O Theatre, and again later when it became Playhouse South, the Dayton Theatre Guild, the Dayton Playhouse, Theatre Under The Stars, Sinclair Community College, Beavercreek Community Theatre, Young at Heart Players, Brookville Community Theatre, WayneTown Players, Trotwood Circle Theatre, the Human Race Theatre Company, Epiphany Lutheran Church, FirStage Productions and La Comedia Dinner Theatre.
It has been my pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most generous and gifted theatre people in the Miami Valley. I won’t list all the names because I know I will inadvertantly leave someone out. You know who you are. But I do want to thank Ron for his continued support, Eileen Gault for always being there, Henni Fisher for always telling me I am right, Kim Reiter for never telling me I’m wrong, and John and Mary Riley for their friendship and for welcoming me into the heart of FirStage Productions.
I would also like to thank my sister Debra and her husband Paul for flying in from Dallas, and Ron’s mom Jeannine, and his brother and sister-in-law, Don and Amy Kemper for being here tonite.
Having had the honor of working with and learning from Marsha, Kevin, Scott, Fred, Terry, Virginia, Sitter, Jo, Jim, Bob,Carol, Dutch, Barbara, and Fred, it is indeed an honor to have my name listed along side theirs. I look forward to many more years of theatre right here in the Miami Valley. Oh yeah.....if you haven’t purchased your season tickets yet....check your program.....lot’s and lot’s to choose from! And if opportunity knocks.....open the door..... See ya at the theatre!
-- Greg Smith