Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, August 22, 2005.
After his service to our country in the US Navy, Nelson D'Aloia has devoted his life to the theatre and to the honor of the technician nationally and locally as a since he joined the union in April of 1961. He is inarguably the oldest active member in good standing of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union (IATSE), Local 66. (All acknowledge that Bill Young is actually older, however, he is currently enjoying his retirement)
From 1962 through 1989, Nelson traveled the country with major first-run Broadway tours. He's rubbed elbows with the best -- Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, then with Dorothy Lamour, then with Pearl Bailey. He frequently toured with David Merrick's productions including the likes of Robert Preston and Mary Martin in I Do, I Do, Lauren Bacall in Applause, Yul Brenner in The King and I, Joel Grey in Cabaret, Tommy Tune in My One and Only, Raisin, Plaza Suite, the list goes on and on.
During the summers, when the tours slept, he did not. Instead, he worked the Kenley Players at Memorial Hall as well as any other union gig that passed his way.
In 1989, he handed down his walking shoes and came home to The Victory Theatre as it transformed into the beautiful Victoria Theatre. For a year, Nelson worked with the staff and architects, ever watchful that serious mistakes were not made in the renovation. The result, the best designed performance space in Dayton.
Since the opening celebration of The Vic, Nelson has served as House Carpenter at the Victoria, a 15-year run. House Carpenter -- a position equivalent to "the god of the stage", according to Ken Rice, the 20-year Business Agent for IATSE, who considers Nelson a mentor. "He brought the knowledge of the road back to Dayton. He taught me a lot a values, a teacher of men."
Nelson stands behind nothing less than excellence. He leads by example, demanding of others no more than he demands of himself. But he is demanding. He knows the protocol and he follows it. He is gracious, understanding, and very loving, but don't break the rules, his rules.
He knows theatre. He knows touring. He knows his business and he takes his business to heart. Young at 82, he is still on top of his game. The other stagehands, especially those that have a breadth of experience, know and respect his knowledge. And Nelson treats every company or artists who have purchased the use of "his" stage with respect whether they are the first national company of a Broadway show or the last "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO". That includes local community theatres (Dayton Theatre Guild) or small professionals (The Human Race Theatre Company) or students (The Muse Machine). He takes them under his wing and protects them while doing everything in his power to make their tenure there a success.
He doesn't try to do the designer or director's job for them; he makes decisions based on his vast knowledge of stage technology and stays out of the way of the artist's expression. He is a stagehand, a technician who executes the desires and wishes of the artist; his artistry is staying out of the way without letting things get out of control.
His equipment is properly maintained. His tools are in order. His soft goods are stored correctly. Damage is repaired, corners are swept, and the jigsaw puzzles are mounted.
There was a day, so I've been told, when Dayton's reputation on the national touring circuit was at or near the bottom of the ladder. Today, touring companies see Dayton as a spotlight on their journey. This is due, in large part, to Nelson.
Although his work over the last decade and a half has been primarily at the Victoria Theatre, he has interacted with every organization that works there. All concur; Nelson is a gem in the city's crown. A delight, they say, professional, thorough, easygoing...as long as you don't mess with his coffee maker!!
Nelson always held a special place for Geraldyne Blunden in his heart and DCDC's Kevin Ward praised Nelson. "When you go into a theatre in another city," he says, "you don't always know who's in charge. When we go into the Vic, Nelson's on duty, backstage, creating a welcoming atmosphere. We know we've come home."
Ask any of the Dayton producing organizations, Dayton Ballet, Rhythm in Shoes, Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, CityFolk, The Human Race and more. We've all worked with him, we all love him.
Matt Borger, Production Manager of the Dayton Phil, says, "He's absolutely dependable. His positive 'can-do' attitude never waivers. Pleasing us is what he's all about."
Why should Nelson D'Aloia be honored in the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame? Because he sets the benchmark and he sets it high. I know when I load my set onto his stage that my work will be appreciated and protected. I know he will tell me the truth if a potential problem lies ahead of me. I know he will demand that the entire crew work with integrity, merely by his example. He is the consummate professional.
He gives me something to look up to. He passes his love of theatre on:
To Betty, his wife, and long-time member of the wardrobe union
To his three children, three grandchildren, and his three great-grandchildren,
He has created a legacy they will always rely on. He is the hidden asset that makes a show, any show rise to a new level. He believes in theatre. He believes in teamwork. He believes in artists. I believe in him.
-- Scott J Kimmins, Technical Director
The Human Race Theatre Company