Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, October 22, 2002.
Not a building in this town would exist without a foundation. Yet, it's funny. We hardly ever think of a foundation when we admire some beautiful structure. Community theater is like that. There is this whole regimen of people who really are the basis on which our performing stands. When you think about it, they are more starstruck than those of us who perform could ever be. After all, they toil season after season with little or no notice beyond their name maybe being listed in a program...often in barely legible type.
It's just that they truly love theater, the people who perform it and the audiences who come to see it.
Let me tell you about a lady whose love affair with the theater lasted a lifetime and who never lost the warm smile that she started with in her first work as a volunteer.
She was "Sitter" to everyone but her real name was Ellafrances Hildebrand. The "Sitter" name came from her sister who could not say sister properly and it came out "Sitter". By the way, she liked the name "Sitter", In fact, the Guild commissioned a silver pin incorporating the letters that spell "Sitter" in a most artistic way on the occasion of her 25th anniversary of service to the Guild. She wore it proudly till the end of her years.
For at least 50 years, it might be more, no one's around to tell us, Sitter worked as a volunteer for one group after another. We know that she worked with the Dayton Civic Theater, a pre-WWII professional stock company. She never forgot Frederic March, who of course did well on stage and in the movies, and Morton DaCosta who also made his mark as a Hollywood director. Even before that she was working with the Y Players, a now defunct but then thriving community theater that performed at the downtown YWCA, and the Blackfriars, another community theater from the past. In the late forties she started at the Guild where she had a 40 year or so run in jobs ranging from Box Office Manager to House Manager, a title she held for many years. She found time for the Victory, later the Victoria where she volunteered for many years as an usher.
"Sitter" liked to attend Dress Rehearsals during the years that she was House Manager at the Guild so that she could see an uninterrupted performance and also to time the acts to know when refreshments should be ready.
Loyal as she was to the Guild, Sitter was a PG13 person. I used to enjoy watching her face when we were doing some more racy or controversial production. You could have been deaf to the actors but watching the length of her scowl would have given you a perfect index of R, X, or NC17. Since she was such a sweet person at heart she could never be critical. Instead she might allow that "Not everyone wants to see that sort of thing." But she always said it with a sweet smile.
Over the years she became friend to cast, crew and audience alike. And she was there year after year and show after show. And that my friends is the kind of person that assures the future of community theater. I commend to you my dear friend of all these many years, Ellafrances "Sitter" Hildebrand.
-- Ralph Dennler