Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, August 17, 2008.
Induction Speech by Jennifer Lockwood
First she was a dancer. In typical Dodie fashion, she did it all -- from the traditional tap & ballet to hula and toe taps and everything in between. She took up baton twirling and again took it to every extreme -- fire baton anyone? -- and excelled. She was the head majorette at Belmont High School, appeared in Who's Who in Baton Twirling twice and was named Miss Belmont Park of 1964. When she was interviewed about her future plans Dodie said she wanted to pursue baton twirling professionally. Luckily for us she found other creative outlets.
While still in high school she started teaching dance at the studio belonging to her good friend Sue Shea. Sue suggested she come along to auditions for Guys & Dolls at Dayton Community Theatre. Cast as a hot-box girl her first time out, Dodie had found a new home. She quickly moved out of the chorus with a featured role in Fiorello where she declared, "I Love a Cop."
Soon she was choreographing shows as well, often in tandem with Sue, including show such as I Do, I Do, Oliver, Finian's Rainbow, South Pacific and my debut -- The Wizard of Oz.
Dodie officially became a hyphenate as the director/choreographer of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown at the Fairborn Playhouse. She later directed The Fantastics, Guys and Dolls and Two by Two.
Dodie has served on the board of Dayton Community Theatre for many years, but when DCT combined with Dayton Repertory Theatre, Dodie stepped up to become president of the new Dayton Playhouse, Inc. Over the years she's also served on the board of Dayton Teen and Children's Theatre and DaytonTheatre Guild and was chairman of the Guild fundraising committee for 3 years.
Not satisfied with being an actor/director/etc., in 1991 she joined forces with John Riley to produce something entirely new for Dayton audiences. Let's face it -- when Dodie & John started talking about this "new play festival" most people thought they were crazy. Festivals in Dayton involve beer, food and carnival rides. But a community theatre mounting 6 new plays in one weekend in front of theatre professionals from around the country and the playwrights -- in Dayton? Who would come to see that? 18 years and 108 plays later it is time to say it -- You were right, we were wrong and thank you for not listening to the naysayers. FutureFest has been nationally recognized. Playwrights sing its praises and resubmit their new plays year after year. Winning plays have been produced by professional companies around the country including in LA, Washington DC, Sarasota and New York.
But FutureFest has also benefited the Dayton theatre community beyond the publicity. Working on these scripts in progress and the feedback we've gotten has changed the way we read and evaluate scripts. It has changed the plays we chose to produce, the way we direct them and the way we perform them.
No, I haven't forgotten Dodie the actress -- who could? Her performances have entertained, thrilled and educated us. Over the years we've watched her karate chop her way through Company, tap her heart out in Follies, emotionally smother her children in The Glass Menagerie, reunite her strained family in On Golden Pond and fall in love over a pineapple in Cabaret. There are of course many others and we all have our favorites, but I want to close with one of mine. I was fortunate enough to direct my mom in The Interview as a lonely emotionally-isolated Holocaust survivor. Her journey from meticulously controlled anger to eventual peace with her past choices and even possible hope for the future was both devastating and thrilling. No one who saw it will ever forget it.
It is my great honor to induct Dodie Lockwood into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame.
Acceptance comments by Dodie Lockwood
Thank you Jennifer for the lovely introduction.
I would like to sincerely thank Shirley Landis for nominating me for this honor. Shirley was not able to be here tonight, so I asked my daughter Jennifer to introduce me. I figured no one knows me better.
I also want to thank all of those who assisted Shirley in the nomination: Jennifer, Nancy Campbell, Sue Jackson and Jim Payne.
You get nominated for something like this by spending hours and days and years working on theatre projects. With that in mind, I need to thank my children for struggling through years of childhood being dragged along to rehearsals and board meetings and sitting in the back of the auditorium trying to do their homework. Of course, since they both ended up involved in theatre, I guess they must have enjoyed some of it. Or, maybe they just never got the chance to know there was anything else to do.
You have all met my daughter, Jennifer and I want you to meet my son, Jake and his lovely wife, Heather. They just moved back to Dayton last year and I'm thrilled that they can be here tonight. I love you all.
We thought the grandchildren, 3-year old Rosie and 5-year old Jack, might get bored, so we didn't make them come, BUT I HAVE PHOTOS!!!.
As you've heard, I broke into theatre through dance when I was 16. Those years of dance lessons were provided by my dear mother, Virginia, who is here tonight and who still loves to dance, and by my dear father, Ed, who often worked 3 jobs to pay for the lessons, costumes, shoes, etc. Thanks to them, and to my sister, Angie (also here tonight), for putting up with me as a prima donna from the age of about 3. Angie is a saint!
There were lots of theatre mentors along the way, such as Eileen Gault, who cast me in my first musical. About a year later, when I had auditioned for a musical and thought I had not been cast, Eileen said to me, "You know you're always cast in my musicals." I didn't understand then that trained dancers, who can at least hum a tune, seldom get rejected for the chorus. Nevertheless, Eileen always made me feel pretty special.
Sue Jackson was a mentor who took me under her wing and let me teach at her studio in Forest Park Shopping Center. She also took me to my first audition, which was Guys and Dolls (1963). And, most importantly, Sue was my adult ticket into cast parties back then. She and I became great friends over the years. She now lives in Seattle and only stopped teaching dance a couple of years ago.
Bill Brewer, Paul Lane, Jim Payne, Brian Spitler (here tonight from Florida), Al Bonner and dozens of others were wonderful mentors and supporters over the years.
Back when Jim and I started in theatre, people were pretty loyal to just one group. We set a different course. While The Dayton Playhouse, or Dayton Community Theatre as it was known then, was our home group, we set out to audition and direct wherever we thought we could learn something new. Today lots of people do that I think it is a great way to grow as an artist.
My longest commute was to the Ox-act Community Theatre on the Miami University campus. Bill Brewer, was directing Ah Wilderness. I had met Bill through Ohio Community Theatre Association (or OCTA as we all know it) and was so impressed with his talent. That drive through the country to Oxford and back every night was a challenge. I'll never forget one evening driving to rehearsal. I knew the route by landmarks and some farmer had cut down his cornfield. I had no idea where to turn to find Oxford (and this was back before cell phones)!
I can't mention Bill Brewer without talking about OCTAMU, which was an annual, week-long, acting/directing workshop held during the summer at Miami University. It was sponsored by OCTA and taught by the Miami University Theatre staff. And it was only for adults.
I attended for 3 or 4 summers and what an amazing opportunity. We lived on campus, took classes at Miami U all day, rehearsed and directed scenes in the evening and had our work critiqued by these wonderful educators. I truly believe those summer workshops shaped me as an actress. OCTAMU has been gone for years, but I'd sure love to see one of our universities find a way to offer something like that again. It was sweet!
Another of my theatre treasures is FutureFest. Back in 1991 John Riley came to me with this idea to produce 12 new plays in one weekend! I thought he was crazy, but there's a great thing about being crazy. That's where all the really exciting ideas come from ... CRAZY PEOPLE! So, if your theatre doesn't have any crazy people, then you need to go find some. If you already have some you need to start listening to them! Well crazy John and I pulled it off eventually producing 6 plays in one weekend and that was the beginning of FutureFest.
This summer we celebrated our 18th FutureFest new play festival. Six more playwrights had the thrill of seeing their works-in-progress produced and getting professional feedback. And dozens of local artists got the opportunity to perform a new work for the first time. It's the most wonderful theatre energy I've ever felt in a room. I love it and I love the Nancy Campbells and the Fran Pesches and the Roger Watsons and the literally dozens of others who have worked their fannies off to keep it going year after year. Thank you for keeping our dream alive. I'm thrilled and amazed!
In the early days I spent time teaching workshops and taking workshops and organizing workshops. If your group isn't doing that, I hope that you will jump into action and get it on the agenda. Find a way to bring in someone from outside your group to teach something at a price that's affordable to everyone. Whether it is tips on set design, lighting, acting, or how to be a good board member; just do it. I believe it will make your group stronger.
I've served on and recruited for several boards over the years and I'm so grateful to those who serve their theatre as board members. I always encourage community theatres to recruit business professionals to be on their boards. Today, fundraising expertise and involvement with the business community is vital. So, please thank your board (remember they don't get applause) and help them recruit successful people in the community to serve.
Speaking of fundraising, I had the honor of heading up fundraising for a new building for the Dayton Theatre Guild for a couple of years. I've never learned so much in my life. You have to understand that while I've been involved in the business community all my life, my typical personal donation is in the $10-$20 range. I recently sent Obama $25, so I'm expecting big things of him.
Anyway, I never in my life thought I would be able to sit next to a person I barely knew and ask them for $10,000 without fainting. You think being on stage is scary! But, I did it and I got it. Now that may not seem like a lot of money to some of you, but it was huge for me. Find out how you can help your group raise $5 or $50,000 and then do it. You can.
We didn't finish the task while I was working on the Guild project, but some of the money we raised then will help the Dayton Theatre Guild move into their new home in the former Dayton Gym Club sometime next year and I'm damn proud of my little part. I'd like to lead a round of applause for the Dayton Theatre Guild for their accomplishment?
I've loved almost every role onstage. A few real favorites are:
- Amanda in Glass Menagerie at Playhouse South
- Frauline Schneider, singing and dancing to A Pineapple for Me with Mark Leiberman at the Dayton Playhouse in Cabaret
- Mrs. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol with the Human Race
- Eileen in The Cripple of Innishmaan at Dayton Theatre Guild
- Playing opposite Bert Staub in On Golden Pond at Brookville
- And most recently Sr. Agnes in Mary Band Road Show this year in FutureFest.
What a wonderful and quite bizarre cast of characters. I hope I have a few more in me.
Besides theatre, another of my favorite things is country music (not many people know that). So I'm going to close by taking a favorite Lee Ann Womack song and switching some of the lyrics.
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill of plays, but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single role for granted
God forbid auditions leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand above the footlights
Whenever one show closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give fate a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you run the props, build the set, sew the costumes, serve on the board, raise the funds and clean the restrooms!
And most of all, I hope you dance!
Thank you for adding to my theatre treasures.