Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, August 17, 2008.
Induction Speech by Debra Strauss
When I first met Jim, I noticed two things immediately. He loves to talk about theater and he is a master punster. His approach is to work the joke, looking for the most clever and delightful nugget of humor. Then he delivers the joke with gusto and enthusiasm. And then he waits with a twinkle in his eye to see if you enjoyed it. Jim's approach to theater is the very same. He works diligently to find the essence of the character, he delivers his performance with heart and conviction, and then he eagerly waits to see if we liked what he did on stage. And we do.
Jim is an actor of depth, humanity, and heartfelt expression. However, his first performances were as a child magician. And yet it was the French horn that led him to the stage. He was playing in the AF band, stationed at Wright-Patt when his friend Gil Martin asked him to play in the orchestra for an upcoming Dayton Community Theatre production of Damn Yankees. He was hooked. Two or three productions later, Jim was on stage rather than in the orchestra pit. That was 45 years ago and he hasn't stopped since.
Jim loves theater. He acts, he directs, he talks about theater, he sings, he dances, he talks about theatre, he reads about theatre, and he sees more theater than anyone I know. Jim has acted in more than 150 shows and has directed 41 productions at countless community and professional theaters in the Dayton-Cincinnati area. There have been several shows that Jim has done in multiples. Jim has acted in and/or directed four different shows three different times: Man of La Mancha, Barefoot in the Park, The Fantastics, and he has played all three male Curry roles in The Rainmaker. And I can't begin to count the number of shows he's seen.
Last season, Jim's nuanced, heart-warming performance as Nunzio in Over the River and Through the Woods at Beavercreek Community Theatre brought tears to the eyes of many audience members. It was a subtle, beautiful characterization; it was just one of many memorable performances.
As a director, Jim is organized, prepared, and unfailingly supportive. In A Piece of My Heart at Brookville Community Theatre, Jim provided the vision that created an award winning production. Jim is a true mentor and works selflessly to encourage and develop new talent. His greatest strength as a director is creating a nurturing environment where actors learn, grow, and flourish.
Jim is the consummate theatre goer and ultimate theater supporter. If he is in the audience, it's a good night for the actors on stage. You know he will laugh at the jokes, tap his toes to the songs, and root for you to be successful. There is nothing better than having supportive friends in the audience and Jim is always there for you. Jim routinely attends more than 50 shows a year. All for the love of theater.
In addition to being a gifted actor/director, Jim is a beloved family man. His favorite roles are being father to the talented Jennifer and Jake, and Grandpoo to his grandkids Jack and Rosie. Jim is also a true and faithful friend. He's the kind of friend that will come and see you in bad play (and you know it's a bad play), stay through to the bitter end, give you a hug in the receiving line, and find something kind to say.
Let's give Jim a chance to talk about theater. I am proud to induct Jim Lockwood into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentlemen, my friend and yours, Jim Lockwood.
Acceptance comments by Jim Lockwood
Speakers are always advised to "start off with a good joke." Those of you who know me best realize that's not going to happen.
At about the age when other kids were asking, "Where do babies come from?" I asked Dad, "Where do jokes come from?" Dad answered, "People make them up." "What people?" "Any people." "Could I make up a joke?" "I don’t see why not." Never has a child felt more empowered, and since that day, you all have suffered so much.
My first interest in shows was the circus. I went to circuses at least twice a year. The fact that the circus had no plot, no coherent story line didn’t matter; the circus filled me with awe. During the summer, I'd organize neighborhood kids in a circus in our garage. We'd duplicate as best we could the wonders we had seen. If we were lucky, a Mom or two would find time to be our audience, but the sound of even two hands clapping was enough to whet my appetite.
I got into theatre by a most circuitous route, by a series of seemingly unconnected events, each of which changed my life for good, and for the better.
When some family friends were looking for a variety act to add to their singing and dancing troupe, my Dad, a vaudeville junkie, taught me a few simple tricks, and I became the troupe magician. The troupe performed wherever we could get booked, often for free, although occasionally we'd draw a few dollars each. Eventually I got some single bookings, and in time raised my asking price to a whopping $10.00. That was magic!
In grade school, I was one of those lucky kids who avoided the dreaded music lessons. I don't know how many of my cousins learned to hate music because of the hours of practice forced on them when they had no desire to learn.
But as I was graduating from grade school, Dad and I went to the high school for a father-son welcome meeting. Sitting on folding chairs in the cinder block gym was not particularly inspirational, but when the band played, they created a sound that I had never even imagined before. When the band leader announced that they would be hosting a band ‘camp’ that summer, including a class for newcomers. Dad asked if I might be interested. The opportunity to become a part of that wonderful sound was reason enough to say, “Yes”.
It happened that the teacher of the newcomer class was also a magician. The bond was instantaneous and my entry into the world of music was far easier than I had any right to expect.
In college I got a partial scholarship for playing French horn in the band. Still I ran out money in my junior year. A friend who had spent 4 years with the Navy Band suggested that I audition for the military bands. If accepted, I could earn a living doing something I loved and have four years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I auditioned and was assigned to the band at Wright-Patterson AFB.
In the summer of 1963 Gil Martin visited the band. He was musical director for a production of Damn Yankees, and asked if any of the band members would be interested in playing in the pit orchestra. A number of us took the bait; one of us never left.
Who do I have to thank for getting me from there to here; for this great honor from the Dayton theatre community? I have to thank you, the Dayton theatre community. You have honored me for well over forty years, embracing me as a family member, encouraging me, opening doors I would never have thought to knock on.
I thank those directors and actors who encouraged me and by instruction and example created an actor from this poor Jimmie one-note.
I thank those who trusted me to direct and those actors who audition for my productions; and not just those I cast; directors need choices.
Thanks to all my assistant directors. They’ve have been my extra eyes and ears - they’ve done half the work, and I’ve gotten all the credit.
Thanks to all the artists who’ve provided sets, costumes, lights and sound for my productions; and to those who’ve make my musicals sing and dance.
Thanks to the boards and committees who keep our theatre organizations alive and functioning.
And thanks to Dodie and to John Riley for your creation of FutureFest. I never feel more connected to theatre than when I'm directing, or acting in, or watching a FutureFest production. Your invention has allowed us all to get to know over 100 playwrights, and to get a real sense of where theatre comes from – and where it’s going.
At a time when family farms and stores are closing because the children aren’t interested, I thank our kids. Jennifer and Jake. Your sharing our passion for theatre is a gift and a validation greater than any other.
And last (though certainly not least), I thank the audience. Your attendance makes what we do theater. Your laughter, your tears, your rapt attention tells us when we’ve engaged you. If you don’t come, we might as well be back in the garage, hoping Mom can find time for the circus.