Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, October 22, 2002.
When I moved to Dayton in 1975, I worked as a drama specialist at the Dayton Playhouse, where I was embraced by participants, and gleaned much experience and friendship. I will be eternally grateful to Jim Payne, who was at the time the president of the Board, for championing my directorship of my first full-length play. The next year, I was privileged to apprentice under Jim (either as assistant director or stage manager, (I can't remember which) as he directed Small Craft Warnings. It still lives in my memory as one of the best shows ever produced in Dayton, featuring Jo Goenner, Jack Blackburn, Paul Lane, Scott Norrris and Barbara Meece, and a set designed by Marty Bookwalter. I learned much about performing, directing, and scenic design watching these artists.
It was during this show that I became acquainted with Barbara, a woman who has firmly planted herself in my heart as a friend, confident, and mentor.
I cannot just list all her theatrical credits through the last 30 some odd years. She has entertained audiences with her roles in 39 different productions for eleven different theatres. She has appeared in films for the WSU film students for several years and worked for Jo's Agency doing television and radio commercials. She has built sets, stitched costumes, collected props, dressed actors, assisted directors and managed stages.
Barbara served as a member of the Board for Dayton Community Theatre for sixteen years, twice serving as president. For those of you who have served on a board, you know how long sixteen years are. She has thrown parties, counseled youths, made public appearances and brought her infectious laugh to many tense and complicated situations.
I'm sure each of us has our favorites, but let me share with you the highlights of her acting career as I remember them. Few people will forget this dainty woman screaming "Cocksucker" at the top of her lungs in Beyond Therapy at the Dayton Theatre Guild. Or her incessant whimpering which drove Jo Goenner crazy in Small Craft Warnings. And may I add here that when Small Craft Warnings was taken to state competition Barbara was the only female to be presented with an award that year. Then there was her quiet embarrassing insanity as Mrs. Winemiller in Eccentricities of a Nightingale at Dayton Repertory Theatre. Or in any of her award-winning performances in Goodbye Charlie, Man in the Moon Marigolds, Dark of the Moon, Talley and Son, and Waiting in the Wings.
I loved Barbara as Lavinia Nebbs as she haughtily crossed the ravine while “The Lonely One” is stalking old maiden ladies. (Dandelion Wine, Illumination Theatre). It still sends chills up my spine. I'll never forget how vulnerable she was as the solitary artist in The Road to Mecca at the Human Race. And she was a perfect Clairee to Carol Lee's Ouiser in Steel Magnolias.
Which makes me want to comment on how a 30-year rivalry could bond two such beautiful women, both onstage and off? I cherish their friendship and marvel at their mutual support of each other.
They repeated their onstage magic as the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace, the last full show that Barbara performed in 1993. We have missed your artistry in these last ten years, but you are always in our hearts. You love – deeply – and that love is infectious. We see it in your wonderful husband and devoted family. We see it in the respect of this community. Thank you for your years of service and artistic excellence. I thank you for being a mom – both to me and to the entire Dayton theatrical community.
-- Marsha Hannah