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by Mefeedia


14 January 2006

hx1.jpg (6189 bytes)In the mid 1970s, I was fortunate to collaborate with Allison S. Lewis and Carolyn M. McGovern on writing a history of the first 25 years of The Lamplighters, San Francisco's Gilbert & Sullivan company.  It was a labor of love for me.  Walt and I had been attending Lamplighters productions for more than 10 years and I loved the company, loved the people and loved having the opportunity to meet some of them "up close and personal."

hx2.gif (14860 bytes)Out of that experience came some of my most cherished friendships and, 10 years later, led to the writing of a follow-up book, specifically written (well, at least that was my reason) to document Gilbert's accomplishments in the last 10 years of his life.

At the same time, we were also involved with the Davis Comic Opera Company, which formed the year before we moved to Davis.  I did publicity for the company for many years, Walt has been the tech director for over 20 years now, Jeri once designed a set for a production of Tintypes.   We even got one of our foreign students involved helping build sets once.

But with DCOC, it was never the same as it was with The Lamplighters.  I never had that same depth of involvement.  Never felt the same dedication, the same love.  It just was.

At one point, there was talk about my writing a history of the Davis Comic Opera Company, something I knew I could not do adequately because I just didn't have the love of the company that I had for The Lamplighters, which I felt I needed to do a good job, but I didn't want to admit it to anybody in DCOC who had been working with me for so many years. 

At a party one night, one of the company members was pushing me rather hard about writing a history.  She, herself, is a writer, and I kept throwing it back to her--I knew that she could do a better job of it because she adored the company and had been one of the founding members.

Suddenly this look of understanding came over her face.  "You don't love it, do you?" she said, more a statement than a question.  "No, I don't love it," I sheepishly admitted. "But please don't tell anyone...."  She dropped the subject.

Fast forward many years to last weekend when I was stopped in the parking lot by the former DCOC president .

"What do you think?" he started.  "No more Davis Comic Opera Company."

I wasn't sure what he meant, but he went on to say that at the last board meeting, the previous week, he had resigned and the board voted to dissolve the company.  No last show, no party, no nothing.  Just.  Gone.

Well, I'm not a faux reporter for nothing.  I knew that my editor was looking for material for a spotlight piece and I was determined that DCOC would go out with at least a small bang, not just a whimper.  I contacted Derrick and proposed a feature article, promising I could give him a quick turn-around.  He agreed, and I began gathering information--interviewing people, and, last night, picking up boxes with all of the photos and newspaper articles from the company's 33 year history.

I called the people I knew best in the company and as I interviewed them, we talked about how we felt about the dissolution of the company, our memories, and especially how we felt about the people.  We laughed about things that had happened, and talked about the uncomfortable times, the people we've lost over the years, the kids who grew up in the company, the marriages and partnerships which came about through meeting in DCOC.

I told Craig about the time I inadvertently auditioned for a show.  We were new in town and I had called someone to volunteer to help with publicity for the fledgling company (I think they were preparing their second show at the time).  The wife of the director told me to just go to auditions and I could discuss it with him then.

So I showed up at auditions and realized that everyone there expected me to audition.  I still remember that I sat next to a woman named Enan West (hi, Jessie!).   And, of course, being ME, I was too shy to say "no--no...I have no intention of performing on stage."  I decided I'd rather make a fool of myself and actually SING for an audition than admit that I was there for an entirely different reason.  I had no music with me, of course, and zero vocal training or experience, and I ended up singing "I'm called Little Buttercup" because it was the only song I could think of at the time.  I sang badly, of course.  Imagine Gilbert & Sullivan's American Idol auditions!  I never did talk to anybody about volunteering to help with publicity and just slunk on home after my miserable "audition."

A week later, I received a call from a sad, sounding director who said "Well...I'm sorry, but you didn't make it."  That's when I told him that I didn't want to make it.   Ultimately I did help with publicity, and eventually took over as the company publicist for many years.

Craig and I laughed about it and he told me what a great story it was.

Last night I drove to the home of the guy who has all the company's history, neatly put together in two big boxes full of envelopes of newspaper clippings and photographs and I sat here watching Lost and going through all the envelopes.

I found things I had submitted to the newspaper for shows I'd worked on, and pictures of things I remember from past shows.  Walt and I talked about funny things that happened.

The more I went through the wealth of material (and, bless them, someone had the foresight to actually LABEL each photo, so you know what show it is from, who is in it and what year it was taken!)

I realized that writing a 1500-2000 word article is going to be extremely difficult because the more I see, the more I remember, and the more I want to say.  But of course the time is past for writing a book.  If there is no longer an audience for the shows, there certainly isn't an audience for a book about the company, so I will have to limit myself to a feature newspaper article.

The one thing that was the unanimous feeling among all the people I have interviewed (to date) for this article is the fact that we all count among our best friends in this town people from DCOC.  In fact, several people (me included) speculate that about 90% of what we would call our "close friends" are people we first met in DCOC.

By the time I had gone through half the envelopes of pictures, I was beginning to get this nagging feeling in my head.

I do love it after all.   And I hope I do right by the company in writing this article.


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Even Walt appeared on stage once,
in the non-speaking part of the Solicitor in Patience


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