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Orr was master

of local theater

Recently, Rick Orr announced his retirement as artistic director of the Celebration Company at the Station Theatre in Urbana.

The news saddened me, but also led me to reflect on Rick’s contributions to the arts in our community over his 49 years of service. My first acting role for Rick was in 1974 as Miss Alma in “Summer and Smoke.”

Over the years, I had the opportunity to act and direct for the company, as well as having several of my original works performed. Rick described his mission as giving people like me the potential to grow our talents. He had no fear, often promoting difficult material: Premieres, classics, comedy, drama. Many were memorable.

A few highlights: Susan Vick’s “Romeo and Juliet,” with Tim Hannon and Eileen Hand as the lovers. Gary Ambler as Father Damien. Lisa Gluckin’s shaved head in “Marat Sade.” Gordon Kayhart’s bizarre twisted mass of a set for “Landscape of the Body.” Mark Brokaw, now a Broadway director, dyed his hair green for “Texas Trilogy.” Ann Shapland Kearns did a horrifying (in the best way!) turn as Lady Macbeth.

Many a night, we drank 3 a.m. coffee at the Red Wheel after sharpening our carpentry skills in preparation for opening night. There are people all over the world of every race, gender, religion and nationality who owe Orr so much for his vision which enabled ours.

KARMA IBSEN

Professor Emerita

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Urbana

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