In Memory of...
Tom Schill arrived in Traverse City in 1974 and immediately visited Old Town Playhouse. He was fresh from several productions with Jeff Daniels in Chelsea, Michigan. Tom knew lots about theater and started right in on building sets and working in technical areas. It was a while before he shared his musical talents and especially that magnificent voice with Old Town Playhouse.
Patti Schill, then wife of Tom , states that he performed in Music Man, Fiddler on The Roof and The Fantastics while living in Chelsea. He performed with Jeff Daniels for these three plays with the Chelsea Civic Players. This was believed to be the first time Tom did theater on stage. It is known that he sang with the University of Michigan Chorus while in college. Tom often alternately thanked and blamed his Mother for his interest in music and his love of playing the piano.
Tom graduated with a Masters degree in business from the University of Michigan. He specialized in hospital administration and was a top administrator at Beaumont, Hospital in Chelsea for several years. Tom was married to Lynne and together they had four daughters and a son. Unfortunately, Lynne and three of the children were tragically killed in a car/train accident. Today, his daughter Tammy and her partner, Linda own a horse farm raising quarter horses in Kingsley. Daughter Tracey is married and is now regional coordinator for the Harry and David specialty ordering company. Tom would be so proud of his daughters and especially granddaughters Chelsia and Cassady.
Tom met Patti when she was teaching his daughter in second grade. They had both recently lost their spouses. It was decided they would make a move and a complete change for their whole family. Tom and Patti bought a resort on Glen Lake and decided to call it Schillhaus. This resort saw happy times for the whole family. Eventually, Playhouse people had many weekend retreats, meetings, planning sessions and just plain parties in this wonderful establishment.
It seems there needs to be a paragraph about Tom’s association with people. There was never a sweeter man when everything was going well. Few of us can forget what it was like if Tom was displeased. His daughter said it best, “When he wiggled his finger you had better think about what you had done”. He was so, so tall. He would fold his arms and look down at whoever he was addressing at the moment. There is still evidence of blood shed when Tom and the indomitable Bev Attwood had words about whether or not to use the side chapel as a building space. You see the church had recently moved out and we were converting the building to Theaterism. Tom Schill was usually the sweetest man on the face of this earth.. One thing is certain, there are few people who can give a hug that rivaled the ones given by Tom Schill.
Tom worked and played at OTP during one of the many difficult phases, the transition from church to theater. His take charge attitude was needed. Tom loved to perform. He was always a team player, an attribute so important to community theater. He built sets, acted, found or built props, set lights, accompanied on the piano, helped in box office, served on the board of directors, directed shows and along with Patti donated to our building fund at those critical times in our history.
Tom loved Stephen Sondheim musicals. Who will ever forget Tom Schill’s Tevye in Fiddler on The Roof ? Some of the other successes he performed in were 1776, Camelot and Jaques Brel.
When it came time for the thirtieth anniversary of Old Town Playhouse, Tom compiled a medley of songs from the musicals that had been performed during the first 25 years of Traverse City Civic Players. The medley was performed as a fund raiser for OTP at Dill’s.
His love of theater extended outside of OTP. He was founder and co-owner, along with others, of Apres Dine Dinner Theater and later Tempest Productions. In this avenue he did much the same as he had done with OTP; built sets, performed, found elusive props, negotiated contracts and kept the company happy. Some notable performances by Tom were in Evita, I Do, I Do, Side By Side By Sondheim and Baby. One of the main advantages of Tempest Productions was the ability to bring fledgling actors from New York to Traverse City for a repertory summer. One story ----- Tom once got to talk briefly with Stephen Sondheim, from a lawyer’s office here in Traverse City about some performances of Sondheim material. The details are best left to history but Tom was thrilled.
Gary Garrison a long time friend and partner of Tom’s was instrumental in forming Tempest Productions. Their talents meshed well and they enjoyed all aspects of theater. Gary moved on to New York University and Tom enjoyed watching his successes.
Tom eventually left the area for work in Kansas City and later Dallas. He had a management job in an auditing firm in Dallas. In 1990 he began to have some physical problems but being Tom, he completely ignored any illnesses. He returned to Traverse City for his final days. Tom passed away December 29,1991. He will be forever missed.
It is with great pleasure that we induct posthumously Tom Schill into the Old Town Playhouse Hall of Fame.
Tom Schill, died December 29, 1991
That our community at the Old Town Playhouse chose to dedicate this musical to the memory and contributions of Tom Schill can not be more appropriate. At the heart of INTO THE WOODS lives the theme of how we each affect and effect the lives of one another.
" You move just a finger, Say the slightest word, Somethings bound to linger, Be heard. No one acts alone...No one is alone."This message from one of the haunting melodies Sondheim wrote for INTO THE WOODS captures the spirit of the show, and of Tom's impact upon our lives here at the OTP.
Tom embodies the spirit of ensemble... the spirit of community theater. Tom worked in every aspect of the theatre over 12 odd years I knew him. He built sets, acted, sang, located props, set lights, accompanied on the piano, worked box office, directed, served on boards and gave willingly, not only of his time and talents, but along with Patty donated generously to our building fund at critical times in our growth. This man whose smile was warm and laugh deep and rich, warmed the hearts of audiences with his portrayal of Teyve in Fiddler, Rutledge in 1776, :ancelot in Camelot, Brel in Jaques Brell...and those are only some of his singing roles. He was masterful in non-musicals as well. He loved theatre so much that with several others, he sowed the seed for professional hteatre in the area.
Tom was a gifted musician and compiled a medley of songs from the musicals we did over the first 25 years of service to the community. Many of you probably heard that in our 30th anniversary show.
Tom was a showman. When Tom was on stage you could relax as an audience member because he was so confident and comfortable, not to mention entertaining. Those of you who saw his rendition of "If i were a rich man" will not soon forget it.,
Of Tom, how we shall miss you... how we do miss you. But you live in our hearts...in our soul... in our spirit of community here at the OTP...we are using the piano you so generously donated in the memory of your mother... we sing the lyrics of Sondheim knowing how you appreciated his wit and wisdom. We dedicate to you, Tom all the love and team work we gave to this production...that you gave to this theatre...because we see through you that we truly do not act alone. Thank you for touching our lives.
Written by Jeannette Mason, Presented by her November 5, 2006
To think of Tom Schill is to think of absolute joy and love of family, music and of course, the theatre. Nothing was better to Tom than sharing a steak and potato with his sweet daughters, a curl-up on the couch with his Bassett Hound, Wally, a cold beer with his friends at Dills, playing the piano with a brown cigarette dangling from his lip or tilting back his head in song to let that magnificent voice fill the room. He was born to play Teyve, born to be a performer, was a helluva family man and was one of the most gentle souls to be such a towering presence. I will never forget him playing the piano for the OTP's production of Godspell, starring and produced by a younger everyone that's here today. The joy on his face, the music in his fingers is something I'll never forget. I love my years with Tom. It was because of him that I came to Traverse City and into his life with Bev, Vern, June, Jeanette, Phil, Carlene, Nancy, Patty, Diane, Mike, Stosh, Marty, Marta and so, so many others. It was a very special time for all of us, and we miss you daily, sweet man.
Gary Garrison, October 28, 2006
He was the first full time Executive Director for OTP. The first Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies committee member from OTP. The first to get State grants for OTP. A City Commission member, former Mayor, and A City Planning Commissioner for Traverse City. And now Executive Director of the Dowtown Development Authority. More importantly, he was the only original singing waiter in Cabaret.-----
All of the above designations refer to only one person. Bryan Crough who rightly belongs in the Old Town Playhouse Hall of Fame.
Bryan graduated from Mary Mount Catholic College in Salinas, Kansas. His original training had been as a registered jeweler. Bryan and companion Duane Marcotte arrived from Kansas on a warm spring day in 1980. The main impetus for the visit was some vacation time that needed to be used up. While visiting Bryan's cousin Ann Ozegovic, Duane found there was a job as inhalation therapist in the new East Wing at Munson. After moving to Traverse City, Bryan unfortunately found there were no jobs available, so ever resourceful, Bryan became a census worker for the 1980 Census.
In September of 1980 he was hired by the struggling Arts Council as an assistant to the Executive Director. It was largely through Bryan's efforts that the Arts Council and Old Town Playhouse began to share an office in the lower level (what is now the box office) of Old Town Playhouse.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE GRAND CENTRAL STATION KNOWN AS THE PLAYHOUSE
In addition, the third floor was rented out to the Dance Center for classes. And so, in April of 1981 the board of Old Town Playhouse lured Bryan away to become the first full time Executive Director. The Arts Council was generous because the lower level (now Multi-purpose room) then became an art gallery for the use of several arts organizations.
The two organizations continued to share the office and secretarial help and the entire building, under Bryan's direction, became known as the Arts Center for the entire area. Also, OTP became landlords for the Dance Center and the house next door. (There was also a tenant upstairs in this building for a while). A real good thing the Fire Marshall didn't pay a visit during this era.
And there Bryan stayed for nearly 10 years. Many things happened to OTP during this time. The first thing was to acquire the first State grant from MACAA, Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies. There were things to be done. The business and financial records of OTP were in some disarray so Bryan set out to pay bills and spread good will among the business community, which had carried OTP while the fledgling Civic Players were getting started. About this time Bryan got the Playhouse involved in CTAM, Community Theater Association of Michigan. He served on the CTAM board and later hosted the fall conference of CTAM in the same year the Playhouse staged Chicago. Needless to say the other community theater groups were duly impressed with OTP.
Among the changes during Bryan's tenure were instituting the Studio Theater and transforming the dining room into a black box theater. Everything was to be black. So dedicated was Bryan that on opening night, he presented black carnations to the director. Also, he had the house next door torn down and found a new place for the Dance Center and the Playhouse went out of the rental business.
This was the time that the first phase of renovation began on the Playhouse building. This phase added office space, bathrooms and dressing rooms. It took some of the excitement out of theater, especially for women, as the toilets no longer rocked when sat upon. Also, the fireplace was forever in the Main office and not available for opening night receptions. This all sounds like a simple feat to accomplish, but the differing opinions that Bryan had to deal with probably prepared him for later dealing with the whole city of Traverse City. The beginning of the modernization has continued through two more phases and there are rumors of more expansions to come.
Bryan was able to acquire several grants from the State and Rotary Charities and several banks in town to help with the renovations. He also devised ways to acquire monies from theater patrons and interested citizens.
Theatrical maven Crough didn't just sit in his office during those ten years. He directed two Studio Theater shows. The first was Bad Habits which he co-directed with Pauline Tyer. The second was the original script by Ann Marie Oomen, The Belle Of Amherst. He also directed the ever popular, You're A Good Man Charlie Brown which ran during the Cherry Festival to a very moderate audience. He later was slated to direct Steel Magnolias on main stage. A job change came along right about this time. There was a real question as to whether or not he could continue directing for the playhouse, but finally his new employers gave their blessing and Bryan pulled off his move and a highly successful and unforgettable production of Steel Magnolias.
Before we follow him to his new job we need to mention his acting career. He appeared in Kismet, South Pacific, School for Scandal, One Thrilling Celebration and had the distinction of outlasting all others to become the only original dancing waiter in Cabaret.
During this time Bryan became instrumental in hiring the first technical director OTP had ever had. The first one was Bruce Miller followed later by Interlochen's (but ours first) Michael Stosh Kay. This position took a lot of the play production responsibilities out of the Executive Director's office, a real help for Bryan.
What must be mentioned is that in 1983 Bryan was encouraged to run for the City Commission. He lost the first bid. But in 1985 he was more careful of his campaign workers (most of them were OTP volunteers) and was elected to the City Commission. He became a member of the Planning commission and was to become the youngest Mayor of Traverse City in 1988 --- all while he was still Executive Director of Old Town Playhouse.
The other thing that is very important is to say is that Bryan and Duane at that time owned the house directly across from the Playhouse on Cass Street. The parties and meetings that took place at that venue are legendary. Perhaps the least said about these gatherings the better.
The Playhouse was somewhat paralyzed when it was announced Bryan would be leaving. The recovery was complete however when several members "roasted" Bryan on his final days at OTP. A video tape of that roast will be playing downstairs following this presentation.
And so ----- in fall of 1990 Bryan was lured away by the mighty City to become Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority or DDA.
His accomplishments for the City are well known. He was instrumental in the Saving the State Hospital initiative. He served on the City planning commission and later the County Planning commission. Richard Lewis, City Manager remembers that they started together fifteen years ago just as the Mall was being built. There were many struggles as it was declared that Downtown Traverse City would shrivel up and die. Visioning on Bryan's part and making the world move on Richard's part guaranteed the viability of Downtown. This team effort continues to this day. A word could be said about the birthday parties shared by Crough and Lewis. Lewis is a year wiser than Crough but they share the same day. The parties soon got larger than Downtown so they were phased out.
Bryan staffed the office for the City Opera House and assisted in the stages of renovation of the Opera House. He formed the original Michigan Downtown Development Authority in the early 90's. And of course, he continues to provide all the parking we need in the downtown area.
Bryan has had recognition of the highest order. He was among the first person presented the Symphony's Golden Baton award. He was duly surprised to be presented the Lyle De Young Award in 2005. This award is for downtown achievement. There are very few times anyone has ever surprised Bryan Crough.
His loyalty to Old Town Playhouse has been constant. He was a patron for many seasons and would be a season ticket holder if "someone would remember to call and remind him". He has been Emcee for most Black & White Galas and attends all of them. At the present time he is a member of the Producer's Circle and facilitates the board retreats.
Bryan has been a loyal friend to many. We have all followed him everywhere and remain his faithful volunteers. Bryan has been with his life partner, Duane for 33 years.
It is with a great deal of pleasure that we induct Bryan Crough into the Old Town Playhouse Hall of Fame.