Old Town Playhouse Hall of Fame: - What this is all about 

Founder Award Recipients




Throughout its existence the Old Town Playhouse has depended on volunteers to do the many and myriad things necessary to bring a theatrical experience to the Traverse City region. Many people have come into our community to help and have left their mark upon our organization. Unfortunately the contributions of these people are not always easily recognized. Sometimes the passage of time has taken its toll and they have been forgotten by all but a few of our longest serving/participating members. 

Without the pioneers of our community, those who helped it come to life or nurtured it through the years, as well as those who continue today in the great tradition of volunteerism, our organization would not be as strong and vibrant as it is today. We should not miss the opportunity to recognize and honor those who were there at the beginning and those whose strong commitment and longevity are still with us today.

The Old Town Playhouse Hall of Fame gives our community a venue within which we honor that service and show our own community and the community at-large that we value the dedication shown to our organization through the years. The people so honored are truly worthy of this recognition. It is not meant to be a popularity contest, nor is it based on sentiment. Rather it is based on long-term commitment, dedication, and value.

The qualifications necessary for consideration for such an honor are necessarily high:


In addition to these primary requirements, A nominee will have participated not only in the many areas of production, but also in the less glamorous or enjoyable areas of the day to day, season to season running of this large organization for example: 

All should weigh heavily in the decision to recognize and honor one of our members, past or present. No more than three individuals will be honored in any given year.

The award will be bestowed annually, in the fall as a new season commences. The second Saturday in November will now be known as "Founders' Day," and maintained as part of the regular Old Town Playhouse calendar. On that day, Old town Playhouse will add its honorees to the Hall of Fame in a "Celebration of Playhouse Volunteers."

Overall and varied service of long duration should be the overarching consideration when making a decision on who should be honored with what should be viewed as the highest and most prestigious recognition bestowed by Old Town Playhouse upon its members.

This statement of purpose has already been approved in principal by the Old Town Playhouse Boards, with official adoption and recording occurring at the respective November meetings.

The Future: - What can we look forward to

We envision consistent growth as the years proceed. The long-term goal is to take this event off-site, and to make it a full evening of celebration for all OTP Volunteers, not by volunteers.



The 2001 Hall of Fame Honoree

Tonight we honor an individual whose commitment to the Old Town Playhouse spans some 30 years, and at least that many productions. In that time she has worked in nearly every aspect of the theatre including properties, selling advertising, all elements of production, box office, make-up or hair, swung a hammer, wielded a paint brush and lifted & toted her fair share of boxes, set pieces, and costumes. She has served on and presided over the OTP Board. She has been producer on many a show. Indeed it is as a producer she shines brightest. She established the benchmark for producing shows at OTP but one place we have never seen her is on stage.

In my contacts with those who know best, there is a common thread. Amidst all the fun and frustration of making theatre, she is the one you turn to, to get things done. 

Her total commitment to OTP is astonishing. Not a fly-by-night appearance. Since she joined the group to this day her contributions are consistent, varied, and total. 

She has many gifts, but one of her true wizardries is on the phone. She will get you enough volunteers, who are perfectly suited for the task at hand, even if they didn't know they wanted to do it! She does this without hesitation, without pause...she just picks up that receiver and starts to weave her magic. Whether it is to sell season tickets, clean the toilets, build a set, or locate an antique Persian hand painted vase she's the one you need, the one you want. A "yes" from her means you'll be getting 150% follow through. She is a trouble-shooter and problem solver.

Her contributions have been far from small. She even helped find and buy this building we call home.

Not only is her commitment to theatre a passion that has benefited Old Town Playhouse, but also Après Dine Productions in the late 70s and early 80s; Tempest Productions in the mid 80s; Michigan Ensemble Theatre in the early 90s.

A teacher by trade, and though now retired she remains a teacher to this day with all she brings us. And now her talent and commitment have been recognized by the Traverse City Children's' and Teen Theatre where she serves as the Executive Director, even as she maintains a volunteer presence with OTP.

Before I invite her up I'd like to share some others thoughts But first, please join me in a round of applause for this year's recipient - June Neal

Now I'd like to share some thoughts from others.

Gary Garrison - who tried to find a flight so he could join us here this evening has this to say:

June is, quite simply, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known.

How many people do any of us know that have given over a huge chunk of their lives to promote and elevate that which is special in other people? Her on-going role as producer-mother-friend-promoter-teacher-costumer-therapist-political activist-salad maker and bar-b-quer has influenced the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people. How lucky we all are.

I worked, cried, struggled, fought and played with June through Old Town Playhouse, Tempest Productions, Après' Dine Productions and Michigan Ensemble Theatre, and through it all one thought always stayed simmering at the surface: I couldn't have been the artist I was without her help. She allowed me and anyone else caught in her radar to excel because she never said, "no." Alright, I admit, there was the occasional, "how much will it cost?", but there was never a "no." She wanted all of us to succeed, wanted all of us to shine bright and then brighten the lives of those around us -- I can only hope at some point in my life I'm capable of doing the same.

His favorite memory of June: He walked into the scene shop downstairs during the production of Jeffrey.
June was standing in the middle of the floor, bent over the work bench, building out of latex and rubber three large puppet penises on quarter inch doweling -- props we soon referred to as Dicks on A Stick. He looked at June. June looked at Him. Silence. He said simply, "June, what are doing?" To which she answered without blinking an eye: "Having the most fun I've had in the theatre in twenty years....."

God bless you, June. You're an inspiration to us all.

As mentioned earlier June has never appeared on stage - with one exception according to Jeanette Mason.

Back in the day when the end of production highlight was post show skits, Following the closing of Man of La Mancha, June, Jeanette, Patti Schill and Pauline performed to a stunned crowd of revelers. We will never know if that audience was stunned by

  1. the unexpected magnificence of their performance

  2. the precision and nuance of their number

  3. the alcohol consumed by said audience prior to skits

  4. the audacity, the cheek the women demonstrated in those wondrous long polyester gowns of the 70's.

She also fondly remembers June's lovely house on Long Lake. There was held many a fine party. Memorial days bundled in the front lawn huddling in the lea of the Long Lake gale force winds. 

Picnics, bonfires, swimming. Tales told, stories swapped, problems delineated and resolved, at least until reality once again set in.

Bev Attwood also shared some memories:

During a performance of Mame, the cast unfortunately ate the hors d'oeuvres that were needed for the show…Bev recalls June and Phoebe Collins feverishly and hilariously trying to put anything together that even resembled an hors d'oeuvre for the party scene.

She also recalls the night During a performance of I Do, I Do with Après Dine, that Bev's costume became unraveled. June, once again was feverishly pinning Bev together through the curtain at the back of the stage as Bev continued performing and adlibbing.

She also remembers June, at a party getting locked in a bathroom….'nuff said about that.

There are many memories of June over the years. Too many, in fact, to recount here, but finally I would like to share some from two people who may know June best. Sue Schwartz and Loraine Anderson:

Years ago, back in those heady smoking and drinking days of the 1970s, closing down the U & I was a Friday night ritual for June, Sue Schwartz, Bev and Vern Atwood. Bev would sing her heart out. After closing, they'd all head off to the Flapjack Shack on U.S. 31 for breakfast, get home by 3 or 4 a.m. in the morning and get up in time to make the next night's show? 

For years June's name and the Old Town Playhouse have almost been synonymous, but June has a pretty busy life outside the theater, too, She's been a very active member of the Traverse City Quota Club for years. She does a lot of fund-raising for Quota, which provides services and equipment for area folks who are hearing impaired. 

She was a big mover and shaker at Unity Church's recent fund-raiser and silent auction. Not only did she move and shake a lot of businesses to cough up auction items - who can refuse June? -- she gathered together door prizes for each of the more than 100 people who attended. 

Through her perseverance - and we all know how June can persevere - the Children's Theater has grown to the point that as many as 150 kids are trying out. This not only builds strong theater, it builds strong community.

She's been a committee member on the Grand Traverse County Strong Family, Safe Children initiative since its inception in the early 1990s. The program supports and funds community resource centers to help families and children. Each year, she offers scholarships to area social agencies to give to low-income children who want to be part of the children's theater. By doing this, she opens the door to theater early for children who otherwise not be able to participate.

In recent months, she's been very active in the Traverse City Campaign Against Discrimination that was successful in its campaign urging Traverse City voters to vote no on the controversial anti-gay Proposal 1 that would have made it legal for the city to discriminate against gays and lesbians. She worked outside the polls, telephoned, and canvassed neighborhood. 

Speaking of gay, June can keep a secret, too. On a trip to New York City two or three years ago to visit Gary Garrison, she went to a party attended by Rosie O'Donnell and her partner. But June never said a word to the tabloids and let Rosie tell all when she was ready. 

June's had a few animals in her life, thanks to theater friends. All of them were surprises and June was not always delighted. The first was Pseudolus, a kitten given to her by a cast member in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Pseudi lived with her 18 to 20 years, even though he was more than a little nasty. The vet had to net him in order to attend to his cat fight wounds. June always blamed his disposition on Sue Schwartz, who she insisted teased him as a kitten. Sue, however, insists that Pseudi was just born cantankerous. Many a theater friend can tell a story about petting the tabby and all of a sudden being bitten hard enough to draw blood.

When Pseudi was old and somewhat toothless, Gary Garrison got June a pair of lovebirds. They were dirty birds, but June was faithful to them until they chucked just one to many a shell out into the living room. She found them a new home.

Gary then presented her with Oz-a-day, a humane society retriever type mutt, who secretly yearns to play Lassie because he thinks June's last name is Lockhart, not Neal.

When June turned 50, she was not necessarily looking forward to her birthday, so friends Sue and Loraine decided to throw a party for her and invite all her theater friends, decorating the house with other great women who had turned 50 - Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine and Lily Tomlin. June entered the second half of her life with a big smile that night. 

One of the birthday greetings invoked the last lines of Trudy the Bag Lady in Tomlin's one-woman show "In Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe." Trudy is talking about taking her space chums to the theater and they finally understand "goose bumps" - not by watching the play, but by watching the audience.

Trudy says: "I like to think of them out there in the dark, watching us. Sometimes, we'll do something and they'll laugh, Sometimes, we'll do something and they'll cry. And maybe one day we'll do something so magnificent, every one in the universe will get goose bumps."

Because of June Neal, her love and support of the OTP and so many other organizations here, many people in Traverse City have had "goose bumps" and will continue to get them.

Ladies and Gentlemen: June Neal