A valley friend of mine called on Aug. 8 to let me know that the Wayside Theater had closed. Later that evening a friend from Montana emailed the news.
I have to admit that as a theater animal all my life I was saddened. I also was not surprised because competition for the entertainment dollar has long been the toughest part of maintaining these kinds of entities, and Wayside's run seems implausible when you consider the pressures involved.
During my tenure as producing director in the 80s we struggled through several financial episodes. Struggle seemed to be the nature of a company that was in its final years as a summer stock operation bolstered by an active school touring schedule.
Eventually, Virginia pulled back its matching tour support and school districts found it difficult to come up with funds needed to keep the tour on the road. The theater's mission had to change. I was interested to see that Byron Brill (Wayside's board president) was there at the closing because he served as president during some of this changing time and his dedication to the foundation was sterling.
Over the years, I have passed through the valley and visited with many friends. My daughter, now 21, spent her first nights away from Mom and Dad with friends in the valley. I have been at the funerals of some and the weddings of others and I have been contacted by Wayside employees and supporters asking about possible involvement in ventures at the theater. I have, however, never seen a subsequent production in the space. Somehow, I wanted my memories to be my memories and no matter the ups and downs of my time there, the joy of it all and the friends I had there never left me.
Many of my friends have passed or left the valley, but they remain in the world of my memories. So, to those special humans who made my time and that of the Wayside possible, thank you for my time there and especially for helping to keep theater in the valley.
C. Edward (Ed) Steele, Yonkers, N.Y.