Robert E. Gard Award | AACT

Robert E. Gard Award

Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer
Presented to volunteers over 65 who have faithfully served community theatre for over 25 years

2021 Honorees

Photo of Linda BlystoneLinda Blystone (Spring City, Pennsylvania) is a founding member of Forge Theatre, and has volunteered tirelessly since day-one, in 1962. During her 59 years with the company, she has worked every position from producer to stage manager. When handling phone duties, which she has managed for well over 30 years, Linda can be counted on to know every subscriber, length of time they have been a patron of the theatre, and where each person who requires special seating would like to sit. She is also the one person in the theatre who knows where to find every prop, costume, or set piece in minutes. When talking about stage management, the theatre’s board commented, “As far as any of us can tell, Linda has stage managed every main-stage production in the last 20 years. She has also worked in some capacity on every production in the theatre’s nearly 60-year history.”

Photo of Emma BradleyEmma Bradley (Grand Marais, Minnesota) has been the lead costumer, designer, and coordinator for the Grand Marais Playhouse for the past 25 years. Her theatre colleagues say she has created breathtaking dresses, costumes, and soft goods for most of the Grand Marais Playhouse productions, including shows with up to 100 youth involved. In 2020, Emma stepped back from creating costumes, but not before sharing her insights and experience with upcoming costumers. According to the theatre’s Director, Susan Hennessy, “The Grand Marais Playhouse will be celebrating its 50th season in 2022, and Emma has supported the Playhouse through half of those years!”
Photo of Jude KnightJude Knight (Memphis, Tennessee) As Theatre Memphis begins celebrating 100 years in May 2021, volunteer-extraordinaire Jude Knight will celebrate her 50th anniversary, commemorating her first show with Theatre Memphis--portraying Martha Jefferson in 1776. Fast-forward 50 years, with 43 productions as a beloved and award-winning leading lady and character actress, as well as 25 years of service on the theatre’s board, Jude remains as passionate and dedicated as she was when she appeared in that first production at the age of 20. In addition to her board work, she has served on many committees and has always been ready to serve in any capacity. According to Executive Producer Debbie Litch, “Her very presence elevates every meeting, discussion and action through her dedication to her community and theatre.” In 2012, Jude Knight was recognized with the Eugart Yerian Award—one of the Memphis Ostranders Theatre Awards for lifetime achievement.

Previous Recipients

2020 Susie Polito (Midland, Michigan)
         Debra Robison (Tupelo, Mississippi)
         Charles Wilson (Lynn Haven, Flor­ida)
2019 Carl and Jane Moore (Midland, Texas)
2018 Joseph Connor (Sandy Spring, Maryland)
         Kathleen Davis (Evergreen, Colorado)
         Pat Heiss (Charlotte, North Carolina)
         David Zacharias (Merced, California)
2017 Sally Barnes (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma)
         Gloria Filean (Des Moines, Iowa)
         Barry Fuller (Memphis, Tennessee)
         Rita Heizer (Billings, Montana)
         Gerri Nichols (Troy, Ohio)
2016 Beverly Allen (Helena, MT)
         Barbara Christensen (Hartland, WI)
         Margi Ritscher (Ansbach, Germany)
         Susan Tucker (Concord, MA)
         Dr. Charles "Bud" Vear (Hillsdale, MI)
2015 Ruth Behrend* (Hartland, WI)
2015 Guy Dillaway (Weston, MA)
2015 Jean Endrizzi (Duluth, MN)
2015 Richard and Elaine Albright (Aurora, IL)
2015 Libby Kafka (Sharon, MA)
2014 Alvin Blasco (Streator, IL)
         Ron McDaniel (Danville, IL)
         Barbara Tarlin (Wellesley, MA)
2013  John Lynn* (Mundelein, IL)
           Charla Rowe (Fort Washington, MD)
           Richard Sherwin (Tallahasee, FL)
2012  Don Mansfield (Jackson, MI)
           Judi Schweppe Johnson (Eugene, OR)
           Richard C. Whaley (Annapolis, MD)
2011  Geri Becker (Venice, FL)
           Wayne Pressnall (North Platte, NE)
           Bennett Wood (Memphis, TN)
2010  Arthur Delo, Jr. (Jersey City, NJ)
          Martha Kovacsi* (Bay City, MI)
          Madge Levinson (Toledo, OH)
2009  Rae Cohan (Newport Beach, CA)
         Max Polley (Davidson, NC)
         Willa Wye Rockett (Belmont, MA)

2008 James N. Alexander, III* (Haddon Heights, NJ)
         Peg Brandon (Winter Haven, FL)
         Henry Pope (Walla Walla, WA)
2007  Rosemary Green & Louise Carpenter  (Ocala, FL)
2006  Marge and Ted* Ressler (Dover, DE)
2005  Hal Robinson (Royal Oak, MI)
          Sherman C. Ward, Jr.* (Haddenfield, NJ)
2004  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)
          Jo Pruden (Fort Shafter, HI)
2003  Charlotte Hall (Fort Thomas, KY)
          Fred Normand (Rome, NY)
           Isabella Ward (Dover, DE)
2002  Paul Sturner* (Tonawanda, NY)
2001  Heddie Kent (Concord, MA)
2000  Jane Margison (Riverside, CA)
           Robert Montgomery (Bremerton, WA)
1999  Betsey Reeder (Memphis, TN)
1998  Dottie Griffith (St. Joseph, MI)
1997  Jean Mitchell* (Grand Rapids, MI)
1996  Holley R. Webster* (Wallingford, PA)
1995  Ruth Cole* (Midland, TX)
1994  John Edmands* (Racine, WI)
1993  Firth Chew* (Spokane, WA)
1991  Mary Dwyer* (Sheyboygan, WI)
1990  Dick Brown* (Des Moines, IA)
1989  Mary Peckham* (Omaha, NE)
          Lil Williams* (Ardmore, OK)
1988  Alice B. Rogers* (Memphis, TN)
          Hilda Greenquist* (Racine, WI)
1987  Peggy Greene* (Topeka, KS)
1985  Roberta Kendrick* (Minneapolis, MN)
1984  Emma & Alan* Bowlsby
          (Indianapolis, IN)
1983  Ruth Kenyon Tate*
          (North White Plains, NY)
1982  L. K. Boutin* (Des Moines, IA)   *Deceased0152015 2015

Robert E. Gard

This award is named in honor of Robert E. Gard, because of his lifetime commitment to theatre at the grassroots level. He taught playwriting at the University of Kansas and at Cornell, became a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, Humanities Division, and remained a fellow, and held numerous Rockefeller Foundation grants for many years. He later helped to found, with Professor Alexander M. Drummond, the New York State Playwriting Project, and helped to establish a statewide training program for New York State playwrights. In 1945 he received an offer to join the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, where he established the Wisconsin Idea Theatre Conference. He remained as director of Arts Development until, at age 70, he retired from all administrative duties. Gard founded the National Community Theatre Center in 1958 and conducted a national survey of the American Community Theatre in 1957-1958 for the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1967 Gard led a team, which surveyed the American Theatre for the National Theatre Conference. In 1967 he received the first large grant made by the National Endowment for the Arts for work with smaller communities.

Gard's list of citations is long: Kansas Theatre Hall of Honor; Pabst award for service to nationality groups; Distinguished Citizen Award from the Governor of Wisconsin; Member of the Finnish national Academy of Sciences and Letters; National Chairman of Fulbright Theatre Committee; Distinguished Service Award, Wisconsin Theatre Association; and many other awards and citations. The Robert E. Gard award was established in 1982, following Gard's offer to fund a "superior volunteer award" to be given annually to one or more persons who have served their theatres faithfully for many years in an unpaid capacity.  ACTA (later AACT) decided to name the award in Professor Gard's honor.


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