Wow, 25 years since I left the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Of course, without The Star (Brandy and Josie Ayers) and many, many great Annistonians (Tom and Betty Potts, Edel Ayers, the Dosters, the McCallisters, Bill and Inga Davis, Rudy Kemp, Frances McCartney, Don Goodman, the Rev. Charles Johnson, Cody Hall and Randy Hall, to name just a few), there would have been no Alabama Shakespeare Festival, despite the $500 I borrowed from my mom, way back when.
At the end of the 1972 (the first) season, with a total budget of around $8,000 (those were the days), we had a deficit of around $600. This was almost exactly what we owed The Star for the ads we had bought during that first season. I nervously scheduled a meeting with the forbidding H. Brandt Ayers to ask, hat in hand, if The Star could provide any assistance. Brandy forgave the entire debt.
One could fairly say there would have been no second ASF season without that act of corporate and civic philanthropy. And a lifetime friendship with Brandy and Josie took flight.
A lot of water has passed under my bridges since Jan. 27, 1989 (a very dark day at the time): Birmingham Opera, Santa Fe Stages, four years producing in London and directing in Spain, and the last 12-plus years doing the same in New York and London, producing on London’s West End and on Broadway, culminating with my unexpectedly winning a Tony Award last year — a dream come true that certainly seemed unattainable in 1989. (Watch out for Dames at Sea on Broadway next season.)
But Anniston was where my professional career began. Without the brave, wonderful, slightly crazed Annistonians who joined with me to make the unlikely idea of an Alabama Shakespeare Festival a reality in 1972, I know that my life would have taken a very different course.
Thanks for making me take a minute to think back on my wonderful years in Anniston. Wow. Caro’s Annistonian! Wiener schnitzel! Sterlings’ Barbecue. Alcohol in miniature bottles. Anniston Little Theatre, where it all started in my Alabama life. Meeting George Wallace (and Cornelia, and Big Ruby). And Scotty Fitzgerald. And Morris Dees.
I owe so much to Anniston. So, maybe belatedly, thank you.