On Saturday, the Lucille Ball Little Theatre will host a 75th-anniversary celebration.
The theater is honored to include in the celebration a tribute to Fredericka and Daniel Woodard, artistic and technical directors from 1972 to 1985. A special memorial tribute will be paid to Sam Paladino, often called "Mr. Theatre."
"Freddie," as Fredericka was called by most who knew her, and Dan arrived in Jamestown from Chattanooga, Tenn., in the summer of 1972. A partnership immediately formed with The Woodards' warm southern charm and Jamestown's small hometown, good neighbor attitude.
Fredericka and Daniel Woodard
There was no time wasted as Freddie set about checking the town out for potential actors. Freddie was never too timid if she saw a person on the street who looked like an upcoming character for a future theater production; she'd step right up, introduce herself and invite them to auditions, and she never took "no" for an answer. Dan was a licensed lawyer, but found he preferred live theater. Under their leadership the theater thrived with many successful productions. Freddie and Dan had an excitement that stimulated activity, and soon many area residents joined the theater to give their talents. Whether in front of the curtain or behind the scenes, the dynamic duo pulled abilities from anyone who showed an interest.
Under Freddie's training costumes were built to equal those of Broadway, whether it was a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl or a cow with a blinking eye, they were built to entertain the audience. Leading the excitement in the technical end was Dan, who made actors disappear, as well as fly and bats that fly on cue.
To their credit, they directed a total of 71 productions, 23 of which were musicals. Their productions included "Hello, Dolly" in February 1973 and "Music Man" in 1985. Also there were such hits as, "Annie Get Your Gun" in February 1974, "Show Boat" in February 1975, "Funny Girl" in October 1975, "Fiddler on the Roof" in January 1976, "Gypsy" in October 1976, "Sound of Music" in 1978, "Mame" in 1979, and "South Pacific" in February of 1980. "Grease" was performed in February of 1982; the lead from that show, Leasen Almquist, went on to perform on Broadway in "Annie Get Your Gun" with Bernadette Peters.
The Woodards also provided comedies that would fill attendees' hearts with joy and drama that would have the audience on the edges of their seats. These productions included comedies such as "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" in May 1973, "6 Rooms Riv Vu" in December 1974, "Opal's Baby" in May of 1976, "The Sunshine Boys," "Knock, Knock" in April 1979, "No Sex Please, We're British," "Born Yesterday" in April 1983, and "Never Too Late" in May 1985.
Some of their more serious selections were "Murder Once Removed" in December 1973, "I Never Sang for My Father," "Equus" in May 1978, "The Dark at the Top of The Stairs" in March 1979, "Picnic" in April 1979, and "Foxfire" in December 1984. Freddie and Dan were willing to do whatever was wanted and needed by the Little Theatre audiences or the community.
The Woodards reached out into the Jamestown community in many ways; they spoke at service clubs, churches and schools, stimulating the minds with the importance of theater and the arts in our community.
Junior Guiders was an idea of Freddie's; she had a show choir called Guilders which she set in place to provide entertainment for the community. This group consisted of the high school and college youth in their teens and twenties. After holding auditions for "Annie" and experiencing an overwhelming response, she felt a Junior Guilders would be in order. Freddie approached Helen Merrill with the idea, and after much encouragement the group was formed. The rest is history as the Junior Guilders launch their 31st season entertaining the Jamestown community, under the leadership of Norm and Helen Merrill, Lucy Miller, Tiffany Wakeley Heintzman, and Patti Dechow. Little did Freddie know the continuing influence she would have on this community with an idea one Sunday afternoon.
The long-lasting contribution the Woodards and the Little Theatre have made to the arts is hard to measure, but it is apparent throughout this community. For many decades, many people have been active on the Little Theatre's stage, gaining experience and knowledge of live theater.
To be a part of Saturday's celebration, which will begin at 7:30 p.m., call 483-1095. Called "Memories and More," the show will feature highlights and a history from the theater's past. Tickets are $10.