Our Big Toe
This Friday, Greg Abbott, artistic director of DramaTech Theatre since 1984, died of a sudden heart attack. That evening, after midnight, I received the news from Greg Kinsey, current improv leader. It was unreal. Crazy. Greg Abbott dead? It did not make sense. My immediate thoughts turned to his family. Greg was not old enough to leave this earth. Still, my thoughts are with them in this terrible time. I still haven't come to grips with his death. After Greg's call, I received another call from Stacey Cochiara, which was interrupted by a call from Vernard Martin. After that, I received a call from Inna Boyd, which was interrupted by a call from Wes Schrader. In the morning, I woke up to a voice mail message from Jessica Gibson. The news of Greg's death has spread the DramaTech social networks like wildfire. Everyone just had to let everyone else know, no matter what time it was. That's how important Greg was.
This morning I started thinking about what Greg meant to DramaTech. I thought about what will happen to the theater in his absence and I realized not that much. Greg was not the heart of DramaTech. Greg was not the brain of DramaTech. He was its big right toe. He kept us balanced and moving forward. He was a small man with small goals. He was not a towering giant commanding DramaTech. He just did the small things that helped all of us help ourselves. He was not the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side. The last time I worked with Greg, we were hanging an extra curtain for the Black Box Improv Festival. It was crunch-time and we needed to get the space ready. Greg knew it was crunch-time and that he could help best by being there and doing the small work that so many others could have done.
During Greg's tenure, DramaTech has become a stronger institution. We moved from the old church to the Center for the Arts Complex. The quality of the shows has improved; we now take ourselves seriously enough to have an awards banquet every year. Let's Try This! and Variety Tech were formed. These milestones did not happen because of bold leadership on Greg's part. They happened because the members of the theater made them happen. Greg just provided the right environment to let that happen. We moved forward, because he supported us. We did not stumble, because he balanced us. He was the last to let go of a step and the first to feel out the ground ahead. We may not have noticed him that much, as he let us take center stage. But, we miss him terribly now that he's gone. Our balance is off. We are all stumbling now. But, we are a strong institution that will recover and keep going forward. Greg made sure of that with the small things he did, making sure that people had opportunities and could do their best.
I was at the last show that Greg ever attended. It was a small improv show on Thursday following Variety Tech's performance. I'm sitting in the audience and I hear Greg's unmistakable laughter at the side of the risers. He didn't need to be there; I'm sure that others did not notice him. He was just there to understand what Let's Try This! is doing and what support he could give us if necessary. That will be how I remember Greg: laughing at a poorly attended improv show on Thursday night. It was a small thing, but all the small things are important. I hope that others will take Greg's example of small acts to heart: Never be too proud to hang an extra curtain for someone else. It makes all the difference in the world.