Missing Bob Richardson – TLT’s stage crew chief

Published 1:57 am Friday, November 15, 2013

Bob Richardson (left) on the set of TLT’s “Anything Goes” in November 2006  with crew members Al Rolla, Dean Gregory, and Jimmy McCain. (photo submitted by Connie Clark)

Bob Richardson (left) on the set of TLT’s “Anything Goes” in November 2006 with crew members Al Rolla, Dean Gregory, and Jimmy McCain. (photo submitted by Connie Clark)

The Tryon Little Theater lost one of its most dedicated, dependable volunteers Sept. 26 with the passing of Bob Richardson.

Look at any TLT program from the last 10 years, and you’ll see Bob listed as part of the set construction crew.

He began building TLT sets in the 2001-2002 season, overlapping a bit with longtime crew chief George Finnie.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

When George finally retired from theatre in his mid-90s, Bob unofficially took over in the 2003-2004 season . . . until in the eyes of the others on the crew, he became their undisputed chief.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with the crew in the workshop as they wrapped up building the set for “Rumors.”

On hand were Jimmy McCain, Jack Saunders, Ray Milczewski, and Dennis Sakos. They were more than ready to share their thoughts on Bob Richardson.

Ray: “You gotta list Bob as one of the greatest mediators between the Tryon organization and us animals here in the shop, and the directors. He knew how to hit all our sweet spots.

Nothing but ultimate respect for the man, and I miss him dearly. He knew how to calm the waters, and he was good at it, very good.”

Jack: “He also protected the crew, and when things were asked of us that were not expected, he went back and he talked with the directors and whoever was responsible for adding something in that wasn’t in the design — so he kind of protected us too. And of course he wore the red hat . . . that was a mark of respect from all of us.”

I asked if they could remember any specific times when they were given a major challenge on a set that drove them crazy, but they solved it.

The first one they mentioned didn’t get done, thanks to Bob’s putting his foot down.

A set was all built and in place, and some director suddenly said he wanted the whole set moved over less than a foot for some now-forgotten reason. It would have required the guys to take down everything they’d built to reconfigure the set.

Bob went to that director and said, “It ain’t gonna happen.”

Jimmy remembered November 2003’s “Everybody Loves Opal,” performed at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. It called for a full staircase to collapse on cue. They pulled that bit of magic off, and audiences loved it!

Jimmy: “Bob had a real problem with the set for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ [May 2005 at TFAC].

We had to build three houses [exteriors] and then a totally different set for the courtroom. The houses drove him absolutely nuts because it was not the same here (in the workshop, where the sets were built) as at TFAC.

And we didn’t even have the measurements of the stage; it was all guesswork. I don’t know why we didn’t measure. Anyway, it was the first big set we built here to go to TFAC.

Then one character in the show wanted to dictate the set, and kept telling Bob changes that should be made. Every day he was walking around, shaking his head. And it looked pretty good, you know!”

Dennis: “Bob was a great motivator. He got us to work, but he was also good at picking out people to work in the crew here. He was selective in the guys he’d have work with us.”

Jack: “Bob was affectionately known as The Red Hat Guy, and that meant he was the supervisor of the crew. And he always wore his red hat with the eagle on it.

Then at his passing we kept pointing at each other as the one going to be wearing the red hat … and no one’s going to put that red hat on. That hat stays with Bob.”

– article submitted

by Connie Clark