For those of you unfamilar with Midland Community Theatre's history - Art and Ruth Cole are our "founders" - or rather - Art Cole was the first Artistic Director of MCT (incorporated in 1946) and Ruth was his wife. Art planned the season, directed shows, rehearsed actors, built sets, flattered donors, and led our company for 35 years. We grew from a small "little theatre" to one of the top community theatres in the nation with an international reputation of excellence. Ruth kept the books, handled the box office, charmed our donors, and supported every endeavor. As a theatre major, I suppose I should want my life's work to be modeled after Art's accomplishments . . . but the one I admire most - is Ruth Cole.
It would be careless to dismiss her contributions as just that of a dutiful wife working for the benefit of her husband's career advancement. In fact, I feel that is an insult to her and all of her generation -- and mine. My husband and I both work in theatre and have been blessed to work for several of the same companies. Was my contribution always to be measured against his? Of course not - we worked in different areas and made our way as professionals alone, but as a married couple it was always a pleasure to support the efforts and celebrate the milestones of success for each other. I feel that Ruth did that -- and so much more.
Ruth made it possible for her husband to travel and network with other fledging companies; to concentrate on each show while she juggled the day-to-day tasks of managing the company; opening her home and her heart to the community; providing a legacy for the arts in Midland that few communities enjoy. I was humbled to learn that she had high praise for me as well. It is one of my joys to know she was pleased and proud of my work for our theatre.
At the end of this month the theatre community - Midland - will come to the Cole Theatre and celebrate the life of Art Cole at his memorial -- I had toured his son and granddaughter early this month through the building and talked about our programs and plans for the future. They told me that the greatest gift the family could be given was to know that the Cole legacy would live far beyond the work of Art and Ruth. It is more than the brick and mortar of the theatre building itself, or the name displayed, or the history of excellence, it is the dedication to volunteers and the open arms that welcome newcomers to our theatre . . . our home. It is the love that this community has for the arts and its willingness to support, nuture, and honor the contributions that music, dance, art, and theat