embodies the spirit of community in life and in theatre. Establishing a community theatre. Serving as director, actor, producer, stage manager and board member in a number of community theatres. For decades. His dedication and contributions continued into retirement.
Bobs trailblazing days included becoming the first African American family to live in, and stir up, the city of Richfield. He always wanted to be an actor, but could only get roles as a butler. To counter that, he started his own theatre. That happened after 1968 when Bob worked for the Metropolitan Cultural Arts Center, whose purpose was to provide training in all the arts to people in the inner city who couldnt afford to get it otherwise, and to foster cross-cultural understanding. Bob put together a touring show, In White America, which led to founding the Shoestring Playhouse with his wife Pat in an old church a few doors off West Broadway in North Minneapolis in 1970. Bobs penchant for raising funds came in handy when they found chairs, paint and everything else necessary to establish a theatre. Bob was in both of their opening one-act plays and was featured in a newspaper article being converted from a man in his 40s to an old man by a Guthrie makeup artist. Mike Steele reviewed the performance, and the Shoestring Playhouse was off and running, with Bob becoming director a year after it was started.
Bob and Pat offered classes and did 3 to 4 shows a season, all with multi-racial casting which at the time was rarely happening. Bob insisted that cross-race casting be done regardless of what the roles called for. While nearly all participants had never been in theatre before, the Shoestring Playhouse developed many outstanding actors -- from Lou Bellamy (who got his first post-college directing gig at Shoestring prior to founding Penumbra Theatre) to Edna Duncan (actor at Penumbra and elsewhere) to Jack Reuler (who went on to found Mixed Blood Theatre).
The Shoestring Playhouse survived against all odds for years, with Bob himself playing many lead roles, because as you know its always hard to find men. Two of his favorite roles were Clarence Darrow in Inherit the Wind, and the Stage Manager in Our Town. His son Andre got his first role as a lad who had to act opposed to Mr. Darrow, even though he believed what his dad was saying.
Bob took people off the streets and put them on stage, People who had never any experience on stage, people going in and out of jail. There was a lot of drama and trauma going on, people dying, living hard lives, racial tension, but Bob brought white kids from St. Louis Park to help integrate his theatre, took plays to the suburbs, and provided access to artistic expression for everyone. Admission was by donation, so anyone could attend.
Bob also worked at TCOIC to help black people get started in business, and he worked for North High school district.
When the Shoestring Playhouse eventually dissolved, Bob moved on to other theatres, becoming president of Elk River Community Theatre, helping old friends establish a church theatre in St. Louis Park, and working with people in Hopkins to establish the Shoestring Players, which, like his original Shoestring Playhouse, wanted to open the theatre to all people of all races and ages. He co-produced some of their shows, was on their board and gave curtain speeches. One of his last roles was as a jury member in 12 Angry Men at the Hopkins Center for the Arts Black Box. An avid mountain hiker, tennis player and dancer, Bob was a geezer model and was seen in commercials and on billboards.
Bob served on MACTs board from 1992 to 2004, retiring to Emeritus Board Member status. When Bob died his memorial service was held at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.
Bob died in January of 2007 at the age of 86.