Kay and Richard Fliehr
Kay, Rick and Dick Fliehr
In February of 1998, as part of its 25th anniversary year, The Minnesota Association of Community Theatres (MACT) established a lifetime achievement award recognizing distinguished service to Minnesota Community Theatre. The award was named the Fliehr Award in honor of Kay and Richard Fliehr, lifelong community theatre promoters and organizers across the country. Theatre in the Round, the Guthrie Theater, MACT, ACTA (Amateur Community Theatre Association), AACT (American Association of Community Theatre) and many other theatres and organizations benefitted from the Fliehrs knowledge, devotion, energy and excitement in the art and craft of theatre.
At Theatre in the Round, Dick directed a dozen productions, including The Women, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Heartbreak House, and Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander. He directed one of TRPs most successful shows, Our Town, and one of its least successful, El Libro. He acted in many productions, such as Robert Andersons Im Herbert, and in Goldmans Lion in Winter he played Henry II opposite Shirley Venards Katherine. His favorite stage character was the title role in Peer Gynt, directed by Doc Whiting at the University of Minnesota. Dick was also part of the Crazy Plays troupe that delivered a theatrical illustration of neuroses and psychoses for the benefit of the Psychology and Psychiatry classes at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
A U of M graduate in Medicine, Dick specialized in obstetrics / gynecology. He also obtained a masters in theatre, focusing on lighting design in the arena theatre. Those skills were especially put to use when he chaired the project to move Theatre in the Round to its present home, a burned-out pizza building on the West Bank in 1969.
Kay graduated from the U of M in Journalism and focused on public relations. From the founding of the Guthrie Theater in 1968 she worked with Bradley Morison in publicity and public relations for the Guthrie. They published a seminal work on promotion called In Search of an Audience: How an Audience Was Found for the Tyrone Guthrie Theater. The Guthries first managing director, Oliver Rea, once stated that his greatest reward from many years with the Minnesota Theatre Company was working with Bradley Morison and Kay Fliehr. Sir Tyrone himself complimented the authors as two people of great goodwill and intelligence and said their work seems to me extremely sensible and to reflect a deeper humanity and wider horizon than are usually associated with those whose task is to publicize and sell.
In addition to working in local theatre, both Kay and Dick traveled the country, selling states on the merit of organizing community theatre at the state, regional and national levels. MACT historian Bob Healy says the Fliehrs could be fairly called the founders of MACT, since it was with their advice, encouragement and know-how that led to the formation of MACT in 1973, the year Minnesota saw its first state play festival. In fact, Kay was president of the American Community Theatre Association (ACTA) that year when TRPs production of The Unknown Soldier by Warren Frost won the state, regional and national festivals, and represented America at the International Amateur Theatre Festival, performing before Princess Grace in Monaco.
Both Fliehrs served as presidents of ACTA, and both were honored as Fellows of AACT, the American Association of Community Theatre, which succeeded ATA and ACTA after the Fliehrs had retired. Both were frequent adjudicators at state and regional festivals. Both were founding members of a play-reading group called the Gastronomical Theatricals, some 20-25 people who have met for 25 years to dine and read a play together.
The first Fliehr Award was presented at a reception recognizing MACTs 25th anniversary, as well as the premiere of John Orlocks The Work of Water at Theatre in the Round. Their nephew John Regan accepted the award on their behalf.
Both of the Fliehrs have passed away.
Richard died in June of 2000 at the age of 81.
Kay died in November of 2003 at the age of 85.