May 13, 2011
"1776" Celebrates Twenty-Five Years, Honors Director
~ written by Greg Patterson
This July 4, 2011 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the boldest artistic adventure of the Central Ohio Legal Community. The weekend of July 4, 1986 Columbus saw the celebration of the extensive talent of our lawyers when they portrayed the Founding Fathers in the musical "1776." (The Today Show gave our company a salute the morning of the opening.)
This delightful retelling of the rocky road to Independence of our country was written by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone. For one year I had been working with Alex Lagusch, Jim Readey and Marion Smithberger at the Columbus Bar and telling them that we had enough acting and musical talent in Columbus to mount a first class production using "just the lawyers of our community." They excitedly agreed.
Since this production was to be "first class," I enlisted the best stage director in Ohio, Roger Stephens. I had worked with Roger for years as chair of the Ohio State University Department of Opera/Musical Theater. I had also worked with him as a featured director for the Columbus Light Opera and Opera Columbus. I knew that Roger was perfect to assemble and inspire this talented group that had nothing in common but a law practice and a fascination for the stage.
Roger was born in Springfield, Ohio but he was trained in music and theater in North Carolina and Texas. Although he had the soul of a musical poet, he had the demeanor of a football coach. His artistic credits were prodigious but he was also a down-to-earth man.
So when the concern was expressed that our company of lawyers may not embrace the artistic sensibilities of an Opera expert from Ohio State, I assured the CBA that I had the man for them. A no-nonsense director who could easily win the company over and make them a lean, mean acting machine. He did. They soon felt the pride as a company under his direction that I also experienced with Roger on stages all over central Ohio. He was a dearest friend to me, to the dramatic and musical arts in Columbus, and to artists from Ohio State and to our little company on the stage of the Palace Theater. He even conducted the orchestra. He told me that he loved that production with a special feeling over any other show that he had ever directed.
The cast members of "1776" will be having a 25th Reunion on June 12. Unfortunately, the director's chair will be vacant. I had planned with him to celebrate the event but we lost Roger Stephens to his valiant fight against cancer this winter. But, I know he will be chuckling from his chair the whole time saying "You're great, you're great."
Post Script: Look for production pictures and story in the Summer issue of Columbus Bar Lawyers Quarterly.
Pictured, left to right: Greg Patterson and Roger Stephens