'Our Life in the Arts' Now Available in Paperback and eBook
Stephen and Elspeth Byers have written a memoir titled "Our Life In The Arts" about their venture into theater, storytelling, and creative writing that has provided them with fifty years of purposeful activity and satisfaction.
The story begins in 1972 when Stephen's employer assigned him to a major construction project in Kansas City, Missouri. Elspeth writes, "That first summer ... I offered to assist with costumes at the Bell Road Barn Playhouse in Parkville, MO." She found a comfortable niche learning costuming as a volunteer stitcher at the Missouri Repertory Theater. In 1977, her costumes for "She Stoops To Conquer" by Oliver Goldsmith achieved such renown Channel 5 in Kansas City produced a show featuring Elspeth accompanied by the actors in costume.
Elspeth's proficiency as a costumer grew as she went on to do costumes for the Kansas City Ballet and for a folk dancing group planning to tour Israel, all the while producing costumes for the Bell Road Barn. Commercially, her skills led to the creation of fabric canopies for the Indian Creek Racquet Club and ceiling décor in the Hyatt Hotel in Kansas City, and ultimately to a seamstress job in the MRT Costume shop. After leaving KC, she continued her sewing career decorating their various homes as they moved from place to place in Northwest Arkansas. Even now, with eyesight failing, she continues with sewing projects.
Meanwhile, Stephen stepped into the arts building stage sets at the Bell Road Barn
Playhouse, advanced to acting, spreading his newly discovered talent across the city with ever-increasing success, culminating in 1981 in a one-man show titled "Clarence Darrow;" a two-hour tour-de-force that garnered this comment in a private letter: "... one of the most enjoyable Resident Theater presentations in years."
Stephen retired from the construction business in 1988 and the couple moved to Bella
Vista, Arkansas where he turned his theater experience to storytelling in association with the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. For ten years, he served as President of the Tellers of Tales Guild, entertaining audiences in the four-state area. He produced, directed and acted in reenactments of the old-time traveling Chautauquas that visited Springdale in 1898, 1899 and 1900, including writing scripts about such famed men as William Jennings Bryan and William "Coin" Harvey. In 1999, he won the prestigious Arkansas Museums "Friend of the Museums" award "in recognition of outstanding contributions." Except for Elspeth's professional forays into fabric canopies and her work at the Missouri Rep, Stephen and Elspeth asked no remuneration for the thousands of hours they devoted to the communities they served, donating stipends they happened to receive to the Endowment Fund of the museum.