Bainbridge Performing Arts Celebrates the Life and Talent of Bob McAllister

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Bainbridge Performing Arts Celebrates the Life and Talent of Bob McAllister

Bainbridge Performing Arts is deeply saddened by the loss of former actor, poet, instructor, mentor, and dear friend, Bob McAllister. Bob's BPA career included appearances in Twelve Angry Men and Noises Off, and his poetry was exhibited in the BPA Gallery. He also appeared in the Indie film Jurisdiction, playing Tommy Tongue, the anti-hero psychopath. Bob had an abiding love of theatre, and he had an unshakeable commitment to the community of artists he mentored, loved, and collaborated with at Bainbridge Performing Arts and the Island's entire theatre community.

After teaching 34+ years of English and Theater at Bainbridge High School, Bob taught Acting, Communication and English classes at Olympic College. His vibrant presence in the community ranged from instructor to poet and actor, and he touched innumerable lives with his singular way of being in the world, his deep insights, and eagerness to share both his knowledge and the countless successes he inspired in so many.

Bob's irreplaceable presence and the scope of his influence on the island is perhaps best captured by his own words.

The following is the artist statement that accompanied the March 2008 exhibit of his poetry at BPA:

"In 1972 I began teaching a poetry workshop at the soon-to-be arson-immolated building of Bainbridge High School on High School Road under the auspices of Olympic College Extension Courses. The first class was comprised of students, neophyte writers, a few housewives, a couple of guys who wanted to test the waters, and importantly, Nancy Rekow.

I asked the students to write a poem. I believe everyone and everything has a poem to tell. I agree with Richard Brautigan when he said: "Every girl ought to have a poem written about her even if we have to change the goddamn world to do it." This applies to everyone. Poetry is a way to view the world. William Carlos Williams said it best: "It's hard to get the news from poetry/ but people die miserably every day/ for lack of what is found there."

After a few years of teaching through Olympic College, I decided to do an independent class at my home. The class grew. Eminent poets like John Willson, Dick West, John Davis, Linda Hyde, Bonnie Wallace, Tom Snyder, Beverley West, Everett Thompson, Ralph Cheadle, Margi Berger, Sue Hylen, Beverly Dight, Peggy Julian, Judy Bagley, Celine O'Leary, Peter West, Katie Kent, Jenny Schmid, Alice Fisher, Andy Drury, Graham Bader, Donna Smith, and plenipotentiary others joined in.

For a while, during the 80's, the class, then called Bainbridge Writers' Workshop, was taught by both Nancy Rekow and me, and we had several years hosting the workshop at Kate Cunningham's home here on the Island. Later classes were also held at the homes of Beverley West, Linda Hyde, Peggy Julian, Beverly Dight, Elane Hellmuth, and Margi Berger. Cheese, dips, poetry, and chips -- what better?

Later, when I became too busy with building houses, teaching English, and directing plays at BHS to continue the workshops, Nancy started teaching her own workshop, and later John Willson did also through the Bainbridge Park & Recreation District. Over the years, the ensuing tides of poetry on this island, and of poets who pursue the fretful muse, have continued to swell.

Part and parcel of this poetic flowering has been nourished by the San Carlos Poetry Readings at Lee and Marianne Jorgensen's restaurant in Winslow. Every spring, aspiring poets present their latest offering to the altar of the muse, while others listen, reflect, and know that, inside themselves, a poem awaits. That's the blessing of poetry: the need to speak the truth, to examine what's real, and to approach the infinite.

Before coming to Bainbridge, I studied poetry with and was inspired by Nelson Bentley, the renowned UW professor and poet. During the 80's, Nelson and I gave a poetry reading here at BPA. That night I described Nelson as the seed log -- the one that nourishes other trees to grow. That description applies to the cedar, pine, birch, and madrona trees that grow on this island and become illuminated by light and focus and commune with the "force that through the green fuse lights the flower." The quote is from a poem by Dylan Thomas. If you don't know it, read it."

Bob's voice will live on in the community of directors, actors, staff, board, and audience members who witnessed his dynamism and the kindness he brought to each and every role, whether on or off stage.

Online at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org, BPA is supported, in part, by Bainbridge Community Foundation and One Call for All.

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