BWW Feature: THEATRE COMMUNITY TO COME TOGETHER ON JUNE 9 FOR PUBLIC MEMORIAL AND CELEBRATION OF TERRY HECK SEIBERT at AT EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
On Saturday, June 9, an entire theatre community will come together to memorialize, embrace and celebrate the life of everyone's favorite person: Terry Heck Seibert. That same community has been mourning the unimaginable, heartbreaking loss of Heck Seibert since April 13 when she died after being struck by a car while walking her dog in her Ann Arbor neighborhood. She would have been 62 on May 5.
Everyone's favorite person married everyone's favorite guy, John Seibert, after meeting 33 years ago. And they became everyone's favorite couple.
"We met in December of 1985 at Actors Theatre of St. Paul where Terry had been hired, out of Chicago, to play Helen in C.P. Taylor's And A Nightingale Sang. That was our first show together," Seibert said about the love of his life. "We appeared in several shows there together including Uncle Vanya, Noises Off and several original works. We moved to Michigan in 1990 shortly after our son, Joe, was born to do a season at Meadow Brook together."
"I still remember Joe in his little plaid jacket when he was three-years-old being onstage with Terry and John in A Christmas Carol," said Meadow Brook Theatre Resident Stage Manager, Terry Carpenter.
Joe Seibert has followed in his talented parents' footsteps, becoming an actor and now living in Los Angeles.
Carpenter, who has stage-managed over 170 shows at Meadow Brook Theatre since 1981, fondly remembers the young-marrieds, Heck and Seibert, as the newlywed couple in Agatha Christie's Mousetrap in 1990 at Meadow Brook.
"I enjoyed having another Terry in the theatre in addition to [former Meadow Brook Artistic Director] Terry Kilburn," Carpenter adds. "I always knew when Terry [Heck, her Actors' Equity Association stage name] was in the building because she had this wonderful, infectious laugh."
In the spring of '98, Heck was reunited once again with her husband on the Meadow Brook stage, this time as brother and sister, in Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers. Their last show together was in April 2015 when they appeared, as husband and wife, in Sirens by Deborah Zoe Laufer at Williamston Theatre. Heck was also in John Murrell's Taking Shakespeare at Williamston in June of last year.
And while Heck played a disillusioned professor in Taking Shakespeare, she was anything but that at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) where she earned her undergraduate degree in Theatre Arts. She was hired, first as a lecturer in Communication, Media and Theatre Arts at EMU in 1991 and then became a tenure-track professor the year after that. Heck was a full professor and had been serving as Co-Director of the Theatre Department for about five years when she passed away. In 2015, she received the Distinguished Faculty Award.
At EMU, Heck directed several shows over the years including Brighton Beach Memoirs, A Streetcar Named Desire, Nora, The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute and Joseph Zettlemaeir's Christmas Carol'd among others. She directed Off the Map for Purple Rose Theatre where she also appeared in shows while she was a Resident Artist.
Michigan-based actor Wayne David Parker recalls, surprisingly, that he and Heck had only been in three shows together in the 42 years of their friendship dating back to when they overlapped as students at EMU, resident artists at Purple Rose Theatre and, lastly, six months ago in Norm Foster's Office Hours at Tipping Point Theatre where Parker says he enjoyed being her onstage husband.
"Aside from being a lovely human being, Terry was a very meticulous worker with great comedic timing. If something was stuck in her craw, we'd work on it until she got it right. Of course, she was a terrible tape-ball player," Parker laughed about the traditional group warm-up for actors prior to rehearsals or performances. "And she knew it."
In Tipping Point's 11 seasons, Heck appeared in four shows, including Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike where she was reunited onstage with Seibert, once again as brother and sister.
"What was remarkable about Terry and John being on stage together was how they could both simultaneously know and support each other in that 'married-couple way,' but also give each other the professional, respectful space that they needed as artists. It was the best of both worlds," Tipping Point Producing Artistic Director James Kuhl said. "Terry's sense of humor was eccentric and fun, and she always embodied a great deal of love for the theatre. Her unending work ethic was distinct, memorable and full of joy."
EMU Co-Worker Pam Cardell Cato established the Terry Heck Seibert Memorial Facebook page immediately following Heck Seibert's passing. Nearly 1,000 members are currently registered.
"We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for Terry from far and wide and right here at home," Cato said. "I had the pleasure of working with Terry in the same office, and I saw her almost every day for the past 22 years. I still can't believe she won't be walking back in to the Quirk [building on campus]."
At the Quirk, faculty and students have written favorite Heck Seibert stories on a memorial wall. The wall is located directly across from the Sponberg Theatre.
In addition, Seibert's family created the Terry Heck Seibert Theatre Scholarship that, at press time, has raised over $11,000 from students, faculty, friends and loved ones and will be awarded, for the first time, during the 2019-20 academic year.
"Terry's legacy of caring for her students will live on through this scholarship and the generous contributions of Terry's friends and family," Cato said.
As an endowment, donations can continue to be made, and are very much welcomed. To donate, click on the link below.
"Terry and John were great together--hard-working people, gracious and so very talented," said Parker who has also performed in many shows with Seibert. "I have great respect for them. It's difficult when you're both in this business to continue to make a marriage work, but they shared the limelight very well. They were a true theatre-royalty couple."
On April 21, Heck's family gathered for a private funeral. Now, at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9, John Seibert is inviting the community to a special Memorial Celebration of his beloved wife and Everyone's Favorite Person. I'll be there. Please join us.
"We have been overwhelmed by everyone's compassion," Seibert says. "So many wonderful artists and thoughtful people are assisting with the Memorial and Celebration of Life for Terry on Saturday, June 9. We hope to see many of you there."
Terry Heck SEIBERT MEMORIAL CELEBRATION
Saturday, June 9
10 a.m. Gathering/Visitation
10:30 a.m. Service
Eastern Michigan University
494 College Place
Terry Heck SEIBERT SCHOLARSHIP DONATION DETAILS
To donate online: https://www.emich.edu/foundation/give/?fund=02433
You can also mail a check with "Terry Heck Seibert Scholarship" in the memo line to:
P.O. Box 972057
Ypsilanti, MI 48197-0246
And, as a parting "classic Terry Heck" tribute, fellow EMU Professor Jeromy Hopgood posted this "hilarious recording session with the inimitable Terry Heck Seibert as Miss Tewksbury" in Harvey, which Seibert directed last fall at Eastern.
"For those not familiar with the show, the play opens with a party happening offstage. We hear Miss Tewksbury "badly singing" the tune 'I'm Called Little Buttercup' from the other room. Apparently, Terry was fond of performing songs at the holidays in a faux operatic voice done purposefully bad, and John thought that she would be a perfect choice for Miss Tewksbury," recalls Hopgood fondly. "We had such a great time recording this... Listen to the end and you can hear her cracking herself up on this one. I had a number of takes that we had to delete because we were all laughing so much in the room. I will cherish this memory forever."
Photo by Randy Mascharka: Terry Heck Seibert teaching her students at EMU.