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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 04/16/21 - Community Glue

A genius is a person who, seeing farther and probing deeper than other people, has a different set of ethical valuations from theirs, and has energy enough to give effect to this extra vision and its valuations in whatever manner best suits his or her specific talents.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Those who know me know that one of the groups that I identify with most strongly is the recovery community. But there is another circle of people that has had a significant influence in my life, and it is the theatre community. It is that clan I am writing about this morning. I see parallels between these two tribes. Neither is well understood from the outside but immensely contributive to the civic fabric in which they reside. This gratitude Friday post is also intended to be a humble tribute to the life contributions of George B Miller, a force for good within our local community. He was the glue across the regional theatre world and beyond. We lost a giant of a human on Wednesday.

Anyone who has ever been involved in the theater community knows, it is a quirky group. More than a few of us would probably describe ourselves as misfits. The dynamics of “theater people” may not be well understood by those outside, but in general I have found it to be very much an accepting community. There is a sense of connection and a willingness to do what it takes for the show to go on and support each other, on stage and off. Truth be told, I have not been involved in the theatre in many years, but I still feel connected. It was the first place in this world I felt like I belonged. I spent a lot of time in theaters in my youth and met a wide range of people who devoted their time and talents to community theatre. My life is richer having been a member of this odd group of misfits and dreamers.

This is how I first met George Miller, roughly 40 years ago when I was about 15 years old. He was

directing a play in my hometown at a place called Touchstone Theatre. I crossed paths with him over the course of the ensuing decades and I grew to see him as part of the bedrock of our community. We were not close, but I would certainly consider him a friend. In the 90s, I helped out time to time with productions at the Theater Outlet in Allentown and Julie helped with setting up and maintain the web site for Selkie Theatre the “dual citizenship theater” that produced shows in both Ireland and the United States. He was loved by all who knew him.

News of his passing quickly reverberated across social media. One thing I noticed in reading through what people wrote about him was how kind a person he was. He helped so many people find their place, their voice, their purpose, and connection to something greater than themselves. It is clear from reading through the comments, he changed many lives. If you have lived in the Lehigh Valley for any period of time, the odds are pretty good that you saw something he was involved with or know someone who was positively influenced by this dear man. The Morning Call our local newspaper posted this story about his passing that included accounts of his positive influence on our community.

If one measures a successful life by how much a person positively influenced their community, he would get a gold star. To give you sense of perspective on the impact that George had on our community, I lifted these lines from people paying tribute to him on his Facebook page. He was the “elder statesmen of the Lehigh Valley theatre scene” Another person said, “there is no greater dynamic duo than Kate (his amazing partner in life and in the arts) and George, a couple whose passion for theatre and humanity are unmatched.” He was called “a modern day Da Vinci who could speak, act and write like a poet, build a set overnight, and adapt and collaborate chameleon-like in this rapidly changing world. An inspirational presence and leader and proprietor of the most enormous heart.” This is who we lost this week.

If you are not from the Lehigh Valley, look around your own community and chances are you will find a person of grand stature like George B Miller, a person who believes that theater is about bringing people together. Someone who understands that theater is about informing and educating people and it is about strengthening connections. I am grateful that I met George Miller and had an opportunity to appreciate his immense contributions to our community. We were fortunate to have him among us. Wherever he is now, it is a better place to have him in the house. He is probably giving them all notes.

Grateful to have known a giant of a human such as George. Grateful for artists everywhere, grateful for people like George who devote their lives to art, perhaps one of our higher callings, even though such a path often means sacrifice and can be a difficult but enriching vocation, at least enriching in ways that matter. Artists are our community glue; this one will be greatly missed. Grateful for the difference he made in so many lives.

What are you grateful for today?

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