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Remembering Mick Denniston


Mick Denniston, who touched many lives in the Ozarks during his 18 years as Executive Director of Springfield Little Theatre, and more recently as Development Director for Springfield Catholic Schools, died Tuesday afternoon at the University of New Mexico Hospital after receiving critical injuries in a one-car accident on December 18. KSMU's Randy Stewart talked with several friends and colleagues of Denniston, and they shared their thoughts and memories.

Bucky Bowman, Director of An Arts Patronage Initiative, was on the Little Theatre Board of Directors that originally hired Mick Denniston.

BUCKY: Sally Baird and I, who just happened to be on the Board of Directors in the early '80s, met at then-President Cathy Clark's house to elect a new Springfield Little Theatre Artistic Director. And Mick was one of many candidates that we interviewed that day and met with and visited with. And after we had met with Mick, Sally and I both agreed, "This is the one we go for!" And indeed he was the promise of everything we ever hoped for Little Theatre--a magnificent 18-year run there, producing show after show after show of unquestioned quality. And so it's heartbreaking, this news of his death. He was a wonderful, wonderful human being. We had continued to work together, and he never could come by my office without admiring all my rosaries. He was forever trying to con me out of a rosary for one of the development fundraisers for the Catholic Schools. And I would say, "Now Mick, I'm praying about it, but I have not received an answer as to whether to give this yet," and he said, "Keep praying--I want one of those rosaries!" (laugh) So it's heartbreaking. I feel so awfully bad for Kate and Colin and Emily. It is a keen, keen loss to the community.

Chuck Rogers is the longtime resident Scenic Designer and Co-Technical Director at Springfield Little Theatre.

RANDY: So what thoughts or memories do you have about Mick?

CHUCK: A lot of them that have jst been flooding through my mind for the last 24 hours.

RANDY: You knew him how long?

CHUCK: He hired me in 1983. So we were together for 18 years before I moved to Louisiana. Of all the things that I want to remember most about him--there are so many things--people have already been, over the past 24 hours, telling all kinds of stories and stuff that they remember. I think I remember most his gift for talking with people. He was so communicative with people. He had such a way with actors, and a way with other directors and all of our staff, that we always felt like such an important part of the process. And he always made us feel like each one of us had our own unique contribution to a show. When I first started working at the (Landers) Theatre, he was my boss, then he became my friend, and then he fulfilled so many different other kinds of roles: father figure, brother figure, boss--just all kinds of things. We had a lot of good times, and we did a lot of good shows together... lot of BAD shows together (laughs), but we had a great time.

Current Springfield Little Theatre Artistic Director Beth Domann considers Mick Denniston a mentor:

BETH: We're all devastated, obviously. Mick was a mentor, not only to me but to (chuckling) I think to just about every actor in this community--and a lot that have gone on and are performing professionally. He was dynamic--an absolutely dynamic person and bigger than life, and just one of the smartest people I've ever met in my life! He taught me a lot.

RANDY: When did you first meet him?

BETH: I met him when I moved back (to Springfield) in 1990. And they were hosting a thing called "Springfield's Funniest Person." And that's how I met Mick--I ended up winning that competition. And from there I did "Nunsense" with him. And at my audition for "Nunsense"--Sister Robert Ann, that was the role I was going for--and I was reading that role, and there had to be an impersonation of Katherine Hepburn. And I got done with my audition and (Mick) said, "That's the WORST impression of Katherine Hepburn I've ever seen in my entire life!"

RANDY: But it didn't keep you from getting the part!

BETH: No, I still got the role! But, you know, in Mick's way, he would change things up, and he was a great writer. And he could come up with the most incredible bits to do onstage, ever! You always knew you were in good hands.

RANDY: So as you say, you learned an awful lot from him.

BETH: Oh my Lord, yeah! Mick was somebody you could call and go, "Hey, whad'ya think about this or that?" You could bounce stuff off him, and he was always pretty dead-on. He would just say, "Well, why don't you try it like this, or try it like that," and he could always help you find a solution. I remember one season, the first show, he had this rubber chicken... and so he decided it would be funny to get the rubber chicken in EVERY show in that season! And he did it! And that was the crack-up, because we were like, "There is no way you're gonna get a rubber chicken in 'Our Town!'" or whatever... and I'll be doggoned if he didn't do it. (laugh) Little quirky, funny things. Yet this is such an incredible loss, not only to this theater community but just to this community as a whole, because Mick was such a part of it in so many ways. he was very rich with friends... very rich.

RANDY: Ann Meese, Director of Springfield Catholic Schools, worked closely with Mick Denniston during the past four years, while he was Development Director for the schools.

ANN: Mick was with us about four and a half years. He was a lot of fun to work with--he had a great sense of humor and a wonderful wit. There are five of us in our office, four women and Mick (chuckles)--and he kept us all entertained most of the time. He was fun to be around.

RANDY: What do you think he meant to the community as a whole?

ANN: To the Catholic School community, certainly, he brought a lot of talent to the job that he did for us. And to the larger community, I think he was well known, obviously, and he was a good friend to a lot of people. I don't know that Mick knew many strangers. I think he was easy to be around. And he was also quite a volunteer--I know he gave a lot his time to a lot of different efforts and a lot of volunteer work. I think Mick had a hard time saying "no" when people needed him to do something for them or their organization. So he was involved, he had his fingers in a lot of things. He touched an awful lot of people and a lot of organizations.

According to the Denniston family blog, both the visitation and the funeral service for Mick Denniston will take place at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 2818 E. Bennett. Visitation is scheduled for Monday Jan.29 from 5 to 8pm, with the funeral Tuesday the 30th at 11:00am. For more information call the church at 883-3440.