To the editor:
In the spring of 2001 I was asked to direct “Our Town” for Lincoln Theater. It’s been one of my very favorite plays since I first saw it at age 12, so I was delighted. But for this play you need a large, predominantly male cast to represent an entire small town.
Short on auditioners, I became determined to round up the remaining residents of Grovers Corners, N.H. from the congregation of Second Congregational. I had two notable successes at coffee hour that morning: Neil Sprague and Ted Clapp.
I didn’t yet know Ted well; I’d only joined the church the summer before. As the oldest cast member in a group that included children as young as 6 and several teens, he was a little doubtful about memorizing his lines as the funeral director in Act II, but he came through like a trooper.
About a week before we opened, I invited the cast and crew to a little pre-party on my deck. We were all having a good time enjoying social time when, to my surprise, Ted called for everyone’s attention.
I’ll never forget the little, impromptu sermon he gave in his infectiously exuberant way. He told all assembled that he hoped they knew they were involved in presenting a very important, beautiful, philosophical, classic American play full of universal experiences: growing up, family life, getting through high school, falling in love, getting married, planning a life’s work, having children, “really realizing life,” and dying. I’m certain he made even the youngest actor see our venture with new eyes.
It sounds like a small thing, but I appreciated it deep in my heart and knew I wanted to be friends for life with this wonderful man. And from then on, we were. Numerous concerts I sang in were made twice as special by Ted sitting right down front beaming, transported by the music.
I am so grateful that my partner and I had the opportunity just last month to have dinner out with Ted. He was as wonderfully cheerful and full of gratitude as ever, even though it meant making his way to the car, with help, under an umbrella in a deluge! It was our first outing ever in which he had brought along a cane.
Ted always felt inspired to write to me – at length – afterward: not a “thank you note,” but what I always kiddingly called “an epistle from St. Ted.” In his Aug. 10 letter (which, like all those that came before, I will treasure for life), he lavished the usual effusive thanks and compliments, and added words I think we all can remember him by and take as a challenge and an inspiration:
“Carry on! Carry on! May your life be a glow! Keep on being a part of the sunshine!!!”
Thank you, Ted, for all the joy, light, wisdom, and inspiration of your friendship over the years. You were a standout among the most loved and memorable people in my life.