BHT Member Memorials – Margaret Ritter Nicholas

Margaret “Gretchen” Ritter Nicholas

Died December 7, 2019

The Troupe’s longest continuous member, Margaret Ritter Nicholas, always known as “Gretchen,” died on December 7, 2019 at the age of 104. Gretchen joined the Troupe in 1939, when she was married to Graham D. Mattison, who had been a Trouper himself, performing in our productions in 1931 and 1932. She first appeared on the Troupe stage as one of the Contadine (pictured here) in our 1940 production of The Gondoliers. She continued to sing in the chorus of the Troupe’s shows in 1941, 1943, 1945, 1948 and 1949, when her final Troupe performance was as a Rapturous Maiden in our 1949 production of Patience. Gretchen remained a member of the Troupe for the rest of her life, which I believe qualifies her for a record of 80 years of Troupe membership. She continued to support our performances until she was physically unable to do so.

A lifelong New Yorker, who was deeply devoted to music and to caring for others, Gretchen was a highly respected member of the board of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, where she served in many leadership positions over the course of her 62 years of board … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Dale McNulty

Dale McNulty

Died April 26, 2021

Dale Archer McNulty became a member of the celebrated BHT Backstage in 1976 (possibly because he viewed the 20 lovesick maidens in our performance of Patience earlier that year?). His dry wit and ever-present pipe became his trademarks while he lent his talent and expertise to the enhanced lighting of many BHT productions. In addition, his renowned culinary skills provided sustenance (aka Eggs McNulty) at the many Backstage awards gatherings at Dede Brown’s apartment.

A successful Wall Street floor trader, Dale would retreat, with others, on occasional weekends, to his converted “what-had-been-a-military-hospital” on Cushing’s Island off the coast of Portland, ME. Other summer weekends were spent in the Hamptons, in a shared house (the fabled Duckwood, almost all of whose members were BHTers), where he was an integral part of the management team, affectionately called the “gang of four” (with myself, Charlie Kelly, and Carol Davis).

Dale retired, left NYC, moved to West Palm Beach, married a lovely woman named Marietta Muina, and became active in the Palm Beach Symphony, eventually as the Board President. Dale was integral in transforming the non-profit into one of the area’s top cultural institutions and positioning it … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Sandy Keay

Sandy Keay

Died April 10, 2021

Sandy Keay was a pint-sized force of nature with sequential lives. She was a Carnegie Mellon-trained actress, produced and starred in This Property is Condemned at the Cherry Lane Theater when she was in her twenties, and then, because “theater wasn’t done” in her father’s world, she married, suburbanized, had a son, divorced, and emerged anew as a rock concert manager. Sandy had some wild and woolly times and friends then, but she morphed again into an Upper East Side matron for her son’s sake. She joined the Troupe, the Church of the Heavenly Rest and St. Bart’s, and the Windmill house in the Hamptons. She had a Park Avenue apartment she loved, a whimsical collection of folk art and first-edition books, and a large group of old friends from the Hamptons, many of whom helped get her through her last, difficult years.

Sandy’s sense of fun never left her—she kept her son’s expired pet snake in her refrigerator’s freezer (many freezers) for 40 years, and was, while always polished on the outside, quite adept at circumventing tradition. She loved hosting elegant parties at home and for social groups, and while she was … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Nathan Hull

Nathan Hull

Died August 9, 2020

I heard of Nathan Hull, long before I finally met him. Nathan Lee Hull was a larger-than-life personality whose commitment to the local community opera and operetta scene was staggering. He worked with many wonderful companies and, while his time with Blue Hill was fairly short, he remained a steadfast supporter (you always knew when Nathan was in the house—his booming laughter gave him away!). When Amato Opera closed in 2009, Nathan was determined that something arise from its ashes and founded Amore Opera, which he ran tirelessly for 10 packed and adventurous seasons.

Nathan was a life-long lover of the Gilbert & Sullivan canon and one day noted that, while there were many versions of A Christmas Carol, there were none that featured music from the same era. And so Scrooge and Gilbert and Sullivan was born. I had the joy of performing Scrooge, in his version, in front of him, in 2011. He loved it. It was a true honor when he asked me to revisit the role with Amore some seven years later, and I finally had a chance to work with him and get to know him better. I can … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – William M. Hannay, III

William M. Hannay, III

Died August 11, 2020

William M. “Bill” Hannay, III, BHT class of 1977, passed away in August 2020 in Sag Harbor, NY, surrounded by his beloved wife, Donna, and their three children, Capron, Blaike, and William. A lifetime G&S devotee, Bill was a member of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society while a student at Georgetown Law. He loved the satire of the plots (especially those with a legal twist!), the quick wit of the dialogue, and the easy-to-get-stuck-in-your-head musicality of every note.

As a new attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office in ’77, Bill sought an outlet for his creative side. With Ron Romaine’s sponsorship, he eagerly auditioned as a Frontstage hopeful. The legendary Troupe musical director Charlie Walker, always with an eye and an ear for talent, spotted Bill’s potential and asked, “So, how are you with a camera and a hammer?” A true thespian to the core, Bill was delighted to join the Backstage crew and spent many happy years supporting the productions he loved—and never missing a good party!

His passion for the theatre continued long after leaving NYC. Settling in Barrington, IL, Bill and Donna raised their family with theatre and music … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Sarah Vickery Hammett

Sarah Vickery Hammett

Died October 6, 2020

Sarah Vickery Hammett was an active Troupe member from 1955 to 1957. She worked behind-the-scenes in the Backstage costume and props departments. And alongside her many Troupe friends, she also shared her musical talents with the Canterbury Choral Society.

Sarah grew up in Darien, CT, and graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore with a degree in anthropology. She began her post-college career in New York City as an administrator at the Brearley School before moving over to the Rockefeller Center’s personnel department. Her 1957 marriage to the Rev. Robert Lee Hammett soon changed her focus. With her growing family, Sarah followed her husband’s New England postings from Sharon and Middlebury, CT, to Troy, NY, and Needham, MA. At every stop, she became active in the administration of local schools and founded Student Tours Inc., which continues to be run by members of the Hammett family and offers student trips to NYC, Boston, Washington, DC, Colonial Williamsburg, Quebec City, and Montreal.

Sarah also turned her love of needlepoint design, knitting, and quilting into a business called The Skipper’s Wife. Drawn to sports (especially tennis) and the ocean, the family made East Chop on … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials -Bill Hamlen

Bill Hamlen

Died October 16, 2019

A dedicated and beloved member of the Troupe since 1950, William Thorndike Hamlen died October 16, 2019, at his home in Freeport, Maine, at the age of 95.

Bill was born in Boston in 1924—coincidentally the year the Blue Hill Troupe was founded in Bluehill, Maine. This was clearly a sign that music would have a prominent role in his life. After attending St. Mark’s School and then Harvard, he left college to serve in WWII’s Army Air Corps. He returned to finish his undergraduate degree and then went on to get an MBA from Harvard’s Business School. But business wasn’t his only calling. During his senior year, Bill was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers as a catcher for their Nova Scotia farm team. Who knew he’d started out as a professional athlete?

Bill soon joined the corporate world, working his way up to become Manager of IBM’s Cambridge sales office, finally capping his 45-year career there as a marketing executive in Advanced Systems Development. But Bill always made time to sing. He was a stalwart member of the Troupe’s bass chorus for decades, singing alongside his brother Joe. Serving as BHT President … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Cynthia Gowen

Cynthia Gowen

Died April 5, 2020

Cynthia Gowen joined the Blue Hill Troupe in 1991. Recruited to be the “gypsy” violinist in the fall production of She Loves Me by friend and Troupe member Joanna Pickett, the show’s music director, Cynthia lit up the stage in the cafe scene. Vigorously encouraged by the cast, she auditioned for the Frontstage and was admitted that same fall.

Along with her fiddling talents (as she liked to refer to the violin), and singing, she was an accomplished dancer, and went on to choreograph and perform in many spring and fall productions. Admired for her patience when teaching BHT’s dance-challenged to move well, her brilliant but accessible choreography enhanced a number of Troupe shows, especially Cabaret (which she also directed), Mr. Cinders, Utopia, and Pirates of Penzance.

No slouch on the stage, she won the Troupe’s Sunny Hayward Center Stage award—given to an outstanding ensemble member—for her hysterical portrayal of Hildebrand’s wife in Princess Ida, a character that Gilbert must have forgotten to add to his libretto. Off the stage, she served on the BHT Board in the 1997/98 season, another Sorcerer year, and co-produced several summer concerts performed by members of the … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Betsy Goodwin

Betsy Goodwin

Died July 9, 2019

Betsy Goodwin had a gift for friendship. Her memorial celebration in the fall of 2019 was attended by friends and family from all over the country. There were people from childhood, college, jobs, overseas postings, and, of course, the Troupe. Speaker after speaker told about having gotten absorbed by life priorities (jobs, children), and allowing their correspondence with Betsy to lapse. “But she wouldn’t let me go!” they exclaimed. Most had at least one story of Betsy’s brilliance as a raconteur. Her stories often centered on the exploits of one of the Goodwins’ many dachshunds (Dexter, the current charismatic incumbent, is number eleven).

She was game for anything, even if it was outside her comfort zone. Though she wasn’t a horse person, and didn’t much go in for wilderness camping, she jumped right in to join a pack trip in the rugged Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. It turned out she was plagued by shoulder issues that would soon require surgical repair. Which meant that doing what one does on a wilderness pack trip—pitching and striking tents, getting on and off horses, and riding for hours on narrow, steep trails—really hurt. But she … Continued

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BHT Member Memorials – Tom Fenaughty

Tom Fenaughty

Died March 26, 2021

Thomas J. Fenaughty’s love of theatre and music was obvious every moment of his life. Tom joined the Troupe as a Frontstager, and he was briefly active. But he was an ardent supporter and audience member, both of Troupe shows and of other shows that friends were part of. He was very much involved in theatre and performance throughout his many years in New York. Tom was an active member of The Actors Studio and participated in many theatre and concert productions, both amateur and professional.

He had at least three film credits: Anything But Love (2002), Alchimie (2002), and The Kiddush Man (2008).

After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan, and serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, he attended Columbia University, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. He then began a lifetime career as a professor, first at Columbia and subsequently at St. John’s University in New York.

Tom died peacefully at his home in Manhattan on March 26, 2021. He was predeceased by his parents and two sisters, Marian “Tot” Geesman and Joanna Larkin, and a niece Sharon Geesman.

He is survived by two nephews and several grand-nephews and a … Continued

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