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Bless Your Heart to the great actors and actress in the Magnolia Arts Center production of Wait Until Dark. We...

'Lend Me a Tenor' performance bookends directors' partnership at ECU

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Kim Grizzard

Friday, April 21, 2017

Twenty-five years ago, “Lend Me a Tenor” was Director Robert Caprio’s first show with John Shearin as producer.

Now it will be the last of Caprio’s nearly 30-year career at East Carolina University.

Caprio, associate professor and acting area coordinator for ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance, had planned to take his final bow as a director after the musical “1776” in February. But when Shearin, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, became ill after casting “Lend Me A Tenor,” Caprio assumed the role of director.

Shearin, who produced nearly 200 plays and performances for the ECU Loessin Playhouse and Summer Theater and directed more than 70 plays and musicals, died April 9 at age 72.

Caprio’s director’s notes, which appear in the playbill along with a photo and brief biography of Shearin, pay tribute to the longtime producing artistic director of the ECU/Loessin Playhouse.

“He’s been my boss, my mentor, a devil’s advocate and most importantly, my cherished friend,” Caprio wrote. “We didn’t always agree on directing styles, but I trusted his ‘third eye’ … as my judge and jury, he was rarely wrong in his assessments.”

In his notes, Caprio recalls the summer that he directed “Lend Me a Tenor” in 1992. One afternoon, Caprio was short-handed, prompting Shearin to step in and serve as his temporary stage manager.

“My actors took full advantage of John’s temporary ‘demotion,’” Caprio wrote. “’Why haven’t you made a fresh pot of coffee, John?’ ‘Where are my props, John?’

“... And as one last dig, we told John: ‘Don’t give up your day job!’ And I thank God he never did.”

Jeff Woodruff, playhouse managing director, said a memorial service is being planned for May 7 in McGinnis Theatre. There are no plans to pay tribute to Shearin at performances of “Lend Me a Tenor,” a show that he was scheduled to direct.

“John was always the kind of person that (would have said) ‘No, they’re here to see a show. Let them see a show. They didn’t come here to memorialize,’” Woodruff said. “I really don’t think that’s something he would have wanted.”

Those who worked closely with Shearin during his 27-year career at ECU agree that he would have wanted memorials in his honor to benefit students. A fund is being established in his name to raise money for student scholarships, which were one of his passions. For more information, contact Mary Jane Gaddis at 328-1268 or gaddism@ecu.edu.

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