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Your Stories

Tell Us Your Stories

We would love to hear your short stories and memories about your experiences in the old Blair Auditorium. Whether you were a student, teacher, audience member, or performer -- drop us a line and share your thoughts.

> > Submit your story online < <


We hope that you enjoy reading some of the contributions we've already received below.

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John Lill's Story

I was on stage crew for all four years of high school (1982-1986) and it was the highlight of my time at Blair. My sister had been a "crewie" at Blair the four year before I started, so it was in the family. Under the direction of Mr. Klopp and Mr. Wilson (who were incredibly talented), the sets we built were magical! I can still remember the thrill of greenroom, where the cast and crew all got together to get a pep talk. Crewies were dressed all in black of course and we would even tape our shoes and paint the tape black so we would not be seen moving the sets during blackouts/scene changes. The fly galllery had to have been the best in the county - I remember loading counterbalancing weights to support some HUGE flats in the fly gallery. When we did Annie we built a giant staircase out of angle iron that rolled onto stage for the mansion scenes and had a gang plank that ran to the fly gallery for the actors to enter. So cool. So many long hours spent in construction and painting and blocking. I felt like I lived in that auditorium during show season. Now my kids go to middle school at Silver Spring International and it's so sad that it's shuttered -- looking forward to the reopening!

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Ken Shifrin's Story

I will never forget the thrill in the spring of 1970 of being a part of the first Blair Annual Show Orchestra to play in the new auditorium while the orchestral platform descended into the "pit": Stan Bouma, our fantastic hornist, was playing the solo passage "A Bushel and a Peck" from the Overture Guys and Dolls, when we felt the "earth move". It received a spontaneous burst of applause from the audience. (I think Stan thought it was for him, however!)

I have since gone on to be a professional musician and have had the good fortune to play at some of the top concert venues in the world including the Musikverein in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Philharmonic Hall in Berlin, Symphony Hall in Boston, the Rudolfinum in Prague, the Paris Opera House, the Met, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the London Royal Festival Hall and the Albert Hall, but none of these halls gave me the buzz I got from playing in the new Blair Auditorium that very first time.

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Vicki Van Grack's Story

I was at Blair and graduated in '72. I played Daisy Mae in L'il Abner on that wonderful stage. I can still remember standing in that empty Auditorium making many wishes. I now live in New York City and many of those dreams came true. That stage holds magical memories for me. I learned so much about building friendships, the thrill of working in a large theatre, and in an excellent high school theatre department. It was the starting place for so many joyous and educational artistic moments in my life and they will never be forgotten. I hope the life of that building will live on so that others will experience what I was lucky enough to experience on that stage.

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June Taylor Wolcott's Story

One of my favorite memories of the Old Blair Auditorium is the FIRST time aclaimed Latino Brass Player Arturao Sondoval came to Silver Spring. It was great to welcome him back to town this summer for the Jazz Festival, but the acoustics and comfort level were much better that evening in in 199?. AND what a large and diverse audience was there to enjoy it. I think it was the most filled I'd ever seen the place.

Other great memories are the Blair H.S. musicals performed up until the school\'s closing and renovation. It was so dramatic to have the orchestra pit drop out of sight as the curtain came up on the actors. Our son was in the last class to graduate from Blair -- 1998. The school definitely needed and deserved renovation -- as does this fantasic Auditorium.

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William Korth's Story

I was in the first annual show to use the then "new" auditorium: Guys and Dolls. We were all warned not to dance, move, or fall into the orchestra pit! We couldn't get over how wonderful the facility was--our older siblings who had gone to Blair put on the annual show (et al) in the gymnasium down Wayne Avenue. It was sad to learn the auditorium had fallen because of its heavy use.

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Andres Gluecksmann's Story

Spent countless hours working in the heat of "the beams" and WAY up on the grid as a member of ATT betweenn 91'-95'. So many great times! Mr. Wilson was the best kept secret at Blair, coolest guy you ever met. At 17 I was the lighting designer for 1,200 seat auditorium! Sad to see it go but excited to help bring her back.

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Michael Mansberg's Story

I'm a member of the Blair class of 1970 and so was a student there when the auditorium first opened. I remember it as a magnificent, modern addition to the school, and its hard to believe its fallen into disuse. I was never a performer on the stage (my one audition attempt was a flop!) but I was an appreciative audience member watching my friends perform.

After the auditorium opened, it started attracting some pretty notable speakers to our school. One of them was a future presidential candidate (clues: never won, was neither Republican nor Democrat, and was still on the scene in the election of 2004 -- oh, ok, it was Ralph Nader). Another was the syndicated political/humor columnist Art Buchwald, who spoke on the same day a very controversial Nixon nominee to the Supreme Court was being voted on by the Senate. During Buchwald's talk, someone gave him word on a slip of paper that the nominee (Carswell was his name if I remember correctly) had been defeated in the Senate, and so he announced it to us as a victory of good over evil. (At least at that time these things got voted on!).

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Michelle Gates (Green)'s Story

I remember some of my best years at Blair while taking part in the Spring Rock and Soul Revues in 1985, 1986 and 1987 under the great directorship of Mrs. Christine Mitchell and the wonderful choreography of Judy. Those were the days when we waited on pins and needles to see who had made the cast, enduring long practice sessions (singing and dancing) to get it just right. The great live bands -- I remember Marcus Johnson (now Marcus Johnson Project) playing in the 1987 show (was that his 1st year at Blair). I mean, who can't forget those songs by Prince (Let's Go Crazy), Michael Jackson (Thriller), Gloria Estefan (Conga), Sade (Is It a Crime). The list goes on and on. I think Mr. Wilson even managed to have the shows video taped. Just today, on MySpace.com, I saw video clips of David E. Perry in the 87/88 show. Wonderful productions back in the day.

I remember being going to Blair and seeing my sister in the 1980 production of Hello Dolly. I went every night because it was just a wonderful site to see such talented young people performing and doing what they loved.

Michelle Gates


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Bill Judd's Story

I was the student pulled from first period Electronics Technology class by then auditorium manger John Wilson, and Blair's business manager Frank Ifkovits, to set up for his mini concert, and plea to make Dr. King's birthday a holiday.

The student body was told over the P.A. that there would be a "voluntary assembly" in the auditorium, and that the second period of that day would be a 'free' period. Of course, it wasn't until the doors were closed, and the screams could be heard from outside that something amazing was going on inside the Stickley Auditorium that day.

The press was there, and when Stevie Wonder was brought onstage by his brother, the place went absolutely nuts!

After being pulled from class, I pulled the piano from under the stage (I loved that hydraulic pit - so cool to use - and a great feature about the auditorium), set up an Electro-Voice RE-15 mic on a boom stand for him to speak and sing into, and ran backstage to climb up the spiral staircase to the followspot deck above the audience. I fired up the 'stage right ellipsoidal' followspot (the brightest one of the four positioned in the 'beams', as we called it), and settled in for the show. John Wilson manned the booth, and created a quick scene lighting plot, and adjusted sound levels.

Stevie talked about his childhood, about the 'ironing cord' whipping he got from his mother for running and jumping from garage roof to garage roof in his neighborhood (he was blind as a child, too, and did not know his mom was there). He sang songs from 'Songs in the Key of Life', the album he had on the charts then. He concluded with "Happy Birthday To Ya", the song he wrote about Martin, mentioning the need to make his day a national holiday.

A great memory.

Bill Judd
Class of '81, Montgomery Blair High School

[Stevie Wonder visited the auditorium in January 1981 as part of his effort to have Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday established as a national holiday. We've got pictures.]


Sara Josey's Story

When I was hired as a part-time piano teacher at the old Blair in 1995 I was told that part of my job would be to be the pit orchestra director for Blair's spring musicals. Since I'm a choral person this was a high-stress time for me and I was so busy worrying about how the pit was sounding that I didn't pay any attention to where the pit was sitting at our first dress rehearsal and just walked to the podium, ready to start. Imagine my surprise when, as I gave the downbeat of the overture we started to sink into the pit! I had just met one of the coolest features of the old Blair auditorium -- the hydraulic pit!!! I survived my "initiation" and, along with many others, shed a few tears when we rose to stage level for the last time 4 years later. Many of my community friends and my kids' friends from other county high schools would come to the musicals to watch Mrs. Josey go up and down!!

I doubly missed that great old pit when I walked into the new pit at the new Blair for the first time and realized that it was too shallow to even HIDE the pit -- much less the director.

Another piece of history lies in that old pit -- orchestra members would sign the wall on the last night of each performance. Seniors first, of course! There are some now-famous people who signed that wall.

Sara Josey
Piano Keyboard, Music Theory, Music Technology Teacher, Fine Arts Resource Teacher
Montgomery Blair High School


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Marianne Szwec Leizure's Story

An excerpt from the 1970 Silverlogue:

   The New Building Greeted Returning Blairites

"Although some deplored the idea of the building as an excessive expense, and others as the sacrifice of nature to concrete and steel, the finished product astonished and delighted Blair students and faculty. Spacious and well-lit halls led to shining biology rooms, and to new art quarters boasting a sketching balcony which Blair's artists eagerly put to use. Dramatists dreamed of producing Guys and Dolls in the auditorium as workmen completed the stage. Outside, teachers vied with car-owning students for the use of the parking spaces in the auditorium lot, while inside, would be Romeos and Juliet's resisted administrative warnings by stealing onto the unfinished stage to daydream on the romantic spiral staircase. Out of controversy had emerged a building which offered something to almost everyone, and which exemplified Blairís determination to keep pace with the future."
  

As a Graduate of Blair's Class of '70 and a cast member of the 1st Blair Annual Show Production of Guys and Dolls in the NEW auditorium, I well remember the thrill of putting on a production on a real stage. It was HUGE and the orchestra pit moved up and way down! There was actually lotsa room to move about for the actors and dancers. Set design became more elaborate and lofty. What a difference from the cozy but limiting "theater in the round" concept we used in the Field House Gym. Now we didn't have to compete with and disrupt the athletes. We felt professional. I remember we used that auditorium for school assemblies, class meetings and community meetings and events too. In the late 80's and early 90's I brought my young daughter to see several children's productions. I am surprised to find it's been unused for so long.

I've lived away from the area (I moved to "June-Bug Week"-Ocean City Area) but keep tabs on the Silver Spring "revival" that has been taking place over the last 10 years, and I keep in touch with some "old school pals". I even remember Mrs. Stickley, who to me symbolized BLAIR as it was from its beginning days. It would be wasteful not to use such a resource for the present schools in the area as well as the community groups. I hope it can be restored to its original use.

Marianne "Szwec" Leizure
Class of '70, Montgomery Blair High School

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Jean M. Caswell's Story

As a former teacher at Montgomery Blair High School, I was dismayed when I learned that the old school would be closed down. The room I taught in was hardly more than 30 years old. Fortunately the school has been reopened and is in use as an Elementary and a Middle school. But the auditoriium is still boarded up.

We held our PTA meetings in the auditorium in comfortable seats. Art Buchwald gave a fascinating lecture to which the whole school was invited--missed classes or no. I loved seeing my students performing in plays and concerts before a packed audience. The auditorium has a stage that rises and falls on command. It has an orchestra pit that can be lowered during a play. It has the largest fly gallery I have ever seen. And it has wonderful backstage accommodations for the players and the stage crew. We were told that the auditorium was closed because Elementary and Middle schools do not have auditoriums--a purely bureaucratic reason. That such a remarkable facility, which could be an asset to all performing groups in the county, has been closed for years, is a loss for all of us.

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Kevin Meek's Story

I was part of the ATT Stage Crew during between 1981-1984. My experience with the crew led me into a successful career in lighting design!

Kevin Meek
Lighting Designer
Washington Ballet, Kennedy Center


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Old Blair Auditorium Project, Inc.    info@oldblairauditorium.org    +1 301-960-8982