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Guest column: Piedmont Players bids farewell to Leonard

By Lori Van Wallendael

As Piedmont Players Theatre bids farewell to our Resident Director, Reid Leonard, we want to thank him on behalf of this community for all that he has done for Salisbury and Rowan County.

Reid Leonard began directing plays for Piedmont Players with Pump Boys and Dinettes in 1986, and became the company’s full-time resident director shortly thereafter. At that time, Piedmont Players performed in Catawba College’s facilities, but in 1992 Reid was at the helm when Piedmont Players purchased the building that now houses the Meroney Theater. The Meroney opened in 1995 with a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It is no exaggeration to say that the Meroney Theater would not exist without the efforts of Reid Leonard.

Reid’s passion for youth theater led him and the Piedmont Players Board of Governors to further expand their outreach by opening the all-youth Norvell Theater in 2010 with a performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” In the Norvell, students from elementary school through high school have been involved in all aspects of theater production — acting, singing, dancing, running lights and sound, working as backstage crew and even as ushers. The Norvell Theater brings a true, live theater experience to students in schools that do not have their own theater programs as well as to home-schooled youth. As such, it has changed our community for the better, and Reid Leonard was instrumental in that change.

Throughout the years, Reid Leonard has helped to bring an outstanding variety of productions to Salisbury.

He has challenged audiences to think outside of their comfort zone with productions such as “The Laramie Project.” He adapted a Clyde Edgerton favorite, “Walking Across Egypt,” for our stage, and it has subsequently been performed by many area companies.

His enthusiasm for plays with diverse casts, such as “The Color Purple” and the recent “The Wiz,” have brought both new performers and new audiences to our community. And Reid has also been a leader in Piedmont Players’ efforts to offer new educational experiences for all ages, including audition workshops, dance classes and even fencing classes.

Anyone who has done a show with Reid knows there are “always three things” he tells the case and crew in the green room before a performance.

We now have three things for Reid:

• Piedmont Players Theatre, as it exists today, would not exist without your years of dedication.

• The entire Salisbury area owes you a debt of gratitude for your contributions to the artistic life of our community.

• Although you are leaving your full-time role as resident director, we hope to work with you again soon as a guest director/designer for shows at the Norvell and the Meroney theaters.

Piedmont Players Theater thanks our community for its support during this difficult time and looks at our current performance hiatus as “a long intermission.” We eagerly await opening our doors to the community once more.

Lori Van Wallendael is president of the Piedmont Players Board of Governors.

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