Gary Lee Maker, who once organized a little theater for the English-speaking community in Italy and later became one of the most loving supporters of professional theater in the DC theater community, succumbed to cancer on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at the Casey Hospice in Rockville, MD. He was sixty-eight.
Maker was preceded in death by his longtime partner, Paul Desmarais.
He was known as a relentlessly upbeat supporter of local theater, frequently attending two or three plays a week (and occasionally reviewing them – check out his review of American Century Theater’s production of Eccentricities of a Nightingale.).
“Gary Maker’s passion for theatre exceeded no other,” Taffety Punk Artistic Director Marcus Kyd observed on the Remembrance Facebook page. “Lise [Bruneau] and I met him and his partner Paul in the lobby and sparked an immediate friendship. He and Paul saw more plays than anyone I have known. And Gary took it upon himself to alert everyone he knew about the plays he’d seen and wanted to see. Before the Internet made distribution of such lists easy, he typed these notices out by hand and distributed them by mail.”
Maker was born and raised in San Francisco, and served our country in the U.S. Navy for several years. He was stationed, among other places, in Naples, Italy, where he ran the Little Theater. His final tour of duty took him to Washington where, after receiving his honorable discharge, he managed several area movie houses and later opened a used book store.
Washington Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Chris Henley remembers Maker’s movie-house connection. “Gary had a…unique connection to Clark Street [Playhouse],” Henley noted. “He recognized our orange cushioned chairs from their source, the Jennifer Cinema. He had been a manager, I believe, at that movie theatre, from which we scavenged those seats when [it] closed in 1994. He stopped me after a performance one night and we exchanged memories of the Jennifer…and delighted in the fact of its parts contributing to the Frankenstein’s monster that was Clark Street.
“Shortly before he lost Paul, we were all at a Journeyman show at Clark Street. They queried us with great interest about our travels, and shared memories of their own, both seeming so full of life and appreciative of the beauty of the world, a lovely memory for me to keep of them both. What a gentleman.”
People who knew Maker through theater unanimously praised his classy and enthusiastic support for local theater. “God Bless Gary Maker and his incredible love and support of our DC Theatre Scene,” founding Washington Shakespeare Company ensemble member Megan Morgan said. “He was truly devoted and an amazing champion of the community here, with a loving voice that celebrated new and old alike. He deserves to be a household name in the lexicon of theatre history here.”
And our own Joel Markowitz commented, “Gary Lee Maker was one of the nicest people I have ever had the honor of knowing. Through all the adversity he had to deal with his health issues, he was always upbeat, positive, and funny. He was one-of-a-kind and will be sorely missed.”
But perhaps the account of Maker’s life which will seem most true-to-life to those who knew him is the story posted on his Facebook page from Carmen Cahill.
“When I was 18 years old Gary & Paul took me to the Lincoln Center to see The Nutcracker,” Cahill wrote. “I wore a blue gown, Paul & Gary dressed in tuxedos looking so handsome. Gary, realizing I did not bring a dress coat, ran to the closet and said ‘Missy, wear this it will keep you warm.’ Shocked it was a 3/4 lamb’s coat…not knowing what to say…I did what I was told! They said I looked smashing!! Sitting in the first balcony in total awe the lights dimmed, I looked over at Paul & Gary thinking this is the most perfect moment in my life. I will treasure the special times I had with Gary & Paul.”
We invite those who knew wish to share their memories of him, to leave them on his Facebook page “Remembering Gary Lee Maker“, or share them with our readers in the comments section below.
Arrangements for services have not yet been announced.
DC Theatre Scene starts planning for the Gary Lee Maker Award
Even after he was unable to attend theatre due to declining health, Gary remained a close friend to DC Theatre Scene editor Lorraine Treanor, always happy to hear about performances, and ready at any time to lend her his cheer and applause. One of his last thoughts to her was “I wish I had bought tickets to Follies [at the Kennedy Center] so I could give them to someone.”
Inspired by his love and generosity, and recognizing that none of the work done by our theatre community would be possible without the presence and enthusiasm of Washington area audiences, DC Theatre Scene is creating the Gary Lee Maker Award, to be given annually to one outstanding audience member. A panel will choose the recipient from recommendations submitted by participating theatre companies.
If anyone is interested in supporting this project, send an email to: [email protected]