Linda Elyse Bryce, a teacher, lover of Shakespeare, broad-spectrum theater supporter and winner of the 2013 Gary Maker Award, given to the audience member who best exemplifies Maker’s enthusiastic, grass-roots support of Washington theater, died yesterday morning.
Bryce was a resident of Venice, Florida at the time of her death.
The Faction of Fools, Washington’s Commedia dell’Arte troupe, had sponsored Bryce’s successful nomination. The Fools and the Shakespeare Theatre Company had nominated her previously.
“For Faction of Fools and for me personally, Linda was everything–a patron, a fan, a friend,” said Matt Wilson, the Fools’ Founding Artistic Director. “She lived and loved and connected without barriers, seamlessly flowing between a caring conversation about your personal life to strong-arming another stranger into joining the mailing list; inviting you to events, sending you home with plates of food, slyly whispering, ‘I want you to meet so-and-so,’ all while treating you like family. Sometimes we’d walk her garden looking for things we could borrow as props. Sometimes we’d just sit in the garden and talk. She loved theatre for its power to connect people, and neither I nor Faction of Fools would be the same without her connective power. She is loved and missed.”
Similar tributes poured into Bryce’s Facebook page, commending her support of theater and her power and dedication as a teacher. “Any time I read about the impact a teacher could have on a student, Linda, I think of you” said Rachel Stoyanov said. “When…I became a teacher, I used what I learned about how to love my students from you.”
“I hope that in my volunteer life I can be as good and kind and genuine as Linda,” said Joanne Coutts. Paul Hope remarked, “thank you for your support of Shakespeare, STC, the fledgling Faction of Fools (you were there when we won the Helen Hayes), and… so many theatre artists. I am honored to have known you.”
Bryce, the daughter of an actor and the granddaughter of an opera singer, came to DC at the age of nine, when the principal theater was visiting troupes at the National Theatre. She spent a good portion of her dating life, she said, going to the brand-new Arena Stage, and she eventually married a man whose family was involved in the building of what is now the Warner Theatre.
She decided that life on stage was not for her, though. Instead, she became a teacher at the Eleanor Roosevelt School for the Sciences. “The science and technology students, because of their packed schedules, did their theater and music before and after school,” she told DC Theatre Scene at the time she received her Maker Award. “So I sponsored music theater and when the young woman who started the Shakespeare performance group left I stepped in on a temporary basis.” That temporary appointment lasted nine years.
As an audience member, Bryce did more than stand up and cheer. Rachel Spicknell Mumford, in nominating her for the Maker Award on behalf of Faction of Fools, noted that Bryce “has been at nearly every show we have produced…Linda never comes to the theatre alone, though. She has brought dozens and dozens of friends and family members, including her own children and grandchildren. From our first performance …Linda has brought groups of people to us, talking us up before the show and encouraging them to return on their own for performance after performance after performance.”
Among the services she performed for Washington-area theaters was her membership in “the Angels,” a collection of theater supporters who showed Shakespeare Theatre interns the ins and outs of life in Washington. It was a volunteer activity she shared with another Washington theater enthusiast, Gary Maker.
Yesterday, one of those interns noted the impact of this service on Bryce’s Facebook page. “Linda Elyse Bryce and her Mother, Marion, swooped me up in their arms and were my surrogate family when I moved to D.C.,” Joy Johnson said. “She, Marion, Nancy and Renee made sure I was fed, cultured, and most of all, loved. Talk about one of the shiniest stars in the galaxy, Linda was. When we get to come together as a theatre community again, we’ll hug each other for Linda. She’ll love that.”