Saturday, June 7, 2014

Remembering Dorothy Blackwood. Services Set for Monday, June 9

Posted By on Sat, Jun 7, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Dorothy in the Dressing room. In a tiara.
  • Dorothy in the Dressing room. In a tiara.

I wanted to say a few words about Dorothy Blackwood, a wonderful performer whose elegant and seemingly effortless work will never be seen again. And I hope that the few insufficient words I offer will encourage others who've either worked with Blackwood or enjoyed watching her on stage, to leave their own stories and memories of a great lady and grand performer.

The Memphis theater community lost a gem last month, when 89-year-old Dorothy K. Blackwood passed away. She was a first generation American, born in New York, the daughter of Greek immigrants. She lived and worked in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, before settling in Memphis, where she acted on almost every stage from Front Street Theatre to Theatre Memphis to TheatreWorks, winning numerous awards along the way including the Eugart Yerian Award for Lifetime Achievement in Memphis Theatre.

Blackwood's 2003 Eugart Yerian acceptance speech was a heartfelt outpouring of affection for Memphis' familial theatre community that left not a dry eye in the house.

Dorothy (front, seated) at the Nicholas Nickleby reunion.
  • Dorothy (front, seated) at the "Nicholas Nickleby" reunion.

Blackwood's last performance was the lead in a difficult developing work called Killing Louise, produced by Playwright's Forum at TheatreWorks in 2007. Killing Louise was a serious look at assisted suicide.

"And she was amazing, if you'll pardon a proud daughter saying so," says daughter Kara Diana Blackwood.

She usually was.

The epic 8-hour Nicholas Nickleby at Rhodes College was my introduction to Memphis theater in 1985, and Blackwood was part of the massive ensemble cast. I saw her perform many more times over the years, but will always think of her as the ham-sandwich wielding grandmother in Joe DiPietro's Over the River and Through the Woods, a rare, wonderful comedy that manages genuine sentiment without becoming mired in sentimentality. No matter what the family dynamic might be at any given moment, her character had priorities: the people she loved would be fed. It's one of the most perfect alignments of performer and material I've ever seen, and not a terrible metaphor for Blackwood's own artistic spirit.

Dorothy, standing with a ham sandwich in Over the River and Through the Woods.
  • Dorothy, standing with a ham sandwich in "Over the River and Through the Woods."

Services will be held Monday, June 9, 2014 beginning at 2:30 pm in the Rotunda at West TN Veterans Cemetery on Forest Hill Irene Rd.

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