Interview by LInda Reese, Merc Board Member
Jane Hill has been a vital asset to the Merc since her arrival in the Methow Valley. As she described it, she was with a group of people at the Merc when the play Murder by the Book was being produced. The person manning the light board had just backed out, and someone asked the group, “does anyone possibly know how to run a light board?” Jane said she “timidly raised her paw,” was given the job, and has been active at the theater ever since.
Jane moved to the valley from Illinois in 2014 to be closer to her son, Paul, and his family. In Illinois, she taught high school English and was active in her local community theater. She was on stage in several productions, played historical characters in reenactment presentations, and thankfully, learned how to run the light board. When she discovered that Twisp had a live theater, she knew she’d be happy living here. At first she simply looked forward to attending performances, but after contributing her technical skills, she was asked to join the Merc Board, and we’ve benefitted from her decision-making and leadership skills, as well as her genuine love of theater, ever since. During her years here, she has served as both vice-chair and chair of the board, worked lights, performed on stage (including her recent role of the key juror in our readers’ theater production of Twelve Angry Women), performed numerous behind the scene duties, and helped the Merc survive the two-year pandemic shutdown. Unfortunately for us, she recently had to step away from the board due to our bylaws’ limited terms, but we’re fortunate that she continues to serve on the programming committee.
When asked what the most fulfilling or rewarding aspect has been while volunteering at the Merc, Jane responded, “the absolute most rewarding thing to me has been observing the transition that has happened while I’ve been here- from a time when there was a very proficient artistic director who was guiding the theater, but as far as I was concerned, we were acting under the auspices of the artistic director instead of being a real community theater. So one of the things I’ve seen is the transition to a real community theater.” Jane explained that this transition has been supported by both our current and our past executive directors as well as the past three board chairs. She finds it gratifying to see the connection that the Merc has with our schools, which includes working with our high school students and providing them with an actual professional stage including professional light and sound systems while they’re still in high school. She also finds it rewarding that we have children’s productions, like Beauty and the Beast, that draw a full opening night house where people have to be turned away.
Jane encourages anybody to volunteer and get involved with the Merc. “If you like to be present and see plays, come help us in the concession booth… that’s a simple way to get started. If you know something about technology, especially theater technology, step up and let us know that. And if you’re interested in being on the board, approach somebody and say you have an interest.”
When asked if there was anything else she’d like to add, Jane shared a book she’s been reading titled Smile: a Memoir, written by Sarah Ruhl, an award winning playwright and essayist. Like the author, Jane said she’s a wordaholic. “I love words. I love what words can do. I love the sounds they make. I love the way they feel in my mouth. The one thing the author said in her book that really resonated with me was when she saw her productions on stage, she said it was her words in three dimensions.”
Thank you, Jane Hill, for all your work in keeping community theater alive in the Methow and giving us all the opportunity to see words in three dimensions!