RACINE — At the conclusion of the Racine Theatre Guild’s 78th season, during a celebratory dinner party at Memorial Hall, volunteers were recognized for extraordinary service and longevity.
John Maccanelli Volunteer of the Year Award
Frank Russ was selected to receive the John Maccanelli Volunteer of the Year Award. It is given annually to a member who has demonstrated both superior dedication and versatility over the past season.
Russ found his way to the Racine Theatre Guild in 2011 through family (his wife, Lori was Volunteer of the Year in 2012) and truly, discovered a new meaning for family. He has many roles both on stage and off. Russ loves to be on stage, performing in nearly every spring musical since “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” He also has a special place in his heart for positions throughout the crew.
Russ has served as production stage manager, twice while acting in the same show; assistant stage manager; sound technician; light technician; prepared and served production meals. One of his favorite crew positions was sending both Charlie Bucket in “Willy Wonka,” and recently, Mary Poppins, “up to the atmosphere” as their flyer. He has served on the play reading committee for two different seasons and can often be found doing Saturday curtain speeches. Russ shares his love of theater with Lori and their four children. Russ also enjoys serving patrons as an usher, house manager and bartender.
Nancy Moldenhauer was presented a 30-year award by Norm McPhee, saying that she was a “behind-the-scenes” volunteer who did much to help the RTG, along with 30 years of writing the callboard. She served on the board of directors and the playreading committee; worked backstage on props, wardrobe and makeup; served as a production stage manager; stage manager; and ushered for 25 years.
On stage, she was seen in several roles, including Sheila in “Boys Next Door” (twice); Ouiser in “Steel Magnolias”; and as Olive Harriet Smythe in “Move Over, Mrs. Markham.”
“As award recipient, I was honored and amazed that it has been 30 years of volunteering with the RTG,” said Moldenhauer. “In writing about 200 issues of the callboard, I have interviewed many other volunteers and learned what motivates them. Most mention that the RTG is like family, and it is exactly that to me: creative people I get to know and call friends. We work together to make magic on stage,” Moldenhauer said.
Leslie Sobota also marked 30 years of volunteering with the RTG. While ill health has prevented her from active volunteering recently, Sobota was seen on stage in many roles in the 1980s and 1990s, including “Bedroom Farce,” “Cemetery Club” and “Crossing Delancy.” She also helped in many areas backstage, including props; assistant stage manager; stage manager; and helping to paint sets.
“Because of the RTG, the past 30 years have been the best ones of my life,” said Sobota. “I loved being on stage and having the directors help me become a better performer. I treasure the friendships I made and how you rely on everyone else when you are creating a play on stage,” said Sobota. “You build up a trust with others, share talents, and entertain an audience. I started out playing the ingénue and ended up with great character parts — the eccentric grandmother or crazy neighbor. I loved all of my experiences with the RTG.”
Mary Jo Maheras also marked the 30-year milestone as a volunteer. Maheras and her family have been ushering for more than 20 years. Mary Jo has worked backstage helping on wardrobe crew. Her husband, the late Nick Maheras, was a RTG photographer.
Phil Paulson, computer guru, master in the booth, ever-present to help with Children’s Theatre productions, and much more, was given a 27-year award. Even though he was an employee at the RTG for 13 years, Paulson always gave additional time as a volunteer, doing everything from building sets to serving as a production stage manager, stage manager, and lighting technician.
Donna Nielsen was given a plaque to honor her 25 years of service. Always available to help in the box office, frequently serving as light or sound technician, helping as an assistant stage manager and house manager, Nielsen has been a presence at the RTG in many positions for every season for 25 years. She said her time with the RTG has been a joy.
Pins were also handed out to volunteers who achieved membership milestones of one, five, 10 and 15 years.
The Racine Theatre Guild annually offers eight main-stage plays and musicals, four Racine Children’s Theatre productions, Jean’s Jazz Series, Comedy Tonight, classes and a variety of other programs, largely through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Anyone interested in getting involved may call the box office at 262-633-4218, go to www.racinetheatre.org, or visit the Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave., between noon and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.