Community Mourns Loss Of Local Theater Legend

Jul 16, 2014

The Glens Falls region is remembering the life of William "Bill" Woodward, an active member of the community who was at the core of performing arts scene for decades.

Bill Woodward died at 64 after a battle with cancer. A longtime member of the Glens Falls Community Theater, Woodward was a celebrated actor, writer, and manager. From 2006 to 2012, he served as Executive Director of the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls. He previously worked as director of social entertainment and theater at The Sagamore.

Woodward was a neighbor to Glens Falls Post-Star writer Maury Thompson, who in an article chronicling Woodward’s life, called his friend a “showman.”

“Through his work with the community, the Wood Theater, and the Community Theater, he was regularly calling me saying ‘here’s this, here’s that’ and through our shared interest in local history Bill was someone who studied in local history and had a lot of artifacts, so when I was writing a historical story I would often speak with him.,” said Thompson.

Thompson mentioned Woodward’s time as an antique dealer and collector, and said they often encountered each other at yard sales and auctions.

“He always had a smile. And even if he had a complain about something in the community, he shared it in an uplifting and humorous way,” said Thompson.

Erin Coon, who has served as Executive Director of the Wood Theater since Woodward’s retirement, recalled her former boss’s ability to connect and communicate on a personal level.

“Even if you didn’t come in with a problem you just felt better. I mean, there’s this guy that loves life, who is enthusiastic about so many aspects about life, and he’s enthusiastic about you. So that’s something that can’t be replaced,” said Coon.

Coon said she began working under Woodward in 2010, after walking in with an application at a time when the Wood Theater wasn’t hiring. Coon said Woodward believed in her so much, he convinced the board to create Operations Manager position she would serve in.

“I was completely new, I was totally out of school and he had to do a lot of work to get me up to snuff, and he was completely willing to do it,” said Coon. “He wanted to see me succeed and to be believed in, and to get that kind of a break in this industry is a rare and wonderful gift, and he gave it to me.”

Cathy Dede, managing editor of the Chronicle newspaper in Glens Falls, remembered meeting with Woodward while writing a piece on the history of community theater in the region.

“He just laughed and laughed, and told me one story after another of mishaps backstage, and he was just a real repository for that, he was a real historian, you know? He was very into his own family geneology, he was very into the history of the Community Theater….and this stuff mattered to him. This was his family,” said Dede.

Dede recalled Woodward’s participation in the annual historic tours at the Glens Falls Cemetery. Woodward would write scripts for and direct actors in dramatic interpretations of the lives of important deceased members of the community.

“He did such a beautiful job of not only telling somebody’s story in sort of a straight way, but also finding meaning for the present, and particularly in the last couple of years when he knew he was ill. You would go through this tour and he would have these characters talking about their own place in the community, and what that would look like, what legacy they would leave behind. And it was very true to that character, but also he was really speaking to himself and what he thought was important to himself.”

Maury Thompson also looked back on Woodward’s involvement in local history.

“He would study all the archives and bring the dead people to life, so-to-speak,” joked Thompson. “He made history fun for people to learn and be appreciative of.”

State Senator Betty Little of Queensbury said Woodward’s passing is “a real loss for the community.”

“I’m sure he got a lot of joy from all that he did, but he certainly gave a lot of joy to those who watched his presentations or heard his music, and events and productions he participated in putting on,” said Little.

Last spring, Woodward directed the Glens Falls Community Theater’s production of Harvey.  Thompson writes that before his death, he had already begun planning his next show, The Sunshine Boys.