Last night, Omaha lost a talented playwright, a genuine wit, and an all around great human being.
I lost a good friend.
When I think of Doug I think of a genuinely good man with a phenomenal sense of humor and a truly giving and supportive heart. Doug was responsible for giving my theatre career one of its biggest boosts and for keeping it alive when it was on life support.
I first met Doug back in 2003 when I auditioned for the Circle Theatre’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I had high hopes that I would be able to net the role of Billy Bibbit, but received a surprise when I got a letter notifying me that the whole production was being postponed due to the theatre being unable to fill the key role of Chief Bromden, but Doug hoped to mount the show later that summer.
As summer closed in I asked him if Cuckoo was going to be mounted and he wrote back and said Circle would be doing Our Town and immediately offered me the role of Doc Gibbs.
I was stunned by his generosity as I was relatively an untested talent as I only had 4 small roles under my belt and this would be the first time I had something with a bit of meat. Though he didn’t direct the production, he was present every day at his trusted post at the light and sound board. He often regaled the cast with his off the cuff jokes and we would spend quite a bit of time talking about our mutual love for classic rock, Sherlock Holmes, and he would share with me ideas he had for future plays and stories.
I experienced a bit more of his generosity when he handed me a small check at the end of the run. Doug always believed in paying a tiny stipend to the performers and I’m proud to have had my first paying gig under his watchful eye.
It would be nearly a decade before I crossed paths with Doug again. At that point, I had been going through a dry spell and then he announced auditions for An Inspector Calls. After my audition, Doug offered me the choice of either of the two young men. Now one was a decent, level headed sort close to my real personality and the other was a drunken lout. I opted for the lout. Doug agreed to that as he thought that was the better of the two reads.
Doug often said that he wasn’t a director, but I think he underestimated his talents in that realm.. For starters, he was a gifted writer with an instinct for beats so he knew what points in a story needed to be hit to get maximum effect. More importantly, he had an incredible eye for talent. Doug intuitively understood a performer’s strengths and weaknesses and not only knew where to slot them, but also trusted their instincts so he’d only have to give slight notes to smooth out the rough edges.
I was always grateful that he let me test my range with Eric Birling and it still ranks as one of my favorite roles.
Shortly after that show, my dry spell became an arid desert. I had grown so disheartened with the constant rejections that I made the decision to step away from theatre for a while.
Trust Doug to get me back into the swing of things.
Six months into my hiatus, Doug sent word through a mutual friend of ours asking if I would consider doing the Circle’s annual Christmas show. I was a little hesitant because my confidence had been so battered, but he was a really hard guy to say no to so I agreed.
With his trust and support, I began to remember the things I loved so much about theatre and managed to breathe life into his creation of Gunar, the hippie elf which would become another of my favorite roles. His kindness gave me the shot in the arm I needed and I would bag my biggest role later that season thanks to him restoring my heart.
Many in our community have shared their stories about Doug. He was a treasure and he will be missed. I’ll always remember him for his warmth, his good humor, his gift for wordplay, and his goodness. Most of all, I’ll remember him for being my friend.
Rest in peace, my friend.