April 4, 2006

A joyful man of the arts

BY ALEXANDER SPEEREXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACTORS THEATRE OF LOUISVILLEI first met Barry Bingham Jr. when I joined Actors Theatre in 1965. Two years before, at the age of 30, he and a handful of other Louisvillians had joined with Richard Block in founding the city’s first professional theater company, Theatre Louisville, and served as its inaugural president. In 1964, Theatre Louisville merged with another newly established theater company, Actors Inc., to form Actors Theatre of Louisville. Barry then served as vice president of the merged Board of Directors and continued to serve on the Board in various capacities for the next 40 years.From the beginning, Barry was an enthusiastic supporter, both in his gifts and attendance at performances — whether they were on our Mainstage Series, or our Discover or Off-Broadway series. Until this year, he even managed to see every production in the Humana Festival of New American Plays, in addition to attending the occasional rehearsal. This love of theater has been very much a family affair, and he was a frequent visitor to the Drama Book Store in New York City, purchasing quantities of plays for family readings at home.Probably no one in this city has attended more performances of arts events than Barry. Besides Actors Theatre, he was an avid operagoer, frequented Louisville Orchestra concerts and was a regular attendee at performances of Walden Theatre, the Bach Society, the Louisville Youth Orchestra and many others.But I believe theater was a first — if not the only — love. He and his wife, Edie, were major contributors in all our building projects. Barry served as the chairman of our 1993 campaign to raise $12 million to build our third theater, the 318-seat theater named after the Bingham family, as well as the income-producing parking garage adjoining our complex. Indeed, Barry and Edie made the lead gift in that campaign. Barry was also a brilliant photographer, and we were honored this season to have some of his exquisite photographs on exhibit for the first time at our theater.For those of us who were privileged to work with Barry, he is recognized as a true Renaissance man, a gifted individual in the arts who supported them passionately and wholeheartedly in thought, word and deed. He toiled for them, sometimes wept for them and always cheered for them. We will all miss Barry’s joyful presence in our community.