Friday, December 16, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight - meet Barbara Helsing

Tell us about yourself.  What are some of your other hobbies?
I was born in Washington D.C., along with my siblings.  My parents came from South Dakota in 1941.  I lived in Prince George's county and graduated from Suitland High School in 1963.  My parents wanted me to go go college (and they would have paid for it) but I wanted to get a job and earn money.  I got a job with PEPCO and had a long career there for 38 years, retiring in September 2001.  I earned a good salary but was glad to be able to retire early.  I was especially glad to not have to go to work after 9/11/01.  I had just retired and felt like the world was coming to an end.  During that time, I lived on Arlington Ridge Road and I felt the concussion when the plane flew into the Pentagon.  I walked up the street and could see the Pentagon on fire.

After retirement, I spent a lot of time helping my parents who moved out to Warrenton, Virginia, near my brother and his family.  I was glad to have the extra time with them as they both passed away in 2006.  In 2007, Roland Gomez helped me find a condo at Watergate of Landmark and I am very grateful to him.

I also volunteer at my church once a week answering the phone and stuffing envelopes (nothing that takes much brain work).  I have two yellow tabby cats, Tom and Jerry, and I love them so much.

What brought you to LTA?  What areas do you volunteer?
My friendship with Rance and Vera Willis.  We attended the same church in Washington D.C. and he kept giving me tickets to LTA.  I became hooked on the theatre and he urged me to join and volunteer.  I became a member in 1998 and started working wardrobe on Fiddler on the Roof.  I had a wonderful time and Margaret Snow taught me the ropes of working wardrobe.  I owe it all to her!  I have also done props design on Biloxi Blues and other shows.  I have worked at other theatres in the area but LTA is my home!  My main volunteer job at LTA is now box office (with arthritis it is too hard for me to work backstage).  I do miss working backstage and being around the actors.  I have made so many friends with them and they trusted me to help them.  Whenever I see an actor I know at another location, they always come up to me, give me a hug and kiss, and say what a good helper I was to them.  It is great to be remembered!

What has been your favorite shows to work on at LTA?
One of my favorite shows was Master Class which I think was my first show as heading wardrobe.  Nicky McDonald was truly Maria Callas and each performance I heard something that stuck with me, and I will never forget it.  She won a WATCH Award for that show.  Another show I worked on was 33 Variations and that again was a labor of love.  I also worked on Greater Tuna and having seen it at another theatre, I decided I didn't want to work on wardrobe for that show...but Kit and Jean, the costumers, had everything laid out which made it a piece of cake to work.  Mike Baker even worked wardrobe on that show!  It was fun!  Never make up your mind prematurely.

What has been your favorite show LTA has produced?
That is one hard answer.  Chicago was truly great.  The music and dancing was wonderful.  I love all the shows we do (with the exception of two which were just not my taste).

What advice would you give others who wanted to get involved in theatre?
Go for it!  You never know what will strike your fancy.  There are some terrific mentors here to train you (and you can't get fired b/c we are all volunteers)!  One time I did make a mistake on wardrobe and called the costumer, Kevin Lane.  He came down to the theatre and I was sitting there crying.  He took me by the shoulders and said "you didn't do anything wrong...you did what you were told to do".  I will always love him for that.


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