I didn't know Michael Lodick.
Though he was one of those seemingly omnipresent theater figures, whose name you read in programs and see at opening nights, he was one of the few local directors I haven't talked with at any length. So, when it was announced that he died last week during a performance of "The Nance" in the Manny Fried Playhouse, he remained an abstraction to me.
It was only when I started reading Facebook tributes to Lodick, and later spoke with his relatives, colleagues and admirers for an obituary, that a sense of the man started to materialize.
Perhaps the most moving tribute to Lodick's life and work on Facebook was a post by the artist Fotini Galanes, whose son, Martino, was cast in a central role in Lodick's production of "Slaughterhouse Five" for the Subversive Theatre Collective.
The post contained an email from Lodick to Martino, then 12, praising him for performing in the show while he was sick. Martino has a copy of the letter, from fall 2015, tacked up on his bedroom wall.
The letter gives a peek into the lives of local actors, directors and designers, who often work a day job or attend school, in addition to working on the stage.
Too often, theatergoers and critics -- guilty as charged -- fail to recognize the personal and financial challenges those who create theater face. When the theater they produce is rough around the edges or unfinished in some way, we can be too harsh.
This remarkable letter from Lodick to a 12-year-old boy gets to the very heart of what theater offers us:
I understand that you were not feeling well at all on Sunday, but were able to go on with the performance. I want to thank you for your perseverance, on behalf of the entire cast and the crew and the theatre.
The actors you work with are very talented artists, but unlike your mother's art which she works so very hard at, their art takes a whole company and an audience to achieve. Most have been doing this for years or just finished college where they majored in theatre. And despite their talent, they only get a few weeks a year to perform, which is what they love to do more than anything.
It would have been easier for you to not go on Sunday. If you had not, the show would have been cancelled, the audience given their money back, and your fellow actors would have lost a chance to perform. But you toughed it out and we are all very grateful and proud of you for doing so.
Being part of a company of actors, or of any other group is a big responsibility. You often have to give up what you want for what the others need or want. If you were really too sick or too injured to perform, no one would want you to risk your health or further injury. I've known actors who tried to perform when they were too weak or too sick to do so safely. That is foolish and dangerous. But often when things are little bit tough, it seems easier to give up than to go forward. Only you will know, but you will always know if you gave up too easily or didn't try your all, at the theatre, or at school or at any other part of your life.
On stage, you have to trust your fellow actors. It is a great credit to you that they could trust you to go on, even though you weren't feeling good. That shows me and them what a dedicated actor and dedicated member of this company that you are. You do have a lot of talent for acting and I hope you will continue to learn the craft. It takes a lot of effort and work and dedication. You've shown you have the strength to do it.
Thanks, and I'll see you Thursday.