December 8, 2020

The Keeper of the Dream: Don Bridge

I heard the news of your passing right before bed...and flashes of memories started playing through my mind like scenes from a movie.

It was Little Miss's first ever audition. We walked into the auditorium and she had all the confidence in the world right up until she saw the stage. She turned green. Don saw us and walked over, coffee in hand- as it often was.

"Which one of you is going to join us in Oliver!?" he grinned.

"I'm a little nervous," Little Miss whispered, with her hand in front of her mouth.

"I get nervous at every audition and I can't even begin to tell you how many I've been to in my old age! Hey...come on, let's do it together!" he said, grabbing her hand and dragging her onto the stage, before she could think twice.

The fear in her eyes melted away instantly. She smiled, they laughed, and she received her first acting role as an orphan in Theatre of Dare's Oliver.

I heard your words in prologue as my heart raced and the tears flowed down my cheeks.

Evening! Well, I see you’ve found your way here too. Don’t blame you at all. I
come out here myself...every evening about this same time…

“This can’t be real,” I thought, as I instinctively opened Facebook messenger.

Frozen, I scrolled through our messages.

“Where you at?” you sent me in the middle of the summer.

“The new world!” I replied.

We spent some hundred evenings under the stars together at Waterside Theatre. Any who have worked in theatre (or like me, are living vicariously through the acting career of their child) know that during a production, you have routines outside the actual blocking of the show. You may have 60 seconds to chat with this person before they go in for Queen’s Garden, then 3 full minutes to catch up with another before Big Battle, etc. Don and I had our routine and on this evening, I wasn’t where I was supposed to be to chat. (If memory serves me, there was a lost bum-roll in the children’s dressing room. There was always a misplaced damn bum-roll.)

Our nightly chats are a memory I will cherish for my lifetime. We often spoke about the spirits that live on in The Lost Colony...the dreams that live on from year to year in the sand.

“I can’t describe it- but…” I said once.

“If you get it, you get it. You feel it. You, Riya, your feel what we feel here- it is a spiritual place,” he stopped, tears filled his eyes, “I have to stop because I’m just a big softie and it is almost time to christen the new baby….hey, what do you think they’ll name it?”

Last winter, we joined Don in Theatre of Dare’s production of Mame. On evenings that I wasn’t at rehearsal, my phone would ding with videos and photos of Little Miss. He was as proud as I was to watch her grow, develop her art, and bring her dream of acting to the stage. One evening, before the show opened, he stopped me in the parking lot.

“You’ve got to slow time down. She’s growing up too fast on us,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Time has gone too fast- and now your Final March has been taken. But the thing with us Colony-folks is...the Final March is never really final. Your dream, our dream, the dream lives on in each person you inspired...each person whose life you touched- your spirit will live on through them.

If there was ever a keeper of the dream, it was you, Don Bridge. The keeper of all dreams...big or small. We love you. You will be remembered.

“And down the centuries that wait ahead, there’ll be some whisper of our names, some mention and devotion to the dream that brought us here." -John Borden

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