He was never an actor but Jim Ely fondly recalls his theatrical experiences at Madison East High School. "I'd go to a Friday night performance, as really, the entire student body used to do 35 years ago, it's a little different nowadays."
As is the current theatre's physical fitness.
Ely, a 1971 East graduate and current custodian, says the venue's red, plastic replacement seats, poor audio system, and overall stiff feel don't fit the script. "There's something now, about our Margaret Williams theatre, it doesn't seem 'theatre,' it's cold, it's plastic."
Last fall, Ely decides to donate $5,000 to help refurbish the theatre to honor the memory of the star of his stage, his wife, Judy. "We both did stage work. Both were involved in drama. I was always on stage crew. Judy was in the make-up club and costume club and that's actually kinda where I met my wife."
Bradley Whitford, also an East graduate, now a star of the NBC drama "West Wing," gets word of Ely's donation and writes a letter. Whitford wrote, "please tell Jim Ely that he is my hero, and that I would like to match his donation, in honor of his wife, Judy."
Judy was a huge fan of the hit show. "When Judy was admitted to the hospice center, out in Fitchburg, she was in room number two of the 'West Wing.'"
As for Jim...
"I had to call one of my daughters to find out what t.v. station to watch and I sat down one day to watch 'West Wing' so I could figure out who Brad Whitford was because, I didn't have a clue."
He does now, along with a notion to get the entire space renovated...
"or at least updated and so there's you know there's work to be done."
To be continued...
Ely says the orchestra has already purchased new acoustic shells and a portion of a new sound system adding the theatre will graciously accept additional financial support.