Fond Farewells to Four Superstars

In March 2020, the StageLights staff was abuzz with activity, making preparations for auditions for Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” Then the stay-at-home order hit. Theaters around the world were shut, and our 2020 season was canceled with no clear forecast for when we would be back.

By September, the StageLights board received the news that whatever our future, we would be without four of our superstars.

Judy Zwelling and Richard Parker announced that they would retire from StageLights. Judy helped bring children’s summer musical theater to Williamsburg in 1993. With Richard joining her four years later as artistic director, these two served together for 25 years as summertime creative “mom and dad” to hundreds of Williamsburg children, including my own three.

Whether it was their classic corrections (“Words!!”) or their silly warmups (“Mashed My M&Ms!”), the lessons in acting and singing and creativity and confidence have stayed with us to this very day. Richard and Judy, over just a few weeks’ time, created a second family and a scrapbook full of fun memories for our kids.

Around the same time, we also said goodbye to two women who have done so much for StageLights over the years: our operations manager Christie Buie and our finance manager Debbie Whisenant. Christie oversaw the many details that make our programs successful, from communications to publicity to t-shirts to ticket sales. Debbie brought her invaluable financial and organizational skills to StageLights, paying the bills, writing the grants and always encouraging us to look for ways to raise money to keep our programs strong.

Richard, Judy, Christie, Debbie, it is an understatement to say, “We miss you!” We will move into this new era building on your wonderful legacy and aim to make you proud. 

Mark Ekstrom
For the StageLights Board of Directors