In Memoriam: Susan Grace Threadgill, Austin Stage Manager, by #ATXTheatre and Michael McKelvey
The Austin theatre community honors the life, work and good humor of Susan Grace Threadgill, a true friend of the arts. Services are Friday, October 8, 2021 in Henderson, Texas. Her complete obituary can be read here. In lieu of flowers, Susan's family requests donations to Orange Santa at UT Austin. Please designate your gift In Memory of Susan Threadgill.
Susan was a legendary Austin stage manager, affectionally known as “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” She served as production stage manager for the Austin Lyric Opera for 22 years. She became Associate Director and then Director of Production for University Events at UT Austin, where she managed hundreds of important events for a decade. In 2014, Susan received the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology's Distinguished Achievement Award in Management. She freelanced for Austin Symphony, Austin Shakespeare, Zilker Theatre Productions, and Conspirare, and served as production stage manager for the UT PAC (now Texas Performing Arts). Over the course of her career, Susan served as production manager for at least 50 opera performances, 20 musicals, and 8 Shakespeare plays.
During her 38-year career, she wore many hats: actor, technician, stage manager, production manager, producer, director, combat choreographer, librettist, and playwright. She recalled most fondly the projects that allowed her to marry the arts with education, mentoring young technicians, managers, and performers as they took their first steps on the paths to their own careers. Colleagues and performers knew her as a dedicated, competent professional who ran a tight ship, and tempered strictness with kindness, integrity, a strong sense of caring, and a lot of fun.
Call To Action: Be sure to thank and hug a stage manager you adore this week (in a totally COVID-safety-protocol-compliant kind of way) — especially on October 10, International Stage Managers’ Day. Those lucky enough to know or work with Susan will forever hear her voice, full of playful thunder, shoo the company home at the end of each rehearsal, “Flee! Be gone!” May we value the goodness in each other every day we are here — as Susan did.
Susan would have become instantly flushed at all this attention. If she were here, she would surely say,“Alllllright, Get Back To Work!” Yes ma’am, Susan. Here’s an audition announcement, everybody. Let’s get back to work.
From Michael McKelvey:
Yesterday I woke up to the news that Susan Threadgill had passed. For the past 24 hours, I have been in a fog because, like most of you, I can't believe what this Queen of All Theatre has meant to me personally and professionally.
Julian Reed introduced me to Susan, who quickly took me under her wing once she learned I wanted to be a director. Her advice: "If you're going to direct, you need to stage manage!" Before I knew it, I was stage managing the deck for Zilker and serving as an ASM for Austin Lyric Opera. I didn't know what I was doing, but she: mentored me; taught me how to "read the room"; showed me how to work with/handle singers; taught me to call a show with two thousand moving parts; and most importantly showed me how to speak with authority without yelling or speaking down to anyone. She had a way of being authoritative, kind, caring, concerned, quick of wit, all-knowing, and jovial all at the same time. I've never seen anything like.
Although UT gave me my degree, Susan Threadgill (as well as Julian, Bill Sheffield, and countless others) gave me my education in being a theatre professional.Not only did she get me involved with Zilker and ALO, but she was the one who brought me into the Austin Shakespeare Family. If I have never met her, I think my time in Austin would look very different.
When I took over at Summer Lyric [in New Orleans], I insisted we look at who we hired as stage managers and what the expectations should be for that job. Although she was swamped with her other work responsibilities at UT and other projects, she came to New Orleans to help. She was that kind of friend. She was the big sister I never had!
Anyone who came in contact with her has a terrific "Susan Story." Mine are too numerous to include in this post, but my best memories are the trips and events, like New Orleans or late night paintball excursions.Next semester, I will teach my first official college courses in stage management and directing. The thought that Susan will not be there to give advice makes my heart hurt, but I know that she is with me every time I enter the classroom and rehearsal hall.
Rest in peace, Susan! I hope God and the angels can organize a welcoming event worthy of your greatness.