IF YOU GO
Who: Marco Players present the Troubadours to benefit the Chuck Daye Memorial Apprentice / Scholarship Program
Where: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1101 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Information: Doors open at 6 p.m. with wine reception, silent auction and raffle of Broadway memorabilia
MARCO ISLAND — Twelve years ago, Chuck Daye and his wife Judy played their first parts in “The Wizard of Oz” for the Marco Players. A little more than a year ago Chuck Daye played his last part in “A Bench in the Sun.”
But with help from members and patrons, his memory will continue through a scholarship fund endowed with his name, created after he passed away last July at the age of 84.
Daye, known as a quiet man, had suffered with a weak heart for the past five years of his life. Still, in the mid-January, 2009, even though he was feeling ill, Daye performed two weeks of a three-week run before his feet and legs swelled to the point a trip to the emergency room followed a performance.
“He was so disappointed,” Judy Daye remembers. Her chestnut hair pinned up, legs crossed in sweats, blue eyes peeking out from her eyeglasses, she recalls her husband’s dedication as she relaxes — briefly — in stadium theater seating the couple helped acquire. She’s taking a break from painting the set for an upcoming play, “On Golden Pond” and she’s a pro at it by now.
The couple had moved from Virginia after Chuck Daye retired, and acted on an ad in the paper for the Marco Players seeking volunteers.
“We came to help out and we got roles,” Judy Daye says. For 12 of the 34 seasons, the couple helped build sets, paint walls, create flyers and newsletters, design logos — they even rebuilt the theater. When they arrived on the scene, the facility contained only mismatched folding chairs for theatergoers. Marco Players was a slowly dissipating board of directors, low funds and a theater void of enough actors and patrons.
Judy Daye took on the presidency, for six years, and Chuck was her silent vice-president. “Our goal was to rebuild,” she says.
Throughout the years, the couple wrote for the newsletters and invested in a home copier to produce both it and the hand-drawn flyers Chuck dreamed up publicizing upcoming plays.
He took publicity photos of all the plays and one day decided to have them matted and framed. Then he created a hallway gallery of memories for the Marco Players inside the theater.
Daye also built a wealth of props: a jukebox, a refrigerator. Anything the Players couldn’t buy for a set, Chuck Daye created with his own hands.
“You can’t walk into that theater without thinking of Chuck,” says friend and fellow Marco Players volunteer Howard Blankman. He knew Chuck Daye for five years and describes his peer as a hard worker, always friendly, and very quiet about his accomplishments. Daye did everything, he emphasizes.
“When I say did everything — when someone got sick he picked up the part and got on stage with a book in his hand. We didn’t have understudies. We’re community theater,” Blankman explains.
When the Players decided to rebuild the theater, Chuck Daye drew up plans and Judy Daye wrote to a supply theater company seeking an estimate.
When a letter came back with an estimate for $37,289 the couple thought the project would never come to fruition. “It might as well have been a million,” Judy Daye says.
But with the help of Bob Blassnick, a volunteer and manager of Home Depot, members did the job themselves.
The couple found seat on the Internet, and they found a generous donor who contributed $10,000 to the effort. That, paired with a grant from the United Arts Council for a new stage floor, and the Marco Players was born again.
“It was kind of hard to separate Chuck and Judy. You never knew who was doing what,” current president Beverly Dahlstrom says.
Shortly after Chuck’s death, members of the Marco Players set up the Chuck Daye Memorial Apprentice/Scholarship Fund for local students in the area interested in learning more about theater.
The group is hosting The Troubadours who will sing Broadway hits to benefit the fund, at 7 p.m. Sunday, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Marco Island. It starts with a wine reception at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and raffle of Broadway memorabilia before the show. One of the auction items includes an ink drawing Chuck Daye did of the church.
“Even beyond the grave, he’s still working for the Marco Players,” Judy Daye says with a laugh.
Neither she or her husband had a theater background when they became involved with the Marco Players, but they fell just in love with it, as much as they were with each other, she says.
“We shared the same interests. He had a very good sense of humor. Just laughing, sharing thoughts and ideas and problems — sharing our lives — I think that everybody should have what we had,” Judy Daye reflects.
“I haven’t made the transition. I don’t know where my life is going to go, but it’s been enriched having known that guy.”