It was a special season opening night, the one marking the start of the 50th anniversary of the East Haddam theater and it was done with style and lots of good stories about the “old” days.
Special guest for the evening was Ann Pretzat, and if anyone should know about the start of the Goodspeed, it is she. She was in its very first production in 1963, “Oh Lady, Lady.” “I was doing some singing and small things in New York City and was thrilled to get the call to be in the show here,” said the now 83-year-old who attended with Goodspeed supporter, Edward Cape. Pretzat recalled the production marked a return for famed dancer-turned-choreographer Paul Draper, whose career was sullied after he was accused of being a Communist and included on the Sen. Joe McCarthy’s infamous list of alleged Communist-sympathizers.
“Michael Price was a gofer at the theater then,” she said smiling as the now executive director stopped to chat. “That was before I was fired,” he said,” referring to a five –year “sabbatical” he took before taking over the reins at the landmark riverside theater.
Price made an unusual pre-curtain speech to the opening night crowd, lauding the people and shows that contributed to the success of the theater, and reading a 1963 telegram that called the theater opening “an occasion which should be hailed by all.” It was from then president, John F. Kennedy.
Also reminiscing about his decades at the theater was facilities manager Ed Blaschik, who started his career as an usher in 1972 and never looked back. “I was just looking for a high school job when I started here,” he said. “And then I just liked it here and stayed.”