WATERLOO (KWWL) -
After 44 years of dedication to the Waterloo Community Playhouse, the man calling many of the shots now calls it a day.
Artistic Director Chuck Stilwill welcomes retirement with mixed emotions; he's looking forward to the next chapter of his life, but at the same time, bids farewell to a stage he's called home.
"Picking shows, casting shows, rehearsing shows, getting them through the run," Chuck said, as he reflected on what most of the last 44 years of his live have been about.
He's given more than four decades to the Waterloo Community Playhouse, and to his love for the theater.
Serving as artistic director, Stilwill has worked with thousands of actors from all across the state of Iowa.
He's put on seven shows a year, on average, and said it's difficult to say how many hours he's spent in rehearsals over the last four decades.
But one thing Stilwill can say - it hasn't always been smooth sailing.
"After I have auditions for a play I have to call people, usually very talented people, and tell them we didn't cast you this time. And that's heartbreaking."
He also houses memories he'll keep for a lifetime; some he can laugh at now while others bring a sense of accomplishment. He recalls getting a call from a state trooper, telling Stilwill one of the actors had been arrested about 45 minutes before a show.
Stilwill had to go on in the actor's place, because after all...the show must go on! He also remembers pulling off half a show in Hope Martin Theater without power.
Stilwill has directed close to 350 shows for the Waterloo Community Playhouse. Colleagues said there are very large shoes to fill, as Stilwill leaves his position.
"Every show gets Chuck's full attention. Every actor gets Chuck's full attention. It's always the best," John Mardis said, President of the Waterloo Community Playhouse Board.
Stilwill said he's looking forward to reading books and magazines of his choice as he begins retirement, as much of his reading has centered around theater for the past 44 years.
But, he said he'll always carry a piece of the playhouse with him, along with keeping memories of a lifetime.
"It's been great. And I think I'm a lot luckier than most."
Stilwill's last show, Steele Magnolias, opened the night of Sept. 5. He will officially retire Sept. 14.
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