Terry J. Long

Director and arts educator was a vital member of city's theater community for more than two decades.

December 20, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Terry J. Long, a well-known community theater director and educator whose productions enlivened the Baltimore stage for more than two decades, died Dec. 13 in New York City after suffering a heart attack. He was 46.

Mr. Long, a Hampden resident, died at Manhattan's Roosevelt Hospital.

Mr. Long had organized a day trip to New York City for 35 staff members of the Children's Guild to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and the famed Christmas windows of the Fifth Avenue department stores.

"As everyone knows, Terry loved the theater, and he loved The Guild," said Jim "FUZZ" Roark, executive director of the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, and a longtime friend.

"He spent his last hours on this planet doing the things he loved and being with the people that were such an important part of his life," Mr. Roark said.

Mr. Long, who was born the son of a career Air Force officer in Arlington, Texas, was raised in Layton, Utah.

He was a 1980 graduate of Layton High School and earned a bachelor's degree in theater arts from Weaver State College in Ogden, Utah, in 1984.

Mr. Long's theatrical aspirations began early in life.

"When he was a kid, he put on shows in the backyard and did puppet shows. He was in junior high school when they put on a production he had written and directed," said his sister, Melanie Sue Loving, of Texas City, Texas.

After managing several 7-Eleven stores in Utah, Mr. Long came to Baltimore and immersed himself in the local community theater scene.

During the Spotlighters' 25th anniversary season in 1987, Mr. Long directed four plays there. He also directed The Foreigner, March of the Falsettos, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood in other area theaters that year.

"Terry rapidly became a standard among Baltimore's many theaters, bringing his wonderfully creative style of directing and his ability to develop a tight and cohesive team among the cast and crew," Mr. Roark said.

Recent Spotlighters productions included Corpus Christi, The Laramie Project, Bat Boy, Southern Baptist Sissies, Pageant and Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer.

His last production was Take Me Out by American playwright Richard Greenberg. The play made its Baltimore premiere in September at Fells Point Corner Theatre.

"Richard Greenberg takes so many American icons and weaves them into a story about baseball," Mr. Long told Mary Carole McCauley, Baltimore Sun drama critic, last summer.

"There's the redneck, the gay superstar, the cynic who's just in the game for the money. The play raises serious questions about race and class and homophobia, but it's also incredibly funny," he said. I fell in love with the story, and I'm not even a sports fan.

"He was an extraordinary teacher and director in terms of having a really good idea of the personality and role of the characters his actors would be playing. He knew how to reach people and he also had a great sense of the use of space," said Beverly Sokal, head of Fells Point Corner Theatre.

"We will miss his outstanding skills as an actor and director," she said.

Mr. Roark praised his friend's boundless energy.

"Terry could go from show to show. He liked the challenge that each new show presented," he said. "He enjoyed the challenges, issues and messages that they represented."

Judy Rousuck, former Sun drama critic, praised Mr. Long for bringing a lot of "provocative theater to Baltimore" during his years here.

"Whenever Terry Long's name was on a show, I knew it would be rewarding to see and review," Ms. Rousuck said.

"And he was a very kind person; even when I ran into him away from the theater, he always greeted me warmly - which isn't always the case for theater critics," she said.

"The saying 'The good die young' definitely applies to Terry," Ms. Rousuck said.

In his professional life for the past 14 years, Mr. Long was the integrated arts coordinator for the Children's Guild, which specializes in teaching emotionally challenged children, and has campuses in Baltimore, Annapolis and Prince George's County.

Mr. Long was affectionately called "Mr. Terry" by students.

"Terry made a difference in the lives of our children and influenced our organization because of his radiant spirit. That's how I see Terry when it came to the children," said Dr. Andrew L. Ross, president and CEO of The Children's Guild.

"He was able to inject fun and discovery into learning," he said. "He made it a place of hope rather than despair."

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. today at in the John Ravekes Theatre at the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, 7200 Sollers Point Road.

In addition to his sister, Mr. Long is survived by a brother, Gary Long of Nacodoches, Texas; and his companion of four years, Brian Erickson.

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