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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Monday, April 23, 2018

REMEMBERING TERRY HECK SEIBERT, by Davi Napoleon

Terry Heck Seibert

"I believe that Terry has gained a kind of immortality through the people she influenced"

-- Todd Sheets

The news sent shock waves through the Southeast Michigan theater community. For many, it started on Facebook, when the actor John Seibert changed his profile picture to a photo of his wife. Many simply clicked "like" on the photo of one of their favorite performers and people. Others already knew that the unidentified victim in an accident reported in the Ann Arbor News was Terry Heck Seibert, 61, co-chair of the theater department at Eastern, a fine performer who appeared at professional theaters in and out of Michigan, including the Purple Rose and the Performance Network. Terry had been hit by a car while walking her dog on April 13, and she didn't make it.

Terry didn't have a Facebook page, so friends and colleagues created one. It's been a place to offer condolences to John and their son, Joseph, for people to commiserate and post announcements-- there will be a memorial for Terry in June, open to the public, after the recent private service the family held at St Francis of Assisi Parish; a group of former students now living in New York are meeting at a bar to remember her. And most of all, it's become a repositorie of memories. Former students, colleagues, and friends have been been sharing stories of her life in education and art, and its impact on them, including these:

"I'm still in shock, still processing this. When it starts to get too heavy for me, I picture her in her office, surrounded by her books, papers, and sticky notes. She'll set her pencil down, lean back in her chair, cross her arms and say: 'Now Joseph, what happened was terrible. But you can't let yourself dwell on it. The best way to honor a life is to keep living yours.' This little constructed thought is somewhat comforting. Terry will continue to teach lessons to her students for many years to come." Joseph Fournier

"There was a day I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed, overbooked, a bit stressed and emotionally destroyed as my grandmother just passed away the day or so before. Terry passed me in the hall…She stopped me, reached out and grabbed my hand and asked what was wrong…. I told her everything and she listened to every word...I explained to her that I was on the verge of taking a semester off, but I feared if I did I would never come back and finish my degree. She looked me in the eye, smiled and said that whatever I need to do, I need to do...but if I was strong enough to make it through this, the next challenge won't seem as hard….I think if this meeting hadn't happened, I would not be where I am, doing what I'm doing, and tackling the challenges that have come my way." Dustin D. Miller

"Terry constantly made fun of me. I mean just murdered me every chance she got. I loved it. She…prepared me for the profession. To this day I use tools she gave me…. I think of her when I teach my students. I think of her when I'm on stage. I will continue to keep her and her godamn laugh in my heart. That godamn laugh." William Coelius

"It was the morning after George W. Bush was re-elected…while I don't recall her exact words, she said something along the lines of 'now art is more important than ever,' and, after years of limited perspective, I began to shed egocentric views of what we were studying and look at larger impacts and purposes of why theatre exists and thrives." Jeff Luttermoser

"Terry was undoubtedly a wonderful teacher and mentor for so many students, but she also took care of her colleagues. She was a mentor to me when I began at EMU, and she continued to work to make sure things are healthy and happy for us in our area. She was my staunch advocate on the topic of maternity leave this semester, and I regret that she never got to meet my new son…I will miss her sardonic, dry wit, her epic snark, and her wonderful laugh. I loved watching her perform on stage, and I enjoyed working with her as a designer when she directed, which she did with sensitivity and a fine collaborative spirit. She was always open to hearing new ideas, and you could see her spirit flare up when she got inspired by something." Melanie Schuessler Bond

"Terry was my colleague and my friend. She was funny, sardonic, thoughtful, fiercely smart and supportive. She was what a university professor is supposed to be, and I am going to miss her beyond words. I could always depend on her to see the gist of an issue and to force proper focus. She tolerated little obfuscation…For several years we co-taught a course…I loved listening to her work with her folks who were enamored with seeing themselves on camera. 'Being on camera isn't the big thing,' she would say. 'Being honest is the thing.'" Geoffrey Hammill

"I remember one of our very first rehearsals for Circle Mirror Transformation. John was directing. [and] gave Terry a character note. Terry immediately shot back with an argument for why she made the choice she did…unlike the typical bickering argument, each word that was coming out of their mouths was genius…. they obviously loved each other so much, but because they were both so good what they did, they weren't afraid to challenge each other. I was a better actor after witnessing that exchange." Sarah Ann Leahy

"Terry was the Mr. Rogers of Michigan theatre. She made me feel smart, capable, funny, and likable. When someone as great as her sees the best in you - you believe what they see. …She was a true role model. The Michigan theatre community adored Terry, and the feeling was mutual." Marissa Conniff

"I would not have graduated without Terry. I would not have found the motivation to stick with theatre after my mom died. I would not have been able to go onstage the week after despite feeling like an empty shell of a human. Terry Heck Seibert gave each of us the courage to be real - onstage and off." Luna Alexander

"There is an incredible bond among people that do a Terry show…Actors fought to work crew on Terry shows just to be around her more. I offered to cook for one of her casts just as an attempt to impress Terry…God how I wish this group was for Terry's retirement." Michael Jaworski

"Losing Terry hurts. She was my first collegiate acting professor. She coached me in my first professional acting gig. She was a thesis advisor for me…She showered me with support and love when I needed it. She kicked my ass when I needed it. She smiled. She laughed. She was more than a mentor to me. She made me a better theatre professional. She made me a better person…Terry will live on in me, because she made me better, and I know I'm not the only one." Rick Eva

"We worked together many many times.... she acted in my plays, she directed my plays, I directed her…When I first started [teaching] at EMU 13 years ago, she became a permanent fixture in my life. I started coming early to make sure I had time to chat with her before classes." Joseph Zettelmaier

"When I teach theatre, I lift some of my best stuff straight from the notes I've taken in her classes…I believe that Terry has gained a kind of immortality through the people she influenced as an actor, director, teacher...human being." Todd Sheets


posted by John Hilton at 11:43 a.m. | 2 comments


2 comments:

Rachel Yanikoglu said...

Purely by accident I found this news today! I am crushed! I ran into Terry right around the date. We exchanged phone numbers so we could meet and catch up on our boys’ news. My son and Joey were in school together all their years since kindergarten. Terry and John were hilarious, joyous, interesting, and wonderful to run into around town. I mostly ran into Terry in the Ann Arbor Library and we always had some news for each other. John and Joe ... my heart just aches for you! Just know I think so many wonderful thoughts of each of you. My sincere condolences!



April 24, 2018, 7:15 p.m.

eve silberman said...

A beautiful tribute. Thank you, Davi.



April 24, 2018, 11:18 p.m.

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