Monday, January 4, 2010

New Phones and Old Friends

Posted by Bruce Miller
Barksdale and Theatre IV have a new phone system, which is long overdue. Our old phone system lasted over ten years, which I'm told is pretty remarkable. Hopefully our new one will do as well. New phone systems don't come cheap.

Our phone system is pretty complicated. It connects our lobby, offices and box office at Willow Lawn with our lobby, offices, box office, tech shops, backstage, and soon-to-be gift shop at the historic Empire complex. It also connects all that with our administrative annex on W. Marshall St.

I'm told there's even a new mechanism that allows us to connect our Richmond phones with our box office phone at Hanover Tavern. Add in the several toll free lines that are accessed by out-of-state customers who purchase tickets to our Theatre IV America programs presented around the country, and the Vonage line that allows us to talk with our webmaster in New Zealand, and you have quite a system.

None of this was even possible a few years ago. Starting soon, I'll be able to use my desktop intercom to buzz any Theatre IV / Barksdale employee whether their workspace is down the hall, down the block, across town, or on the other side of the world. It's not all completely glitch-free quite yet, but I've been assured that it will be up and running with no problems in the very near future.

There is a significant downside to all this--significant to me and several other old souls on the Theatre IV / Barksdale staff. To accommodate all the new technology, we have had to say goodbye to our daily fix of the late, great B. J. Printz.

It saddens me to think that many of you may not have known and therefore may not remember B. J. Phil once referred to her as "the conscience of Theatre IV," a sentiment I can't claim to have originated but one with which I heartily concur.

B. J. went to U of R with Phil and me. Her husband Donny also was a U of R man. In the late 70s, after the Printzes returned to Virginia from Donny's military service in Germany plus a three-year post-Army stint in West Virginia, both husband and wife joined the staff of Theatre IV. Their daughter Jessica Printz Daugherty grew up in our midst. After she graduated from U of R, she too came to work at Theatre IV as a touring actress. She morphed from that job to become our first IT Manager, a position she still holds today, even though she and her husband moved to New Zealand several years ago.

After years of service as our Tech Director (he also performed in our production of Cotton Patch Gospel), Donny died of brain cancer in 1993. After more than a quarter century of service as our first professional stage manager, then our Director of Development, and then our Director of Operations, B. J. also died of cancer in 2002.

The stories could go on forever. Suffice it to say that B. J. was invaluable to our organization and greatly loved.

A couple years prior to her illness and death, B. J. recorded all the welcoming greetings onto our then brand new phone system. The cheery voice you've heard when calling Theatre IV's offices during the last decade has been B. J.'s. I hope it doesn't sound macabre--it wasn't. Keeping her voice on the phone system was like keeping her photo on our desk. It was a great way to remember her beautiful spirit every day.

And now her happy hellos are gone.

So, consider this a final hail and farewell to what was, after all, only a recording of the voice of a much loved friend. B. J. will not be forgotten. Her character and vision will continue to guide us through this New Year and, God willing, many more to come.

Nothing of real value has been silenced. I need to keep telling myself that.

--Bruce Miller


Joy W. said...

I called the offices at Theatre IV today and was really shocked not to hear B.J.'s voice. I will miss it.....but time and technology march on...I know that. I'm glad to have been able to hear her voice for years after her passing. It was comforting. Now I'll just have to hear it in my head. Thanks for keeping it playing as long as you did.

Dave T said...

As always, this is not Dave, but Holly. Someday I will get my own Google Account. Just wanted to say that when I was a wee lass touring with TIV, BJ was always the person I spoke with when I had to call the office for something. She was unfailingly cheerful and polite and helpful and down to earth. She also always recognized me when I came down to the office in person. Back then, I barely recognized myself some days, so I appreciated her treating me in such a familiar and friendly way. Her simple kindness really made a difference in my early days in Richmond. I remember Donny as well, as a very dear and hard-working man. Such lovely and authentic people, both of them. It is sad to let that voice go Bruce, but it was also a good catalyst to bring them into our thoughts again. Thank you for that!

- Holly T.

Le Synge Bleu said...

Oh Bruce, her voice and smile are still all over Theatre IV/Barksdale and 7 1/2...its just not on the phones. (though I was so saddened too to not hear her voice anymore) BJ herself would probably say it was about time we got a new phone system. Then she'd take you into her cozy office to let you talk about why you were sad about losing her recorded voice, because she was all heart like that.

I'm so glad you posted this. I'm so glad she's still so present in all our hearts.

Bruce Miller said...

Without any coaxing other than this blog, my generous compadre Tracy Coogle--Barksdale and Theatre IV's outstanding Controller--somehow taped B. J.'s welcome message on her Blackberry and then set it up to play on my desktop. Now, when I turn on my computer, one of the icons says "BJ's Welcome Message." When I click the icon I hear B. J.'s merry voice saying:

"You have reached the administrative offices of Theatre IV. If you know the two-digit extension of the person you wish to reach, you may dial it at any time during this message. To reach Theatre IV America, press 2. To reach Theatre IV on Tour, press 1. Or press star for a company directory. To leave a general message, press zero. Thank you for calling Theatre IV."

Call me weird, but I'm thrilled. Many thanks, Tracy. Anyone who wants to hear a little B. J. for old time's sake, just give me a call.