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Remembering Carol Youmans

Colonial Players’ stalwart

     Art must be an expression of love.
–Marc Chagall
 
     Carol Youmans’ love for the arts — and for the people at Colonial Players with whom she created, experienced and spread art — was exponential. When she died unexpectedly on March 27, the common theme of the responses among those whom she had touched was Carol was my … — you name it: mentor, designer, director, friend, all of those rolled into one. Because once you worked with Carol, she was your friend. 
     Over the decades of her involvement at the all-volunteer Colonial Players, she was a president, a director, a set designer, an artist. If you are among the thousands of Annapolitans who have enjoyed the Annapolis tradition that is Colonial Players’ A Christmas Carol, you’ve seen her artwork adorning the walls, for her hands created the London skyline of 1843 that has stood tall in almost all of those productions since the early 1980s. 
      Rick Wade, who wrote that musical version of A Christmas Carol, was the first to get Carol involved at Colonial. In 1979, he says, she was managing a frame shop on Main Street, and his work with the theater meant having a lot of show posters framed.
      “The theater posters sparked a conversation, and I learned that Carol was an artist. She was interested in the theater. I connected her to a couple of people, and away she went,” Wade said. “Her imprint on the place will be long and deep. She understood the nature of artistic people as she was one herself, but she also had enormous patience and motivational skills. Which is why so many new projects and ideas at the theater were led, often behind the scenes and without credit, by Carol.”
      She was the initial driving force behind Colonial’s summer one-act play program held every other year. She also was heavily involved in an ongoing re-imagining of the Promising Playwright contest, in which writers from among the 13 original colonies vie to have their productions workshopped at Colonial. Up until almost the day she passed, Carol was designing the set for the current production, the musical A New Brain
      I encountered Carol’s artistry when she directed me in a show called Dog Logic. She understood that no matter the odd circumstances or the offbeat characters, the gist of this production was the humanity of those characters. It wasn’t about getting laughs. It was about finding the truth, and allowing that truth to flow. Her expert empathy made Dog Logic a success.
      Likewise, when I directed Side Man, an offbeat play about jazz players seeing their world upended by the onset of rock and roll, Carol was the first to volunteer to design the set, not an easy task for a show that bounced from decade to decade. But her corner club booth on one side of the stage for the jazz players, and her domestic apartment on the other side for the main character and his wife, perfectly evoked the story. Those kinds of details, and the love of an artist who recognized and created those details, kept Carol high atop the wanted list of designers over the years.
      “Colonial Players was her second home, her church, and her extended family,” said her daughter Alice O’Donnell.
      If you’ve seen a Colonial Players’ production, you’ve seen Carol … such was her influence. It was our honor to know her. 
      A Celebration of Life will be held May 8, 6-9pm at Quiet Waters Park.
 
 
Jim Reiter is Bay Weekly’s lead theater reviewer.