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The impact of Bill Marsee has reached from local performing arts centers to the stages of Broadway.
Marsee, longtime co-president of Youth Theatre of Hardin County, died Monday at Hardin Memorial Hospital. He led the theater program with his wife, Betty, for 40 years. Colleagues and many former Youth Theatre participants remember Marsee, 77, as a vital part of the local arts community.
Bart Lovins, director of the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School, first knew Marsee as a student in Youth Theatre, and then later worked with him as a director of Youth Theatre shows and in his current role. Lovins said that for Marsee, the program was never about him but about the experience of the students.
“I think that’s his legacy as well,” he said.
Lovins also recalls his time in the program as a unique opportunity to meet his peers from other schools.
“Youth Theatre was a melting pot of Hardin County and I think that was important to him,” he said.
Lovins said the middle and high school students who take part in Youth Theatre are creative, and he laughed about how that creativity could have been put to use without the program.
“God only knows what kind of trouble we would have gotten into,” he said, chuckling. “He kept a lot of kids busy in the summer.”
The Marsees first became involved with Youth Theatre when their daughter joined. But Lovins said they saw the benefit of the program for all of the children of the county, not just their own, and stayed involved.
Lena Rodriguez, a former Youth Theatre performer and a great-niece of the Marsees, said she feels the musical strain that runs through her family kept Marsee and his wife involved for so many years. Rodriguez, who now works as a performer in New York City, said Youth Theatre provided her a “gateway” to the career she’s making for herself now. Marsee felt the arts gave young people special skills, she said.
“He was just so passionate about providing this opportunity for kids,” she said.
Darron West, a Tony-award winning theater sound designer, discovered his love of theater in the Youth Theatre program.
“It was really the big door opening up for me,” West said. He thought of the Marsees last year when he won his Tony Award, he said, and felt they deserved recognition for their efforts in his accomplishment.
“I still think about it to this day,” West said of his Youth Theatre experience.
From Marsee, he learned how to keep a calm presence amid the hectic production of a show.
“Bill was a really quiet guy who got everything done,” he said.
Former Youth Theatre performer Heather Krauser said Marsee and the program helped her overcome her shyness, and she marveled at the impact he’s had on the youth of Hardin County.
“I feel like they have about 5,000 grandkids,” she said.
Carol Zagar, who works as the choreographer for Youth Theatre, said the program and the Marsees gave the students a lot of confidence, changing a scared seventh-grader in the back of the chorus to a lead actor.
“I think they could see right from the beginning how it was good for the kids,” Zagar said.
The funeral for Marsee is at 11 a.m. Friday at St. James Catholic Church. Visitation is from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Brown Funeral Home, with a prayer vigil service at 7 p.m.
He is survived by his wife, Betty, and two children, David Marsee and Cindy McKinley.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.