Arts & Entertainment

Theater community plans tribute to longtime actor

The Tri-City arts community will come together May 1 at 7 p.m. to honor a beloved actor and friend.

The Broadway's Biggest Fan Tribute Show to Fred Dixon will feature a swath of some of Broadway's favorite tunes, most of which Dixon performed in during his 50-plus years as an actor.

Dixon, who died last year at age 77, performed on Broadway as a young man before he moved to the Tri-Cities to take a job as a drama teacher at Columbia Basin College.

Ginny Quinley, drama instructor at Columbia Basin College, said dozens of local actors, singers and theater techs jumped at the chance to be involved in this tribute.

"The arts community has really come together for this show because Fred was so loved and gave so much of himself to theater," she said.

Some Broadway favorites will be sung by Steve Montgomery, Porky Thomsen, Carisa Simpson, Mindy Krejci, Bryan Foley, Daphne Block, Joyce Bean, Kirk Fletcher, Korry Watkins, Ken Fletcher, Jim Wutzke and Fred's wife, Pat.

Columbia Chorale ensemble also will perform selections from Oklahoma, Sound of Music, Music Man and others.

Libby Watrous will provide the piano accompaniment.

"There's no way I would have missed being involved in this show," said Tom Powers, one of Dixon's oldest pals and the show's emcee.

"Fred and I go back so many years it's hard to remember. And, we vied for many of the same roles, with him winning most of them because he really was a much better singer than I am. I plan to share some stories about Fred with the audience during this show."

Some of those stories will be funny and others will come from the heart, he said.

Everyone involved in the show worked with Dixon at one time or another, Quinley said. She is co-directing the show along with Steve Halliday.

Dixon had a gift for helping all acting newcomers to feel welcome, she said.

One of those beginners was Mindy Krejci of Richland. Though Dixon was Mormon, he could use colorful language when in character on stage.

"Fred taught me how to say my first real swear word on stage and how to make it funny," Krejci recalled. It was the four-letter "s" word from a scene from Neil Simon's comedy California Suite.

"My character had just broken her ankle playing tennis, and I was supposed to be lifting my ankle up onto a coffee table to elevate it and say "s---" over and over as I did it," Krejci said. "I was saying it super fast but Fred pointed out that if I drag out each word and milk it would get a laugh and it did."

Dixon instilled a sense of integrity and kindness in his students as well as fellow actors, Krejci said.

"Fred taught us how to be gracious, professional and unselfish on stage," she said. "Those qualities I've taken with me when I worked in the film and television industry and also as a high school drama teacher."

As for Powers, he plans to pay homage to Dixon by sharing stories of his longtime friend.

"Fred was as good a friend as he was an actor," Powers said. "When I was visiting with Fred the day before he passed away, we talked about the many experiences we shared and our passion for theater.

"As I was leaving I thanked him for making me a better actor. Being gracious as he always was he said, 'Tom, we helped each other.' That's the kind of man Fred was."

Showtime is 7 p.m. May 1 in the auditorium at Faith Assembly Church, 1800 N. Road 72 in Pasco. Admission is $10 at the door. Proceeds will go to the Fred Dixon Theatre Scholarship fund.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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