When Carol Bryant passed away this week at 85, a chapter in local theater history came to a close. Bryant’s life revolved around local theater from acting to directing, to promoting and shepherding the Community Theater of the Cascades (now Cascade Theatrical Company) from it’s inception staging shows in the Kenwood School gym to its present day Greenwood Playhouse theater.
My first encounter with Bryant was in 1980 when she helping cast a show. I got the lead male part due, in part, to her persuasiveness with the show’s director. Years later, I acted under her direction and thoroughly enjoyed the experience as she turned the cast from bumbling to presentable.
But perhaps my fondest memory of Bryant concerns her last performance as an actor on a Bend stage. That came at the Second Street Theater a few years ago in a one-act play. Ever the trouper, Bryant felt the urge to get back on stage and reckoned that a one- act play would be easy to handle.
The play in question concerned a miserably dysfunctional family that drank heavily. In the role of the ditsy appearing yet caustic matriarchal grandmother, Bryant had some choice lines including several nasty and obscene quips that brought the play to its finish.
These parting lines she mastered easily but had trouble with the pages of dialogue leading up to them. So the cast came up with the idea of pasting a copy of the script into a magazine which she would pretend to be reading only to look up to interject a comment as the family cocktail hour went from bad to worse.
I played her hapless son and she proved a dream to play off of and with. I remember being in awe of how deftly she delivered her searing zingers.
A split second after one of those lines was uttered, the audience would gasp. The look on their faces would invariably be one of: “did that woman really say what I think she said?” Yes, she said exactly what you thought she said and as always, did it in character and with style.
Always with style-that was local theater’s grand dame until the end.