Alley Theatre has just announced that longtime beloved company member -- the self-described "walking file cabinet" -- Bettye Fitzpatrick died today at the age of 79.
Fitzpatrick spent "53 years with the Alley as a stage manager, production manager, director of interns and most notably a member of the Acting Company," the statement from the Alley said. Her final performance at the Alley was on December 27, 2009, in A Christmas Carol. Following her retirement, an internship program was established in her name in December 2010.
In a 2010 interview she did with Debra Duncan, Fitzpatrick said her favorite role was in Truman Capote's Christmas Memory. Orginally, she was going to be a math major, but changed her mind when she got to calculus class at North Texas. She auditioned for the college players on a whim. She said that on her original audition card for the Alley, there was a note "Has a car." She says, "That's how I got the job."
Alley Theatre Artistic Director Gregory Boyd said of Fitzpatrick's passing, "Bettye was the most generous, warm-spirited, loving and big-hearted member of the Alley family. She was the living history of the theatre, and its pulse and presence for so many seasons. Her influence on all of us, her inspiration to all who worked on our stage, backstage, above and beyond the stage, and the great gifts she brought every Alley audience for 53 years will continue to shape our future and will never be forgotten. She was a great lady of the American theatre."
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Houston Press Night & Day Editor Olivia Flores Alvarez recalled this about Fitzpatrick:
"In 1976, Bettye played Blanche in the Streetcar production at the Alley and says, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."
In 1995, Bettye played Hannah Pitt in Angels in America, and when a character says that line to her, she replies, "Well, that's a stupid thing to do."
There was just something very full circle about that that always stayed with me, for her as an actress and as a statement about the change in American theater."
From the Alley announcement:
Roles she played during her career included: Mrs. McCutcheon in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Mary Pidgeon/ Spirit of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol, Mother Marguerite in Cyrano de Bergerac, Mrs. Dubose in To Kill a Mockingbird, Friar in Much Ado About Nothing, Janet Mackenzie in Witness for the Prosecution, Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias, Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible, Miss Caroline Amory in Black Coffee, Betty Meeks in The Foreigner, Player/Lady in Hamlet, Olga in You Can't Take It With You, Miss Goodleigh/Mrs. Dilber in A Christmas Carol, Izzie Truce in House and Garden, Mrs. Dudgeon in The Devil's Disciple, and Olympe in A Flea in Her Ear.
Fitzpatrick also reprised the role of Ms. Mavis in The Traveling Lady, as part of Playwright's Festival at Baylor University honoring Horton Foote, a production which gave a special performance at Actors' Studio in New York. She has also mentored theater students in the Alley Theatre/University of Houston collaboration of The Diary of Anne Frank. Ever the world traveler, she particularly enjoyed performing at Alan Ayckbourn's Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England as Grandmother in Close Ties. In addition to the Alley's A Christmas Carol, she performed for 20 seasons at Christ Church Cathedral as Cousin Sook in Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. She also appeared as Elder Lundie in Brigadoon at Theatre Under the Stars.