When I was 15, I decided I wanted to be an actor. My mother was aghast. She was sure this would lead to me having sex all the time. (She was always afraid I was going to be have sex all the time. How wrong can you get.) Anyroad, my aunt thought me taking acting lessons was a wonderful idea and, wanting more than anything to please her new sister-in-law, my mother signed me up for Saturday morning acting lessons at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
My teacher was Thom Thomas. Thom was on the faculty of Point Park College (affiliated with the Playhouse). He had graduated from Carnegie-Mellon and worked briefly in LA. He was in the process of starting a summer theatre in Pittsburgh, The Odd Chair Playhouse.
It is no exaggeration to say that Thom Thomas changed my life. He told me I had some ability. He taught me the basics of theatre, including theatre etiquette, which is just as important as acting. I worked at Odd Chair for seven years, attended Point Park because I wanted to continue studying with him, and grew from a lonely, insecure little girl into a woman who found her calling and her tribe.
A few years ago, we became FB friends. I took that opportunity to express to Thom how much I loved and admired him and to thank him profusely for giving me a love for theatre, which truly made me into the Debbie I Was Meant to Be.
I'm so glad I did that. Thom passed away today, and I can't stop crying. With the exception of my kids, no one has ever had such an enormous positive effect on my life. In addition to being terrified of me becoming a sex machine, my mother was also convinced that I would commit suicide. Perhaps I would have, if I hadn't met Thom... that's how important he was to me.
Rest in peace, my dear, dear, teacher, mentor, and friend. I'm sure I'm just one of many lives you rescued.