I would ask Wednesday Journal to consider Joyce Porter for Villager of the Year. Festival Theater nearly succumbed to financial and artistic pressures in the 1990s, but as chairwoman of the board, Joyce brought on a new artistic director, Jack Hickey, new managing director, Galen Gockel, expanded offerings, and increased the professionalism of the theater. This included delightful plays in the intimate setting of Farson-Mills House, a solo woman’s show and plays other than Shakespeare. Tartuffe and Picnic, among others, were artistic triumphs.
Unlike the political figures who you nearly always honor, Joyce worked endless hours at no compensation whatsoever. She faced an often contentious board, worked with a pittance of a budget and received essentially no government aid in Oak Park. How can a professional theater provide no more than Porta-Potties to its patrons for more than 30 years?
But Joyce took the theater out of the red ink it was in during the 1990s, and now offers up to five plays per year. Emeritus professor at Moraine Valley, she finally retired in 2009 as chair of the Festival Theater board to fully devote her time to acting. As another indicator of her talent, she now works nearly nonstop in theater, movies and commercials.
As one who has contributed more than any person in memory to the arts in Oak Park, providing joy to thousands without remuneration or honor, Joyce deserves the accolade of villager of, at least, this year, her retirement year.