SISTER BAY – She in no way failed to amaze her co-staff at Northern Sky Theater with her work ethic and means to produce or take care of just about everything that required creating or repairing to set on a display.
But what they claimed they bear in mind most about Neen Rock is her heat and friendliness even though doing the job really hard, making or repairing, and aiding other people to find out new competencies, even below the tension of the exhibit.
Rock (her offered name is Kathleen Marie Rock, but she was known to the Doorway County theater local community as “Neen”) died unexpectedly of a cerebral aneurysm Jan. 3 at age 59.
Rock wasn’t a performer on the Northern Sky stage, and didn’t produce any of the musicals for which the business is recognised. It was her demonstrated means to do whatever was required behind the scenes to make positive the shows went off as effectively as attainable which created her an a must have portion of the company for much more than 30 many years, all through which she labored her way up to turn into its 1st-ever production phase manager in 1999.
“She was so effectively-rounded, she wore a ton of hats, did a whole lot of points no one particular else could do,” Jeff Herbst, the company’s artistic director, stated of Rock. “There was so substantially she took on, and did with these excellence. Her contribution to this enterprise is virtually unmatched.”
“She was Herculean in her means to perform and juggle every single aspect of the firm in her encyclopedic mind,” firm co-founder and creative advisor Doc Heide included.
Potentially more importantly, Herbst and Heide mentioned, Rock was ready to do all this calmly, kindly, humbly and generously, devoid of earning other individuals who required her help sense like they ended up having in her way.
“She was the sweetest, most supportive human being,” Heide stated. “She experienced this form of preternatural quiet, even as she was juggling this 20-ring circus. She was just, what do you have to have, I am going to get it. Absolutely everyone wanted a thing from her, and she was in a position to provide it graciously. I made use of to refer to her as the Mother Teresa of the enterprise (chuckles).”
“She usually experienced time for you,” Herbst explained. “If someone wanted her, even if she was occupied, she would target on them. She was heading to give you the focus you wanted.
“She experienced a definitely delightful sense of humor and a playful frame of mind, which was fantastic as a stage supervisor. Some stage managers can be like stern librarians. She was, hey, we are placing on a bunch of skits below, let’s place this all in point of view.”
Added to Rock’s various and versatile capabilities was her impact on the young people today who served as interns at Northern Sky each and every summertime, said Herbst and Holly Feldman, the firm’s director of improvement and public relations.
Rock served build and establish the internship application and labored directly with the interns each summer season, instructing them not only the ins and outs of specialist theater get the job done but how to do it with out acting like a taskmaster.
“A ton of individuals can see or contact quite a few of the things Neen did, the things that are tangible,” Feldman stated. “I think the detail that’s most vital is her get the job done on the our internship plan. The practical experience she had in more than 30 decades of shaping the internship method cannot be touched.
“These interns would have some of their most rewarding, most tough experiences with us. She was capable to make them into a collective ideal away. They necessary to be a limited, well-oiled unit, and you won’t be able to swap that. It is really likely to be hard.”
“The best testament to Neen was when I identified as men and women (to explain to them about Rock’s passing), specifically all the interns she labored with in excess of the a long time, they all explained she was one particular of the most, if not the most, influential folks they worked with over the several years,” Herbst reported.
And the kindness Rock exhibited doing work with Northern Sky’s specialists extended to her do the job with those people interns.
“They learned how to get matters finished although being pleasant to folks,” Herbst claimed. “It truly is not just that they needed to you should her but that they needed to be with her. Neen was particularly powerful in earning certain she experienced a tight-knit team that not only worked hard and labored effectively together but also looked out for just about every other.”
“The interns all highly regarded her greatly,” Heide claimed. “She could be authoritarian when she required to be, but in a mild, straightforward way. It would in some cases choose a lengthy time to lasso that team into coordination, but she often did it.”
Coronary heart and soul in Northern Sky
Rock joined Northern Sky in the late 1980s, when it was less than its unique title as Heritage Ensemble, and remained with it given that, through its yrs as American Folklore Theatre and its present name.
She came there right after functioning behind the scenes for different theatrical corporations as a youth and university student in her native Madison, working on touring Broadway productions, concerts and the moment taking a clearly show to South Korea, according to her obituary.
And she did this without the need of majoring in theater at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as an alternative earning twin degrees in Spanish and French. But her work in, and really like of theater noticed Rock discover about lighting, phase management and other backstage technological factors of the enterprise.
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Rock came to Heritage Ensemble as a lights advisor under the wing of corporation co-founder Fred Alley, aiding with its to start with use of theatrical lights. In excess of the years, as the company grew and evolved she took on roles that included technological advisor, creation coordinator, established decorator and designer, costume designer, prop designer and phase supervisor.
“Neen was just one of the vital folks in the corporation as it made,” Herbst stated. “There ended up only a handful, they took on their very own roles to satisfy this company’s wants.”
“Neen set her coronary heart and soul into Northern Sky Theater,” Heide mentioned. “She fell in really like with it again when it was just this very small minor two-little bit ensemble.
“Fred (Alley) explained Neen was the ideal phase manager in the condition of Wisconsin. Now, Fred could be susceptible to exaggeration (chuckles) … but in this scenario, he was right.”
Rock remaining her mark on Northern Sky by her noticeable function, as Feldman observed. For case in point, she made the costumes for the iconic enterprise musical comedies “Belgians in Heaven” and “Lumberjacks in Really like,” amongst quite a few other folks. Heide also observed Rock’s skill to creatively remedy unusual or tricky technological problems, these types of as working with fishing line and specific placements of actors on phase to “magically” open up a monitor door.
“Her designs of sets, costumes and props ended up central to such legendary exhibits as ‘Belgians in Heaven,’ ‘Bone Dance,’ ‘Lumberjacks in Enjoy,’ ‘Goodnight Irene,’ ‘Fishing for the Moon’ and ‘Guys on Ice,'” a push launch from Northern Sky on Rock’s loss of life said. “Towering bunkbeds and aged screen doors, fishing poles and angel wings, skeleton suits and welding masks: Neen imagined, sewed and hammered virtually all of Northern Sky’s most unforgettable shows into being.”
“She could repair nearly anything with a glue and a fishing line,” Heide explained, laughing.
That knowledge in the backstage elements of the theater led to Rock acquiring an integral say in the style and design of the company’s new Creative Middle and Gould Theater, which opened in August of 2019.
Devotion and generosity
Beyond all that are the driving-the-scenes moments, some not right involving a display, that Northern Sky staff don’t forget as illustrating who Rock was, the extra mile she went for the enterprise and what she intended to it.
Feldman recalled how Rock, on her individual time, would come up with costumes for the interns to put on for Northern Sky’s float in the Egg Harbor Fourth of July parade, and Heide stated a time Rock utilized an off-day to head to Green Bay to get contemporary bunting for the float.
“She would go out of her way to make sure the interns experienced the costumes they desired to use for the parade,” Feldman claimed. “It truly is these little matters that mattered.”
Heide recalled Rock’s devotion to the business, saying she usually was the to start with one in for do the job and the last 1 out. He observed that the output phase manager’s workplace for Northern Sky’s summer time reveals, held outdoors in the Peninsula Condition Park amphitheater, is a simple bench at the again of the viewers, and Rock would be there irrespective of rain, mosquitoes or other adverse circumstances.
“She’d sit on the bench in the again by all types of weather conditions, no roof around her head,” Heide reported. “Neen’s mindset was to have her close friends occur and sit on her bench with her.”
Her devotion to Northern Sky was matched by her devotion to Doorway County and the people today she knew, Heide claimed. He talked about a time Rock attended the Cabrillo Pageant of Contemporary Songs in Santa Cruz, California — “just one of those hoity-toity festivals,” Heide claimed — the place she finished up obtaining dinner with world-renowned composer Philip Glass.
“When I questioned her how it was, she explained, ‘Oh, I’m just so glad to be back again here amongst my mates,'” Heide said. “That is the sort of individual she was. No ego, did not want the spotlight, did not have to have to have anecdotes about supper with Philip Glass.”
The humility and generosity also came to the fore when Richard Castle came to Door County to workshop “Oklahoma in Wisconsin,” for which Castle wrote the e-book and lyrics and which experienced its entire world premiere at Northern Sky in 2017. Heide mentioned Rock’s provide to assistance Castle summed up what she meant to the business.
“Neen arrived up to him and said, ‘I’m below to help your creativity, whichever you have to have.’ That was a statement of her task,” Heide reported.
Rock’s generosity will proceed past her lifetime. She registered as an organ donor, and 5 individuals have gained new organs from her because her dying, according to her obituary.
Herbst mentioned Northern Sky hasn’t decided how the firm programs to exchange what it believes is an irreplaceable determine, adding that it might acquire two or 3 individuals to do the work Rock did. Not only that, Heide explained, but also carrying out individuals positions with Rock’s trademark efficiency and approachability.
“I do not know how she pulled it off, really,” Heide mentioned. “There’s none like Neen, outgoing, heat but not trying to get the spotlight. We miss her, we sense her reduction.”
Non-public services are currently being held for the spouse and children, and Northern Sky is doing the job with Rock’s lover, Brian Smith, and household on a memorial function hoped to consider spot later on this 12 months. To read Rock’s total obituary, which features one-way links to memorial donations for Northern Sky Theater, Doorway County Land Believe in and organ and tissue donation, pay a visit to cressfuneralservice.com/obituary/KathleenNeen-Rock.
Make contact with Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].