His mother, Grace Leslie of West Boylston, was a successful actress in community theater who took part in competitions. After qualifying for a regional event, she learned she was pregnant and did what any devoted, talented performer would have done: She improvised.
Rather than take a hiatus from her passion, Grace worked a storyline around her pregnancy into her performance as Susan B. Anthony and went on to win the regional and national competitions. “I like to think it was because of my extra talent,” says David, Glenmeadow’s controller for almost 20 years.
Grace then journeyed to Monaco with her troupe, performing for Princess Grace in an international theater festival. Throughout his childhood, David continued to experience community theater through his mother’s performances, which continue today even though she is now 87.
As you might imagine, David naturally fell into performing in musicals in high school and then in college at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After graduation, and even after he married his wife, Michele, David performed with the Chicopee Centennial Theater.
When his sons Alex and Chris were born, though, David temporarily closed the curtain. “I thought ‘This is the time to be with the kids,’” he says. “Someday, when the time is right and they’ve matured, I can get back into theater again.”
That time came last year, when Alex was settled in college and Chris, in high school. Last March, David played Lazar Wolf in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Bert in a local production of “Mary Poppins” last fall.
Several days ago, David opened as Oscar Jaffe in the Theatre Guild of Hampden’s production of “On the Twentieth Century,” which local reviewers have called a “musical, madcap comedy.”
Set in 1932, the play follows Oscar’s life as a struggling Broadway producer. His protégée, actress Lily Garland, eventually develops into such an acclaimed star that she leaves Oscar for Hollywood, and he must persuade her to return in order to resurrect his own failing career.
The show will run for two weekends, and then David will return to singing baritone-bass with the Springfield Symphony Chorus. This month, he will also perform in the Glenmeadow Follies for the 16th time, singing a duet with Laura Lavoie, director of resident programs, and playing Uncle Fester in a sketch of the Addams Family.
David says what keeps him engaged in theater are the emotional reactions from those in the audience. “They laugh when they’re supposed to laugh and cry if it’s appropriate,” David says. “When you start getting feelings from folks, that’s what makes you come back and do it again.”
As controller, David has complete access to his left brain as well as the creative right. He manages all of Glenmeadow’s finances and takes a lead on matters of information technology.
David, of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, can do it all.
He says what has kept him at Glenmeadow for two decades is the team members’s overwhelming commitment to residents. “The people here are all working for the benefit of those we serve,” he says. “They’re not trying to advance their own agendas or their own careers.”
This year’s Glenmeadow Follies will be held Thursday, March 17 at 2 p.m. and Friday, March 18 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. All Glenmeadow residents are welcome to attend.