Hastings closes curtain on career PDF Print E-mail
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Saturday, 29 March 2014 08:16
Bob Hastings poses for a portrait on set during Thursday night's dress rehearsal at the First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Bob Hastings has led a nomadic theatrical life in Bowling Green for more than three decades.
This weekend and next Hastings insists he will directing his last show, "The Fox on the Fairway," a Black Swamp Players production, at the First United Methodist Church.
"It has been a good run. I've had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends," Hastings, now 82, said. "I've been threatening to retire for a while. The reaction has been 'Yeah, yeah, we've heard that before.' But I'm really gonna retire this time," Hastings said. After a pause he added, "I think." 
His acting and directing efforts have been on display at venues ranging from the church, to Woodland Mall and a variety of other places that had space for a stage and sometimes did not seat many spectators.
"He's one of the true showmen," said Kent McClary, who has performed in shows with Hastings for more than two decades. "He's all about the show and staging so that all of their actors get time and hear their own recognition. He doesn't think of himself. He just sits in back and enjoys the performance," McClary said.
Performing has been a part of Hasting's life since he learned to play drums in first grade in Dayton. At 14 he asked his mother if he could play a job but remained vague on the details. "It was at the Mayfair Burlesque Show and I was playing in the pit. "One of the performers came over and asked if I could play 'the bump.' I got the idea pretty quick. My mother never knew," Hastings said with a grin on his face.
He also played in a local 18-piece big band in high school and with a couple of fellow band members played Hoppy Island in Loveland near Cincinnati. "It was a den of inequity if there ever was one. One night a guy threw a beer bottle though my drum. I told my folks I dropped the drum. The drums got me spending money through college."
Hastings also had the opportunity to play Castle Farms in Cincinnati, sitting in with Stan Kenton, the Dorsey brothers (when they were playing together) and Ted Weams. He played in a military band while stationed in Hawaii.
After attending Otterbein College, where he added a master's degree in theater, Hasting taught high school for seven years, coaching football and directing theater performances. He left teaching for yearbook sales and marketing. He spent 23 years in yearbooks, worked a while at an ad agency and ended up in Bowling Green where Dan Rodesky hired him to run programs for the city's parks and recreation department.
The theater "bug" bit  big when Hastings heard that Don Bright, Mac Miller and director Barbara Lockhard-Zimmerman were auditioning for a cast for a dinner theater production of "The Odd Couple" at the church.
"I showed up wearing a sweat shirt, a whistle and a baseball cap that was on sideways," Hastings said. "Raul Ascunce was the perfect Felix and I was Oscar. It was a clean show - no drinks and no smoking. They cleaned Oscar up. Five years later the Black Swamp Players did the show at the Veterans Building (City Park) and there was real Scotch in the glasses."
He laments that The BSP remains a nomad group, having put in time at the Senior Center, Ridge School, the Elks Club, the Atrium at the old Holley Lodge, various schools and other locations. "The plan to use the base of the water tower (Carter Park) as a theater never did work out. They said at the time it would cost $120,000 to finish off the space. I bet it would take $200,000 or $300,000 now. It has stairs, a lobby and is plumbed."
The BSP has a stage, which it carts from venue to venue and sometimes has to set up and dismantle between performances. "When we had a show in a school we would have to move in the day of he show and then tear it down. We kept the stage in what they called the 'Popcorn Building' near WBGU-TV. It would be cold and snowy and we'd be dragging that stage back there at midnight."
Hastings said he has been on stage for 52 shows, probably half of those at the church. He also played in two of the Bowling Green State University Summer Community Theater musicals.
"Directing was something I never thought I would do but in 1994 Barbara decided she wanted to play the mother superior in "Nunsense."
After that, directing became a regular occurrence.
Over the years Hastings developed a relationship with the BGSU College of Musical Arts, using students to put together 18-piece orchestras for musicals, and also counted on BGSU students for tap dancers. "I developed some really close relationships with those guys and gals. Most of them now have children of their own."
Among his favorite performers was the late R.K. (Bob) Clark, who had roles in about 10 shows. They met doing the BGSU musicals.
"I would write a role for Bob," Hasting said. "In one play Will Rogers was talking to God and I had Bob up in the girders at the mall wearing a white sheet and wings. It's illegal to add things to a show but people wanted to see Bob."
Hastings has been a producer, has designed sets, helps builds sets, paints, designs the program and sells advertising. "I like to do that stuff, sell, design and create, but I can't do it all. I've leaned a lot on Vern Hansen and Dennis East."
McClary called Hastings "a great promoter. He goes out and talks to groups and is constantly promoting. Personally, I'm not convinced this is his last show. He's like Jack Benny. I think we'll see him doing something."

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 March 2014 08:32

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