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WRITTEN ON "THE WALL" —THE PLAYHOUSE ON RODNEY SQUARE


Ray Harrington is both the props master at the Playhouse on Rodney Square and the keeper of “the wall,” the signatory record of this landmark theater. We asked him for some stories … and yeah, he’s got some stories:

“My predecessor was Yvonne King. She was the props master and she started having talent sign the walls, which is an old theater tradition. After Yvonne passed away, Julie Andrews was here in ‘The Boyfriend’ and Ellen Manning was the props person, and she had Julie Andrews sign the wall by the back door. So Julie Andrews … that's a pretty cool name, right? But about two years after I took over, the paint started flaking off the wall, because it was right next to the back door. So we're losing Julie Andrews.”

“The names on the wall, on the bricks and mortar, they’re cool, but I'd want to save them. So I had my boss find this piece of white aluminum we got from a shop in DuPont and I hung that on a wall. And as stars came through, I started asking them to sign that. And we filled it up. It only took a few years. I didn't realize how many people, how much real talent comes through the building. Sidney Poitier. Kevin Spacey. Ed Norton. Sigourney Weaver. Tim Conway. Arianna Huffington. Bill Maher. Angelica Houston. That’s the history of this theater. I had the house crew – department heads, carpenters, all that – sign the bottom of it, and we retired it, took it down, and put another one up. Now I'm on my third one, and we have to go find another piece of metal.”

“Glenn Close is there. Glenn Close walked in the theater to do a talk a couple years ago and she went up to her dressing room and got giddy. The Playhouse was her first professional show, in 1976. She got her equity card in this building. She came down and she was just freaked out that this was the place she started, and she signed the board too.”

“The neatest story to me is that we had George W. Bush, when he was sitting president, come to the theater. This was right before I put these panels up. So we had a blank section of wall by the back door, and George Bush signed it. He would only sign a blank wall – that's what the advance person agreed on. But ever since he came in, any kind of politician that comes in, I have them sign the same wall that George Bush signed. So Martin Sheen and Alan Alda were here getting a Commonwealth Award on the same day. I talked to them, and I showed them this wall, and asked 'Any chance you would sign this as Bartlet and Vinick from ‘The West Wing?' I’ve got a picture of them signing it, and Martin Sheen looks like he's going to laugh so hard, his head is going to explode.”

“By the way, if you look at those walls, any time anyone with a Delaware connection comes through, it doesn't matter if they're a small part of a big part, but if they're part of a touring show, we have them sign, especially the kids. And this is just our tradition, but if an actor comes through and he just does an incredible job or if they go out of their way to be nice to anyone in the crew, the crew will come to me and say, 'Hey, can you ask so-and-so to sign?'”

“I like to have traditions. I'd like to see my grandkids come up someday and look at these on display somewhere.”

“You don't have to use my name. Yvonne King started it, and Emily Manning had Julie Andrews sign it, and that's what made me do it. If you mention their names, that would be nice.”

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