Box Office Perennial A Class Act

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A Tribute To Bobby Stockbridge

By Liz Premo

Atlantic News, Thursday, August 9, 2001

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

HAMPTON — Over the last two summers, many theatre patrons who have rung up ACT ONE to inquire about or purchase tickets for any of the shows in its Hampton Summer Theatre program have heard a very familiar voice on the other end of the line.

"Good morning. ACT ONE Summer Theatre," they often hear it say in greeting.

[Photo right: TICKET MASTER — ACT ONE's box office manager, Bob Stockbridge, assists a telephone customer from his post at the Performing Arts Center at Winnacunnet. Stockbridge is a familiar face to many theatre patrons who purchased tickets for shows at the Hampton Playhouse. (Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo)]

That gentle voice — the sound of which can easily bring back memories for those who enjoyed season after season of live, professional theatre at the former Hampton Playhouse — belongs to none other than faithful box office perennial Bob Stockbridge.

Long a fixture at the venerable old Hampton Playhouse (which was sold to a developer, closed down after its final performance in 1999 and eventually demolished), Stockbridge has over the years sold to devotees of live theatre literally thousands of tickets to hilarious comedies, lively musicals, Broadway hits, and a bawdy burlesque show or two.

Last summer, when ACT ONE took up where the Hampton Playhouse left off, Stockbridge was immediately brought on board as box office manager a title he held for the majority of the 52 years the Playhouse was in existence. Working for ACT ONE Executive Director Stephanie Voss Nugent, Stockbridge has carried on the tradition of offering patient, helpful and courteous service to those seeking tickets to a really good show at the comfortable Performing Arts Center at Winnacunnet High School.

With an amused chuckle, Stockbridge, who turned 75 earlier this year, explains that the phrase "Are you still around?" is one surprised reaction which he often gets when people see him at the ACT ONE ticket window or realize he is the person who is taking their phone calls. Not just one of the "boys of summer," this season's work started for Stockbridge late last winter, when his box office tasks included mailing out letters to regular subscribers and taking advance orders for season ticket holders. Processing one ticket order after another, Stockbridge — who loves to sit in on a show or two himself — appears to feel quite at home wherever his box office duties are performed.

Does he miss the Hampton Playhouse? Stockbridge waxes philosophical on his long-term tenure at the cherished old barn, which he says held a great deal of "sentimental value" for him. "It was fun while it lasted," he says, "but I can't sit and bemoan it." He adds he is "having fun here" behind the counter at the ACT ONE box office. "Stephanie's great to work with, and Lis] a good friend," he observes. "You couldn't ask for anyone nicer to work for."

Still, he enjoys reminiscing about his days at the Hampton Playhouse, remembering such Playhouse favorites as Deb Girdler and Frank Vohs. He easily recalls seasons past when well-known Hollywood performers like Marcia Wallace and Katherine Helmond took to the stage in the early days of Hampton summer theatre. Stockbridge also fondly remembers some of the younger actors and actresses who in recent years answered curtain calls in the old barn — people like Linette Miles and Kari Nussle and Michael Letch.

The 20-something Letch, who has been keeping busy on-stage in Seacoast area venues such as Prescott Park, the Players' Ring, and the Seacoast Repertory Theatre, served double duty as Stockbridge's box office assistant at the Hampton Playhouse in its final years, and with ACT ONE last summer. Stockbridge lists Letch's theatrical accomplishments with all the pride of a devoted father, and in fact calls him "the son I never had."

Of his decades-long career behind the box office window, Stockbridge acknowledges that "it won't last forever." But in the meantime, he is enjoying the work he's been doing for ACT ONE. "We keep busy," he says, adding that everything has been "going very well" as the summer has progressed.

There is still plenty of time this season to stop by the ACT ONE box office to say "hello" to Bob Stockbridge and to purchase tickets for the mainstage shows and the ongoing summer concert series. The Performing Arts Center at Winnacunnet High School is located on Alumni Drive in Hampton, off Park Avenue. The box office may also be reached by calling 926-ACT1.

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