The DC theatre community is once again devastated by the passing this weekend of a fine actress: the wonderful, caring, and generous Leta Hall, who appeared on our local stages with so many powerful and emotional and graceful performances.
According to her friend and fellow-actor Ken Kemp, who announced her passing on his facebook page:
Dear Theatre Friends – we lost one of our brightest lights today, and I apologize in advance…there are times when FB is completely inadequate for expressing one’s shock and grief.
For those that didn’t know, Leta Hall was recently diagnosed with cancer, and had started on treatment around Christmas time. I spoke with her on Friday, and she seemed to be in good spirits, but apparently she developed complications over the weekend, and we lost her sometime between last night and this morning.
My heart is absolutely broken today. RIP, Leta – I will never take the stage without thinking of you. Every stage in town is a little bit darker tonight.
Leta Hall was so supportive and so encouraging to me, and like everyone else in the community, I am devastated by her passing. She was an actress extraordinaire and her performances were fiery, full of passion…and very well-rehearsed. She was one of a kind-so elegant, caring, and tough, with a bog heart.
And she was always graceful and elegant. All you had to do was to attend a WATCH AWARDS ceremony and there she was dressed ‘to the max.’ It’s hard to believe that this pillar of the theater community is gone. May she rest in peace.
I urge all Leta’s friend and colleagues to add your comments and memories and reflections to this article by posting them in the comment box or by sending them to me at email@example.com
Rest in Peace Leta. Thank you for always being there for all of us in the theater community. We will sorely miss you.
From Bill Spitz:
I knew Leta for the past 10 to 12 years. I had the privilege honor and pleasure of working with her on the stage, and to consider her A friend. Every time we would meet no matter how much time had passed, she was always there with a ready smile and a ready hug. She will be missed by our theater family and by me personally.
From Audrey Cefaly:
Wherever you looked, she was there. Whatever cause, committee, whatever fight that needed fighting, whatever opening, no matter how far, she was there. In fact, she was the biggest “being there” supporter in our theater community — WITHOUT EXCEPTION. And when we came to celebrate our togetherness each March, she stood tall, every year, every gown more impossibly beautiful than the one before, just as she got better with age and became more beautiful as the years passed, it was as if the very fabric of our community was fastened around her incredible frame so that we could enjoy its richness all the more. We loved her because she remembered everything, every detail. We loved her because of how effortlessly she could command a room. We loved her because she did what we somehow did not have the energy to do… to love us all, tirelessly, like only a mother can. Leta had a lock on life that was exceptional. And what she taught us was to live… to laugh… and to SHOW THE FUCK UP. What will the world do without this woman? I cannot even begin to imagine.
From Edith Livingstone:
Leta and I worked together in community theater with the Victorian Lyric Opera Ccompany (VLOC). She was the best. We just re-connected this summer on the metro. Mostly talked about how hard it was to wear professional work clothes when it is 100 degrees. What a great person. So sad to hear she is gone.
From Pauline Mitchell:
Gone too soon – I’m still trying to come to terms with this tremendous loss – to her family and friends at silver spring stage – to the larger Washington area theatre community this is devastating – I was privileged to know leta – i can’t imagine not seeing her on the circuit – Rest In Peace beautiful lady.
From Marsha Amato-Greenspan:
Leta’s daughter: I have performed and participated while not in the same show for ESTA Festivals through the last 13 years. She was a wonderful person, actress, and all around theatre professional in the world of community theater. I will miss her talent, her infectious smile but most of all her friendship. Rest peacefully sweet lady.
From Chris Holbert:
DC Theater lost another part of our family. I was in the wings about to walk onstage when I heard of the passing of Leta Hall, and burst in to tears. A gentle, caring soul and a great friend for many years. I was lucky enough to spend time rehearsing and performing with her, but knew her many years before and after that show. The last time I saw her, she was at a show I was performing in. I walked offstage and she gave me a big hug and said, “I’m President of the Chris Holbert Fan Club.” I replied, “Thank you! Now enrollment is up to ONE!” Leta, you are loved and will be missed. I always enjoyed our talks and seeing you around town. My heart is heavy and I feel this void so much. I drove home tonight listening to the song, Maggot Brain. No other song could embody the loss I feel.
From Patrick McMahan:
I literally gasped out loud when I heard of the passing of Leta Hall tonight, and I feel devastated and heart broken. Leta and I never shared a stage together, but she supported and was involved in theatre like it was her life mission…I swear she owned a time-turner, as she seemingly was in every theatre, at every performance, of every show! Leta’s smile, charm and wit always lit up the room. One thing that especially struck me was that she was always present, in the moment, when you spoke with her…you were the most important person in her world at that moment. She was everyone’s biggest fan, and we all loved seeing her because we all knew she was going to love seeing us…always, always, always with a smile, a hug, a laugh, a kiss on the cheek and such kind and supportive words. We were all better because of you, Leta, and we will all miss you so.
From Brendan Murray:
One of the brightest lights in the local theater world has gone out. In fact, one of the brightest lights in the human race has gone out. We are beside ourselves with grief at the loss of our friend Leta Hall. If you knew her, you were blessed to. Leta, I hope we meet again my dear, dear friend. As you would say, “That would be nice.
From Ashley Byrd:
After a rehearsal maybe five years ago dear Leta told me how she had made a clementine cake for her coworkers. Upon boiling the clementines she said her entire apartment smelled of delicious citrus. Tomorrow, Leta, I shall boil clementines and as the sweet smell fills the house I’ll think back on all my sweet memories of you. I love your bright smile and your kind way. Rest in peace, sweet girl. You are missed. XO.
From Tracy Davidson:
I knew Leta for almost 20 years, but it seemed like almost 30 because mutual friends of ours were close in the ten years prior to us working together. The first time we performed together was in Yeoman of The Guard with Victorian Lyric Opera Company in 1998. We only worked on a few shows together but since then we have shared many good times, happiness and sadness. She helped me though a hard time when we lost a mutual friend who also died at a young age way before her time. From there our friendship really grew. Leta’s smile was a hug within itself. She was so genuine and heartfelt and you just felt good to be around her. She was truly beautiful inside and out. She had a witty sense of humor and kept everyone on their toes with her sarcasm and the way in which she would turn a phrase.I can’t even begin to scratch the surface about the happiness she brought to everyone and the good things that we shared. I am just so sad.
From Tom Whitherspoon:
Leta was the glue that held so many different communities together. She touched so many lives, both onstage and off. Leta was one of the best people I’ve ever known. And I will miss her dearly.
From Bill Hurlbut:
Leta and I shared the stage twice in the past five years and we worked together last week to prepare a playbill for Silver Spring Stage, one of her many tireless services to her home theatre. Even in illness she exuded kindness, warmth, and welcome. I wish I could say I was her number one fan, but the line for that honor is impossibly long.
From Gordon Adams:
Just learned this. Leta and I were loving parts of the same community at Silver Spring Stage. I know how much her energy inspired us all; watched her talent on stage, and really appreciated the contribution she made to supporting that community. We will miss her.
I have known Leta for more that 21 years now. Initially, she was the face, the presence and the charm of the company that we both worked for, in Silver Spring off of Tower 2 of the Metro station. Later in 1997, I led a contract with the State Department for a business process re-engineering mandate. We were a team of two and spent the whole summer in the Foggy Bottom offices working together. By the end of the summer, the contract had degenerated into just rearranging the department filling cabinets and downsizing the filth contained in them. Lisa brought a smile to everything she did. It was during those days that I understood Leta to be one of the kindest, gentle souls that I had ever worked with. She was full of joy, lighthearted and brought a contagious quality to them to everyone around her. I had kept in touch with her since then. More recently in the last several years we were fortunately well connected through facebook. Her status updates reflected the fine perspectives that she drew up on our lives. She always has been one of a kind. A person who brought a smile and a joy to our lives. She will be dearly missed.
From Jarrett Goldfedder:
I heard about Leta’s passing last night and was audibly shocked, just like others have said.
In 2007, I returned to theater after a long hiatus, The first show I tried out for was a ESP children’s production called Red Vs. the Wolf. Leta was the director of that show and I remember during auditions her bright laugh and enthusiasm. She was such a presence and offered equally great guidance as I made my debut back onto the stage. The one quote I will always remember (and still use today) is when I asked how my perrromance went during tech week she said “Well, it cleared the ‘Not Suck’ bar,’ so you’re good.”
I later went on to do two more shows with Leta and ALWAYS looked to her for support as a mentor and friend. She was a kind and caring person and one that truly cleared the ‘Not Suck’ bar. She will be missed.
Rest In Peace, Leta.
From Eileen Mullee:
One of the nicest people I ever met in any walk of life. Always with a bright smile and good sense of humor. It was a real pleasure to work with her and she will be missed by us all.
From Barbara Gertzog:
I was the lucky person who directed Leta in The Shadow Box for Providence Players in 2011. Leta had auditioned for a different role and I asked her to consider Agnes. For reasons personal to her, the role was an emotional challenge. It really stretched her and she was magnificent and rose to the (emotional, not technical) challenge. We laughed after the show that she immediately got a new haircut to shake Agnes as completely as possible. This experience impressed upon me how serious Leta was about her art and how much was going on under the surface. The warmth, the friendliness, the empathy were very much Leta’s temperament, but she also had reserves of serious and weighty feelings that helped her be very authentic on stage. Leta, you were unique in the way you connected people and will be very much missed.
From Grace Albus:
Leta was the assistant director at my church for my first performance ever. She would always bring this energy to each and every rehearsal. I looked forward to seeing her each day. Once I finished my run as this character, she kept looking after me and made sure that as a young performer, I succeeded. I would always look forward to seeing her at church and simply hugging her and hearing about her successes too. She has been such a wonderful role model and I will miss her immensely. Rest in peace, Leta.
From Steve Bruun:
I acted with Leta in Moon Over Buffalo at Columbia Community Players in 2002. (Another cast member from that same show, Marlie Griffin, passed away several years ago.) Leta and I hadn’t been in touch lately, but I’m very sorry to hear the sad news. The adrenaline and close quarters of rehearsing and performing a play helps to etch people into one’s memory. I remember Leta’s dry humor and the ease with which she slipped into character. Thank you for giving all of us a space to share our memories.
From David Craven:
Leta touched a lot more than just the DC theater community. She was a well known and highly respected expert in the area of Gilbert and Sullivan. But more importantly, she always brought that incandescent “Leta-ness” to all of her tasks. And as part of this, she always maintained her sense of humor. I still cannot wrap my mind around the idea that such a vibrant light has suddenly gone out. I wonder what she would think of all of this… and likely she would have found a way to use this.
From Ira Haber:
I am in complete shock and disbelief. I’ve known Leta since 1994, when she was the first person I met in my first show with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company, Gondoliers. The very next show, Merry Widow, was a favorite of ours because I played her husband, Kromov. We often referred to my role as that of Mr Olga Kromov, because she had more lines than I did. To account for all the collaborations we have had in theater would take too long for this page, but I will always remember Leta for two Silver Spring Stage one act shows, one (whose name, alas, I have forgotten, but which Leta would have immediately known) in which she promoted me to Co-Director from Assistant, and Perfectly Good Airplanes, which she as director and I as Stage Manager took to the regional finals of the One-Act Play Festival.
A more vibrant and outgoing person has never existed. Leta not only knew, but was friends with EVERYONE. I often told her that the trait of hers that I admired most was her ability to strike up a conversation with anyone at anytime, something I sadly lack.
I will always miss her “Hi, Honey!”, her delightful laugh, and her love of martinis. And a million other things. I’m gonna miss you, sweetums. Very, very much.
From Yvonne Paretzky:
Leta Hall (center) and I had a running joke, the tag line of which was, “You’re dead to me!” Then we’d laugh and blow a kiss, catch up on our theater escapades, her cats, my kids. Grief is a selfish emotion and I’m going to take a while to indulge myself. Then I’m going to always think of Leta and cheer myself up with the irony of our “thing”: Leta will never be dead to me. Her memory is a blessing.
From Jeff Breslow:
In the past 20 years, I don’t think there’s been a performer in Washington community theater who hasn’t encountered two things: Michael Kharfen’s cookies and the presence of Leta Hall. Leta was omnipresent — she truly did it all. Acting, directing, producing, stage managing, costumes, props, set construction, box office, ushering, or just being present as an audience member — Leta was involved in a way the rest of us only aspire to be. She was talented but not conceited, honest but never cruel, and caring and supportive to a fault. I can’t think of single person I ever met who worked with her who didn’t love her. She was the “community” in community theater. God, I’ll miss her.
From David Hobbie:
I don’t know you but thank you for the piece on Leta. I knew her in my brief time in DC in 1992-93 before I left to go to law school in Michigan. In fact, I dated her for a few months.
Others have commented on her warmth and generosity. I was the beneficiary of that breadth of spirit in a time of great personal need and challenge for me. She really helped me, more than I deserved.
I remember her wonderful wit and how a director had asked her to instruct a new G & S female chorus member–he said “you see a tenor” and she instantly adopted a smarmy worshipful look. The director “See!!? Like that!”
She also took me to her church for Easter (I was not brought up religiously) and I met her kind mother at dinner afterwards.
From Julia Bess Frank:
I knew Leta first from VLOC (Victorian Lyric Opera Company). I still have the little pin she made as a cast gift for The Pirates of Penzance. After that, she kept me connected to Silver Spring Stage for many years. I would go to plays just to see her—to marvel at how she grew as an actress. If Silver Spring were Broadway, the lights would go dark for a minute in her memory.
From Norman Duncan:
I am extremely sorry I never met Leta, lady of the theater. I know she was a friend of Pam Butler, of Loudoun Opera. From the sound of these comments from associates I feel ashamed that I had missed this talent, what a loss to our local theater world. Rest in Peace. Norman Duncan, American Light Opera alumni.
From Jenna Jones Paradis:
Thank you, Joel. Reading these just affirms the truth that Leta was an exceptional person, onstage and off. She connected with so many thespians! I will truly miss her at the WATCH Awards Ceremony. In fact, I am debating whether or not to attend this year, as it just hurts so much to know she won’t be there.
From Nancy Eynon Lark:
There was a mass collective gasp as so many reacted to the sad news of Leta Hall’s passing. Leta was a warm, gentle soul who was unfailingly kind and supportive of everyone she worked with. A true “class act” in every way. Her professionalism and dedication to her craft were exceeded only by her generous heart. Her passing is a great loss not only to her closest friends but to the entire DC area theatre community. Leta, thank you for making all of us feel proud of our work whether onstage or behind the scenes! We were fortunate to know you.