A Tribute to Theatre Benefactor and Supporter Dr. Jaylee Mead

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It’s a sad day for DC area theatre with the tragic news that Dr. Jaylee Mead died today of heart failure. Known for her big heart and love for the arts – Jaylee was everywhere. At most shows I attended the past two decades there she was – always with a smile. We never failed to greet each other and she would always say to me, “Thanks for what you do for theatre.” I was always taken a back because here was the most generous and lover of the arts I knew, for everywhere I went in the DC area she and her late husband Gil’s names graced lobbies and theatres and boards listing benefactors.

And I would always respond, “No, thank you and Gil for your generosity.”

And the most fun I had with Jaylee was talking about the starring roles she had at  Goddard’s Music and Drama (MAD) – a theatre troupe she and Gil started at NASA where they both worked – and the time she played Mame and Dolly and all the ‘diva’ roles, as she called them. And she demonstrated to me more than once that she could still ‘belt ’em.’ I would have loved to have seen her Dolly. And when I attended productions of Carousel and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at MAD I could feel her presence everywhere.

And that is what I will miss the most when I now go to the theatre – the ever presence of a charitable woman who donated over 50 million dollars to local theatres, who always found time to say hello and whose joy of theatre shone on her face everytime she sat in the audience watching a show.

Now, every time I will attend a show at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, I will always remember her sitting in the corner schmoozing and optimistically awaiting another show to begin.

And I will miss her at The Helen Hayes Awards nominations announcements. It was always fun analyzing the ‘results’ with her.

I will miss Jaylee terribly and opening nights at the theatre will never be the same.

Dr. Jaylee and Gilbert Mead at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Photo courtesy of The Georgetowner.

LINK

Here’s Jaylee’s bio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and how she and Gil founded MAD.

Here are some videos of Jaylee Mead’s performances at MAD.


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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I still remember Gil and Jaylee Mead when they came to the opening of my first major theater production, my solo play ‘Capers at Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab in 2006. I was in my mid-twenties, I wasn’t high up on the list of “must-see’s,” but they came to support the first production of the new emerging artists incubator they began supporting. I still remember their warm smiles, their enthusiasm. They were both genuine people. Jaylee Mead had spunk, smarts, a commitment to theater, and particularly, to validating the work of younger emerging artists like me. It was huge, and I will never forget Jaylee Mead. Her philanthropy was wonderful, and even more important to me, the honest compassion, energy and humility of intentions with which she supported theater deeply touched me. She was a good woman, and I am saddened by this loss.

  2. Dear Jaylee and her Husband Gil were wonderful Friends to everyone and my Late Mother Marie Stubbs and I were very close to them. She will be terribly missed for her Friendship as well as her contributions to the Theater world.

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