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Wednesday, 22 March 2006



Well, I should REALLY be on my way into work, but some moments in time just freeze and cause you to stand and take stock. I had the pleasure (and sometimes, not) of working with and for Bart for the better part of a year... he was many things to many people: an entrepreneur when Washington theatre desperately needed one, a genius, a bully, a romantic and an artist (and yes, sometimes a crook).

I got the sense from his recent posts (thank you, T-Boy, for reuniting us after over twenty years) that he had found a more peaceful existence than the struggle he fought so gamely here in DC for so long. Of course, I meant to try and contact him again, and didn't. Regrets are a dime a dozen, but it is well for us to reflect not only on his impact at the time, but his legacy. Without Bart, (and Joy and Howard, et al) there would be no Fringe, no corridor, and no DC scene as we know it today. A recent mutilogue about the positives and negatives of casting and institutional theatre named as "institutions" theatres that in the late 70's and early 80's were nothing but struggling rat-traps with skeleton crews and high aspirations.

None were as badly managed or as shoestring as Source was under Bart - and none gave so many opportunities to so many playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and even assistant box office managers. Yes, my first "pro" job ever in this burg was to be the first one every day into the ReSource (does anyone alive still remember the ReSource?) with a broomstick and rat poison. When everyone else was truggling to start and maintain a theatre, Bart fought to run THREE.

Yes, some of the resulting product was so bad it closed even before it opened, and yes, there was the whole copyright scandal (and B. Franklin was a rabid anti-semite, and Clinton couldn't keep his dick in his pants, and...) but amidst the scattershot panoply of activity, there were some true gems, theatre that gave THIS practitione, at any rate, a glimpse of what could be.

Most importantly, the list of people I met for the first time working on Source productions, before and after Bart's departure, stands as a pretty good who's who in DC theatre to this day.

I feel deeply for his family, having experienced this sort of loss, and all I can say in closing is I hope the hereafter has a small storefront, an abundance of dedicated fools, and a strong sense of the possible. They don't know what they are in for.

Bart, we hardly knew ye - but thanks!


He was crazy, he didn't take no for an answer, he was inspirational, he could be a pain in the ass, he had a heart of gold, he was an artist, he will not be forgotten. One fantasy now dashed was that the whole Source broohaha would be settled by Bart, arriving deus ex machina and taking over the building.

Not that he had any plans of doing that, but it would have been some glorious Whitemania.

Enjoy those sunrises on the mountain top, old friend.

Paul Donnelly

I also remember Bart and his tempestousness and his vitality. Impossible and inspiring he was. Sometimes sequentially, sometimes simultaneously. A prosperous, multi-staged Source would never have devolved into a Bart-o-plex.
I was also touched by Pat Sheehy's warm and generous summation of Bart's contribution to the evoluton of Washington theater.

Jack Marshall

I'm shocked and still shaking.

I had been in touch with Bart a lot recently, as he had just agreed to join the board of The American Century Theater. The demise of his "baby," The Source, had inspired him to call me several times too: it was the one thing he couldn't let go of, and he wanted to talk about everything...its beginnings, how it worked, productions, who worked with him, his demise there, old scores, and what went wrong. The last conversation...well, it was more of a monologue...evaporated the last two hours of a particularly busy afternoon for me. I had ducked a later phone call because I wanted him to cool off on the topic, and it wasn't good for him to go back to his DC travails. Bart could get upset about old wars like they took place yesterday.

He was much happier after leaving the theater and finally having some financial security through success in the mortgage business, at which he was very skilled. He loved having a family, and seemed to be a dedicated and attentive father. No surprise there. Bart was a sensitive and affectionate man in a huge and intimidating package. I often felt that his frequent problems in human relationships arose from his inability to sense the impact his sheer presence had on others.

Bart and I became friends as he served his exile from Source in the casts of several plays I directed in Northern Virginia and DC. He was Salieri, perhaps his favorite role, in "Amadeus," Juror 3 (the Lee J. Cobb part) in "Twelve Angry Men," Jonathan, the Karloff-like killer in "Arsenic and Old Lace," and made his singing debut as Ben in "Follies." He once told me that I was the only director who cast him in that many plays without firing him at least once. I know why that was true, but Bart's love of debate and argument in the director-actor relationship suited me fine, and I always felt that his vigorous input made the shows better.

Bart just flat out loved theater. In the cast party after "Twelve Angry Men," a contract production commissioned by the Trial Lawyers Association, Bart held forth on the dearth of such powerful and ambitious plays, and suggested that we use the production to launch a new theater company devoted to such shows. Almost two years later, we did. By then Bart had moved to Tennessee.
We saw each other there (when I was traveling on business) and here (when he would walk up unannounced and knock on the door, then stay for hours.) The rest of the time we corresponded through e-mail, with Bart sending regular updates on his youngest daughter's soccer exploits.

What a smart, funny, passionate, caring,courageous, infuriating, loyal, analytical, turbulent, wonderful, original, talented, unforgettable and irreplaceable human being he was!

I hope that his friends, admirers, and yes, even the many in the theater community who were not friends or admirers but who can recognize his undeniable great impact on the development of theater in Washington will somehow come together for an evening to remember and honor his life and spirit. I, for one, will assist in any way I can. We owe him that. And I know that Bart, who always felt unappreciated, would have wanted that to happen, but be afraid to hope that it ever would.

Christopher Henley

Jack: Bart used to write songs and sing and play guitar at coffeehouses and stuff; he was doing music before he was doing theatre. He sang some of his songs in his post-Source show "I am a Washington Actor", and a tape of his songs was the pre-show for the FOOL FOR LOVE (with Brian Hemmingsen and Jane Beard) that he did in the alley behind Source in '86. Maybe FOLLIES was his first traditional stage musical?

The Post obituary desk called me with some questions about Bart and Source, so I guess something will run there.

Yes, Joe, I remember the ReSource; AND I remember working with Bart (directing him in THE ZOO STORY) in the basement of Kelly's Irish Times in '80, and seeing Source shows at the Vault in Adams Morgan, and running lines with Bart as he drove over to what is now the site of the FBI building, so he could collect the box office for a Robert Perring (sp?) play at a now-demolished gay bar. And the Zagreb Theater Company's production of "The Liberation of Skopje" which he brought over, which performed at 12th and Penn outside featuring a horse. He was the Source-cerer, and he was all OVER town. And, in those days, he was just awesome to be with or watch onstage, as he always fought the obvious choice. My favorite memory of him onstage, other than his Jerry in ZOO STORY, which I saw dozens of times over almost 10 years and never tired of, was his marvelously funny and deeply moving Kit Carson in THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE (1980).

Jack Marshall

Chris: yes, that's right; it was his
musical theater debut. Later he did Sir Joseph in "H.M.S. Pinafore" and a controversial Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" at Lazy Susan. I heard Bart play the guitar and sing some; he got a Northern Virginia Community Theater Center Stage award for an original score he wrote for a play. Amateur theater though it was, Bart was so thrilled with the award...I think he said it was the only one he ever won! Boy, I wish I had seen him play Kit Carson...a perfect part for him.


That Zoo Story was simply amazing. Bart was as funny as he was terrifying. There aren't many shows about which I can honestly say "I will never forget it as long as I live," but I will never forget that show. As long as I live.

When Bart was with the Washington Theatre Lab he could often be found after evening shows at the bar across from the space on 8th St SE, playing guitar, holding court and generally messing with anyone who didn't know enough to know he was messing with them. (That was me, as often as not.)

George Spelvin

I had some dust-ups with Bart, and some laughs, and as others have made clear he could be a bully one moment and a pixie the next. And he'd have hated that comment.

But since Chris H. reminded us of the Zagreb Theatre Company outdoors (I think it was 7th and Penn, though), let me reminisce about Goethe's Faust in an alley--now non-existent-- behind 12th and G NW, where Hecht's is. And Entertaining Mr. Sloan, which I remember as the first show at the mainstage. Was A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking the first show at the Warehouse (Now the Source space for the moment)?

Christopher Henley

Excellent memory, Mr. Spelvin (must be why you get so much work as an actor!) (lame joke); the fact that I had made a mistake actually occured to me as I was talking about Bart last night. The first show in the mainstage was HENRY V (which I was in), June 1980. SLOANE was later that year. (It is the SLOANE cast standing behind Bart in the photo that ran today along with the Post obit; wonderful shot of Bart!) My memory is that the Warehouse opened with a rep of three shows -- OLD TIMES, BUS STOP, and A TASTE OF HONEY -- but I could be wrong; there might have been something in before that. Would that we could ask Bart...and that he could read Longmemory's appreciation of his wonderful work in THE ZOO STORY.

Brian Hemmingsen

The majority of actors working in this town today, and all over the country, got to cut their teeth at the Source Theater. I can’t tell the numerous times that Bart Whiteman called and asked me and other friends of mine “You got a show you want to do?” and you’d say yes. And he’d say OK. And you’d do a show.
For instance, he said he needed a show within 3 weeks, asked me if I wanted to do a play. I called up TJ Edwards who said Chris Henley and I should do True West. I said OK, called Bart back (hadn’t even read the play)—Bart said “Can you do it in 2 weeks?” I said NO! 17days from that phone call, we opened in True West and it was a great production.
He will be missed, and was missed even before his passing.
I remember pushing a piano in Georgetown with Bart in 1979 (an upright grand) for our production of Three Sisters, which was the first time I worked with Bart. I remember helping to build the Main Stage—Bart and I carrying a barber chair to put into the lobby of the Mainstage. Seems I did a lot of carrying with Bart. Riding my motorcycle into the Warehouse with “the Pope” on the back. Driving a truck in the alley, doing Fool for Love outside. Bart’s songs. The first time I worked with Christopher Henley, Richard Mancini, TJ Edwards, was with Bart. The list can go on and on. None of us would be half of the actors, directors, producers, people we are if it wasn’t for Bart’s “lets do it.” He created and allowed a ball of art juice that gave you the freedom and confidence to go wherever you needed to go. He used to say to me “Brian, you gotta stay within the river banks—you can’t always go into town and come back”—his way of telling me to focus.
And did you ever see Bart with a cat?
He was also a pain in the butt, but who the hell isn’t?
Every founding ensemble member of WSC came from Bart and Source. He gave us all the gumption to step out.
I could rattle off a list of plays but I’m too overwhelmed.
Push, push, push. There is no wall.
With love—Brian Hemmingsen
PS—I’d said all this to him, but he wasn’t to good at accepting it. I will appreciate for the rest of my life what I got from him.

Bob Anthony

Hear, hear, Pat Sheehy! Yes, Bart really deserves a Helen Hayes for his turning this town around from a "three union venue" to the present dozens of playing spaces in the city. He worked tirelessly to develop his three theaters on dangerous 14th St. He also started "environmental theater" in the city. He had a Montenegro group perform a war story against the falling down Singer Building (7th and Penn. Ave). He progressed the play to the park across the street (the battleground) and the play soldiers started their battle shooting off their blanks. I never saw so many winos and street people clear out of a park! I am certain he will get those angels shaped up in their roles and on the road.

Melinda Whiteman

I found this site just now and want to say thank you all for remembering Bart...how could we forget? Please know that Bart is with us, not only in our memoires, but his vital spirit...just listen. I've appreciated seeing many of the plays mentioned above, and miss those days. Wishing you all continued success, Melinda


All the best to you, Melinda, and your daughters. I hadn't seen Bart in years, and back in the day, every minute with him was not a day in the park.

But we went back a long way, he was a True Believer in the best sense, he was as generous as he was frustrating and I can't tell you how much he made my brain hurt in the best possible way as an up and coming wannabe person of the theatre and how much I miss him.

I happened to be in the Source building today. I had to pull myself together in order to talk to the people who were in there because I kept thinking about the last time I was in there with Bart and another friend, - he had put this sign on his door that said "Elba" - and he had an idea about doing something and we were just batting it around and hanging out.

And Brian is right, there was this cat who was basically physically attached to Bart and they were both happy as could be.

George Spelvin

I believe the cat's name was Juliet, and she appeared in a few shows-- unexpected and uninvited, but who was going to tell that to Bart's cat?

Mark Scharf

I am sorry for discovering this blog so late -- I felt, and still feel, an incredible emptiness at the news of Bart's passing. I'd like to share a few snapshots of my own experiences: Bart gave me my first job out of grad. school as Publicity Director at Source in 1984. I remember Bart showing me the then three theatre spaces during my "interview" and how he made me feel welcome and valued -- that I was joining something important; he took a chance on me as he took a chance on so many others. I recall doing everything from mopping the Warehouse floor to creating programs to driving all over DC in search of free paper for the copy machine. I remember cashing the Source paycheck at the theatre's bank and the depositing the cash in my bank because every once in a while... But that didn't matter because I was part of something that mattered to me. I recall Bart coming to my place for dinner to discuss a new play of mine -- he more than gave a damn, he gave me chances no one else would. My plays received their first DC readings and productions at Source and my first paid role on a DC stage was a 6 month run in THE DINING ROOM. I remember Bart scaring the hell out of me as he emerged from that "apartment" on the 2nd floor of the Warehouse when I wasn't expecting to see anyone still in the building. What Bart and the Source gave was invaluable and I will also be grateful for those gifts. I mourn.

Kryztov Lindquist

After just recently been made aware of this avenue, I want to express my deep sadness and to extend my sympathy and prayers to Melinda, their children, family and friends. If I may share a few thoughts and memories….

Bart was a wonderful force, a talented actor and visionary impresario. I have missed him for a long time now and my hope of Bart returning for another bow has been so suddenly replaced with another hope… that we never forget his immense contribution to the Washington theatre community and the city at large.

I acted in four shows while he was Artistic Director, and three while he was emeritus. Equus gave me my only opportunity to work with Bart as an actor... and what a splendid long ride it was!! As a producer, Bart showed tremendous courage and daring with Krieg, which the Washington Post hailed as one of the finest shows of the decade ‘84 to ’94. Bart had so many successes that we are just now realizing and understanding their scope and lasting influence.

We had our ups and downs but through the tough times I was always comforted by the fact that under the sometimes gruff and mercurial exterior was a very generous and loving man; who straightened me out on more than one occasion and yet was also willing to listen when I spoke truth to power… and boy was he powerful… I could go on and on but somehow I feel Bart’s directorial hand gently smacking the back of my head, whispering ‘…knock it off, enough’s enough…”
What can I say? Maybe what Bart used to say to me? … “See ya later kiddo… be good and get some rest.”

I will always cherish his many blessings. Thank you Bart.


Anyone remember Persephone? It was a play that had a huge effect on my life, mainly because I got to know Bart as more than Mr. and Mrs. Whitemen's big, frightening son who visited Sweet Briar sometimes. Such an asshole and such a genius! I hear his voice everytime I am tempted to settle for less. He taught me that I was more than roles I played in other people's dramas.
I was googling Bart to see if I could locate a monologue from Persephone for an audution piece and found out that, like his father, one of the men I have most admired in this world, Bart, too was gone. Even though I rarely get to DC, VA, or TN anymore, I feel there will be a great hole in the atmosphere.


Today I had one of those moments when you stop dead in your tracks – stunned –brought face-to-face with how precious life is – how fleeting youth – and how regretful it feels to let friends slip away. While reading a story about The Source theatre in today’s Washington Post, I thought of Bart Whiteman. I Googled his name and was stunned to find out that he had passed away in March of 2006. I had met Bart in the late 70s and early 80s when I was young (18) and full of hope and promise. I was passionate about acting. And, through a series of coincidences, I wound up working with Bart. Bart was directing a play loosely based on “Anastasia” in the upstairs loft of the WPA entitled, “The Queen and Her Rebels” Bart cast me as a peasant. I didn’t have any dialogue. In fact, my character really wasn’t in the play – it was a part Bart had “made up to embellish a scene.” There were four peasants. We were on stage for only 3 or 4 minutes in only one act. Because the stage was so primitive, Bart came up with an ingenious way for us to make our entrance. We would enter through the fire escape. I can still remember clearly – standing on the fire escape getting ready for our “big entrance”. The faces are blurred but I can still feel the tingle and excitement. (I think I got to play the tambourine.) At first I objected to such a meaningless part, but Bart was fond of saying, “there is no such thing as small roles, only small actors.) Okay, maybe that’s fluff – but, I believed it. And I’m glad I did. It turned out to be one of my most cherished moments in life. I well up with tears thinking about it now. I was a part of something. I was acting. I was achieving my dream. Bart gave me that moment. Although, I never went on to pursue a career in acting, I will always be eternally grateful to Bart for allowing me – if only for a second – to pursue my dreams and passion with full abandonment. Thanks, Bart.


Dear Friends and Thespians,

It's been a little over a year since my husband, Bart Whiteman, passed on. Passed on is an ambiguous expression, isn't it? I will say that most days, I feel Bart is so much a part of my life. The days go by, during what has been a most difficult year, and like cream rising to the top, my feelings and memory of Bart are like gold. I loved him very much, for a very long time. I miss him. I miss his humour, his advice, his intelligence...hard to find these days, and his heart.

I miss our mutual love of theatre. In fact, I have many boxes of Source works that one your might be interested in archiving for The Source. Please let me know. You can reach me at: [email protected]

I truly hope The Source is well and strong in its continued innovations, reincarnations, and dedication to quality theatre in Washington, D.C. I wish all well. The excitement of theater and it's importance as a tool for understanding and expression should never be underestimated.

Sometimes, driving in my car, I'll be thinking of Bart, and feeling that he is not here with me; he is at the Source, with a notebook & pencil. In my mind, Bart was a beautiful man; he worked harder than most. Arrogant and stubborn, with a heart of gold, a keen intellect, and great giver to anyone in need. Enigmatic, complex, loving. Funny.

Thank you to theatreboy, for letting me check in once in a while with my thoughts...I really miss Bart.

Melinda Whiteman


The last time I saw Bart was at his father's memorial service here in Nashville several years ago. He gave a thoughtful, revealing eulogy. I gave him a tearful hug at the end - in part because of the solemnity of the occasion and in part because I missed HIM so much. Bart was a bigger than life kinda guy! He and I became friends at American University where we were studying performing arts. (Later, he founded Source Theatre Company, and I founded Touchstone Theatre Company). He had a great deal of energy, imagination and humor. While I admired his many gifts, he could be maddening at times. I remember directing him in my masters thesis production, "Of Mice and Men", in which he played Lenny, the lumbering, simple-minded guy. During one rehearsal, Bart was trying out different blocking and business. In the initial bunkhouse scene where he and his buddy George had just been hired on as ranch hands, George and the boss were talking; at that moment, Bart looked around, went upstage and sat on the lower bunk; he then sat up straight, inadvertantly pushing the top mattress up with his head. It was an endearing and very funny moment and completely Bart's invention - not in the script at all. I loved it! The trouble was the timing. The moment which he chose to do that bit completely stole focus from the exchange between George and the boss. Bart got a bit cranky when I asked him to choose his moment after a certain piece of necessary dialog had been exchanged, but I could see he was pleased that I wanted to keep his creation in the production. There were so many theatre moments like that with Bart. He was creative and bold - and maddening at times. Never a dull moment, to be sure! I considered it a compliment when he asked me to sit in on occasional rehearsals of his and invited me to give "notes" - not just to him, but to the actors as well. When I think of Bart, I smile. I have so many good memories of him. I think the world has a bit less oomph without him. He exited way too soon. I was on his mailserve for his mortgage business and was kept apprised of his family's many accomplishments. He must have been a fun dad and a great husband. I hope his family has been faring well since his death. They have been in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for everything, Bart! And may God bless you.


I knew Bart back at the very beginning of the Source Theatre Company and acted in his plays. The Queen and The Rebels, In The Shadow Of the Glenn, The Three Sisters and some Eugene O'Neal one acts. I had so much fun because of Bart and the plays he chose to put on and want to be counted as one of his "dedicated fools".

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