The Cookie Lady and The Actor (He paints too!)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, September 20, 2019 at 12:00:00 am

Bill Nolte, who plays Gino in our production of MAMBO ITALIANO, created a watercolor painting in his dressing room for his #1 fan, Jeanette. He, finally presented it to her in the WBT LOBBY after the matinee last week.  Here is Jeanette Murawski's accounting: 

"I'm not particularly lucky when it comes to money or love; but when it comes to the theatre...well, you meet the nicest people ever!!
I first met Bill Nolte in 1776.  The show, not the year!  Because the show was initially a limited run, I was reluctant to chat with the cast since I knew I'd wind up missing them when the show closed shortly thereafter.
Once word came down the show was extending, I couldn't wait to talk to this wonderful cast.  It was during the hiatus between theatres that I happened to run into Bill coming out of another show.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Hoping I wouldn't appear a stalker, I said, "I don't know who's following who, but I've seen 1776 several times and absolutely love it".  His beaming smile assured me I'd be having many more wonderful little chats once the show reopened.
When 1776 reopened in its new home, I became a regular visitor.  The show was thrilling every time. The more I saw it, the more I appreciated each individual's performance in this glorious ensemble cast.  And my appreciation usually takes the form of baked goods!  This cast deserved more than just my applause, they got cookies as well.  Lots.  Of.  Cookies.

But all good things must come to an end, and it was time to say goodbye, though not without a souvenir I'll always treasure.  There was a board with a painted clock face (working mechanism behind it) in the green room.  Bill had each cast member sign it with their names and the characters they portrayed.  He gave it to me on closing weekend.  Twenty-two years later, it's still up on my bedroom wall and is the first thing I see each morning.

Happily, another musical, Jane Eyre, soon followed for Bill.  More greetings, chats, and hugs - along with cookies. (They don't call me The Cookie Lady for nothing!). Bill was always sweetly appreciative of my support, and I was appreciative of his talents, as well as his tolerance of this enthusiastic (but harmless) theater buff!
Once Jane Eyre ended, Bill landed another terrific role as Franz Liebkind in The Producers.  He was the silliest, sweetest, nuttiest Nazi you could ever hope to fall in love with.  I again went multiple times.
After the Broadway run, Bill "took the show on the road" on the national tour.  I couldn't resist catching the show in Boston (a city I always wanted to visit).  Bill pulled out all the stops.  Not only did he help arrange for tickets and meet for dinner, but he even played tour guide during the day!  Talk about above and beyond the call of duty!  I, in turn, was so grateful I promised to send him a batch of cookies at each stop for the duration of the tour.  And I did!  Even when he signed on for a second year and they changed cities on a weekly basis!  I drove myself nuts, but a promise is a promise!

There were several other shows afterward.  Basically, I tried to get to anything within commuting distance of New York - from his fabulous one man show at Birdland to a few shows in nearby regional theaters, including twice at the Westchester Broadway.  (Tevye in Fiddler and Gino in Mambo Italiano.)

In the interim, Bill and I became Facebook friends and I saw samples of more talents of his - photography and painting.  I had just redecorated my kitchen/dining area and was looking for artwork to complete the decor.  I saw a photograph of a floral arrangement (Bill is an avid gardener) on his Facebook page and thought it would translate wonderfully into a watercolor painting.  So the next time we met, I asked if he would be willing to do a watercolor along those lines.  Happily, he accepted the "commission" and I gave him a sample of my wallpaper.

Now, Bill is a busy man and one of the most peripatetic people I've known, so I was content to wait until he had time to create my masterpiece.  It was a wait.  That large blank space on the wall taunted me for two years until one day during the run of Mambo Italiano (I already had tickets), Bill sent me a sketch of the planned watercolor.  I was delighted, but still figured I wouldn't see a final product for at least a few months down the road.

So, imagine my surprise when I showed up and Bill told me the painting was finished, but then said I'd have to wait till after the show for the "unveiling".  As much as I enjoyed the show, I was going a little crazy muttering to myself "I want to SEE my painting".  Exquisite torture!
Soooo worth it.  It's absolutely stunning, and I'm thrilled and proud to be an owner of an original Bill Nolte, who is quite an original himself!"


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