If you should see Spiro Veloudos, just say thanks

BOSTON – In a quarter century of covering the Boston theater scene, there’s no one I’ve enjoyed being around more than Spiro Veloudos.

For the past 20 years, he has served as artistic director of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston.

He doesn’t have the biggest theater in Boston, or the biggest budget, but no one’s footprint on the Boston theater scene is larger.

That’s because he has stood for consistent excellence, and he revels in taking on challenges in his intimate Clarendon Street theater.

“Think I can’t put on ‘Sunday in the Park With George’ in this space? Think again.”

Spiro Veloudos

By using the ramps in and out of the theater, staircases, the sky above, he goes anywhere and everywhere in the theater he has to to make it work.

Theatergoers, press, and critics all feel a personal connection to Spiro because he is such a presence at the theater, greeting subscribers, friends, critics, people discovering the Lyric for the first time, actors or designers from past Lyric productions, all part of his extended family.

Veloudos was hospitalized this winter after an attack brought on by a long-running struggle with diabetes, and it was touch and go for a while. It ended with a partial amputation of his left leg and Veloudos eventually being fitted with a prosthetic limb.

At a recent press opening, Veloudos buzzed around the lobby in his wheelchair, greeting everyone as he always does.

When the lights dimmed, it was time for the “curtain speech” Veloudos has given for years before the official opening of each show and often many other performances. There were lumps in many of the throats in the audience when Spiro abandoned his wheelchair for a walker, striding confidently up the ramp to the stage to a standing ovation.

“Two weeks ahead of schedule,” he said about his using the walker two weeks before he planned to use it at a gala marking his 20th year heading the Lyric Stage.

He always begins with the same salutation, a booming “GOOD AFTERNOON.”

He was expecting a reply with the the same enthusiasm and volume, especially given the situation.

“I just came all the way up here. We’ll try it again.”

“GOOD AFTERNOON.” This time, It came back at him just as hard, bouncing off the walls and ceilings and echoing around the intimate space.

Veloudos has always been justifiably proud of the fact that he and the theater have been able to give paying jobs to, as he says it, the “many actors, directors, technicians, designers and musicians who work in this theater.”

We know there will be a reference to texting – in all of its many forms “odious,” and there will be punch lines that are familiar to all, but always delivered with gusto as befitting the actor he is.

I would feel the same about Spiro even if we didn’t share an abiding love of all things Stephen Sondheim.

So if you should venture into the Lyric and Spiro is on hand that day – or better still, attend the fund-raiser on April 23 (tix at 617.585.5678) – congratulate him on the anniversary, shake his hand and say thanks. He’s one of those people who has helped make the Boston theater community a thriving, welcoming, diverse place and someplace it’s a joy to be a small part of.

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