The Whidbey Playhouse isn’t just for play. When tragedy struck, Playhouse volunteers were quick to join an international movement to commemorate the life of a fellow community theater volunteer.
Heather Good, an actress at the Playhouse who moved to Whidbey earlier this year, helped to create the Julia’s Chairs movement and was responsible for bringing it to Oak Harbor.
Julia Vatter, 18, was an accomplished stage manager and a friend of Good’s at a community theater in Florida. She died in a car accident. To remember her, the other theater members put a chair for her backstage “as part of the grieving process,” Good said.
“We’re keeping her with us for every show that we do,” Good said.
Through word of mouth, Julia’s Chairs have popped up at theaters around the nation and even made it to Broadway. Some chairs have gone international, Good said.
“Most theaters are really good about once they hear the story, they say, ‘Let’s get a chair in,’” Good said.
A chair for Julia can be found at the Playhouse, too. The process includes taking a cast photo around the chair and posting it on the Julia’s Chairs Facebook page so that the many theaters around the nation can see each other remembering.
Converse shoes are sometimes added to the chair, because that’s what Julia used to wear, Good said.
“It’s a really nice way to honor her memory and keep her with us,” Good said.
The year after Julia’s death, a Julia’s Chairs concert was held in her honor. It featured music from each show that had featured a Julia’s Chair, including “Wherever We Go,” a song from “Gypsy,” the second Playhouse show Good brought Julia’s Chair to.
For more information, visit the Julia’s Chairs page on Facebook.