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Because I Knew You…

Jeff Linamen

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Through social networking, I’ve been able to reconnect with many people that played an important role in helping me evolve into who I am today… and a few that I’ve been able to influence along the way. My high school drama teacher, band director, the head of the theatre company where I first got my feet wet… they, along with many others, had a huge influence on my life.

I was reminiscing over old photographs I had uploaded to Facebook with a former colleague and realized what a huge influence he had been on me.  In 1982, just a year out of high school, I was fortunate to be a part of a magical production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Alan played Jesus and I played Peter. Another actor in the show, Gene, playing King Herod, and would one year later write a musical on which we’d collaborate. One of my lifelong best friendships grew out of that production too… Melissa played Mary.

Alan, was and is, a brilliant set designer and great actor. In recent years, he has brought life and success back to a small theatre company that struggled for years to survive. Techniques I learned from Alan, mostly by observing, are evident in many of my set designs to this day. He didn’t set out to influence me but had a profound affect on my life.

Gene is a singer/songwriter with a bigger than life personality. When I was directing West Side Story (based on Romeo and Juliet), he and I somehow came to the conclusion he had to write a rock version of R & J. He would tell you it was a bet. Within a few months, we were in production for Starcross, written by Gene and I directed. Alan agreed to play Tybalt, initially giving me my first “I am not worthy” moment. I felt so inadequate to direct him… until we actually started working and he quickly put me at easy. Keep in mind, I was only 20 at the time. It was a great experience and I have repeatedly tried to get Gene to rework the show so I could produce it again. Gene is an inspiration to everyone he meets. I can’t even begin to list all the ways his influence has inspired me.

Melissa is my soul mate. She’s a little bit older than me and was the first person to make me feel grown up. We’ve been terrible about keeping in touch but manage to get together every couple years. She and I shared some of the darkest moments in our lives. No matter what, we’ve always known that the other is just a phone call away. We even had a pact years ago, that if we were both single by the age of 30, we would get married (in spite of the obvious complications). That never happened. To this day, she remains one of my dearest friends.

All three had a tremendous impact on my life and influenced me in different ways. There have been many, many people– most that would never know it, who helped me discover who I am.

I would never take credit for another person’s success but I take great joy in hearing from people I’ve somehow influenced over the years. A few years ago, I reconnected with someone I had directed in several shows when they were younger. Hearing from him, that I was a positive influence on his career path meant the world to me. It was unexpected, but told me I must be doing something right. By the way, that young man is now a composer, manages a growing musicians’ website and just recent conducted his first Broadway show. If I played some very small part in that… I am humbled.

We never really know who or how we can potentially influence people. It’s those positive influences that set us on a course for success. Who am I kidding? The negative influences play a huge part in our evolution as well. Today I just try to be as supportive as I can to anyone seeking guidance (and some that aren’t). The feeling that I can make a difference, has kept me where I am for the past 13 years.

It’s because of who I knew… that I am who and where I am today.

Maybe we can’t change the world…but with a little effort, some encouragement… maybe just a little kindness… we might just influence the people that can.


Today’s Pic of the Day: If you never really understood why pipes break when they freeze… here’s an example of how water contracts and expands as it freezes.


  1. Herb Linamen says:

    Another inspirational piece…


  2. oregano46 says:

    I agree that it’s amazing to see how we have influenced others over time. I think it’s great that you are connecting with some of those people via social media. It’s hard to believe that we did Fiddler in 1993. Now, I’m actually more the right age to play Yente, and I’d love to do it again if the opportunity came along.


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