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TBA Online: News & Features: September 2018

Belinda Taylor: A Remembrance

Wednesday, September 5, 2018   (5 Comments)
Posted by: TBA Staff
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by Chris Shuff

 How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?

~ Carson McCullers

In mid-August, Belinda Taylor, my beautiful friend and Bay Area theatre maven, lost her six-year battle with cancer. Fortunately, she was able to spend her final days in the comfort of her daughter’s home rather than in a hospice facility. In the words of my dear friend Sabrina Klein, “To the haunting and uplifting Celtic music she loved and embraced in loving arms, she died peacefully and quickly.”

Those who knew Belinda will remember her as a gifted writer, editor, playwright, arts advocate, and a true lover of theatre. After a lengthy career as an award-winning journalist, she transitioned into the performing arts arena where she found a passion and a calling that would last a lifetime. 

Belinda Taylor.

Belinda’s career highlights included a nine-year stint as editor of Theatre Bay Area’s Callboard magazine, ultimately adding the title of marketing director to her position during her last three years at TBA. From 2002 to 2005, she served as the inaugural Director of the California Art Council’s Arts Marketing Institute. She was a founding member of what has become the Teaching Artists Guild and was a long-time member of the Alameda County Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership. One of Belinda's proudest contributions was sitting for fourteen years on the board of The Playwrights Foundation, serving as its president for the last several. Belinda is also the author of the award-winning play, Becoming Julia Morgan. 

Although Belinda and I first met as colleagues at Theatre Bay Area, we ultimately forged a connection that was deeper and more powerful than mere co-workers. 

I was introduced to her in the early 1990s when TBA acquired the Tix Booth from my then employer, the now defunct Performing Arts Services. It was a bumpy transition, and I remember thinking at the time that the editor of Callboard magazine might be a tough nut to crack—strong-willed, opinionated, with a slightly cool demeanor—traits that, I must confess, were mine as well. Yet, I could tell we had a similar sense of purpose, and more importantly, a similar sense of humor and that might just be the tipping point. 

Flash forward two years—by then, not only were we close colleagues but also good friends. 

Sometime in 1997, I was forced to move out of my apartment due to the sale of the building—at that time, like today, the housing market was tight with inventory very low. The looming move date was closing in and I began to feel desperate. During a discussion about my predicament at the staff lunch table, Belinda trepidatiously mentioned that she had a spare room in her home, and perhaps, I could move in with her…on a temporary basis, of course. After mulling over my options, I accepted and plans were made. 

Although we were friends by then, we were still strong-willed and opinionated, and our office mates, exhibiting mixed feelings of horror and glee, were placing bets on how long it would take for this experiment to go drastically awry. And why wouldn’t it? Beyond those character traits we had in common, it was the differences that most likely would sink the proverbial ship. We were the ultimate odd couple—Felix (me) and Oscar (Belinda). 

But we were determined to make it work, and shockingly, it did—much to the amazement of our fellow staffers. After some reorganization, deep cleaning, and concessions on both sides, we fell into an easy rhythm, like an old married couple. Most days, we’d commute into and return from work together, I would make dinner and Belinda would clean up afterward and then we’d watch TV or chat in the living room over a glass of wine. I even convinced her to watch Sex and the City, a series that she detested, but it became part of our ritual.

This was during Sabrina Klein’s tenure as Theatre Bay Area’s executive director; Belinda and I rounded out the senior staff. There was a casual ease to our rapport, which made our strategic planning and decision-making process for TBA a pleasure, not a chore, and traversing the line between colleague and friend effortless.

I remember one Saturday afternoon, in particular. The three of us were at the house chatting about this and that, interspersing personal topics with work-related ones, when Isaac, the Callboard printer, called Belinda and said he needed immediate approval on a magazine-related matter. He told her that he was in her neighborhood and could stop by for a quick meeting. She gave the go ahead and over he came.

There the three of us were, TBA’s staff leaders, lounging in comfy clothes in the living room, nestled under blankets, drinking Campari, and having a grand old time. With a mix of bewilderment and bemusement, Isaac got Belinda’s approval and with a chuckle, took his leave. The three of us burst out laughing, and I recall thinking at that moment that this would be one of those “keeper” memories—one that we would always remember and cherish. 

It’s been twenty years since that day, and, yes, I remember it as if it were yesterday.

I was fortunate to have a final conversation with Belinda a week before her death. Expecting to find her fatigued and weak, I was elated to hear the old Belinda—still strong-willed, determined, and making plans for the future. We reminisced about our time living and working together and the lifelong friendships that were forged at TBA. We took delight in our shared stories, especially the “Isaac” story, which elicited our greatest laughter. And we reaffirmed what we knew all along—that strong bonds like ours could not be broken, even by death. 

Although I will never hear that laugh again in this lifetime, it will stay with me like a treasured keepsake. This may be the end of the chapter but the book is far from finished. Wherever you may be, Belinda, I’m positive our paths will cross once again. 

Chris Shuff is a New York City-based life coach, consultant, aspiring home chef, and blogger. Check out his quality of life blog, Persephone Rising. A “recovering arts service professional,” Shuff has worked for the League of Chicago Theatres, Performing Arts Services, Theatre Bay Area, and Theatre Communications Group where he served as Director of Management Programs.

Comments...

Erin Merritt says...
Posted Thursday, September 13, 2018
What a beautiful tribute. You've captured her perfectly. Belinda was a wonderful human being, and the world is less without her.
Aaron Murphy says...
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2018
Belinda helped me and my creative colleagues craft a mission statement and name for our then theater company and she also helped us launch our company and productions from 2007 - 2008 and was lovely to work with. Positive, level headed, smart, funny. To hear of her passing makes me sad, sad, sad. I miss her.
Jean Schiffman says...
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2018
Thank you, Chris.
Joan Miller says...
Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2018
When I first joined TBA, Belinda WAS CallBoard . The Go-To Person. Chris - Your words and dedication are incredibly loving and kind. Thank You. God Bless Belinda.
Velina Brown says...
Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Thank you for this lovely remembrance.