Stage lights will be dimmed at the Liberty Center Association for the Arts for the opening performance of “9 to 5 the Musical” next week in honor of Sedalia actor Thom Fuller who died this week after a long illness.
Fuller, 50, was a 1982 Smith-Cotton High School graduate who attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., said LCAA Executive Director Terri Ballad and Barbara Schrader, a member of the Sedalia Symphony Society.
In 1987 he graduated from Central Missouri State University (now the University of Central Missouri) with a Bachelor’s Degree in art and journalism, and in 2006 he received his Master’s Degree in technology from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa.
Ballard remembered when Fuller went to California.
“He went to Los Angeles and he was on General Hospital, during their glory days when Luke and Laura were on,” said Ballard, who attended SCHS with Fuller.
He eventually came back to Sedalia and participated in many LCAA theater productions over the years, as an actor, stage designer, lighting technician and director. Fuller also was the emcee at the Missouri State Fair Idol Show and participated in Camp Blue Sky each summer working with children in the arts.
“Thom was always just really fun to be around,” Schrader added.
Melinda Moore, a frequent participant in LCAA productions and a friend of Fuller for 30 years, said he had a magical quality.
“He could transform the place to make you feel like you were really there, whether it was Wonderland or something else,” she said. “He was a really good artist. At that time the building was in terrible condition and we would wonder, how can we do this? Thom would say, ‘Don’t worry about the show we’ll fix it with lights.’”
Moore is helping with the current production of “9 to 5,” and remembers where she was when she first met Fuller.
“It’s been over five years since I’ve done anything at the Liberty Center, and I was sitting in the exact spot where I met Thom when I heard that he’d died,” she said.
Moore and Fuller had played opposite each other and had directed each other in multiple plays over the years. She added that Fuller was excellent at teaching other actors their roles and characterizations, making them feel comfortable.
Ballard echoed this sentiment.
“Thom was instrumental in a lot of theater we did in the early days, in the ’80s up into 2000,” Ballard added. “His legacy in my mind is, people who are on stage today really attribute themselves to being involved and working with Thom when they were younger. He was just very artistic and creative — it’s a loss not just for Sedalia, but for the theater and acting. It’s sad.”
Ballard remembered that although Fuller had been sick for years he never lost his drive to give theater his best.
“My son did Peter Pan and Thom was Captain Hook,” she said. “And I remember, because I came to every rehearsal. There was a time then that Thom was so sick that we thought he may not make the show. But, by-golly he was in every show. You wouldn’t have known he wasn’t feeling well, he was a showman.”
Many remember Fuller as being “brilliant” with set and scene design.
“The thing I remember about ‘Peter Pan,’ Thom designed that set,” Ballard said. “And when he came out in that second act, and they pushed the boat out and Thom was on top of the boat, I remember this great hush over the audience.”
“A breathless pause,” Schrader added.
The loss of his enthusiasm, dedication and artistic spirit will be felt for sometime with other actors and artists in the community, such as LCAA actors Chris Clark and Ben Jackson director of “9 to 5.”
“To the arts community it’s a great loss,” Ballard added. “He has helped mold some of the people who are still involved today.”
Funeral services for Fuller will be at 11 a.m. Monday at McLaughlin Funeral Chapel with Pastor Seth Tyler officiating. Visitation will take place at 10 a.m. until service time. Burial will follow in Fairview Cemetery in Sweet Springs. Condolences may be offered online at mclaughlinfuneralchapel.com.