Rusty Salling, one of Gainesville’s greatest and best loved talents, took his final bow early Sunday morning, June 12, after bravely and fiercely battling cancer for more than a year. Rusty graced the stage of the Hippodrome Theatre from its earliest years, wowing audiences with some of the best performances in the theatre’s history. Rusty starred or was featured in 99 Mainstage plays from 1973 on, and was the author and guide of the Hippodrome’s legendary Ghost Tour, but was best known for his brilliant portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Hippodrome’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” From the first offering of the show in 1978 to his last performance in December 2014, Rusty brought joy to thousands of theatre patrons. He initially played Bob Cratchett, but for more than 25 years his Scrooge was the face of the holiday season for countless loyal fans.
Rusty was smart, kind, and extremely loyal. He worked so tirelessly for the Hippodrome that he had to be forced to take time off, and even then he would never refuse to take phone calls from colleagues in need. He would do anything for anyone and would do it well. For years he ran the box office, and when that ceased to offer him enough of a challenge he became the Information Systems Director for the theatre. With the help of interns, which he supervised with paternal patience, he devised, designed and ran the entire computer network for the theatre. He designed and operated the website and performed countless other tasks, never giving up until a solution was found to the problem at hand.
Rusty was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on October 17, 1948. His family moved to Jacksonville when he was a teenager, and he left to attend the University of Florida in the late 1960s. English was his major, but he soon discovered the theatre department and developed a passion for the stage that never faded. He fell in love with Gainesville and lived there for the rest of his life except for a life-broadening three-year stay in Manhattan in the mid-70s. After college, Rusty joined with friends in forming a theatre touring company known as Bacchus Productions. The most significant piece performed by that company was a year-long tour of “Waiting for Godot” throughout the southeastern United States. Rusty mesmerized audiences, including the inmates of 12 Florida prisons, with his enchanting performance. After Bacchus, Rusty moved to New York and then back to Gainesville in 1978 to join the Hippodrome, where he remained dedicated to the theatre for the rest of his life, becoming an icon in the cultural history of the city.
Rusty is survived by his sister, Susan Pfahler, her husband Randall Pfahler, and his nephew Cameron Pfahler, all of Neptune Beach, and his beloved step-dad, Leon Clark, of Jacksonville. In lieu of flowers, Rusty’s family requests that contributions be made in his memory to the Hippodrome Theatre.
Bill Paine and Susan Nash: LOOK WHAT WE FOUND!
The Hippodrome Art Gallery features local artists Bill Paine and Susan Nash. The longtime Gainesville locals specialize in found-object art created using vintage and household items, inspiring the name for the gallery “Look What I Found!” Susan, who discovered her passion and imagination years ago, says she and Bill inspire each other and help one another when pieces need a second opinion. The married couple has been together for 20 years, sparking a life full of creativity and imagination. They redefine the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and they say that most of their material comes from junk shops, antique stores, or from friends who drop unwanted items on their front porch. The gallery features 16 lamps created by Bill, a former IT tech which beautifully illuminate the room. It also features 31 of Susan’s sculptures which use the repurposed items to bring new meaning to the things they were created with. Items used in their art include old colanders, painted tuna cans and the leg of an old piano.
The unique collection will run from January 5-February 5, and will celebrate with an Art Walk reception on Friday, January 27 from 7-10pm. Pieces are available for purchase at the Hippodrome Box Office.
Do you want to take your writing or public speaking skills to the next level? In this six week class, students will strengthen these skills and challenge their creativity by exploring found and improvised texts in the forms of monologues, scenes, storytelling, poetry, and free association. Hippodrome company member Nichole Hamilton will teach various vocal and physical techniques, text and actor intent, and guide the class in creating a collaborative piece which will be performed at the final session. This class is intended to be accessible to all skill levels. Register by calling Education Program Coordinator Gabrielle Byam at 352.373.5968 ext 230 or online here. $149 for 6 sessions.
Nichole Hamilton is a self proclaimed gypsy – having lived, worked, and studied in over seven states across the country.
She is an actor, director, stage manager, and instructor currently teaching adjunct at the University of Florida. Nichole holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Montevallo, an MFA in Acting from the University of Florida and is a company member at the Hippodrome Theatre where she has been seen on stage since 2008. Nichole is also a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.