John D'Aquila's memorial will be held on Theatre Three's Mainstage
Last night, Theatre Three lost one of its very best friends and supporters and the community has lost a genuinely remarkable human being. John D’Aquila passed away at the age of 91.
I first met John when he came onto our Board of Directors many years ago but I didn’t get to know him well until the spring of 1996. We were in the lobby when he approached me. He told me that he heard I was working on an educational touring program about the Holocaust. He went on to say that he was there—that he had been part of the liberation of Mauthausen, an Austrian concentration camp. My first reaction was shock—I was certain he was too young to have been in World War II: John always looked twenty years younger than he was.
We talked for a little bit and I told him that I was struggling with the writing. He offered to sit down with me and tell me about his time as a medic during the war. A couple of weeks later, I spent an afternoon at his house, interviewing him about his life and, specifically, the liberation of the camp. Over several hours, he shared, in vivid detail, the horror of what he encountered. Listening to him speak was a shattering experience. John said that it was the first time he had ever spoken about what he saw; when he returned from the War, he said that those who served were told not to talk about what they had seen and to just go back to their lives. He found talking about it to be cathartic. It was during that conversation that the American Soldier was born—the framing device and the heart of what became From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust, a production that begins its nineteenth season this fall.
Over the ensuing years, John would attend every in-house performance of From the Fires as well as many of the school performances. He would speak eloquently and passionately after the performances. On November 4, 2005, the Fires company presented a private performance for John and the four remaining members of his battalion, the 11th Armored Division. We honored John by dedicating the 2008-2009 touring season of Fires to him. Then, three years ago, John traveled with us to the Richmond Hill Center for the Performing Arts, just outside of Toronto, where he spoke brilliantly and insightfully after every performance for that entire week; he answered questions both about his experiences and about how saw the world today.
John and his partner Myron were truly devoted to Theatre Three. Their generosity cannot be measured. Even after John’s retirement from the Board, he continued to frequent opening nights and rarely missed a production. He came to know most of the actors by name and would make a point of engaging them at receptions or in the lobby, praising their work following the performances. On several occasions, he entertained the Fires company along with staff members. He and Myron were champions of all art—whether it was theatre, opera, painting …
More than all of this, I am truly grateful that over the last eighteen years, John became a close friend. Kind, funny, honest, loving … These are the words that come to mind when I think of John. A twinkling eye. A gentle smile. A wonderfully tight hug.
We will miss you.
Executive Artistic Director
MY LONG ISLAND TV VIDEO:
"Theatre Three's Stand Up Stand Out Anti Bullying Play
Educates Elementary Schoolers"
Join Our Mailing List
Theatre Three is a
not-for-profit agency supported by the New York State Council on the
Arts, a state agency, and funded by Suffolk County under the auspices
of the Office of Cultural Affairs, Steve Bellone, County Executive.