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Alexander… closes Youtheatre’s season honoring a legacy of the Fort Wayne stage
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Youtheatre’s production of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" — adapted from Judith Viorst’s book about the eponymous five-year-old hero navigating a day packed with indifferent pets, misplaced chewing gum, lunch bags with no dessert, and other childhood dramas — wraps up the theater’s 72nd season with a special tribute to the family who was instrumental in starting this Fort Wayne institution.
The play is being co-sponsored by the McAllister family, who wanted to honor the legacy of their grandfather, Dr. Clive McAllister, and their father, Judge Dalton McAllister. Both men played an enormous role as supporters and participants in Fort Wayne theater. “Both of them were very active in the theater,” says Chris Mallers, one of Judge McAllister’s seven children. “My brothers and sisters and I wanted to give something to the community, to preserve their legacy and honor them, and this seemed like a very cool way to do it, a fitting tribute to my grandfather and dad.”
Dr. McAllister, who came to the city as the Medical Director at Lincoln, actually started what became known as the Fort Wayne Youtheatre back in 1934, when he was a member of the Old Fort Players (which turned into the Civic Theater). Mallers says she never met her grandfather — he died in an accident at Baer Field shortly before she was born — and didn’t really know about his theatrical interests until she stumbled across an article several years ago.
Whatever fascination Dr. McAllister had with the theater was passed down to his son. In fact, Dalton McAllister was a bit of a celebrity in Fort Wayne theater from the late 40s through the early 60s. He held an attendence record for his performance of MacBeth, won drama awards, and was named one of the best speakers in the world by Toastmasters International. Chris Mallers says that for years after her father stopped performing on stage, she would hear from people who saw McAllister. “In those days, they had big write-ups in the paper, and big reviews. They don’t do that much anymore, but at the time he was talked about a lot,” she says. “People would come up and say ‘oh, I saw your dad in The King & I at Follinger Theater. He was really good.’ Or ‘I saw your father in MacBeth… ”
What most people remember about McAllister was his voice. As you might expect from someone honored by Toastmasters International, McAllister possessed an exceptional voice for public speaking. “He had an amazing, big, big stage voice,” Mallers says. “I remember he was so reserved and quiet at home. He did crossword puzzles and logic puzzles, and kind of kept to himself. But you get him on the stage and… I remember seeing him on stage as a little kid and thinking ‘that’s my dad?’”
McAllister stopped performing in the early 60s, though continued to give speeches. Mallers says she doesn’t know exactly why he gave up acting (McAllister died in 1999), but believes the demands of maintaining a successful law practice and raising seven kids probably just got too much to handle. He had quit the stage long before he became a judge.
Mallers says that while none of her brothers and sisters have become actors, they carry on the McAllister legacy in another way. “We learned this from my grandfather and my dad: you give back to your community anyway you can,” she says. “I see it in my brothers and sisters. They have their jobs, but they also take part in community things, they all contribute to the community somehow.”
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Saturday, April 22, 2 pm
Sunday, April 23, 2 pm
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Tickets on sale starting April 17. Call (260) 422-4226 between noon – 4 pm.