Bill Shade — Building towards the future of volunteering

by Jillian Keith, TNP, Marketing Coordinator

For some people, giving back to the community is in their bones. When passing our wall of volunteer tiles, you can’t help but be reminded of how dedicated our community is to the arts. We’re recognizing the volunteer who spent countless hours putting our community on display: Bill Shade.

Whether it be ensuring the ‘good bones’ of local homes, or working backstage, retired Habitat for Humanity handyman and Volunteer of the Month, Bill Shade, has dedicated his life to giving back to the community.

Bill Shade

“The Naples Players (TNP) has made me realize the impact and importance of volunteering and giving back to the community. It’s nice knowing I’m somebody who makes a difference and being a grounded member of the community – not just the theatre community, but Naples as a whole as well.”

When Shade moved to Naples in 2001 from Erie, Pennsylvania, he was eager to get involved in the community as quickly as possible. 22 years of volunteering later, and Bill has performed almost every crew job there is backstage.

“TNP has a way of making you feel very special. One of the things I’ve always loved about The Naples Players is that anytime I walk through the door, someone says, ‘Hello, Bill’. I still remember the first time I actually ran into someone I knew as a new person to Naples. All of a sudden there was a friendly face from the theater at the grocery store, and that was a good feeling.”

While well-seasoned on operating our fly rails, Bill has also tried his hand at working the soundboard, light board, spotlights, and is a valued member of TNP’s Enrichment Committee.

“When I’m here, my job is really important to me. I enjoy being able to give back to the community and being with other people with similar interests. There are so many different roles that you can learn here that everyone will help you through and teach you. Volunteering is the best way to expand your relationships. I’ve met so many funny people and am always telling funny stories from over the years about the people that I’ve met backstage.”

Mary Poppins at The Naples Players. Photo: Naples Creative

That being said, Bill still claims that, “Fly rail is one of my favorite things to do. You make the show happen and get to see everyone else making it happen too because you’re so high up. It’s amazing to see what goes on backstage. The audience has no clue how quickly actors have to change their costumes, or about us pulling ropes backstage. I don’t think people realize how many crew members it takes to make that happen in just a few seconds. There was one show that we cut a hole in the floor, and we cranked somebody down and they disappeared under the stage. There has been rain and snow on the stage and Mary Poppins flying- it’s amazing the things that TNP has done. This theater is pretty magical. It’s fun to watch and be a part of. It’s almost like a dance or performance of its own while the show is being done.

It’s the little things you do sometimes that are important – you don’t always have to be in the spotlight, especially in theatre. It’s a team effort and a well-oiled machine.”

Despite calling the fly rail his “homebase”, Bill’s two favorite experiences while volunteering at TNP took place on the ground. “My favorite position here was when I was asked to be on the play selection committee in 2006. I had never read a play before, and I would sit in my easy chair at home and be either laughing or crying. I felt really appreciated.”

Additionally, Shade loves working and attending KidzAct productions. “It’s a wonderful program that we have here. TNP are basically building their own stars – teaching them how to dance, sing, remember lines, and create sets and manage shows from a young age. The kids are amazing. After the renovation, having a third theater for the kids to call home will be really nice.”

After two decades volunteering with TNP, Bill is excited for our new, renovated theater to open in April 2024. “I’m a season ticket holder as well, and it’s heartwarming to watch the theater grow. The shows we put on here are incredible. I think the renovation will bring even more people in. It will be nice to modernize a bit. I was lucky enough to get a tour last week. It’s hard to visualize it without the seats in there and with all the demolition, but it’s going to be beautiful inside.”

For Bill, TNP is “so much more than a community theater to me means friendship. It means entertainment. It’s a living, breathing part of the community that I am proud to be a member of. I feel welcome, and it’s a part of my hometown. I think a lot of people don’t think of Naples as a hometown, but home is a feeling, not a place. When you join an organization like this, it becomes a home to you.”

Be sure to congratulate Bill on being The Naples Players’ Volunteer of the Month! Thank you, Bill, for over two decades of dedication to TNP and helping to make TNP a home for others as well.

We love to get new volunteers into the mix! If you’re new to the area or just new to volunteering at TNP, don’t hesitate to join the fun. Test your skills at the next audition or contact Pamela Larkin Caruso today at 239-434-7340 ext. 104 to find out what other opportunities there are backstage and front of house.

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