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After Lindsay Peterson, 'The Show Must Go On'

Lindsay Peterson probably wouldn’t have liked this article.

According to those who knew her, she was an unassuming person who didn’t like it when people talked about her accomplishments.

Leila Gordon, performing arts director for the Reston Community Center, remembers a story from the mid-1970s, when Peterson was part of the board that was planning to build the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods. When construction began, there were some unanticipated costs and board members discussed eliminating an expensive fly system at the CenterStage theater. The fly system is a network of cables used to lift people and set pieces during theater performances.

Peterson fought to keep the fly system, pointing out that other equipment, like lights, could be purchased in the future. The fly system, on the other hand, would be extremely expensive to retro-fit. The rest of the board finally agreed with Peterson, but had to cut all lighting equipment to pay for the fly system.

"Lindsay bought the first 85 pieces of lighting equipment," Gordon said. "And I think her lights lit the theater for eight or nine years of performances. That’s a story she hated having people tell. She was the quietest person about her own contributions. She would say, ‘Shut your mouth. If you keep telling that story people will be coming out of the woodwork asking for things.’"

But Peterson’s generosity continued. For the past 20 years Lindsay Peterson has kept the Reston Community Players in business, with both financial and volunteer support. But she died at her home last week, sometime between the night of Sunday, April 28, and the morning of Monday, April 29.

THE RESTON COMMUNITY PLAYERS opened their new play, "The Women," last Friday, May 3. Lisa Bailey, group president, said it was a long rehearsal Wednesday night when the players first heard the news.

"She was extremely organized, able to talk to people," Bailey said. "We do everything for free, so it is not easy to convince people into, for example, running the lights."

Bailey first met Peterson around 20 years ago, when Bailey was acting in a show Peterson was producing. The two became fast friends and, once a month, they went to see shows at Arena Stage.

"Friends like Lindsay are family you get to choose," Bailey said.

Peterson stayed behind the scenes with the Reston Community Players. She had produced shows for more than 20 years, but was never interested in taking the stage as an actor.

"She didn’t hesitate to teach people," Gordon said. "She laid down the law but she inspired people, instead of dictating to them. Her phone number was the one we always gave someone who wanted to get involved with theater in Reston."

When asked to describe Peterson’s personality, Gordon immediately said "salty and smart as a whip."

"She was a fascinating combination of being cynical and idealistic," Gordon said. "She lived by the golden rule. She believed you should go about things with integrity."

Peterson was laid back, and honest, said Bailey.

"She was not a showy person," Bailey said. "She lived her life the way she wanted to. She didn’t care what anyone thought about her, ever."

BAILEY CALLED PETERSON the heart of the Reston Community Players, but the group will go on without her. Peterson owned the warehouse-style space where the Reston Community Players practice for each of their shows. But before her death she arranged that the building would transfer to the theater group.

Peterson had retired before she died, but "had a very distinguished career with the CIA," according to Gordon. That is just about all Gordon knew about Peterson’s professional life.

"You knew you probably shouldn’t call her at work unless it was an emergency," Gordon said.

Plans are being made to hold a memorial service at the Reston Community Center’s CenterStage. The community center will announce the date of that service in the near future.