Monday, August 15, 2016

My friend, Libby Adams

Libby Adams assembling programs for the St. Paul's Players

Libby and her favorite fellow, Clay Aiken

Theater is a collaborative art form. The diligent efforts of those seen and unseen onstage are needed to create a production.

No one exemplified this universal truth more simply and beautifully than my dear friend Elizabeth Ann Step Adams, known to all as “Libby,” who left this world a few weeks ago. If she could have lived until December 3, she would have been 89.

Libby’s name appeared on theater programs for behind the scenes and supportive “roles.” She was a “life member” at Workshop Theater, where she often ran the box office and distributed tickets to patrons as they arrived for a performance. She presided in the lobby with a happy smile, greeting people as they entered, always remembering their names and families.

She volunteered in Columbia and Sumter, South Carolina, theaters. She knew the names of all the participants in the productions and had definite opinions about the plays being presented. She was a keen observer and never hesitated to share her thoughts.

I met Libby through John Henry, who worked side-by-side with her at Workshop’s box office and who became the producer of the church productions I direct for the St. Paul’s Players. John recruited Libby to help us out and she did so happily, coming to fold programs and staying to be part of our audience.

Libby always candidly told me what she thought about our shows, especially the ones I wrote. I suspect her good friend John may have briefed her about some aspects of the plays others had criticized. She always staunchly supported any disputed choices I had made. I treasure a note she wrote to me one Christmas, encouraging and supporting our drama ministry, which she considered unique in the community.

During the last few years, Libby, John, and I shared a group of seats for the “Broadway at the Koger” series that brought traveling companies to Columbia. We watched such diverse productions as Legally Blonde, Flash Dance, Once, and The Illusionists. When each performance was over, we’d head to the nearby IHOP and evaluate it. Libby would comment specifically on the sets, performers, sound quality, and directorial choices. We didn’t always agree on our perceptions, but I had to admire the reasons she expressed for her opinions. She thought it all out carefully and based her opinions on an extensive background of watching theater.

Libby survived her husband Grey and her son Steven, who she called Shay. She lived alone with her cat. She remained independent until the end, calling a cab or relying on friends if she needed a ride to an appointment or performance, but managing her own life. She kept well informed about current events and television. After watching him on American Idol, she became a devoted fan of Clay Aiken, traveling by train to see him in performance in New York City.

When John and I hadn’t been able to reach her by phone one day, John asked his brother to stop by Libby’s apartment. He got no response and called the police to investigate. They found her on her couch. We believe she just fell asleep.

On the night I learned of her death, I had stopped for supper in a restaurant before going home. I had just talked with John on the phone when a young man came up to speak with me. He asked me if I remembered him. He had been in one of my plays when he was a child. Now, he was ready for college and going to Yale.

I took the time to talk with him and his family. I remembered that Libby had seen him in a Workshop Theater production and was so happy when he came to work with us at the St. Paul’s Players. She always went out of her way to encourage young people to be involved in the theater. She appreciated that the next generation would continue the traditions.

Perhaps, at least I like to think, that Libby facilitated my meeting that night with the young man so I could continue her practice of encouraging the next generation to support and advocate for the arts. I think she would consider that a fitting tribute.

I hope I can follow in her footsteps. She has big shoes to fill.

Rest well, Libby.  


  1. A Lovely Tribute to our Friend Libby. Thanks Paula for just the right words as you always seem to have.

    1. Thank you, John. I will cherish her memory and the times we spent together.

  2. Oh, what a wonderful tribute to this sweet lady indeed!!!
    Pat J.