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In Memoriam

Rusty Magee

A Celebration of our Beloved Friend

Riverside Memorial Chapel
New York City

Sunday, March 2, 2003

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Mason Pettit

Co-Founder of Moonwork
a Manhattan Theater Company

Alison has asked me to read a note that was sent to Rusty by a woman who had watched him perform on several occasions at Moonwork:

It's a quiet autumn night in New York City. And I sense that there are symphonies to be heard in the simple wrinkles that make up this quotidian fabric when I choose to listen. I somehow know, or maybe I remember . . . that listening makes you sensitive. It shakes you awake, it allows everything that came before you and everything that will follow, to infuse your life with color, meaning, texture, and permanence . . . because I think when you are brave enough to listen to the quietly insistent beauty of things, you become connected . . . to all the music makers, dreamers, wanderers, poets, and lovers . . . and then you become part of the symphony . . . with your own music, and words, and thoughts: the beauty becomes a part of you and you a part of that beauty. an infinite Ferris wheel of light. Rusty, I saw you waving to me from that Ferris wheel the moment I first saw you -- it is there for you always, because you have made yourself a part of it. I can't wait to hear you sing again.
Much love,
Gabrielle :-)

My name is Mason Pettit, and I’m one of the founders of Moonwork, a theater company that joyfully bears the unmistakable imprint of Rusty Magee.

In 1999, following our first major New York show, my partners and I had a meeting to figure out what we should do as a follow up.
We were making lists of who we could call to hang lights, who owned a sewing machine, or who could make program copies at their office. We then tried to shape the idea that would become our next show. And the question was posed, “So, What have we got?” The answer was, simply, “Well, we got Rusty.”
Rusty had, after like 30 seconds of his first performance with us, become the reason to see our weird Saturday night comedy show, descriptions of his “f-minor song odyssey” and “The Lick”, or his deconstruction of Jim Steinman songs drew so many people our way. He was our draw and our closer. And he made the chorus of “Brown Eyed Girl” our Saturday night anthem.
So we asked. And we got Rusty. We asked him to take the play within a play of Pyramus and Thisbe, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and set it to music. What he came up with served as a gorgeous exclamation point on a show that at its core is a love song about magic as it exists around us. The New York Times praised that show, specifically, “when the company gives giddy voice to the composer Rusty Magee's witty and surprisingly melodious score.” And who better to dream up the music for a play about magic than a man who for us, consistently delivered just that.
For these last weeks I’ve been sitting with these memories; songs from three musicals, thirty minute sets to close any given Saturday night comedy show, his whispered play-by-play of Knicks playoff basketball from his walkman backstage, his time working with our actors to get their songs just right, and of course, his “Brown Eyed Girl.”

And then I realized it wasn’t that “we got Rusty.” It was that Rusty got us. He saw what we we’re striving for before we did, he knew what our downtown version of his West Bank “free” show
could be, he knew what our Shakespeare was ready to become, he lived in the world we were desperate to join.
We will miss his extreme talent, his enthusiasm and passion for his time on our stage, his good humor, and most of all his friendship. He gave us all the company of someone who could do something we couldn't, someone who took a beat-up piano and made a small show seem huge, and, for far too short a time, set our Saturday nights to music.
Thank you for the beautiful soundtrack of these past years.
Thanks, joyful thanks. And our sweetest appreciation.
We consider ourselves lucky, that even for a short while, we got Rusty.

And now, Rebecca Luker will sing a song that Rusty wrote for the Moonwork show, “Voices From The Hill”, adapted from the Walt Whitman Poem “Thanks in Old Age,” entitled Sweet Appreciation.

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