Remembering Ricky Newkirk

posted Sep 9, 2016, 2:13 PM by District Webmaster   [ updated Sep 10, 2016, 11:31 AM ]
Ricky Newkirk
Ricky Newkirk, the founding Technical Manager of the Fine Arts Center at Bartlesville High School, passed away on August 29, 2016 after a long battle with cancer. We've gathered some recollections of her many contributions to district programs.

Ricky handled set design, lighting, sound, rigging, and so much more at the Fine Arts Center from its inception in 2004. Ricky could always be found working behind the scenes on programs or out in the auditorium running the control board during a production. Anything and everything in the Fine Arts Center over its first decade received her care and attention.

In the photo, Ricky is taking notes from a director after a rehearsal at the Fine Arts Center.

Susan Mueller
SUSAN MUELLER, former BHS Choir Director who coordinated the construction of the new Fine Arts Center which opened in 2004

My history with Ricky began during the planning process for the Fine Arts Center. It took a little convincing, but the interview committee finally determined that we wanted more than just a custodian to take care of the new facility. We interviewed several prospects, but Ricky was, by far, the most qualified. She had held a similar position in Broken Arrow, had an education degree and had studied set design and lighting with the legendary Jerry Davis at OSU. We snapped her up, thinking ourselves lucky - but we had no idea!

First, she was a consummate professional. There was no aspect of that theatre she didn't thoroughly understand - lights, sound, rigging, flooring, setups, tear-downs, safety. Whatever anybody needed, she had it covered.

Second, she was such a team player! Any project that came into her building became a personal priority. It might only be the kindergarten Christmas concert from one of the elementary schools, but she would do everything she could do to make it the best kindergarten concert ever!

Third, she was a mentor to so many students. Yes, in a major way for the kids in her intern program, but also to every student in any theatre production, all the students who performed in concerts, or were participating in assemblies. From her interns she demanded teamwork, organization and a strong work ethic, while at the same time lending a friendly ear whenever they needed one.

Fourth, she was an artist. BHS went beyond lucky with Ricky's tenure, we won the lottery! Her sets and lighting designs transported our high school productions to a completely different realm. It was always interesting to watch the students in the BHS musicals the first time they stepped onto a Newkirk set. The sense of place and time she created on that stage would completely change the performers. All of a sudden, they could transform from highschoolers and become Laurey and Curly in 1907 Oklahoma, or Dolly and Horace in 1910 Yonkers, or Nelly and Emile in 1943 South Pacific. That South Pacific set literally brought me to tears, it was so beautiful.

Susan Crabtree
SUSAN CRABTREE, BHS Theatre Instructor and Director throughout Ricky's tenure

Ricky Newkirk LOVED the theatre and she LOVED working with kiddos (the term she and I always used when talking about our students)!  She and I spent so many hours working together to create an opportunity for our kiddos to create art.  We often laughed until we cried sitting together in our darkened theatre in the middle of the night – setting light cues for a play.  She was funny.  She was passionate.  She was an incredible artist.  Ricky was my friend.  

She did set and light designs for almost 50 play productions at the FAC and countless set-ups for concerts, meetings and other school business in our theatre over the years she was our FAC Manager.  Her work was always creative, unique and challenging for our kiddos.

A Piece of My Heart
I've included this shot because Ricky's FAVORITE thing was watching kiddos perform on stage. This was one of her favorite shows, called A Piece of My Heart by playwright Shirley Lauro. It was about Vietnam; Ricky's daddy was in 'Nam so it was particularly touching and important to her. We shed a lot of tears together during the rehearsal of this one. This is her set and lighting design. 
Left to right:  1st row - Mikah Hansen, Melody Brown Clark, Catherine Hine, Paige Cleveland; 2nd row - Kasia Jarmola and Katrina Randolph

Ricky Newkirk with Brad Gray
, former BHS student who is now a lighting designer and light console operator working in New York 

A very close friend and mentor lost her long battle with cancer...Ricky Newkirk was one of my high school technical theater teachers. Starting when I was 14 years old (and all throughout high school), she was one of the two people that inspired me to become the theater professional that I am today and has constantly been a voice of encouragement throughout my career.   Ricky, I hope you are able to rest without pain and watch down on Jake from above. You encouraged and helped so many students. You will be very missed.

, former BHS students

Kelsea: I found out that Newkirk passed away today. She was an amazing woman and a wonderful instructor. She taught me so much and never had a problem with me hanging around the FAC helping. She always encouraged me to learn new aspects of theatre. She will be missed. Rest easy.

Joe: She was a great lady. I have a lot of good memories with her and Mrs. Crabtree in Stagecraft.

Whitney: I loved her so much. She was not only a teacher for me, but a friend.

Margie Green
BHS Choir Director

Ricky was always behind the scenes.  She thought of each of the students on the stage as a special part of her life.  She impacted and inspired so many of our students because of kind of person she was and the time that she would invest in each one.  She always took care of all of the Fine Arts staff as her own family.  She was an incredible artist designing many sets for many shows through the years.  She always took her time to attend to every detail to make sure the stage looked beautiful.  She will be greatly missed!

Rhonda Carr
, BHS Orchestra Director 

We would stay late after concerts and talk about how everything went, the good, bad and what we'd do differently. It was no big deal to stack chairs and stands in our dresses. We agreed that we hated wearing hose. Ricky always looked nice at all of our concerts.  She said she wanted to dress up for the kids.  

My favorite thing that Ricky ever did for me personally was design a star to shine at the end of Silent Night on the Sing-a-long at our All City Orchestra concert.  She made it herself.  When I looked up and saw it the first time when I was directing the kids, it made me cry because it was so pretty.  I've always called it Ricky's Star. 

Ricky Newkirk's legacy lives on in the many lives she touched with her contributions to over a decade of productions at the Fine Arts Center. When Ricky was no longer able to oversee day-to-day operations at the FAC, Elaine Tate Gaut filled in for her, and Seth Weimer is now the FAC's Technical Manager. Ricky quite literally set the stage for the continuing success of the beautiful facility and its programs.

FAC Auditorium