What: “A Tribute to Tony Fields: What I Did for Love”
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High School, 315 W. 14th St.
Tickets: $8 students, $10 adults
The 325 seats of the Veterans’ Memorial Theater were overflowing with friends, students and relatives of Tony Fields during the spring of 1995. The audience came from all over to pay tribute to the inspiring dancer and actor who died of AIDS in February 1995. He was 36.
Davis High School drama department instructor Gwyn Bruch became close friends with Fields, a 1977 DHS graduate, through Davis community theater programs. In 1994, shortly before his death, Fields came back to DHS despite his failing health to help Bruch direct two of the school’s plays.
“Some days he didn’t get to rehearsal and some days the only way he got out of bed was knowing that he had rehearsal, because he was so sick,” Bruch said.
Fields’ death not only affected his loved ones and Bruch, but also the students whom he had coached.
“My students and I didn’t know what to do with this grief, this overwhelming grief that he had come to work with the students twice,” Bruch said. “So we decided to put on a show for him at the Vets.”
Now, the DHS drama department celebrates the life of Fields again through its 17th annual production of “A Tribute to Tony Fields: What I Did for Love,” performing at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Brunelle Performance Hall on the DHS campus, 315 W. 14th St. Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for adults, and may be purchased at the door.
The show, produced by Bruch and choreographed by Cara Reins, features a multitude of performances from Fields’ professional and high school career.
“It’s really fun and colorful, there’s a lot of dancing, and it’s just about artistic integrity and doing what you love,” DHS student actor Chiara Moore said. “That’s what Tony was really about.”
The show, with a cast of more than 50 students, begins with a number from “Fame,” the 1980 film in which Fields performed. The night also features the dance number of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the dream sequence from “Oklahoma” and a 32-cast member performance from “A Chorus Line,” the 1985 film in which Fields starred as Al Deluca.
“All the music has to do with his time period, sometimes his life, and sometimes things that were cool and he might have liked to do,” Bruch said.
The show will end with a traditional performance by Bruch herself, singing “What I Did for Love.”
“That was my gift to Tony the first year,” she said. “It was hard for me to get through the (1995) show at all, and I said, ‘For you, Tony, I will sing this song.’ That’s the only time I ever perform with my students.”
Student leaders Melissa Ferris and Bryce Vaewsorn, although never having met Fields, feel the impact of his career and life through the production.
“He’s really become a hero for any student in the DHS drama department since he was so involved with the school before he died,” Ferris said. “He lived all of our dreams.”
Along with the annual production, the Tony Fields Scholarship, created in 1995 by the Fields family, is given every year to “the student that has participated in the drama program and has shown the most artistic integrity,” Bruch said. The recipient of the 2011 Tony Fields Scholarship will be announced at the end of Saturday’s performance.
“It mostly goes to seniors but it doesn’t always,” Bruch said. “I’ve had years where I’ve had brilliantly talented seniors without that quality of ’I’ll take the left part in the back, that non-specific ensemble person; I will do what it takes; I will turn myself into a complete pretzel to do my best work,’ and that’s what Tony was.
“Tony wasn’t about being the star, he was about the work.”