David Bridgewater – BFA, Performance 1985/ MS in Rehabilitation Counseling 2012
David recounts his first kiss, “My Freshman year in high school I got cast in Don’t Drink the Water and there was a scene where I had to kiss a girl.” He told a basketball teammate that he was going to rehearse the kiss and his entire team “slipped into the auditorium and hooted when I kissed her.”
David’s father, Frank Fuller, not only studied at RPI under Raymond Hodges, he taught drama in the early 60s at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater VA, which is where Dave got his stage name. When David was ten, Frank got a job with the Virginia Department of Education, as supervisor of English, Theatre and Speech, and that’s how they ended up in Richmond.
By his junior year in high school, David was class president, second string on the basketball team and playing the lead in shows “getting to kiss girls.” Eventually, his parents said, ” ‘You can’t do all of this, you need to make choices,’ and the decision was to go with what I was excelling in, which was theatre.”
After getting off to a rough start at VCU and considering the Army instead, “Gary Hopper pulled me into his office and said, ‘I’ll make you a deal. Stay one more year and if things don’t get better I’ll give you my blessing to leave.’” Dave stayed and “Gary became my acting Yoda. I wrote in big letters in my journal, ‘To be truly great, you have to be willing to become emotionally naked.'”
After graduation David worked for Theatre IV, touring in kid’s shows, as well as working on the main stage. He became a full time actor for 25 years with some “fleeting moments of film/TV work and even got a pilot for ABC” that never aired.
One of his best memories was when he got cast as Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew in a Virginia Beach summer Shakespeare repertory production. “They hired celebrity stars for each show and Rita Moreno was playing Kate. “I spent the summer sweating and working with Rita. I was 24 and looked 35, while she was 56 and looked 40, so it worked.”
After success with his personal recovery, David decided to help others and returned to VCU for his MA. He’s currently a Rehabilitation Teacher For the Virginia Department of Blind and Vision Impaired, where he teaches adaptive skills, organization, cooking, cleaning, grooming and more. “There are days where I’m teaching someone who’s never worked in a kitchen how to fry chicken in oil on a stovetop.”
Even though he hasn’t been on stage since 2017, he’s returning in Virginia Rep’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, directed by Sharon Ott (AD of VCUTheatre/arts). “I’ve never been more terrified in my life but I’m looking forward to it.”
Header image (clockwise from left): Dave as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at Theatre IV, Dave’s headshot, Dave as Megs in Spittin’ Image at Theatre IV, Dave as Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac at Barksdale Theatre/Willow Lawn.
Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the January 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter