Alum spotlight: David Bridgewater (BFA ’85)

collage of photos

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.”

Dave as Hamlet in Hamlet at Theatre IV

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.

Dave and his dad, Frank Fuller

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.”

Dave as Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive as an equity guest artist at University of Richmond
Dave as Bill Starbuck in The Rainmaker at Theatre IV

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.'”

David in Spoon River Anthology at VCU
Dave and Gary Hopper

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.

Dave as Cecco in Peter Pan at Theatre IV

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.”

Dave and Rita Moreno in Taming of the Shrew

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.”

Dave as Jim in Nice People Dancing to Good Music at Barksdale

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.”

Dave with his daughters, Mia Rose and Daisy Joy

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