Alum spotlight: Gordon Bass (BFA ’83)

collage of old photos

Gordon Bass, BFA Performance, 1983                                        

Gordon hosting the intro for one of Virginia Rep’s Bedtime Stories

When asked about being an actor, Gordon declares, “I was a musician first and foremost. I started trumpet in 3rd grade and played all through high school. In the late 60s, early 70s I played rock funk bands. I think that was the hook for being on stage.”

Gordan also worked at the Marion Playtimers in his hometown. His first acting performance was with Playtimers at age eighteen—he played the lead in Barefoot in the Park opposite his high school drama teacher. “And I got to kiss her!”

(Left) Gordon after basic training, (Right) Gordon in the Air Force

The Marion, VA native left Wytheville Community College after one year to join the Air Force, where he was stationed in Sumter, South Carolina. After his discharge, Gordon attended Virginia Highlands Community College in Abington, which has an Associate Degree program in Theatre Arts. “There were only about a dozen students in the program, so I did a play every quarter, including playing Willy Lowman at 22!”

Gordon in Godspell at VHCC

William “Van” Keyser was a professor at Highlands who’d gotten his master’s at VCU, which is how Gordan learned about the program. After receiving his Associate of Arts, Gordon traveled to Richmond to attend VCU, where he roomed with Tom Childress (BFA ‘83) (who also went to Highlands with Gordon’s sister Jane) and another VCU grad Dolores “Dee” Slominski (now Dee Charbonnet) (BFA ‘79).

Gordon (second from right) in Carnival at VCU
Gordon in Carnival at VCU
Gordon (center) backstage at Carnival (VCU)

His class was one who took their classes in the building at Floyd and Morris (it was the time between the Temple building being removed and PAC being built). “We got great training in voice, dance and acting, but they didn’t teach us how to be professional actors. They shoved us out the door and said good luck.”

A article from the Longwood student paper in1983 about Key Exchange, another RTC production. Gordon Bass and Melissa Johnston pictured.

After graduating, he met with Gayle Turner (BFA ’87), Melissa Johnston Price and Craig Tapscott who had formed the Richmond Theatre Company for Children, which proved prescient to his later career. “We toured Aesop’s Kaleidoscope for more than a year, more than 2000 performances in schools. I’d do kids shows during the day and adult plays at night.”

Gordon (far left) in Theatre IV’s Hansel and Gretel in 1987

When attending the Southern Childrens Theatre Conference in Danville, Va, he saw a production of The Golden Goose by Theatre IV (later to become Virginia Rep). “I thought, ‘Oh, glitz and jazz hands.” In 1984 John Glenn (Associate Artistic Director) offered him a job, and Gordon continued to tour with their shows for 15 years, eventually becoming Road Manager. In the mid-90s, he took over as Tour Manager, which he’s been doing ever since. For many years, these tours have been a first time gig and valuable experience for VCU grads.

From a 1997 RTD article by Roy Procter, “Gordon Bass likes his role as Theatre IV’s travelin’ man”

Gordon continues to act on stage and on TV. Thinking back to VCU, Gordon says, “VCU give me the discipline and theatre is all about discipline. It gave me my life in the theatre.”

Gordon with wife Nancy

Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the December 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter