Browns hon­ored

Serve Daily - - COMMUNITY - By James L. Davis for Serve Daily

— For some, a love for the Arts is a sweet in­fec­tion. Once bit- ten, it cour­ses through your blood forev- er. Such is the case for Bill and Mar­i­lyn Brown. They are in­cur­ably, bliss­fully, in­fected.

The Springville cou­ple passed on their love for the Arts through the Villa Play- house, Lit­tle Brown Theatre and Brown- house Gallery/Stu­dio. Each of their en­deav­ors were labors of love and the re­ward was watch­ing the spark ig­nite in hun­dreds of young peo­ple who took part in their com­mu­nity theatre pro­duc­tions over the years.

“See­ing those kids de­velop like they did made it all worth­while,” Bill said. Bill was bit­ten by a love for the Arts as a teenager him­self. As a se­nior at Provo High School in 1959, the school drama teacher cast him as Jonathan in Arsenic and Old Lace, and that was all it took.

“I loved it so much I de­cided to pur­sue a de­gree in theatre,” he said.

Upon high school grad­u­a­tion, he did just that. He en­rolled at Brigham Young Univer­sity in 1960 to pur­sue his de­gree. As of­ten hap­pens in life, fate in­ter­vened, and for Bill, it came in the form of love. He mar­ried in 1961 and soon had a fam­ily to raise, so went to work as a re­al­tor and even­tu­ally opened Bill Brown Realty.

His love for the Arts never di­min­ished and in time would man­i­fest it­self in ways that per­haps even sur­prised him. In 1975, as a wid­ower with five chil­dren, he mar- ried Mar­i­lyn McMeen, who had one daugh­ter. With a sim­ple “I Do” the two be­came a fam­ily of eight and life be­came a drama all it­self.

“It was a part­ner­ship. A fun roller­coast- er,” Mar­i­lyn said.

The hus­band and wife dis­cov­ered they had many things in common, but when it comes to a love of the Arts in all its many forms, Mar­i­lyn said it was Bill who in- fected her. “Bill bit me,” she said with a laugh. Which isn’t en­tirely true. Mar­i­lyn, a play­wright and nov­el­ist, was al­ready de- voted to the Arts be­fore she mar­ried Bill. To­gether, that love grew to new heights.

In 1994 Ge­orge Nel­son, a pro­fes­sor at BYU’s Theatre Art Stud­ies, cast Bill as a lead in a play and asked him why he hadn’t con­tin­ued his pur­suit of a de­gree. So, he did, and grad­u­ated with a de­gree in Theatre and Me­dia Arts eight years later, at the age of 60. He grad­u­ated in 2002 and was the old­est grad­u­ate that year.

Be­com­ing a col­lege stu­dent again per- haps spurred even more de­vo­tion to the Arts. The cou­ple es­tab­lished the Villa Play­house in 1996 and Bill said it was his workshop as he pur­sued his de­gree. To- gether, they went on to es­tab­lish the Lit­tle Brown Theatre and Brown­house Gallery/ Stu­dio.

The cou­ple dipped their fin­gers into ev-

form of the Arts, from drama to the writ­ten word. As they de­vel­oped their the­atres and gallery, they pro­duced plays, mu­si­cals, nov­els, art, built sets, cre­ated cos­tumes, and fos­tered a love of the Arts in ev­ery­one they met. Through it all they stored up mem­o­ries to span sev­eral life- times.

“We love the in­ter­ac­tion with the com- mu­nity,” Mar­i­lyn said. “Be­ing able to write the music and words and to see peo- ple per­form with their beau­ti­ful voices and bring to life what I imag­ined. I said, well, I can die now.”

Along the way, they raised their six chil­dren and to­day their fam­ily has grown to in­clude 16 grand­chil­dren and seven great-grand­chil­dren.

As is the case in any great story, trag- edy struck when least ex­pected. Bill suf- fered a heart at­tack that was all but de­bil- itat­ing. They sold the Villa Play­house in 2004 and the Lit­tle Brown Theatre closed in 2005. It took years for Bill to re­gain his strength, but their com­bined love of the Arts still boiled.

Af­ter 52 years as a re­al­tor, Bill re­tired in 2016 and sold his busi­ness to one of his sons. In the fall of 2017, the Brown­house Gallery/Stu­dio was gut­ted by fire and their story might have very well ended as a tragedy. And then came the plot twist. On March 10, Bill and Mar­i­lyn Brown were hon­ored by the SCERA Cen­ter for the Arts for Life­time Achieve­ment in sup- port of the Arts.

With fam­ily and friends gath­ered, they were rec­og­nized for their love and devo- tion to the Arts and the many peo­ple they touched over the years. To say that it was a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence, is per­haps an un- der­state­ment.life­time achieve­ment“It was one of the high­lights of our life,” Bill said.

Recog­ni­tion for life­time achieve­ment might be the end of the play in many cir­cum­stances, but Bill and Mar­i­lyn are quick to point out that this is not their fi- nal act.

Mar­i­lyn, with 17 pub­lished nov­els and an­other due in the coming months, says she has a few more in her head, and more are likely to fol­low.

Bill still per­forms when­ever a part comes his way. “Parts for some­one my age are hard to come by, but oc­ca­sion­ally they need an old man,” he said.

And as for the Brown­house Gallery/ Stu­dio on Main Street in Springville, it is be­ing re­built and the cou­ple hopes to have it re­open in Au­gust.

“We’ll be do­ing this un­til we’re no lon- ger here,” Bill said.

Bill and Mar­i­lyn Brown

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