Erika Mitchell passed away recently; she was in her late 90’s. Erika & Ken joined the society in the early 1950’s when we were still known as The St Stephen’s Pinelands Repertory Society (or ‘The Reps’). Not only did Erika appear on stage in several productions, but she was also a talented artist and painted many eye catching backdrops and sets. Later when Ken took over the lighting – rigging, designing and even building his own lighting boards – Erika was always at his side to lend a hand. She was never without her knitting and her basket of wool with a flask of tea & some sandwiches neatly packed in the side for when Ken took a ‘break’. One memorable night at the Little Theatre, Ken was at the lighting board upstairs with Erika sitting behind him, needles clicking away. If I remember correctly, the production was ‘Paint Your Wagon’. The show was under way and the Director went upstairs to get a bird’s eye view. He walked between Ken & Erika heading for the far ‘window’ to watch the show. As he passed Erika, he quietly greeted her and the gentleman who was standing next to her watching the show over Ken’s shoulder. As interval was approaching, the Director left and noticed the stranger was gone. Afterwards, he asked Erika who the man was and she said ‘What man? The only person who came into the room was you.‘ They realized that they’d been visited by The Little Theatre’s resident ghost, Cecil. As far as I know this was the only time he’s ever actually been seen!
Erika and Ken loved theatre and their cats (of which they had several); after one beloved cat disappeared, Ken built an elaborate cat run leading from the back door, fenced in on all sides including the top – they never lost another cat.
Ken was still climbing ladders and rigging lights in his late 80’s with Erika nearby as always. I can picture them vividly as I write. They are a part of our history and have now joined those who created the energetic spirit that was and is, Pinelands Players. R.I.P.