It’s a sad day for DC area theatre with the tragic news that Dr. Jaylee Mead died today of heart failure. Known for her big heart and love for the arts – Jaylee was everywhere. At most shows I attended the past two decades there she was – always with a smile. We never failed to greet each other and she would always say to me, “Thanks for what you do for theatre.” I was always taken a back because here was the most generous and lover of the arts I knew, for everywhere I went in the DC area she and her late husband Gil’s names graced lobbies and theatres and boards listing benefactors.
And I would always respond, “No, thank you and Gil for your generosity.”
And the most fun I had with Jaylee was talking about the starring roles she had at Goddard’s Music and Drama (MAD) – a theatre troupe she and Gil started at NASA where they both worked – and the time she played Mame and Dolly and all the ‘diva’ roles, as she called them. And she demonstrated to me more than once that she could still ‘belt ‘em.’ I would have loved to have seen her Dolly. And when I attended productions of Carousel and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at MAD I could feel her presence everywhere.
And that is what I will miss the most when I now go to the theatre – the ever presence of a charitable woman who donated over 50 million dollars to local theatres, who always found time to say hello and whose joy of theatre shone on her face everytime she sat in the audience watching a show.
Now, every time I will attend a show at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, I will always remember her sitting in the corner schmoozing and optimistically awaiting another show to begin.
And I will miss her at The Helen Hayes Awards nominations announcements. It was always fun analyzing the ‘results’ with her.
I will miss Jaylee terribly and opening nights at the theatre will never be the same.
Here’s Jaylee’s bio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and how she and Gil founded MAD.
Here are some videos of Jaylee Mead’s performances at MAD.