Established in 2001, the Brauser Award is presented to an individual whose work makes community theatre possible in the Bradford area. It is named after theatre enthusiast the late Lester Brauser.
“Jeanie has been our angel in the wings since BLT started,” said Garris. “She not only hosted BLT’s kick-off event at her home 16 years ago, she has also been a sustaining member and an inspiration to BLT to make it possible for anyone to take part in community theatre, whether backstage or on stage. In particular, we appreciate her passion for encouraging young people to express themselves, to find their voices, and to stretch their wings.”
“We have always known that we could turn to her for help and guidance,” said Garris.
The award will be presented to Satterwhite at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12 at the opening curtain of “East of the Sun” at Bradford Area High School. That production features an ensemble cast of both adults and youth with two special features which make it ideal for the honoree, said Garris. Those features are a county-wide art contest and exhibit for children and adults and “Audience Onstage,” when the audience is welcomed on stage after each performance to meet actors and crew and to get a close-up look firsthand at the set, props and behind-the-scenes work.
A Bradford resident for the past 42 years, Satterwhite is well-known as an arts advocate and philanthropist.
For the past eight years, she has chaired the Free Family Film Fest in Bradford. She created the event’s unique philosophy in its pre-shows, which are co-hosted by children and feature character-developing events and brief talks by local notables about how they grew up to become judges, mayors and other professionals. She was instrumental in the restoration of the former movie theater now the Bradford Main Street Movie House.
As a charter member of UPB Arts Council, she also served on the Prism Arts program committee and established the annual Kaleidoscope school-time series of theater matinees for students in a six-county region. She also took part in the planning, decorating and writing for the three fund-raising Arts Galas there.
For four years, she managed her youngest daughter’s theater and screen career with the Carson-Adler Agency in New York City.
A charter and sustaining member of Bradford Creative and Performing Arts Center, she received that group’s “Marilyn Horne Award for Excellence in the Creative and Performing Arts” in 2005. During her tenure with BCPAC, she started and helped produce its community theatre efforts when there was no local theatre group in the city; started the Creative Youth Salute which for ten years recognized students in grades 4-12 for achievements in all the fine arts; and established a children’s summer theater camp at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford which evolved into the still-running Missoula Children’s Theater; and co-produced its Fine Arts Show and Sale. She also supports the group’s James D. Guelfi Endowment for the Arts.
Active in community service, 68-year-old Satterwhite donates special events services to charities through her Bradford Events Design enterprise. For example, she worked on the Bradford Area Public Library’s first Derby Gala, donating customized props and linens for future budgetary ease since the theme would remain the same.
She has served for the past nine years on the YWCA board, chairing its annual Leadership Luncheon for seven years.
In the field of education, she served on the Bradford Area School District board and helped found The Learning Center where she also taught art classes.
In other philanthropic efforts, she started the “My HERO Fund” and “The Fund in Honor of the Men and Women Currently or Formerly Serving in the Armed Forces” honorary/memorial funds at Bradford Hospital Foundation. She also remains a patron of the Southern Tier Symphony.
Satterwhite, a Coudersport native, graduated from Coudersport High School in 1963 and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1967 with a degree in English literature.
She and husband John have three daughters, Margaret (Scott) Brown, Caroline (Tim) Satterwhite-Rice, and Catherine (Mike) Manning; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Well-wishers can greet Satterwhite personally during a small, informal reception following the April 12 performance. There will also be a guest book for those who want to write their congratulations.
Past recipients of the Brauser Award include the late Dr. Robert C. Laing Jr., John and Marlene Kijowski, Dr. Richard Frederick, the James VanScoy family, the late Marmy and Steve Hodges, Patty Bianco, Ron Johnson, H.L. “Woody” Woodruff and Richard “Dick” Marcott.
For Jeanie Satterwhite, both viewing and taking part in theater – whether local or professional – feeds the soul, fights injustice and gives people a voice.
“Like many humans, I can’t sing, dance, act, or speak well -- but, don’t tell my feet, heart and soul that! They yearn to soar and to express what is deepest within me. Isn’t that true of us all? But I’m okay, because there are these amazing artists, dancers, musicians and actors who do it for me. They help tell my story, soothe my soul’s hunger. What would we be without them? The arts helped me build a life philosophy and gave me a voice. So now my voice speaks for them and our best hopes as human beings.”
Satterwhite is thrilled by” the power of words coming to life’ on screen and stage.
“It is overwhelmingly our plays and films that inspire people to feel outrage and sympathy and move us to action against injustices to humanity in our lifetime,” she said.
“Similarly, accurate dramatizations of the struggles of humanity in past history can be our best teaching tools as a civilization. Facts and dates alone give a deplorably incomplete historical perspective. What do we learn not to do again without seeing the pain, the pitiable losses or the moral quandary?” she said.
As a child in post- war Coudersport in the 1950s, Satterwhite recalls how movies and theater first shaped her guiding philosophy: “On Saturdays, we neighborhood kids would go to the movie matinees and then re-enact them in our back yards. Shows were mostly about cowboys and Indians and spacemen back then. That same medium that taught us to demonize the Indians in our dramas later showed us the injustice and arrogance of that portrayal. Thus I learned not only to question anything that denigrated other human beings, but also that movies and the arts were great platforms for democratic dialogue, growth, and change.”
Her passion for live theater began when she was 7 years old, when a local gentleman named H. Hollingsworth Pett produced a community musical – “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I was a Munchkin, but my Aunt Doris was one committed, scary witch, and kids crossed the street to pass her house after that play! I was truly impressed,” she said.
This concept of the arts serving two purposes in tandem ‑‑ as something expressive and fun, and as a tool for lifting and guiding humanity to a higher level -- is what inspired Satterwhite to promote a co-operative educational effort among families, community, town leaders, teachers, and the university. Among other successful live theater entities, she founded the Free Family Film Fest and has directed it since 2005, presenting pre-show programs promoting character development, citizenship and family togetherness in a festive style. All of these people saw the sense in it, and took part; the kids helped to run the program.
“I’ll always relish the memory of those little ones’ journeys, from sitting in their seats, to proudly marching in the Kids” Parades, and eventually to becoming “Good Will Ambassadors,” speaking before the whole Bradford Main Street Moviehouse,” Satterwhite said.
To Satterwhite, community theatre is equally valuable: “It brings families together and makes a town closer and more fun. Its lessons and skills are as indelible as the sports and academia that every town values. Participating in theater makes kids smarter and worldlier, and gives them vital citizenship training. Imagine harnessing the ease of facing a sea of blank faces, and of changing those expressions, knowing you have convinced them not just of the legitimacy of your character, but also of perhaps a point of view that would improve the quality of life for other human beings. Time and again I have seen a single speaker who swayed a whole assembly over to his or her point of view. We need to raise such leaders,” she said.
Adding just one more heartfelt explanation for her devotion to theater, Satterwhite observed: “You know, we’re still those floundering, hopeful, mystified human beings, sitting around the primordial campfire weaving stories to entertain and to make our lives bearable. We gather to learn that we aren’t alone and to find our ‘voices.’ It is theater. And it has been theater since we first began thinking. It is as basic as the need to eat…but it feeds your spirit.”
The essence of that passion seems distilled by a Brian Andreas poem Satterwhite keeps on her desk: “In my dream, the angel shrugged and said if we fail this time it will be a failure of imagination and then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”