WASHINGTON — On Dec. 30, actor Dawn Wells died due to causes related to COVID-19.
When Washington resident Michael Kramme heard the news, he pulled out a binder of old photos and paperwork to look back on his experience directing Wells.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Kramme was the chairman of the Division of Fine Arts at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. The school developed a guest artists program in 1987, where famous actors would take part in Culver productions and work with student understudies.
Kramme had an agent in Los Angeles who scouted artists for the program.
Actors Equity, the actors union, would create the contract after the play, role and dates were determined. Kramme pulled out his copy of the contract, showing his signature beside Wells’.
The students rehearsed for four weeks and then the artist would attend for a week.
“We would have three or four rehearsals and then the performance,” he said.
Kramme said the students did their best work during the artist program shows. It brought the performancesp to another level, he said.
In 1988, Wells was the featured artist. She was best known for her role as the wholesome Mary Ann on the 1960s television series “Gilligan’s Island.” When Kramme received Wells’ resume, he circled her experience in “See How They Run.”
“I knew the play, and I thought it would be a good fit,” he said.
She was a sweetheart, Kramme said. He said she was easy to work with and a delight.
Wells was always cheerful and enjoyed working with the students. He said years later she had a camp for young actors.
“There was that part of her personality that worked well,” he said.
The school provided a salary, housing and meals. Kramme said he was able to have several lunches and dinners during her week in the program.
Kramme’s binder is full of photos, information and contracts showcasing fond memories he has working with the program and various actors.
Kramme followed Wells’ progress years after participating in the program. He has kept magazine clippings from years after the performance in his binder.
Wells is not the only famous actor Kramme worked with. Barry Williams from the “Brady Bunch,” Eileen Barnett and George McDaniel from “Days of Our Lives,” and Marcia Wallace from “The Bob Newhart Show” all participated in the program.
The program still is successfully running, he said.