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Apollo Theatre hires new executive director

April 26, 2001

Apollo Theatre hires new executive director



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


With 23 years in Hollywood behind him, Mike Driscoll has taken on a new role: Executive director of the Apollo Civic Theatre.

He finished his job as prop master for the upcoming movie "Windtalkers" in February and came back to the area, where he spent his early years, to help take the steps necessary to restore and revitalize the historic building.

"I went to L.A., and the next thing I knew, it was 23 years later," said Driscoll, 49, of his foray into the movie and television world of Southern California.

He said he loved his work and tells great stories about Hollywood icons ranging from Robert Mitchum and Jack Webb to Alec Baldwin and Jack Nicholson.

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This move is a good one, he said.

"I really think it was time," he said. "Hollywood is awash in 26 year olds who think they know everything. They think I'm a dinosaur."

He was born in Washington, and grew up there and in the surrounding area of Maryland.

At age 19, he caught the acting bug.

Driscoll worked a number of acting jobs. "My singing and dancing career came to and end when I broke my ankle on stage doing 'West Side Story,'" he said.

In 1976, he wrote, directed and acted in "The Life & Times on the C&O Canal" and did "a couple of low-budget films" before heading to Hollywood in 1977. He worked to establish himself "parking cars, doing all the things young actors do."

He eventually ended up working in props, a job that involves helping find items that characters need for their parts. Larry Hagman in the television series "Dallas," for example, needed everything from a gun holster to a briefcase.

Things did not go as he hoped in Hollywood, so he returned to the area to attend graduate school. He though he might work helping kids with developmental disabilities and emotional problems.

He returned to the West Coast, doing occasional bit parts in sitcoms and perfecting his craft as a prop master and set dresser. It's a choice he does not regret.

"Less than 4 percent of the actors in Hollywood make more than $50,000 a year," Driscoll said. "Fifty thousand dollars a year is nothing for a prop man."

But it involved a lot of extra work and hours.

"If you work only eight hours a day in Hollywood, you won't make any money," Driscoll said.

In 1995, Driscoll moved to Falling Waters, W.Va., where his mother was living on two acres of land. She died the following year and he kept the property.

Driscoll kept working in Hollywood, but eventually came back to the area, taking a substitute teaching position at Hedgesville Middle School. He loved the job and only reluctantly returned to do "Windtalkers," a film about Navajo Indians who served as code breakers during World War II.

Through people who knew him at the school, he was approached about the theater job.

"I'd been doing movies for a long time and I thought 'I'll never have an opportunity to do something like this,'" he said.

Driscoll calls the theater, built around 1912, "a diamond in the rough that needs a lot of work."

An in-depth study of the theater indicated supporters need $5.5 million to restore it. Driscoll said it's a daunting, but not impossible, task.

"Fund-raising is really about friend-raising," he said. Supporters need to "raise the profile of the theater" and get it to the point it is operating in the black, he said.

Driscoll said he's up to the task.

"Do we have a lot of work ahead of us? Yeah. Is it an uphill battle? Yeah. But we'll take it one step at a time."

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