Hello Central: Nome honors Richard Beneville
In an evening filled with music, laughter and remembrance, the Nome Arts Council and the community honored Richard Beneville for the many roles he played –and still does – in Nome.
There were tears of joy and gratitude flowing, when memories were brought back through a medley of performances of musicals that Beneville had directed over the years here in Nome. And when later community members thanked him for his inspiration, only a few eyes remained dry.
Beneville came to Nome via Barrow in 1988. He was a trained musical and theater actor. He was brought up as a ‘military brat’ in many towns and even overseas. When he came to Alaska as a last ditch effort to escape alcoholism, he brought his talents to Nome, evidenced by countless musicals and plays he directed and produced here.
People who have long moved away from Nome came to honor Beneville – now also the mayor of Nome – for the artistic influence he had on them. His talent, he said, was teasing out the performer in people who never in a million years thought they would be on stage, belting out songs of famous Broadway musicals.
There was Eric Noet, performing ‘Til There was You’ from the musical “The Music Man,” with an extra Nome-specific verses. Ariana Horner, studying music at UAA, performed ‘Oom-pah-pah’ from the musical Oliver! Former Nomeite Kevin Keith also came back to Nome to delight Beneville and a packed-to-the-rafters Old St. Joe’s hall with the My Fair Lady’s song ‘I grew accustomed to her face.’
John Handeland emceed the event and recounted the many, many ways in which Richard Beneville serves this town: as artistic inspiration and fervent supporter of the arts; as tour guide extraordinaire with a deep love for Nome and this region; as mayor, representing this town with passion; and as former longtime employee at the Nome Elementary School, bringing joy and afternoon programs to generations of Nome students.
Handeland presented Beneville with a citation from the Alaska State Legislature, commemorating his many contributions to Nome and this state.
Jake Kenick presented an original poem, lauding Beneville. After the performances it was time for a throng of people to address Richard from the podium, sharing how he has enriched their lives.
There was former Nome Drama Club director Nikki Polk, who credited Beneville with inspiring her to form the Nome-Beltz Drama Club. She told of her first encounter with Richard: “I was waiting tables and in walks Richard in a top hat!” and said she had gone to school for theater and never expected to find such a vibrant arts community in a small town like Nome.
Pamyua sent a video greeting with a song interspersed with long drawn out Hello, Centrals.
Arlo Hannigan thanked Beneville for giving him advice on how to cope with the jitters on stage.
Mary Reader, holding back tears, remembered listening to musical records that her mother had and with Richard Beneville’s arrival in town, “he brought those musicals to life.”
Andrea Irrigoo thanked him for his support of her being a young musician and belted out a song that imagined her and Richard riding a float in a parade and being on front page of the Nome Nugget.
Ron Horner, long time music director at Nome Public Schools, looks back of a 20-some year history with Beneville of sharing music together. He thanked Beneville not only for the music but also for what he’s done for the young people of Nome. “Being on stage, seeing the bright lights and the audience, you carry that feeling with you all your life,” Horner said. “So in turn, we also carry a piece of Richard Beneville inside of us.”
In closing Richard Beneville had the chance to respond and he ended the evening leading the entire audience – and some dancers – in the performance of “New York, New York.”
Hello Central, our hero.