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SAT performs its most successful production, and Jim Wilhite departs

2011: Where are they now? An update of the Sandy Post's top stories of the year
by: file photo In 2011, Sandy Actors Theatre said goodbye to beloved artistic director, Jim Wilhite (far left), and produced its most successful play, “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” in the theater’s 35 years.

With 10 out of 15 shows selling out and record-breaking attendance, 'Bill W. and Dr. Bob' marked the most successful play Sandy Actors Theatre has produced in its 35-year history.

'There were miracles that happened out of that show,' Jim Wilhite, director, said of the play that chronicles the story of Alcoholics Anonymous founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith.

For one, the play's themes struck a deep chord with audiences. Teary-eyed, a woman called Wilhite to say her husband finally went to an AA meeting the day after seeing the play, and years after she'd first asked him to quit.

Soon after, a gambling addict who had lost everything told Wilhite if the characters in the play could quit, she could do it, too.

Another highlight of the fall production came opening night when James Bass proposed to his girlfriend and a fellow actor in the play, Erin Hickman, who happens to be Wilhite's daughter.

'Take someone who is emotionally invested in a show more than any show in his life, compound it with opening night and proposing to your girlfriend on top of that,' Bass said. 'That moment I had been crafting for two years... she deserved it.'

Regarding the 'Bill W. and Dr. Bob' production, Bass said it was 'way beyond anything the theater had ever done.'

Wilhite says he learned from the production 'how powerful we can be in helping people heal their lives' -- that 'theater is a vehicle for (healing) to happen.'

'Bill W. and Dr. Bob' marked Wilhite's last production as artistic director for SAT. After five years of 'going night and day for the theatre,' Wilhite says he's taking a time of reflection and recovery, rebuilding his counseling and life coaching practice in the Portland area.

He also has preliminary plans to bring 'Bill W. and Dr. Bob' to Portland's CoHo Theatre in fall 2012.

In an earlier interview, Wilhite said he didn't hold any ill will against the SAT board for asking for his resignation. Instead, he described a difference in philosophies between the creative and administrative sides of the theater business.

Sandy Actors Theatre representatives say there are differing opinions as to the reasons Wilhite is no longer artistic director for the theater. Still they extend their gratefulness to Wilhite for such a successful fall production of 'Bill W. and Dr. Bob.'

'It's a time of profound sadness at times,' Wilhite says of saying goodbye to the theater. 'But letting go is so important for human beings. ... I realized that out of every crisis, there's a multitude of blessings, gifts and opportunities.'