Nancy Tribush Hillman, known for her work in the bustling world of Yelm’s community theater, suffered a stroke Monday, July 8, while at rehearsal for a StageStruck Youth Theater original show called “Giving.”
She died Wednesday, July 10.
Hillman collaborated with Lucy Turchin on writing the script for "Giving," and was the show's director.
Cameron Jayne, artistic director of the Triad Arts Theater in Yelm, said that Hillman was "the dame of theater in Yelm," and that they chuckled when the two of them were discussing "Giving," over coleslaw at Ma and Pa's Family Diner.
"I know this play was my swan song but wanted to write a play all my life and now finally did... and that makes me happy," Hillman had told Jayne.
Dawn Young, who goes by Dawn Emilia in her career as an artist, is active as a director and producer for Standing Room Only Theater Company and texted the Nisqually Valley News from the hospital where Hillman passed.
"My family wouldn't be here in Yelm today if it wasn't for Nancy Tribush Hillman," Young said. "When we first drove through Yelm to look at a house, we drove past the Drew Harvey Theater. We looked at each other and said, 'This little town has a theater? It must be a great place to live.' We are her legacy, every one of us who she mentored, directed, taught and loved will continue to live her legacy and build the future theater community in Yelm."
When it comes right down to it, Hillman was all about educating a new generation of thespians.
“(StageStruck is) serious about what we are teaching children,” Hillman said in a previous interview with the Nisqually Valley News. “We are teaching them to express themselves. We are teaching them to be good at what they do. So it’s not just: ‘Here’s a song … sing it any way you want.’ We actually are an acting school.”
According to the Yelm Community Blog, Hillman was instrumental person in the Drew Harvey Theater, Standing Room Only (SRO) Theater Company and the StageStruck Youth Theater.
Hillman always said she was looking for the next moment of opportunity to touch a child’s life in a positive way, that theater was a teaching tool for life.
“The kids come in and they are like little mice,” Hillman said previously. “It’s like Cinderella. Everything is so wonderful and they are all just little angels, and that lasts for about a week. And then they start coming out of their shells, because that is something I do teach.”
She taught the kids to express themselves, to feel good on stage, to let go and entertain. These things are wonderful, but in order to fully experience the magic of theater, the kids need structure as well, Hillman said.
“We have to learn how to be disciplined and then it’s really fun because you know what you’re doing,” she said previously.
Virginia Coverdale, a friend of Hillman’s said that the community lost a legend with Hillman’s passing on a Facebook post.
“Nancy Tribush Hillman touched so many lives,” Coverdale posted. “In some families there are now three generations of people she has directed. She brought world-class theater to a tiny town in Washington state and with it, helped nurture the lives and character of all she touched. Her talent, her humor, her genius, her friendship are going to be so missed.”
In another Facebook post, Rachel Martinez, who shared a love of dance with Hillman, joined others in mourning.
“Dance is how we met and from there blossomed an amazing friendship, several plays later and a ton of unforgettable memories,” Martinez posted. I am braver, stronger and a little wiser because of her unwavering love and faith in me over the years. I smile, cry and giggle with each thought of her as I rewind and play back in my mind, our many wonderful adventures together.”