James Lee Buckley, son of the Pewter Plough Playhouse founder and Artistic Director James Buckley (known as JB), died Dec. 22, just two and a half weeks shy of his 66th birthday. Buckley was a familiar face to anyone who spent time at the theater where he ran the bar and café, coordinated marketing efforts, and cared for and assisted his 101-year-old father in all aspects of the 37-year-old theater company’s operations. Friends within the Cambria theater community describe Buckley as soft-spoken, kind, and, above all, a devoted son.
Actor David Norum, who has performed in seven shows at the Pewter Plough and whose wife is on the Playhouse’s board of directors, had the following to say:
“When I think of James I think of the word family, and not just because of his unmatched devotion to his father JB. I think of how he always made my wife and I feel like a big part of his personal and theater family … The show goes on and James is always there, tending bar, talking knowledgeably to anyone and everyone about the theater, his father, and just about every play ever written and every production ever mounted at the Plough and on Broadway. We will miss you, Brother James.”
Director and performer Jill Turnbow said, “James gave so much to the theater. He gave everything to keep his legacy going. I honestly don’t know what will happen now that he’s gone.”
Viv Goff, who regularly directs plays at the Pewter Plough Playhouse including a production of Odd Couple in August, and serves as treasurer on the board of directors, said there hadn’t been time to discuss the theater company’s future, and insisted that the board of directors would support whatever future decisions Buckley made.
But there’s no question of his son’s commitment to and impact on the theater company, and broader community.
“The contributions that he’s made … He’s just worked himself to death,” said Goff. “That’s a saying, but it’s true in this case; taking care of his father and doing everything for the playhouse. He helped his father with any idea that came along … He got very little sleep. He was amazing and all he cared about was keeping the playhouse alive for his father and I think that’s why Mr. Buckley, at 101, is still around. It’s a loss. It’s a real, real loss.”
Goff added: “James was kind, considerate, soft-spoken, and cared about everyone in the whole town of Cambria.”