J. Thomas ‘Tom’ Kidd died suddenly on December 14, 2020, in Carbondale, Illinois.
Born on May 21, 1953 in Lavonia, Georgia, one of his early memories was singing and performing for his grandmother’s bible study group at the Lavonia Baptist Church. He graduated from Franklin County High School in 1971 where he performed in numerous plays and musicals, helped found a Thespian Troupe and went to Governors Honors Program in Drama in the summer of 1970. In 1975, he graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens, with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation with a specialty in Performing Arts. It was at UGA, under the mentorship of Jane Quinn, that Tom realized his true vocations: theater educator, mentor, and director/choreographer.
Tom began his professional career in 1975 working as Artistic Director of the Athens Creative Theatre. Under his supervision and direction, hundreds of young people developed a love for the performing arts, through creative dramatics and full-scale theater productions. Many of the young people who worked under Tom’s direction found their ‘home’ in the theatre, and many became theater professionals.
In 1981, Tom moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He became a resident actor at the Nashville Academy Theatre (now the Nashville Children’s Theatre), and also taught creative dramatics and puppet theater. While performing at the Nashville Academy Theatre, Tom met his wife, Laura. And, although Laura did not remember meeting Tom for the first time, Tom always said that, for him, it was love at first sight. They married in Nashville on August 13, 1983, and moved back to Athens where Tom resumed his position directing the Athens Creative Theatre. In 1985, their son Michael Magill was born (it was also love at first sight!) While in Athens, Tom worked for Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta for five years as choreographer/director for their live shows, and directed two shows for the University of Georgia Opera Workshop.
In 1987, Tom and his family moved to Marietta GA, where he became theater instructor and director of the Cobb Center for the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton GA. He continued work for Six Flags Over Georgia, the Atlanta Braves Baseball Team, and the Kimball Piano Industrial Show. Tom also acted in The Crucible for the Academy Theatre in Atlanta, created and performed in solo productions for The Georgia Center Performance Series in Athens, (including Mark Twain Tonight, Kaufman at the Algonquin, and Noel Coward: His Talent to Amuse), and as P.T. Barnum in Barnum at the Savannah Theater Company.
Tom and his family moved to Ames IA, in 1990 where his wife earned her PhD. In Ames, Tom worked for the Co-Motion Dance Theatre, as general manager and performer, and also worked for the Des Moines Playhouse, as director and choreographer of several musicals. He was also the President of the Ames Art Council.
In 1993, Tom and his family moved to Honolulu HI, where his wife had a teaching position at the University of Manoa. Tom directed and/or choreographed productions for the Manoa Valley Theatre, the Army Community Theatre and the Diamond Head Theatre and was a puppeteer and actor in a touring show produced by Kaiser Permanente. He received numerous awards for his direction and choreography, including the Hawai’i State Theater Council Po’okela Award for his direction of Angels in America: Part II: Perestroika.
The family moved back to the mainland to Carbondale, IL, in 1993 where his wife taught at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (SIUC). Tom began his work on an MFA in Theater, specializing in Directing at SIUC (completed, 1998) and began his professional association with regional theatres, including the McLeod Summer Playhouse as choreographer and director. In 1999, Tom accepted a position in the theater department at Shorter College in Rome, GA, and became department chair in 2000. At Shorter, Tom continued his work as director and choreographer, producing dozens of plays and musicals. He was selected Teacher of Year in 2003.
Tom accepted a position as Associate Professor of Acting and Directing at SIUC in the Department of Theater in 2003. He was Chair of the department for eight years, and also Managing Artistic Director of McLeod Summer Playhouse for six years. While in the Department of Theater, he directed and/or choreographed dozens of shows. For the McLeod Summer Playhouse, he directed or choreographed most of the main stage productions as well as children’s productions. Tom continued his association with Shorter College, as guest director/choreographer. Additionally, he worked with theaters in Atlanta, Lakes Region Summer Theatre in NH and the Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, IL. In his seventeen years in Carbondale and at SIUC, Tom directed and/or choreographed dozens and dozens of productions. He was a professional member of the Association of Theater in Higher Education, the Society of American Fight Directors, and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.
Tom’s theater students in Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, Hawai’i, at Shorter College and SIUC consistently won local, state and national awards recognizing their excellence in performance.
Wherever Tom lived and worked, he inspired thousands of young people to love and participate in the performing arts. His creativity, kindness, and passion for the theatre will continue to live on in those who had the privilege to know and work with him. Many of his students became life-long friends and continue to work as theater professionals. Tom’s generosity knew no bounds. He always surrounded his family and friends with his love and support. To many people, he was not just a friend, but also a brother and a father. Tom will continue to be an inspiration to all who knew him.
Left to mourn Tom’s death is his wife of 37 years, Laura Klosterman, his beloved son Michael Magill Kidd (Kristin Tyndell), and the heart-and-soul of his life, grandsons Logan and Clark. He is also survived by his mother-in-law, Florence Klosterman. Tom is survived by his brother David Kidd (Jane Vandiver) and their children, Elizabeth Kidd Hogan (Matt) and children Allie and Sam, and Alex Kidd (Von Ditthavong); brother, Doug Kidd (Penley Toffolon) and their children Fielding Kidd Jamieson (Stewart) and son Wells, and Jack Kidd; and his brother Charlie Kidd. Tom is survived by his in-laws: Bill Klosterman (Nan) and their children Elizabeth Klosterman Frye (Justin) and children Evie and Sam, Anna Klosterman and fiancée Danny Larsen, and Kate Klosterman Rosenfelt (Hunter); Susan Klosterman Meiers (David) and daughter Emma; Teresa Klosterman Chamley (Steve) and daughters Claire Staub (Tony) and Ellen Tjaden (Jordan); Paul Klosterman (Marianne) and children Ginna, William, and Celia; Rachel Klosterman; and Chuck Klosterman (Melissa) and children Silas and Hope.
Tom was preceded in death by his father, Charles Alexander Kidd, Jr., his mother (Martha) Frances Bradford Kidd, his father-in-law, William Klosterman, Sr., and his nephew, Jim Meiers.
Tom continued to extend his generosity as an organ and tissue donor. He was cremated and a celebration of his life and memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. Memorials may be sent to Laura Kidd at her address, and will be put in a special fund for Tom’s grandchildren.