Celebrating her 90th birthday, Ernie Dyer also was honored for 63 years of supporting and volunteering at Daytona Playhouse.
“In 1955 a young lady from Massachusetts named Ernestine Carlson walked into Daytona Playhouse to volunteer and she has never left” said Kathy Thompson, president of the playhouse board.
Ernestine “Ernie” (now) Dyer was born in Ashland, Mass., but has resided in Daytona Beach since 1953. The Daytona Playhouse had a grand opening in 1955, which she attended. She auditioned for the next play at the new venue, and the rest is history.
At 90, Ms. Dyer is not only working as a writer for a Noroton Publishing in Darien, Conn., she volunteers at the Museum of Arts and Science and continues volunteering in numerous capacities at the Playhouse. She has written reviews for many local plays.
“Ernie has done it all” Ms. Thompson stated. “She has been a superb actress in too many productions to mention other than one of her favorites, the ‘Dowager Empress,’ as Anastasia in 1979. On stage, back stage, front of the house or on the board, Ernie has been at the heart of the organization.”
She has worked on or performed in over 200 plays to date.
“There isn’t an inch of that theatre I didn’t know,” Ms. Dyer said. “They built the theatre, they opened the doors and there I was.”
She met her husband Joseph Edwin “Jed” Dyer at the Playhouse and enjoyed 42 years of marriage until he died in 2007. A WWII fighter pilot, Mr. Dyer created sets and was an artist and actor. Ms. Dyer said she took one look at him and decided “OK, he’s mine.”
They shared the same July 2 birthday.
At the recent 2018-19 Season Preview, the Playhouse surprised and honored Ms. Dyer, presenting her with a proclamation from Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, a cake and champagne party with everyone attending the preview.
“I consider Ernie Our First Lady and we all adore her,” Ms. Thompson said. “I look forward to celebrating her 100th birthday right here as well.”
Ms. Dyer agreed the party was so fun when she wrote to thank staff she added, “When I am 100, I want another party.”
Ms. Thompson said Ms. Dyer has swept floors at the Playhouse and done whatever was needed and still sees every show and volunteers constantly. “She is mentally very sharp and in incredible shape” she said. “Most of us envy her and we are all 20 years younger! She is serene, calm, passionate about theatre (travels to NYC to see shows).”
The Playhouse started the Jed and Ernie Dyer scholarship program in 2009 and has awarded 14 scholarships to local high school students.
“She is an inspiration to me and others,” Ms. Thompson said.
Despite macular degeneration, bouts with cancer and heart issues, Ms. Dyer still walks, rides a bike and keeps a positive attitude. She also reads and has traveled extensively.
Besides Anastasia, her other favorite role was playing the Mad Woman of Chaillot.
“They were fun to do, they were challenging, they called me to give a little more than I thought I was ready to give,” Ms. Dyer said.
“I love being onstage,” she said. “I love looking out at the audience. You can pinpoint someone and act at them. Every time you do a play, you learn a little more.”
Having no formal training, Ms. Dyer said she learned as she went.
“Forget yesterday, it’s past” she said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. I am so eager to find what’s going to happen tomorrow, what’s coming next week, where am I going.”