By all accounts, Tamela Glenn was a unique woman. Members and friends of the Bangor and Orono area theater communities recalled Glenn, who died after she was hit by a car in Old Town Wednesday night at the age of 54, as a person of many talents, both artistic and interpersonal.
“I’ve known her since we were in college at UMaine,” said Julie Lisnet, executive director of Ten Bucks Theatre Company and an actor last seen in Penobscot Theatre’s “One Blue Tarp.” “I truly would describe her as a Renaissance woman. Theater was just one part of her life. She was a musician, a singer, she studied philosophy, she was a designer, and then eventually a massage therapist. She was a remarkable woman.”
Glenn was an Orono native; her father was a professor at the University of Maine, and her mother, Betsy Glenn, was a longtime fourth grade teacher at Asa Adams Elementary School. After completing her degree in philosophy and art at the University of Maine, she moved to New York City, where she lived through much of the 1980s.
She returned to Orono in the mid-1990s to be closer to her family, and she founded the Theater of the Silver Dragon, a youth theater troupe. Former students of hers took to Facebook in droves Wednesday night and Thursday morning to pay their condolences. Kate Kirby, 25, a filmmaker and adjunct international affairs instructor at UMaine, was one of them.
“She was an amazing director. She’d get right up on stage and act it out and give us tips,” said Kirby. “She was so passionate and patient. She had this really fiery energy, really beautiful sparkly eyes. She was full of spunk. Very graceful and mysterious. She wore really neat clothes. She carried herself in this very sophisticated way. I just loved her.”
With Theater of the Silver Dragon, Glenn would write one-act plays tailor-made to the students she had for each class; they would often be spoofs of genres and writers, such as film noir, Jane Austen and other classic stories. Sometimes she’d write all-original plays, such as “Borderline,” a teen play about mental illness.
Glenn performed in a number of Penobscot Theatre and Ten Bucks productions, including “Amadeus” in 1995, “Sweeney Todd” in 1996, “A Flea In Her Ear” in 1997 and “Our Town” in 1998, all for Penobscot Theatre. For Ten Bucks, she acted in “The Bald Soprano” and “Rumors” in 2002 and 2003, respectively, and she directed and wrote several plays for them in 2005 and 2006.
By 2006, however, Glenn had retired from theater, transitioning into a career in massage therapy and natural healing. In the early 2000s, she traveled to England to learn different techniques and approaches. She was affiliated with River City Therapy and Wellness in Bangor.
“She came to us almost as soon as we opened,” said Deb Smith, one of the founders of the wellness center. “The woman had a technique or an intuition … just a way of healing people. I can’t even call it massage, specifically. It was just an amazing, unique ability. There was no one else who did what she did. I’m very worried about her patients. She touched a lot of people.”
Smith did not know Glenn’s age until she heard of her passing. She assumed Glenn was in her late 30s or early 40s, and was surprised to find she was 54.
“She was just beautiful, so youthful,” said Smith. “But she really kept to herself. She was quite introverted. She was not social. She just had this incredible ability to cue into people’s emotions … and yet, I found out from a client who knew her in New York that she used to be a singer in a rock band. She was always surprising.”
Kirby hadn’t seen Glenn in years, but she happened upon her by chance last December.
“I saw her at the Natural Living Center [in Bangor] around Christmastime, and I got so nervous because I just looked up to her so much,” said Kirby. “I’m kicking myself that I didn’t go talk to her. It’s a reminder that life is fragile, and if someone has an impact on your life, you should let them know. I was devastated to find out she had died.”