Virtual Memorial Service for Local Playwright, Bookstore Owner Scheduled for Sunday Night
WHEELING — a virtual memorial service is planned for Thomas Scott Stobart — local bookstore owner, playwright, actor and writer — at 7 p.m. Sunday through Towngate Theatre’s Facebook page.
Stobart died on Aug. 4 in Wheeling after a long decline in health. He had specified that his obituary was to list his cause of death as a result of alcoholism. He was 66 years old.
Known by many in the community as the proprietor of the Paradox, an eclectic used bookstore in Centre Wheeling, Stobart was equally familiar to theatre audiences as an actor in more than 100 local plays and musicals. Yet it may be his playwrighting for which his peers will remember him. He was the author of 17 one-act and six full-length plays. One of his first plays, “The Ultimate Paradox,” was staged at Towngate Theatre for the Parcel Players under the direction of Hal O’Leary. That play’s title also served as the first name of his used bookstore, established on 11th Street in downtown Wheeling in 1973. When he moved the bookstore to its current location in Centre Market, he dropped the “ultimate” from its name.
At the encouragement of O’Leary, productions of Stobart’s plays were staged at Towngate Theatre over the years, including “Under the Bridge to the Stars,” “Ever After” and “In Terminal Decline,” which held the venue’s box-office records for many years. The first of his plays produced there in the main (adult) season was a collection of one-acts entitled “Looking In and Other Incidents” in 1978, and the first main season full length play written by Stobart was “Minor Auditions for a Major Role” in 1981.
The most recent Towngate production of a Stobart play was 2015’s revival of “In Terminal Decline.”
In addition to Towngate productions, the Independent Theatre Collective and the Cornerstone Project locally produced many of Stobart’s one-act plays, including “Next to Nothing,” “The Strap,” and “Suburban Garden.” His full-length play, “A Toy Called God,” was produced at the Actors Company in Pittsburgh and Erie, PA. The Shadowbox Cabaret in Columbus staged a production of his shows “Oh, Rob” and “Ever After,” which was also produced in Japan. Stobart’s “Minor Auditions for a Major Role” was produced at the Scorpio Repertory Theatre in Hollywood. Ill health decreased his artistic activities over the last ten years of his life.
A 1971 graduate of Triadelphia High School, Stobart attended Bethany College, abandoning formal education in favor of voracious reading, writing, and experiencing. His love of literature was clear to anyone who entered his bookstore, and most of the time, he would read quietly as browsers perused the crowded aisles of his used books, but for anyone who wanted to talk, he would eagerly engage with his rich baritone voice that, combined with his precise diction, corroborated his disposition for the theater.