“The play’s the thing.” Those words that Shakespeare gave to Hamlet in reflecting on how he could prove that Claudius had killed his father are familiar to every aspiring actor and playwright. They also apply to Randy Tyler, one of our local thespians, who died earlier this month.
Randy made his home in the Northern Neck for the last 30 years, having come from his native city of Richmond. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he honed his knowledge of the theater trade in local theaters up and down the East Coast before ultimately following his mother and stepfather to the Northern Neck, where he settled in Irvington. Once here, he worked for a while at the Book Nook in Kilmarnock, where he was able to get to know others with similar literary interests—but his local celebrity derived from his interest in the theater.
The Lancaster Players proved to be the ideal fit for Randy. He appeared in numerous plays, directed some of them, and wrote scripts for others. He truly enjoyed acting, as well as producing a performance. He was a good critic as well, always setting his sights on having an engaging performance that would entertain his audience and send them away thinking of the play and the message it gave.
For Randy, one might modify Shakespeare and say that the play was the “total” thing, in that he was as concerned with the stage setting as he was with the spoken words. He saw facial expressions as being paired with dialogue in conveying the message. He learned how to get a play across to people by being an avid student of human life. He saw conversations as opportunities to learn about diverse people, and to observe and study their reactions, all with a view to understanding how he could build on his goal of being able to depict individuals’ thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Randy practiced dramatic writing as well as acting. He penned numerous plays seemingly effortlessly, but, in reality, paying keen attention to every facet of his work to tell the audience, whether by what was written, or by oral delivery or even by gesture, the message that he wished them to grasp.
His home reflected Randy’s diverse interests. He was an eclectic collector, accumulating pieces that “said” something to him. He could tell a story about each item, and, as with the plays he wrote and directed, he assembled seemingly different objects to make an overall mosaic of beauty and interest.
Many of Randy’s theater-goers and local fans might not have realized that he did it all with what to others would have been severe health limitations. He had undergone several heart procedures, from each of which he came back ready to move forward once again. He was an attentive son to his mother, Connie Miller. The two of them enjoyed each other’s company, particularly in patronizing local restaurants. Randy was one who never complained about his health—indeed, he never mentioned it. He accepted his condition and determined that he would lead as good and full a life as possible.
Randy’s passing has produced a great void in the cultural life of the Northern Neck. Not only by appearing on stage or writing a script did he make his presence known. As with all good writers, he was first a good listener, and he found a special niche sitting in a restaurant taking in the passing scene and chatting away with his friends of old and making new ones every day. He liked being a contributor to the ongoing unfolding of life in the Northern Neck. In that venue, he found his greatest and most abiding role.
Randal Morgan “Randy” Tyler, September 26, 1952 – January 8, 2021. R.I.P.