Spotlight On Lee and Dolly Butz, PSF 2024 Season Sponsors

By Bill Hoblin

PSF is delighted Lee and Dolly Butz are the 2024 Season Sponsors and honored and humbled that they have been involved with Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival since its inception in 1991. 

In 1981 Fr. Gerard Schubert, OSFS (PSF founder and founding chairperson of then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales Theater and Speech Department), observed Lee taking photos of the construction of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. Lee was there because his company, Alvin H. Butz, was the builder. Fr. Schubert asked if he ever shot photos of theatre productions? Lee hadn’t but took on the challenge to shoot professional quality theatre photos in color. 

Lee began photographing every Act One and PSF play, every year. In addition to donating his time and skill, Lee also covered the cost of developing and printing the photos that hung in the Labuda lobby before every play. Until last year, Lee—an Honorary Director of the PSF Board of Directors—was PSF’s official photographer and shot the dress rehearsals of every PSF production. 

Lee started working for his father in his general contracting company while in high school. He was interested in journalism and wanted to be a baseball player, but his father declared that after high school, Lee would attend Lehigh University to study civil engineering. 

“It was different in those days; I wasn’t given a choice,” Lee reminisced. “The first thing I did was to check to see if Lehigh had a baseball team.” Lucky for him, they did. Lee loved baseball and played in high school, college, and in the Army. Lee admits to being very competitive. He believes his competitiveness, along with concentration on performing (a skill he picked up while playing baseball) translated very well to running a business. Plus, if playing baseball professionally didn’t work out, he could always fall back on civil engineering. 

Lee sees many parallels between playing baseball and the theatre. In baseball there are practices, and in theatre there are rehearsals. Both have a focus on fundamentals and working on specific details to perfect them. “Getting ready for a game is very similar to getting ready for opening night,” he notes. And like in baseball, there are stars and there are supporting players.

Lee and Dolly Butz have been married for 68 years. “Dolly is a doting mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” says Lee. “She is the glue that holds our family together and she’s seen virtually every production at PSF, and especially enjoys the musicals and comedies.” 

For the past 30 years, Dolly has been involved with the Fund to Benefit Children and Youth Inc. as a board member and treasurer. Operation Santa Claus is her creation and every Christmas they provide gifts for more than 700 children who are under the care of Lehigh County Children and Youth Services.

Alvin H. Butz was the Festival Sponsor for PSF’s Inaugural Season in 1992, and the company has been a Production Sponsor every year since. This year, though, Lee and Dolly chose to personally be the Season Sponsors. This change is special for them. “Dolly and I feel very close to PSF,” says Lee. “We are proud to participate and support all of the great productions that PSF has done over the years and especially at this stage of our lives. Theatre is very important. We want to make sure our participation reflects that.” 

When asked if he has a favorite PSF production, Lee says, “There have been so many over the years. I’m a fan of Evita and I saw Les Misérables five times! Patrick Mulcahy’s production of The Winter’s Tale was amazing, as was anything Dennis Razze directed. While trying to shoot The Mystery of Irma Vep in 2007, I was laughing so hard, my hands were shaking.” 

When considering the future of the Festival, Lee would like to see PSF continue on its current trajectory. “One of the joys has been the quality, and the constant increase in quality year after year. We have recognized award-winning talent. So many great actors keep coming back like Jim Helsinger, Christopher Patrick Mullen, and Greg Wood…just to name a few. It’s a big positive, a big draw.” 

Lee continues, “PSF is one of the great assets of our region. It enhances the quality of our lives and is an excellent measure of the culture of our community. It is also a terrific example of how diverse and desirable our community is. Our support of PSF goes beyond supporting a play each season; it is contributing positively to the entire region and making it a better place to live.”