A hoax to celebrate Walt Deverell’s retirement
At first, it was a simple affair. But it didn’t stay that way.
When Don Devost of Marble Trail Financial called Town Hall Theater to see if it would host a surprise retirement party, the THT team jumped at the chance. The retiree was none other than Walt Deverell, a beloved Middlebury accountant who over the decades has worked at Miller Deverell, Misasi and Misasi, and recently Marble Trail Financial.
“Walt has deep roots in this community,” said THT artistic director Doug Anderson. “He’s worked tirelessly for decades for Festival-on-the-Green, and he was THT’s pro bono treasurer for our first 20 years.”
Deverell also serves as house manager for many Town Hall Theater events, and that was the key to an elaborate scam.
“A surprise party always has one big problem: how to get the person to the event?” It was Anderson’s idea to construct a phony THT event and then ask Deverell to be the house manager for it. “We thought it would be hilarious if every person coming in the front door knew they were coming to a party for Walt, and the guy greeting them — Walt — had no idea. Everybody had to play their part.”
With the help of Lloyd Komesar, the idea was hatched for the phony event to be a Middlebury New Filmmaker’s Festival screening, of — what else — “The Accountant,” starring Ben Affleck. “It’s an actual film,” said Anderson. “We knew Walt couldn’t resist being here for a film with that title.”
Phony posters were made, and the phony screening was promoted on the THT marquee. Komesar agreed to be there, pacing the lobby as he always does for an MNFF screening. “Lloyd’s acting was perfect. He kept barking into a phone as if something was going wrong.” The MNFF logo was on the big screen, and to add to the verisimilitude, Anderson asked MNFF photographer Steve James to attend as well. With Komesar and James in the lobby, Deverell had every reason to think it was a real screening of a real film.
The other challenge was to get everyone attending, nearly 70 people, to not only keep the secret, but to act as if they came to see a movie. “People were wonderful,” said Anderson. “They told Walt they came because they were fans of Ben Affleck, or that they saw the film years ago and couldn’t wait to see it again. No one spilled the beans.” Deverell may have noticed that he knew every single person coming to see the film, but to play it safe his best friends, workmates and wife Mary Ann slipped in through the back door.
When Walt was called into the theater to help with a “problem”, a photo of him with the word “Congratulations!” had replaced the MNFF logo on the big screen. All the Marble Trail Financial workers were wearing green suspenders — Walt’s trademark. When a huge cheer went up, Deverell was absolutely stunned. The scam had worked perfectly.
“I was totally and I mean TOTALLY surprised,” Deverall wrote after the event. “If I live to be 100, I’ll remember this night and the kindness you all showed me.”
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