Monday, January 5, 2009

In That Great Getting Up Morning

I just heard that Jack Medhurst passed away on December 18th.

Back in the day Jack was the man. He did it all. And in my years at Ryerson he taught acting, movement and makeup. Always the consummate professional. Over the years I would run into Jack in the oddest places. Yonge and Gerrard, Robson Street, the RTS reunion. Always at unexpected times.

About 8 months ago my friend Jesse said, as we were finishing up lunch, "Do you know where Jack is?". And I said oh yeah he is living down at PAL. Turns out he had moved out so I contacted Ryerson and eventually I found out that he had moved to a nursing home in Scarborough. I passed the information on and Jesse and his sister Cheryl looked him up. And so it was at the end of his life that Jack spent a huge amount of comradeship and care with Jesse and Cheryl who had been among his first students lo those many years ago. Cheryl sent me a package today that had the obit, photos and a very sweet note.

And so it got me thinking. Especially since there have been a number of "famous" people dying, that here was one of the grand old men of Canadian theatre and he was pretty much forgotten. Not by his students but by the world in general. Much like Bob Christie, David Harris {Actors' Company in Hoxton} or Larry Ewashen. All former teachers of mine. There were many more.

There are many others, who worked like we do, in this most ephemeral of arts and their legacy lives on in dwindling stories, old playbills and that life saving nugget of information that we use to solve a tricky moment on stage.

I start directing a new play tomorrow. As always we start with the best intentions, high hopes and the desire to create a lasting impact. And therein lies the dichotomy. Lasting impact in a transitory art. An art that can only really live in the memories of those who saw it. An art whose reality will forever be shaped by the context around that memory. A thousand versions of each moment spring forth.

And so what is left to do but to create and live each moment fully in the art. Realize that each performance is unique, precious and melts away like cotton candy.
To do as we did back in the day...ribs up, breath from the sides, head straight and turn 2, 3, 4.

Fade to black. Thanks Jack.


JeanM said...

Thanks for posting this news, Phil. I remember Jack well from my days at Ryerson. Not only was he a consummate professional and a wonderful teacher, but he was a kind and dear man.

He will be in my thoughts now for awhile, and they will be fond ones.

Karen Higgins said...

Thanks, Phil for posting such wonderful comments about my Uncle Jack. He truly was a very influential man in Canadian theatre. He was always a warm and wonderful member of our family whom we miss very much.
Thank you again for such kind words.
Karen Higgins