Posted by Bruce Miller
We were saddened to learn yesterday of the recent passing of actor and theatre enthusiast Curtis Morrisette, who died on Saturday, Nov 17, after a spirited battle with lung cancer. Curtis last appeared on the Barksdale stage as the crusty old stage door manager, Pops Bailey, in The 1940's Radio Hour.
The two photos that begin and end this post are from the Yellow House film, Hitiro the Peasant, in which Curtis appeared. Thanks to Stephanie Kelley and Justin Dray for use of the photos.
The bio Curtis wrote for the playbill of The 1940's Radio Hour read as follows:
“CURTIS MORRISETTE (Pops Bailey) is pleased once again to be on the stage of Barksdale Theatre. This is his third production with Barksdale. It has been his distinct privilege to work with Barksdale, Firehouse, CAT, HTC, RPAC, Jazz Actors, as well as the VCU Writers, Directors and Actors groups over the past several years. He gives grateful and heartfelt thanks to the present and past directors, stage managers, casts and crews with whom he has had the pleasure to work. ‘They are, and have been, my mentors. If I display any talent in my craft, it is because of their willing and unforgettable help.’”
In addition to his work as an actor, Curtis was a faithful Barksdale usher and friend.
Since 1940's Radio Hour, Curtis appeared as Vincentio with Susan Sanford as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at Richmond Shakespeare Theatre. Susan was Curtis’s director in The 1940's Radio Hour, and both actors are pictured together in the Shrew photo to the left. The photo was taken by Eric Dobbs. Andrew Hamm, who worked with Curtis on Shrew, has written a thoughtful remembrance of Curtis on his blog, http://andrewhamm.blogspot.com/.
Curtis was subsequently scheduled to appear in Flowers for Algernon at the Mill, but had to leave the show when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and required by his doctor to undergo immediate treatment.
As many times as I talked with Curtis, I have to admit we never discussed his family. Sadly, no one thus far knows if Curtis had any family members with whom he'd been in touch. That being the case, his final arrangements are being tended to by the Veterans Administration Hospital and the manager of the Berkshire Apartments downtown, where Curtis lived. Jil Wilson-Robinson, Vice President of the Virginia Actors Forum, is working with the apartment manager. If anyone knows anything about Curtis’s family, please contact Jil at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call the apartment manager directly at 804-644-7861.
Jil and others are also planning a memorial service for Curtis. More word on that will be coming.
Curtis seems to be best remembered for his good natured feistiness, his comical way of inventing a line when he had trouble remembering the one that was written, and his frequent visits to Lift, the coffee shop down the street from the Empire. In every instance, he was a positive force in our community and lots of fun. There’s not a minute with Curtis that we don’t remember with a smile, and not a jot of this vital, clever, generous man that we won’t miss.
With respect and affection, Barksdale's upcoming production of Doubt will be dedicated to Curtis's memory.