Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Memoriam: Jack Parrish

Posted by Bruce Miller
Sharing the sadness that so many in the Richmond theatre community are feeling this evening, I’m sorry to report on the passing of Jack Parrish (pictured to the right with Cathy Shaffner standing and Jan Guarino in Money Matters). Jack was an outstanding Richmond theatre artist and a longtime friend to many of us who’ve been walking these boards for a while. After a lengthy battle with lung cancer, Jack only recently went into hospice care and died this afternoon.

I met Jack in the early 70s when I was rising in the ranks of the theatre program at U of R and Jack was similarly placed in the theatre program at VCU. One of my favorite Jack memories from those early days was when he starred in a wonderful VCU production of As You Like It, I think during one of the FanFare summers. FanFare was VCU’s erstwhile summer theatre operation.

Jack moved out of town after graduating from VCU, worked a few years in New York, landed some soap opera work, and then worked mainly in regional theatre. He played Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story, Uncle Ernie in The Who’s Tommy, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, and many other dashing roles (Jack was good at dashing). He appeared at prestigious professional theatres including The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Asolo Theatre in Florida, and Mill Mountain Playhouse in Roanoke.

Jack returned to Richmond in the late 80s, maybe early 90s, to star at Theatre IV as the dashing spy in the classic Civil War melodrama, Secret Service. His other major Theatre IV roles were as The Man in the Yellow Suit in Tuck Everlasting, and as an unforgettable Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

At Barksdale, Jack starred in Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Little Foxes, The Crucible, James Joyce’s The Dead, Scapino!, the world premiere of Money Matters, and Anything Goes.

Shortly after his foray into Cole Porter, Jack moved to Lexington KY to share a city with his great friend, Rick St. Peter, and to lead the theatre program at a local university. He returned to Richmond during the summers to star in the Henry plays at Richmond Shakespeare, having to leave his role two summers ago when he was first diagnosed and began chemotherapy.

Jack also was an acclaimed director, rallying the forces of several of Theatre IV's touring productions. His contributions to Richmond theatre are immeasurable, and he will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to Jack’s wife, Kathy, their son, Clay, and the rest of his family.

With love and respect, Barksdale will dedicate The Grapes of Wrath, our upcoming co-production with TheatreVCU, to Jack’s abiding memory.

--Bruce Miller


Frank Creasy said...

Bruce, I'm sure you'll also remember warmly Jack's villainous "man in the yellow suit" in Tuck Everlasting at Theatre IV. My first entrance as the Constable was followed close behind by Jack, and my Constable was required to come on full of bluster and unhappy about being rushed away from home. Jack often thought it would give me a little extra "in the moment" inspiration if he sent me onstage right on my cue with a generous "goose" to get me going! Oddly, but this is the first time I've shared that story. I guess sometimes we keep these "behind the scenes" stories private only because they are a kind of inside joke we like to prefer to keep to ourselves. For Jack and me, I guess that was one of ours. At least, it was for me.

Every time Jack hit the stage, he was totally in command. Never lacking for confidence, getting to know him you'd get a glimpse at a bit of the insecurity all actors possess, and many of us conceal quite well. Jack was ever the professional, often full of swagger, but beneath the big chest was a big heart - and a soft spot if you paid attention.

The time goes all so quickly. Jack was such a wonderful talent to watch (I remember fondly his terrific performance in "The Crucible"), and a pleasure to share the stage with - you never had to worry about anything but holding up YOUR end. Jack had everything else covered.

My sympathies go to his family, and I join the Richmond theatre community in mourning the loss of a wonderful talent. Rest in peace Jack.

Jacquie O. said...

Jack also was one of the silly fathers in Scapino. It was my first time working with him - which seemed strange since I had known him for years, but that is the wonderful thing about a small town. A favorite memory will always be the day that Dawn Westbrook blocked the scene in which the character Scott Wichmann was playing tricks Jacks character into getting into this life size peanut bag and then proceeds to beat the living tar out of him - all in good fun of course. Jack kept popping out of the bag announcing that did we all know he had a degree in theatre and could do Shakespeare?! And he was right as I later got to see him do the king in Henry IV-I…and yes indeed he could do Shakespeare. Thank you for posting this lovely tribute Bruce. He will be missed greatly.

Bruce Miller said...

Frank and Jacquie,

Thanks for reminding me of these roles. I've edited the copy to include them.