Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In Memoriam: Lloyd Shockley

Posted by Bruce Miller
Today, I'm afraid, is not turning out to be a good day. Within a couple of hours of hearing of the passing of Elizabeth Prevatt (see the post that follows), I’m saddened again to report the death of a key figure among Barksdale’s legendary actors, Lloyd Shockley. Tom McGranahan called our office this morning with the bad news. Apparently Lloyd's obituary appeared in the newspaper over the weekend but I missed it. We had heard that Lloyd was suffering from cancer and that the prognosis was not good. But no one expected things to progress so quickly.

Lloyd first appeared on the Barksdale Hanover Tavern stage in 1973 as the handsome new actor who starred as Jonathan Harker in Dracula and Paul Bratter in Barefoot in the Park, back to back. He performed in those early years under the name Lloyd Wayne. In ‘75 he joined Barksdale's all-star cast of That Championship Season, followed immediately by the comedy thriller, Catch Me if You Can. In ’76 he appeared in one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen at Barksdale, My Fat Friend, and in ’77 he channeled John Barrymore in The Royal Family (see both photos).

His most famous role at Barksdale was as McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1979. I use the word "famous" because: a) Lloyd was terrific in the part (I saw him Opening Night and was blown away), and b) early in the run he broke his leg and had to be replaced with no notice by John Tayloe, a talented young actor who had recently appeared in the same role at TheatreVCU. Lloyd’s last role at Barksdale may have been the 1981 world premiere of Bad Day at Black Rock.

Since then, Lloyd has been focusing on his very successful career in marketing, representing clients from around the country, including, I’m told, Walt Disney World.

Lloyd had an edgy energy that drove audiences wild—it was a Jack Nicholson sort of thing. The last couple times I saw him, we talked about his return to the stage. He may have been humoring me, but he always seemed at least somewhat interested. It was like acting was something he looked forward to revisiting sometime after he retired.

After initially posting this memorial, I was reminded by colleagues that Lloyd's last acting gig may have been Theatre IV's production of Hamlet in the Little Theatre, sometime in the early to mid-90s. Hamlet was directed by Gary Hopper (one of Lloyd's co-stars in Bad Day at Black Rock), and starred David Bridgewater. One of the funniest Hamlet stories (and we all know what a laugh riot Hamlet can be) involves Lloyd, so I'll retell it now.

Any of you who have ever been involved in a production with either Gary Hopper or Dave Bridgewater know that these guys relish quirky creativity. Put them together and it's time to sing Katie, Bar the Door.

Lloyd was playing Claudius to Dave's Hamlet. During the rehearsal process, Dave was flipping channels one night and happened upon The Godfather Part II on TV. Dave saw the amazing scene where Al Pacino as Michael goes up to John Cazale as Fredo (Michael's brother) and delivers the "kiss of death," indicating to the world that Fredo must be killed for betraying his family. "Il bacio della morte." You can find the scene at http://www.boxxet.com/Al_Pacino/video:the-godfather-the-kiss-of-death/.

Dave thought this would be a GREAT inspiration for the scene where Hamlet kills Claudius. When he shared the idea with Gary, Gary agreed. So the two of them sat down with Lloyd. They explained to Lloyd their idea: Hamlet (Dave) would stab Claudius (Lloyd), then take the poisoned wine. Hamlet would toast the fallen (but not dead yet) Claudius, take a big swig of the wine (Hamlet knows by this time that he's been poisoned, so what's he got to lose), and then give Claudius the "kiss of death."

From all accounts, Lloyd, who was a pretty straight-forward actor, listened to their idea with this twisted, skeptical smile growing on his face, eyebrows rising higher and higher as the details emerged. The look on his face has been described to me as "priceless." Then, just as everyone thought Lloyd was going to laugh them out of the room, he snorted and said, "Well, all right. But no tongue!"

They wound up playing the scene with the "kiss of death" every night, and it never failed to elicit a gasp from the audience. Thanks to Dave for reminding me of this story.

Good ole' Lloyd. He was only in his mid-60s. He left us far too soon and will be greatly missed. May "flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

In keeping with our tradition, we will dedicate our holiday production of A Sanders Family Christmas at Hanover Tavern to his memory. And we will always honor his on-stage talent and his off-stage friendship.

Note: Both photos come from Barksdale's 1977 production of The Royal Family. The women in the top photo are Rebecca Barrows as Della and Nancy Kilgore as Julie Cavendish. Lloyd played Anthony Cavendish.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

marian said...

Thank you, Bruce, for your wonderful comments and stories about Lloyd.
He was one of the first persons i met as a college freshman[ he a senior].
Later i was blessed with the VMT role of Guinevere in the production of Camelot. Lloyd was in the service at that time but was getting VMT mailings.
When he saw i was doing theatre at VMT, he wrote me the kindest and most encouraging letter. Sweet.
Was always delighted to see him over the years. And was so sad to see the Times-Dispatch article, but proud to see top headlines and story for this incredibly talented and dear man...
But none the less , my mouth fell open in shock as quiet tears began to swell.
i cut out the article, put it on my piano, and have had a candle lit by it since.
when I did a 'search' tonight,as needed to 'touch' his spirit with others, i clicked right to your link. It was like being with an old friend, too.
...and when read your stories, had to write you asap with a BIG THANKS.
Love and peace be with his spirit and all that loved him.
Take care, dear Bruce.Thanks again
for being here with pics and stories.
love light peace
marian hollowell