Waking A Giant

4 Jun

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If Theatre is a family (and it is), then it makes sense that I feel gut-punched right now…

…Because like every self-respecting LGBT-21st-Century-Community with multiple Mom’s and Dad’s, little sisters and big brothers, in a splendidly blended environment of love and universal acceptance…we are the village that it takes to raise a child. All of us were reared in it. And all of us will eventually take our turn (if we haven’t already), reaching out to the others who come after us.

…In that respect, our family has lost a once-“son”, then “father”, and now grand-poobah of a “grandpappy,” who has taken his final bow on this earth with the grace and dignity and showering of respect he has so very much earned, during his time on this planet. In this family.

When I first met him, he was a totally indestructible force of sparkling dry wit (still is), dressed in sooted togs, as the most beautiful Alfred P. Doolittle of all time. Beautiful in the dirt smears, in the picking at a flea in his armpit, in the good-ol-boy jeer and wink that killed the audience every single bloody night. Beautiful in his choices, in his art, in his reckless abandon at whatever his particular version of “dancing” was, as he lolliped about the stage with his mates and us, every night…dead of summer…covered from head to toe in wool-and-such, in a theatre with no air conditioning.

By show’s end, I was eternally gobsmacked and we were “pals.”

…I was 20 years old. A brand new transplant from California, and he was (and is) one of my first friends, in the first show I had ever done, here in this state.

…Which is how I’d eventually book a headshot session with him. And how I first met his other art: conducted behind the eye of a camera lense.

(Naturally, he was quite brilliant at that, as well.)

…As he was brilliant in “talk” in telling a yarn…in summing a story up seen as no one else quite sees it, in private IM’s after reading a blog I had written that particularly tickled his fancy.

Meanwhile: we worked on more shows.

…He: as a “softy” singing, “More I Cannot Wish You,”…watched nightly from the wings by the whole lot of us…the sweetness and endearment so very, very clear in his interpretation.

…Then: a hell of a court case, where I…ME…THIS person, right HERE…got to sit beside him…nightly…in a silent court room, just we two, in a single scene. As Drummond shared a window into his psyche in “Inherit the Wind.” A simple, moment, yes. But “full.”

…And you know the “fullness” that I mean.

…Or at least, I wish you to some day experience it, if you haven’t.

He was, (and is) quite frankly, loaded with “that thing.” That special whatever-the-hell-it-is that defines the “great” from the “good.” He was (and is) that extra step of something special…something you cannot quite put into words, but you absolutely can “show.” Least some people can. He can (and could.)

…And in case you’d ever doubted it…there was his gorgeous, human, wonderfully truthful without being overly sentimental Norman in, “On Golden Pond.”

…He is (and was), one of the greats. The greatest of them. You may have never heard his name, but you should. You may have never seen his work, but you ought to have. He would have taught you so much. He did, me. (And likely hundreds and hundreds of others.)

…Not just “how to be an actor” either. Not only lessons an actor could watch and mentally note for use later down the pike…when…IF… we were (or are) ever so lucky to have the talent and to have gained the access to perform the kinds of roles he did. I mean: just even as a “human.”

Human lessons.

…You know, the kind of things that “dad” and “granddads” are SUPPOSED to do.

…And his last one, for us…on a stage. The last one he took his bow from at large from here in the Pacific NW…was how to face age, and illness, and loss with dignity…with humor…with devotion…with love…with respect.

I’ve always said (and always will) he was one hell of an actor. But I think maybe he cheated a bit on that one. I think, more often then not, he supported that character with his own personal viewpoint and wit and sass. His own brand of “He-ness.”

A giant has passed our way, friends. He lit a lot of fires on his journey, and I am one of them. You might be too. And tonight I’d just like to raise a toast to my (and our) good friend, and head-of-the-family, as we know it…with thanks.

To the great Clark Maffitt.

Sincerely,

One of your many, many friends and fans,

~D

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4 Responses to “Waking A Giant”

  1. Carolyn Cook June 5, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    You made me think about the actors I love, the ones who’ve inspired me here in Atlanta, and the sadness I’ll feel when they’re gone. I am reminded to love and appreciate them all the more, right now, while I still have them with me. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. Steve Tarry June 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Well said, sweet girl. I hope when I’m gone someone will say something half as nice about me. For myself, I’m going to try to tell people before they’re gone.

  3. Jason Rasmussen June 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    One of the most kind, sincere and talented men I have ever had the honor of befriending or working with. Clark was a man who spoke softly and made you hang on every syllable like a prospector panning gold. The world is a far less beautiful place with him gone. Thankfully we were among the few who got to know him, I only wish I knew him better.

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