Friday, February 26, 2010

Remembering Jeff

My friend Jeffrey died a while ago only I didn't know about it. I wish I had.

I thought it was odd that he didn't return messages. I was a little confused when my emails bounced back. I was more than a little concerned when his phone number of more that 40 years had been disconnected. But it wasn't until yesterday that I learned of his death, when his brother emailed me after receiving a note I had sent Jeff, jokingly threatening to show up on his door step next week if he didn't get in touch with me (I told him I had already mapquested it).

(photo above by Danna Segrest)

It's nobody's fault that I hadn't heard but I wish I had.

I would have sent a card and flowers or made a contribution. I would have gone to the funeral. I would have met his family and most of all I would have told them what an incredibly talented man their brother and uncle was. So, I will tell you.

You may have known him because Jeffrey Jon Nash was one of us; a die hard "theatre person." Maybe you were lucky to have acted with him in any of the 3 dozens shows he did here. Maybe he designed the lights for a show you were in. Maybe you sat around his apartment listening to the latest Broadway Cast Album even before ANYBODY else even knew that the musical had been recorded. Maybe you got to perform something he wrote.

Jeff came to MSU to study communications and ended up staying for more than 9 years. Nine years doesn't seem like a lot of time in the broad scope of The Universe or even in the scope of our own short lives but Jeffrey accomplished a lot in those 9 years and left an indelible mark.

In that short time he acted with almost every company in town; The Okemos Barn Theatre, MSU, LCP, LCC, Boarshead Theatre, Arts Encounter, Riff Raff Productions, and Cabrafae Theatre. You might remember him from Damn Yankees, The Robber Bridegroom, Kiss Me Kate, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Godspell or any of the dozens of shows he did.

Then he discovered lighting design. He loved it and was incredibly good at it; designing and lighting multiple shows, staying long into the night patching, gelling, and focusing lights. He wrote 5 years of scripts for the Barney Awards and created a musical montage for Same Time Next Year that I still listen to; 24 years of music and news clips, a playlist, without a computer, the internet or iTunes!

By the time Jeff moved on he was himself a multiple award winning actor and designer. He was VERY proud of those Barney, Thespie, and State News Awards! He happily reminded you of them!

He went off to care for his ailing parents, learn about radio, and study acting. He became a radio show host in Indiana with the NBC affiliate station, was a member of The Actor's Center of London, The Actor's Alliance and Actor's Equity. He performed with Purple Rose Theatre in The Harmony Code and Orphan Train.

It was either a brilliant move on my part or just dumb luck that 16 years ago I asked him to judge a MIFA Theatre Festival. I ended up hiring him year after year because he was so good, was wonderful and kind to students and had such a great eye. He continued judging for MIFA until last year. The best part is that we got to see each other regualarly, talk for hours and hours about what we loved best; theatre and, yes, kvetching, about the shows we had seen. You know what I mean.

If you saw An Act of Madness: The Bath School Bombing at The Renegade Theatre Festival or in Bath this year, you saw something Jeff wrote. We collaborated on the script in 2004 for the forensic's season which he helped coach and revived it this year. I'm glad he came to the performances in Bath. I wanted him to hear the applause and feel the love.

I don't know how to wrap my head and especially my heart around losing Jeff. I thought we had years and years of kvetching to do. I am just honored that he was my friend.

Even in his passing he has brought people together to talk, to share, to reminisce, to look at old photos, programs and newspaper stories and to remind us what we all mean to each other.

From An Act of Madness....

"We will always remember you"

"Go well."