A painful week for friends of the theatre with the passing of educator and director Gil Sharp and producer, director, and actor Don Phillips, Jr.
The first week of April was painful for friends of the theatre, with the passing of two men whose lives were devoted to the stage. Gil Sharp, the driving force behind Crockett High School's award-winning theatre department for two decades, died on Monday, March 31. Upon earning a degree from East Texas State University in 1977, the Valdosta, Ga., native came to Austin, where he started at Crockett and never left. In addition to teaching theatre, speech, and film, he directed Crockett's annual entry in the University Interscholastic League State One-Act Play Contest. Last year's production of Holy Ghosts, co-directed by Sharp and Mary Nancarrow, was the first show by Sharp to go all the way to state; it placed second in the 5-A division, and three cast members received the State All-Star Cast Medal. Sharp's productions were characterized by a sensitivity of performance, with subtlety of acting and a strong sense of ensemble. Sharp died the Monday after this year's district competition, and it's a tribute to him that Crockett's entry, Over the River and Through the Woods, advanced to area and is headed to regional. Sharp is survived by his wife, Mary Price Sharp, father Cecil, brother Curtis, and sister Geraldine Sharp Mendez. Memorial contributions can be made to Hospice Austin, 4107 Spicewood Springs Rd., Austin, 78759, or to the Gil Sharp Memorial Scholarship Fund, Crockett High School, 5601 Manchaca, Austin, 78745.
Then, on Friday, April 4, theatre producer, director, and actor Don Phillips Jr. unexpectedly took his final bow. Best known for Murder by Design Productions, his interactive mystery/comedy entertainment company, Phillips had made a life of performance. He had a background in magic; acted in and directed traditional stage plays, dinner theatre, TV, and video; wrote for radio, film, and theatre; worked in radio as an on-air personality, news and traffic reporter, and news director; even taught attorneys how to act with his "Persuasive Speaking for the Courtroom" course. Murder by Design consumed most of Phillips' energies for the last dozen years. He designed, wrote, produced, and directed more than 100 events for corporate clients from 3M, Dell, and Motorola to Ernst & Young and Pappas Restaurants. Still, he found time to serve as managing director of the 300-member industry association the Actors' Alliance (1996-1999) and sit on the executive board for Austin Circle of Theatres (2000-2002), to appear in numerous movies and TV shows, including Lone Star, Waiting for Guffman, and Bottle Rocket, and produce traffic reports for local radio and television. Don was a retired captain from the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He is survived by his wife, Jan, daughter Heather and her family, and mother Jennie. Services are April 10, 10am, at St. George's Episcopal Church, 4301 N. I-35.
Carp for Mare
In the race to lead our fair city, you now have a choice between Katz and a Carp. Yes, Vera Carp, the most fashionable matron of tiny Tuna, Texas, has thrown her pillbox hat into the ring for the Austin mayoral race, and as Vera's inaugural vehicle Greater Tuna returns to town for a week-long stay at the Paramount, the Zachary Scott Theatre Center is having a fund-raiser in support of the Carp campaign. For $50 (which benefits Zach), you get a primo seat for the Tuesday, April 15 performance of Tuna, starring Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, then get to whoop it up with Vera at a post-show reception at the Inter-Continental Stephen F. Austin Hotel. For information, call 476-0541 x1.
It Was 20 Years Ago Today ...
... that Ken Johnson returned to Austin, flush with success from the award-winning Los Angeles production of his drama Final Touches. A local staging at Capitol City Playhouse that year earned it more acclaim and a bevy of B. Iden Payne Awards, and the drama was subsequently produced at the Paramount Theatre and regional theatres around the country. In recognition of the play's 20th anniversary, Johnson will present a staged reading of Final Touches Wednesday, April 16, 7pm, at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd. The reading is free.