Actor and director Jack Parrish dies

Jack Parrish (right) discusses a scene with actor Walter May during rehearsals for "Art" at Actors Guild of Lexington in 2004. Herald-Leader file photo by David Stephenson.

Jack Parrish (right) discusses a scene with actor Walter May during rehearsals for Actors Guild of Lexington's 2004 production of Yasmina Reza's "Art." Herald-Leader file photo by David Stephenson.

Click here to sign an online guest book for Mr. Parrish.

Jack Parrish, a mostly Richmond, Va.-based actor and director who spent the last few years of his life enriching the Central Kentucky theater scene, died Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

Mr. Parrish was born in Richmond and got into theater while he was in high school. His theater and film career included the roles of Brad Garrick on Another World and Brian Collier on All My Children, as well as stage work in New York and regional stages around the country, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In 2004, Actors Guild of Lexington’s then-new artistic director Richard St. Peter hired Mr. Parrish to direct the first production under his watch: Yasmina Reza’s play Art.

Mr. Parrish eventually moved to Central Kentucky, where he directed the drama department at Kentucky State University in Frankfort and continued to be active in area theater.

“Watching him act was like watching a master class in the craft,” said Tim X. Davis, Mr. Parrish’s predecessor at KSU and one of the actors in that 2004 production of Art. “I was proud to have Jack take my place at Kentucky State and continue to improve upon the program we had built there. His colleagues and students from KSU, many of whom I’m still in contact with, have nothing but the most positive things to say about him and his work. His work onstage here in Lexington, brief though it was, was simply stunning.”

Mr. Parrish’s roles in Lexington included Polonius and the Gravedigger in Actors Guild’s 2007 production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He was set to take center stage as Falstaff in Actors Guild’s summer 2008 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor for Shakespeare at Equus Run but had to bow out because of his cancer treatments.

“It breaks my heart that the community never got to see his Falstaff … as it would have blown people out of their seats,” said Davis, who now directs the theater and film program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

Mr. Parrish eventually returned to Richmond with his wife, Kathy Ann Parrish. He was in hospice care when he died.

“I feel like I have lost a family member and one of my best friends all rolled into one,” said St. Peter, who resigned his post at Actors Guild in August. “He was an extraordinary actor, a brilliant interpreter of Shakespeare, a terrific director and a true ‘man of the theater.’”

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9 Responses to Actor and director Jack Parrish dies

  1. Adam says:

    Jack was a fantastic guy and as well as being a wonderful actor. I always looked forward to those scenes with him as Polonius and the Grave Digger during our run of Hamlet. More than that, I loved hanging out backstage listening to his stories and laughing loudly and often. He will be missed.

  2. Jack was a great compatriot in the trenches. As Claudius in Hamlet, I was fortunate to have several of my scenes with Jack as Polonius and it was a marvel watching him play and work an audience. His mastery of his craft provided an inspiration and an example for both young and experienced actors alike.

    Backstage, swapping theatre stories with him was a guffaw-filled joy. As the two old geezers in the dressing-room, we had lots of yarns and common experiences with which to regale each other It was great having someone who had shared the same trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a professional theatre career and understood that world.

    Lastly, Jack had a scholar’s knowledge of plays and drama history and it was always energizing and illuminating to discuss theatre culture with him. I feel very lucky that I got to work onstage with Jack twice and to hang around with him off-stage.

  3. Candace N. Chaney says:

    I did not have the pleasure of knowing Jack personally, but I did have the pleasure of seeing him perform. His performance as Polonius in AGL’s Hamlet was truly remarkable; I had never seen him perform before, had never even heard of him, and was blown away by his talent and professionalism. I am sad that I will not get the chance to see more of his work.

  4. James says:

    I had the honor of working with Jack during Merry Wives, and found great pleasure in the joy he brought to rehearsal. Jack was wonderful actor and craftsman; he will be missed.

  5. Bo List says:

    We’ve had many spirited conversations on this site and others about what makes a professional actor professional. Whatever that quality of set of qualities is, Jack most certainly was one. Our singular opportunity to work together (in a role for which he was onstage a mere 3 minutes) was a great example of why you need a pro: prepared, appropriate, inspired and three steps ahead of wherever I wanted or needed him to be. In THE UNDERPANTS I needed someone who could, in the briefest of cameos, convince as a king. Jack WAS a king, whose hard work, training and magnificent aura made it look all-too easy. What a wonderful man and what a tremendous loss.

  6. Lynn Weaver says:

    In knew Jack years ago in New York. How wonderful to see the successful life he built in the intervening years, and how sad to hear he is gone. A good person, and a great loss.

  7. Laurie Genet Preston says:

    Jack was a lovely man, talented actor, and kind spirit. He had a magnificent sense of humor, a wicked sense of timing and a ridiculous amount of respect for the stage and his fellow theatre comrades. I feel blessed to have worked with and known him.

  8. Jill K. Swanson says:

    I knew Jack from Florida State. What a character. My memories are mainly of hanging out at the Milk Bar, and one night when he saved some jerks from getting their heads taken off by me by shoving me in my car. Oh, Jack. You were mighty.

  9. Kristi says:

    I had the privelege of studying under Jack in 1996 at the University of South Florida where he did a brief teaching stint of Directing. Jack was an inspiration who gave me more positive reinforcement than any other instructor. I am deeply saddened to hear of his untimely passing. After having put theatre on a back burner for many years now due to family obligations, hearing this and remembering Jack and what he taught me makes me want to get back into my art. Thanks Jack for your passion for theatre. Rest peacefully.

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