On June 15, the Akron theater community will celebrate the life of Jerry Mirman, who died April 29 after battling prostate cancer.
Mirman, 65, was a passionate force within Akron's community and professional theater world, having worked as a stage manager and lighting and sound designer at countless productions at Weathervane Playhouse, Coach House Theatre and Ohio Shakespeare Festival. In more recent years, he had been an integral part of the theater family at Coach House and Ohio Shakespeare Festival, working under directors Nancy Cates and Terry Burgler.
His roles in recent years at the classical theater OSF included stage manager, props master, merchandise salesman and trained gun master, a job Tess Burgler referred to as "our master at arms." He was the big guy with the constant smile who you'd see driving guests on the tram from the parking lot to the lagoon at Shakespeare summer performances at Stan Hywet.
"He had a whole repertoire of little comments and quips and stories and he was an entertainer,'' Terry Burgler said.
A celebration of Mirman's life will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. June 15 at Ohio Shakespeare Festival at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St., Akron. He is survived by his sister, Carol Mirman of Seattle.
"Jerry was such a kind and generous guy. There was nothing that he wouldn't do to help,'' said Nancy Cates, who started working with him 15 years ago in "All My Sons" at Weathervane.
"He loved the theater and he cared about every single production he worked on, peripherally or centrally,'' Terry Burgler said.
Mirman also had a great sense of play, dressing up as everything from a beefeater to a pirate to sell swag at Greystone Hall. There, he sat on a coronation chair from the show "King Charles III" and theater patrons posed for photos with him. He also was known to get into foam sword fights with kids attending the family series shows.
Theater friends knew that in a pinch, they could always count on Mirman, who also worked for 28 years as a dispatcher for Copley Township Police and Fire. Actor Scott Shriner, who worked with Mirman in about 20 shows, reminisced on Facebook about his heroics backstage as assistant stage manager in Weathervane's 2004 farce "Noises Off." (Incidentally, the theater is reviving the show right now.)
"During Act 2 of a performance one night, I discovered that a door on the upper level wouldn’t open from offstage, and I had about 45 seconds until I had to make my entrance through that door. ... If I hadn’t been able to get through that particular door at that particular moment, the show’s logic and flow would likely have quickly collapsed domino-style. Jerry quickly ran up the back stairs of the set with a tool and damn if he didn’t fix that door within five seconds of when I had to make my entrance. He did nothing less than save the show."
Mirman's work included some acting, too, including playing the onstage sound man who created wonderful, old-fashioned sound effects in "A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at Weathervane. His work at Weathervane went back to the 1970s and most recently included stage managing the drama "Holes" last season.
"He was just a lovable guy,'' said Jan Michael, who worked for 30 years as music director at Weathervane. "He'd come up and give us a big bear hug."
Mirman was also game when it came to multitasking: Weathervane's Keith Campbell remembers him even being drafted to perform in a ballroom scene while stage managing "The Sound of Music" in 2006.
Mirman, who I met some 15 years ago at Weathervane, helped me out once, too. Nearly a decade ago, when my older daughter was just 8, she took a summer art class at a little community center right next to the Copley Township Police Department. When I had car trouble one day but no way to reach the art teacher to tell her I was delayed for pickup, who did I call?
Jerry Mirman, of course.
He just happened to be working dispatch that day and kindly walked next door to tell the instructor that I was on my way.
Weathervane's Harris Family Gallery curator Marci Paolucci is featuring former Beacon Journal photographer Ott Gangl's images of people in "real-life" situations to complement the theater's current farce, "Noises Off," a complex play that deals with actors putting on a show while at the same time dealing with their “real lives.”
Gangl is a self-taught photographer who came to the United States as a 22-year-old from Germany. He worked for 35 years at the Beacon, during which time he met German dancer/choreographer Heinz Poll, who founded the Ohio Ballet. Gangl photographed the company for 25 years as a member of its board of directors.
His work has been featured in many one-man shows, including previously at Weathervane, during the 1998 run of "Working."
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.