Jack Coyne 1926-2001

No history of Theatre West would be complete without a tribute to Jack Coyne, Artistic Director of Theatre West, until his death in 2001.

The curtain fell for the last time on January 26, 2001 on Theatre West’s production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," which also had been Jack Coyne’s last directorial piece before his death Christmas night, just one day before the opening of the play.

While the cast and crew at Theatre West have had many other closing nights throughout the years, this one was very different. This time as they all left the theatre, a new light illuminated the stage and will continue to do so. As the patrons left the theatre for the night, the cast and crew gathered on the Jack Coyne stage to raise a glass and offer a toast to their departed Artistic Director, mentor and friend and to say one last goodbye. It was at this time that the "Ghost Light" was plugged in and will remain lit each night when the stage is empty.

Most that were in attendance had seen a "ghost light" before on a stage in a movie, but didn’t really know the significance of the lamp. Matias Bombal, KBCH radio personality, friend of the theatre and a local expert and historian on movies and theatre offered an explanation of the theatrical tradition of the "Ghost Light." "Historically," said Bombal, "the Ghost Light has a two-fold purpose for the theatre. One is to keep the stage illuminated at a low cost for the comings and goings of theatre personnel when a show is not being conducted. Secondly, it is considered good luck to always have the stage illuminated." The "Ghost Light," was simply made by Dennis Gibson, Technical Advisor and Treasurer for Theatre West. "It’s just several pieces of PVC pipe fitted together with the electrical lines running up through the center and a single bulb fixture at the top sporting a clear glass bulb," said Gibson. "The light stands about seven feet high and will be set center stage and lit whenever there is not a play being shown on stage." Gibson continued.

"In the past we had never really needed the "ghost lamp" because Jack (Coyne) kept an apartment at the theatre and he was always our "light." But, now that he is gone we felt it was a fitting time to start the tradition here as well as provide a special tribute to Jack," Gibson added.

Jack Coyne and his partner Mark LaRocque bought the building that houses Theatre West and the Jack Coyne Stage in 1977 where they ran a business called Panache Antiques.  Jack and Mark first invited Theatre West to use a portion of their building in 1986.  The first performance was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim.  It was in 1989 that former Broadway actor, Jack Coyne, and his by this time late partner Mark, donated the property to Theatre West and Coyne became their Artistic Director.

A statement provided in every program given to patrons as they enter the theatre states, "Theatre West provides it’s members and the community-at-large opportunities to act in our productions, work behind the scenes on sets, costumes, sound, stage set-up and in publicity, as well as greeting our audiences at our performances. There is always room for someone new to join our thespian circle - perhaps you?"

 

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