It was a year ago this week that my friend Chris killed himself. I had just arrived in Iowa to spend the winter when I was called by friends from California. It’s insane to me that a year has passed already. Where has the time gone. I still miss Chris. I keep hoping that someone will call me and tell me that it was all a joke. But then I know that’s not going to happen. He was my mentor, colleague, and friend. I don’t pick up a pencil to start a show now without thinking of him. I hear his voice in my ear, making suggestions. Being caddy. I still can’t believe that he was so depressed that he would take such drastic measures. In fact, none of us were aware of the pain that he was in. I just wished that he had confided in one of us. That he had allowed us to help. I understand when you are in the throws of depression it’s the last thing you want. But I still wish I could have done something. Now I just remember him. What a wonderful man he was. How funny he was. How talented he was. And how kind he was to share of himself, in so many ways. I’ll miss him forever.
This is the tribute that I wrote in my blog and then forwarded on to use at his memorial service. It sums up my thoughts about Chris.
I feel like it’s our job now to celebrate his life. He was a wonderful designer. He had a Tony award to prove it. He was loved by most everyone. They found him funny and quirky. He never lost his British accent even though he had lived in the states for almost 20 years. He had gone from being fat and married to skinny and gay. If you went in to his office in the evening you would probably hear Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy, Me. Or It’s Raining Men. Or anything disco. C.P. often worked late and was always around when you needed help on a project. He had a million ways of looking at a design challenge and was great at making you figure out what would work best for your design. He could also be caddy. He once cornered me in my office and said…”I don’t know if you know this, but your getting fat.” I once told him to get out of my office before someone dropped a house on him. I often called him a bitch. Never in front of other students but we were both gay and had that sort of relationship with each other. He would sit behind me in tech and make me a nervous wreck. Even if things were going well. I assisted him in upstate NYC once and we had to walk a mile back to our lodging at the end of the evening. Every night on our way back he would ask me what I learned that day. He was anxious to make sure I was getting the most out my experience working with him. He would often sneak into my office in the evening and very discretely ask for a gin and tonic. As a teacher he wasn’t interested in turning out clones of himself. He recognized that everyone has a different approach to design and he let us embrace our approach and refine it. He was famous for being “cheap” and refused to pay the 300 plus dollars for a faculty parking permit. So, he would come in at the end of his day and ask for a ride to his car which was inevitably parked 10 miles away. And I guess what I loved most about him, was that he fought for me to attend school in San Diego. I originally turned down his offer, for a number of reasons which all seem stupid now, but he called and called and continued to call. He met with me and even had the chair of the department call me to convince me that his program was for me. In the end he was right. I learned so much about myself, my art, and theatre that I would never have learned at another program. He taught me that I was good at what I did and to embrace it. He taught me that it’s healthy to fear a project but then you had to meet the challenge head on and beat it. He taught me a lot.
I loved him a lot.
I miss him already.