It is with great sadness that I release this post into the realm of the Internet. This past Friday morning, our dear friend and colleague, Patrick Conner passed away peacefully at home, after nearly a year of bravely fighting liver cancer. He is survived by his long-term friend and partner, Andrew Arnold.
Patrick will always be a part of my life, even though I have to admit that I hardly ever got to see him – living as he did in the heart of Toronto, Canada, while I live across the Atlantic in rural Wales. But as Henry David Thoreau once said, “Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance, for they make the latitudes and longitudes.”
With regards to Patrick, I will never forget his dedication to working with those around him, whether that be as a fellow actor, a brilliant director, or his tireless work with a local organic Co-op in Toronto, where he dedicated much of his later years to championing the push to educate people about genetically modified foods and to promote healthy eating lifestyles.
Patrick’s massive portfolio of work included all the prestigious Toronto venues, and quite a few independent ventures as well, such as Canadian Stage, Factory Theatre, and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, while his award-winning directing credits are really too many to mention. Every review I ever read about Pat’s work was overwhelmingly positive, and I think he was known as someone who could be trusted to pull off difficult material with finesse, style and originality. He really had a passion for directing but he never forgot what it was like to be an actor.
He did serious plays, comic plays, mask-work, movement work – he was always willing to try something new. I was fortunate to have worked with him a number of times, mostly in my early video work, but he was also always there to offer advice, especially as I moved into directing a handful of theatre pieces myself. He was kind and never judgemental, gracious in his approach to the material and to the people he chose to work with. While it is untrue of most people, I have to say that I never heard a bad thing said about him, by anyone – ever. And to my mind that only can mean that everyone loved Patrick.
Pat concentrated much of the last few years on his work with the Co-op, on teaching at George Brown College and on directing, rather than acting. I had even heard through the grapevine that he wanted to move away from acting but when I approached Pat to consider revisiting the character of Professor Tom Swyft, (now over two years ago), there really was no hesitation. I asked him why he was interested in returning to a character that he hadn’t played in nearly a decade, and he gave me one simple answer. It was a heartfelt and blunt answer and it sticks in my mind because of the rapid way in which he delivered his answer. He just looked at me and said, “Because this is for Michael’s memory and it is for you.”
That’s the kind of gentleman Pat was. He did go on to say that really, he would have done anything that I was involved in, not just for the sake of the past but because he had always liked my (and Michael’s) sense of humour and our skewed way of looking at the world. I relish the fact that Patrick always “got” that, and that was why he was so brilliant in the role – he really knew how to embody the crazy character as Michael wrote him.
As the edits continue on the audio series, I have to say that life has been providing me with loads of ups and downs recently – forcing even further delays in releasing the material into the public realm. But through the support of those closest to me, one day Flashback will be out there – besides, I can’t keep sitting on this little gem for too long. Life’s events may take their toll and twist and turn around us, but I am grateful that even this delay will have the sentimental ability to give Patrick’s friends and family one last taste of his genius when the ten episodes of this series are finally released. There are hours of gorgeous material that haven’t seen the public light of day yet and Pat shines marvellously as a most unforgettable character. I am just so sorry that the box set will now include two posthumous dedications instead of the single one to Michael.
Goodbye, dear Patrick. You were taken from this world far too early. I wanted to end this post by quoting for you something pithy, something deep and resonant, with a strong literary bearing, but all I can think of are a few lines of text that I can’t seem to shake from my mind. Yet somehow these few words seem to sum up everything that I want to say about Pat, so I’ll end with them instead:
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~ Theodor Seuss Geisel