Elegy for Mark Trent

Theater community remembers a friend who lived artistically, generously, and "out loud"

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The Bay area theater community was stunned a few weeks ago by the death of actor Mark Trent, 28, from injuries sustained in an auto accident. Trent had mostly worked with Jobsite Theater, but also had performed for Alley Cat Players in A Man for All Seasons and was beginning an association with Gypsy Productions as an actor in Nile Blue and as Vice President of that new theater group.

I asked area theater professionals — many of them still mourning his loss — what Trent was like as a person and performer. Here are some of their replies:

Katrina Stevenson, actor, director and designer: "He was a very, very dear friend of mine. As an actor, whether it was comedy or drama, whether we were doing subUrbia or Titus Andronicus, he was always the most fun and most generous person on the stage. He understood when it was time for him to back off and let you have the space, but he wasn't ever afraid to take it himself. He would try anything. And he would always come to you as a fellow actor and go, 'Is there anything you need from me? Can I do anything for you?' And that's rare, because usually actors are so concerned with themselves that they don't take the time to look at the people they're sharing the stage with, and go, 'Is there anything I can give you?' He was adventuresome . . . was up for everything. And had a good time doing it. Even if the rest of the cast was kind of going, 'You want us to do what?' He was like, 'OK, let's try. What's the worst that could happen? Let's just try it.'"

Brian Shea, actor: "It was just a real great pleasure to work with him. I worked with him [in Titus Andronicus and] more extensively in A Man for All Seasons, with Alley Cat Players, where I played Cromwell and Mark played Richard Rich. And he really took the time and did his homework and invested a lot of his training and his abilities and his commitment to what he wanted to bring to the character. A real tremendous professional and a great energy that he was almost unable to contain at times, onstage and offstage. ...

"A lot of people saw a side of Mark that was really 'living out loud,' as it were, living to the fullest. ... But there was also a side of Mark that I got to know, which was very quiet and thoughtful and retrospective and intelligent. He really was quite well read and he had great ideas. And I don't know if too many people saw that side of him."

David Jenkins, artistic director of Jobsite Theater: "He had such great potential personally. I always, when I remember Mark, think of him as Buff in subUrbia. That was a role I know he battled with, and he never quite thought it got there; he never quite thought it was right. But I can't even think of that show without thinking of him, and he always makes me laugh. I think he was really starting to become comfortable with his craft, and he was really starting to push the boundaries of things.

Paul Potenza, actor and director: "I first met Mark Trent at the auditions for Dracula for the Jobsite Theater Company. ... And we just had a really nice camaraderie. Helpful, not trying to, you know, there was no upmanship, there was truly like a teamwork. ...

"He was a pretty good motivator of people. If you were down about something or questioning something, he just seemed to always say good things and help you gather up your strength to do something right, whether it was in the theater or whether in your personal life. I called Mark, he was the party when there wasn't any party."

Roz Potenza, actor: "I knew him as a fellow actor and as a friend. ... I probably saw him onstage first in Maxwell, and I do remember thinking, this guy's got a little something going on. He was very attractive, and you paid attention to him when he was onstage. ... He was very dynamic, he was a great mover, he could sing, he could act, and he had looks. ...

"As an actor, most noticeable: I would say his ability to take any character he did and make it memorable, either with a certain gesture, or a laugh or movement.

"I don't even think that we're going to be able to measure the loss. ... I think we just started getting a taste of what he was going to do in Tampa Bay."

Ami Sallee Corley, actor and director: "He had an incredible view on life which is very easy for me to lose sight of. That view is: 'If it's not worth your time, don't worry about it.' He was always very honest. ... He had no time for anything that wasn't the truth, and anything that wasn't going toward something that you wanted. He never worked backwards, he was always working forward.

"Mark is the person on the stage that your coworkers say, 'Hey, is that guy in this show?' They've never met him, they don't even know his name, but they just want to know if 'Buff' is going to be in the show. ... He had a grace and a presence that you can't learn in a school, you can't learn by observing other people, you just have it. And he had it."

Trevor Keller, artistic director of Gypsy Productions: After Central Stage [Theatre] closed, he began to work with me on forming Gypsy Productions, Inc., and was going to be the Vice President of the Corporation. ...

"He was very energetic, put his whole heart and soul into every project that he worked on in the time I knew him, and just loved people, loved to educate. ... Just a very creative, energetic person."

A last note: Trent's family is memorializing the actor by forming a scholarship fund for students pursuing careers in the arts. Send donations to The Mark Anthony Trent Foundation, P.O. Box 157, Sandwich, MA, 02563.

Contact Performance Critic Mark E. Leib at [email protected], or 813-248-8888, ext. 305.

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