In memory of "a consummate craftsman," actor Jeff Norton


As John Proctor in Crucible, he started out combative and bristly, but as it became clear that the courts in Massachusetts were defacing justice, he changed into a troubled, complicated witness of his own unfair conviction. As Astrov in Vanya, he was anguished, disquieted, disturbed — just the right combination for Chekhov's unaccommodating, pitiless universe. In every role Norton played, he radiated integrity and seriousness of purpose.

I remember talking with Jeff one night outside the Gorilla Theater — he told me that my job as critic must be a rough one, since it meant I had to at times speak poorly of local actors. What he didn't realize was that it also gave me the opportunity to praise the very best — and Norton was one of the best.

I ask anyone who knew Jeff Norton and would like to record some memories of him to respond to this post with their thoughts and feelings. It won't be enough, but it's something.

On Sunday night, actor Jeffrey Charles Norton was found in his St. Petersburg home, apparently bludgeoned to death. His passing is a shock to everyone in the theater community and an immeasurable tragedy.

I didn't know Jeff very well, but I reviewed him numerous times, and I produced one interview with him in the first years of my life as CL's theater critic. What I did know, even in 1998 when I started this job, was that he was the most respected actor in the Tampa Bay area, and the model of a serious approach to performing. Other actors spoke of him with reverence, and when Norton took the stage over the years — for example in Camping with Henry and Tom at American Stage, or The Crucible at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, or Uncle Vanya at Banyan Theatre in Sarasota — the audience was treated to a distinguished performance by a consummate craftsman.

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