Brian Canup Remembered for Playhouse Work, Love of Theatre

by Brian Addison (Long Beach Playhouse Board Member)

Brian Canup was more than just a large part of the Long Beach Playhouse, the face you would often see at the box office or on stage. He was this essential cog that challenged the term “theatre person” to a new definition and lifted the Playhouse, both in revenue and spirit—and his unexpected passing will be a loss felt not in just in the Playhouse’s own circle, but the entire Long Beach arts community.

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As any theatre geek knows, theatre is more than just the production: it’s also about the stage, the set design, the costuming, the lighting, the fundraisers, the gatherings, the openings, the galas, the camaraderie.

But even with the love that those in theatre have for the art form, few actually choose to live it all as Canup did.

“I first met Brian when I cast him as Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile in 2009,” said Playhouse Artistic Director Andrew Vonderschmitt. “I had no idea he would become such an important part of the Playhouse community or my own life.”

Canup was a hard worker, but like Vonderschmitt notes, his work is so well-done that it isn’t perceived as work. Many of his contributions—from manning the parking lot to doing sound design to becoming the irreplaceable face of the box office and serving drinks at his most cherished place, the Playhouse bar—were meticulously done.

His brilliance showed in myriad forms, particularly in his patient and tolerant way of handling even the most prickly of situations.

“He made working in the box office look easy when we all knew it was not,” Vonderschmitt said. “He could deal with a disgruntled patron with a sincere sympathy while still making sure that everyone got their tickets and were sat in time for curtain. The ins and outs he knew about the box office are still being discovered; from reserving life members’ seats to imputing patron info on the fly, Brian had distilled the job to a science.“

Even beyond his administrative assistance to the Playhouse, his face will also be severely missed on stage. His presence as characters was prolific: the aforementioned Einstein in Picasso, Mr. Webb in Our Town, Philip Lombard in And Then There Were None, Soul in Vigils, and sadly to be unseen, Don John in the upcoming Much Ado About Nothing

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“He was my friend and a confidant,” Vonderschmitt said. “I never knew just how much he meant to me and the Playhouse until now. It is always a tragedy when we lose someone important to us; it is a bigger tragedy to not have told them how much they mean. I will miss him tremendously as will all of us at the Playhouse.”

If anything, however, Canup’s wishes would be simple: keep making theatre, keep making art, and keep doing what you love in a place you love. As the Playhouse pointed out in a press release: “At the risk of sounding trite (which Brian hated), the show must go on.”

Canup passed in his sleep at the age of 38; the cause of death has not been publicized.

The Long Beach Playhouse will host a tribute for Brian this Saturday, February 1, from 2PM to 5PM. Guests are encouraged to dress casual (as Brian would have preferred). The Playhouse is located at 5021 Anaheim Street.

For those wishing to send their condolences or well wishes, you are encouraged to contact Dori Jefferis at 760-246-4792 or send mail to 14633 Kimberly Drive, Adelanto, CA 92301.

About Peter Finlayson

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Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and footlight.click. While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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