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July 28, 2005

Jack Banning, Respected San Diego Actor, Dies

Latecomer Left Mark On San Diego Theatre Scene

Jack Banning, who made his mark in San Diego theater during the past decade as an actor, director and mentor, died on July 10 at his Mission Hills home at the age of 73. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, said his companion, Michele Sharkey.

Jack Banning

Jack Banning

Despite failing health, Mr. Banning turned his last performance – as the aging, one-handed Candy in OF MICE AND MEN – into one of his best, friends said. Critics seemed to agree, labeling it "heartfelt," "superior" and "heartbreaking." "You never would have known it by his performance," said Stage Manager Lloyd Hartman. "You had to shoot him to keep him off stage. He put his life's energy into theater."

As a young man, Jack Banning seemed destined to realize a dream when he landed a part in a Broadway play. Although marriage and raising three children shifted his priorities, drawing him away from the stage, he never lost his passion for acting. And by the time he reached his late 50s, he was determined to make up for lost time. He joined Actors’ Equity in 1951.

Off stage, Banning was an advocate for Equity actors and a Board member of Actors Alliance and Renaissance Theatre.

Until three weeks before his death, Mr. Banning taught acting classes. Previously, he founded the Senior Stages Academy, a multipurpose theater project for seniors.

"Jack gave actors, or anyone with whom he worked, the encouragement to be themselves and do the best with what they had," Hartman said. "He was very intuitive. He understood theater and understood people, how to get the best out of them."

In 2000, Mr. Banning joined George Flint, founder of the Renaissance Theatre Company, in producing WAITING FOR GODOT at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza. He then performed the role of Daddy in Edward Albee's THE AMERICAN DREAM a play Flint directed and produced.

Other San Diego credits included Adam in AS YOU LIKE IT and Pedant in TAMING OF THE SHREW at Old Globe Theatre. He appeared in a series of Greek plays at 6th @ Penn and in THE LEGACY and UNQUESTIONED INTEGRITY at the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre. His skills as a character actor led to roles in the movies "Top Dog," "Playing for Keeps," "Bloodhounds," "Reasons of the Heart" and "Lover's Leap." In the children's television series "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers," Mr. Banning played Professor Phenomenus for two seasons. His Broadway performances included Timmy in INHERIT THE WIND, Moishe in WORLD OF SHOLOM ALEICHEM and Freddy in THE STORY TELLER.

Donations are suggested to Actors Alliance of San Diego, 3535 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116; Light Bridge Hospice, in care of Robin Margulies-Ader, 5280 Carroll Canyon Road, Suite 310, San Diego, CA 92121; and Jewish Family Services, 2930 Copley Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116. A celebration of life is pending.





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