Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Michael Balcanoff

I have just heard some very sad news.

My friend and co-worker, the actor Michael Balcanoff, has passed away.

I knew that Michael was dealing with some recent and serious health issues, but I am still very surprised and shocked and so so saddened to hear this: he always seemed a picture of health and energy, and he was just an overwhelmingly positive person.

I was lucky enough to have just performed a play with him, a little less than a year ago: Pinter's The Caretaker, in which Michael was absolutely brilliant as the desperate, conniving and complicated tramp, Davies.

It's a back-breaking, demanding role (he never leaves the stage), and he tackled it with such vigor and love and humor.

There is one moment I will never forget in that play:

Towards the end, Davies tells my character, Aston, how hot it is in mental institutions.

His character is clearly trying to persuade mine to let him stay in the dilapidated, drafty room we have shared up until that moment.

Now, Aston is kicking him out, and the stakes are very high.

Arguably, Davies might say anything at this point in order to gain Aston's sympathy, and his allusion to his stay in a mental home is probably one of his many lies, a clear attempt to connect with Aston, who had a harrowing and crushing experience in such a place.

But Michael decided that this was not another lie of Davies: it was a rare moment when he told the truth.

Every night, he would deliver this line to me with such brutal honesty that my only possible response is to turn around and face him.

We would stare at each other in a total state of quiet vulnerability.

It was one of those rare magical moments that happens on stage with another actor, where you are both so in the moment, so connected and honest and out there that you actually forget everything else.

He was a generous, thoughtful, funny man, and a great actor and artist.

I will miss him very much.

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