The members of the Vancouver Lower Mainland community theatre scene were very sad to see the passing of George Kopf last month, and today, at the Bernie Legge Theatre, we celebrated his life. For many years, George was a fixture on the local theatre scene, but particularly as a member of Vagabond Players. George was on the Board for many years, much of that time serving as an outstanding treasurer, always careful and meticulous.
He’d come to the theatre for every performance to make sure all was well with the box office and to pick up the night’s takings. He instituted a first-class system of check and balances, and took delight in overseeing the box-office volunteers to see if they could get it right. George handled every aspect of the job with care. When my husband, Hugh, and I attained direct access grants for Vagabonds, George picked up on what was involved and never missed a beat in taking over and ensuring that everything was done properly. The service he provided over those years was invaluable to our club.
My first personal contact with George was when Hugh and I began doing Christmas marionette shows for Vagabonds. Because the puppet shows had been brought in as an easy Christmas filler, many club members were not that interested. I mean to say puppets! Oh, not real theatre! But not George. Whenever Hugh and I were setting up, in bobbed George to see what was going on. He’d examine the marionettes and want to know how the trick ones worked. He’d offer helpful suggestions and showed great interest in the construction of our theatre.
He also loved animals, and he knew how to deal with Max, our feisty husky, who would lie in the stage manager’s corner glaring daggers at anyone who approached his stage. George had Max summed up – just another tough guy with a soft centre – and they respected each other’s distance and got along fine. George would continue to appear if needed throughout our run, and on the day it all had to come down, he was always there to help with our strike.
George was there to help with all the Vagabond show strikes too, and a lot of other jobs besides. He was supportive of club members in every possible way. He dutifully attended my book launches, and always bought a book, even though my kind of fiction writing wasn’t his thing. As he commented at the third launch when I was signing a copy for him, “Oh, well, another book that I’ll never read.”
George loved to perform and I finally got to work with him in that capacity when he was cast in my play, Renovations. Well, George definitely wasn’t as easy to control as my puppets. He loved to ask why and he didn’t like verbal notes at the end of the evening. But I soon discovered if I sent him detailed notes via email which he could study and process on his own, he would come back and, lo and behold, he’d have produced what I wanted. Jonathon was a great role for George. He was a natural in the part and, my, did he ever look great in a tuxedo!
George’s sense of fun was even responsible for a major rewrite in my play. While doing an early photo shoot, he playfully went after his leading lady, Isabel Mendenhall, with a paint roller. Jason Harris captured the moment on film and it was the perfect poster shot. But how could I put out a poster with something that didn’ t happen in the play? I couldn’t, and I didn’t. I rewrote the start of Act II, and George got to attack Isabel with the roller every night.
George was a character. He was a real guy-guy, and whenever Hugh and I went to see him in a play, Hugh would say, “We have to get flowers for George,” whereupon he’d stop at the liquor store and pick up a 12-pack of beer.
We have many great memories of George, and it’s so fitting that his life was celebrated today at the Bernie Legge Theatre, where he performed in his final play, Let’s Murder Marsha. George, we’ll really miss you, but we know you’ll always be here in spirit.
[box]Photographs from Renovations by Jason Harris.[/box]