Last night, Mr. Ron Sanborn passed away. Ron was an actor, a man with a big heart, and a friend and mentor to many. Ron was exceedingly good-natured. I, myself, did not know him very well, but nevertheless, here is how I know:
In the summer of 2001, at The New London Barn Playhouse (New London, NH), a group of overworked, under-fed, sleep-deprived summer acting interns discovered a box of head-shots from the 1980's, tucked away in the corner of Norman's office.
How/why this box was uncovered (or what the interns who found it were *supposed* to be doing), is not known to me. What is known, however, is that more than a few of the head-shots were hilarious. Okay, ALL of them were hilarious. 70's and 80's hair/ makeup/ clothing, poses utilizing HANDS, you get the idea.
Among these head-shots was one of none other than a young, unknown actor named Ron Sanborn. Jennifer Blood instantly declared him her 'boyfriend' and kept the head-shot for herself. She put him up next to her makeup mirror. She sang him songs, wrote him sonnets (not really). She blew him kisses, from both on and off stage (maybe, probably, this is very likely). I believe Ron may have been kidnapped once, if memory serves, and held for ransom. (David Cleveland was a suspect, though charges were never formerly filed.) Jen Blood worshiped at the feet (or, rather, at the chin) of Mr. Ron Sanborn; and, in the spirit of youth and solidarity, so did the rest of us.
Mr. Sanborn's face guided us through the rest of the summer, watching over us as we got cast in our dream roles, wrote wacky children's plays, built scenery, sewed costumes until 1AM, and fought amongst ourselves over bit-parts and the last portion of nut-loaf. Ron even appeared on stage, his name mentioned out loud, during one particularly loopy evening performance of SINGING IN THE RAIN, a prank for which we all got in Big Trouble (though Freddie Kimmel, I do recall, bore the brunt). Ron's face was also photocopied literally hundreds of times, so it could be used as wallpaper backstage.
Ron was our hero, our mascot, our guiding light. A reminder of our own willful indentured servitude to the Barn, of our hopes and dreams for the future, a reminder of our own small-ness and anonymity in the vast world of Professional Acting. And while it seemed futile, and silly to the outside world, to act upon the wicked stage... there we all were, doing just that. And loving every second of it. Just like Ron.
At the end of the summer, we used what photocopies we had left to create statues (toilet paper roll statues, with his head on top) for the 1st Annual Ron Sanborn Awards. Sarah Dawber and I, if memory serves, presided over the evening. I still have my Ron Sanborn Award, somewhere.
Fast-forward six months, or so: Jen Hope organized a Barnie Reunion in New York City, and unbeknownst to anyone (but especially J-Blo), J-Ho had managed to somehow track down THE REAL RON SANBORN. She'd researched him, found his phone number, called him, and told him the whole story: about how Jen Blood had fallen in love with his head-shot, and how we'd transformed him into our mascot, how we'd used him, made fun of him, worshiped him, and all the rest. She then she asked him if he would be willing to come to our "reunion", and surprise everyone.
And Ron said YES.
His appearance at the restaurant quite literally raised the roof. Jennifer Blood, if memory serves, was speechless; she hugged him while laughing soundlessly and hysterically, and then cried real tears. JHo looked like a proud mama, showing off her newborn babe. It was as if she'd produced God himself, and delivered him unto us... and then God sat down and helped himself to some Indian food. He was so sweet, and gracious, and funny, and just jumped right in, as if he'd been with us, all summer. It was as if he knew us. Because... he did. Because theater people are the same, no matter where you go. It was sublime, and surreal, and absolutely perfect.
It's been almost 15 years since that summer, and now Mr. Sanborn is no longer with us. I know this will be hard news to hear for us Barnies; and I know, with a heart as large as Ron's, the circle of friends who mourn his passing today, was probably much larger than we'll ever know.
My heart is with you, right now, friends-of-Ron. Because a heart like that one, so large and so welcoming, a big, big heart like Ron's, just doesn't come along every day.