“I have been – and always shall be – your friend.” I can hear Mark Brotherton saying those words so clearly right now, and how much I need him to hear that line from me. In fact, I can hear so many of his oft-repeated lines, quotes and memories that I don’t think I’ll ever believe he is truly gone because how can he be? He lives on in everything I do as a professional artist. How I conduct myself in a room, how I treat colleagues, how I LOVE words, how I try to always approach any scene imaginatively, yet never losing site of where the honestly lies. Most importantly, he taught me to “Do the Work.” To never settle for anything less than your very best because in the theatre why would you go about it any other way?
I first met Mark as a freshman at UCF. I was quiet and reserved, he was loud and bombastic. He mentioned something about James Cagney and my ears perked up. I loved James Cagney too. I knew I wanted to get to know this professor. Well, one day, after class he asked if I wanted to get a beer at Wackadoos (or was it The Moat?) and I shyly declined at first. But ah, Mark wouldn’t take no for an answer. Just like that my life changed. What he taught me in the classroom and in rehearsals is priceless, but what he taught me at the bar was everlasting. We’d chat for hours at a time about theatre, art, working professionally, love, life and everything in between. There were some challenging moments too. I’ll never forget the afternoon at The Moat where he took me to task for not “doing the work” on my Measure for Measure scene. And he was right. My work stunk. I hadn’t even read the play or asked myself those 9 questions. Instead, I was lost in my summer internship six months down the road. Well, Mark brought me down to earth and gave me an invaluable lesson in perspective.
After college, my family still lived in central Florida so I was lucky enough to still always be in town to catch up. And I always made a point to see him, even if I couldn’t see others. Because Mark was a mentor, yes, but he truly was one of my best friends and throughout the intervening years I texted him anytime I had good news or had to ask his advice on any number of things. What’s truly special now, is realizing how much he meant to seemingly thousands of people in his life, and still he always texted me back. I’m sure he texted everyone back. He loved his students and always put them first. I’m so damn happy to have known him and that he will not only live on through me, but through those thousands of others.
There’s so much to try to remember, to put down into words so others can understand who you were and what you meant. Your giddy laughter, your mischievous grin. The twinkle in your eye. Your compassion, your disciple. Your biting wit and tender heart. When you were alive, I could never tell you how much I loved you enough and somehow I still feel like I didn’t. But know I do. Please, please know it. I love you, Mark. You’re one of the Damn Few and you shall always be my friend.