January 25th, 2010

Mark Purvis, 1975-2009

When I was one, my family moved into a new house. The family moving out had lost their little boy to a car when he ran into the road. He was two.

When I was in grade five, a grade-six boy in my school died in what was either a bizarre accident or a suicide.

Someone in my highschool committed suicide when I was in grade 11, and we made a memorial page in the yearbook though I don’t think many people actually knew the deceased–I don’t even know what grade he was in–which might have been part of the problem.

About four years back, a boy who had been close to my family died under circumstances I never fully understood. He was two years younger than me.

Twice in past few years, I have come across “in memoriams” in my university alumni magazine of names I recognize–one a friend of friends, one a student politician. Both died in accidents in the mountains, years and continents apart.

Those above are, until now, all the people I know in my own age group who have died.

I met Mark Purvis when we were both involved in the short-lived Free Biscuit Theatre project (apparently no web-legacy remains) in 2007-2008. I joined despite not being an actor or theatre person because I thought writing words for someone to say as opposed to read would teach my something.

It did, but I also get pressed to perform, to serve shooters at a fundraiser, to do movement exercises and generally go way outside my comfort zone. I also got the great pleasure of shutting up and listening in presence of people who were educated and passionate about something I had only ever seen from the outside.

Mark was foremost in that regard–a dedicated actor who wasn’t serious about much else. He had endless energy to try *anything* anyone suggested–I never saw him perform as a clown, but he loved that as much as the “serious” parts I did see him in. He played Mathias in the play that’s linked there, *The Bells*, a massive and demanding and very bizarre role he did for Free Biscuit. He was wall-to-wall amazing and the production brought tremendous accolades (to be fair, all the Biscuits were outstanding, but Mark had the starring role).

Mark also had a fairly strong math and spreadsheet ability, gained in various dayjobs. He volunteered to use his not-much-loved gifts to do the Free Biscuit bookkeeping. He never complained about the extra work, and I’m pretty sure he used his control of our funds to make sure he was never paid at all for his performance in *The Bells*.

I didn’t really know Mark all that much–we hung out every few weeks for a year–but I always felt really amazed at how seriously he took me, and how much he wanted to help with my sad attempts at at performance. Once, he and his girlfriend took an entire evening to go through my 10-minute monologue over and over again with me until I no longer (quite) wanted to die at the thought of doing it in front of an audience, and I know they listened seriously and intently every single time.

Once, a bunch of us went out to the suburbs to see Mark perform in an outdoor Shakespearian festival. When the performance got rained out, we repaired to Crabby Joe’s in a not-ironic-enough urban gesture, where Mark regaled us with crazy, hilarious, filthy stories. I was so proud when we realized the couple at the next table had stopped speaking to each other entirely, the better to overhear.

Once, Mark and his girlfriend had a miniperformance at their place because they had built a *stage* in their living room (with lights!) Mark comforted me about my terror of performing by telling me the story of the time he met William Shatner.

This is a memorial to a person I didn’t know well–perhaps not even a friend but rather one of those wonderful acquaintances that make life joyful. I feel lucky to have met him, and shocked that he passed away. It is terrifying to me that someone could be my own age and no longer alive–I’m not nearly ready.

Of course, no one is ever ready. All we can do, I think, is as Mark did: everything we can for everyone we meet in the moment that we are.


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