Bryon Predika: Actor, Chef, Loving Friend

          Bryon Predika was a man who, by all accounts, loved life and loved those fortunate enough to have been in his life.  The entire Baltimore theatre community suffered a great loss with his passing on January 6, 2007.  Personally, I had the great fortune to witness his final performance in Cockpit-in-Court's An Inspector Calls. Almost immediately after his death was announced, several members of the community sent me tributes and a formal obituary to be posted in honor of his long, illustrious career, and as a final farewell from his many friends worldwide.  I am honored to be a part of this tribute.

James

Obituary written by Linda Chambers, friend and director of An Inspector Calls:

         Bryon Joseph Predika's long career in theatre began in Niles, Ohio on March 29, 1939.  He was the son of the late Marie and Fred Predika and beloved brother of Cook, his only sister, formerly of California.  His long time partner, Jon M. DeHart, passed away in 1996.

 

Active in TNT, a playhouse in Warren, Ohio, Mr. Predika performed with the Kenley Players and had his own television show when he was in high school.  Although known in Niles for his acting, he was also a Boy Scout, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.  He attended Hiram College, receiving dual degrees in English and in Speech, was an active member of the Delphic Social Club and continued to perform in productions at the college. 

Mr. Predika created Act One Musical Notes, a greeting card company using sheet music from stage, screen and novelty pop tunes through the years.  His cards were sold all over the country and in London.

Mr. Predika wrote an award-winning children's play and a best-selling cookbook, Cooking With Pride (compiled by "Leatherella O. Parsons, a legend in her spare time").  He cooked for Liberace, Lana Turner, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, as well as his enormous circle of friends.

Marianne Angellela, actress: "I am so sad.  Bryon and I had an email exchange before Christmas, I was in search of a lost recipe and, God Bless him, he had it.   I am so very sorry that he had to leave his friends so soon."

He appeared on stage with Ethel Waters and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., held a degree from the Pasadena Playhouse and studied with Agnes Moorehead.

Among his many theatrical credits: Windmill Dinner Theatre in Forth Worth, Texas; Pasadena Playhouse; Northridge Repertory, Painters Mill and the Garland Dinner Theatre, where he acted and directed from 1974 to 1978.  Robert & Carline Lewis, owners of The Garland Dinner Theatre: "Bryon was a valued professional actor in many plays at the Garland Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland, during the 1970's.  [We are] sad, but glad, to have known and worked with a good friend."

He acted and/or directed in Maryland at the Vagabond Players, Arena, Axis, Fells Point Corner and Pumpkin theatres; he performed as "Pearl, Bertha, Rev. Spikes and all the Gang" in Greater Tuna and Tuna Christmas at the New Embassy Theatre in Cumberland, Maryland, and " … in 41 of the 50 states", as Bryon himself put it.   He served on the Board of Governors of the Vagabond Players from 2000 until 2005 and continued to serve on the play reading committee.

In 2000, Bryon was cast in Kimberley Lynn's play, The Last Battle of the American Revolution. Last Battle, the story of the women's suffrage movement, was produced at Axis Theatre as both a staged reading and a full production, then condensed into a forty-minute educational piece and taken on the road as part of Young Audiences of Maryland.  Bryon and the late Anne B. Mulligan were the only cast members who performed in all three and both found interaction with students particularly rewarding.  

 

Vera Pugliesi, stage manager: "I am going to miss him, he was a part of a very special family to me."

Ashly Fishell was awarded the Vagabond Players Scholarship in 2002; she is a graduate of Towson University and a young working actress.  She appeared with Bryon in Last Battle; they also worked together at Olney and in the Women's Project.  Bryon referred to Ashly as "Our Ashly".  Ashly:  "In one particular conversation at Olney he told me not to let people define where I need to create my theatre; that he was in Baltimore because this was his home and where his friends were and there is nothing wrong with being happy with that."

He both directed and acted for Carver at Vagabonds, an event for Carver Center for Arts & Technology's Literary Program student playwrights and screenwriters. 

 

Bonny Boto, Literary Program Chair/Carver: "He was a wonderful part of Carver at Vagabonds." 

He received rave reviews for his final role, Arthur Birling, in Cockpit-In-Court's 2006 production of An Inspector Calls. 

Estelle Harris, co-producer, An Inspector Calls: "He was such a lovely person and a fine actor."

Claire Sherman, actress, dialect coach for An Inspector Calls:  "I only knew him for a brief time, but what a lovely, kind, funny and caring man he was.  This is a shock and I know he will be greatly missed in the acting world."

Stephanie A. McLaughlin, Sheila Birling in An Inspector Calls: "I feel so lucky to have been able to do a show with him and to be able to call him "Dad" so affectionately for a couple of months. We had quite a time in our dysfunctional family."

Liz Boyer Hunnicutt, Sybil Birling in An Inspector Calls: "I adored working with Bryon.  We certainly did have a great summer all together. I loved hearing his stories about his trips and adventures. He will surely be missed."

Sherrionne Brown, actress, director, set designer for An Inspector Calls:

"I was about to write him this morning saying that the scenic design award for An Inspector Calls should be shared with him...I spent a really nice afternoon with him in his home, the two of us picking out things for the set. This is very sad."

Brad J. Ranno, director, T.D. for Cockpit In Court (Stephanie McLaughlin's husband): "… he was a very nice man and had great presence onstage.   I thought his role in An Inspector Calls was very well done, and a fitting last show for him."

He was to have appeared in Vagabond Players' April 2007 production of Tartuffe, directed by Barry Feinstein.

Cornell Jones, Vagabond Players' Board of Governors: "I will truly miss Bryon--the wit, the charmer, the talent, the kindness, the intelligence, and the humanity."

Bryon Predika did not have a "small circle of close friends"; he spent the last six months traveling throughout the country, visiting his sister, Cook, and his immense network of close friends.  His last trip was over New Year's to friends in Provincetown.   He returned home shortly after New Year's Day.  He died peacefully in his home on January 6, 2007.

A Celebration of Bryon's Life will be held in March.  For information, please contact Michael Feeney at mfeeney108@comcast.net.

 

 Remembrances from his many friends all over the world:

  • "We have only known Bryon for a few years and there is such a void in our hearts.  He was a wonderful person who had a heart bigger than anyone we know and we will miss him." - Jane and Ralph Antonsen
  • "I met him back in 1965 in Hollywood when both he and I were acting students in Agnes Moorehead's acting classes. We've kept in touch all these years, and two years ago, I made a trip to Annapolis, Md. and Bryon came to meet me and we spent a delightful day in Baltimore.   I will miss his friendship, his e-mails, his wonderful sense of humor and his sensitivity about things in the world that truly count." - Quint Benedetti
  •  "Bryon should also be remembered, not only as a fine actor, but a marvelous chef.   If you were fortunate enough to be invited to one of his dinner parties, you always left vowing to join Weight Watchers.  Some of my most treasured mementos from Bryon, besides all his "cow" gifts, will be the recipes he sent me, especially his BIG NOODLE soup.  I think about him every day.  And, I never thought I'd say this, but I miss his daily dozen email jokes..." - Barb Gehring, Vagabond Players
  •  "We are Bryon's unofficial West Coast Groupies, keeping all of his precious letters in tome, my privilege, when one would arrive would be to be the official "read aloud" person, half the fun was it would take us a day and a half to get through it because we would have been howling with laughter until the point of pain...it was my pleasure to finally meet Bryon this summer, one evening, as he indeed "found his way to San Jose"  and we had dinner." - Alexsandra Lefkort
  •  "I was with my daughter in law Alexsandra today seeing a movie at Santana Row. She showed me where she and Bry had lunch together there and I said it has to be time for a Bryon letter…I just feel it's time.  I've known him since his High School days when he came to Trumbull New Theatre, Niles, Ohio as a young talented actor who caught the eye of the English War Bride (as they were called then) who encouraged his talent and they too stayed friends until her death a few years ago." - Louise Lefkort, California
  •  "He sent me Tommy Tune's signed shoe… he knew that I was in love with Tommy..." - Anne McNeff
  •  "I enjoyed knowing Bryon and had supper with him many times when we worked at Olney together." - Mike Moran
  •  "Bryon was always kind, always helpful, and always funny.  I enjoyed hearing about his travels to New York, London, California, and West Virginia, accompanied by his observations about shows, composers, personalities, and the productions in which he was appearing." - Nick Nash
  •  "Bryon was such a warm, talented person & a joy to work with." - Dyana Neal & Jim Knost
  •  "I enjoyed corresponding with Bryan.  Although we never met in person, I felt that we 'knew' each other in a strange and familiar way." - Richard P. Newburger, Sales Reporting Manager, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • "He was my confidant, my LIFESAVER, my counselor and treasured FRIEND!  He enriched my life in so many ways and, as was true to his character, enriched MANY LIVES with his presence. Heaven is the richer today and the memories he left behind keep us RICH IN HIS SPIRIT and will eternally." - Judy Pelton and Ken, Hudsonville, MI.
  •  "I first met Bryon in February of 2006.  He came to see me in my first production at Rep Stage, Fully Committed.  He was in the lobby following the show and I must say that I liked him instantly.  Over the next 10 months he became a true supporter of our work at Rep Stage.  I was in my first year as Artistic Director/Producer, having recently moved from NYC, and I'll tell you that I could tell that he was just sheer support—a no-strings attached sort of guy—with a great sense of humor and a great knowledge and love of all things theatrical." - Michael Stebbins, Artistic Director/Producer Rep Stage
  •  "Bryon was a dear friend from College years here in Ohio. I reconnected with him only a few years ago and we frequently communicated via E-mail. I had a sense when I didn't hear from him over the Holidays that made me uneasy. We always chatted back and forth re 'the old days.' There are no words to do his life justice. Truly, 'a great light has gone out.'" - Robert Virgo, OHIO
  • "He was fun and bold and bright, and always a pleasure to deal with." - Wayland in NH
  •  "I met with Bryon on our trip to Turkey some years ago. A great guy who I will sadly miss." - Pat Webb, New Zealand

Again, A Celebration of Bryon's Life will be held in March.  For information, please contact Michael Feeney at mfeeney108@comcast.net.

PHOTOS courtesy of friends of Bryon.  TOP: Mr. Predika in An Inspector Calls.  BOTTOM: A news paper clipping featuring a young Bryon (far left).

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James was first bitten by the theatre bug at the tender young age of 11, when, at the last minute, he was called upon to replace a classmate who, 42nd STREET-like, broke his leg, in a play, of all things, about the skeletal system! It was a trip to New York with his high school drama teacher to see Angela Lansbury in MAME that sealed his fate. As an actor, favorite roles include Sheridan Whiteside in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, Potiphar in JOSEPH..., Col. Pickering in MY FAIR LADY, and Sancho Panza?s ass in MAN OF LA MANCHA. After spending a summer feeling very conflicted playing both an apostle AND a high priest in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, James' theatre career took a turn toward direction and design, including such varied productions as THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, LOST IN YONKERS, GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER and GRAND HOTEL, SIDE SHOW, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD and SWEENEY TODD. James holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Towson University, with additional course work in journalism, dramaturgy, scenic design and stage direction. He is living proof that you can be a devout Sondheim fan AND love MAMMA MIA!


 
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