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Proud Life: Patrick Conner 1964-2012

Playwright, director and activist died of cancer

Conner was given the Ken McDougall Award for promising emerging director in 2001. He also graced many of the major stages in Toronto. Credit: R Kelly Clipperton
The queer community lost a talented theatre artist and food activist in December and will be coming together to celebrate his life in a memorial at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Jan 20.
 
Patrick Conner died of liver cancer in his home on Dec 7. He is survived by his long-time partner, Andrew Arnold.
 
Friends, colleagues and patrons remember Conner as a warm and generous person, as well as a brilliant actor and director who graced all of the major stages in Toronto and presented his own daring, original, independent works in summer festivals.
 
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre founder Sky Gilbert recalls working with Conner on several shows at the theatre, including Ten Ruminations on an Elegy Attributed to William Shakespeare, directed by Franco Boni and featuring Conner, Gilbert and Gavin Crawford. The show was a big success in Toronto and in London, England.
“Patrick was great to work with as an actor opposite me,” Gilbert says. “Then we toured together, and he came with his lover. They had an incredible relationship that lasted such a long time. I kind of felt like their relationship was a bit of a model for me and the kinds of relationships I wanted to have and do have with my lover.”
Conner later appeared in Gilbert’s shows Rope Enough  and The Emotionalists. He would later direct Gilbert in Hope Thompson’s show She Walks the Line at the 2009 Rhubarb Festival.
 
Among others, Conner is known for working with VideoCabaret, Threshold Theatre, Theatre Rusticle and in works by the company he cofounded with Minda Johnson and Troy Hansen, Die in Debt, which was known for innovative, site-specific shows.
 
Conner was given the Ken McDougall Award for promising emerging director in 2001; he followed that up with a Dora nomination for directing Poochwater the following year. He continued to direct theatre until 2010 – his final show was Edwige Jean-Pierre’s Even Darkness Is Made of Light, which appeared at the SummerWorks Festival that year.
 
In his later years, Conner worked at the Big Carrot Natural Food Market, where he took on work advocating against genetically modified food. A statement on the Big Carrot website calls him “a true renaissance man” who was “astute, insightful, and deeply committed to creating a better food system.”
 
The memorial will be held at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, 106 Trinity St, Sun, Jan 20 at 2pm. Celebrations will continue afterward at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.