The Dallas-Fort Worth theater community lost one of its most recognizable contributors on May 21, when The Column founder John Garcia passed away from leukemia.
"John is at peace now. He got into places right at 2 pm for the matinee in heaven," posted The Column account on Facebook.
Born in Kerrville, Garcia made an indelible mark on the local theater community when he founded The Column 17 years ago. It began as a group email among 20 friends, and today has more than 20,000 subscribers worldwide. Many actors in DFW rely on it for audition notices, and there are currently 17 associate theater critics who write for the site.
Having so many contributors means that The Column was able to cover nearly all of the theater here, from extremely local community productions to national Broadway tours.
According to The Column's website, Garcia appeared in more than 400 productions as an actor, including two years touring with Walt Disney World Entertainment and working with such stars as Tommy Tune, Ann Miller, and New Kids on the Block. He was currently an Actor's Equity candidate, working toward full equity status.
In 2005, Garcia was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Theater from the University of North Texas.
Garcia also founded The Column Awards, a major fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the only theater awards show in DFW. It was not unusual for Garcia to entice huge stars to Dallas for the awards, including Donna McKechnie, Anthony Rapp, Max Von Essen, and Plano's own Michael Urie.
Garcia had been diagnosed with cancer in March, and on a ventilator since April. On May 20, Column Awards board member and Garcia's close friend Jason Bias posted:
"Today, we met with the palliative care doctor and made the difficult decision to take John off the ventilator tomorrow afternoon. The doctor laid everything out for us and John’s cancer would return in the future and they would not be able to provide him chemo based on his reaction, and he is not strong off enough to live off the vent. Our hearts are heavy with this decision, but we know that our sweet John would want this. He will be surrounded by close friends and loved ones."
Remembrances and condolences poured out from the theater community. Greater Lewisville Community Theatre posted on Facebook:
"Through the annual presentation of The Column Awards, John raised and forwarded all proceeds to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, making his organization one of the most effective fund raisers for BCEFA outside of the Broadway community. John Garcia's, The Column Online was one of the first effective clearing houses for theatre information, audition notices, and production notices in DFW and beyond. On behalf of the entire GLCT organization, we extend our support and condolences to John's family and friends in honoring his memory."
"It goes without saying but John was obsessed with theater. He lived and breathed it," writes Bias in a message to CultureMap. "He was also super passionate about students learning the art and growing in their craft. He judged many UIL speech competitions, was one of the original judges for then-called Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theatre Awards, and of course all things The Column/The Column Awards. You would always see him with a Diet Coke and some type of theatre show merchandise!"
Funeral arrangements have not been publicly announced.