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LGBT and theater communities mourn the death of Jim Posante

By |2018-01-16T07:53:03-05:00January 17th, 2008|News|

ANN ARBOR
Southeast Michigan suffered a shocking loss Jan. 13 with the death of James Hendricks Posante Jr., known throughout his beloved LGBT and theater communities as Jim Posante.
A noted educator, director, designer, choreographer and actor, Posante, 59, suffered a massive stroke in the early morning hours of Jan. 12 and was rushed to the University of Michigan Hospital.
News of the stroke circulated quickly on Saturday, and more than 100 friends and acquaintances packed the hospital to offer their love and support to Posante and his partner of 36 years, actor Charles Sutherland.
He was removed from life support the following morning.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 8, 1948, Posante moved to Milford, Michigan in 1960. After completing high school in 1966, he relocated to Ann Arbor where he began a 40-plus year love affair with the area’s theater community.
After his early work with the UofM Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, Posante became a beloved, industry-wide fixture through his association with such groups as UofM’s Amaze n’ Blues, Second City of Chicago, Purple Rose Theatre, Thunder Bay Theatre, International Music Camp in North Dakota, Theatre Guild of Redford-Livonia and the Blackbird Theatre.
But his artistic home was Ann Arbor’s Performance Network Theatre, where he served as an associate artist. Involved wth the company since its early years, Posante was an invaluable resource – not only to its staff and board of directors, but also to the many artists who worked there throughout the years. He was at the forefront of bringing LGBT-themed plays to the stage, including the award-winning productions “The Home Team” by local playwright Kim Carney in 2004 and, the following year, “Take Me Out” (during which Posante suffered a major heart).
He is also credited with introducing the Network’s current executive director to the theater.
“I was working at the Arbor Brewing Company waiting tables – this would have been in 1996,” recalled Carla Milarch of her early days in Ann Arbor. “I didn’t know anything about anything; I’d never been here before, and I didn’t have any connections to the theater community. So a friend of mine and I were talking – he was the general manager there – and he said, ‘Then you have to talk to Jim Posante. He’s Mister Theater in the area. He’ll be able to tell you what to do.'”
That evening, Milarch made her first visit to the aut BAR to meet Posante. “It was my introduction to two great institutions at the same time,” Milarch said. “And we hung out. He was very sweet and welcoming,” she said.
A year and a half later, Milarch auditioned for her first show at the Network, the world premiere of “Inverted Pyramid” by Larry Dean Harris. And although another actress up for the role was “a known commodity,” the director – Posante – hired Milarch instead. “Jim said, ‘I just know there’s something special about you – and that I had to work with you.'”
Posante’s instinct proved correct, the result of which was a collaboration that spanned 10 years and 10 productions. “We were bonded creatively.”
Milarch believes the show Posante was most proud of was the 2006 world premiere of “Moonglow,” another script by Carney. “It was a very personal story for Kim, but Jim brought a lot of his heart to it. It was right after his father had passed away, and he used that experience to inform his work on the show.”
The news that “Moonglow” was recently optioned for a Broadway production is now bittersweet. “I think this was one of the highlights of Jimmy’s career,” Milarch said. “And mine.”
At the time of his death, Posante was working on yet another play at the Network, the Michigan premiere of “Souvenir.” The stroke occurred only hours after attending the show’s second preview performance. “We did notes after the show, and he was fine,” Milarch said.
He was also fine at 1 a.m. Saturday morning when Antonio David Garcia, a close friend, received a text message from him. “He was out on the town and wanted to know where I was. I was in bed and said I’d talk to him tomorrow.”
He did – but at the hospital, in shock, later that morning.
“He was a lot of fun,” Garcia said. “He was one of those people that you could call anytime of night and go get a beer with – or for him, a Jim Beam. I learned a lot from him. He was a loyal friend. Those of us who knew him best – we’re going to miss his friendship.”
Not so surprisingly, the old show business adage “the show must go on” became reality following Posante’s death this past Sunday when the matinee performance of “Souvenir” went on as scheduled. “It’s funny: You’d think that it would be impossible to do,” Milarch acknowledged. “But I think we all knew that we had to do the show, because the last thing Jim would have wanted was for that show NOT to go on.”
Posante’s death leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of the community, Milarch believes. “He was like an emotional touchstone for the entire community. He and Charlie, together, were like parents to half of us. So a lot of us feel like we’ve lost someone who was really a father-figure. He was a mentor to so many people. So it’s just not the loss of him as a talent – which is huge. But it’s also the emotional blow to so many artists that saw him as this anchor. Right now, we’re all trying to figure out how to move through this – and to honor him by not letting (his death) stop us from our work.”
Posante was also mentor to the students at Greenhills School of Ann Arbor where he was employed for 32 years. Through his leadership and expertise, the performing arts program expanded from staging shows in a dining area to a fully-outfitted performing arts center on campus.
He was preceded in death by father James Hendricks Posante, Sr. and mother Mary Ann (Gillotti) Posante. He will be missed and loved by partner Charles Sutherland, daughter Angelica “Gigi” (Brian) Richardson, brother Jack (Denise) Posante, granddaughter Ashley Kay Richardson, nieces Mary Ann (Michelle) Posante, Jennifer (Tim) Oliver, nephew Joseph (Jasmine) Posante, great-nephews and -niece Joshua, Christian and MaKayla, sister-in-law Laura Sutherland Smith, her son Paul Charles (Debra) Smith and family, as well as stepmother Florence Duerr Posante and her extended family in Arizona. Special friends Terry Coffman and Laurie Atwood join the family in their grief and mourning.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 19 at The Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St. in Downtown Ann Arbor. A reception will follow in the lobby, with an additional reception at the Metro Cafe in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown area, at 303 Detroit St., Ann Arbor 48104.

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