A few reflections in the wake of actor Anthony Dwain Lee‘s funeral last week (Lee was killed at a Halloween party in Benedict Canyon, at the hands of LAPD officer Tarriel Hopper. Hopper, lurking outside a window, says he thought Lee, inside and possessing a fake pistol, was aiming a gun at him.) How deeply and eerily personal can be the relationship between an actor and the audience. Lee wasn’t my friend. I never had a beer with him. But his death shook me to the core, largely because I had seen him on stage in 1995, playing the lead in a small-theater production of Mitch Hale‘s Civil War play Buffalo Soldier at TheatreTheater — a role that earned Lee that year’s L.A. Weekly award for Best Leading Male Performance. Lee was a physically imposing man with a big heart, according to NYPD Blue regular Hank Murph, who worked with Lee on an episode of the show, and Jeff Murray, who directed Buffalo Soldier. A devout Buddhist who worked with troubled youth, the African-American actor, born in 1961, possessed the talent and drive that allowed him to escape the pathologies of gang life during his childhood in Sacramento to succeed in an industry in which successful black actors aren‘t abundant. (He worked in numerous stage productions in Seattle and Oregon before moving to L.A.) His aiming that gun (a stage prop) was the final act of a fine actor. Tragedy doesn’t come any more theatrical, nor theater more tragic.

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