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DEATH OF AN ACTOR (article first published : 2006-01-28)

Janet van Eeden interviews director Garth Anderson about the late Frantz Dobrowsky.

The much acclaimed actor, Frantz Dobrowsky shot himself last Wednesday evening. He was highly respected in the theatrical worlds for his diverse range of roles, as well as for being a human being who understood “better than most, the human condition,” says director and producer of the Actors’ Co-Operative, Garth Anderson.

“Frantz was the best actor that the Actors’ Co-Operative had the privilege of working with,” adds Garth. “He played Iago in our production of Othello last year, and he found the balance of the role beautifully. He played the fisherman with the audience, reeling them in during the first half of the play, making them laugh at his antics. And then he grabbed them by the throat during the second half.

“Even our seventeen-year old audiences would become silent when they realised what Iago was doing to Othello and Desdemona. It was wonderful to experience the play through him. He was such an accomplished and generous actor. Working with younger cast members, he gave freely of all his expertise. Everyone came out from the play enriched: cast and audience.”

Garth Anderson says that he will miss Frantz Dobrowsky as a “dear, dear friend. It was wonderful to sit with him in the evenings and talk about the actors we had worked with,” he recalls. “The number and range of actors he had worked with was vast: from Leon Schuster to Richard Haines. When we walked down the street together, girls who had seen him in Panic Mechanic would rush up to him and ask for his autograph. There are few actors who can span the comedic world of Leon Schuster, and then play the most tragic of roles, too.

I remember when I was still an Assistant Stage Manager working with PACT in the seventies, Frantz played the role of Bernard in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It was wonderful to see him become this little fox terrier of a man opposite Richard Haines’ bulldog-like portrayal of Happy. Joe Stewardson played Willy Loman in that performance.”

Garth is moved when he talks about a close friend of Frantz’s finding a note near the body calculating what could be bought with R27. The friend assumes that this was all the money he had left to him when he decided to end his life. Garth agrees with the friend who says it is an absolute shame that actors of his calibre have to die in near poverty. In any other country actors are celebrated.

“Frantz understood comedy and tragedy,” he adds. “And that is why he was so good at Chekhov. I think his final act was an act of bravery rather than cowardice. He refused to die as an old beggar. He chose to leave this world with some dignity intact instead.” - Janet van Eeden




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