Midwestern theater community mourns veterans’ deaths


Photo courtesy of Lou Foglia

Bernie Yvon and Molly Glynn both performed at the Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn St., during their careers.

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

When news broke of the tragic deaths of Chicago theater veterans Molly Glynn and Bernie Yvon last weekend, it sent a wave of shock through the theater community.

Glynn, a 46-year-old stage performer and TV actress on “Chicago Fire,” died Sept. 5 after a tree fell on her while she was bicycling during a storm, according to her husband Joe Foust. Her husband, a fellow stage performer, was by Glynn’s side at the time of the accident. He posted a message on his Facebook after Glynn’s passing that read, “I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t save her. She’s gone.”

The news of Glynn’s death was made even more difficult for the Chicago theater community as Bernie Yvon, 50-year-old musical theater performer, died in a car accident on his way to a rehearsal of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana, just hours later on Sept. 6.

Steve Scott, associate producer at the Goodman Theatre, said the heartbreaking news affected the entire theater community.

“It was absolutely horrible,” Scott said. “It was like we had all been punched in the gut. It was just inconceivable because both of them were such long-term stalwarts of the Chicago theater community. They were among the most beloved members in the community. Some of our community members said, ‘It seems like God is against us today.’”

Scott, who worked with Glynn a number of times in his 35 years at the Goodman Theatre, said the tragedies caused everyone to reflect and reminded them not to take things for granted.

“I really think that these tragedies have inspired a lot of people to reconnect with one another,” Scott said. “There’s a lot of hugging going on,  [and] lots of people are telling each other how much they love them and how much they respect them. It takes something like this to remind you that anything can happen, and you want the people you love to know that you love them.”

Yvon and Glynn’s deaths have affected many in the theater community, not only in Chicago but throughout the Midwest. On Sept. 11, the Chicago Theater District, in addition to theaters in Milwaukee and Chicago suburbs, all dimmed their marquee lights to honor the late actors, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Kristi Martens, the production stage manager for “Avenue Q” at the Mercury Theater, who worked with Yvon on several productions, is still in shock regarding Yvon’s passing.

“Bernie was just someone who was the ultimate professional,” Martens said. “He was talented beyond belief but was never one to brag about it or let his ego get the best of him. He was always helping other people. If he was working on a new show, it seemed like everyone came together and Bernie seemed to be the center of it all.”

Scott said both he and Glynn became friends on and off-stage. 

“Molly was just one of the funniest people I have ever met in my life,” Scott said. “She could make me laugh more easily than anybody else in the world. She was such a wonderful presence to be around. She mentored a number of younger actors as well, so she was a very nurturing presence in our community as well.”

Throughout both of their long careers in the theater community, Glynn and Yvon affected the lives of almost everyone they worked with, according to BJ Jones artistic director at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois. Jones, said the  deaths left a void in the community.

“In a way, it sort of punched a hole in our community,” Jones said. “Both of them were so beloved. We were all in shock and disbelief. Those two had relationships in a broad spectrum of our community.”

Jones, who had worked with Glynn in several shows as an actor and director, said he thinks Glynn’s influence on the theater community will be a lasting one.

“Molly was a tremendous mentor to younger performers,” Jones said. “She was supportive and upbeat and loving. She was always present and in the moment. She was a warm and wonderful human being with a tremendous sense of humor. She was great to be around.”

Glynn was set to make her Milwaukee Repertory Theater debut later this season in “The Amish Project.” The theater released a statement in response to Glynn’s death on Sept. 10.

“We were so looking forward to working with Molly and are deeply saddened at this weekend’s sudden and tragic loss,” the statement said. “As our community continues to mourn, our thoughts go out to Molly’s family and friends and to all of those who worked with her. The Rep will join the Chicago Theatre Community in dimming our lights in our performance spaces on Sept. 11 at night in honor of Molly.”

Funds have been set up in support of both Yvon and Glynn’s families. For now, the theater community is dealing with the losses as best as they can, according to Martens.

“It’s just a very tragic loss,” Martens said. “Bernie used to say, ‘Buck up; move on,’ and that’s just what we have to do.”