December 21, 1939 - February 27, 2018
There are countless references to death and dying in theatrical works and the great literature in our lives and world, but none seem appropriate right now. In fact, if one was used, a voice from beyond could most likely be heard saying, “what the #@[email protected]# are you thinking?” So, it’s with heavy hearts we acknowledge the death of Sid Perkes, much-loved theater educator, designer, director, writer, artist, administrator, friend, brother and uncle. Sid was born Dec. 21, 1939, in Hyde Park, Utah, to parents Vernon Perkes and Gertrude Seamons Perkes. He was the youngest of seven children and is survived by one sister, Shirley Pearce of Paradise, Utah, sister-in-law Jean Perkes of Mapleton, Utah, and “enough nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews to fill a ward house recreation hall for a family gathering,” he once quipped. While he didn’t share much about his childhood with friends, those who knew Sid can only surmise that he was a precocious child. Glimpses into that childhood can be gleaned from his novel “Silent Passing.” Sid grew up working on the family farm with the requisite chores of milking and taking the cows to pasture. From what well his artistic gifts flowed can only be guessed. A strong work ethic followed Sid through his life, including time as a fry cook at a fast food joint, working at the Daines’ Dairy, or as a waiter and cook in a formal restaurant. He worked constantly as a student while earning his bachelor’s degree in art and theater arts at Utah State University. He was an actor, even appearing in musicals(!), at Utah State in addition to his technical and design studies. His stories and experiences at Old Main Auditorium include work with actress Agnes Moorehead who was on tour and made a stop in Logan. His professional life in the discipline of theater began at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City where he taught and managed the technical demands of the school’s auditorium, a popular performing space for travelling professionals. Sid expected the same level of perfection from his high school students as anyone else, and from his brief time in public education he formed friendships with many of the students who eventually attended Utah State, once again becoming his students. He left Utah to teach at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, leading to many stories of working with the nuns there and possibly the inspiration for his later series of nun paintings. During this period, he also completed his master’s degree at the University of Illinois , gaining additional costume design experience during summers at the University of Oklahoma, and as a visiting artist in set and costume design for the University of Illinois, Urbana. He was lured back to Utah in 1967, in spite of a poor sugar beet crop on the family land, to accept a position in the Theatre Arts Department at Utah State University where he served as both costume and set designer, teaching courses in those disciplines and other general courses. It’s difficult to accurately count the number of students impacted by Sid Perkes. Yes, he was intimidating and a stern taskmaster, but he had a heart that was open and accepting. Over the years he quietly provided financial support for a number of young students – family members and talented students alike. As one former student and eventual colleague said, “the reason I have a life in theater is thanks to Sid Perkes.” Many feel the same way. His tenure at USU was marked with accomplishments too numerous to mention, and the list of his awards and recognitions reaches the national level. He designed sets or costumes for more than 300 productions, both university and professional. When not happy with available scripts for stage adaptations of “A Christmas Carol,” he created his own, even writing an original song for Tiny Tim. Sid didn’t claim to be a director, but he went on to direct many successful productions for Utah State Theatre and at the Lyric Repertory Company, where his small cast, music box productions became legendary with shows that include “Nunsence,” “Forever Plaid” and “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” among others. His most daunting, and successful, directing accomplishment was with the Festival of the American West and its pageant, “The West: America’s Odyssey.” This large-scale work blended live stage action, slide projections, professional dancers and more. The cast numbered in the 100s and over the years Sid worked with thousands in this once popular summer entertainment. Several summers ago Sid enjoyed a summer reunion with some of the cast and crew. Sid served as Utah State University’s theater arts department head (1984-1997) and as artistic director and producer for the Lyric Repertory Company. His love and support of the Lyric went far beyond directing and designing. He was instrumental, along with college development officer Frank McGovern, in fundraising efforts to expand and renovate the Lyric Theatre, the university’s performance space in downtown Logan. Sid served USU for 32 years with the highest standard of artistic excellence in theater arts. A very brief overview of his honors include First Place in the first ever National Scene Design Competition for the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, the American College Theatre Festival’s Gold Medallion for Excellence in Theatre presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (which he casually kept on an end table in his living room), and the 1999 Governor’s Award for Arts in Education in Utah. In the recent remodel and expansion of the Chase Fine Arts Center, the Caine College of the Arts and the Theatre Arts Department honored Sid and named the expanded facilities in his honor, the “Sid Perkes Design Complex.” Sid’s influence continued past his retirement; he generously supported scholarships and programs in the Department of Theatre Arts, which will benefit students for generations to come. Following his retirement from USU, Sid returned to two loves – painting and writing. He began painting again and created works in oil, acrylic, oil pastel, pastel and pencil. Several of his works can still be seen at Le Nonne Restaurant in Logan, Utah. Thanks goes to the servers, staff and owners who treated Sid so kindly in recent years. His writing includes three novels, “Lettie,” “Silent Passing,” and “Sam.” With a return to painting and writing, Sid wanted to create lasting images on canvas and paper. Well, he did. But more importantly, Sid Perkes created lasting memories for thousands, whether students, colleagues, audiences, readers or members of the public. On the website he created for his works, Sid described why he explored painting and writing after retirement. “Stage design was a rewarding and satisfying career and allowed [me] to develop many visual arts skills, but the theater imposed limitations. By nature, theater is a communal art form and the visual images seen by the audience are designed to support and enhance the performers. They are created through the collaborative efforts of the director and the set, costume and lighting designers. Nothing remains of the production after it closes but memories in the minds of the audience, a few production photographs and the design plates or models.” Sid was, in all ways, an example of a modern Renaissance Man. He will be kept in the hearts of many. Following Sid’s wishes, there will be no funeral service, but friends are encouraged to honor his memory through donations to a scholarship endowment he established prior to his death, the Sid Perkes Theatre Arts Scholarship, an endowment that will support scholarships for deserving upper division theater design students at USU. For donation information, contact USU’s Development Office, Karen Fluckiger, 797-1323. Donations can also be made online at usu.edu/sidperkes. And to all, let’s raise a glass in Sid’s honor, toasting him with a libation of choice – it doesn’t need to be a vodka press, but woe to the server or bartender who asks what that is! We love you Sid.
There are countless references to death and dying in theatrical works and the great literature in our lives and world, but none seem appropriate right now. In fact, if one was used, a voice from beyond could most likely be heard saying, “what... View Obituary & Service Information
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