By Nancy Oliveri
News of actor Claus Evans’ death Monday (Oct. 18) impacted the Southern Tier theater community almost like a “pause for effect” in a dramatic reading. The script is open in front of the performers, but they’ve momentarily lost their place, and their composure, with a marked loss for words. But not for very long.
Fellow actor Chris Nickerson waxed pensive. He reminisced, “One of the first shows I did with the great Claus Evans … Jan DeAngelo and I trying to keep up in Guys and Dolls around 1984. When he sang ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin the Boat,’ it stopped the show. He will be missed by so many.”
Sheryl Brumer, executive director of the Jewish Community Center, wrote this on her Facebook page about Evans’ performance as Tevye: “Dearest Claus — I wanted to tell you that the moment I met you during our production of Fiddler on the Roof at the JCC, I instantly fell in love with you: your incredible talent, your generosity of spirit and your infectious zest for life. My life was greatly enhanced by knowing you, and I will carry you always in my heart. Rest well, my friend, and know that you were loved!”
Evans’ faith “was a powerful force in his life’s work,” according to his published obituary. Actor Mitch Tiffany remembered how he, actor Joe Andrews and stage manager Christine Swarthout joined Evans to hold an ad hoc prayer vigil during a rehearsal break at the Cider Mill Playhouse vigil on the night of Sept. 11, 2011.
Evans could keep the spirits of his fellow actors high with a bit of comic relief during the darker moments, much like one of his most beloved characters, the Ghost of Christmas Present in the Cider Mill Playhouse’s version of A Christmas Carol. His frequent Scrooge, stage veteran Bill Gorman, eulogized his friend on Facebook:
“Let us toast a man well loved, a life well lived. Although true, Claus would have hated that cliché. He was one of the most genuine of men. An original. A natural. Honest, trustworthy, loving, and immensely talented, but humble. Good at deflecting praise. Grateful that he could share his talent and the joy of performing. I am grateful to have been able to share the stage with him, playing together so often. We had fun. Playing Frog to his irascible, but, at heart, gentle Toad. I am deeply saddened by his passing, but so happy that I knew him and that we shared a friendship.”
Evans was well-known for his many performances at the Cider Mill Playhouse, Cortland Repertory Theater and the Albany Summer Play in the Park, along with many other community concerts and productions. He was honored in 2004 for this theater work with a star on the Binghamton Walk of Fame.
His most memorable portrayals include Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah, Benjamin Franklin in 1776 and The Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol.
Photographer and Cider Mill Stage Executive Director Kate Murray, whose portrait of Evans as Tevye accompanies this article, summed up the feelings of many: “Claus Evans was a scholar and a gentleman, and it was an honor to know him and work with him. The Broome County arts community now has one less star in its constellation.”
Claus Evans’ published obituary reads:
“Claucine (his given name) was born and raised in Deposit and McClure. He grew up on the family farm in McClure where music was a vibrant part of the family. Following graduation from Deposit High School, Claucine attended Ithaca College and graduated from Nyack College and SUNY Oneonta. He served in the U.S. Army in Korea, and while stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, met his beloved wife, Esther.
“Claus and Esther were married for 61 years and had four children. They spent the past 54 years living at their home in Greene, where Claus worked as an educator and counselor for Greene Central Schools. He was a dedicated and beloved teacher of many. ‘Lunches with Mr. Evans’ became a special event during the school year and has been well remembered by his students.”
Evans was a longtime member of the United Methodist Church and recently the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Greene where he sang in the choir and often performed special music. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 23) at the First Congregational, 28 N. Chenango St., Greene. Masks are required. There will be no calling hours.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Chenango County Hospice, the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ and the Greene Emergency Squad. Arrangements are under direction of Root Funeral Home in Greene, and condolences may be sent to the family at www.rootfh.com.