By Wayne Harada
Glenn Cannon, veteran University of Hawaii drama professer and a celebrated actor-director at theaters across the city, will be remembered in a celebration of life memorial at 3 p.m. Saturday (May 25) at Kennedy Theatre on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus.
I first met him when he was a newly-hired drama department professor at the University of Hawaii’s Kennedy Theatre.
He died April 20, while in his 45th year as a professor of theater and dance.
I last saw him — regularly — when he was directing “August: Osage County” in 2011 at the Manoa Valley Theatre, which was his last production here; he was to helm another MVT show, but had to pull out for health reasons. As an MVT board member, I (and other “parents”) adopted a show every season, to visit selected rehearsals to provide nourishment for the actors and crew. Fruit drinks, soda, bottled water; snacks of all kinds, like sushi, chocolates, cookies, chips, veggies and dips, sandwiches. It was an op to witness theater-in-the-making from a very special portal.
I recall he brought along a model of the “August” set, to help actors get a handle on the perspective involved in shaping the edgy drama. His calm, supportive demeanor and his rapport with his performers made one and all comfortable — he was never threatening or demeaning, always a gentle steward with patience and passion to do the best job possible.
While he worked at theaters across Honolulu, MVT had become somewhat special in the sense that he and his crew were provided snacks and munchies during their rehearsal breaks — a time for camaraderie beyond the usual routine of mounting a show.
Cannon was a workaholic from the get-go. It was not uncommon for him to direct a show at Kennedy and act in another at Diamond Head Theatre. He went where his interest and passion would lead him.
In the early years here, he had TV presence on CBS’ iconic original “Hawaii Five-0,” on which he had a recurring role as John Manicote, the district attorney; on “Five-0” and later on “Magnum P.I.,” where he played Dr. Ibold for seven seasons. He also portrayed numerous other roles in such island-filmed shows like “Jake and the Fatman,” “Island Son” and “Tour of Duty.” And he was one of the “seniors” from early Hawaii television to also land a role on ABC’s “Lost.”
But his credits – before joining the island stagecraft community – included roles in off-Broadway, in Broadway shows, in films and TV productions, in movies. Over the decades, he directed 160 plays (50 at UH) and starred in 17 shows in Hawaii, copping directorial and acting accolades along the way — including the Hawaii State Theatre Council’s Pierre Bowman Lifetime Achievement Award.
Actors knew him as a 20-year-term president of the Screen Actors Guild, Hawaii chapter.
I don’t ever recall any actor saying anything negative about Cannon; he was always a pro, albeit a kindly one, in the director’s chair; his mission was to drill and shape his actors, so his production would be a solid one, whether it was a lavish musical, a taut drama, or a beloved comedy.
As director, he enabled his performers to find their place and pace in a show, expecting lines to be learned, but allowing actors to discover elements of the characters they were portraying to surface during the practice sessions.
As actor, he found personal shadings of character himself — a Cannon presence meant a darn good evening of theater.
He mentored scores of local students, colleagues and professionals — many of whom will participate in the celebration of his life. Participants include Paul T. Mitri, John Mount, Dennis Carroll, Terence Knapp, Shari Lynn, Cecilia Fordham, Joe Kingston, Dwight Martin, Laurence Paxton, Vanita Rae Smith, Kalani Brady, Brenda Ching, Joyce Maltby, David Farmer, as well as his wife, Sam Sil Cannon. Don Conover will provide musical accompaniment; a video tribute also is on the agenda.
Besides his wife, survivors include son Caleb Cannon and fiancé Jacelyn Wong, granddaughter Kassidy Wong-Cannon, sisters- and brother-in-laws Sam Soo Yoon and Chung Hee Lee and Sam and Daryl Fujii, nephews Jae Sung Lee, Dylan Fujii, and Cody Fujii, and mother-in-law You Soon Chon.
Doors open at 2:30 p.m.; arrive early, to assure seating.
To honor his memory and his work, the Glenn Cannon Endowment Fund has been established through the University of Hawaii Foundation, to continue Cannon’s legacy and honor his passion for theater and education. The fund will support and provide students in the department of theater and dance as they pursue their education and achieve their goals. Thus, in lieu of flowers, donations to the “UH Foundation” with a “Glenn Cannon Fund” notation, may be mailed to the University of Hawaii Foundation, P.O. Box 11270, Honolulu HI, 92828-0270.