Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remembering Dean

On April 26, 1995, I lost my dear friend, Dean Cannavino.  He was an amazing actor, teacher, mentor and performer.  He was generous and funny and charismatic.  He died of AIDS.

I met Dean in the Fall of 1989 when he moved to Portland temporarily to star in a show with Northwest Theatre of the Deaf called "The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy" about a Deaf baseball player who was instrumental in creating the signals still used in baseball today.  It was a tremendous opportunity for me as an interpreter, as a signer, as a human being in the world.  Dean and I became fast friends.  Ironically, because I met him in his professional world, I always knew him as Dean. When he met people in the community, he introduced himself as "Dino" but I always called him Dean.

I remember so many things about my time with Dean (I'm looking for the photos to scan). Two memories stand out for me - one was just after a few weeks working on the show. I was at the middle school where I interpreted and one of the Deaf students asked me, "What are you doing now that is different?"  I wasn't really sure what they meant and I asked them about it.  The student said, "Your signing is different...more clear, something is different."  I knew immediately that it was from working with Dean, from working on the play, from meeting Deaf adults in the community instead of languishing - linguistically- in K-12.  I knew immediately that I needed more input so that my output would continue to improve.  I was SO LUCKY to have opportunities given to me where I could grow and be with people who were so generous and willing to mentor me.

The other memory that stands out is the memory of the closing night party after "Dummy Hoy".  It was at Dean's house (where he had been living during his temporary stay in Portland) and everyone was there. I was shy and not a member of the cast - I had served in other capacities for the show.  I so wanted to just follow Dean around and cherish every moment with him, but so did everyone else. He was incredibly charismatic and people just gravitated to him. Slowly, after everyone had eaten, people started leaving one by one...pretty soon, having no purpose, I started collecting dishes and cups and cleaning up.  Eventually, it was just Dean and I in the kitchen trying to avoid the end.  When we realized it was just the two of us, we both sheepishly admitted that we didn't want to say goodbye.  We had a good cry over it and promised to stay in touch.  I didn't think we would.  We did. For many years.  He went home again, but it wasn't long before he realized that he missed the Portland community and came back.

I have lots of other memories, obviously, but those two are the ones that came to me today as I was remembering him.

I miss you, Dean. Take care of Alan for us.


  1. I just found this blog - I was a friend of Dean's (and I called him Dean too) in high school. We were in the theater together - I usually worked props behind the scenes. He drove me home one day and I had to tell him to quit talking to me and keep his hands on the wheel! He's the one reason that I was happy that I went to my High School 10 year reunion, because it was the last time that I got to see him.

    It's nice to know that others have wonderful memories of this man. Thanks for remembering him!


    1. Hi Vicki- I'm so glad you left a note. It is so nice to know that there are people who remember Dean so fondly. He was really an amazing person. Thank you for sharing your memories, too.

      Hope you will stop by again sometime!

      Happy leap year!



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