The first thing you noticed about actor Bruce Vavrina, onstage or off, was his smile.
It lit up his face, but he knew how, in the right role, to give it an unsettling cast. As any of a number of manipulative priests and snobbish, upper-class powerbrokers in Michael Hollingsworth's parodic history plays, he frequently ended a quick blackout scene with a smile both beatific and rapacious.
Vavrina died of a soft-tissue sarcoma February 5. During the past decade he was more involved in TV and film than stage work - he was, though, a Hollingsworth regular during that time - but Vavrina was a strong presence in Toronto theatre during the 80s and early 90s.
Back then, he worked frequently with Richard Rose and Necessary Angel. Chosen to be part of the talented acting ensemble for Autumn Angel - a collaboration between Autumn Leaf and Necessary Angel - Vavrina regularly demonstrated his winning stage presence.
He was also proud of Project Putz, which he created with Paul Bettis and the late Denis Forest. The tongue-in-cheek show cast Vavrina and Forest as visiting German performance artists the Putz Brothers; their real identities were never publicized. Bettis directed him in a number of other works, including Svengali's and The Freud Project: Civilization And Its Discontents.
A memorial service for Bruce Vavrina is scheduled for Sunday (February 27), 4:30 pm, at the Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst). Vavrina taught at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, where a studio has been dedicated to him and two acting awards set up in his memory.