Honoring an actor who served his country this Memorial Day
This is a standard government headstone with an unusual inscription for an extraordinary actor. You may read about the story behind this stone on my blog.
You'll learn a lot about the man by reading his obituary, which I wrote for publication in the local newspaper, and which I've posted below:
Actor Ed Maxcy, known to many people as Alexis Lauren, died Monday, Dec. 11, 2006 at a local hospital.
A retired professional actor who, for many years, contributed his time and talent to community theater productions, Ed was also an exceptional teacher, an astrologer, a marvelous raconteur and an occasional worrywart.
Born on Nov. 6, 1933, near Waldoboro, Maine, Edward Silsby Maxcy was the son of Herbert Maxcy and Caro (Fernald) Maxcy, Ed grew up in Winthrop, Maine and fell in love with theater at an early age.
After high school, Ed enrolled at Boston University, where he worked with legendary director Jose Quintero. Drafted into the U.S. Army after graduation, Ed spent most of his tour of duty (1956-58) at the Presidio in San Francisco, directing plays.
He finally arrived in New York City in 1959, and made his Broadway debut in “A Cook for Mr. General” in 1961. Also making his Broadway debut in "A Cook for Mr. General," was a young actor named Dustin Hoffman.
Despite his big break, New York City became the scene of too many missed opportunities for Ed, who began to suspect there was something happening behind the scenes. He turned to astrology for answers.
“I discovered I had been a successful actor in a past life and couldn’t do that again,” he told an interviewer in 2001. “I realized I would never get rich, but was meant to put my talents to use in coaching and teaching actors."
After accepting that he would never get rich as an actor, Ed left New York City and spent 12 years in England and at Findhorn, an international community in Scotland based on spiritual values. In October 1980, he returned to New York City to resume his acting career.
In February 1981, Ed traveled to Madison to visit his goddaughter and decided this is where he should live.
In the early 1980s, using the professional name Alexis Lauren, he performed with the Madison Repertory Theatre and spent a season with American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. He worked in radio and acted in “Frame of Mind,” an independent film written by Ray Olderman. He won a national award for his television portrayal of Benjamin Franklin and gained fame amongst a generation of teenagers who know him as Lexxor, the StoryLord Wizard in “StoryLords,” an educational television series made in Wisconsin.
In 1989 everything fell apart. He had emergency heart surgery and doctors installed a pacemaker. Later, a series of seizures caused brain damage and Ed was unable to memorize lines. From 1989-94 he stopped acting, applied for Social Security Disability and focused on coaching and teaching.
In 1994, actor-director Jeff Knupp asked Ed to join the cast of a Madison Theatre Guild production of Richard Brimsley Sheridan’s 18th century comedy, “The School for Scandal.” Ed accepted the role of Sir Oliver Surface. It took Ed an enormous amount of rote memorization to learn his lines, forcing him to work hard at something that used to be painless.
The critically acclaimed “The School for Scandal” role was Ed's entree into community theater. After that, he performed as often as his health permitted. His last role was The Steward in the 2004 Strollers Theatre production of "St. Joan," about which one reviewer wrote, "Madison treasure Ed Maxcy turns in another delightful appearance in an all-too-short comic role in Act I."
Ed was predeceased by his parents; his aunt, Nellie Maxcy Shibles; and his cousin, Neil Shibles. He is survived by his cousins Katherine Shibles Jones of Larkspur, Calif. and Patrick Shibles Jones of Astoria, N.Y., as well as scores of friends and many students who have gone on to successful professional acting careers.
There will be no funeral service or visitation. Ed's body was cremated and his remains will be buried at Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery. Friends and members of the Madison theater community are planning to hold a memorial service for Ed on Jan. 7, 2007. For additional information about the memorial service, contact Lee Ann Cooper at (608) 238-8183. If you would like to share a written memory of Ed, please mail it to PO Box 642; Madison, Wis. 53701.