Sarasota’s arts and theater community suffered a loss this week with the passing of Jerry Finn, the founder and executive director of the Banyan Theater Company.
Finn, 83, died after a medical crisis that left him in a coma, weeks after successful hip surgery and rehab. He leaves behind his wife, Terri; sons David, Lawrence and Brian; several grandchildren and a sister.
He also leaves behind a legacy of summer theater in a town where much of the theater activity has always been centered on the main winter-spring season. In 2002, Jerry, a lawyer who had also pursued a career in theater and radio in the Northeast, decided to found the Banyan company to provide shows in the traditionally slower summer that are “well written and give you things to talk about when the curtain came down.” He regularly welcomed opening night attendees with pre-show comments from the stage (often including impassioned pleas to turn off their cellphones) and occasionally appeared as an actor himself in their productions when the role was right.
The Banyan produced 44 shows, both classic and contemporary, over its 14 seasons, often to positive reviews and eager audiences; sadly, the theater’s board has voted to disband with the loss of their longtime leader.
“It was his baby, and without Jerry there is no Banyan,” his son David, a member of the board, says.
The company had been about to announce its 15th season when Jerry Finn fell ill. While there are other local theaters now producing shows during the summer, it just won’t be the same without the Banyan.
A memorial service is being planned.