OBITUARY of alex brill
November 4, 1930 - April 30, 2020
A San Francisco native, Alex was a graduate of Lowell High School and UC Berkeley. After college, he joined the Air Force and served during the Korean War, in Fairbanks, Alaska. A performer his whole life, Alex played trumpet in the Air Force Band. After serving in the Air Force, Alex and his wife, Doris, a fellow CAL music major, lived in Martinez, where Alex taught music in all four of the town's elementary schools. He and Doris had two children, Janet and Larry.
While living in Martinez, Alex got involved with the local community theater, and in the mid-1970s, played the leading role of Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man. It was something of an inside joke around the theater that Alex actually was the town's Music Man, since he taught music to all the children in town. It was this experience that sparked a love of musical theater that would last the rest of his life. Outside of Martinez, he performed at Los Medanos College (Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) and at the California Conservatory Theater in San Leandro. Then in 1976, Alex discovered Woodminster Summer Musicals, and Woodminster discovered Alex. Alex's first role there was Buffalo Bill in Annie Get Your Gun, and he was a fixture in the open-air musicals for nearly twenty years. At Woodminster, Alex played many of the iconic roles in American Musical Theater, including Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Fagin in Oliver, and Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly, as well as dozens of other principal and featured roles in musical theater, light opera, and Shakespeare.
In 1980, after 25 years of marriage, his wife Doris passed away. Two years later, Alex married his high school sweetheart, Joan Beal Herrenkohl. They found great happiness together, and enjoyed their six children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Alex was very devoted to his family and friends and was always interested in what others had to say. He was a selfless person, always putting others first. He had a great sense of humor and was knowledgeable on many subjects. He continued to revel in his love for acting and singing at Woodminster Amphitheater, and lived for the summers when he could rehearse, perform, and be a part of Jim and Harriet Schlader's theater family. His grandchildren grew up watching Alex perform.
During the last year of Alex's life, he lived at The Reutlinger Community, an assisted living facility in Danville. After his exercises teacher learned of his performing talents, she would have him sing a song or tell a joke or recite a limerick at the end of class.
The family is deeply grateful to the Schlader's and the whole Woodminster family, for all the joy they brought into Alex's life. He came to life when he was onstage. They request that any memorial donations be made to Producers Associates, Inc. in his honor. P.O. Box 13008, Oakland, CA, 94661.
ROLES ALEX PLAYED AT WOODMINSTER
1976 ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, Buffalo Bill
1978 THE MERRY WIDOW, Popoff
1979 THE NEW MOON, Captain George Duval
GUYS & DOLLS, Natahan Detroit
ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, The Wizard
1980 A FUNNY THING..., Lycus
FINIAN’S RAINBOW, Senator Rawkins
1981 OLIVER, Fagin
SOUND OF MUSIC, Franz the butler
1982 SOUTH PACIFIC, Commander Harbison
ANYTHING GOES, Sir Evelyn
1983 LITTLE ME General, Yulnik
PAINT YOUR WAGON, Raymond Janney
1984 UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, Monsignor Ryan
SHENANDOAH, Reverend Byrd, Sergeant Johnson
1985 DAMN YANKEES, Team Manager Van Buren
1986 SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS , Preacher
1987 20th Anniversay Celebration
JULIUS CAESAR, Casca
THE DEVIL’S DISCIPLE, Lawyer Hawkins
MAN OF LA MANCHA, The Innkeeper
THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, The Doctor
1988 RICHARD III, Lord Stanley
THE MATCHMAKER, Horace Vandergelder
THE STUDENT PRINCE, Prime Minster Von Mark
1989 PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Major General Stanley
1990 YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, Mr. DePinna
HELLO DOLLY, Vandergelder
1991 1776 , Rhode Island Steven Hopkins
1992 HOW TO SUCCEED..., Ovington
1983 ME AND MY GIRL, Parchester
Woodminster REmembers Alex
Thank you for the memories, Alex. The lives of each and every member of the Schlader Family have been enriched by Alex as a performer and a friend. We thank you so much.
It has been said that we remember and love people not for their deeds or their words but because of how they make us feel. I had the utmost respect for Alex as an actor. He was so passionate in one show we did together that he actually burst into flames on stage. Luckily he had the wherewithal to put out his own fire. Nonetheless, it is the way Alex always made me feel safe and respected and loved that means the most to me. I suspect everyone who knew him feels the same way about our dear Alex Brill.
I remember being with Alex in Me and My Girl in 1993 and we were partnered in Lambeth Walk. I can still remember helping Alex with the dance steps and I remember his refreshing childlike curiosity in learning "how to dance." Although he was a seasoned actor, he was open to always learning from others. I remember him as a very humble, intelligent, inquisitive, kind, and gentle man. He made me feel that what I had to offer in a conversation was heard and mattered. Still water run deep. I am so grateful that he has touched my life. My heart goes out to his family.
My first show with Alex was also my very first show with Woodminster. I can remember Alex being so kind and so willing to talk about his love of theater and of Woodminster. He was gracious with his time and helped me quickly learn the Woodminster ropes. We also had great conversations about his other love, cooking. He was always trying out new and exciting recipes. When I started organizing the potluck with a formal sign up sheet and began counseling (badgering) performers on their cooking talents and offerings, Alex would take his culinary assignment very seriously. Each potluck, there was Alex's cassoulet at the top of the sign up sheet and a welcome sight on the table.
Bob and Amy Moorhead
We are so sorry to hear the news about Alex. We both have performed in several shows with him. We asked him to read a poem at our wedding because he was such a gentle caring person and he and Joan were such an examples of a loving relationship. Amy remembers that after getting to know her in Hello, Dolly, Alex said to Bob, "I now forgive you for marrying a small woman."
When I remember Alex, I smile. He had a very deliberate way of speaking directly to you and with honest interest. He remembered everything and would usually follow up with you a few days later. I know my father, Jim Schlader, encouraged him to always challenge himself with a wide range of parts and he always rose to the occasion and did a wonderful job. He also challenged Alex with crazy props and special effects and Alex was always up for it. He was the only Fagin in Oliver that I actually felt compassion for. He was really and will always be, a part of the Woodminster family and the Schlader family as well.
Alex was a lovely man, he made an enormously positive impression on me. He was gentle, considerate, perceptive, funny, smart, a damned good performer blessed with a rich voice and a great laugh. He was maybe the most humble and ego-free actor I've ever worked with. I think that's what made the biggest impression, how kind and unassuming he was. I think when you're young and trying to figure out who to emulate, it's good to have people like Alex as role models.
I think all of us who knew Alex feel that the world has lost a truly good man. I never saw him do anything unkind. Along with his good character, he was a first-rate performer. Audiences loved him, and his fellow actors appreciated that he could be counted on to do the right thing. He was my first "leading man" at Woodminster in Once Upon a Mattress and he could cope with anything. One of my favorite memories was the night when he, as the Wizard, was casting a spell over a small flame when his tall pointed wizard hat caught fire. He was so deeply in character and didn't realize what was going on above his head until the orchestra conductor shouted up, "Your hat's on fire!" It was a thrilling moment for all.
I remember Alex as the kind and talented man he was. He was so humble and thoughtful and professional. I remember one time, I was very nervous before hitting the stage, and Alex was also there with me in the wings, and I think he started to sense that I was stressed. He began to chat with me. Calm, positive, talking about what a fun show this was, and he hoped I was enjoying being part of this wonderful cast. I could feel my stress fading away and felt so supported by his caring and positive thoughts. He cared about us and was always letting us know we were part of a team. So down to earth while waiting for his cue, and then wow!, he gets onstage and totally becomes his character. I'm so lucky to have worked with him, and he is truly missed.
Alex Brill always made me feel that I was the only person in the room. His great interest in everything "you." He was the consummate professional, always prepared, ready to play, ready to learn with glee. He seemed to enjoy the heck out of every interaction, truly waist deep in every moment and reveling and celebrating everyone. People like Alex are such a gift in theater and in life. He taught us, by example, how to take the work seriously, but not take yourself too seriously. Just enjoy the moment!
The last time I actually saw Alex was in 1987, before I moved back East. He was such a kind and gentle man. It was such a privilege and pleasure to have known him.
I loved doing The Sunshine Boys with Alex. Not only was he exceptional in the play, he was just an exceptional person who brought sunshine to all of us who were fortunate enough to have his humor and gentleness rub off on us. Talk about a gentle man who had such a great sense of humor. Talk about his acceptance of all of us eccentric actors. I will miss you dear friend. You made my life and our world a better place and the fond memories that everyone has of you will continue to keep us on the good path. Thanks for all of yourself that you shared with me.
It seems odd to think of Alex Brill as not being with us anymore. When I think of Woodminster, the heartwarming feeling is supported by the wonderful memories of a host of people I've been privileged to meet there. Capable, calm, and collected; Alex Brill was one of those individuals. Through the musicals and plays produced at Woodminster, I enjoyed coutnless moments with Alex, whether they came from our trying to figure out the intentions of William Shakespeare or ironing out the blocking for a particular scene. If we hadn't seen each other for a few months, he was always quick to inquire as to what had been going on in my life, recalling many details of eactly what my life was about. This was Alex to me. Outward looking. Selfless. Alex was a welcomed spirit of reserve and perspective. I can still see him now, backstage, preparing himself for his next entrance, and then onstage, delivering a poignant comment. Alex is still with us, in the hearts of those of us who enjoyed working with him, sharing life with him, and loving him.