UPDATE: Funeral arrangements announced; click or see below.
Nye Cooper — for many years, a talented actor who stepped away from the spotlight several years ago after his health deteriorated — passed away last night from complications following a long illness. He was 41.
A Louisiana native, Cooper — the fourth recipient of Dallas Voice’s Actor of the Year honors — had been in Hospice care in North Texas since last week, surrounded by his family.
“I’m devastated,” said Angela Wilson, a playwright, actress and director who worked with Cooper many times over the years, upon learning the news. “Over these past years, Nye would sometimes call me and say ‘I need a pretend mom right now — will you be my mom right now?’ He would be scared and sad because of his illness, but he loved his own mother so much that he didn’t want to bother her with his fears.”
Cooper grew up in DeQuincy, La., and graduated from McNeese State University in Lake Charles. After graduation, he performed in the long-running outdoor musical Texas in Palo Duro County. In the mid-1990s, he moved to Dallas, and quickly became known for his dry humor and acting talents.
As well known for his scathing wit in person as for his gifts onstage, Cooper was an early adopter of Facebook, and for years offering withering observations. Dallas Voice approached him about doing a story on his hilarious posts, but he demurred, and soon withdrew from Facebook altogether.
“He never drew attention to himself,” said Sue Loncar, a local actress and producer who was one of Cooper’s closest friends. “I was always convinced with his razor sharp humor he could have made it big, but he had no desire for such things.”
He stopped performing as well, though his friends in the theater will long recall his legacy.
“Nye did shows with Jeff [Rane] and me when we were both actors — before we formed Uptown Players,” says Craig Lynch, who co-produced Sordid Lives with Cooper during the company’s inaugural season. One of his co-stars was Wilson.
“The first time I saw him was when we were both auditioning for Sordid Lives — he was so gorgeous and so talented,” she said. She was so impressed, she cast Cooper to portray John Wilkes Booth in her play Perchance. Later, Wilson rewrote her play The Ladies Room, renaming it Dim All the Lights, with Cooper in mind. It was one of his singular achievements. “Nye’s friends and family came to see him and cried because the material was so close to home — a young man dying too soon, who still believed in falling in love.”
Cooper will long be remembered for performing the role of Crumpet in David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries at several theaters across North Texas, including WaterTower and Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. He was nominated for a Leon Rabin Award for his performance.
“His range, both dramatic and comic, was beyond anything I had seen in Dallas,” Wilson said. “His humanity and professionalism and devastating sense of humor gave me joy.”
Services are pending. We will advice when we learn anything. Until then, please post your reflections, memories and thoughts about Nye.
UPDATE: Funeral arrangement have been set for Nye Cooper, who died earlier this week after a prolonged illness.
Services will take place at Celebration Worship Center, 3231 Highway 27 South in Sulphur, La., on Friday, Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. Memorials in Nye’s honor can be made to the church or to the American Cancer Society.
Sue Loncar, one of Nye’s longtime friends and founder of the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, will hold a memorial locally for his friends later this month. The details for that service will be decided on Monday.