September 20, 2012 | 12:55pm
Going on 20 years, the growth of Stages Theatre
into Orange County's longest established storefront theater is a testament to the dedication and commitment to the hundreds of people who have worked there.
But without the contributions of its original members, working in frenetic fashion in its first few seasons, none of it would have been possible.
Many of those original members will be at Stages Friday night, to honor and celebrate the life of Randi Stern, an original Stages member who passed away June 24 due to heart failure. Fifteen performers will honor her memory through readings, songs and personal remembrances. The date is no coincidence: Friday would have been Stern's 51st birthday.
Stern performed in more than a dozen shows over Stages' first five years and worked in the booth for at least as many, said Brian Kojac,
Stages' founder. "She had, as did all the original Stages members), incredible artistic courage. We did over a 150 productions in our first six years, most of which were originals and all of which had very short rehearsal schedules. In those days, everyone took artistic risks all the time. Not only did company members, including Randi, throw themselves into untested material on a regular basis, but they also worked at an accelerated pace. Even though she hadn't performed or worked on a show in many years, Randi certainly contributed to Stages' early success, which helped build the foundation on which the current theater stands.
Stages' was only one small part of Stern's life. After graduating from Michigan Stage University with a degree in computer science, she moved to Southern California and took theater classes at Fullerton College, where she met Kojac. She was an early innovator in stop-motion capture (check our her credits on imdb.com) and most recently worked on creating in-flight entertainment systems for major airlines.
Last year, Stern married her long-time partner, Terry McNichol, after a 17-year relationship, which began when they both worked at Stages. Whether embracing her love for kayaking, or the two German shepards she adopted from a human society, McNichol said, "she was always full of life and energy and was the living embodiment of a free spirit."
She is survived by her parents, Dr. Robert Stern and Babs Stern, her sister, Robin Caruso, two nephews, Ryan and Norman, and a niece, Randi.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that anyone interested can donate to the Orange County Animal Shelter where, McNichol said, Stern "found the two loves of her life, Rex and Max."
Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri., 8-10 p.m.