Update: Services for Evan Saunders will be held on Sat., Jan. 28 at the Miller Dutra Chapel at 2 p.m. in downtown Half Moon Bay (645 Kelly Ave).
According to Coastal Rep Artistic Director Michael Lederman, a memorial scholarship and an education fund for Saunders' 4-year-old son Aiden is in the works.
Thirty-eight-year-old El Granada actor and lighting designer Evan Saunders died this morning after a lengthy battle with brain cancer, according to Artistic Director Michael Lederman and Half Moon Bay actor-producer Denise Delaney.
"He was my brother and my partner at the theater. He was Superman and Aquaman and Spiderman and Rastaman and Husbandman, Fatherman and Brotherman all in one," Lederman said this afternoon. "He was the toughest and strongest person I've ever met in my 54 years."
"It's an absolutely unmeasurable loss to our family and the people who give so much of their heart and soul to having a theater in Half Moon Bay," he said.
Lederman is holding an impromptu wake for Saunders at the Coastal Repertory Theater in Half Moon Bay tonight. The wake is open to the public and is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
"We're all going to come together as a family and figure out what to do as a family to move forward, because that's exactly what Evan would expect us to do," Lederman said, speaking of the Coastal Rep's community of actors and crewmembers.
Saunders was diagnosed with brain cancer eight years ago, Lederman said. Despite having to go through chemotherapy and other treatment, he continued to be active in the theater both onstage and off.
"I never once heard him complain," Lederman said.
Up until just a few days before his death, he was up in the rafters of the Coastal Rep installing a system to make it easier to hang lights above the stage after he was gone, according to Lederman.
Even though Saunders' brain tumor had affected his short-term memory, Lederman said, he jumped in to memorize lines for a difficult role in the theater's "Biloxi Blues" production at the last minute — all the while working as a lighting designer on the show at the same time.
"He would come over to my house and play conga drum — I would play guitar — and he'd make up some songs on the fly," Lederman remembered fondly.
"We'd laugh and he'd go out and cough on balcony and throw up over the side because he'd be in chemotherapy the day before. He'd go back and wash his mouth, and we'd go back to singing songs together," Lederman said.
"Michael and Evan were very close friends — Michael always called him 'a brother from another mother,'" Delaney recalled.
Lederman said that knowing Saunders has taught him "not to be worried so much about the small stuff...things that don't measure as high on the life scale as mortality."
Saunders, Lederman said, navigated his eight-year battle with "dignity and personal strength and honesty" - even at time when he had to handle a combination of steroids, Accutane and chemotherapy all at the same time.
According to Saunders' Facebook page, he also had a varied array of interests outside of the theater which included modern dance, surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing, woodworking, riding motorcycles and Frisbee golf.
"He was a warrior — a gladiator among mere mortals like myself," Lederman said.
Saunders is survived by wife and fellow actor Lisa Claybaugh and their 4-year-old son Aiden.
Evan Saunders will be remembered tonight (Jan. 20) at 7 p.m. at the in Half Moon Bay tonight. The wake is open to the public. A more formal memorial ceremony will be held in the future, according to Lederman. The Coastal Repertory Theater is located at 1167 Main Street in Half Moon Bay.