by Byron Woods
Kenneth Strong, an actor and teacher with PlayMakers Repertory Company and the Department of Dramatic Art since 1979, died Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 12. Strong had fought glioblastoma brain cancer since 2007, a battle whose early rounds were documented by arts journalist Orla Swift in a Nov. 25, 2007 feature story in the Raleigh News and Observer.
Strong had achieved distinction for his memorable contributions to over 50 PlayMakers productions, including Pericles, The Little Prince, God's Man in Texas, and Art. He also performed in a 1996 Broadway revival of "Inherit the Wind" with George C. Scott, in addition to roles off-Broadway, in television series including "Law and Order," "Spin City" and "In the Heat of the Night," and in films.
According to the biographical information on the PlayMakers company website, Strong had also been originally cast to play Newman Noggs in PlayMakers' 2009 production of "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby." Weston Blakesley appeared in the role instead.
Strong had been in hospice for just under a month at the time of his death. Heidi Reklis, PlayMakers general manager, posted on his hospice website that at the end, Strong "was very much at peace and had his [wife] Kee, his mother, his brother and Kee's brother in the room with him. His very last moment was a brilliant Ken Strong smile and a quiet breath. While we are all very sad, you could not ask for a better moment."
A memorial service will be held Mon. Jan. 18, at 1 p.m., at Paul Green Theater.
In lieu of flowers, Strong's family has requested that donations be made in his name to the Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center. Click here for a link to their online donation page.