It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of John Ahern’s passing. ‘Big John’, as he was very affectionately known, was a physical force to be certain. But all I saw, every time I saw him, was a gigantic heart. Just having Big John in the room lifted spirits. With John around you knew there’d be some good natured shouting matches and a few rounds of impromptu karaoke. I can’t remember a single time he didn’t make me laugh. And even as I write these words now, thinking of John with tears in my eyes, there is a smile on my face.
John was a part of so many lives and communities in Nagoya that it is actually very hard to keep track of them all. I knew him first as an actor, but he was also a churchgoer, Boy Scout leader, volunteer for various charities, and the best damn Santa Japan has ever seen.
John and I first worked together on Nagoya Players’ Anger (2014) and the following year on Psychic (2015). He had immeasurable energy, an inspiring presence and a booming voice. Even in his small roles he commanded the stage. Doing a show with John was always an adventure. It was a bit of a challenge to keep him on script. He was in the habit of slipping into other characters from other shows and routinely broke into song. But once he was focused and in character, that’s where he’d stay. He was incredibly convincing in his roles and we practically had to force him to stop acting when the scene was done.
John was most recently cast in Nagoya Players’ production of Our Town. We’ve unfortunately had to delay the performance and so we’ll never get to see John become Belligerent Man and Old Farmer McCarty. It was truly a pleasure to watch him take on the characters. On his face was always a fierce look of concentration as he got ready to explode onto the stage. He was as fine a Belligerent Man as there ever was. It saddens me greatly that he’ll never get another chance to show everyone his brilliance as an actor. And though we will no longer able to perform Our Town with John, it is my hope that we can perform it for him.
John’s passing has left a massive hole in all our hearts. A hole so big it may never be filled. That’s how much you meant to us, John. We will miss you. I’m sorry you never got your green M&Ms. They’re on the way….
Shawn Mahler, Artistic Director Nagoya Players