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Riverwalk loses a star

Mark Mandenberg passes away at 64


Mark Mandenberg and the cast of "Master Class." Left to right: Sergei Kuitko, Janine Novenske Smith, Mark Mandenberg, Bonnie Cook, Ryan Powers, Susan Ruggiero.
Courtesy of Ken Beachler.

The Riverwalk Theatre community lost a treasured member yesterday morning when Mark Mandenberg passed away from cancer at the age of 64.

Regarded as a brilliant creative, friends and colleagues recalled fondly the elaborate sets Mandenberg constructed.

“I worked with Mark at the theatre,” said Tom Ferris, past president of Riverwalk. “I cast him in a couple of plays. I also worked with him on scenery. He would paint murals on the back wall that would back the plays. He was not only very creative, but also, he was just a really nice person to work with. He was open to new ideas, very helpful and you couldn’t work with a nicer guy.”

Throughout his life, Mandenberg was involved in dozens of performances such as “Master Class,” “Young Frankenstein,” “White Christmas,” “Shot in the Dark,” “Conspiracy,” “The Ritz,” “The Full Monty,” “Fortinbras,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Bremen Town Musicians.”

“He has designed and painted many sets, including some impressive full-back-wall scenes, and helped backstage in countless ways,” wrote Jane Zussman, a director, actor and producer at Riverwalk.

Mandenberg made many friends through the theatre, beginning as a set builder and eventually transitioning into acting.

“The play was called ‘Master Class’ and Mark helped us with building set, he was very good with his hands,” said Ken Beachler, an actor, director, and friend of Mandenberg for 16 years. “Master Class’ was the beginning of our long-term friendship. I asked him to play an onstage role as the stage manager, who came in every once in a while, and refreshed water for the famous opera singer. He didn’t really have any lines, but he did a very nice job with it. The bug bit him at that time because very soon after that, he appeared in another one of my shows.”

That experience soon led Mandenberg to a career-defining role, in Beachler’s opinion.

“A couple more years after that, I had heard he was cast in a children’s show,” said Beachler. “He played a big red rooster! Apparently, if you talk to other people, they’re going to mention the big red rooster, because he was so wonderful in the role that people never forgot it.”

Mandenberg’s theatre involvement earned him two Riverwalk Theatre Barney Awards. The first was for his performance as Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol,” and the latest was the Marilyn Steegstra You Take the Cake Volunteer Award in June 2016.

“He was one of those people who brought a helpful, generous, capable, fun-loving attitude wherever he went,” she wrote. “We will all miss him.”

Last night was the 2017 Riverwalk Barney Awards, and one precious community member was missing.

“It’s going to be a huge loss for [Riverwalk Theatre],” said Ferris. “Both from his creativity and imagination, but more importantly, he’s going to be missed as a friend we enjoyed working with.”

Mandenberg is survived by his wife, Joni Starr.


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