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‘Shrek’s’ last weekend: a touching story

akinaAs the Good Company Players production of “Shrek” enters its closing weekend, a story comes to light  I want to share. It’s an example of how local theater can be, well, more than theater. Anyone’s who been in a show knows that a cast can become a family. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to George Akina, who plays Shrek’s father and a palace guard in the show.

Akina is a community theater veteran well-known for bringing a warmth and gentleness to his roles at Children’s Musical Theaterworks and CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre. It was long one of his dreams to audition for a Good Company musical, and at the beginning of this year, now that his kids were grown and work schedules allowed, there was more time to do this. He auditioned in January and was cast as the Rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

In March, a year after a normal PSA test, George was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer that had already spread to his spine.

For some, that would have meant their last show. Not Akina. He joined the cast of “Shrek,” and he’s remained in the show even as subsequent bone scans have shown that his bone cancer has spread throughout his entire skeleton. It isn’t easy. There are performances that he is not able to dance because he doesn’t have the energy. Because of chemotherapy, sometimes he can’t sing because the treatment affects his voice.

But he still goes on, sometimes with a cover reciting his lines.

His wife, Jenny Akina, writes:

The reason I am writing this is to commend  the Good Company Players family for their incredible support and allowing George to continue to do what he loves. I have been very  impressed and am sincerely thankful. George has a great faith and  a wonderful attitude and I am so proud of him and so grateful to the theater community for caring about George. He still gives his best and loves being on stage entertaining. He is certainly acting “well” these days. The show goes on, and it brings George great joy!

If you happen to be at “Shrek’s” last performance on Sunday, offer a special round of applause for a very special theater lover.

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Responses to "‘Shrek’s’ last weekend: a touching story"

Marc says:

As a fellow cast member of George’s in Shrek, the only thing I have to add is that if nobody had told us, none of us would know about the illness. He has the most positive, giving attitude and puts up with us younger hooligans with laughter and comraderie. Above all, he never complains. He shows up, does his job and gives 200% each scene and number. What a pleasure to be in a show with him.

wendy Snyder-Crabtree says:

George is an amazing and courageous man. I have the pleasure of knowing him and have worked with him and I must say, I have not met anyone like him. His outlook is always positive, even in light of his health issues and he has this way of always bringing a smile to one’s face. It is a true honor to call him a friend.

Thank you, Donald Munro, for the wonderful words about George.

tony says:

I have the honor of being stationed next to “Mr. George” in the dressing room for “Shrek” and ditto what Marc stated previously. If we were not told, we would have never known. He gives everything he has, every night…leaving it all on the stage. More so, George is a constant beacon of positivity, always guiding us to the silver lining of every situation. I am most taken by his relentless pursuit of optimism…he simply refuses, stubbornly so, to ever see the negative. I sit in absolute awe of him. His spirit, his wit, his kindness, his strength serve as an inspiration to us all.

Caitlin Jones says:

It has been such a pleasure working with George in both Fiddler and Shrek. He’s amazing actor, cast mate, and friend. He’s one of the sweetest guys you can meet who knows how to put a smile on anyone’s face. Though we are thanked for showing our love and support I’d like to thank him for doing the same for all of us he’s been quite an inspiration. I feel very blessed to have met him.

Amelia Ryan says:

I remember George’s kindness during our involvement with Chidren’s Musical Theaterworks. What a fine man. Thanks for this article.

Chris Hoffman says:

I hade the great privilege of being George’s son in Fiddler and I’m a glad to be right along side him in Shrek as one of the guards. He has been (and will continue to be) such an amazing insperation. He strives to help us all see the world thought a more posative light and at the same time he can still “Akina” us all and the hole room will be roaring with laughter.

Thank you Donald for this article and thank you George for being you, an amazing man of God.

Christy says:

George’s friendship and wisdom encouraged me to avidly seek relationship with Jesus Christ. I truly love him and I agree wholeheartedly with Marc.

Ashley Taylor says:

Working with George is always pure joy. He is an inspiration and a blessing, and we’re all better for knowing him.

Kristin says:

Thank you for writing this Donald.

George,
Your spirit and passion goes unmatched by most in the Fresno theatre scene. I will forever hold your kind and motivating words close to my heart.

Everyone else can take notes from our dear Mr. Akina, he’s a rare gem.

Rich Burt says:

My history goes far back to 2000, where I met George and the family as part of “Wizard of Oz” at CenterStage Clovis. Then again in “Music Man”, after which I got my first GCP role in “Fiddler” the last time it was presented. George and I routinely stayed in touch over the years, always trying to find a way to have him “take the plunge” at Roger Rockas. Even “losing out” to him for a role in “Hello Dolly” was acceptable…because I know the character that he brings to every role. His faith is routinely on display, as he is always ready to give an answer for the strength he finds through his personal relationship with Jesus. So from “bust my buttons” and the Jitterbug, through “Shipoopi” and “ice cream”, and now to “L’chaim!” and “Far Far Away”, I count my friendship with George one of the special ones.

Stephen says:

Enough can never be said about how GCP has always embraced those who cared about their theatre as family.

Dan Pessano runs that place the right way, where relationships matter more than the budgets, the show ideas, or the art itself.

It may not always be one big happy family, but it’s one big family indeed – and this family has consistently and continually bent over backwards for the people involved, from lifetime audience members to Nancy Miller (RIP). You can tell they’re doing it right when Audra continually mentions and thanks GCP for it’s influence in her storied career.

Congrats as usual to GCP. They set the standard for community dinner theatres everywhere.

Anna Martinez says:

Truly an amazing man who will tell you he draws it all from God. I am proud to call him a friend.

Peter says:

George is a consummate professional moonlighting as an amateur. I delight when I have the chance to work with him again, rekindling a friendship that began when we were both in CenterStage’s 2000 edition of Music Man.
Mr. Akina, you are an inspiration.

Dan Aldape says:

When ever I see George I can’t help but smile! He is as real as someone can be. Transparent about his faith in Jesus Christ, loves the theater, and simply loves people. We played side by side in music man as Harold and Cornelius in center stage 2000. I am forever greatful for that opportunity. Everything that has been mentioned about George in everyone’s comments is not exaggerated one bit, actually there is not enough room or words to say about such a great person and man of God! Thank you George for being you.

Ben Akina says:

Mr. Munro, thank you for writing this article about my wonderful dad. And a huge thank you to the folks from CMT, CenterStage, and GCP who’ve enriched his life so much over the past decade-plus. Thank you for your kind words…it’s been so lovely seeing how much you all care for him and appreciate him. My dad never shied away from making sacrifices to provide for his family, and one of the hardest was giving up theatre for so many decades. Having this local theatre community has been such a rejuvenating presence in his life. Thank you.

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