David Petersen, local theatre artist, poet, songwriter, provocateur, philosopher and film actor, died on November 2 at St. John Hospice in Vancouver. He was 71 years old.
David was born on May 15, 1947 in Cardston, Alberta to Fredolph and Agnes Petersen and grew up in Whitehorse and Richmond, BC.
After studying theatre at UBC in the 1960s, David became one of the founding members of the Tamahnous Theatre collective, lending his unique voice as both actor and writer to their devised work. Early in his career he was cast in the titular role in Zale Dalen’s seminal independent film Skip Tracer, garnering acclaim for his work as a merciless debt collector. He went on to appear in many films (Grey Fox) and TV series, (including a recurring role on The Beachcombers), as well as enjoying a rich and varied career in the theatre. During his long tenure with the Caravan Farm Theatre, and in theatres across BC and Canada, David stamped any role he played with his idiosyncratic and brilliant artistry; the intensity of his performances always informed by a razor-sharp intellect and devilishly mordant sense of humour. His creativity was not confined to acting, however – he wrote and performed his own monologues, poems and songs as well as working as a director and dramaturge. The Vancouver cult film Big Meat Eater featured a number of his songs, including the title track.
“Stan Dingup” (as he was known online) was an avid stargazer, amateur science enthusiast, fierce scrabble player, prolific collage artist, loyal friend, doting grandfather, and a keen observer of, and gleeful reveller in, the weird, the profound and the paradoxical.
David leaves behind the love of his life, Nicola Lipman, his children Nadja Petersen (Jon Hopkins) and Wyatt Petersen; grandchildren Charlie Hopkins and Maggie Hopkins; his longtime friend and children’s mother, Gillian Cran; and siblings Steve, Karen, and Barb. He is pre-deceased by his parents Fred and Agnes (Udall).
A celebration of David’s life will be held at PAL Vancouver, 581 Cardero Street, on Sunday, November 25th beginning at 4pm. Those who wish may bring a sweet or savory finger food (on a dish that doesn’t need to be returned). People are also welcome to bring photos, artwork or mementos of David to share.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in David’s name to PAL Vancouver or St John Hospice.