“Take pause—a giant has passed.”
That was the way Edward Medina (he/him) commented on any Facebook post when eulogizing those who had transitioned to the heavens. He honored and respected those giants. Playwrights, actors, critics and artists filled many of the roles he labeled with reverence as giants.
A beloved figure in the New York theatre scene, Medina—a New York native and proud Puerto Rican—died on April 28 after complications arose from his heart transplant in December. He was 60.
Often toggling between a Lion King ball cap and a black fedora that rested upon his head, Ed lived his life in only the biggest of ways. He was a passionate soul who engaged with writing of many genres. A man about town who was a fixture in midtown theatre lobbies. Walt Disney World train engineer, Jim Henson employee, author, critic, director, producer, filmmaker—you name it, he did it. He loved his friends, the theatre, and his city. And wolves—Ed loved wolves, often using his Facebook timeline to implore his friends to donate to wolf conservation causes.
My first time hanging with Ed was after an American Theatre Critics Association conference in 2018, when he took myself, his life partner Nate Hinkle (she/her), and fellow theatre scribes Kelundra Smith and Diep Tran to lunch at Joe Allen Restaurant on 46th, with food as good as the shows that surrounded you were bad. Not the shows on 46th, mind you (Hamilton is on 46th—sacrilege, dahling!), but the ones that sat inside with you, as only the most spectacular of Broadway dumpster fires earn spots on Joe Allen’s iconic walls.
“Get whatever you want, it’s on me,” Ed proudly told the table. It didn’t take long to realize that this quote probably should have been on his business card. He loved to treat, loved to make people happy, and shot straight for the tummy, nailing his target every time.
“Yes, we would love to see a dessert menu,” he would tell the waitress with glee shortly after the plates were cleared, then looked at his guests. “You’ll love the dessert here.”
And we did. Bullseye.
Moments like these were a daily occurrence for Hinkle, who had a front row seat to Ed’s generosity for the 13 years they knew each other, and the 11 years they were together.
“Ed really had the biggest heart of anybody I ever met,” Hinkle says, choking back her tears as her voice softens. “He really was the most incredible person, and it wasn’t just in all the things he had accomplished. It was the way that he touched people that he had just met for 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, he could turn your entire life around if he met you in the right moment.”
When Hinkle and Ed first met, it wasn’t the right moment, and 15 minutes wasn’t enough time. It took two years, in fact, until she agreed to a date. Hinkle’s initial reticence melted away when she accepted an invitation to Ed’s apartment to watch The Shawshank Redemption.
“It was over after that,” she recalls. “I loved the movie, and once you get caught having a conversation with Ed, it’ll just go on for the rest of your life. That’s literally what happened.”
Martha Wade Steketee (she/her) worked with Ed in multiple capacities. As nominating committee chair of the Drama Desk awards and chair of ATCA—Ed was a member of both—Steketee saw his enthusiasm, pragmatism, and passion for the theatre.
“Theatre writing was only part of the story for him,” Steketee says. “He wanted to join with his peers to assess, celebrate, vote on, and build a new theatre journalism for the future.”
Ed’s voice in the organization grew stronger as time went on, as he was always looking for ways to bring equity and advocacy to the wider range of voices that theatre criticism needs. As much as he accomplished, Steketee says he yearned for even more.
“In his new role as member of ATCA’s executive committee, he brought calm and clarity to some hard questions and issues in the past few months, and I was scheming for him to take over all manner of things,” she states. “Ed was a charming multi-hyphenate with many chapters to his career and life, all of which informed the relatively young man he was and is in my mind. I miss him.”
For anyone who knew Ed, who ended every email with “Have fun,” the warm hugs he doles out after breaking bread are especially missed. Despite the loss so many are processing, his legacy is secure, and will endure.
“Ed believed in the possibilities in life,” says Hinkle. “Whether that was the possibilities of what a person could do, what a show could do, what an organization could do—he always believed anything was possible. And he used that optimism to try and make things a little better everywhere he went.”
In Ed’s all-time favorite musical, Sunday in the Park With George, the title character reads the show’s final line: “White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”
For the many years Ed sauntered the earth, he filled that blank white canvas with his own possibilities: love, laughter, the written word, and a whole lot of theatre. Ed Medina was the engineer of the most fun train on earth, and happy were those who were able to ride along.
Take pause—a giant has passed.
David John Chávez (he/him) is a Bay Area-based theatre critic and reporter. He is the vice chair of the American Theatre Critics Association. @davidjchavez.
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