April 21, 2021

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Arts Eternal

John Borek, a serious and zany man of the arts, dies at 71 | Art

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One of the last functions of John Borek, just one of many acts of his life, was to mail 5-foot-tall cardboard cutouts of chocolate rabbits to friends in celebration of Easter, a single of his most loved holiday seasons.

Borek, a man of several hats known for his zany theatrics and significant dedication to the Rochester arts and cultural scene, died Saturday. He was 71 and experienced been sick with leukemia.

He was many factors to numerous men and women in the metropolis.

There have been his 15 many years as a legislative aide to previous Town Councilman Adam McFadden. In February, the City Council proclaimed Feb. 16 as “John W. Borek Working day,” celebrating “a lifetime tale higher than the sum of all its chapters.”

He was the former president of the 19th Ward Group Association, and labored with community advisory programs at the College of Rochester. Quite a few Rochester people remember him at the rear of the counter at The Village Inexperienced bookstore on Monroe Avenue, which he owned and operated for decades.

But he may well be best remembered for his contributions to the arts group and the identify he produced for himself as an artist later on in everyday living.

At 58, Borek took a unexpected curiosity in the arts. Maybe individuals who understood him ideal, who understood of his quirkiness, observed it coming. He started recording rap albums, like a track about Michael Jackson’s monkey. He wrote deliberately odd plays, and even carried out in them, as artistic director at Multi-use Local community Cultural Centre (MuCCC) on Atlantic Avenue. His resurrection of a person of the worst plays to have at any time, inexplicably, designed its way to Broadway, “Moose Murders,” was noted on the entrance of The New York Moments arts portion.

Don Bartalo, founder of the hummingbird theatre organization, which like so numerous other small theater firms discovered a residence at MuCCC, named Borek “the spirit” of MuCCC for his insistence that a broad variety of voices, races, and beliefs be represented on its phase.

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  • &#13 Experimental theater producer John Borek presenting an offbeat edition of “Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” at MuCCC.&#13
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“John was really resourceful, he was liked by all the actors and directors and playwrights,” Bartalo states. “We would fulfill with him the moment a thirty day period. We experienced a great deal of enjoyment. We also figured out a great deal.”

Borek was both a serious and whimsical male, recognised for sporting loud, colourful shirts and a penchant for screwball movies of the 1940s and ’50s.

Similar: John Borek displays on a web page-turner of a existence

He experienced planned on undertaking a clearly show identified as “The Reserve of Leuk” at very last year’s KeyBank Rochester Fringe Pageant, about his observations on his struggle with leukemia. But a resurgence of the sickness prevented that from occurring.

Final 12 months, Borek printed “The Club Van Cortlandt,” a modest but marvelous book about his freshman year at Columbia College, a important 12 months in his life. In latest months, Borek had been publishing on Facebook narratives about other chapters of his lifestyle, essays that go through like what may possibly have become another ebook, had he experienced the time to entire it.

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&#13 Borek performing in his show "Pope It Up" at MuCCC. - PHOTO BY ANNETTE DRAGON

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  • &#13 Borek undertaking in his show “Pope It Up” at MuCCC.&#13
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News of Borek’s demise prompted an outpouring of tributes on social media, in which friends recalled his quite a few functions of generosity.

Richard Gray Collins, a previous felon, wrote of how Borek experienced stopped him on the avenue 1 working day, admiring the shirt he wore and that he experienced created. Borek requested if Collins could make him a shirt like it. Collins did, and Borek compensated him very well. That possibility romance continued. Even when Collins broke parole and returned to jail, “John did the calendar year violation with me, sent enough money for me to acquire stuff each and every 3 months,” Collins wrote. “When I came residence he said, ‘I will not do jail once more so don’t go back again.’ ”

Borek wrote “The Club Van Cortlandt” on his telephone, frequently even though sitting in the waiting around room wherever his spouse of 44 yrs, Jackie Levine, was undergoing treatment method for a rare neurological disease.

They did not have kids of their very own, but in excess of the a long time, and by means of Levine’s function directing the University of Rochester’s study overseas application, they took a massive variety of students beneath their wing. Borek and Levine called them their “not children.”

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&#13 John Borek - PHOTO BY CATHERINE RAFFERTY

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Levine died 10 months in the past.

Mates at Borek’s hospice bed stated the last phrase he uttered that could be comprehended was “Jackie.”

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Everyday living editor and reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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