65-year-old Richard May had overcome tremendous adversity to making his stage debut with the African-American Shakespeare Company, but he was killed by a driver Saturday morning while walking to a rehearsal for his first performance.
It’s a tragedy beyond anything written by Shakespeare or 20th Century playwright Arthur Miller. Though the tragedy involved the legacy of both.
San Francisco actor Richard May, who was formerly homeless but overcame long odds to score a coveted role to make his stage debut in an African-American Shakespeare Company adaptation of Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. Though on his way to a rehearsal Saturday, the Chronicle reports May was struck and killed by a driver in Lower Nob Hill. He was 65.
“This was his first working job as a paid actor,” African-American Shakespeare Company founder and executive director Sherri Young told the Chronicle. “The day he was supposed to perform in front of a live audience was the day of his death.”
Indeed, a preview performance for the show was scheduled for 8 p.m. this past Saturday evening. May would not live to see it.
He was walking to the Taube Atrium Theater on Van Ness Avenue at around 11 a.m. Saturday. But near the corner of Post and Hyde streets, some 12 blocks north of the theater, a “reckless driver ran a red light, hit another vehicle, and then hit [May] on the sidewalk,” according to a statement from Walk SF.
The driver was taken into police custody, and criminal charges may be forthcoming, according to the Chronicle.
While May had once been homeless, his promise as an actor was beginning to be fulfilled, as he’d traveled to New York City and Los Angeles for actors’ workshops funded by the SF Dream Keeper Initiative.
“Unfortunately, his passing comes at a time when he believed the world was offering him new opportunities,” the African-American Shakespeare Company said in a Tuesday Facebook post. “Richard D. May never shied away from acknowledging his past struggles but we had the privilege of catching him during a chapter of his life when doors were opening, and opportunities were abound. Richard was a vital thread within the cast of Death of a Salesman and an integral part of our theatre family.”
“We noticed his talent too and cast him in almost every show this season. His particular excitement was to play the Evil Stepmother in Cinderella,” the post added.
The production will still continue, with another actor cast in May’s role on Uncle Ben.
‘Freakish, bizarre accident’ is bullshit Nora. Richard died because @SFMTA_Muni refuses to install concrete traffic calming measures in the TL where 80-90% of residents DO NOT OWN A CAR.— Stephen Braitsch @[email protected] (@braitsch) October 31, 2023
Post St is a 3 lane, 1 way freeway designed for speeding cars.https://t.co/a9zmeaFeOh
Pedestrian safety advocates are rightfully upset. Both Post and Hyde Streets are among San Francisco’s high injury streets, described by the SF County Transportation Authority as the “12% of city street miles” that account for “68% of severe and fatal injuries” in the city.
May’s was the sixteenth pedestrian death in San Francisco this year.
Image: African-American Shakespeare Company