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Theatre, Ballet, and... Gorillas? / Nick Ehrhardt

Theatre, Ballet, and... Gorillas?

Pat Hart was a “costume designer extraordinaire who could make astounding creations with foam rubber, glue and an electric carving knife.”

Hart’s obituary, written by Maureen O’Donnell of the Chicago Sun Times, provides details about the career of the “​graceful, ballet-trained redhead who wore one-of-a-kind outfits and jewelry,” who died of complications from a brain tumor April 10, 2011, at age 64.

Pat Hart (Chicago Sun-TimesHart worked on theatrical and television productions as well as such independent films as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Normal Life.

But O’Donnell offers a surprising tidbit – about gorillas – that is unrelated to Hart’s costuming career. For more than 20 years, she visited and photographed gorillas and chimps at the Lincoln Park Zoo, “sometimes even bringing them books and toys that she displayed through the glass that separated them.”

“They recognized her,” said Harriet Spizziri, who made a short documentary, Capture, about Pat’s visits.

“When she walks in,” Spizziri said, “they’ll give her a greeting and hit their chests.”

O’Donnell punctuates Hart’s story with this quote:

“We were planning on, hoping to move to Michigan,” said her husband, himself a Jeff-winning sound designer. “But then she would miss her gorillas.”


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer who lives in Northeast Ohio. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.