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Orva Hoskinson


1924 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Orva Hoskinson

September 27, 1924 – January 26, 2017

Orva Hoskinson, co-founder of San Francisco's beloved Lamplighters Music Theatre, has died at 92. Life is henceforth a blank.

Orva co-founded the Lamplighters with Ann Pool Mac Nab in the summer of 1952. From the beginning, their intention was to bring the Gilbert & Sullivan canon to audiences in productions of the very highest possible artistic professional caliber within the limitations imposed by budgetary and other constraints. Now in its 64th season, the Lamplighters still strive to respect the material and present it the "artistic, elegant, polished way" that Orva exemplified in every production he was associated with.

While he played all the principal tenor roles throughout the 1950s and 60s, Orva was best known as a performer in the role of the aesthetic poet Reginald Bunthorne in "Patience," a role he played in at least eight productions with the Lamplighters, taking his final bow in the role in 1990. As Robert Commanday once put it in a Chronicle review: "Well, there was Gielgud's Hamlet, and there is Hoskinson's Bunthorne."

Through some forty years as the company's principal stage director, he remained the guiding spirit and artistic soul of the Lamplighters, training generations of performers both directly and by example not only in the history and style of G&S, but in singing, acting, and all the arts of stage performance. His legacy lives on in every Lamplighter performance.

A native San Franciscan, born on September 27, 1924 to Harry Hoskinson and Henrietta Martin,
Orva spent a classic San Francisco boyhood swimming in the Sutro Baths and visiting the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, as well as studying piano and singing. He graduated from George Washington High School in June 1942 and made his operatic debut at age 18 in a production of Douglas Moore's "The Devil and Daniel Webster."

He served in the Army Medical Corps in World War II, but the army soon recognized his exceptional musical talents. He was the soloist in a "Messiah" in Honolulu with 20 choruses participating, and landed the lead tenor role in "The Mikado" produced by the Army Special Services, eventually performing it 75 times under a wide variety of conditions, once on an improvised truck-stage.

Back in San Francisco after the war, Orva joined a male quintet, The Royal Brigadiers, & toured successfully. He also toured with Boris Goldovsky through Alaska and with Jan Popper. He helped organize and performed in several Gilbert & Sullivan productions around the Bay Area (including more than 200 performances of "The Mikado") before co-founding The Lamplighters in 1952.


Orva leaves no direct descendants. Through founding the Lamplighters, his progeny now extend worldwide.

A celebration of his life will be held on June 18 at 3:00 pm at Presentation Theatre, home of the Lamplighters from 1968 until 1995. Details will be posted on the Lamplighters website. Donations to the Orva Hoskinson Artistic Fund in his memory will be gratefully welcomed at lamplighters. org.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Mar. 12 to Mar. 19, 2017
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