Lisa O'Brien of the West Coast Players Theatre and the Marina Restaurant made an impression on and off the stage CLEARWATER BEACH — Bidding farewell to visionaries, leaders and innovators whose contributions shaped their respective fields makes headline news. Then there are those adventurous souls like Clearwater Beach resident Lisa O'Brien, who, while lesser known, made her own mark on this world. The community theater actress and server lost her battle with cancer last month. “She will be missed for her talent and her infectious humor by the members of her extended family in the local area,” said close friend Bill Morris, the city's marine and aviation director.
O'Brien was part of Morris' extended family for nearly 20 years. He and his wife, Patti, first met O'Brien in New York City at a “this looks interesting” stop for breakfast at the now-closed Sazerac House Restaurant and Bar in Manhattan's West Village. “That chance to meet Lisa, as many have found, was all it required to be drawn back for more. Each meal was more entertaining than the last,” Bill Morris said. “Having Lisa as your server was a performance in itself.” He shared a bit of O'Brien's history, starting with her love of theater while in college in Ohio. Her aspirations brought her to California then New York City, with years of off-stage set design and theater support work along with a solo performance on off-off Broadway. While not a fan of the cold, or air conditioning, she often visited friends and her growing extended family, like the Morrises, after their move to Clearwater, who encouraged her to pursue opportunities in the local theater scene. After more than a decade of visits, O'Brien settled on Clearwater Beach around 2011. She became a frequent member of the cast at the West Coast Players Theatre at 21931 U.S. 19 near Access Road A and a server at the Marina Restaurant at 10 Causeway Blvd., south of the Clearwater Beach roundabout. “Perhaps her greatest gift was the powerful bond she shared with the many friends made in an instant during her lifetime, including her ever expanding extended family here in Clearwater Beach,” Morris said. “She felt she had reached her pinnacle and looked to settle here on the beach, which she loved. She even traded her car for a scooter to get around.” Co-worker Vicki Clark, an eight-year employee at the Marina Restaurant, said, “Lisa knew how to make a strong first impression. She loved making you laugh and enjoyed watching you laugh your (behind) off. She was one in a million.” Another co-worker, Olivia Wolkowsky, whose parents own the restaurant, said, “She was a wonderful, wonderful person. She became a really good friend and part of our family.” O'Brien's last theater performance in January 2013, prior to her cancer diagnosis, was a starring role in “The Red Velvet Cake War,” for which she received rave reviews. Her fellow cast members at the West Coast Players Theatre are dedicating their performance of “Talking With” in her memory. It will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. O'Brien died April 10. Born in Rhode Island on Nov. 15, 1959, she was the daughter of Thomas and Margaret Pons. Besides her parents, she's survived by three sisters, Phyllis Berlacher of Charlotte, N.C., Marlene Tiernan of Port St. Lucie and Angela Clifford of Aiken, S.C.; and six nieces and nephews. Memorial contributions may be directed to the American Cancer Society.