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Longtime Idaho Shakespeare Festival actor dies after a short battle with rare cancer

Doug Miller in 2007, the year he became Dougfred. Actor's Equity, the performing arts union, doesn't allow two actors to perform under the same name. Miller went from Doug Miller to Douglas Frederick to Dougfred Miller over the years.
Doug Miller in 2007, the year he became Dougfred. Actor's Equity, the performing arts union, doesn't allow two actors to perform under the same name. Miller went from Doug Miller to Douglas Frederick to Dougfred Miller over the years. Idaho Statesman file

Idaho Shakespeare Festival company stalwart Doug "Dougfred" Miller was a rare and remarkable presence on stage over the past 22 years.

Miller died on May 9 when an aggressive small-cell cancer that is normally found in lungs attacked his liver. His doctors found the cancer on April 20. He was 55.

His sudden illness and death have left the company reeling.

"A consummate artist, a brilliant mind, a renaissance man, and the greatest of friends, Doug made an indelible impression on everyone who knew him," wrote ISF Artistic Director Charlie Fee on the company's Facebook page.

And that included his audiences at ISF and its sister companies Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in Nevada.

Tall and lanky, his sharp cheekbones, haughty gaze and acrobatic eyebrows served him in roles that ranged from royalty to fools. The Ohio native first came to Boise in 1995 to play Prince Hal in "Henry IV Parts 1 and 2." When he returned in 2000 he became a company staple, playing leading roles, such as the title role in "Macbeth" (2008) and Sherlock Holmes in 2017's "Hound of the Baskervilles."

He also had a penchant for comic sidekicks and character roles, like stuffy professor Holofernes in 2016's “Love’s Labour’s Lost," in which Miller delivered one of the character's rants as a rap with a drop-the-mic ending. It stopped the show every night.

Miller was always ready with a quip, or comeback, a well-practiced bit that looked off hand or a comic physical feat that took you by surprise. Then there was his signature uncanny impersonation of William Shatner's James T. Kirk.

In one Greenshow in the mid 2000s, Miller pulled off Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, delivered as Kirk. It was hysterical.

"It became a running gag," said Joe Golden, an actor with the company who co-produced the Greenshows for 25 years. "He would try to sneak his Kirk bit into things to try and crack us up."

Miller was a consummate professional and took a cerebral approach to acting, he said in an Idaho story in 2007 about comic timing:

"The people at Starbucks will tell you it's an equation, but at any other coffee shop they will tell you it's a little bit of jazz," Miller said. "It's a lot like making the perfect espresso or latte. There's a certain amount of science to it, and there's a certain amount of improvisation, too."

Miller performed as Doug Miller, Douglas Frederick and Dougfred Miller over the years as the rules of Actors' Equity forced him to change his union name. He married his wife, singer and actress Jessica Cope Miller, in 2010. The couple have a young daughter, Marlowe.

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