Actress, 23, Dies Suddenly After SCR Opening Night

Times Staff Writer

An actress appearing in a production at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa died earlier this week from an undiagnosed illness 24 hours after completing the play’s opening night, a theater spokesman said Friday.

Chris Gross said Sandra Stear, 23, of Whittier had been complaining of neck and shoulder pains before the play’s opening on Tuesday night, but she told other cast members before the show that she was feeling better.

But about 11 p.m., shortly after completion of the opening night, the actress “told someone she was not feeling well,” Gross said. Stear was taken to Coastal Community Hospital in Santa Ana and immediately checked into an intensive care unit.

“A team of five doctors worked on her but they could never find out what was wrong with her,” Gross said.

Autopsy Inconclusive

Stear died at 11:54 p.m. Wednesday, almost 24 hours after she was admitted to the hospital.


An autopsy performed Thursday was inconclusive as to the cause of death, a county coroner’s spokesman said, adding that a detailed analysis of the body would take “a few weeks to complete.”

Stear was a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and was studying at South Coast Repertory’s conservatory. She was picked from the conservatory to play the role of the ballad singer’s wife in the production of “Galileo,” which is running at the theater through Oct. 13, Gross said.

“She was a very promising actress. We’re terribly grieved by this,” he said.

Gross said that the actress’s parents, Thomas and Margaret Stear of Whittier, have requested that donations be made to begin a theater scholarship fund in their daughter’s name.

“We think this is a good idea. Her parents were very proud of her and what she had accomplished,” Gross said.