Palm Canyon Theatre photographer will be remembered for more than his images

Paul Hayashi, always dressed in a three-piece suit, captured more than photographs at the local playhouse — he also captured the hearts of the theater community.
Paul Hayashi, who passed away last month, will be remembered at a funeral service Tuesday. He’s seen here doing what he loved — taking pictures of the cast of yet another performance at Palm Canyon Theatre.

Behind every performance for the past several years at one Palm Springs playhouse, one man made it his mission to record the moments so that others would have lasting memories. Tuesday morning, memories of that man will be shared.

Funeral services for photographer Paul Hayashi will be held Tuesday in Redlands. Hayashi died in late December at the age of 75. He was married to his wife, Ella, for 45 years. They raised two children, Hannah and James, and had two grandchildren, Austin and Chaim.

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Hayashi chose to donate his time and talents for 12 years at Palm Canyon Theatre, capturing beautiful images used in all promotional materials. As word of his passing spread, tributes began pouring in from those who had the pleasure of seeing — and being in — his work.

“Paul H. was a gigantic part of our theater,” wrote Colleen Walker. “He gave of himself wholeheartedly. We are better for having him sharing in our passion.” 

Added another theater community member: “He was an extraordinarily kind and generous man – who never left the house without wearing a three-piece suit. We will always remember Paul’s big smile as he posted photos in the lobby on opening night and hand-delivered a CD to each cast member on closing night.”

Hayashi was born in Tokyo and became a U.S. citizen in 1947. After growing up in Seattle, he enlisted in the Air Force. While stationed in Japan, Thailand, and bases in the U.S., he served as a photojournalist. After he retired from the Air Force, he taught photojournalism in Redlands and ran a commercial photography business.

He was a patron and lover of the Palm Springs theater well before getting involved as a photographer.

“His son, James, started performing with us at the Palm Canyon Theatre,” explained Nick Edwards, graphic and special effects designer and prop master for the theater. “Paul came to every show no matter how big or small James’s parts were. That’s how he slowly became a part of our family.”

Long after James’s time at the theater came to an end, Hayashi continued driving into the city from his home in Redlands to photograph the performances and promotional material. 

“He would drive all the way to Indio, too, to help out Desert Theatreworks,” Edwards said. “He got nothing out of it other than the joy of helping others.”

At the end of every run of a show, Hayashi would hand deliver Compact Discs of his photographs from the performance to each and every cast member. 

“He did that all on his own time,” said Cara Van Dijk, public relations contact for Palm Canyon Theatre and writer of the musical “Palm Springs Getaway,” playing later this month. “He paid for the CDs on his own, and would never take any money,” 

Hayashi, always in a full three-piece suit no matter the weather, took his last photos for the theater in August, making sure he left behind all the promotional photos for the upcoming season, according to Van Dijk.

Edwards knows Hayashi’s work will live on long past this season, serving not just as mementos for previous cast members but also as marketing for the theater.

“The stellar photos he’s taken over the years will be used by us for a long time,” said Edwards. “There will never be another person like him.”

The next time you see a flier for “The Scarlet Pimpernel” or any of the other upcoming shows this season, take a moment to think of the man behind the photograph, an unsung but vital member of the Palm Springs theater community. 

More information about the funeral services can be found here.

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