He was known in the Panamanian entertainment industry as Bruce Quinn, but his full name shows us the heart of two homelands that this great artist of international trajectory had.
Bruce Anthony Quinn Escobar was born in the now disappeared Canal Zone on February 28, 1936. His grandfather, Patrick Jr. Quinn, an American-Irishman, arrived in Panama in 1907 to work as a boilermaker in the construction of the Canal. His mother, Berta Escobar, was Panamanian and a native of Avenida B de la Central.
The society that received him was one of deep human conflict: the struggle for Panamanian sovereignty, a Canal with a discriminatory labor system, and a developing republic. Perhaps that duality in his Zonian and Panamanian soul led him to hold positions in his professional career that signified reconciliations between these two parts of the nation. In 1974, Quinn was appointed director of Equal Opportunity by the former Panama Canal Company and Ombdusman in 1989 by the Panama Canal Commission.
It was in his role as an artist that his ties to Panama and his commitment to education are most strongly reflected. He directed productions in almost all the theaters inside and outside the Zone, among them, the Canal Zone College, Canal Zone United Way, Ancon Theater Guild, Surfside Theater, Cristobal Little Theater, Teatro en Círculo and the National Theater.
For his service to the community, he twice received the Honorary Public Service Award, conferred by the Governor of the Canal Zone.
Carmela Gobern, Bruce’s co-worker in the 1970’s, recalls that after his retirement from the Canal, Bruce supported her Panama Cyberspace News venture and became a member of the Society of Friends of the Afro-Antillean Museum of Panama (SAMAAP).
“I will always have a high degree of respect and admiration for Bruce, because he not only dedicated his talent and effort to the white Zonian communities and the Panamanian elite. He also looked for talent in the Zone’s Afro-descendant communities and in our churches,” recalls Melva Lowe de Gooding, treasurer of SAMAAP.
On the Canal stage, Bruce had the enormous responsibility of putting on the show for the Canal’s 85th anniversary in August 1999. Artists such as Rubén Blades, Lissette Condassin, Rómulo Castro, Gaby Gnazzo, Juan Carlos Adames, Dino Nugent, Sara Knapp, among many others, participated in this gala.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 97th anniversary of the interoceanic waterway, the Canal Museum organized: “My Life on Stage: Bruce Quinn“, a gala tribute to the 50 years of the producer’s career. The producer also donated to the Canal Museum documents related to the development of the musical theater in Panama during that exhibition.