An actor, who played memorable parts in films and television shows, has died at the age of 73.
Family, friends, and fans will continue to remember the achievements of Kip Niven who featured in action thriller movie Magnum Force, vigilante TV series Knight Rider, drama series Law & Order, and action crime series Walker Texas Ranger to name a few.
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) May 9, 2019
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) May 8, 2019
Niven passed away after suffering a heart attack on May 6.
— KCUR (@kcur) May 7, 2019
Film Director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott said he would remember Niven as a “great man” who had “amazing talent.”
“I was fortunate to work with Kip on Jayhawkers where he played Phog Allen,” Willmot said in a Facebook post dated May 6. “I don’t know what else to say— he was just terrific! We have lost a mighty man, love you brother.”
Niven regularly appeared in the 1970s television show “Alice” and would feature in many local productions as he was well known for supporting the theater industry in Kansas City.
“Kip was Kansas City theater and film in many ways. He was a symbol of its heart and beauty and community,” Willmott told the Kansas City Star. “He was our little piece of Hollywood right here in the backyard.”
In between guest starring in many films, Niven founded the Equity Actors’ Readers’ Theatre (EARTh) in Kansas. In his last known post to the EARTh Facebook page, he invited all of his members to support a 2018 charity walk organized by the KC Actors Equity Association.
“The KC-Area Actors’ Equity Association Liaison Committee is putting together a team to represent AEA Members and Member Candidates in the up-coming AIDS Walk KC, on Saturday, April 28th,” Niven said in a Facebook post dated April 12, 2018. “If you’re already on another team, march on. We’ll see you there. If you’re not yet on a team, please consider joining ours.”
Fellow actor Jim Korinke was heart-broken to hear the tragic news and said Niven’s death will be a big loss for the city’s theater community.
“I am heartbroken; we have all lost a truly great performer, genuine best friend, and amazingly kind and loving person. It’s very difficult to imagine a theatre community without you in it, my friend,” Korinke said in a Facebook comment dated May 6. “I already ache for that comforting expressive smile whenever I saw Kip, followed by those long outstretched arms pulling me in for his warm, loving hug.”
Musical artist Mike Webber revealed Niven’s family lived not far from him and he observed the family on a regular basis.
“The Nivens lived down the street from us on W. 69th Terrace between Roe and Prairie Village Shopping Center,” Webber said in a Facebook comment dated May 7. “His mother was always such a gracious lady and he was her adoring son. I’m sorry to hear of Kip’s passing but glad that we had the chance to know the family in that manner.”
History author Randy Michael Signor, a former classmate of Nevin, was devastated to hear the sad news.
“Oh my, Kevin; he was a classmate of mine at the University of Kansas (KU), we took a short story course and a directing class together, damn,” Signor said in Facebook comment dated May 6.
Longtime friend and collaborator Doug Weaver described Niven as someone who would help anyone who wished to join the theater community. Niven would also make a point of watching every show, regardless of how well known it was.
“The most amazing thing about Kip—he knew every actor in Kansas City,” Weaver told the KC Star. “He was so full of life and joy.”
He remembers the first time he heard of Niven was back when he was an undergraduate in KU’s theater program, and watched him move to Los Angeles where he became a success.
“We all grew up wanting to be Kip,” he said.
After returning to Kansas City, Niven devoted his time to directing and performing in several shows. He had three children.
Weaver pitched the idea to Niven for him to establish EARTh about seven years ago because Niven was such a “great actor” who would give other actors a chance to shine in their performances.
“[He was like] glue that held the theater world together,” he said. “He’s going to be incredibly missed.”
Actor Manon Halliburton echoed this view.
“Kip was a legend in his own right as a person and artist,” she told the KC Star.
So sorry to hear about the passing of actor Kip Niven. @libbyhanssen wrote about his life and work for @kcur in February: How To Hear Pulitzer-Winning Plays Performed By Kansas City’s Finest Actors For Free https://t.co/RDpdeZhb8w pic.twitter.com/KA1lbRc5XZ
— Laura Spencer (@lauraspencer) May 7, 2019