Regan Davis dead: Tech worker who loved improv, puppeteering and Dungeons and Dragons was 41

Regan Davis radiated creative energy.

As a member of the group behind SNORF!, a puppet variety show that performed at various Chicago venues and occasionally on WGN Morning News, he wielded a variety of animals, including a snake puppet who fenced with its own tail while holding a sword in its mouth.

He set “leprechaun traps” for St. Patrick’s Day with his son Frankie at their home in North Center. They never worked, but for some reason, the young boy once woke the following day to find his doorway barricaded with streamers.

Mr. Davis was part of a rotating dinner club with friends, and he relished, whenever possible, sneaking in a good “shaggy-dog story” — a comically long-winded, meandering and pointless story told with vigor and detail. He’d often begin with the line: “There was this pink house …”

He cherished playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends. He took his role as dungeon master — serving as storyteller and referee — seriously. But he didn’t hesitate to support particularly outrageous ideas, like the time his pal Andrew Huff escaped bloodthirsty pirates by shooting a fire bolt as a distraction and then throwing an evil sprite over his shoulder to evade pursuit.

“His face lit up at the idea, and he said ‘OK, let’s see how this goes!’ and he proceeded to describe the horrified screams of the pirates as they battled this horrible, evil thing. It was really cool,” said Huff, who noted Mr. Davis used different voices for each character who inhabited the fantasy world.

Mr. Davis died May 12 after a sudden medical event. He was 41.

A 20-sided die, the same kind that’s used in Dungeons and Dragons, was rolled to determine the order of eulogists at a memorial held last week.

A video that was played at the memorial showed Mr. Davis doing a variety of things, like moving an Oreo cookie from his forehead to his mouth with no hands, laughing hysterically with his son and playing an accordion while riding a stationary bike.

“Being able to be silly and kind and have fun and just put yourself out there, not being afraid to be seen trying, and looking silly doing something for the first time, those were his tenants,” said his wife, Beth.

Mr. Davis was vice president of product at SpotHero, a tech firm that pairs drivers with folks renting out private parking spots. He previously held the same title at the tech firm Jellyvision, where he worked on making healthcare benefits easier to access.

“He loved analytics and data, but he brought human empathy to tech. He’d say ‘Stop talking about what your business wants. What do people want?'” his wife said.

Mr. Davis also served as a mentor to entrepreneurs at the tech incubator 1871.

“He saw the best in everybody and brought out the best in everyone, you just wanted to do something cool when you were with him, and he was willing to learn and was very patient in helping other people learn something new,” Huff said.

Mr. Davis got a job in tech to support his theater habit.

“We moved here because Chicago is an improv town,” said Beth, who met her future husband when he offered her a hand in a computer lab during their freshman orientation at Florida State University, where they both studied theater.

In Chicago, Mr. Davis attended classes at Second City Theater and performed with and coached several improv groups.

Friends said he deployed the improv technique of saying “Yes, and ….” — a method used by improv actors to continue and expand an idea — not just on stage, but in every aspect of his life.

“If you had a crazy idea, he was like ‘Let’s do it!'” Beth said.

“He was able to take every experience and embed fun into it, even clearing dirty dishes from the table,” said his friend Cinnamon Cooper.

Mr. Davis was born to Michael Davis and Emily Hager on Nov. 4, 1982, in Nashville and grew up in Florida. His mother was a speech therapist who later became a lawyer. His father is a retired Episcopalian minister who used to work in a circus as a tuba player. Like everyone in the circus, he helped clean up after the elephants.

“There was this constant mentality of ‘If you are in the circus, everyone cleans up after the elephants — everyone scoops — we’re all in this together.’ It was something his father said, and something Regan lived by,” Beth said.

Mr. Davis occasionally performed at “20X2” — a variety show hosted by his pal Huff in which each guest is allotted two minutes to somehow riff off a theme for the night.

At one of the shows, held in 2018 at Schubas Tavern, the theme was “Where do we start?”

“He brought an original Nintendo and played Super Mario Bros. and explained how the game teaches you how to play, and each thing you encounter teaches you a new aspect of the game, and how it’s like life, and learning something new, and was funny and entertaining but extremely poignant,” Huff said.

In October, Mr. Davis participated in a 10th anniversary SNORF! show at Links Hall.

“He performed as a dog puppet and sang a song he wrote about how he lived his life in dog years,” said fellow SNORF! member Noah Ginex. “And he described how he just took the time to enjoy the quiet moments and how time stretches out for him, and at the end, the last thing he said before going off stage, was ‘I love you all, goodbye.'”

Services have been held.

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