Heidi Helen Davis 1951-2011|
friends, family and audience of Theatricum Botanicum,
are thoughts from Heidi Helen Davis, director of many productions at
Theatricum. We spent precious moments prior to her death and I wrote
everything I could down to share with you. Theatricum will miss the
richness of her as an artist and most of all, as a friend.
HEIDI: I am Eurasian.
I look white but was raised by my Japanese mother.
What set me on my path was a white woman saying at
an Asian workshop that we could only play the Asian parts.
It was a slap in my face.
each and every one of us we have chosen theatre as the arena in
which to pitch our most passionate and heartfelt battles.
Whether they be in the guise of humor, innovative
drama – or just plain silliness – we cannot help but reveal and
betray what lurks deep most in our need to have a voice ... be it
political, social commentary or those plays of genius which span
centuries of human history because of their universality.
core issue of my life is the fighting against bigotry, whether it be
racism, sexism, classism, or tribalism.
It’s what made me want to fight for actors of all
color to claim their ownership of this universal material.
The classics belong to every one and every one
belongs to the classics.
Knowing “Rose Cottages” by Bill Bozzone would be my last
production at Theatricum, due to my failing health, it was my firm
obligation to seize themes of bigotry, sexism, racism one last time.
Heidi Helen Davis, a director, actress and teacher of those arts
known for her work at Los Angeles' Theatricum Botanicum, Mark Taper
Forum, East West Players and Ensemble Studio Theater, died Dec. 15
in Los Angeles after a yearlong struggle with breast
She was 60.
Davis staged more than 20 plays at Theatricum Botanicum since 1985.
Artistic director Ellen Geer said:
"She had a way of working with actors that allowed risk and complete
exploration guided by instinct. I saw a piece of hers about Japanese
internment camps in the late '80s. Remarkable direction. I asked to
meet her and she was my compatriot in art from then on."
Davis' memorable productions at Theatricum included her adaptation
of "The Cherry Orchard" set in the Old South, "Our Town" and "Long
Day's Journey Into Night."
Davis attended Cal Poly State U. and then trained in San Francisco
with Phillip Pruneau of the Poverty Players and at the city's
American Conservatory Theater under the direction of Bill Ball and
Allen Fletcher. She appeared in ACT productions including "Peer
Gynt," "Heartbreak House" and "The Little Foxes."
She taught numerous acting and directing students over the years,
most recently at the Academy of Art U. in San Francisco, Howard Fine
Studio and the Los Angeles Film School. She was also the acting
coach on the Showtime miniseries "Fidel" in 2000 and on the feature
film "Memoirs of a Geisha" in 2003.
James Pasternak, a colleague at the Los Angeles Film School where
she taught from 2001 to 2010, said: "She taught film directors how
to direct actors. Her mastery was immediately recognized and she was
given her own studio at the school. She was fearless in her quest
for dramatic truth. She had an uncanny diagnostic talent, derived
from her own successful directing, that helped other directors find
a unique vision of their movie, and a way to collaborate with the
actors and crew to realize that vision. The whole school is in
After staging its world premiere at [Inside] the Ford in L.A. in
2010, Davis directed the U.K. premiere of E.M. Lewis's "Song of
Extinction" -- a play centering on a teen coming to grips with his
mother dying of cancer --
at Venue 13 for the Edinburgh Fringe
At the time of her death she was directing a class production of
"Loose Ends" at Academy of Art U.
Born in 1951 in Wichita, Kansas, Davis grew up in Palo Alto and
started writing and directing theater as a child.
Her marriage to cinematographer Lloyd Freidus ended in divorce. She
is survived by a son, her parents and three siblings.
A special internship fund has been
established in Heidi’s memory.
Donations may be made payable to The Will
Geer Theatricum Botanicum (note Heidi in the memo section) and
mailed to PO Box 1222, Topanga, CA 90290. A public memorial at
Theatricum Botanicum is planned for next spring.