Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day, missing artists

A year ago I wrote briefly of my friend David who died of AIDS in the late 1980’s. Over the last year I have thought of him and several other friends and co-workers who have died too early in life from AIDS. I assembled the following biographical information from obituaries, theatre programs and newsletters I had in my files. All these men died before the internet became pervasive. There is little to nothing about them and their lives out there. They were all wonderful artists that contributed enormously to theatre in the South Bay. Here is a brief summary of the work of David DeLong, David Lemos, Ken Holamon, Jeffery Struckman and Peter David Heth.

David A. DeLong died October 15, 1987. He was 36. David was a noted member of the San Jose theatrical community and a prominent activist in local gay causes. For five seasons David worked as a publicist and in several other administrative positions for San Jose Repertory Company (now San Jose Repertory Theatre). David directed a critically acclaimed production of Streamers in downtown San Jose in 1986 for City Lights Theatre. The play was about a gay soldier being harassed in an Army barracks during the Vietnam War. He also directed a San Jose production of Pinter's The Birthday Party.

In 1981 he began writing for Lambda News. His newspaper columns promoted local and gay-oriented arts and entertainment as well as events at Billy DeFrank Community Center. He was instrumental in the establishment of a gay community newspaper in the South Bay called “Our Paper”.

David was a graduate of Ohio Dominican College in Columbus and earned a master’s degree in theatre at Villanova University. He founded and managed Cupola Theatre Company in the 1970s, an alternative theater, in Columbus, Ohio. Later he earned his Actors Equity union card at a summer professional theatre.

David Lemos died in August 17, 1995 at age 38. He was born October 14 th, 1956. David was a co-founder (along with James Reber) and the first producing artistic director of San Jose Repertory Company (now San Jose Repertory Theatre). For the Rep's first seven seasons, he chose and cast its plays and hired all the directors and designers. He also directed ten plays for San Jose Rep. (Tartuffe, The Shadow Box, The Dining Room, What I Did Last Summer, Quilters, Godspell, Very Last Lover of the River Cain, Cyrano de Bergerac, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, and YUP!) He also did a couple scenic design for the theatre as well: Godspell, and The Dining Room. He left the Rep in 1987.

He went on to write and direct “Remember My Name”, a theatre piece about the AIDS quilt for the NAMES Project. A story in the Bay Area Reporter said: “David Lemos was moved by the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt to write the play "More Than Names." The play debuted at the New Playwrights' Theater in Washington, DC. (It was nominated “Best New Play 1989” by the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington. In a later revision David renamed it “Remember My Name”.) He began writing the play in December 1987 on the day he saw the quilt for the first time. The first name he saw was that of David DeLong, his former publicist. The play gave him a way to honor his friend and colleague David DeLong and a way to support the NAMES Project. When David Lemos began reading the letters that people sent in with the quilt panels, he realized there was something to be learned from the way people were dealing with all the grief. "The quilt is responding to people's needs, and I wanted a play that could do that, as well", he said. The plot centered on the idea of making a quilt and bringing it to the nation's capitol. Lemos says the action moved back and forth in time, to capture "someone reflecting on someone's death, someone having an anniversary celebration a year before they died, and a mother talking about what life is like now."

He worked for the NAMES Project as chapter development coordinator, chapter managing director and executive director. His final job was director of development for Greenpeace USA.

David was born in Los Angeles and graduated from Loyola High School. He attended the College of the Queen of Peace, a Jesuit seminary in Santa Barbara, and then transferred to Santa Clara University, from which he graduated in 1980 with a degree in theatre. At Santa Clara University he taught classes in musical staging, theory of show choreography, and TV/film writing. He was an accomplished choreographer and a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

David also had a couple screen roles before his second birthday. He and his twin brother played the children of Spartacus and were give an on-screen bath by Jean Simmons in the epic “Spartacus.” Shortly after, they had a brief appearance in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Ken Holamon succumbed from AIDS complications on January 9, 1993, at the age of 45. Ken was the resident scenic designer/artist for American Musical Theatre of San Jose (formerly San Jose Civic Light Opera or SJCLO) and many other theatre companies including San Jose Repertory Theatre (hired by David Lemos) and Opera San Jose. Ken also served as resident scenic consultant for San Diego Starlight Musical Theatre. He designed 28 shows for AMTSJ between 1980 and 1993 and a dozen productions for Opera San Jose. His designs and research were housed at AMTSJ’s Holamon Research Library of Theatrical Design. [American Musical Theatre of San Jose/San Jose Civic Light Opera closed it doors suddenly in December 2008. I have been told that the entire library has been relocated to Santa Clara University where Ken taught for a number of years. This theatrical resource of theatre history and design was preserved to be used by theatre teachers, designers and artists in the community.]

A native of Arkansas, Ken attended Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana and Memphis State University in Tennessee. During this time, he met Orlin and Irene Corey, the founders of Everyman Players, which he later joined. Many of Ken’s early designs can be found in the book, Odyssey of Masquers: The Everyman Players by Orlin Corey. The book tells the story of the Everyman Players, a legendary regional theatre troupe from 1957-1980. It includes 150 photographs with 48 pages of color photography featuring the plays The Book of Job, Romans by Saint Paul, The Pilgrim's Progress, Esther and many more.

Ken received a M.F.A. from New York University and taught at several Eastern universities. Before moving to California, Ken was a freelance designer in New York City both on and off Broadway. His credits include such notable projects as Katherine Hepburn’s A Matter of Gravity, Irene Worth’s Sweet Bird of Youth and Gower Champion’s ill-fated Rockabye Hamlet. He also designed sets for the touring production of Peter Pan that starred Sandy Duncan. Ken designed summer stock productions at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, CA, before working at AMTSJ. He was also a teacher on the faculty at Santa Clara University. Ken was a member of the United Scenic Artists. He viewed himself, first and foremost, as a communicator and collaborator.

Ken won numerous design awards from Drama-Logue (a weekly west-coast theatre trade publication), the Bay Area Critics Association and the San Jose Fine Arts Commission. He wrote his own adaptation of Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland (published by Anchorage Press, 1988) that premiered in Dallas and is still performed in theatres around the country. The production featured all of the glorious music and fabulous fantasy characters of the classic Victor Herbert creation, in a bright contemporary version ideal for children and youth theatre companies.

Local design credits for American Musical Theatre of San Jose include: Phantom, Follies, Evita, Hello Dolly!, The King and I, Camelot, Cabaret, Chess, Assassins, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Annie, On the Town, Guys & Dolls, They're Playing Our Song, Sweet Charity, George M!. (Links to design renderings.) He also directed a production of Kiss Me Kate at AMTSJ in 1983 and played Merlin in the 1984 production of Camelot. The majority of Ken's stage creations included a design trademark of a bird cage nestled into the scenery somewhere. For a cash strapped production of Two Gentlemen of Verona in 1984, Ken designed a set that only cost $1,200 by reusing and pulling everything in the shop including a radiator ripped off the wall. At the time of his death he had just completed work on Sondheim's Assassins.

Opera San Jose scenic designs: Albert Herring, Vanessa, L ‘Ormindo, Hotel Eden, West of Washington Square, The Medium, Tartuffe, The Pearl Fishers, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Phaedra.

San Jose Repertory Theatre scenic designs: Very Last Lover of the River Cane, Strange Snow, The Servant of Two Masters, The Country Girl, The Miracle Worker, School for Scandal.

Peninsula Civic Light Opera (now Broadway by the Bay) scenic design: Best Little Whore House in Texas.

Jeffrey Struckman died in February 12, 1995 at age 38. He was known for his vivid scenic and costume designs for San Jose Repertory Theatre and other companies as well. He has designed at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, Sacramento Theatre Company, Mark Taper Forum in LA, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and the Shakespeare Festivals of California, San Francisco and Berkeley. He also designed for The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Milwaukee Rep, the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, StageWest in Springfield, MA., Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge MA, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis Municipal Opera, and Theatre Project Company in St. Louis.

Jeff was born (11/4/56) in St. Louis and was educated at Webster University. In 1979 the American College Theater Festival at the Kennedy Center gave him an award for Theatrical Design Excellence. Jeff was also noted for his jewelry designs that he worked on in his spare time.

He was art director for opening ceremony of the Tenth Pan American Games (1987) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A description of the Opening Ceremonies: "The Games opened on 8 August with the most lavish Opening Ceremony in Pan American Games history. The Walt Disney Co. was hired to produce a 2-hour extravaganza, "The Magic That's America". 6000 volunteers, a 20,000 person card section, 80 Disney characters and a 1027 piece marching band participated at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway." Another Disney project he designed included “Skylaidescope” at Walt Disney World (EPCOT Center's World Showcase Lagoon, 1985-88). This show used boats, kites, and daytime fireworks. Some of the boats were made to resemble dragons. Jeff also worked on several commercials.
In 1986 Jeff moved to the Bay Area and immediately established a relationship with the San Jose Repertory Theatre. For San Jose Rep he did both Scenic & Costumes designs for: Toys in the Attic, 1940’s Radio Hour (won the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award 1994) , The Seagull, The Baby Dance, The Rainmaker, The Unexpected Guest, All My Sons.

Scenic designs at San Jose Rep: On the Verge, The Mousetrap, Fences, The School for Wives, The Geography of Luck (design rendering), Talley’s Folly, A Streetcar Named Desire.

Costume designs at San Jose Rep: Harvey, The Little Foxes (won Drama - Logue Critics Award 1991), The Glass Menagerie, A Day in Hollywood-Night in Ukraine, Dracula, Arms and the Man.

He also designed costumes for Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s Julius Caesar, Measure for Measure and Antony and Cleopatra and monumental scenic designs for The Rape of Tamar.

Costume designs at Berkeley Shakespeare Festival’s Julius Caesar, and playful drag beauty queen costumes for Pageant at the Post Street Palace Theatre. He co-designed various supper club-type gowns for a revue called Broadway Babies that played at the Plush Room Cabaret in S.F. 1995. He designed the cartoon cutout sets used in Jump Cuts for the New Pickle Circus. He also designed the set for Ain't Misbehavin' at TheatreWorks.

Jeff designed costumes and sets for Omaha Theater Ballet's 1993 rendition of The Nutcracker. It featured Art Deco sets and glamorous Hollywood fashions from the 1920's. He also created costumes for Mark Taper Forum production of Julius Caesar in '91.

Bay Area Reporter’s obituary noted, “Jeff lived every moment of every day. He was a multitude of characters who brought out the childlike, playful energy in everyone they met. Halloween won’t be the same without Taffy Sinclair or Jeff’s equally charming Road Warrior.”

Jeff's parents established the Jeffrey Struckman Memorial Endowed Scholarship to honor the memory of their son at his alma mater, Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, MO. The scholarship is awarded to a full-time, third or fourth year student majoring in theatre with an emphasis in costume or scene design.

Peter David Heth died at the age of 48 in August of 1984. Peter was one of the early casualties of AIDS. He was a director, designer and actor. At American Musical Theatre of San Jose (formerly San Jose Civic Light Opera or SJCLO) he designed costumes for 14 shows and directed five productions. He was SJCLO’s resident costume designer and supervised the costume rental program. In 1981, he was honored for his work on Hello Dolly! with a design award presented by the San Jose Fine Arts Commission. [American Musical Theatre of San Jose/San Jose Civic Light Opera closed it doors suddenly in December 2008.]

Prior to coming to SJCLO, Peter was Senior Costume Designer for Eaves-Brooks Costume Company in New York. His many varied works have included elephant blankets for the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus and the costumes for the film versions of Goodbye Girl and The Wiz. He was an accomplished actor and received the 1981/82 TheatreWest Award for Outstanding Actor where he appeared in I Love My Wife, and The Ritz (actor).

SJCLO/AMTSJ artistic credits include: The Music Man (one of the last shows he designed), Annie Get Your Gun (director/designer); Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific, Brigadoon (director); Hello Dolly! (actor/designer). Costumes for: Cabaret, Sweet Charity.

Peninsula Civic Light Opera (now Broadway by the Bay): Costume designer for Man of LaMancha, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof (photos).

Production design Tokens: A Play on the Plague (1985) produced by Blake Street Hawkeyes, Mixed Bag Productions and Whoopi Goldberg in association with Theater Artaud. The story, written by David Schein, was about the 1665 Great Plague in London.

Peter was also co-founder and director of Staircase Theatre in Soquel, CA 1972-1979.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for such beautiful memorial to these very talented people taken from us so unfairly.

We are asking everyone to make a promise to join the fight against HIV and AIDS!

We have published several important links on our site in today's featured WORLD AIDS DAY article.

"It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.” - Elizabeth Taylor

wehoroy said...

What a great post, and a wonderful memorial to some of the men who have died from Aids. You guys live here in SF????? Why have I never met you????? I would love to! Let's make this happen!

Joshua said...

What a beautiful tribute. Thank You :)

Anonymous said...

I knew David D. and David L. - and I still miss them. Thanks for writing this.

Harriet said...

Peter David Heth is my Father. I am one of four of his children. I enjoy reading about him and the people and work he so loved. Thank you for this very lovely tribute to him. I loved him very much and have many fond memories of our times together. said...

Great tribute..Reminiscing :)

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