On Sunday, April 14 at 3 pm Eastern Time classmate Eric Forsythe will enter into a Casual Conversation on Zoom with his classmates and our other guests.  Eric is the second generation of distinguished contributors to American theater, and he has stories galore of his many years, and those of his father, involved in the world of the performing arts.  But, rather, I will let him tell it.  Here is his narrative history of the two men he will be speaking with us about:


Henderson Forsythe was a professional actor from 1940 through 1993, based in New York, with many credits on stage, film and TV.  He thought of himself as an "actor's actor," whose greatest interest was the stage (hundreds of roles from Broadway, notably "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," for which he won the Tony, to off-Broadway to regional to national tours), although he was a beloved TV actor ("As the World Turns" for over 30 years, among many others) and film character actor (most notably "Interiors," "Silkwood" and "Chances Are.")  He also acted in national commercials (Clorets, EF Hutton, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, this latter requiring some hours of makeup to portray The Colonel).


Eric Forsythe divided his career between professional acting, directing and stage management all over the country and internationally, and academic theatre (U. of Pittsburgh, Dartmouth, Tufts, Villanova, and most recently the University of Iowa, where he served for 33 years, notably as Director of Theatre and Artistic Director of Iowa Summer Rep).  Now retired from teaching, he performs regularly as a Simulated Patient at the Iowa Medical School.  He lives in Iowa City with his wife of many years, Kitty.  They have two children: Grant (now completing his PhD, living with his wife in Berkeley, CA) and Gwyneth (whose script, "The Posthumous Trial of Guliana Tofana" is premiering this month in Chicago).


Substantial and impressive careers both.  Henderson Forsythe’s roles on Broadway and off encompassed a repertoire both modern and classical, from Greek drama (Jason in Medea) to Shakespeare (playing Petruccio twice in Taming of the Shrew and  to Golden Age American plays, many of which you may know from the films that were made from them, such as The Hasty Heart, The Voice of the Turtle, State of the Union, The Male Animal, Our Town, Jacobowsky and the Colonel, Harvey, Front Page, A Bell for Adano, Mister Roberts, and Ah, Wilderness.  All of these works started on the stage and that is where Henderson Forsythe essayed major roles in each, often as the lead.   While you may have seen the films, as have I, true magic best occurs in the theater, live, where each performance is unique and when the curtain goes down each time, perishable.  Henderson Forsythe’s entry in imdb.com: Henderson Forsythe – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB ; and (very incomplete) in the iobdb.com: Henderson Forsythe (iobdb.com) .  Also, a connection with a prior Casual Conversation:  In the ABC 1991 mini-series Separate But Equal, Henderson Forsythe played Robert H. Jackson, Associate Supreme Court Justice and Chief Counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg.  A few months ago, we were graced with Professor John Q. Barrett as a guest to discuss Justice Jackson’s life and (many) careers.


Here is Eric’s faculty cv at the University of Iowa: Eric Forsythe, PhD, MFA, BA | Theatre Arts - The University of Iowa (uiowa.edu) .   Among the many notable people in the performing arts with whom he has worked directly are Jason Robards, Jr., Arthur Miller, Jose Quintero, Dore Schary, John Sayles, Richard Chamberlain, Norbert Leo Butz, Michael Cerveris, Geena Davis, Lanford Wilson, Peter Nero, Betsy Palmer, and Sylvia Sidney.  More than enough material for stories galore.  (As a longtime viewer of TCM, I am most interested in learning more about Dore Schary and Sylvia Sidney.)

Eric’s extensive printed resume does not (yet) include his recent participation in the Class of 1969 Zoom play reading group, to which he contributed not only his considerable acting skills, but his adaptation of Feydeau’s The Flea in His Ear, certainly the most famous French farce ever written, and Eric’s version was a dream for the actors to play.


While at Dartmouth, for his senior project Eric directed Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi (for which he cast me as Mr. Mississippi, a prosecutor famous for exacting the death penalty).  Dürrenmatt is most famous for his oft-produced play The Visit.  That was a time when theater at the College included rare and difficult, and important, works, such asMississippi, and Max Frisch’s The Chinese Wall, as well as Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.  Eric was also the lead as Odysseus in Foley House’s winning entry (for the first and only time) in the Inter-Fraternity Play Contest, The Comeback, a one-act comedy spoofing Homer’s Odessey.  Eric was a superb Harpagon (the lead) in The Miser in the main stage production at Dartmouth, that we took on the road throughout New Hampshire (Manchester, Concord, Nashua, Salem) and Vermont (St. Johnsbury).  And he played Bunthorne to the nines (the character having been modeled after Oscar Wilde), the lead, in the main stage production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera Patience.  


And a personal word about Henderson Forsythe.  Many years ago when I was in Boise, Idaho for a case, I spent some time with Mark Hofflund, then and now managing director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  Mark had spent time working as Alan Schneider’s amanuensis in preparing his memoirs, which were never completed owing to Schneider’s untimely death.  Mark recounted that Schneider was overflowing in his praise of Henderson Forsythe, a man he admired as an actor of great talent.  Schneider and Forsythe were instrumental, as director and actor, in establishing Samuel Beckett’s reputation in this country, acting in both Waiting for Godot, and Krapp’s Last Tape.


When we were at Dartmouth, Jerry Zaks was Krapp in the downstairs theater at the Hopkins Center.  It all comes round: Jerry was a guest in a delightful Casual Conversation a few months ago, and now we have the privilege of hosting our classmate Eric Forsythe on Sunday, April 14 at 3 pm Eastern Time.


 The usual rules apply.  Let me know by the close of business on April 12, the Friday before the Casual Conversation by emailing me at arthur.fergenson@ansalaw.com .


See you all then!


Arthur Fergenson

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