October 20, 2014

Geoffrey Grant Forward—1942-2014 ­­

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF ELISABETH HOWARD

Geoffrey Grant Forward—1942-2014 ­­

Geoffrey Grant Forward was a renowned Shakespearean scholar, actor, director, producer and writer.

Geoffrey Grant Forward, actor, director, producer, author and Shakespearean scholar, passed away quietly before dawn on Monday, March 10, with his wife of 30 years, with his wife, Elisabeth Howard, the love of his life, close by his side. The 71-year-old, long-time Topanga resident was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, friend and a mentor to his acting students.

Forward was born on November 1, 1942, in Garndiffaith, Wales, to Hilda (Roberts) and Haydn Forward. The family moved to Canada and then settled in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they raised their six children.

Forward will be remembered for his abundant contribution to the arts, particularly for his devotion to the study of Shakespeare’s work.

With a BFA and MFA from the University of Utah, Geoffrey directed, produced and acted in many Shakespearean plays, culminating with his founding of the Los Angeles Shakespeare Company (LASC) in 1992.

He co-wrote his one-man show, Will, Boy Eternal, based on Shakespeare’s life, with his long-time friend and mentor, playwright, Donald Freed and performed this signature role at the Gem Theater in Orange County and at the Joey Harris Theater in Santa Monica to rave reviews. He and Freed had plans for performances at universities and summer Shakespeare Festivals.

Forward also founded the Rocky Mountain Regional Theater and the Barn Dinner Theater and produced many shows at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.

As an actor and member of SAG/AFTRA and Actors Equity Association, Forward’s many credits include The Shakespeare and Modern Culture Society’s 2012 production of “Love Sex and Betrayal: The Story of Shakespeare’s Sonnets;” the roles of Iago in Othello (with Manu Tupou); Pompey in Antony and Cleopatra (with Mitchell Ryan); Macduff in Macbeth; Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew; Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Hector in Troilus and Cressida. Other roles include Richard in The Lion in Winter (with Joan Fontaine); Digger in The Hasty Heart (with James MacArthur); Tony in The Boyfriend; Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls; and Will in Walking Happy.

Forward’s final role, in 2013, was that of Jamie Booth, opposite Salome Jens and Jenn Robbins in Tomorrow, a play written for him and for his co-stars by Donald Freed (See “Tomorrow is a Gift,” Messenger, Vol 37, No 7, April 4, 2013).

Forward’s career also included numerous roles in film and television.

As a scholar, Forward received a Shakespeare research grant from the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where he spent 11 years studying the life and work of William Shakespeare. In addition to his one-man show, he wrote several works on Shakespeare, including a treatise that analyzed a syllogism in 1“Henry IV, “ where Falstaff says to Prince Hal, “I deny your Maior” (major).” This work corrected the former analyses and was then published in the Shakespeare Quarterly, leading to his research being memorialized as footnotes in subsequent editions of 1“Henry IV.”

As an author, he also compiled and analyzed “Shakespeare’s Monologues for Women” and “Shakespeare’s Monologues for Men.” He also wrote “The Actor’s Shakespeare,” “Power Speech,” “Pro Speech” and “American Diction for Singers” with accompanying CDs published by Alfred Publishing. Forward was also a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).

As a teacher, he taught speech for seven years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena and gave classes in his Actor’s Shakespeare Workshops throughout his professional life. His private voice-coaching students included actors, singers, business professionals and ministers. Together, he and Elisabeth toured 11 countries where they were praised for their workshops—her Vocal Power workshops and his American Diction workshops.

As a director, his work included King Lear, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard the Second, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Oh, Coward!, Oliver, The Fantasticks and The Sonnets (with Sally Kirkland).

Forward’s life in the theatre was one of unremitting dedication. There is poetic irony in the fact that his family name and the title of his final play, Tomorrow, allude to his indomitable spirit. He always looked forward to another tomorrow in which he could share his passion for the arts with the world.

Forward built “The Globe in Topanga,” a replica of Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, that is now “The 1909,” a venue for many local events. As a tribute to his commitment to the arts, the new owners of the property, Amir Rofaugaran and his partners, will honor him by naming the amphitheatre that he built, the Geoffrey G. Forward Theatre.

A private memorial Celebration of his Life will be held at the theatre in May where the plaque will be dedicated.

Forward is survived by his wife, Elisabeth Howard; his daughter, Joey (Herb); a grandson, Daenyn; sisters, Jean (Dan) and Kathy (Kerry); brothers, Haydn (Jenny), Chris (Sylvia) and Terry (Bonnie); nieces, nephews and their families.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Cedar Sinai Prostate Cancer Research, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Suite #2416, Los Angeles, CA 90048, or by phone at (323) 866-7763.