In 1985, Bobbi Holtzman directed the Los Angeles premiere of Horton Foote's The Traveling Lady at Actors Alley in Sherman Oaks, a production that instantly established her as an astute interpreter of Foote's work. “Holtzman,” noted a review in this newspaper, “neither milks the story's comedy nor wrings its tragedy, instead allowing [the] characters and their dilemmas to find a moral balance that is a naturalist's delight.” The show became a hit, and Foote would personally guarantee that Actors Alley retained the rights to produce it for an extended run.
Holtzman died on New Year's Eve of complications from vascular dementia; she was 81, according to actress D.J. Harner, who appeared in The Traveling Lady as well as several other Holtzman-directed projects. Holtzman co-founded the Northridge Theatre Guild during the 1960s, a group that won accolades from the critical community, including the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Harner explained to L.A. Weekly why Foote's work resonated with her acting mentor.
“His stories' simplicity appealed to her,” Harner said. “She never let her actors go for the angst or the jokes — it was about playing the people struggling to get through the day.”
Holtzman could be relentless when in pursuit of a literary property that intrigued her.
“We couldn't get the rights to produce Lee Blessing's Eleemosynary,” Harner recalled. “So she tracked down his home address through the Reed College alumni association and wrote him directly. He gave us the rights. And when she needed the rights to [Albert] Camus' Just Assassins, she went right to their owner — Madame Camus.”
Holtzman's commitment to the work of acting was absolute. Harner recalled the time Holtzman went backstage to deliver her notes to The Traveling Lady's cast — after the actors had just completed the show's last performance. A memorial event for Holtzman is pending.
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