Final curtain for a community theater icon

Friends and family of Palo Alto Children's Theatre icon Michael Litfin crowded the theater at 1305 Middlefield Road Sunday to celebrate Litfin's life and praise his dedication to community theater.

The 11 a.m. memorial service featured alumni of the theater who presented songs and memories of Litfin's 30-plus years with the theater.

The services were organized by the Friends of the Children's Theatre group. Memorial contributions should be payable to Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre, with a "Michael Litfin Memorial Fund" notation, and mailed to Palo Alto Children's Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

In addition, a video celebrating last year's 75th anniversary of the Children's Theatre, which Lifin narrated, will be on Channel 30 on Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 8 to 9 p.m., according to Betty Gerard of the Palo Alto Historical Association.

The program, "75 Years of Children's Theatre Magic," features slides and videos from the theater's early days. The lecture was originally a program of the Palo Alto Historical Association (PAHA) on January 28, 2007. Litfin was a member of the PAHA board. It was videotaped and prepared by videographer Brian George.

Excerpts from State Senator Joe Simitian's

Eulogy for Michael Litfin:

"What Pat saw in Michael, and what I had missed, was that Michael believed in these kids; and because he believed in them, they believed in themselves. And because they believed in themselves, they were capable of the excellence that Michael insisted upon.

"Michael's unique gift was the ability to give these kids a sense of confidence in themselves, and to instill high expectations.

"Michael's demanding nature has been much mentioned today. With affection, Michael has been described as a grouch and a curmudgeon, as irascible and demanding. He was all of that and more.

"He was smart, and talented and witty. His humor was droll to say the least; and he could say volumes with a look, a raised eyebrow, a roll of the eyes, or just the slightest change in the tone of his voice.

"He could be serious or silly. He thought life was pretty funny. He had mischief in his eyes; and yet also, it seemed to me, a sense of melancholy, a sweet sadness that made you worry about him a little bit.

"Mostly though, Michael found amusement in life's passing parade. He could laugh at you, he could laugh with you, and he could laugh at himself.

"Whatever our individual faiths may tell us about life after death, whatever we may choose to believe, it seems to me that if we can keep the 'Michael moments' close to our hearts and always in our memory, then Michael is not truly gone, but still here among us.

"We grieve and we celebrate today under circumstances that are awkward at best. Understandably, our emotions are complicated. And there's a lot we don't know. But here's what I do know.

"I knew Michael Litfin for more than three decades. I had affection for him as a person.

I had respect for his talents as a man of the theater. And I had tremendous appreciation for his contributions to this community.

"Whatever is or isn't alleged, whatever is or isn't proven, my affection, my respect and my appreciation will endure.

"Good people sometimes make bad choices; just as good people sometimes rush to judgment. That does not change their essential goodness.

"I last saw and spoke to Michael at the hospital, about an hour before he died.

"He was weak, and struggling for breath; and our conversation was quite brief. He couldn't really talk, or so it seemed to me. And then out of the blue he said, in a very Michael way, 'Well, it wasn't a long run, but it was a great one.'

"Yes it was Michael. God bless you; and break a leg."

Michael Litfin of Children's Theatre dies at 63

— Palo Alto Online staff


Posted by Peri, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 17, 2008 at 8:02 pm

It was an amazing day of song & stories honoring Michael Litfin. He was a mentor to thousands of Palo Alto youth during his 30+ year tenure at the Children's Theater.

Michael, you will be missed.

Posted by Margaret, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2008 at 7:45 am

The program was a wonderful tribute to Michael and the entire PACT staff. Joe Simitian's loving eulogy was heartfelt and deserving of the standing ovation it received. Thanks to all the volunteers who allowed us to come together to celebrate this very special man.

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