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Michael Litfin of Children's Theatre dies

Original post made on Feb 2, 2008

Michael Litfin, who helped inspire and educate children about live theater for 31 years, died Friday night at Stanford Hospital where he had been undergoing chemotherapy for stomach cancer. He was 63.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 4, 2008, 4:16 PM

Comments (82)

Posted by Carolyn Munson, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 9:19 am

Michael Litfin devoted a lifetime to helping children discover the joys of theatre and their own capabilities. His passing is a tremendous loss to us, everyone who knew him, the City of Palo Alto and future generations of children.


Posted by long time Children's Theatre parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 2, 2008 at 9:40 am

Michael died much too soon. We have all been blessed by the many years of his life that he devoted twenty-four/seven to the Children's Theatre and to the children there. He also loved the City of Palo Alto and he must have been deeply hurt by the actions of the Police Department which led to his administrative leave. I cannot help but think that these actions of the City that he loved so much hastened his death. I blame the police, and because of this (irrational, I know), I find it difficult to support a new Public Safety Building.


Posted by Jane Marcus, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2008 at 10:09 am

Though Michael spent his final days surrounded by the many friends who loved him, his death was undoubtedly hastened by the callous and insensitive way this Police investigation has been --and is being -- handled. I am a thirty year resident of Palo Alto and am aghast and saddened by the behavior of our city government.


Posted by Children's Theatre fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2008 at 10:12 am

It is a sad day for Palo Alto and especially for our kids.


Posted by Holly Liberatore, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2008 at 10:17 am

Aloha, Michael. Enjoy your new found freedom. =0)


Posted by Paul Wanless, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:06 am

He was a great man, and when I was a kid he taught me really tough, but he always loved his shows, put his heart and soul into the theater, and was a powerful motivator. One of the best directors I ever worked with, both onstage and backstage.

One running joke he always had, that I pray will be included in his eulogy..."This year I turned 24 for the last time."

God Bless you, Michael. I will miss you greatly.


Posted by Protege#79, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:33 am

In Michael's passing, perhaps his many friends and admirers can eventually find a way to share with the world the specific wisdom he brought to the children's theatre as a director, teacher and administrator.

His decades long campaign alongside Patricia Briggs to provide virtue, strength and leadership to everyone involved with the theatre is one that we hope can be continued.
One hopes, that within her grief, that she can take solace in the fact that it was she that brought him in to the Children's Theatre in the first place--allowing his gifts to be shared with the community for so very long.

He inspired many and he influenced more.

His caustic benevolence, his straight-edged wisdom and those heavy-lidded stares--fearless,immovable but with just a tinge of wry----will not be soon forgotten.

Mostly, I won't forget his laughter; moments when his personality would come unbottled and pour forth to fill theatre with an unbridled joy.

I will neither forget those rare moments when something would inspire him, leading him to a place where he would seemingly transform into a small child filled with glee and full momentum. Such triggers were varied and eclectic. It could have been a production on Broadway that had been wonderfully directed, it could have been the details of a wonderful vacation he had just returned from.

On many occasions, I witnessed former PACT actors drop in on Pat and Michael in the office after extended absences. Such visits could take them out of a world of paperwork and necessary business into the fairer one centered only on joy. Invariably, they would invite the alum to take a tour of the theatre's newest addition or renovation and do so with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

I find myself wishing to know more about Michael's life growing up in Minnesota and wishing to know what he felt his greatest triumphs and moments of happiness were over the years. Perhaps such grief can be assuaged from further learning of these moments.

He is now forever a part of children's theatre, not just in Palo Alto, but worldwide. He has passed a glorious torch and now for those of us who see the value in his contributions, we now stand on his shoulders.

Bless you Michael--and thank you!!






Posted by joe, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:34 am

Although I only knew him by what I have read recently, I am sorry to hear this.

On minor note, does anyone know why the no flowers rule? I would think they would cheer patients up.


Posted by Rob Minkoff, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:43 am

After hearing about the so called financial scandal I am outraged that Michael had to spend the last days of his life under the weight of an investigation into alleged over time abuse. As a public servant, Michael tirelessly dedicated himself to the enrichment of the lives of countless children over the last thirty years. The man deserved a raise and accolades not public scrutiny and scorn! How will the accusers repair his reputation? How will they honor him? They should be ashamed.


Posted by Mary Catherine Blazzard Williams, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I got the email about Michael's sickness, the investigation, and Michael's passing. I know that Michael and Pat have had a profoundly positive influence on so many kids and young people, and their legacy is long-lasting.

Anyone who ever visited the theater would know that Pat and Michael didn't live an extravagant life... I always suspected they actually lived at the theater, because they were always there!

Michael's blend of irascibility and humor were priceless and much needed for all of us coming-of-age folks. Regardless of what investigators may "find", I believe Pat and Michael were underpaid. You can't put a price tag on what they gave us.


Posted by Jenny Brown (Rajbhandari), a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend a few hours with Michael on Thursday night when he was still his sarcastic and lovable self. He was so happy to have us there and said it felt like a party. We all shared our favorite stories, read e-mails from far away friends and relayed current news about the people we'd recently heard from. Michael was laughing just as much as the rest of us. He said he thought the nurses would think he was crazy to have so many people in to see him, but we all know it was an extremely small group if compared to all the people Michael has influenced over the years...

Michael was a father to many of us and a few of us actually told the nurses we were his daughters just to get in to see him. Yes, we did get some odd looks.

Michael spent Thursday night feeling happy, proud, appreciated, important, like part of a huge family and most of all, loved. I think anyone who spent any time at the Children's Theatre knows those are feelings that Michael, Pat, and Alison gave us. We are all a family who will stick together and support each other during this loss and hard time. I'll miss you, Michael. Thanks for everything.

Whatever is going on at the theatre now will be justified by the foundation of the characters of the theatre staff. No one can take what the theatre gives to us away, even if they close the building.




Posted by Marilyn Gordon, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Dearest Michael - I am so grateful to have known you, and that my children had the wonderful opportunity to grow up in your theater under the tutelage of you and Pat. You both gave them so much love and care, and they are amazing young adults today because of the two of you. Thousands came through your doors, but each child felt special and loved. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your magic with my children and giving everyone so much joy! We will miss you, dear Michael, but you live on in our hearts.


Posted by shannon russell, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm

I feel so lucky that I was able to see Michael several times in this last year or so. This last time, when I flew down for the opening of the anniversary production of Snow White. What a lovely last memory to have of him. He was just about the closest thing to a father figure I had growing up. And at times he made me angry as hell. And I adored him.
My heart is heavy with the news of all the turmoil surrounding the Theatre right now. Nothing, no matter what, will alter the influence that Michael and Pat and Allison and the rest of the staff had on me. From them, I learned my dedication, my confidence and my love and respect for the arts.
Michael's spirit is embedded in so many of us. And when I think of him, I will forever hear his voice bellow, "I BREATHE louder than that!!!"
Michael Litfin, you will be truly missed, and always loved.


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm

For Pat


I was grateful to be a member of the audience at the opening performance of 'The Giver' this evening. I found myself unable to say much to the cast except to thank them for what was a truly fine performance and a gift to me and to the other members of the audience.



After the play we were gathered together in the stalls of the theatre to hear the sad news that Michael had passed away approximately half an hour into the performance.



I met Michael when he first came to the theatre, in the very same place where I heard the sad news. Through my blurred eyes last night I found myself peering at the actors, parents, crew members and staff, and I realized I have known Michael for at 32 years, first as an audience member, then as a participant, volunteer, employee and parent. It will take me a long time to fully understand this loss.


It seems fitting to me that he waited untill the curtain went up. I am seeing visions of him, on his hands and knees demonstrating 'how to be a polar bear,' laughing his fabulous laugh at some bit of nonsense, yelling at me for going onstage without my shoes (!), or saying,matter-of-factly, 'no, it has to be MUCH bigger, at least ten feet tall, with a picture of a fish.' Or staying up 'til midnight the night before opening, or at a strike in the old days, making sure things were just right.


I will always see him there with you Pat, and I thank you for bringing him into our lives.




Sending all our love,


Katie Christman


Posted by Scott Preston, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2008 at 6:54 pm

I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without the influence of Pat and Michael and the Children's Theatre. They not only taught us the craft of theatre (and thanks for puting up with my own lack of talent), but also taught us self confidence, self awareness and leadership.

Rob Minkoff, nicely said. I always thought you were a great dude.

I hope all this stuff goes away quickly, so Michael can be honored as he should be.

Pat, hang in there. It wouldn't be the theatre with out you. Thanks for everything.

Scott Preston


Posted by Andrea Edelman, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Michael was a father figure. He gave us strength, conviction, and the courage to chase our dreams. Even if he did call some of us mush-mouths. :)

Travel in peace, Michael.


Posted by Andy Hayes, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 8:57 pm

I remember an Outreach production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe we produced at El Carmelo Elementary School in the early 90's, the kids in the cast and crew, demonstrated such leadership, teamwork, pride and responsibility, I was truly amazed. Michael tried to instill these qualities in every young person, involved in every production I was privileged to work on. I was lucky enough to work with both Pat and Michael on more than 300 productions. There is no way to comprehend and appreciate the magnitude of this contribution to the community. I will miss you dearly Michael.

Andy Hayes Technical Director 1988 -2000


Posted by Jessica Russell, a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Michael, along with all the Children's Theatre staff, provided me with some of the most important and lasting memories and lessons of my childhood. Don't hit others with your fake fur muff, you can command respect in a purple tutu, and keep dancing even if your partner has a bloody nose. Commitment, dedication, responsibility, creativity, fearlessness and joy are just some of the traits I cultivated in Children's Theatre productions and through the direction of Michael and Pat. I will be forever grateful for Michael's influence on my life.


Posted by Derek Wood, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2008 at 1:36 am

The theatre wasn't what Michael did - it was what he *was*. To call him dedicated doesn't really cover it. He gave the kids and the theatre everything that he had: all his passion for the craft, all his joy at the transformative power of theatre, and all his determination that we learn to collaborate and respect the creative process. By following his and Pat's example, we quickly caught on that in the theatre (as in all other worthwhile pursuits), what you put in is what you get out.

Michael was one of a kind. He was an unlikely combination of qualities, many of them seemingly contradictory. He was profoundly human. He was one of the rare sub-set of people whose flaws and fissures seemed to highlight his virtues, rather than diminish them. He cared deeply and believed wholeheartedly in the importance of what kids could gain from their experiences at the theatre.

He could quite severe with people whom he saw as lackadaisical, disruptive, or disrespectful of the process. He was also warm, congenial, and took obvious delight in the countless little moments of discovery that would happen in the rehearsal process. He smoked too much (although never indoors), and slept too little.

Perhaps the greatest acting lesson I learned from Michael didn't sink in until years after I'd grown up and moved on from the Children's Theatre. Michael could come down hard on us, and he could sail off onto Cloud Nine on us, or anything in between - but whatever the case, he was utterly authentic in doing so. I don't recally him ever attempting to hide his feelings from us or be deceptive in the least about his true state of mind. Just as a good actor would do in a scene, Michael never *indicated* feeling a particular way to try to elicit a certain reaction from someone. If he seemed say, angry, or joyful, or worried, is was because he *was* angry or joyful or worried. It was genuine. Good acting (like, apparently, good directing and good Children's Theatre administrating) has nothing to do with falsehood or deceit - it's about being completely honest and truthful.

That Michael Litfin landed at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre was serendipitous indeed for the community, and for the generations of young people who passed (and continue to pass) through the facility. I am grateful to have known and been mentored by him, and I'm proud to have called him my friend.


Posted by Alona Jasik, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2008 at 7:07 am

Wow. Michael was a big part of my life, and I agree with another person who I did theater with, he was definitely underpaid. I am grateful to hi =m for being firm with us and really bringing out the best in us. May his soul be at peace, and may his memory be a blessing.


Posted by Katharine Saunders, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2008 at 8:44 am

I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love shown here in the comments and would like to invite everyone who wrote in to please contact me, Katharine Govea Saunders (saunderz at earthlink.net) to give me permission to reprint your words in the program we are compiling for his memorial. Your memories are precious gifts to a community in mourning - thank you.


Posted by Paul Ainsworth, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2008 at 11:27 am

It saddens me to hear this news, after many years away from the community and the PACT. Michael was an often irascible man, but he had a heart of gold underneath it all. He cared deeply for his "kids" and all who participated and worked at the theatre. He was a great man who left his mark on countless kids who turned into countless men and women that will remember him forever.


Posted by Judy and Mark Lurie, a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

We are grieving a family member. Michael---along with Pat and Allison---truly brought up our two daughters. From early elementary school through college, our kids had a magical, creativity-inspiring and safe childhood at the Children's Theatre.

We are grateful to Michael for all he has given our family.

Rest in peace, Michael (so sorry that peace eluded you in the past weeks), and may your memory be a blessing.


Posted by Suzan Stewart, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 3, 2008 at 1:28 pm

I prayed that the cloud of suspicion would have been lifted before Michael died. He did not deserve this. Even without the tragedy of his illness and loss, the travesty of this "criminal" investigation only reflects upon the poor judgment of the police and city administration in the way they handled this. May Michael rest in peace, and may the cruelty of this Kafkaesque situation soon end for the sake of everyone involved.


Posted by Elizabeth Clement (neé Guagliardo), a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I don't have any words other than to say how sorry I am that he died under such a cloud of suspicion and fear. He deserves the peace he's finally found and the world is a darker place for his passing. Much love to his family and loved ones. Tough-love giver aside, he helped shape so many, myself included. Happy trails, friend.

Pat, Allison and Rich; my very best to you.


Posted by Jenny Dally, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Feb 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I always thought of Michael as someone who would live forever. He was one of the only adults to ever have a strong positive influence on my life. I can't imagine the Theater without him. No one can give the same confidence to kids or make them listen and concentrate like Michael could. Many people thought of Michael as a grumpy man, I thought of him as wise. My many plays with him directing me have taught me more than years of school possibly could. It's been hard to imagine him lying in a hospital bed, dying. I can't imagine him weak. I loved being a pupil of his, I don't know whether to continue my theater career without him there as a director. As I remember Michael, I know he WILL live forever through the lives of the people he touched.


Posted by Carolyn, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Jenny took the words right out of my mouth


Posted by Liza Dally, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 3, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I remember Micheal as stern, commanding, and with high expectations of everyone under his leadership. I remember even more the intense desire to live up to those expectations. I will continue to attempt to meet his expectations of responsibility, respect, cooperation, and achievement.


Posted by Meg Miranda, a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2008 at 5:37 pm

We were heartbroken first to hear of the criminal investigation of our highly esteemed friends at the Children's Theatre. Pat, Michael, Allison, and later Rich helped us raise our children. It is incomprehensible that there is this shadow over the PACT.
And to learn of Michael's cancer and have him taken from us so quickly has been quite a shock.
Rafael and I have spent the weekend remembering Michael and thinking about the past 18 years of our lives with PACT. I remember when our Michael was in his first hot dog show that everytime I was at the theater I kept seeing the same kids - no matter what time of day or night. And I thought at the time that it was so good that these kids had the Children's Theatre and Pat and Mike and Allison and Andy because they must not have much of a home life. Then I learned the truth as our son began to practically live at the theatre. These kids had wonderfully loving parents who had family dinners and vacations together but only as their theater schedule allowed. At one point during the fundraising for the "castle" I suggested to Michael that the next building project should be a dormitory since in the summer especially the kids reluctantly left only to go home and sleep. Pat, Michael, Allison and Rich have done a tremendous job in helping to raise our children. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for all they have done.
I do not envy the next Assistant Director because they have such huge shoes to fill! But they will be coming to a wonderful, supportive theater community.
There is a lot of healing that will be happening in the next days, weeks, months. To all of our Palo Alto friends we send our love and our prayers.


Posted by Lindsey, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 3, 2008 at 6:49 pm

I agree with Jenny. I was in such shock, I just couldn't believe when I heard the news on Friday. Many people thought that Michael was a cranky, grouchy man. I knew that the only reason he was so commanding was because he would push us until he knew that we would get every line, every step, ever note perfect. Although I have not been in as many shows at the theater than others have, I got to know Michael very well. He was a great director and a beloved member of this community. He will be greatly missed.


Posted by Another Terman Student, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2008 at 9:22 pm

For Michael Litfin:

A broken glass,
A cracked frame,
All dark warnings,
All the same.

Let people cry
Until the dawn
Yet he would shout
The show must go on!

We wouldn't drag our feet
We wouldn't glance back,
We would learn our steps
To the solemn dance track

He would stand there
With a calculating eye
And wait till we're finished
And say with a sigh,

"Do it again,
only this time, better.
We can't show this."
While fiddling, always, with his sweater.

We'd work and work
Until we're done
But with Michael around
It was always fun.

So people don't cry
Or rip out your hair
No emotions, the same
Without Michael there.


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 3, 2008 at 10:27 pm

"poor judgement by the police". Give me a break! Funds are missing and the police need to find out who stole them.


Posted by Lisa Yuen, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 4, 2008 at 12:19 am

I will miss Michael dearly.


Posted by renee deutsch, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 1:58 am

Like many others, my kids lived in the Theatre and only slept and, occasionally, ate at home. I spent many hours watching Michael rehearse with the kids and I always relished the moment when, after a perfectly timed pause, he would announce 'Ladies and gentlemen, you have a show".

I owe Pat and Michael such an enormous debt of gratitude for the love and inspiration they gave my sons that there is no way I could even begin to repay it. I hope that attending the Memorial together will take away some of the pain and sadness that Michael's death has brought to so many of us, who were and are "the parents". Renee Deutsch


Posted by Assaf Cohen, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:15 am

I can't even begin to quantify all the life lessons Michael taught me. I do know, however, that thousands of fortunate children lucky enough to have been directed by Pat and Michael, myself included, benefit immensely for the rest of their lives. My years at the theater were easily the most enjoyable and formative ones yet and I now understand that my life would not be as rich if it weren't for Michael Litfin. I might never have ever pursued my wildest dreams if it wasn't for that one man. He really did teach me how to dream big.

Michael taught us to always aim high, that nothing is impossible if you work hard and stick with it. "I can't" and "it's not possible" seemed to be foreign concepts to him. Put up an entire production with only five rehearsals? No problem. Oversee a dozen different programs, while teaching, directing, scene-designing and writing new plays? No problem. Be a consistent, strong, loving presence for any child who walked through those doors? No problem. Not for Michael.

It wasn't until I got older that I understood that Michael and Pat's top priorities were building self-esteem, confidence and critical thinking abilities for every child in every production. Maybe that's when I truly began to grasp the scope of all the good that they've contributed to the families of Palo Alto and the greater community. This is part of the reason why Michael's passing is such an immense loss.

Goodbye Michael. You were a second father to me, my role model, my teacher and my biggest advocate. I wonder if you ever knew how much strength I drew from you. Your rock-steady belief in me helped me to believe in me. It still does. What an immense gift you've given me.

You will live in my heart and very essence forever, Michael.
I love you.


Posted by Steven Gustav Costell, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 7:05 am

Fond memories of the hot lights beating down upon my face. I must have done this scene a dozen times now, and it's getting late. Just concentrate... try not to flub the lines. Doing my best not to itch at the unforgiving spirit gum holding the beard to my face. Man, this costume is getting warm. Ok, don't forget the blocking... here comes my line, and then the audience responds with the roar of a single man from the back of the house.

"LOUDER!!!"

Just one memory of Michael, that I'm sure so many of you have. He inspired us to push our limits, take chances, and respect the craft. Even in later years when I would visit the theater, I found myself standing up a bit straighter around him. The characteristic way in which he'd stare at you deadpan, sort of give you the once over, and then a small smile and ask how you had been... this was indicative of Michael's love for us. His commitment to the PACT, just like everyone else's, was incredible, and one saw that each and every day. He taught us to be seen and heard, to overcome our stagefright, and to radiate energy. We take that from him, and we use a little of that each and every day, and it is through those actions that he lives on in all of us.

Thank you, Michael. I WILL be louder for you.


Posted by Deborah Bass, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 8:28 am

I remember one of the ways Michael used to emphasis diction. When a youngster would say, "wull, I dunno..."
Michael would respond with "Wool is what we get from sheep." At which point the youngster would say, "WELL..." and Michael would retort in that sarcastic way he had, "Well is what we get water from."

I've used that with my family, much to their consternation!

The things I learned from Children's Theater has enabled me to formulate hour-long presentations and stand up in front of hundreds of other scientists, as well as speak carefully and eloquently to public groups, TV, radio and print press alike. I attribute that comfort in public speaking to my years of monologues at Children's Theater.

"What, will these hands n'ere be clean?"

Warm wishes and safe journey to you Michael.

-Dr. Deborah Bass, Deputy Project Scientist, Phoenix Mars Lander


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 4, 2008 at 9:46 am

Aaron, the PAPD has never SAID what was missing except equipment that the staff itself reported missing and pushed for an investigation into the 'missing'. Anyone who knows the people involved know they wouldn't take anything. So cool it.


Posted by Simon Hawkins, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 9:48 am

In reading the tributes I am touched by how many come, like mine, from "another community." While they are useful geographic shorthand, they are utterly false, for there was, and is, only one Children's Theatre community. We may all be separated by thousands of miles, but we are still part of the community. We read the accounts of those performing now, and feel it in our core. All this is a testament to Michael's power in our lives. My own daughter is now nine and quite stage struck and I hear Michael's voice coming from my voice when she and I talk. It was one of my great pleasures when my daughter was old enough to participate in a Children's Theatre camp when we returned to California for a vacation. She was able to share the magic.

Many have likened Michael to a second father, and I understand that, but for me had a very important different role. Michael was my first adult friend. He was unlike any relative, teacher, or any grown-up in our lives. He was a colleague. We learned from him not through lessons, but by doing, by creating, by working together. He deftly managed our various transitions, from tiny little creatures, to awkward adolescents, to arrogant college students, to returning alums sad to have ever left. I remember the pleasure when I turned twenty-four (rather a while ago now) and was finally as old as Michael.

We all learned confidence, that magical sense of believing that we could do what we set our minds to, but even more I treasure the sense of joy and irreverence that we shared with Michael. People have referred to his hooded-stare, but also there was the ever present twinkle in his eye. He was devoted to theatre, but that devotion never took the form of pretension or self-aggrandizement. Theatre was too important to take itself too seriously. We committed ourselves to the productions, to the absurdities as well as the triumphs, the sublime moments when everything worked and those other moments when nothing worked at all. It was all part of the experience, and all worthy of celebration.

I know that the theatre and the magic will continue (I'm hoping my children can do camps this summer). Future generations will be as committed as ever we were. But for those thousands of us who grew up there, it will not be the same. It was always wonderful to return to the theatre and see Michael working with the children. In those instants my childhood came alive again and I was one of those children. It is hard for me to imagine what coming back now will be like. I cannot imagine the theatre without him.

It is reassuring to read the accounts of the visitors at the hospital. From those of us who were far away, thank you to all who were able to be with him. I can imagine the scene and although it is sorrowful, it is good to think of him surrounded like that.

I find it hard to stop writing, because to do so marks that he is really gone, and no words can truly capture what he meant.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 4, 2008 at 10:23 am

I feel so bad now that he's gone. I never visited him in the hospital or really cared that he was sick, until he was gone. His fun encouragements kept us going through long rehearsals and tedious perfections. But in the end it was all worth it. The timing was horrible, he died on the opening night of The Giver. I keep thinking anyone who has said Macbeth in the theater must feel horrible now. I don't know how long this dark cloud will stay over the theater and the people involved with it, but hopefully this cloud will be lifted soon. I can't think of anyone who could take Michaels place, I don't think anyone can. I hope his replacement can bring the same wisdom to younger generations, the same way Michael could. I'll miss him dearly.


Posted by Amy Prosser, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 10:41 am

I love you, Michael. I will dearly miss you.


Posted by Nicholas Sousa, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 11:40 am

Reading through these comments has been such a bittersweet experience. I am grateful to the people who have written of their recollections of Michael's powerful presence and rare personality. Some of his most valuable contributions to our lives were his high expectations and his commitment to excellence, which he communicated to his young students and colleagues. Simon, I agree that, as we got older, Michael gracefully managed the transition in our relationships with him to a collegial one that appreciated and respected our newly-developed maturity. And still, as another poster noted, when one came back to visit as an adult, one sensed that Michael's expectations were as high as ever, and one was careful to enunciate more clearly and stand up straight in his presence, without necessarily even being conscious of it. (I did manage to get through EARNEST and DRACULA without being forced to wear a corset, so I must have internalized the posture thing pretty deeply!)

Michael pushed so hard for excellence -- no matter that the play might be ONCE UPON A MATTRESS as performed by twelve year olds (Amy P's comic timing was brilliant, I can see her on top of the mattresses, unable to sleep, as clear as if it were yesterday) -- and so inspired us to expect more of ourselves. He could be scary, but I think that, once one realized that behind the stern persona he really loved children and the theater and the process of helping kids to get better at making theater, it was clear that he was there for us as a dedicated coach, as serious and demanding as an Olympic trainer, but there for us because he believed in us. He taught thousands of children to believe in themselves, and that is priceless and beautiful.

I hope everyone who was touched by the Children's Theatre will reach out to Pat. I can only try to imagine what she must be feeling now, with this sudden and unfathomable absence. Pat and Michael spent more time together per week than most people ever do with another human being, and so I think she must feel like she's lost an important part of herself, a loss felt psychically and physically. I believe the process of grieving for those who worked in the Theatre will take quite some time. It is wonderful that Michael was surrounded by friends in the hospital; I like to imagine that that kind of support will surround Pat.

Simon Hawkins was also right when he said our community, though it is spread across the world and across generations, is a close one, a deep one. I hope that we can reach out to each other across these distances of time and geography and help each other to appreciate what we had in Michael, what we lost...and what we still have, and can continue to share with others. The aspects of Michael that we most cherish have not ended. They live on in us, and it's our opportunity, our blessing, to share and magnify that wealth.


Posted by Karen B Prosser, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2008 at 12:30 pm

My God, what sadness! A light has gone out in Palo Alto and around the world.

Dear Michael, I know we parented Amy together. When I couldn't be, you were there for her and those thousands of children who needed more from PACT than how to be a good actor. Who knew we had hired a friend, father, and supporter as well as a phenomenal teacher?

For the many hundreds of hours of wonderful productions, for the thousands of children who learned at your feet, for the kindness and generosity of spirit, for making Palo Alto a sensation arts community, and so much, much more, THANK YOU,MICHAEL LITFIN.


Posted by Aleks Merilo, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

I will miss you, Michael. I hope someday I can be to a child what you were for me.


Posted by Kevin McCluskey, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 4, 2008 at 1:52 pm

The Children's Theater was a safe place to be a child.

Pat and Michael are to be applauded for their tireless stewardship. The city administrators who have brought this mis-guided witch hunt to the CT are to be reminded of that "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." (Abraham Lincoln).


Posted by Seth - Class of '77, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:08 pm

I agree with you Kevin, and I believe the Children's Theater will remain a safe and inspiring place for children. Michael's legacy continues to honor his good works and deeds throughout the years. To his family, please know that he blessed many lives that he touched in ways that will live forever. That is something that can never be taken away.


Posted by Joy Wagner, a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 7:09 pm

My sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with Michael's family and many, many friends and colleagues and with all of us who have been and continue to be connected to the Children's Theatre. My son spent many happy hours at the theatre learning much from Pat, Michael, Allison, Jim and so many others there. Thank you to all of you at Children's Theatre for helping to give my son and all of the other children and young people a wonderful childhood and lessons to become caring adults.


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 4, 2008 at 8:12 pm

Kate,

Wow, I'm the bad guy. I love how a few are so hard on the police FOR DOING THEIR JOB! Lets just wait and see.


Posted by Katie Christman, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 4, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Dear Aaron of two comments ago,

No one is faulting the police for investigating. However, the job of government, to loosly quote an authoritative source, is 'to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and insure domestic tranquility".

This was much more carefully quoted at this evening's city council meeting. I do believe that if these are the aims of our police force, as they should be, they could have tried just a little bit harder, if only to more graciously investigate, and to be very clear that even they are not really sure who is or is not guilty and to what extent.

All people deserve to be treated with respect, even if they haven't served our city for thirty years and are not dying of cancer. And the children of our city also deserve our respect, even if there is no law saying we cannot frighten and confuse them. Whatever the outcome of the investigation, there can be no justification for cavelier and callous behaviour toward any citizens, including the police force. And if you think anyone has interfered with them doing their job by excersizing our rights to free speech, you too seem to be missing the important lesson all of us should be learning at this time.

Even if Michael Litfin had not been an immeasurable asset to this community, even if he had only worked there five years and was just a shy office worker, he would deserve more respect than he has been accorded by our police. Even you deserve more respect than he was given, despite your casual seemingly implicit trust of authority.


Posted by Yael Pasternak Valek, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2008 at 10:03 pm

I bet there is not a child who grew up in Palo Alto that didn't know Michael Liftin. I am terribly saddened to hear he died so young. He helped so many children gain confidence in themselves and enjoy the thrill of being on stage. I remember vividly playing a bird in the Tortoise and the Hair in elementary school and going to see the summer shows. He will be missed.


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 5, 2008 at 7:31 am

Katie,

The police did give Mr. Liftin respect. From the police chief- they had not even interview him because he was in the hospital.


Posted by gia, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2008 at 9:42 am

Aaron - All four of the staff were interviewed on the day they were put on leave. Michael was brought into the police station just after giving blood for his chemo treatment the following day. While they were being questioned, their homes were searched. They were not told their homes were searched - did not know it until they got home hours later and found the warrants.

This investigation is about missing items from the theatre stolen last summer - not massive amounts of money and we all feel it could have been handled in a less disruptive way.

We are upset because, while Michael was sick, there was still hope and we all feel that the timing of the closing surely hastened his end. Who can fight a battle as large as cancer when your world is pulled apart and you are unable to lean on your friends and family? Unable to do so because the police have told you to have no contact with them. And by family, I mean all of us who worked there and lived there and grew up there...

I know that there are lots of 'feelings' here - respect that and understand.

thank you.


Posted by gia kent, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2008 at 9:42 am

Aaron - All four of the staff were interviewed on the day they were put on leave. Michael was brought into the police station just after giving blood for his chemo treatment the following day. While they were being questioned, their homes were searched. They were not told their homes were searched - did not know it until they got home hours later and found the warrants.

This investigation is about missing items from the theatre stolen last summer - not massive amounts of money and we all feel it could have been handled in a less disruptive way.

We are upset because, while Michael was sick, there was still hope and we all feel that the timing of the closing surely hastened his end. Who can fight a battle as large as cancer when your world is pulled apart and you are unable to lean on your friends and family? Unable to do so because the police have told you to have no contact with them. And by family, I mean all of us who worked there and lived there and grew up there...

I know that there are lots of 'feelings' here - respect that and understand.

thank you.


Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2008 at 11:57 am

Karma.......


Posted by Toby Sterling, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2008 at 2:08 pm

"So quick, bright things come to confusion."

It's been a comfort to read the heartfelt comments above from Assaf, Derek, Jessica, Amy, Simon, Renee, Paul, Suzy, the Lurie family and so many others.

Love from Amsterdam,

Toby


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 5, 2008 at 3:59 pm

To Gia,

I can respect that. Will wait untill police release their report.


Posted by Susan Kaplan, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2008 at 6:06 pm

I came across an old program I had saved from my days in Conservatory Theatre. Inside I found Michael's director's notes. The last paragraph reads:

"The Children's Theatre has always been a family affair from its inception in 1932. We welcome you to bring your family to participate, and to join our theatre family for all of the fun and excitement which only live theatre can bring."

Although those words were written practically a lifetime ago for me, the sentiment still rings true. The Palo Alto Children's Theatre is an extraordinary place. One need only walk through the doors to feel the magic. I feel so very fortunate to be able to consider myself part of that family, and am so saddened by the loss of one of its memebers.


Posted by christopher deutsch, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:55 am

Interesting how the word Love came up in these posts, I mean the way it came up and what it means. Such a buoyant word.

Interesting how the theater, although an institution, has such a personal face, the staff being the theatre.

Interesting to me now, 25 years later, how when i was a kid and wanted money, and couldn't work at the theater because i was too young, how michael hired me to clean out his garden. We drove there in his new red talking car, he talked back to the voice which told us to fasten our seat belts. After I moved abroad my brother and I would both return summers to work at the theater.

Interesting how I met him first when i was 6 or so, I remember he had a beard and turtleneck and wore sunglasses, funny actually, to remember.

I was called Chris as a kid, though Michael and Pat started calling me Christopher. There were several other Chris' at the theater at the time, Chris Ritter and Christopher van dyke. How did they decide who was a chris and who was a Christopher?

Interesting how Michael connected with so many children, taught them about the world by being himself. He spoke to little people the same as he spoke to adults, maybe even more honestly. He taught us that adults weren't all boring and could have personality too.

Interesting how we all worked so hard to earn his praise.

Kind of interesting how all these people here are expressing respect grief and remorse and there's somebody posting inane comments defending the police, as though they'd never been at a memorial or funeral. Equally interesting that people take the time to be patient.


Interesting how I don't miss palo alto or my childhood but I miss the part of it I spent at pact.


dear michael, much love from amsterdam



Posted by BOBBY KERRIGAN, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:59 am

I KNEW MICHAEL SINCE I WAS THIRTEEN YEARS OLD -- WHEN I FIRST CAME TO VISIT MY AUNT PAT AT THE THEATRE FOR THE SUMMER - HE LOVED PUPPETS AND HAD A THEATRE IN HIS CAR!! RED CURTAINS AND ALL, WE HIT IT OFF RIGHT AWAY - ALWAYS WAS A LOT OF FUN - I WILL ALWAYS CHERISH THE TIMES WHEN HE CAME DOWN WITH KIDS FROM THE THEATRE TO SAN DIEGO - HE LOVED THE THEATRE - LOVED HIS FREINDS AND FAMILY, HE WILL BE MISSED.


Posted by Kevin Silberman, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Feb 6, 2008 at 10:51 am

It's sad that it takes a death or scandal to bring up so many wonderful memories from the past. I remember going back to visit Michael with other kids from the past. He always remembered us right away. I'm a teacher now and have problems remembering names of kids from last year. It's pretty rare to find a person who can devote his life fully to one thing. Michael did that. He wasn't always nice to us, but he was always there for us - pushing us to be better. "DICTION!" I'll never forget the smell of the Palo Alto Children's Theater. Although it probably wasn't around lately, the smell of Michael's cigarette smoke is ingrained in my memory along with his laugh, his hunched-shoulder walk, and his sweaters.

I didn't realize it until I read these entries, but I'll miss Michael...

Thanks for all your hard work.

-Kevin Silberman
West St. Paul, MN


Posted by Daryl Silberman, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Wow - this is an amazing trip - how incredible that such a sad passing ends up being a celebration of a man's life, and of what he and PACT meant to so many of us. Does anyone remember Michael and his coffee pot? One year I was working Conservatory and I actually cleaned the coffee pot, figuring that I was doing something helpful. Michael was rather upset - apparently all the crud in the pot was something he valued... made the coffee richer tasting. But that theory didn't hold for the fridge - I had to clean that out every Friday.

I love the comments about how amazing Michael attention was to all of us - he really made us work for his praise. He had such high standards... something not found often these days. I always stuggled with whether or not I felt that being so grumpy and hard on us kids was the right thing - but the results he got out of us, his unending support of us, and his caring he showed us over the years make me realize that the way he was was the way it should have been.
"Wull... wool is for sheep" still comes out of my mouth today! And I credit Michael (and Pat) with teaching me about projection and diction - I use that knowledge and skill daily.

I remember one time when I came back after not being at the theatre for years - it was my first time to see the renovated magic garden with the new outdoor theatre. Andy was there - Pat, Allison too. Michael was incredible. He spent an hour or two showing me around - going through old pictures, asking about my life, getting all my information. I was deeply touched... to realize that this man who I thought didn't care for or remember me did indeed care - he had been paying attention.

Anyone ever watch Spongebob and think of Michael as Squidward?

Pat and Allison - a big hug from Oregon.

Michael - safe travels.

With deep appreciation and love,
~Daryl Silberman ('86 - now living in Salem Oregon directing high school orchestras)



Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 6, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Thanks to Michael ~RIP~
Palo Alto Issues, posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 1:41 am
E-mail this topic.
Print this topic.
Michael, I have a positive review of you in my mind...


I can remember when my youngest son was only 7 years old at the time. He came to try out for a play at the CT at the same time with his 8 year old brother. It was exciting! All the children (about 20 of them) were there, lined up across the stage. Each was given a sheet of paper with lines that were to be read aloud, one after the other.


My 7 year old son was positioned about in the 15th in long row of sucession to be called on to read. When you came to finish with number 14, you took one look at my son (SMALLEST and quietest!) and asked him his name, to which he then answered. You asked him "how old are you, Charles?" When he answered honestly that he was only 7, you then politely excused him from the line up. I was witnessing this at the back of the theatre rows of seating, quietly watching the interviewing. I saw the saddest face on #15.


WHAT A BLOW to him, but he knew the age limit was 8. He wanted SO badly to be in the mix with his older brother, who was well received by you and went on to play the part in the Dicken's Christmas Carrol.


Months later, when he turned 8, he was back. He tried out again on stage and was accepted. But then, he was caught running (by you)in the isle of the theatre after another youngster and both were told they were "86ed" out until they could behave. So he sat out another production.


He returned again, this time READY for serious theatre! He went on to play in more productions, very attentive to your suggestions on acting skills (and behavior!)


Years past. He enjoyed the stage, getting very comfortable in front of crowds. He and his brother went on to dance competetions together, did a lot of talent show competetions at numerous Jr. and High Schools, then onto Foothill stage productions under Bubba Gong.


My oldest son is working for Nickelodeon in post productions and my youngest son is working this month on the "Harvey Milk Story" in San Francisco with Scean Penn....following his dreams.


Thank you, their starting talents became their life's long ambition. I credit you for being their mentor from the start, for planting the seed from which they grew.


RIP.






Posted by Susy McInerny, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm


"Louder, faster, funnier!"
One of the things that I remember about Michael was that "look" he would give you. That look, coupled with a half smirk, closing his eyes, or maybe just glancing at the heavens for some sign. Once he gave you the look, you knew exactly where you stood.
Michael, you were an inspiration to so many kids and young adults. I think I speak for all of us when I say thank you for being tough, expecting so much from us, for pushing us to reach our potential. And most importantly, for truly believing in us. Michael, we will miss you terribly!
To Pat and Alison and the rest of the staff at PACT, our thoughts and prayers are with you.


Posted by Will Heermance, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Thank you, Michael and Pat, for leading me to my life as an actor. I saw my first show at PATC, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in, oh gosh, 1984 or '85. My brother played a sheep. I had to be a part of this amazing thing I was watching. And when I turned 8, I was. And continued to be for 7 years, until high school distracted me away. But I continued with acting, through college, and now to my professional life. I don't often reflect back on how powerful and important an experience PATC was for me, and so many others, but as I sit here doing just that, it strikes me that there are few adults that left as strong an impression on my young mind as did Michael. What a lucky kid I was. And what a magical place the Children's Theater is. May it continue to thrive in fitting tribute the memory of this extraordinary man.


Posted by truely grateful, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2008 at 7:24 pm

I loved Michael. I was terrified of him and of that stare he gave you when you asked the wrong question. But his tough love made it so much better when you said the right thing, or you heard that enthusiatic laugh. He made people grow up, whether they wanted to or not; it was impossible to participate in a play at PACT, and leave without being a little bit more mature.
I am in great debt to Pat and Michael for everything they have done for me and many many others.
It is always hard to lose someone when they are only 24, but Michaels influence on Palo Alto makes it that much harder.
But even if he was a real grump sometimes, I am consoled to know that he knew how much we loved him before he passed.
Thank you Michael.


Posted by Bonnie Zare, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2008 at 8:20 pm

I just got word of Michael having left us, and of the memorial service.
For some reason, I was hoping against hope that
the service's title "say goodbye to a great man" meant that
he would actually be there, even though the word
memorial service indicated otherwise. How many children and
young adults he must have influenced and
given direction (and laughter) to over the decades...the loss is
immense. I can't add any words more fitting
than Simon Hawkins' and Nick Sousa's words (friends from
my PACT era). And others also have captured his high-standards-tough
-love-yet-also-real-caring stance so well that I have relived his
presence again. Can I really have known him for 30 years?
Is it really true that my 10-year old son, who I was hoping to
bring to CA for a camp very soon, will miss him? The answer
is that we all will miss him and can only hope to spread
his light and talent and influence in our own small and individual ways.
Michael, may love surround you.
Bonnie Zare, Paly graduate of 1984


Posted by Simon Hawkins, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2008 at 8:57 pm

I suspect that I am not alone in reading the many remembrances and exclaiming to myself at the familiar names that keep appearing, names that I had not thought of in years, but conjure such memories. As has been celebrated here, Michael was an important figure in our lives, more important than we may have realized at the time, but so too were we important to each other. Like many others I will not be able to attend the memorial service, and part of my regret about that is that I will not be able to regain some of the connections that I let slip over the years. It is sadly frustrating to see the familiar names, read hints of what has become of them, and not know more. Because I cannot contact any of you directly, let me post my email address here shawkins@fandm.edu My hope is that I can facilitate the reestablishing of some links, to share memories. and let each other know what became of us after we left the Children's Theatre.

Simon Hawkins
Lancaster, Pennsylvania


Posted by Alex Perez, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Michael was there when I played the tiny tiny part of the Doctor in The Velveteen Rabbit. He never failed to remind me how stiff I was! He was there to see me breakout of a shy shell to play the evil Hunter in Go Go the Blue Gorilla. He was there as we forged life-long friendships in a spring production of Minnie's Boys. He was there to see me play my first leading role in Godspell. He was there when I graduated from High School. He was there when I graduated from College. He was there when I couldn't get his fan choreography right in The Mikado. He was there when the audience roared to its feet as the dancers faded into darkness on the opening night of A Chorus Line. He was there to welcome me back to work as a director. He was there when I got married. He was there when my children were born. He was there when my children saw their first show at The Children's Theater. He was there for all of us who called The Children's Theater our home. I am sure for the rest of my life as I continue to work in the theater, he will be there.

God bless you. May you rest in peace.

With love,
Alex



Posted by Kevin Rafter, a resident of Ohlone School
on Feb 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm

What a wonderful tribute to Michael. As I've grown up, I often try to figure out how I developed certain personality traits. Reading these comments helped me realize how much Michael and the experience of acting at PACT built my self-confidence. When a kid manages to satisfy Michaels high standards of performance, he realizes that he can do anything he sets his mind to. You can't learn that in a book...

Thanks to all the fellow PACT alum who've helped bring great memories back. Rest in Peace Michael - you were truly one of a kind!


Posted by Susan Bernfield, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Hi friends,

I've been reading all week and yeah, it's amazing to see your names and to think about others. And it's impossible to imagine that I can't just walk back into the Children's Theater and find Michael there where I left him, in -- wow -- 1983. I only strolled in every 4 or 5 years, so I can't say I really have a right to expect them to always be there, but there he and Pat would be, as others have said here, as though I'd never left, ready to give me a tour and updates on everything and everyone. And that's amazing, isn't that amazing? It's the closest I ever get in my life to feeling like I come from somewhere. Not your usual heritage maybe, definitely my preferred one.

As all this news reached me this past week, deep in my current life as a busy theater person, it was at first strange and then of course just devastating. To feel so much from so far away. But then, it makes sense to feel bereft. As someone wrote earlier, Pat and Michael taught us that theater was a family, an intensely special kind of family, that you'll never ever ever be as happy as when you're with a big group of equally nutty people working as hard as you can to get the show up. Many theater families on, I realize that that idea, that feeling, has pretty much influenced all my choices, really given me a structure for my life, for my career. Wow. I think every day how lucky I am to get to be a part of everything I'm a part of. But none of it would have happened if I hadn't been lucky enough to walk into the Children's Theater, as we all were.

I did once get in to see a show with my son -- that wacky old chestnut Babes in Toyland. But I was so sad to miss the 75th Anniversary, and sadder to miss you now. Much love to everyone.


Posted by Susan Bernfield, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Hi friends,

I've been reading all week and yeah, it's amazing to see your names and to think about others. And it's impossible to imagine that I can't just walk back into the Children's Theater and find Michael there where I left him, in -- wow -- 1983. I only strolled in every 4 or 5 years, so I can't say I really have a right to expect them to always be there, but there he and Pat would be, as others have said here, as though I'd never left, ready to give me a tour and updates on everything and everyone. And that's amazing, isn't that amazing? It's the closest I ever get in my life to feeling like I come from somewhere. Not your usual heritage maybe, definitely my preferred one.

As all this news reached me this past week, deep in my current life as a busy theater person, it was at first strange and then of course just devastating. To feel so much from so far away. But then, it makes sense to feel bereft. As someone wrote earlier, Pat and Michael taught us that theater was a family, an intensely special kind of family, that you'll never ever ever be as happy as when you're with a big group of equally nutty people working as hard as you can to get the show up. Many theater families on, I realize that that idea, that feeling, has pretty much influenced all my choices, really given me a structure for my life, for my career. Wow. I think every day how lucky I am to get to be a part of everything I'm a part of. But none of it would have happened if I hadn't been lucky enough to walk into the Children's Theater, as we all were.

I did once get in to see a show with my son -- that wacky ol' Babes in Toyland. But I was so sad to miss the 75th Anniversary, and sadder to miss you now. Much love to everyone.


Posted by Laura Van, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I can hear his voice now:

"Wool is what sheep wear."

RIP, Michael.


Posted by Amy Prosser, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2008 at 1:30 pm

What I am most nostaligic for is the home I had at PACT. I have never found a place where I've been better taken care of, respected, loved, and known. You were all my family in those years - Michael Pease, Nick, Bonnie, Deby, Simon, Rich, Chris Ritter, Bill Craighead, Bill Rehor, Andy Arrow, Assaf, the Deutsch family, Alex, Carrie, Robie, Jeanette, Tony, Shawn, Billy Liberatore, Nanda, Paul Fulmer, Emma, Katie, Lisa, the Van Dykes, Louis, Brian Carter, Jade, Carrie Ellen, Lee, Nicky Johnson, Kathy, Wes, Susan, Sarah, Anne Corning, Rebecca, Derek, Pat, Michael, Andy, Alison, Jim, Georgette, Pam - God, I'm probably forgetting people... I just knew that the theatre was my home and that I would be loved and supported there. I'm so looking forward to seeing you all at the memorial. It will be wonderful to mourn as a group, while celebrating our good fortune in growing up together. You all meant and mean the world to me. I love you! xoxo


Posted by Elizabeth (Guagliardo) Clement, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2008 at 3:12 pm

How surreal it is seeing all these names I haven't seen in decades, even as far back as my time at Jordan. My first show at PACT was Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in December 1982...quite an introduction!

Michael was indeed a bit of a grouch and, til now, I would have described my relationship with him as love/hate (e.g. I was sure he loved to hate me), but upon his passing and the feelings that are dredging up with it, I'm realizing that was only the petulant 8th-grader I was talking. In (more) mature hindsight, I know he helped instill a discipline in me that hadn't been there before, at least in regard to performing. He didn't let any of us get away with hamming our way through a scene or song ("getting by on 'cute,'" as my mother would say), and almost invariably improved our output. I've never been one to respond well to tough-love but he, of all people, actually made a dent in my arrogant armor, and I have to respect that. He devoted his every waking hour to the theater and the kids in it. Cantankerous as he was, I have to believe he had our best interests at heart and maybe even loved us back. How very sad and pathetic that I'm only figuring it out just now that I have no way to thank him.

Hope to see some of you at the memorial...what a bittersweet feast for the soul that will be. Love to you all. :)


Posted by Jenny Brown (Rajbhandari), a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:28 am

I just remembered one more thing Michael told me. He said the reason he liked directing children's theatre is because children are so honest. If they don't like something, they don't clap.


Posted by Jason Heil, a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2008 at 1:32 am

In addition to many wonderful acting experiences, Pat and Michael gave me my first directing gig - the Wingspread production of BAREFOOT IN THE PARK. Just as they had with me as an actor, they prodded and poked -- and ultimately made me do the work on my own. That's what I carry from Michael: he was there to pick you up if you fall - but he may have also pushed you out of the plane! I'll have to miss the memorial - but I know Michael would understand. I'm directing a show and I have rehearsal.


Posted by Alicia, a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2008 at 4:51 pm

This brings back so much.

Summers at Grandmas and the Theatre, Pat and Michael in conference calls to my mother beacause of some new stunt I'd pulled. Sneaking out and hanging out in the Garden until 4 am. WITH an 8am practice. How upset my mother was when they asked that I rethink coming back the next year.

Mom was with Pat her very 1st day. She may have been there for Michaels too.

I failed the costuming requirement. I was horrible on stage. My woodworking skills were a little better and the little ones adored me.

Michael asked about me everytime he spoke to Mom. Even the last time and last summer it had been 19 years.

Every theater group I have been involved with since has been held up against The Theatre Pat and Michael built and grew and loved and nurtured, none come close.

- Alicia de Cervantes (Seattle, WA)
daughter of Mary Lou Sivertsen (New Orleans, LA)


Posted by Gollum, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 14, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Dear Michael,

You are truly a person to remember.

I love you and all the things you did to help me

Gollum


Posted by Julie Goda Tachiki, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I was lucky enough to spend 4 amazing years at PACT in the early 1980's before I moved away. Reading what you all have written flooded me with memories of just what an amazing experience I had and what an impact Michael made on my life.

My favorite Michael memory occurred right before I moved away. The theater was having a costume sale and Michael knew my ultimate goal in life was one day play "Annie" (hey, it was the 80's!) He put aside a little red dress and gave it to me so I could practice properly "in character." He knew each of us so well and cared about each of us so deeply.

Michael, we will miss you more than words can ever express.


Posted by Amanda (Burke) Aaronson, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2008 at 8:46 pm

I appear to be the last to the table... as usual. I don't read the Palo Alto Online regularly...

So many of my classmates, and friends, have already posted above. I'm shedding a tear, maybe too little too late, as I nod in agreement with all that they've said. I knew Michael from the second grade (goodness, that would be, what, 1980 or so?) on... he brought out the most creative parts of ourselves. He taught us discipline, he taught us our strengths. He made our weaknesses positives (like the fact that while I could sing, and sort-of dance, I couldn't act - so he made me the lead in a melodrama, and made me feel like a star!).

I'm so sorry to the future generations for the loss of a fabulous character.

Love to all... Amanda (aka, Mandi)


Posted by Mr. D'Onofrio, a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2008 at 3:06 pm

The years '79 to '81 were huge for a new kid from the midwest. Coming from an all anglo community to a vastly diverse international community in Palo Alto, with a stammering problem, I didn't know how to carry myself.

I joined the PACT initially to help me with my stammering. I saw Michael at first as an odd duck shouting this way and that. Scared the crap out of me at first. Michael shouting "LOUDER" as I played a country bumpkin in Moličre's "The Doctor In Spite of Himself"; anticipating hitting various behinds with shalacked pieces of wood; hence "slapstick".

The major factors that Michael influenced into me were self confidence and courage under pressure. Repeating those lines over and over in front of audiences and my peers helped me to over come my problem of speech. I want to thank you Michael for the encouragement, the enunciation and the slaps on the back. God rest your soul.


Posted by Laura Sander, a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 1:41 am

I live very far away from California these days so didn't see this until now. I am shocked and saddened by Michael's death. He, Pat and the Children's Theater were among the few good elements in what turned out to be one of the hardest times in my life. Together, they saved my sanity. I very much wish I had had the opportunity to see Michael again as an adult to thank him for everything he did for me.

Like many others who were part of the PACT in the early to mid 80s, I'm amazed at the number of names I recognize and memories the posts have brought back. I would love to get into touch with people who might remember me from that time. If anyone is interested, I can be reached at: laura_w22000@yahoo.com


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