Theater’s Keith dies at 80

Activist dedicated his life to arts

Harold Keith, theater activist, community leader and philanthropist, died of heart failure Sept. 6 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 80.

Born in Rochester, N.Y., Keith became interested in theater during college and made his stage debut in “Pygmalion” Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater.

He received New York’s Most Promising Young Actor award for his performance in “Playboy of the Western World.”

In the early 1960s, Keith sponsored the Royal Shakespeare Co.’s first appearance in Los Angeles. He became a political activist in 1967 and later ran for a congressional seat and traveled with George McGovern during his bid for president.

Keith was elected chairman of the California Arts Council in 1980. He additionally contributed time and financial support to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has a gallery bearing his and his wife, Diane’s, name.

He also served on the board of the Center Theatre Group for many years.

In addition to his wife, his is survived by two daughters, Claudia Witkowski and Suzanne Zimmer, who is married to screen composer Hans Zimmer.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the American Diabetes Assn.

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