Theater, film and TV actor Robert Symonds, who was associate director of the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center in NY for 8 years, died from complications of prostate cancer Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 80.
During the 1950s and ’60s, Symonds was a member of the San Francisco Actor’s Workshop, where he performed in avant-garde dramas by Bertold Brecht, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet. He often co-starred with actress Priscilla Pointer, who was married to the workshop’s co-founder, Jules Irving, who left to head the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater in 1965.
Symonds joined Irving in New York and and served as the company’s associate director until 1972, and Pointer and Symonds married in 1981 after Irving’s death in 1979.
Symonds had recurring roles in “Dynasty” and “MASH” and appeared onscreen in “Catch Me If You Can,” “Primary Colors,” “The Exorcist,” “Micki and Maude,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “And Justice for All,” and “The Ice Pirates.” He appeared on dozens of TV shows including “Quincy M.E.,” “The Rockford Files” and “E.R.” and won acclaim for his appearances as Benjamin Franklin in “The Adams Chronicles,” as Robert E. Lee in “The Blue and The Grey,” and in the PBS presentation of Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People.”
In New York, Symonds appeared onstage in “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “The Miser” and “Caucasion Chalk Circle.” Off-Broadway, he premiered Harold Pinter’s “Landscape and Silence.” He served as guest director at the Alley Theatre in Houston and appeared at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles theaters including the Mark Taper Forum, Matrix, Odyssey, Coronet Theatre, and LATC.
In Los Angeles, he appeared in productions including “Night of the Iguana,” “Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia,” and at the Matrix Theatre in “The Tavern” and “The Seagull.” He performed at the Fountain Theatre in “The Road to Mecca,” and before that in “Fighting Over Beverly” and “Park Your Car In Harvard Yard.”
Born in Bristow, Okla., he served in the Army in Seattle during WWII and appeared in local theater productions. He studied acting at the U. of Texas at Austin and began performing in theaters around the West. He was invited to join the Actor’s Workshop after appearing in a Shakespeare performance in Ashland, Ore.
In addition to his wife, Symonds is survived by his children Vicki Morrison, Barry Symonds, and Rebecca Wooldridge and six granddaughters; three stepchildren, David, Katie and Amy Irving, the actress, and five step-grandchildren.