Lonny Chapman, 87, artistic director

Headed Lonny Chapman Theater for 34 years

Legit actor Lonny Chapman, artistic director of North Hollywood’s Lonny Chapman Theater for 34 years, died Oct. 12 in North Hollywood of heart disease. He was 87.

A memorial service will be held at 12 noon, Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theater, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.

Born in Tulsa, Okla., Chapman grew up in Joplin and served in the Marines during WWII. After graduating the U. of Oklahoma, he hitchhiked to New York with his friend Dennis Weaver, and began his acting career in the Chicago company of “Mr. Roberts.”

He first appeared on Broadway on 1949 in “The Closing Door,” directed by Lee Strasberg. Among the other Broadway productions he appeared in were “Come Back Little Sheba,” “The Chase” and “The Glass Menagerie.”

He appeared in the first Broadway revival of “The Time of Your Life” by William Saroyan, which he also performed in Europe at the Brussels World’s Fair and in a live telecast by the BBC.

He directed over 80 productions in Fishkill, N.Y. summer theater, where he hired new actors including Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman.

In feature films, Chapman made his film debut in 1954 in “East of Eden,” and went on to appear in films including “Baby Doll,” “The Birds,” “Norma Rae,” and his last film, “Reindeer Games,” directed by John Frankenheimer in 2000.

He made his TV debut in 1949 in “Captain Video” and subsequently appeared in over 300 television programs, from “The Rainmaker” to “McCloud” to “The Hunted” in 2003.

In 1973, he became artistic director of the Group Repertory Theater, since renamed the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theater. He served as teacher, director, producer and actor for over 350 productions.

He is survived by his wife, Erma, and a son.

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