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Obituaries : Harold Owen, 78; Co-Creator of Family Theater

November 05, 1987

Harold Owen, who with his wife created in 1953 the Family Theater, where parents and children sat side by side watching original plays or adaptations of classics, died Tuesday in West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital.

The retired head of the speech department at Los Angeles City College, who taught at the community college from 1947 to 1975, was 78 and died of pneumonia.

With his wife, Gene, Owen wrote eight original plays and adapted three others, many of them musicals and nearly all staged at Santa Monica City College.

After each show the audience was invited to an autograph party with the cast, and the actors, most of them students at Santa Monica City College, appeared in costume to sign programs.

Children also were asked to critique the performances, all in an effort to instill in them curiosity about drama.

Productions in the college's 300-seat theater usually were sold out far ahead of time. More than a dozen were staged each spring until 1968.

In 1957 Owen launched one of the first classroom television instruction programs in the area. It was a three-course Los Angeles City College curriculum augmented by office hours when students could bring in questions.

He served on the Governor's Committee for Educational Television, was a director of educational TV for the Los Angeles Junior College District, and in 1972 was named one of the outstanding educators in the country.

In 1979 he delivered the commencement address at Los Angeles City College on the occasion of the school's 50th anniversary.

In addition to his wife, who was actor James Dean's drama teacher at Santa Monica City College, Owen is survived by a daughter and two grandchildren.

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