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Charlotte Bronstein, 84; Launched Ojai Shakespeare Festival

October 29, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Charlotte Bronstein, veteran actress, director, writer and teacher who helped launch the Ojai Shakespeare Festival more than 20 years ago and served as its first production director, died Tuesday. She was 84.

Bronstein died at her home in Ojai, according to her son, Phil, the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.

A breast cancer survivor, Bronstein was diagnosed as having lung cancer 16 months ago and given six months to a year to live. She decided not to undergo chemotherapy.

"I had this fabulous life, and I was still busy. I wanted the quality of life, rather than go through chemo," she told The Times in May, while working with Ojai elementary school students on a new play about their recent field trip to Anacapa Island.

"This morning, I came in so tired," she said then, after a session with the youngsters. "I was literally flying when I left. I can't tell you what it feels like to see what comes out of these children.... It keeps me young."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 30, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
Bronstein obituary -- An obituary in Wednesday's California section on Charlotte Bronstein failed to include her husband, Alvin, in the list of survivors.

Despite the cancer, over the last year and a half, Bronstein appeared in Ojai local productions of "The Vagina Monologues," "Night Mother," "The Whole Banana" and an anniversary performance of "The Human Chain," a play she and other Ojai residents created to honor victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

After a long career in radio, stage, television and film, Bronstein moved to Ojai in 1978. If she meant to retire, something went awry.

She helped create the town's Shakespeare Festival and directed its seminal productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" during the 1983 season and "As You Like It" a year later.

And she continued to act -- with leading roles in Ojai Art Center Theater productions of "On Golden Pond" and "The Trip to Bountiful."

Bronstein also directed plays at the center, including "Come Back Little Sheba" and "Death of a Salesman." She ran the Ojai Library's story hour, taught the town's schoolchildren about acting and creating plays and organized the Readers' Theater, made up of senior citizens with no acting experience.

The city of Ojai, appreciative of Bronstein's cultural efforts, named her Citizen of the Year in 1995 and gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts.

Born in Stamford, Conn., the vivacious young woman majored in theater at the University of North Carolina and taught radio acting and directed plays at the University of Connecticut. During World War II, she taught theater to immigrants at Chicago's Hull House.

Later, she spent eight years writing and directing plays for Canada's educational system, under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada.

Moving to California with her husband, Alvin, in 1967, Bronstein maintained a varied career writing industrial films, acting in commercials and soap operas, and directing radio and stage plays.

In addition to her son, Bronstein is survived by her daughter, Susan of Ojai, and one grandson.

No services are planned.

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