Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

OBITUARIES | Passings | Gene Persson

Producer worked with LeRoi Jones

June 23, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gene Persson, 74, a producer who staged LeRoi Jones' controversial play "Dutchman" as well as the popular children's musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," died of a heart attack June 6 in New York City.

Born in Los Angeles in 1934, Persson was a child actor who appeared in several Ma and Pa Kettle movies of the 1940s and '50s. He studied drama at L.A. City College and in 1959 married actress Shirley Knight.

In the '60s he traded acting for producing. He worked several times with Jones, the black activist writer who later changed his name to Amiri Baraka. In 1964 Persson produced Jones' "The Toilet" and "The Slave" in New York, then a year later put on a twin bill of "The Toilet" and another one-act play, "Dutchman," at the Warner Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Knight starred with Al Freeman Jr. in "Dutchman," a two-character racial drama set on a subway, in the L.A. stage production as well as in the subsequent film version Persson produced and set in London.

Persson moved on to lighter fare, joining Arthur Whitelaw to co-produce and co-create "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," a stage adaptation of Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" cartoon strip. It opened off-Broadway in 1967, became a long-running hit and led to many new productions.

Persson and Knight divorced in 1969. He met his wife, Ruby, when she auditioned for the part of Lucy in "Charlie Brown."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|