( b. Jan 12, 1934 Long Beach, California, USA - d. Jun 06, 2008 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Gene Persson was born "Eugene Clair Persson" in Long Beach, CT. His father (Oscar), a seaman, vanished when he was 12 and his mother (Leah Krascoff), later placed him in an orphanage. He began acting in film in the "Ma and Pa Kettle" series.
Mr. Persson began his association with the African-American poet and playwright LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) in 1964, when he produced his two one-acts The Toilet and The Slave Off-Broadway. The next year, he created a sensation by producing in Los Angeles what would become Mr. Jones' most famous work, Dutchman. Some critics hailed it as a new advance in drama while others reviled it as foul-mouthed trash. Mr. Persson later produced it in London and New York City. He made it into a film in 1967, starring his then-wife, actress Shirley Knight. He married Shirley Knight in 1959 and they had one child, actress Kaitlin Hopkins. The couple divorced in 1969.
The producer went after a completely different audience when he produced the sweet-minded musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He and Arthur Whitelaw also helped to co-create the book, which was credited to the fictional John Gordon. It opened at Theater 80 St. Marks and became one of the longest-running Off-Broadway hits in history. Two attempts to make the show work on Broadway -- in 1971 and 1999, both involving Mr. Persson -- failed.
Mr. Persson's success as a producer was primarily confined to Off-Broadway and London. He produced three later-day productions of Tennessee Williams, The Red Devil Battery Sign, This Is (An Entertainment) and a U.K. revival of The Glass Menagerie. He produced the first five plays by British playwright Peter Barnes, the most notable among them being The Ruling Class. On Broadway, his The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald lasted only three previews in 1967. The Sudden & Accidental Re-education of Horse Johnson the next year sustained itself for only four performances more. Lyle Kessler's The Watering Place, in 1968, also closed after seven shows. And 1974's Rainbow Jones, which was also directed by Mr. Persson, closed on opening night. It starred Mr. Persson's co-producer and second wife, Ruby Persson.
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