Heidi Helen Davis dies at 60; actress, acting teacher and stage director

Heidi Helen Davis, an actress, acting teacher and stage director who had a long association with the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her family announced. She was 60 and had breast cancer.

Since 1985, Davis directed more than 20 plays for the outdoor stage at the Theatricum Botanicum, including Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1993), “The Glass Menagerie” (1994) and “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1997); Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” (1999) and “The Cherry Orchard” (2009); Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (2008); Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” (2000); and other classics. Her last production there was last summer’s “Rose Cottages.”

“She had a way of working with actors that allowed risk and complete exploration guided by instinct,” Ellen Geer, Theatricum Botanicum’s artistic director, said in a statement.

Davis was active in other local theaters, directing “Absurd Person Singular” at the West End Playhouse in 1989, “Songs of Harmony” (1990) and other productions at East West Players, “Tender Is the Night” at the Fountain Theatre in 1995 and EM Lewis’ “Song of Extinction” at [Inside] the Ford in 2008.


Born in Wichita, Kan., on Oct. 21, 1951, Davis moved with her family to Palo Alto as a child and developed an early interest in the theater.

“I became a director for two reasons,” Davis said in a 1996 Times profile. “To escape into a fantasy life and to control other people. Even as a young child, I remember organizing everything: inviting the actors, telling them what to wear, setting up chairs.”

She studied acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and performed with that troupe and other acting companies before turning to directing.

She also taught acting and directing at the Howard Fine Acting Studio in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Film School, Academy of Art University in San Francisco and other area schools.


Davis’ marriage to cinematographer Lloyd Freidus ended in divorce. She is survived by their son, Benjamin; her parents; and three siblings.