Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


Among those through whom Carmel-by-the-Sea has attained to importance as an art center is undoubtedly Herbert Heron, poet, playwright, stage director and actor. Born in New Jersey on October 26, 1884, he came to California when he was five years old. Ranch life and public schooling in Los Angeles county were followed by attendance at the Harvard Military School, from which he was graduated in 1901. From there he went to Stanford University, but left college to go on the stage. First a member of the Belasco Stock Company, he later joined the Crawley-Mestayer Company and finally the Morosco Stock Company. In the last named, one of the best of its kind in America, he obtained most of his early training.

In 1905 Mr. Heron married Miss Opal Piontkowski and temporarily gave up the stage for literature. In 1908 he came with his wife and daughter to Carmel, where he was one of the earliest of its group of writers. After building his home, he decided that Carmel needed an open-air theater. He found the perfect site for it, secured the use of the ground from the Carmel Development Company, named the place the Forest Theater, organized the Forest Theater Society and formed a company of players for the inaugural production.

As the founder of this now famous theater and as its most indefatigable worker, Mr. Heron has for fifteen years exerted a strong influence in the development of the drama in this locality. He has staged there "The Land of Heart's Desire," "A Midsummer-Night's Dream," "The First Poet," "Tusitala," "Arms and the Man," "Snow White," "The Tents of the Arabs," "The Golden Doom," "The Countess Cathleen," and others. In the interior theaters of Carmel he has made productions of the comedy of "King Henry the Fourth," "The Dark Lady," "Twelfth Night," "High Justice," "The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife" and others.

As an actor, Mr. Heron created the leading roles in Constance Skinners "David," Mary Austin's "Fire," his own "Montezuma," Jack London's "First Poet," etc. He has also played Mercutio, Falstaff, the Fool in "Twelfth Night," Bluntschli, Macaire, Lafayette, Francois Villon, Archie Weir in "Tusitala," Yin Suey Gong in "The Yellow Jacket," Pygmalion, the King in "The Tents of the Arabs" and a score of others. He has also acted several important parts in the Bohemian Grove productions.

He is the author of the following plays: "Teddy," produced in Los Angeles, 1904; "Handle With Care," 1905; "Pharaoh," 1906; "Gold" (with Jack London), 1909; "The Lady of Gray Gables" (with Constance Skinner), produced in Indianapolis, 1911; "Montezuma," produced in Carmel, 1914; "Immortal Fame," produced in Carmel, 1915; "The Spy," produced in Carmel, 1915; "Tusitala" (with J. N. Hilliard), produced in Carmel, 1916. He is also the author of a large number of poems which have appeared in leading magazines of this country and England.

In 1916 Mr. Heron left Carmel with his wife and children, going to Los Angeles at the request of Aline Barnsdall to be director of the Little Theater there, in association with Richard Ordynski, Irving Pichel and Norman-Bel Geddes. After his return to Carmel he and his wife separated, and were later divorced.

In 1919 Mr. Heron established the first of Carmel's delightful shops devoted to things of beauty as distinct from things solely for use. His place is called The Seven Arts. Here may be found paintings, etchings, pottery, metal work, art materials, antiques, rare books and autographs, a fine collection of plays and the best general stock of books in California outside the large cities. Recently a high-grade printing department was added, and from this came the first book printed in Carmel, the first published in Monterey county. In 1923 Mr. Heron took into partnership Miss Helena Conger, whom he married a year later and who now shares with him the various work he is engaged in. His son and daughter are also associated with him in The Seven Arts.

Source: History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925, 890 pgs.