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John Astin to Keynote Pennsylvania Presenters Spring Conference

John AstinActor John Astin, probably best known for his role as Gomez on the classic television series The Addams Family, will present the keynote speech for this year’s Pennsylvania Presenters Spring Conference. The conference will be held on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus June 5-7, 2013, with they keynote lunch held on Thursday, June 6. The conference is being hosted by the Lively Arts at IUP.

In his numerous speaking engagements, Astin reflects on his vast experiences and observations throughout his life in the world of arts. He will look at the “big picture” as he encourages artists, agents, presenters, and patrons to continue to strive toward a culture where arts are recognized as a central component to life. Astin’s contagious passion will leave you feeling refreshed and excited to be shaping the future of arts.

Born John Allen Astin in Baltimore, he grew up a voracious reader and intellectual, attending nearby Washington and Jefferson College and Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, where he majored in mathematics. A part in the university’s senior play cemented his desire to act, and in 1952, Astin attended the University of Minnesota to pursue graduate work in drama, where he appeared in 40 plays in and around campus.

Astin’s first New York gig was a role in an off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera, followed by a role in Charles Laughton’s Major Barbara. Blessed with an elastic voice that never failed to sound bemused, he found work doing voices for animated commercials. Astin went on to receive supporting roles in Studio One in Hollywood, The Twilight Zone, and 77 Sunset Strip. He made his motion picture debut with a tiny role in the forgotten B-drama The Pusher in 1960. In 1961, Astin earned a small but memorable role as a dance chaperone in the Oscar-winning West Side Story and a bit part in That Touch of Mink with Cary Grant and Doris Day.

A year later, Astin was teamed with Marty Ingels on the blue-collar sitcom I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster. Despite the show’s cancellation, Astin had gained notice as a reliable comic and was cast as the macabre but passionate patriarch on The Addams Family. His pop-eyed, relentlessly cheery demeanor as Gomez instantly launched Astin to stardom.

John Astin as Gomez AddamsRunning from 1964 to 1966, Astin would reprise his role on numerous occasions in the decades following the show’s cancellation, including the TV movie Halloween with the New Addams Family and the voice of Gomez in the animated Addams Family, which earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination in 1992. In 1998, Astin played Grandpapa Addams in a pair of episodes for the syndicated New Addams Family.

The iconic role of Gomez Addams established Astin’s career as a pop personality, and he began touring the country in theatrical productions. It was during this time that Astin’s marriage to Suzanne Hahn ended, he married actress Patty Duke, and raised her son, Sean Astin, who would later become a successful actor in his own right.

John Astin’s many other credits include a brief stint as the Riddler on Batman and as the title character arch-villain in Evil Roy Slade. He also found work in 1974’s Skyway to Death and as the dad in the original version of Freaky Friday. In the 1980s, he landed recurring roles in both Murder, She Wrote and the sitcom Night Court. Astin maintained a busy schedule, appearing in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Teen Wolf Two, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and Return of the Killer Tomatoes! He went on to make two more “Killer Tomatoes” movies in the ’90s, appeared on the TV shows Mad About You and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., and earned favorable reviews for his appearance in The Frighteners. 

As a director, Astin’s talents have been seen in Prelude (1968), a comic short for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short; Wacky Taxi, in which he also starred; Operation Petticoat, in which he played a submarine commander accompanied by a crew of nurses; and several episodes of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and Just Our Luck.

His most recent project, An Evening With John Astin: Gomez, Poe, and the Usual Suspects, offers an eclectic evening of excepts from well-known works by Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Shakespeare, Kurt Weill, Thomas Wolfe, e.e. cummings, Ezra Pound, and others combined with anecdotes and film clips from The Addams Family.

John Astin serves as a visiting professor and director of theater arts and studies at Johns Hopkins University, where he works out of the “Old Barn,” former home of Theater Hopkins, an acclaimed community theater company.

Those wishing to attend the lunch must be registered for the conference. Registration is available online now, and daily as well as full conference rates are available.

For more information, contact PA Presentes administrator Cathy Little at 610-797-3042, or e-mail cathy@papresenters.org.