Herbert Heron (c1884-1968), was an actor, writer and dramatist who came to Carmel in 1908. He founded the Forest Theater in
1910, one of the first outdoor theaters on the west coast.
Herbert Heron came to Carmel in 1908. He had worked extensively on the stage in Los Angeles and came from a background of
writers and dramatists. On a visit from Los Angeles, Heron fell in love with the village by the sea. He soon settled in Carmel,
bringing with him his young bride Opal Heron, the daughter of a Polish Count.
Twice the mayor of Carmel, Heron is probably best known founding the Forest Theater. In 1910, the Herons found a concave hillside
looking out, surrounded by oaks and pines, and thought it would be an ideal space for an outdoor theater. Heron’s idea was
to stage plays by Carmel authors starring local residents – a true community theater. He approached Frank Devendorf, co-founder
of the Carmel Development Company, and asked about purchasing the plot for such a purpose. Devendorf, wanting to attract artistic
spirits and "brain workers" to the nascent village, i.e. teachers, librarians, etc., agreed and let Heron have the space rent-free.
By February 1910, construction began on the theater. It was a simple plan: a wooden proscenium stage with a scrim of pines
and plain wooden benches. Meanwhile, Heron was busying organizing the first production with the help of the newly-minted Forest
The first theatrical production, David, a biblical drama by Constance Lindsay Skinner, inaugurated the Forest Theater on July
9, 1910. Reviewed in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, it was reported that over 1,000 theatergoers attended the production
There was no electricity at the theater – calcium floodlights were brought by covered wagon from Monterey to light the stage.
Two bonfires were also lit on opposite ends of the proscenium, a tradition which continues today. By all accounts, the performance
was considered a success and the packed house helped to solidify the role of theater in Carmel. Heron opened the city’s first
book store in 1918 and maintained lifelong friendships with Carmel’s literary luminaries, such as George Sterling, Mary Austin,
and Jack London.
In 1960, Herbert Heron finished his 50th year with the Forest Theater with his own play, Pharaoh. By 1963 the theater had
shown over 140 plays, including 64 premieres and dramatizations by California authors. Numbered among these productions were
those by Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Greek tragedies, local history, children's plays, light operas and musical comedies.
One production even featured real horses on stage! Following a brief illness Herbert Heron died on January 8, 1968, at the
age of 84.