Remembering George Marchi, teacher, war veteran and co-founder of Actors Ensemble of Berkeley

George Marchi. Photo: Kris Mattson

February 27, 1926 – October 23, 2019

George Marchi, teacher, theater-maker, and friend, passed away from lymphoma at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco late in 2019. He was 93.

George, along with a number of his friends founded the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley in 1957 as a result of a conversation he had with his friend Bill Matheson on a Berkeley street corner in 1955. The organization continues to this day.

George was born to Albert and Maria (nee Polizzi) Marchi and raised in San Francisco along with his dear sister Gloria Bradbury (who proceeded him in death). George was one of the survivors of the Leopoldville troopship disaster, sunk by a German U-boat in December 1944 off the coast of France. The story of the tragedy was memorably told in the play “War Song” by James Keller which played at Live Oak Theatre in 2012. The play was directed by Martha Luehrmann, and George was played by Bruce Kaplan.

George was able to participate in reunions with fellow survivors of the Leopoldville disaster and the 66th Infantry Division “Panthers” in the United States and France. He was a recipient of both the Purple Heart and the French Legion of Honor, along with many of his fellow survivors.

George went to U.C. Berkeley after the war via the GI Bill, where he joined the newly established dramatic arts program instituted by Fred and Mary Harris. He graduated with a B.A. in dramatic arts (cum laude) in 1950, followed by an M.A. (High Honors) in English from Columbia University in 1955.  Both before and after his time at Columbia, he was a lecturer at U.C. Berkeley. The Harris’ enthusiasm inspired George not only to help found Actors Ensemble, but also to launch a career in the theater which led him to teach abroad at the Hellenic American School in Athens Greece, The American School in (Lugano) Switzerland (TASIS), and Fleming College Florence, Italy. He also taught at Temple University, the University of San Francisco, and Armstrong College in the United States.

While at TASIS and Fleming College Florence, George was heavily involved in the creation of the American Repertory Theatre in Europe (ARTE), which toured Europe each summer for a number of years in the 1970s.  After he moved back to the U.S., he mounted a few productions under the aegis ARTE, where the acronym now stood for The American Repertory Theatre from Europe, as well as being involved with a number of other theatrical organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

George finished his career as the well-loved librarian first at the Discovery Center School and then at Rooftop Alternative School, both in his native San Francisco. After he returned to the States, though he lived in San Francisco, he was always interested in the goings-on at Actors Ensemble and attended productions regularly, often seeing both opening and closing nights (“So I can see how the play evolves”).  Actors Ensemble’s most recent production, “She Kills Monsters,” was dedicated to George.


In the last 15 years, he contributed to the organization of the Actors Ensemble archives along with his friend Bill Martinelli, sadly also recently deceased, which are now safely ensconced at the Berkeley Historical Society.

George was bright and active into his 90s, with a wide circle of friends and interests (he even acted in a few independent films in his later years) only being struck by dementia in the last few years of his life. George is survived by his nephew George Bradbury and wife Jean, his niece Charlotte Bradbury McFarland, his grand-nephews Taylor and Travis Bradbury and Matthew and Brendan McFarland, and his grand-niece Meghan Bradbury, along with many friends, including Connie Matson, Sue Bolea, Robert Martin, Maggie Love, Larry Miller, and Jerome Solberg.

The family is planning a memorial in the Spring.  Write info@aeofberkeley.org for more information when it becomes available. George will be interred in the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon.