Frank Ottiwell
1929 - 2015
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Frank Ottiwell

August 14, 1929 - August 20, 2015

The San Francisco and greater theater community mourns the loss of Frank Ottiwell, actor, teacher and a member of the core group that brought the American Conservatory Theater and the Alexander Technique to San Francisco in 1967. He died last week at the age of 86.
Born Francis Garbutt Ottiwell in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to parents Francis and Harriett, both born in South Shields, England, Frank had two older sisters, Cecelia and Rita.
Frank developed a love for the theater at an early age as his grandfather, George Ottiwell was a musician in the theatre and his father also had theatrical experience. After attending public school and Sir George Williams College, in the late-40's he trained in acting at the Canadian Art Theatre School, followed by studies at the Vera Soloviova Acting School in New York and voice studies in London, where he got his first real exposure to the Alexander Technique. Living in New York in the 50's and 60's, he continued his studies in the Alexander Technique and began teaching this mindful method to actors, musicians, dancers, athletes, public speakers, etc. in 1959 while still pursuing his own career in acting.
Happily employed at the British Information Services in New York, in 1967 a new opportunity arose that changed Frank's life. During the "Summer of Love" the two-year-old American Conservatory Theater toured west and played 4 weeks of summer theater at Stanford. The group loved it so much, they made San Francisco their permanent home that year.
Frank played "The Ghost of Christmas Past" for 20 years in the original production of "The Christmas Carol" and had parts in several other A.C.T. productions such as "Dinner at Eight" and "Uncle Vanya". Though he played smaller roles, Frank was always a scene stealer. He was a great explorer in those earlier days of acting.
But his greatest love was found in teaching the Alexander Technique. At A.C.T. thousands of acting students took his courses as part of their curriculum. In addition, Frank owned and operated an accredited school, The Alexander Institute of San Francisco where hundreds of new A.T. teachers were produced.
Frank is survived by niece Vicky, nephews Peter, Fred, Grant and Ken, all in Canada, and husband Kurt. Frank's local family of friends are invited to join him and their dog Dede in a casual gathering at Frank's home in San Francisco on Tuesday, September 1st at 2:00 PM, with an open house until about 8:00. A Celebration of Frank's Life & Legacy is still to be announced, but it will very likely be held this fall at the American Conservatory Theater.

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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Aug. 27 to Aug. 30, 2015.
Memories & Condolences
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21 entries
February 24, 2021
3/23/21 I just learned of his death as I was searching the Internet for him.
Frank was a dear friend and colleague. We studied with Judith Leibowitz and taught the Alexander Technique in New York City. He was a kind, intelligent. witty. and compassionate human being. I think of him often.
Lee Dunne
February 24, 2021
May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief.
Lee Dunne
August 21, 2020
Frank at Sweet Brair...
Still think of Frank almost every day as I teach the AT. He was a gifted teacher, mentor, and friend. Miss you Frank!
Carol Prentice
August 21, 2020
I didn't know Frank but I know I am related from family history research, all my best to his family and friends.
Stephen Garbutt
October 17, 2015
Frank was teaching the Technique in the U.S. at a time when professional standards hadn't been hammered out. Rather than being defensive or truculent. He traveled to England and met with and studied with, the most senior teachers in the world.

His teaching had a clarity, a freedom from affectation or ritual, that was a full expression of the humility, honesty, and commitment, that he embodied in all things.

I saw him once, in a small part in King Lear. In a large, noisy production, he was the only actor whose every word could be heard in the balcony.
John Coffin
September 4, 2015
I have just read the obituary (I live in England). I didn't know Frank, however I seem to be in an extended family of artists, going back to Putty Garbutt (I'm a bass guitar player). My best wishes to his family and friends.
Stephen Garbutt
September 1, 2015
Frank at his retirement party (from teacher training school)
A gentle hero. Wise, compassionate, warm. Sometimes stern, only for the good of the teaching or situation. One of the major influences of my life. His memory will be a blessing for me and so many whose lives he enhanced.
September 1, 2015
Frank, most dear and constant of friends, words cannot convey the gratitude I will always feel towards you, and the respect I have for your artistry. Yes, you truly were a treasure for the world. Oh what a kind and skillful heart you showed us. Kurt, I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers.
Tony Hoeber
September 1, 2015
Frank was one of my greatest teachers and dearest mentors. He taught me more with fewer words than I could ever hope to convey. All of my love and deepest thanks. Forward and up. - Rob Seitelman
Rob Seitelman
August 31, 2015
What an incredible teacher and man! I feel so fortunate to have been touched by his "magic" hands. I have so many fond memories of attending class in his "sanctuary" at 450 Geary during my years at ACT. I send my condolences to all of his family.
Susan Appel
August 31, 2015
Oh, Frank. The world is a kinder gentler place because you were in it! Not everyone actually leaves the world a better did. My heart goes out to you, Kurt. Know that I am holding you in my heart.
Katherine James
August 30, 2015
Will never forget the secrets you shared with me, Frank. Your observations were on the money, time after time. Your magnanimous attitude and skilled tactfulness was a breath of fresh air among competitors. Will miss you being in the real world. It's your voice that will always be in some of my "directing." I'm sure that's the case for many of your A.T. students. I can only hope that my life will be as meaningful for others as you made your life become. My hat is off to you at the curtain of your life, my friend.
August 28, 2015
Grace,integrity,modesty,wit and generosity,these qualities of Frank's made being in his company an absolute treat. I trained from 1995-1998 and had the honor of assisting his class for many years after that. Observing his command in teaching ACT MFA acting students was like witnessing an alchemist who with magic hands, a twinkle in his eye and an infinite number of tales to tell, practiced his craft. He taught thousands of people, yet when he was with you, he was so in the moment, so skilled at understanding what you needed and what was happening and such a fine exponent of The Work.
August 28, 2015
Frank and Jo Gray June 1998
Josephine Gray
August 28, 2015
Frank's gifts to the international community of Alexander Technique will resonate for a long time. My condolences to those who had a close relationship. Observing from a distance he was a magnificent human being. Huzzah to that!
Kathryn Miranda
August 28, 2015
My last visit with Frank...
He was my teacher, mentor and dear friend. He pulled me out of my own despair each day in my training with him from 1983-86. He was tough and honest, yet he had a deep understanding of the human plight that allowed him to be compassionate and gentle.
He was a gifted Alexander Technique teacher who never lost his curiosity to learn...and then teach others.

I will miss those moments that when I was with him and ask him a 'life' question...we would pause, and tell it to me straight. Thank you Frank! I send you love and great blessings. Always, Carol
Carol Prentice
August 28, 2015
Condolences to you, Kurt. You were an amazing pillar of strength and support for Frank. Love and prayers.
Allison Fano
August 28, 2015
Rest in Love and Peace
Allison Fano
August 28, 2015
Frank was such a special person who touched my life and clearly so many others. He was always warm-hearted, gentle, loving and sincere. He had a truly caring spirit and loved to help others. My condolences to his spouse, and my wonderful friend, Kurt. Frank will be missed by me and my entire family.
Allison Fano
August 28, 2015
Frank was a luminary in the uAlexander Technique world in the U.S. I feel privileged to have been a close friend and colleague of Frank's for many years. Frank was a wise and sensitive soul who brilliantly guided so many people into a better direction, and we have lost someone very special.
Judith Stransky
August 27, 2015
Ah! How i will miss him!
He taught me to "care and not to care"
Loved his amazing hands, his sensitivity,
The sparkle in his eyes..
And when he sang Maria..
I felt so welcomed and free in his School
For the Alexander Technique..
Maria I Navarro
1980 to graduation in 1983
Maria Navarro
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