November 16, 7:30 p.m. The Lambs’ Foundation presents as part of its Award Winners Series:
Estelle Parsons in conversation with Foster Hirsch [Video below]
ESTELLE PARSONS was described by Frank Rich in the New York Times as having “an artistic impulse that is both passionate and rare.” An Academy Award winner, Miss Parsons has distinguished herself in all major areas of the entertainment field. The day of her arrival in New York City from Marblehead, Massachusetts, with a B.A. from Connecticut College for Women and a year of law school experience, she was hired as one of eight people who put together the NBC TODAY SHOW for national television, the first morning television programming in the world. She then became the first woman to do political news reporting for a television network.
Miss Parsons made her professional acting debut at the Cherry Lane Theater in William Hanley’s MRS. DALLY HAS A LOVER, for which she won a Theater World Award for Most Promising Newcomer. She made her Broadway debut in HAPPY HUNTING with Ethel Merman. Other Broadway appearances include starring roles in MISS MARGARIDA’S WAY by Brazilian Roberto Athayde, which marked the debut of a South American playwright on Broadway; Tennessee Williams’ THE SEVEN DESCENTS OF MYRTLE; Paul Zindel’s …and MISS REARDON DRINKS A LITTLE; Alan Ayckbourn’s THE NORMAN CONQUESTS, Tracy Letts’ AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and most recently THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN for which she received her fifth Tony nomination.
At the Public Theater, for Joe Papp, she introduced to America MISS MARGARIDA’S WAY, Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s ORGASMO ADULTO ESCAPES FROM THE ZOO which she also adapted and directed. In addition, she created and directed Joseph Papp’s two year-long Shakespeare on Broadway project, which presented multi-cultural, multi-lingual productions of AS YOU LIKE IT, MACBETH, and ROMEO AND JULIET to New York City high school students and their families. She was asked to create this company because the Shakespeare Quarterly described her Interart production of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA as ‘the most exciting and innovative presentation of Shakespeare in English since Peter Brooks’ A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.
She has recently completed a run at the Public Theater in Tony Kushner’s A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY, directed by Oskar Eustis.
At Lincoln Center, Miss Parsons opened one season for Joseph Papp with MERT AND PHIL, starred in Bertolt Brecht’s GALILEO with Anthony Quayle, and MORNING’S AT SEVEN.
She has played classics and modern works at regional theaters and Festivals all over the country, including Hawaii and Alaska. With MISS MARGARIDA’S WAY, she has played in London, Australia, Ireland and Turkey.
The year after she won the Academy Award for BONNIE AND CLYDE, she was nominated for a second Oscar for Paul Newman’s RACHEL, RACHEL. Other films include I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER, I WALK THE LINE with Gregory Peck, Woody Allen’s DON’T DRINK THE WATER, Melvin Van Peeble’s WATERMELON MAN, FOR PETE’S SAKE with Barbra Streisand, LEMON STREET produced by Diane Keaton, Warren Beatty’s DICK TRACY, BOYS ON THE SIDE with Whoopi Goldberg, Disney’s THAT DARN CAT, Al Pacino’s LOOKING FOR RICHARD in which she played Queen Margaret, and, most recently, DIANE.
Her television credits include ROSEANNE and THE CONNERS as Mother Bev; and as Babe on GRACE AND FRANKIE.
After she left the TODAY show, Miss Parsons started a career as a singing actress. She began with Jerry Herman’s first revue, NITECAP, at Jim Eisler’s Showplace on 4th Street and moved on to two revues at Julius Monk’s UPSTAIRS AT THE DOWNSTAIRS. She left Julius Monk to join Lotte Lenya in a tour of THE THREEPENNY OPERA in which she played Mrs. Peacham and became devoted to Brecht. She then did the American premiere of MAHAGONNY at the Phyllis Anderson Theater on 2nd Avenue, playing the Widow Begbick.
At Yale, she played Begbick in MAN IS MAN. With the great choreographer-director David Gordon she performed in Brecht’s adaptation of MEASURE FOR MEASURE with music by Hans Eisler at the Kitchen.
She has taught at Yale, Columbia, Sarah Lawrence, and Vassar, as well as the National Theatre Institute at the O’Neill Center. She is a member of the Actors Studio. She has been inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.