Actress Nan Martin dies | Bleader

Actress Nan Martin dies


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Acclaimed stage, screen, and TV actress Nan Martin passed away Thursday, March 4, due to complications from emphysema. She was 82. Martin is well remembered here for her performance in the 1995 Chicago premiere of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women at the Apollo. Reviewing that production, I wrote, "Nan Martin, a 45-year veteran of Broadway and regional theater, brings [her] feisty, difficult, unapologetic [character] to vivid life—offering the kind of performance that . . . reaffirms the power, the electricity, the liveness of theater."

Born in Decatur and raised in Santa Monica, Martin became one of the leading actresses of her generation, consistently working to within four years of her death. Martin attended UCLA and studied at the Max Reinhardt School and Actors’ Lab. After moving to New York City with first husband, screen composer Robert Emmett Dolan, she became a first-year member of the Actors’ Studio.

After working in summer stock and various repertory companies, she first achieved public notice during the production of Archibald MacLeish’s J.B., for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for featured actress in a play in 1960. Her costars were Pat Hingle, Christopher Plummer and Raymond Massey. Many groundbreaking Shakespeare productions with Joseph Papp as director followed, including The Merchant of Venice (as Portia opposite George C. Scott's Shylock) and Hamlet (playing Gertrude; Julie Harris costarred as Ophelia). She also guest-starred on such classic TV shows as The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, and The Untouchables. Her film credits include Toys in the Attic (with Dean Martin), For the Love of Ivy (with Sidney Poitier), and Goodbye Columbus (with Ali McGraw and Richard Benjamin). Martin suffered a stroke in 1981, which did nothing to inhibit her work. Starring in Albee's Three Tall Women at the Apollo Theater in Chicago in 1995, she gave a magnificent performance as a woman modeled on Albee's own adoptive mother and won the Joseph Jefferson Award for best actress. Tall and thin, with a husky, low-pitched voice and razor-sharp articulation, she was a commanding presence onstage, perfect as the icy matriarch in Albee's play.

Martin is survived by her second husband, architect Harry Gesner, and her sons, musician and writer Casey Dolan and actor/producer Zen Gesner.

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