Marian Seldes: Broadway stalwart and acting teacher who set a record for the number of consecutive performances

 

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The Independent Online

The actress Marian Seldes was the Tony Award-winning star of A Delicate Balance, the teacher of Kevin Kline and Robin Williams, a muse to playwright Edward Albee and the holder of a Guinness world record for most consecutive performances. She made her Broadway debut in 1947 in a production of Medea and later appeared in hits such as Equus and Deathtrap. Her most recent Broadway outing was in Terrence McNally's Deuce in 2007 alongside Angela Lansbury.

She was nominated for a Tony five times, winning in 1967 for Albee's A Delicate Balance and taking her second in 2010 for lifetime achievement. Her collaborations with Albee included Three Tall Women, which won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize, The Play About The Baby, Tiny Alice and Father's Day.

"I think I'm as ambitious as any actress can be, but I don't ask," she said in 1995. "I have a theory that it's better for me if I wait and either the director or playwright chooses. The best opportunities in my career have come that way, and all my opportunities with Edward Albee have come that way."

She moved easily from role to role, from Chekhov's Ivanov to Peter Shaffer's Equus, from Ira Levin's Deathtrap to Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day. Her reliability and professionalism sealed her place in the Guinness World Records for a time after playing every performance during the run of Deathtrap from 1978-82, a total of 1,809 performances. The record has since been broken by Catherine Russell, who logged more than 11,000 performances in the off-Broadway production of Perfect Crime.

The daughter of the author and critic Gilbert Seldes, she studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in her native New York and made her professional debut at the age of 17. Her other Broadway credits would include Crime And Punishment, The Chalk Garden, Oliver Hailey's Father's Day, for which she won a Drama Desk Award, and Arnold Wesker's The Merchant. From 1969-92 she served on the faculty of the Juilliard School teaching such pupils as Kline, Williams, Patti LuPone, Laura Linney, Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Reeve.

Seldes also acted in films, including Mona Lisa Smile, Home Alone 3 and Celebrity. On television she appeared in Nurse Jackie and played Candice Bergen's aunt in Murphy Brown and Mr Big's mother in Sex And The City. She also wrote two books: a memoir, The Bright Lights: A Theater Life, and a novel, Time Together. In 1995 she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame, marking 50 years in the profession, but she missed the ceremony because – typically – she was on tour.

Marian Hall Seldes, actress and teacher: born Manhattan 23 August 1928; twice married (one daughter); died Manhattan 6 October 2014.

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