Beatrice Manley, early 40's. Photographer: Unknown
Beatrice Manley traveled through the world of American theater on a unique itinerary of her own making. She debuted on Broadway in 1941 at the age of twenty where she appeared in Maxwell Anderson's Eve of Saint Mark and Eva le Gallienne's Cherry Orchard. Married at the time to the painter Albert Freedberg, she was pregnant with her first child, Richard (Dick), when she performed with Beatrice Straight in Eastward in Eden.
Beatrice Manley (c) in Maxwell Anderson's The Eve of Saint Mark, The Playwright's
Company, Cort Theater, l942. Photo: Karger-Pix
Awarded a fellowship as artist-in-residence at Stanford University, Manley moved
to California in l949 where she met and eventually married director and author
Herbert Blau, who was completing a PhD in English there.
After moving with Blau to San Francisco in 1952, where he
and Jules Irving co-founded the San Francisco Actor's Workshop, Manley played
many leading roles in the Workshop's innovative and early productions of
various controversial, now canonical dramatists of the modernist period such
Beckett, and Genet. In Blau's production of 1956, Manley became the first
American actress to perform title role in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage.
Photo: Phiz Mozesson
In 1965, Blau and Irving were invited to take over the leadership of the Vivian
Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, and Manley performed there as well, appearing
in, among others, Georg Buchner's Danton's Death , Brecht's The Caucasian
Chalk Circle, and Frederico Garcia Lorca's Yerma.
Photo: Chic Lloyd
Moving to Los Angeles in the early 70's, Manley taught at the California Institute of the Arts, the University of Southern California, and privately. Her students included Paul Reubens, Bill Irwin, and Ed Harris. Manley continued her stage work in New York as well, returning to appear in Andre Serban's production of Uncle Vanya.
She and Blau were divorced in 1980.
In the mid-80's Manley adapted a number of literary texts for solo performance:
Poe's A Predicament, Yeats' Crazy Jane poems, Julio Cortazar's Tales
of Cronopius and Famas, and James Joyce's Molly Bloom soliloquy from Ulysses.
Among her other roles in Los Angeles, Manley starred in Samuel Beckett's Rockaby and Footfalls for
which she received an LA Weekly award for "the performance of a lifetime." Photographer:
Throughout the 80's and 90's, Manley also performed as a reader for KPFK's Pacifica
Tape Library. Her performances on KPFK included literary correspondence between
Anais Nin and Lawrence Durell, Mt. Olive from the Alexandria Quartet, Persephone by
Meridel LeSeuer, Mrs. Glendinning, Pierre's mother in the Herman Melville's
novel of the same name, Oscar Wilde's Salome as
well as studies of Celeste (Marcel Proust's housekeeper) and Alma Mahler. Photographer:
Manley is the author of five plays, two librettos, and a screenplay. Fwyygnhn (Finny) was premiered at the California New Music Festival at the California Institute of the Arts in 1980.(A film made at the time has been produced as a DVD.) Manley's Conjur Woman was performed at La Mama E.T.C in New York in 1983.
Artist: Kathryn Jacobi, 1983.
Manley also wrote three books on acting. My Breath in Art: Acting from Within (Applause Books, 1998); The Actor's Dickens, in which she adapted and discussed 85 scenes from five novels by Charles Dickens (Applause Books, 2001); and an unpublished manuscript completed in late 2001, Theater Workshop for Seniors.
In 1990, Manley was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts from the California Institute of the Arts. In 1999, she relocated from Los Angeles to Milwaukee where she continued to do her writing in collaboration with her son, Dick Blau.
Manley was born in the Bronx on May 23, 1921 to Harry and Anna Mandell and headed
for Greenwich Village as soon after as she could.
In addition to her career
on the stage, she was also a devoted mother, for which her children, Jonathan
Blau, Tara Blau, Dick, their children and their children's children
-- Anna, Max, Ruby, Ari, Beka, Drake, Jeremy,Josh, Justin, and Julia -- have
Beatrice Manley died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 14,
Photo by Dick Blau. Design/Drawing by Tom Knechtel