Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#InMemoriam: Geoffrey Holder & Marian Seldes.

Photo Credits: left, Kenn Duncan Photo Archive; right, Follies of God.)

In Memoriam

Geoffrey Holder
(1930 - 2014)

Marian Seldes
(1928 - 2014)


It truly has been a sad week for the theater community, as we've lost two truly remarkable legends: Geoffrey Holder and Marian Seldes.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Holder passed two days ago, at the age of 84 due to complications of pneumonia.  A true renaissance man in every sense of the word, Holder -- whose roots hail from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago -- was a dancer, actor, director, costume designer, director and has even published a cookbook.  Holder grew up under the tutelage of his older brother Arthur (affectionately known as Boscoe), who taught him painting and dancing, encouraging him to join Boscoe's local folk dance troupe, Holder Dancing Company at the tender age of 7.

This nudge from his sibling proved to be a smart move, as Holder went on to take the helm of the company, eventually bringing it over to New York City at the invitation of choreography Agnes de Mille.  From there, he went on to teach classes at the Katherine Dunham school, became a principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and made his Broadway debut in "House of Flowers" as a featured dancer.  He reprised his voodoo villain character Samedi in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die and also appeared in 1967's Doctor Doolittle and the 1972 Woody Allen romp, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.  In 1975, he won Tony Awards for his efforts in costume design and direction for "The Wiz."

However, most 80s and 90s kids will most likely remember Mr. Holder in his roles as Punjab in 1982 movie musical Annie, as well as a spokesman in the "Un-cola" TV spots for 7Up.

Ms. Seldes died the next day at the age of 86 "after an extended illness," Al Jazeera America reports.  A strikingly regal figure in theatre, Seldes was known for her acting work in numerous Edward Albee productions, and according to Peter Marks, is "one of the only actors to have performed multiple roles in the Albee canon."

Seldes once proclaimed, "Theater is my utopia," and it sure has been.  Not only has she whizzed her way through Albee's works, Seldes also made a Tony-nominated star turn in Ira Levin's "Deathtrap," which won her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for never missing any one of her scheduled 1,793 performances.

Just as Geoffrey Holder did, Marian Seldes got her start in dance, studying at the prestigious School of American Ballet before going on to study under Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse.  She made her stage debut as a serving girl in "Medea" in 1947, co-starred alongside Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer in 1954's "Ondine," and appeared in "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" in 1964.  Since then, she has amassed a slew of theatre credits, which more recently included "Three Tall Women," "The Play About the Baby," and "Counting the Ways" -- Albee works all, of course.

Of Ms. Seldes, Tennessee Williams once said:

"Fabulous Marian. True Marian worship--what the Catholics reserve for the Blessed Virgin-- can and should be applied to her. Take this Rosary and this prayer to her, and let her know that she has been--more often than I'm sure she cares to realize--the light on the shore that got me back home, safe and sound."
 
On that note, let's take some time to remember the light both of these performers brought to the stage.

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