an obscure Off-Broadway actress, named publicly by esteemed director, Herbert Berghoff, one of the best actresses in the United States, died on March 12. She was 84 years of age. She died from injuries after being hit by a car near her home in Greenwich Village, New York City, according to her sister, Roberta O'Grady. Ms. O'Grady had a 50 year career in the theater, starting with a lead in an original high school musical in 1950 and ending in 2000 with "The Dora Project," a play at the HB Studio on the later life of Dora Maar, one of the mistresses of Pablo Picasso. In 1955, two weeks after graduating from UC Berkeley, she arrived in New York City and got her first paying job in a children's theater. She next joined a workshop on Chekov plays directed by Eva LaGallienne at the White Barn Theater in Westport, CT, where she played Masha in "The Seagull" and Irina in "The Three Sisters." She was a finalist for admission to the Actors' Studio and was accepted into Uta Hagen's acting class, where she studied for the next 12 years. Late in 1955, she appeared in her first Off- Broadway plays, "Shadow of a Gunman" and "The Apollo of Bellac," In 1956, '57 and '58, she performed with Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival as the third witch in "Macbeth," Duchess of York in "Richard III" and Audrey in "As You Like It." She next was cast in the Off-Broadway production of "Playboy of the Western World," presented by the Irish Players, with whom she appeared in two more productions, "The Tinker's Wedding" and "Riders to the Sea," on tour to Boston and Chicago. Next followed a Broadway production of "Macbeth," staring Jason Robards in the title role and directed by Jose Quintero. Again she was cast as one of the witches, but, sadly, the play never came to Broadway after trying out in Cambridge, MA. Her next job was with the Playwrights Horizon production of "Santa Anita '42," regarding a Japanese Internment Camp at the beginning of World War II. In summer stock, she appeared at the Gateway Theater in Somers Point, New Jersey, as Viola in "Twelfth Night" and as Tracy Lord in "The Philadelphia Story." In late 1959, she returned to the HB Studio where she appeared in over 20 productions, mainly directed by Mr. Berghoff for the HB Playwrights Foundation. She also appeared on TV soap operas, "Another World" and "As the World Turns," and the TV special, "The Best of Families," and in the feature films, "Next Stoop Greenwich Village" and "An Unmarried Woman," directed by Paul Masursky; "Taxi Driver" directed by Martin Scorcese and "Arizona Dream," directed by Cannes Film Festival winner, Emir Kustericas. Ms. O'Grady often said that she "made a life in the theater without making a living in it," (A quote not original with her) and this was made possible by her Village apartment where she lived for over 60 years and paid under $30 per month rent! A friend once dubbed it a 'dump with character,' and as primitive as it was, it enabled her to do exactly what she wanted to do. The only non-acting jobs she ever had were modeling bookings for fashion illustrators which enabled her to pay for years of dance classes at the Joffrey Ballet School and with legendary choreographer, Anna Sokolow, as well as Master teachers Wilson Morelli and Jocelyn Lorenz. Ms O'Grady was born in Oakland, California on September 12, 1933 to Dr. H. W. O'Grady and Ethel Stone O'Grady. She is survived by her sister, Roberta O'Grady, of Alameda, California. Her partner of 16 years, summer stock producer and Director, David Fulford, predeceased her in 2009. There will be no funeral services. Contributions in her memory may be sent to the HB Playwrights Foundation, 120 Bank St., New York, NY 10014, or the Joffrey Ballet School, 434 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011.
Published in New York Times on Mar. 22, 2018.