The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Estelle Parsons

Estelle Parsons

Actress, Director
Born on Sunday, November 20, 1927

Interviewed on: Thursday, July 21, 2016
Location: Her Home
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #72
"“I was a very serious actress…for me it was a very huge and profound passion.”"
Estelle Parsons Highlights
Video Length: 6 Minutes, 12 Seconds
Estelle Parsons Interview Part One
Video Length: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Estelle Parsons Interview Part Two
Video Length: 40 Minutes, 53 Seconds

Estelle Parsons was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. While she originally attended law school, she found being a lawyer did not suit her well and went on to become a singer. She was asked by Pat Weaver to be part of an eight person team creating the first Today,Home, and Tonight Shows.Of those the Today and Tonight Shows remain. After many years, Parsons was asked to cover and interview Grace Kelly at her wedding. She felt that interviewing was intrusive, so she declined and left the show. Her husband then suggested she take up acting, and her first production was Abe Burrow’s Happy Hunting (1956) on Broadway, wherein she played a reporter covering the wedding of Grace Kelly.

Parsons has been a part of several Off-Broadway productions, including: MRS. DALLY HAS A LOVER (1962), which received a Theatre World Award, and OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES (2016); both were performed at the Cherry Lane Theatre. MISS MARGARIDA’S WAY (1977) received a Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Unique Theatrical Experience” when performed at The Public Theater. She also appeared at The Public in BARBARY SHORE (1973) and ORGASMO ADULTO ESCAPES FROM THE ZOO (1983). Parsons also received an OBIE for NEXT TIME I’LL SING TO YOU (1963) performed at the Phoenix Theatre. Her other Off-Broadway credits include: THE AUTOMOBILE GRAVEYARD (1961), MONOPOLY (1966), PEER GYNT (1969), THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY (1970), THE UNGUIDED MISSLE (1989), BABA GOYA (1989), GRACE AND GLORIE (1996), THE LAST OF THE THORNTONS (2000), THE DAY EMILY MARRIED (2004), and SPALDING GRAY: STORIES LEFT TO TELL (2007).

Parsons has an Academy Award for her role in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) as Blanche Barrow. Her other film credits include: Watermelon Man (1970), I Never Sang for My Father (1970),and Dick Tracy (1990). Her five Tony nominations were for her Broadway performances in The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), Miss Margarida's Way (1977), and Morning's at Seven (2002). Parsons’ TV credits include: “The Today Show,” “All in the Family,” and “Roseanne.” She has also directed Romeo and Juliet (1987), As You Like It (1987), Macbeth (1987),andORGASMO ADULTO ESCAPES FROM THE ZOO.

Mentioned in Interview

Pat Weaver, Ethel Merman, Bobby Lewis, Lotte Lenya, Harold Clurman, Jerry Herman, Horton Foote, The Actors Studio, The Phoenix Theater, The Cherry Lane Theater, Signature Theater, NYSF/The Public, THE THREE PENNY OPERA, MRS. DALLY HAS A LOVER, MISS MARGARIDA’S WAY, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONNY, MACBETH, BARBARY SHORE, THE DAY EMILY MARRIED, LAST OF THE THORNTONS