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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > EASTSIDER GERALDINE FITZGERALD
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Actress, director and singer


Anyone hearing her rasping, throaty, Irish-accented voice for the first time might think she were suffering from laryngitis. But those who have come to love and admire Geraldine Fitzgerald over the past 40 years hear nothing but earthy humanity in the voice. One of the most versatile actresses in America, as unorthodox as she is gifted, Miss Fitzgerald at 66 remains at the height of her career, constantly juggling a variety of projects, as she says, "like somebody cooking a meal with many courses."

We're sitting in her Upper East Side living room, which is decorated in white from floor to ceiling — carpet, chairs, tables, sofa, and even the television. The only picture is a childhood portrait of her daughter Susan Scheftel, now a 27-year-old graduate student.

"I like light unimpeded," explains Geraldine, her rosy face breaking into its customary smile. "And if everything is white, it's different in the morning and it's different in the middle of the day, and it's different all the time."

A slender, handsome woman with a penchant for long flowing skirts and bright lipstick, whose straight gray hair descends halfway down her back, Geraldine is soon talking about Mass Appeal, the two-character play that she is directing at the Manhattan Theatre Club; it will open in mid May. "It's by a very young author called Bill Davis. We did it last October at the Circle Rep Lab, and it was very successful, but it needed strengthening points. So Bill has just completed the ninth draft. … Milo O'Shea is going to star in it. He's Ireland's premier comedian and a magnificent dramatic actor too."

Miss Fitzgerald's next acting role will be in a play titled Eve. "It's about a woman who runs away from home to seek her own internal freedom, like Nora in A Doll's House. The only difference is, she's my age. So of course her options are few. And she goes right down to the bottom: she becomes a derelict. And then slowly, slowly, slowly she comes up to find some kind of strength and independence. It's a drama, but a very comedic drama."

Her third major project at the moment is to prepare her acclaimed one woman show, Street Songs, for a small Broadway house such as the Rialto.

She started to take singing lessons about 10 years ago, and introduced her one-woman nightclub act in 1975, employing her remarkable acting technique to make the songs personal and moving. She has performed the act at Reno Sweeney, at Lincoln Center, in a one-hour special for public television, and at the White House for President and Mrs. ............
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