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Jayne Houdyshell

Tony award-winning actress. Born: September 25, 1953.

Jayne Houdyshell was born on September 25, 1953, to Galen and Louella Houdyshell, in Topeka. As a child she loved reading books. While in grade school, she became a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. It could be said she started acting, even back then. She pretended to be Laura for weeks. In addition to plays at school, she and her friends formed a group called the Spotlighters. They performed on the grounds of the Menninger Foundation in Topeka. Houdyshell was in every drama production during her time at Topeka High School. She credits her drama teacher with recognizing her talent and giving her the opportunity to direct along with a variety of other drama experiences. She also took guitar and singing lessons as a child. After graduating from Topeka High in 1971, she attended Emporia State University and was in several productions there. She received a degree from the Academy of Dramatic Art in at Oakland University in Michigan in 1974.

Houdyshell moved to New York in 1980 and spent several years traveling in regional theater. She performed at Totem Pole Playhouse near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Timber Lake Playhouse in Illinois. After years of travel, she was ready for a change and turned to work in New York City. In 2006 Houdyshell made her Broadway debut in the production of Well. Her role as Ann Kron earned a nomination for the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, or Tony. She earned a Tony nomination in 2012 for her role as Hattie in Follies. In 2016 she received a Tony for Featured Actress in a Play as Deidre Blake in The Humans.

Her many other Broadway credits include roles in The Fish in the Dark, Romeo and Juliet, Dead Accounts, Follies, The Importance of Being Earnest, Bye Bye Birdie, and Wicked. Her numerous roles include appearances on television shows such as Law and Order and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit; and movies such as Everybody’s Fine and Morning Glory. Houdyshell has performed in hundreds of plays. Her roles include comedies, dramas, and musicals. One of her favorite roles over the years was that of the one-woman show, Shirley Valentine.

Houdyshell has received many awards and nominations including two Obie Awards, a Joseph Jefferson Award, a Barrymore Award, a Theater World Award, and a Drama Desk Award.

Houdyshell resides in New York City.

Entry: Houdyshell, Jayne

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2016

Date Modified: June 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.