Kathleen Chalfant

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Kathleen Chalfant
Kathleen Chalfant for Make it Fair.jpg
Kathleen Ann Bishop

(1945-01-14) January 14, 1945 (age 78)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Years active1974–present
(m. 1966)

Kathleen Ann Chalfant (née Bishop; born January 14, 1945) is an American actress. She has appeared in many stage plays, both on Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as making guest appearances on television series, including the Law & Order franchise.


Early life

Chalfant was born Kathleen Ann Bishop [1] [2] in San Francisco, California, and was raised in her parents' boarding house in Oakland. Her father, William Bishop, was an officer in the Coast Guard. She studied acting in New York with Wynn Handman, who was a protégé of Sanford Meisner, [3] and with Alessandro Fersen in Rome. [4]


Chalfant worked as a Production Coordinator at Playwrights Horizons in the mid-1970s, beginning with Demons: A Possession by Robert Karmon. [5] She made her Off-Broadway acting debut in Cowboy Pictures in June 1974. [6] She has since appeared in over three dozen Off-Broadway productions. In 2015, she appeared in the Women's Project Theater production of Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl [7] and as Rose Kennedy in the Nora's Playhouse production of Rose by Laurence Leamer. [8]

Chalfant was nominated for her official Broadway debut role [9] at the 1993 Tony Awards for Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) in Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches . She earned the Outer Circle Critics, Drama Desk, Obie and Lucille Lortel awards for her performance as Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit in 1998; she shaved her head for the role. [10] During her work with Wit, she incorporated her experiences dealing with terminal cancer of her half-brother, Alan Palmer, who died in 1998. [11]

For her 2003 performance in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads , [12] Chalfant won a second Obie award. In 2009, Chalfant performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film [13] utilizing dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States .

Chalfant has played recurring roles in a number of television series including House of Cards , Law & Order , Rescue Me , and The Guardian . Her roles in feature films have included Isn't It Delicious and Kinsey .

Chalfant recently played Margaret Butler in The Affair on Showtime.

She was presented with the 2018 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement. [14]

In 2018, Chalfant read T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets at the Bard SummerScape Festival as part of a new performance with choreography by Pam Tanowitz, music by Kaija Saariaho, and images by Brice Marden. [15]

Personal life

In 1966, Chalfant married Henry Chalfant, a photographer and documentary filmmaker. They have a son, David Chalfant, who was the bass player for the folk-rock band The Nields, and a daughter, Andromache, a set designer in New York.


Chalfant has spoken about the role of art and artists in advocating for civil rights and social justice, [16] and "theater as a platform for social change." [17] She has been hosted by the Center for Constitutional Rights as part of the Guantanamo Lawyers Panel, [18] and was among a group of artists endorsing a cultural boycott of Israel as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to advocate for Palestinian rights. [19]



1987 Five Corners Mrs. Fitzgerald
1989 Miss Firecracker Miss Lily
1990 Tales from the Darkside: The Movie DeanSegment: "Lot 249"
1991Dangerous MusicTherapistShort
Out of the Rain Ruth
1992 Bob Roberts Constance Roberts
1996MURDER and murderMildred
1998 The Last Days of Disco Zenia
Side Streets Nanda
1999QM, I Think I Call Her QMDr. Ruth FieldingShort
2000 Company Man Mother Quimp
Woman Found Dead in ElevatorWomanShort
2002Book of KingsNinaShort
2004 Kinsey Barbara Merkle
2007 First Born Mrs. Kasperian
Perfect Stranger Elizabeth Clayton
The Last New Yorker Mimi
2008Second Guessing GrandmaJeanShort
2009 Duplicity Pam Frailes
2012LillianLillian ManningShort
2013 Isn't It Delicious Joan Weldon
The BathLizShort
A Dream of FlyingOld WomanShort
2017 They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief Mabel ElliotDocumentary
Class Rank Editor in Chief
In the StudioIlenePost-production
2018 Hereditary Ellen Taper LeighUncredited
2021 Old Agnes


1978- 1979 The Edge of Night LouiseTV series
1991 American Playhouse Mrs. Hauser"The Hollow Boy"
1992 L.A. Law Marlene Branson"Zo Long"
1994 All My Children Rae Ella1 episode
1997 Spin City Mother Superior"Hot in the City"
1997–00Prince StreetTV series
1999 Storm of the Century Joanna StanhopeTV miniseries
2000 The Beat Mrs. Waclawek"Someone to Watch Over Me"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mrs. Nash"Noncompliance"
2001 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Priscilla Van Acker"Smothered"
2001–09 Law & Order Lisa Cutler"Phobia", "Shrunk", "Illegitimate"
2001–04 The Guardian Laurie SoltMain role
2002 Benjamin Franklin Silence DogoodTV miniseries documentary
A Death in the Family Aunt HannahTV film
2005 Lackawanna Blues Mrs. CarmichaelTV film
2006 The Book of Daniel Catherine WebsterRegular role
2007 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Bessie Holland"Bombshell"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Judge Cutress"Haystack"
2009 Rescue Me Sean's MaRecurring role
Georgia O'Keeffe Mrs. StieglitzTV film
Mercy Mrs. Borghouse"Can We Get That Drink Now?"
2012 NYC 22 Ginny Williams"Pilot"
2013 Elementary Mrs. Clennon"An Unnatural Arrangement"
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight Ethel HarlanTV film
2013–16 House of Cards Margaret Tilden Recurring role
2014 The Americans Aunt Helen"The Walk-In"
Good MedicineCoco LaRue"Raj"
Forever Gloria Carlyle"The Art of Murder"
2014–15 The Strain Abraham's Grandmother"Runaways", "BK, NY"
2014–15 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit President Roberts"Pornstar's Requiem", "Devastating Story"
2014–19 The Affair Margaret ButlerRecurring role
2015–16 Madam Secretary Dean Ward"The Ninth Circle", "Unity Node", "Render Safe"
2017 Doubt Margaret Brennan5 episodes
2019 High Maintenance Mamie"Fingerbutt"
New Amsterdam Molly"The Denominator"


1974 Playwrights Horizons Cowboy Picturesn/a
1975The Coronor's Plot
Mississippi Moonshine
1977 Westside Theatre Jules Feiffer's Hold Me!
1978 American Place Theatre Fefu and Her Friends n/a (Understudy)
1980Killings on the Last Timen/a
1982 Westside Theatre Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You/ The Actor's NightmareSister Mary Ignatius/ Sarah Siddons (Replacement)
1988WPA Theatre Just Say No Mrs. Potentate
1989Perry Street TheaterThe Investigation of the Murder in El SalvadorLady Aitkin
1990 Union Square Theater The Crucible Mrs. Ann Putnam
Eugene O'Neill Theatre M. Butterfly Helga (Understudy)
1992 Vineyard Theater The PartyWomen
1994 Walter Kerr Theatre Angels in America: Millennium Approaches Rabbi Chemelwitz, Henry, Hannah Pitt, Ethel Rosenberg
Angels in America: Perestroika Prelapsarianov, Hannah Pitt, Henry, Ethel Rosenberg, Council of Principalities, Rabbi Chemelwitz
1995 East 13th Street Theatre/Classic Stage Company Iphigenia and Other DaughtersClymenestra
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater Twelve Dreams Jenny
East 13th Street Theatre/Classic Stage Company Endgame Clov
Vivian Beaumont Theatre Racing DemonHeather Espy
1996 Delacorte Theatre Henry V Mistress Quickly/Queen Isabel
New York City Center-Stage INine ArmeniansNon/Marie
1998 East 13th Street Theatre/Classic Stage Company Phaedra in Deliriumn/a
MCC Theater Wit Vivian Bearing Ph.D.
Union Square Theatre
1999 Westside Theatre The Vagina Monologues n/a
Vineyard Theatre True History and Real Adventuresn/a
2003 Minetta Lane Theatre Talking HeadsSusan (Bed Among the Lentils)
East 13th Street Theatre/Classic Stage Company Savannah BayMadeleine
Lucille Lortel Theatre The Last LetterAnna Semyonova
2004Theatres at 45 Bleecker/Bleecker Street TheatreGuantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend FreedomGareth Peirce
New York City Center-Stage IIFive By TennAnna/Vera Cartwright/Frieda/One
2006 Barrow Street Theatre an oak treeFather
Lucille Lortel Theatre Great Expectations Mrs. Havisham
2007 Minetta Lane Theatre Spalding Gray: Stories Left to TellLove
Harold Clurman Theatre A Hard Heartn/a
2008 Playwrights Horizons Dead Man's Cell PhoneMrs. Gottlieb
2010 Lucille Lortel Theatre Family WeekLena
2012 New York Theatre Workshop Red Dog Howls [20] Rose Afratian
2013 Vineyard Theatre Somewhere FunEvelyn Armstrong
2014 New York City Center- Stage ITales From Red ViennaEdda Schmidt
2015McGinn-Cazale TheatreDear ElizabethElizabeth
2017 Playwrights Horizons For Peter Pan on her 70th birthdayAnn
2018Rattlestick Playwrights TheatreSt. Vincent's Project: Novenas for a HospitalSister Elizabeth Ann Seton
2021 Brooklyn Academy of Music Four Quartets Narrator

Awards and nominations

1993 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches Nominated
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
1994 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Angels in America: Perestroika
1996 Joe A. Callaway Award Henry V Won
1997 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a PlayNine ArmeniansNominated
1999 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play Wit Won
Obie Award for Outstanding Performance
Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance
Drama League Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Actress
2003 Obie Award for Best PerformanceTalking Heads
2004 Lucille Lortel Award, Edith Oliver Award for Sustained Excellencen/a
2015 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a PlayA Walk in the WoodsNominated
2016 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Solo PerformanceRose

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  7. Dear Elizabeth Archived 2015-12-22 at the Wayback Machine lortel.org, accessed December 18, 2015
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  14. Gans, Andrew. "Kathleen Chalfant Will Receive 2018 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement" Playbill, May 7, 2018
  15. Bard College, Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. "Four Quartets at the Fisher Center". fishercenter.bard.edu. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  16. Steketee, Martha Wade (4 April 2013). "Kathleen Chalfant: Practicing 'Political Performance'". Urban Excavations. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
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  18. "Guantanamo Lawyers Panel with CCR's Gitanjali Gutierrez and actress Kathleen Chalfant". Center for Constitutional Rights. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  19. Norton, Ben (24 November 2015). "'Amplify your voice for justice': Roger Waters and prominent artists call for boycott of Israel in new video". Salon. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  20. "NYTW / Red Dog Howls". NYTW. Retrieved 2022-09-09.