Kathleen Chalfant

Kathleen Chalfant
Born Kathleen Ann Bishop
(1945-01-14) January 14, 1945
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1974–present

Kathleen Chalfant (born January 14, 1945) is an American actress.

Life and career

Chalfant was born as 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 the 1993 Tony Award as 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.[9] During her work with Wit, she incorporated her experiences dealing with terminal cancer of her half-brother, Alan Palmer, who died in 1998.[10]

For her 2003 performance in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads,[11] Chalfant won a second Obie award. In 2009, Chalfant performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film[12] 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 currently plays Margaret Butler in The Affair on Showtime.

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.

Social Justice and Political Activism

Chalfant has spoken widely about the role of art and artists in advocating for civil rights and social justice issues,[13] and "theater as a platform for social change."[14] She has been hosted by the Center for Constitutional Rights, as part of the Guantanamo Lawyers Panel[15] and was among a group of artists endorsing a cultural boycott of Israel to advocate for Palestinian rights. The group noted the precedent of cultural boycott in apartheid-era South Africa.[16]

Selected Filmography


  1. Search: Kathleen Bishop at familytreelegends.com; accessed April 3, 2014.
  2. California Birth Records info.; accessed April 3, 2014.
  3. Ryzik, Melena (May 20, 2007). "Nearly 60 Years and Counting, Working on the Art of Theater". Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  4. Sturner, Lynda (24 March 2000). "Brit Wit". TheaterMania. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  5. "Demons: A Possession". Internet Off-Broadway Database. Lucille Lortel Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  6. "Cowboy Pictures". Internet Off-Broadway Database. Lucille Lortel Foundation. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  7. Dear Elizabeth lortel.org, accessed December 18, 2015
  8. Lloyd Webber, Imogen (14 September 2015). "Kathleen Chalfant Will Headline Laurence Leamer's Rose Off-Broadway". Broadway.com. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  9. Vincent Canby (October 18, 1998). "Battered and Broken, So That She May Rise". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  10. Robin Pogrebin (October 20, 1998). "A Brother's Death Helps Bring a Performance to Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  11. Ben Brantley (April 7, 2003). "Life a Bit of a Mess? Just Carry On, Dear". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  12. "The People Speak". howardzinn.org. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  13. Steketee, Martha Wade (4 April 2013). "Kathleen Chalfant: Practicing 'Political Performance'". Urban Excavations. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  14. "Kathleen Chalfant to Join Playwrights Panel on January 31". Aspen Institute. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  15. "Guantanamo Lawyers Panel with CCR's Gitanjali Gutierrez and actress Kathleen Chalfant". Center for Constitutional Rights. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  16. Norton, Ben (24 November 2015). "'Amplify your voice for justice': Roger Waters and prominent artists call for boycott of Israel in new video". Salon.com. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
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