Shirley Jo Finney, actress and theater director who championed Black works, dies at 74


Shirley Jo Finney, a celebrated theater director and actress, died Tuesday after an eight-month battle with most cancers. She was 74.

Finney is greatest identified for her decades-long affiliation with the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, a cultural house devoted to multiethnic theater and dance artists, which introduced her dying on Friday.

Throughout her lengthy profession, Finney directed works at a few of the most revered regional theaters in America, together with the Mark Taper Discussion board in Los Angeles, the Kennedy Heart for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C, and the Humana Competition on the Actors Theater of Louisville in Kentucky. She earned plaudits, receiving the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Ovation and NAACP awards.

Discussing her work directing Pearl Cleage’s play “Flyin’ West” on the Pasadena Playhouse in 1999, Finney advised The Instances, “After I work, I work in a metaphysical realm, the place the solid and I take every character and undergo the dying, resurrection and burial of every character.” “It’s like each time you might have a thought — let go of an previous means — you might have a dying, a brand new consciousness, and a brand new thought is shaped.”

Finney thought of herself an actor’s director, who seen artwork as activism. She was ceaselessly drawn to initiatives that explored themes of race and society. She directed the opera “Winnie,” based mostly on the lifetime of political icon Winnie Mandela, on the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa, and “Dealing with Our Fact: Ten Minute Performs on Trayvon, Race and Privilege,” on the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. Following her 2015 manufacturing of “Citizen: An American Lyric,” a sequence of prose poems analyzing the ways in which racism manifests itself in up to date society, The Instances theater critic Charles McNulty wrote: “The work, briefly, has gotten below my pores and skin, which is a testomony to its energy.”

Finney was born July 14, 1949, in Merced, Calif. She earned an MFA from UCLA and was an alumna of the American Movie Institute’s Director Workshop for Girls. All through her profession she was an artist-in-residence at a number of faculties and universities, together with Columbia School in Chicago, UC Santa Barbara, USC and UCLA.

Finney started working with the Fountain in 1997, together with her acclaimed manufacturing of Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s “From the Mississippi Delta.”

“It shatters my coronary heart past expression to announce the passing of my creative sister,” stated Fountain Theatre creative director Stephen Sachs in a press release. “I’m deeply, deeply devastated. She was my theatrical soulmate for 26 years.”

Earlier this yr, Finney directed the play “Clyde’s” on the Ensemble Theatre in Houston. The Houston Chronicle referred to as the work about just lately incarcerated cooks an “enthusiastic interpretation.”

Though she is most carefully related to theater directing, Finney was additionally an achieved actress. She appeared in such acclaimed tv exhibits as “Hill Avenue Blues” and “Lou Grant.” In 1977, she performed monitor and subject athlete Wilma Rudolph, the primary feminine three-time gold medalist, within the TV biopic “Wilma.” She additionally directed a number of episodes of the UPN sitcom “Moesha.”


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