9th Annual BURIAN LECTURE
March 5, 2005
Although born in Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Dee considers herself a product of Harlem, where she grew up and began her career as a member of the American Negro Theatre. She received her B.A. from Hunter College, and later studied acting with Paul Mann, Lloyd Richards and Morris Camovsky.
Ms. Dee made her Broadway debut in South Pacific (not the musical) and went on to appear in such plays as Jeb, Anna Lucasta, A Raisin in the Sun, Purlie Victorious, and Checkmates. Off-Broadway, Ms. Dee received an Obie Award for her performance in Boesman and Lena in 1970, and a Drama Desk Award for Wedding Band, in 1974. Other off-Broadway and regional theatre credits include The World of Sholom Aleichem, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, The Oresteia, The Glass Menagerie, The Ohio State Murders, and Flyin I West. She most recently appeared on stage in the New York and Atlanta productions of St. Lucy's Eyes, and in the New York production of A Last Dance For Sybil (a play written for her by husband Ossie Davis). In 1978, Ms. Dee's original work, Take it From the Top (a musical about the end of the world) premiered at New Federal Theatre. She has also adapted works for the stage: Rosa Guy's novel, The Disappearance; Zora Is My Name, which featured the writings of Zora Neale Hurston (and was later filmed for PBS); and Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy, a compilation of original works, folklore, and music (featuring Ms. Dee, Ossie Davis, and their son, Guy Davis), opened in 1985 at Crossroads Theatre Company. Ms. Dee was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1988.
Ms. Dee's film career began in 1950, with the release of No Way Out and The Jackie Robinson Story. Since then, she has been featured in many films, including St. Louis Blues, A Raisin in the Sun, The Balcony, The Incident, Buck and the Preacher, Cat People, Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Just Cause, and Tuesday Morning Ride. Ms. Dee co-wrote the screenplay for and co-starred in Jules Dassin's Up Tight, and co- produced the 1974 film Countdown at Kusini with her husband, Ossie Davis, and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Ms. Dee's notable television credits include Seven Times Monday, Peyton Place, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, Long Day 's Journey Into Night (for which she received a Cable ACE award), Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson, The Stand, The Wall, Passing Glory, A Storm in Summer, Having Our Say, and Taking Back Our Turn. She received Emmy nominations for her performances in The Nurses, Roots: The Next Generation, Gore Vidal's Lincoln, China Beach, and Evening Shade; in 1991, she was awarded the Emmy for her performance in Decoration Day. She has received two Daytime Emmy nominations for her current role as Alice The Great on Bill Cosby's animated series, Little Bill.
Ms. Dee is the author of two children's books, Tower to Heaven and Two Ways to Count to Ten, and a book of poetry and short stories, My One Good Nerve (which she has adapted into a solo performance piece). She and her late husband, Ossie Davis, have also written a joint autobiography, With Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together.
Through their company, Ernmalyn Productions Company, Inc, Ms. Dee and her husband produced with PBS some of their best work: Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum; A Walk Through the 20th Century with Bill Moyers; and for three seasons the critically acclaimed series, With Ossie and Ruby. For CBS, they produced Today is Ours, a program for young people based on Ms. Dee's anthology of mostly Jr. High School poets, Glowchild. Together, they were inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame (1989), awarded the Silver Circle Award by the Academy of Television Arts and Science (1994), the National Medal of Arts Award (1995), and the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award (2001). In December 1998, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have three grown children--Nora, Guy, and Hasna--and seven grandchildren.
IN CONJUNCTION WITH HER VISIT
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.