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Wed, 11.15.1933

Gloria Foster, actress born

Gloria Foster

*Gloria Foster was born on this date in 1933.  She was an African American actress.

Gloria Foster was born in Chicago, Illinois. As a young child she was put into custody of her maternal grandparents.  Her grandmother, Eleanor Sudds, and her grandfather, Clyde Sudds, raised Gloria Foster on a farm, Foster never knew who her father was, and she moved to Janesville, Wisconsin with her grandparents after her mother was hospitalized for a mental illness.  

As Foster continued her education she returned to her hometown and attended the University of Illinois, where she participated in plays, but did not focus on it. She took many different classes, including forensics.  Foster was not sure what occupation to pursue, until her godmother introduced her to the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.  After she auditioned and was accepted, she knew that the theater was going to be her passion in life. She was one of the few African Americans at the Goodman School of Drama focusing on her study of acting. During her studying at the Goodman School she also, "learned professional acting skills in the Court Theater at the University of Chicago". 

One of her most influential instructors was Bella Itkin, who cast Foster in many classical roles.  Her next step in life was to move to New York to pursue a career on Broadway.  In the early 1970s, Foster was admitted to a special graduate program in education at UMass.In 1967, Foster married actor Clarence Williams III. They met on the television show The Mod Squad where she made two guest appearances. The two also were in a movie, The Cool World, in 1964 together. In 1984 they filed for a divorce but remained friends.

While Foster did not have many close relatives, it is known that she stayed in contact with her sorority sister, Cicely Tyson. Tyson stated that, although they did not see each other often, their telephone conversations would often last for hours.   She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.  Instead of searching for fame by trying to be in many different productions, Foster searched for roles in which she would be able to perform at the best of her ability. She once said, "Young people today, I think, are thinking in terms of steppingstones.…I don't know that I ever thought that way. It sounds ridiculous, but I was always thinking in terms of a more difficult role".  She read many scripts, but only chose the ones that spoke truly to her.  By the end of her acting career, she was rewarded with three Obie awards, for In White America (1963) and A Raisin In the Sun, and was in the Broadway production of Having Our Say (1995).   

Gloria Foster died on September 29, 2001, at age 67. The cause of her death was diabetes, her ex-husband, Clarence Williams III announced her death. A memorial was held at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn on October 15, 2001.  Many of her close friends and actors and actresses who had performed with her came to attend the funeral.  Martin Duberman, the author of In White America, told the audience that, "she embodied it. At the end of the scene each night, there were tears streaming down her face, her body was trembling, but her dignity was intact ... Foster had to be covered with blankets in order to calm her shaking".She is interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.  

To become an Actor or Actress

Reference:

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