Deanna Dunagan (born May 25, 1940, Monahans, Texas) is a Chicago based American actress. Although Dunagan has appeared on television and in films, she is most admired for her work as a stage actress. She is best known for her Tony Award-winning portrayal of Violet Weston in Tracy Letts' August: Osage County.
Early life and education
Dunagan was born and raised in Monahans, Texas. The eldest of five children, her father was a Coca-Cola bottler and president of the Texas Historical Association; her mother was a stay-at-home parent with an active presence in the community. In an interview Dunagan light-heartedly described her extended family, "My heritage is a long line of Southern Baptist and Methodist preachers—who were all just frustrated actors."
Dunagan earned a degree in music education. She married her high school sweetheart and gave birth to a son; but the marriage ended a few years later. Following her divorce, Dunagan's parents agreed to fund graduate studies at the Dallas Theater Center. While writing her Master's thesis, Dunagan lived in Mexico. She was engaged to a bullfighter, but they never married, and she went on to pursue her acting career in the United States.
Dunagan began her acting career performing in regional theaters such as the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida and the Actors Theatre of Louisville before trying her luck in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in the 1979 production of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman at Circle in the Square as an understudy for Ann Sachs. Sachs became ill at one point during the show's run and Dunagan filled in for her with great success. This exposure led to her to being signed with International Creative Management and helped forward her career.
In 1981, Dunagan performed in the first national tour of Children of a Lesser God. While on this tour, Dunagan visited Chicago for the first time and immediately fell in love with the city. After the end of the tour, Dunagan moved to Chicago and has lived there ever since, performing in more than 30 theaters in the Chicago area. Her work on the Chicago stage has garnered her three Joseph Jefferson Awards and three After Dark Awards.
She has worked in films including, The Naked Face, Running Scared, Men Don't Leave, Losing Isaiah, and Dimension. She has also appeared in more than ten made for television movies, in the TV mini-series A Will of Their Own and Amerika, and as a guest star on the television shows Prison Break, What About Joan, and Missing Persons.
In 2007, Dunagan returned to Broadway in the Steppenwolf Theatre's transplant production of Tracy Letts' August: Osage County. For her performance, Dunagan won a Tony Award, Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award.
Selected stage credits
Show Role Theater Year Man and Superman Understudy Circle in the Square Theatre (Broadway) 1979 Sunset/Sunrise Diane Actors Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY) 1980 Children of a Lesser God Performer National Tour 1981 Stepping Out Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 1988 Still Waters Performer Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, IL) 1991 Cariolanus Performer Next Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 1991 Private Passage Performer Odyssey Theatre (Chicago, IL) 1992 The Song of Jacob Zulu Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 1992 Inspecting Carol Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 1992 A Touch of the Poet Deborah Harford Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL) 1996 The Washington-Sarajevo Talks Rhonda Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago, IL) 1996 Slaughterhouse-Five Performer Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 1996 Cahoots Gwendoline Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2001 The Glamour House Trudi Stein Victory Gardens Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2001 Butley Edna Shaft Writer's Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2001 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Performer Apple Tree Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2002 A Lie of the Mind Performer American Theater Company (Chicago, IL) 2002 Wedding Band Herman's Mother Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 2003 James Joyce's The Dead Aunt Julia Morkan Court Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2003 Bounce Ensemble Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2003 A Delicate Balance Performer Remy Bumppo (Chicago, IL) 2004 I Never Sang For My Father Margaret Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 2006 The Best Man Performer Remy Bumppo (Chicago, IL) 2006 Ten Little Indians Emily Brent Drury Lane Oakbrook (Chicago, IL) 2006 The Chalk Garden Mrs. St. Maugham Northlight Theatre (Chicago, IL) 2006 August: Osage County Violet Weston Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL) 2007 August: Osage County Violet Weston Imperial Theatre, Music Box Theatre (Broadway) 2007 August: Osage County Violet Weston Music Box Theatre (Broadway) 2008
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play (2001–2025) Complete list · (1975–2000) · (2001–2025) Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (2001–2025) Complete list · (1947–1975) · (1976–2000) · (2001–2025)
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