Led Actors' Equity in the 1970s

Actor, playwright and activist Donald Grody, who served as executive director of Actors’ Equity from 1973-80, died of prostate cancer at his home in Manhattan on July 13. He was 83.

During his time atop Actors’ Equity Assn., he led the organization’s collective bargaining negotiations for Broadway and regional houses throughout the U.S. He also led the effort to fund and create rent-subsidized housing for actors at Manhattan Plaza on West 43rd Street.

In love with the theater from an early age, Grody headed to London in 1949 to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Upon his return to the U.S., he appeared on Broadway in “Wonderful Town,” “Bells Are Ringing,” “Happy Hunting,” “Kismet” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Grody, a baritone, was gifted with a powerful voice.

Grody earned a masters in theater from Hunter College. During a successful career as an actor, however, he attended New York Law School, graduating in 1955. After passing the New York State Bar exam, Grody worked for the U.S. Labor Dept. in Washington, D.C., for the New York City garment workers union and then back in D.C. for the National Labor Relations Board. In 1973 he returned to New York to lead Actors’ Equity.

At age 64 Grody returned to the stage in an Off Broadway production of “Measure for Measure,” followed by appearances in the national tour of “Guys and Dolls,” “Parade,” Broadway’s “Jekyll and Hyde” (originating the role of Poole), “Caroline or Change” and “Grey Gardens.” He also appeared at regional houses and Off Broadway, including a production of “Copenhagen” and two productions of “King Lear,” one of which he adapted. His musical play “Ira! The African Roscius,” celebrates the life of 19th century African-American actor Ira Aldridge.

The actor also appeared on the bigscreen in the 2004 film “Last Call” and on TV in “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” in 2003.

Donald Peter Grody is survived by his wife, Judith Anderson; five sons; and three granddaughters.

A celebration of his life and career will be scheduled in the near future. Donations may be made to the Actors Fund of America or Career Transition for Dancers.

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