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Actress Gina Collens, Broadway and L.A. Theater Vet, Dies at 90

Actress Gina Collens, who had a long and varied career on stage as well as in film and TV, has died. She was 90.

Collens’ stage work ranged from Broadway to L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum to experimental theater groups. She appeared in such movies as Otto Preminger’s “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon” and the CBS comedy series “Rhoda.” She was also a playwright and director and member of Los Angeles’ influential Circle Theater group formed in the 1940s by UCLA students including Sydney Chaplin, William Shallert, and Kathleen Freeman.

On Broadway, she appeared in the 1961 revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” starring Maureen Stapleton and directed by Milton Katsales, and later reprised the role at the Buffalo Studio Arena Theater, with Olympia Dukakis in the starring role with Katsales again directing.

At the Mark Taper Forum in 1982, Collens played Bertholt Brecht’s wife in Chistopher Hampton’s “Tales from Hollywood,” a tale of German artists and intellectual refugees trying to make it in Hollywood. Collens scored highly in Jerome Kass’ comedy “Satuday Night” in l968 at the off-Broadway Sheridan Square Playhouse. After commenting on the performances of most of the cast, Dan Sullivan wrote in the New York Times, “But Gina Collens was perfectly grand as overweight Ellie, comfortable as a sofa cushion but sharp (when required) as a potted cactus.”

Born Geraldine Elaine Silverman in Omaha, Neb., she arrived in Hollywood as a 3-year-old when her family relocated. Her parents operated the first Hollywood midnight market at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue.

Following her graduation as a music major from UCLA and a year’s extra work at USC, she joined the Circle Theater and appeared in their inaugural plays under the stage name of Jere Silvern. Those productions included the group’s first show, “Ethan Frome,” and the Marc Blitzstein musical “The Cradle Will Rock.”

After attending several Henry Wallace for President rallies, she believed she was blacklisted and moved to New York, where she changed her stage name to Gina Collens. In New York, she studied with Herbert Berghof, Uta Hagen,and Harold Clurman, and received a masters degree in theater arts from Hunter College, where she won a prize for writing two one-act plays, “Things As They Are” and “Losing Oneself,” both based on short stories by V.S. Pritchett. The plays were presented at the Theater of the Americas in New York, with Ms. Collens directing.

Collens was active in many off -Broadway and Equity Waiver productions as an actor and director, including at La Mama, the renowned experimental theater group. In Los Angeles, she acted and directed at the Hollywood Court Theater.

Collens, who died May 31 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is survived by her husband of 61 years, Hy Hollinger, a former reporter and editor at Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and publicity-advertising executive at Paramount Pictures; and her daughter, Alicia Hollinger, a digital artist and writer.

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