Irma St. Paule, Stage Veteran, Is Dead | Playbill

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Obituaries Irma St. Paule, Stage Veteran, Is Dead Irma St. Paule, an indomitable stage veteran who worked until her final months, died Jan. 9. She said she was 80, but some of her colleagues thought her perhaps the oldest actress working on the New York stage.
Irma St. Paule

Her final credit was the Transport Group's Off-Broadway revival of Tad Mosel's All the Way Home in late 2006. She played an elderly woman who lives in virtual seclusion at her rustic, rural home. Ms. St. Paule, looking as ancient as the mountain her character dwelled on, had no lines per se, but made a seismic impression by way of a visceral encounter with her character's great-grandson.

"The scene in which this aged creature (in a magnificent performance from Irma St. Paule) briefly holds the boy and then silently weeps when he is taken away from her is hardly the defining moment of Mosel's drama," wrote Variety. "But in the stunning staging of their encounter, it is the most moving one."

She appeared once on Broadway, playing The Strega in a 1995 revival of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo starring Mercedes Ruehl. Off-Broadway, she played Nell opposite Kathleen Chalfant's Clov in Endgame, as well as in Another Part of the Forest, Owners and Deborah Warner's 2003 environmental theatre event The Angel Project. She acted regionally at the Geva Theatre, Denver Theatre Center, Hartford Stage, The Goodman Theatre (in the premiere of Eric Bogosian's Griller) and Pittsburgh Public Theatre.

She also portrayed any number of grandmas (often of Italian descent) in a film and television career that began in 1985. Among her better known credits were "Twelve Monkeys," "Trees Lounge," and "Household Saints."

Irma St. Paule was born in Odessa, Ukraine. Her father was Turkish and her mother was Russian. The family moved to New York and, after she married, Ms. St. Paule followed her new husband to Chicago. There a childhood desire to become a ballerina was supplanted by a wish to act. She enrolled at the Goodman School of Drama. After she and her husband divorced, Ms. St. Paule moved back to New York. "By then, my family was mostly gone so I was able to do as I wished," she said in an interview. "And I did!"

Irma St. Paule's greatest fame came late in her life when she was cast as Grandma Matilda in a 1999 horror movie called "Desecration" by young auteur Dante Tomaselli. Horror mavens seized upon the work and it became a cult classic. She was subsequently cast in Tomaselli's 2005 film "Satan's Playground," playing the spooky Mrs. Leeds, head of a strange brood that lives in an isolated old house.

When asked by an interviewer what it was like to play such a psychotic character, Ms. St. Paule answered, "Darling, I have played so many psychos."

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