RIP Marilyn J. Beck, Local Actress

Marilyn appears in 2008 film "Rag Doll."

Marilyn J. Beck, a longtime Remsen St. resident and active member of the Heights Players, died at Long Island College Hospital Saturday night. She was 80. Marilyn hailed from Indiana, where she attended St. Mary’s College and Ball State University. She worked for many years as a New York City public school teacher, retiring in 1989, but devoted much of her time to studying acting at HB Studio, in addition to pursuing African dance and ballet. A member of the Screen Actors Guild, her credits included “Going in Style” (1979), “A Beautiful Mind” (2001), and a 2003 episode of “Chappelle’s Show,” in which she played the wife of Chappelle’s blind, white supremacist character Clayton Bigsby.

Marilyn kicks up her heels in "Waiting in the Wings" at the Heights Players. Photo by M. Hermann

Marilyn appears opposite Dave Chappelle in 2003.

As a literacy advocate, she organized a program of dramatized short story readings that toured local libraries and nursing homes in the early 1990s, and volunteered with the SAG BookPALS program. Local audiences may remember her collaboration with legendary jazz violinist Noel Pointer on the production “Loving Henry,” a musical based on the Henry Ward Beecher adultery scandal of the 1870s. Marilyn was a fixture at the Heights Players, appearing in countless roles over the years. Dedicated to her craft, in 2005 she collapsed backstage during a production of “The Women,” but insisted on finishing the show before being brought to the hospital. Despite failing health, she appeared on stage as recently as last month in a tribute to Heights Players founding member John Bourne.

Scene from independent film "El Delivery" in 2004.

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  • Craig A. Loewen

    Related to my wife as her father’s first cousin, I found a kindred soul in Marilyn as we both are fascinated and charmed by the arts.

    I deeply enjoyed many hours of fascinating conversation with Marilyn and she will be missed.

    May God’s peace be with those who mourn.

  • Greg

    During my morning run I would see her quite often walking on the Promenade or on Remsen. She was usually wearing lipstick and often a camel colored coat. I didn’t know her but we always said good morning to one another. She had such a pretty and graceful smile.

  • Mona Bregman

    I have been a member of the Heights Players for over 35 years. Marilyn was my idol because she was the consumate actor, always in character during rehearsals and offstage during performances. She would stay backstage, not speaking to anyone until it was time for her to go on stage. During rehearsals, she would find something to wear that would help her get into character, be it a long skirt, a hat a shawl or a purse.
    Many years ago, we appeared in a play where we played sisters. From that time on, we called each other sister whenever we saw each other on the street.
    So i say now, “Good- bye sister. Rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.”

  • Michelle

    Marilyn always stopped to say hello and always had a kind word to say when we ran into her on Remsen Street. Rest in peace Marilyn.

  • Michael Collins

    I first met Marilyn Beck in late 1977, when she was working on Outward Bound at the Heights Players. [ Passengers on a mysterious empty ship discover at the end of the first Act that they are all dead. Act Two they start to figure out how and why it happened. ] Marilyn showed up at rehearsal one night for Act Two elegantly attired in a long black dress, black gloves and an enormous black hat with an a veil – everything draped in black tulle. She announced that she had decided that her character was in mourning for herself. She had gone home and whipped up an appropriate outfit. There was nothing in the script about it, but the choice was quite perfect. I have been in awe of her character incite and acting choices ever since. She was a wonderful fellow actor and treated leads and walk-ons with the same importance. I hope heaven has rolls enough to keep her busy. “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

  • Edmund McCarthy

    Knowing Marilyn Beck was such a pleasure . What fun it was to watch her practice her art. To tread the boards with her was a privilege. I’ll miss working with her, but I think I’ll most miss seeing her smile and hearing her laugh when we would meet in our neighborhood. What sad news. We’ll miss you Marilyn.

  • Gary VanderPutten

    I have known Marilyn as long as long as I have been with the Heights Players (25 years). Marilyn appeared in many productions where i had built the sets or props. She always impressed me with her ability to capture and present her character so effectively and confidentially in every performance – a consummate professional.

    While I never performed on stage, she always had something positive to say about what I did contribute. She appreciated all the skills and effort that went into any production. She even politely laughed at my awful puns.

    I shall miss her presence on stage, her easy nature and the smile.

  • Capulet

    My heart is broken. She was such a sweet woman. I would always run into her and we’d both say ‘hi’. Sometimes we would talk about the garden at the corner of Montague Terrace and Remsen. I never knew her name until now. I will miss her…

  • Fabio

    It was a pleasure to know Marilyn, and work with her as a fellow actor and director for the past 10 years. She had an amazing work ethic, and was grateful for any opportunity to perform, regardless of size or venue, which is so rare! I am honored to have had the opportunity to see her briefly in May, and will always remember her larger than life and enthusiastic Hello, as well as the little eccentricities we all become known for amongst close and dear friends! I have had the privelage of being grateful, frustrated, fond, and proud of my time knowing Marilyn, and am happy to say that she has made an impression on my life, and so many others. She certainly marched to her own drum, but always remained respectful of those around her. I have often heard she was Lauren Bacall’s stand-in. She certainly has had just as much a legacy, amongst the many person’s whose lives she touched! May she always have a place to perform in heaven! RIP dear Marilyn and thank you!

  • Ed Healy

    Marilyn was the quintessential Heights Player. She approached her work with true professionalism, grace and poise. Every role she was cast in, no matter how big or small, was equally important to her and all of us who were fortunate to share the stage with her are deeply saddened to hear the news of her passing.

  • hoppy

    The above-mentioned ten minute short film “Rag Doll” starring Ms. Beck can be viewed here:

  • Ted Thompson

    I always enjoyed seeing Marilyn and hearing her rhapsodize about a recent performance she had seen at BAM or on Broadway. She loved seeing her fellow performers almost as much as she enjoyed perfroming and she was always generous in her praise. She was a true actress,one who believed the adage there are no small roles. Each appearance she made on the stage was the result of dedicated thought and preparation for her. She gave 100% every time. I once apololgized to her for not casting her in a role for which she had auditioned and she said to me, “oh no I auditon for the pleasure of it. It is not so much whether I get the role or not but for those moments when I am up there auditioning I am playing the role.” Rest in peace, Marilyn. I hope they have theater in heaven.

  • Patrice

    Another angel singing and dancing in heaven…Marilyn was a lovely lady, and it was a privilege and a pleasure to have worked with her…

  • Timothy Charles Realbuto

    Reading all these posts, it’s so heartwarming to see how man lives Marilyn touched over the years, mine included. I grew up on the Heights Players stage as a child actor and appeared in countless shows with Marilyn over the years, including “Mame”, “The Music Man” (the first time I ever stepped foot on any stage! I was five years old), “The Sound of Music”, “Alice! Adventures In Wonderland”, and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I then took a fifteen year hiatus and most recently returned to play Woody Mahoney in “Finian’s Rainbow” this season, which was ironically Marilyn’s last main stage musical. I now feel like I was meant to come back for this specific show so that I would have the honor to work with Marilyn one last time. She was always at rehearsal, prepared and professional, even though her health was failing. She turned 80 during one of our final rehearsals and we all sang and had a cake for her. I’m so happy that I was able to be there with her on her final birthday and to perform with her one last time. Marilyn was a true inspiration who performed until the day she was taken away from us…. that’s the way to live a life! Rest in peace, Marilyn Beck, my favorite gypsy. <3

  • Teresa Beck Kane

    Thank you so much BHB! Marilyn Beck was my aunt; my beloved Aunt Marilyn who never missed a birthday or any special occasion in our family. Not only was she dedicated to the theatre, she was also dedicated to our family and her community.

    During my first visit and subsequent visits to NYC, she always directed me to great plays, on Broadway and in smaller theatres. I totally fell in love with NYC, and all of the possibilities which the city holds. I was amazed by her grace and easy which she escorted us around the city.

    The terrific tribute written by Mr. Marc Hermann was so beautiful and touching. It was so nice to see some of Aunt Marilyn’s work highlighted from such a long career as an actor. Also, it was good to read that she was still pursuing plays even with her health failing, including the tribute to Mr. John Bourne. Through the years I received many playbills, and I loved reading about the various plays, her fellow actors, and what Aunt Marilyn was doing in acting and directing. She made us so proud!

    Thank you so much for the outpouring of love from the Brooklyn Heights Players, including but not limited to, Mr. Ed Healy. Your kind words and thoughts were so meaningful to me and my family. Also, thank you for the photos and the movie-clip.

    Reading through the BHB blogs which everyone wrote made me cry. It meant so much to me that you all took the time to write a few of your thoughts and memories about my marvelous Aunt Marilyn. We all loved her so much! My entire life I always looked-up to her and had so much respect for her love of her craft. Your memories of her in the theatre, her volunteer work with reading, and her kindness in her own community and to her fellow human beings, are stories which I will always treasure! Thank you for taking the time and sharing! Your words and actions are so much appreciated! Again, thank you to All!

    With love, Teresa Beck Kane, Ms. Marilyn Beck’s niece from the Indianapolis, Indiana area, and fellow Ball State University Alumni.