Helen Stenborg, a Tony-nominated stage, film and TV actress who was the wife of the late Tony Award-winning actor Barnard Hughes and mother of the Tony Award-winning director Doug Hughes, died Tuesday. She was 86.
Stenborg, who earned a Tony nomination for her 1999 role as pyromaniac Sarita Myrtle in Noel Coward's "Waiting in the Wings," died at her Manhattan apartment with her son and daughter, Laura Hughes, at her side, according to press agent Chris Boneau.
Stenborg and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary onstage in the Coward play and were honored with Drama Desk Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2000.
Stenborg's last Broadway performance was in 2002 in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. Other Broadway appearances included the 1995 production of "A Month in the Country," starring Helen Mirren, and Hugh Leonard's "A Life" in 1980-81.
She was a longtime member of New York's Circle Repertory Company, appearing with William Hurt, Jeff Daniels and Judd Hirsch in the original productions of Lanford Wilson's "The Hot L Baltimore," and "Talley and Son," for which she won an Obie Award in 1986.
Her film credits includes the Academy Award-winning short, "Her Mother Dreams," as well as the movies "On the Hook" with Frank Langella and Elliot Gould; "Three Days of the Condor;" "Starting Over" with Jill Clayburgh and Burt Reynolds; "Enchanted;" and "Doubt" with Meryl Streep. She also played an evil housekeeper on the soap opera "Another World."
She toured with her husband in the national company of Hugh Leonard's Tony-Award winning "Da," the play for which Barnard Hughes won the 1978 Tony for Best Actor. He died in 2006.
Stenborg was born in Minneapolis and moved to New York a little more than a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before she was out of her teens, she performed in the national tours of "Three's a Family" and "Claudia," both popular wartime comedies. She was also a USO girl and performed for Allied troops in Italy and France.
While rehearsing a veteran's hospital show in 1946, she met her future husband. In the 1950s, they performed together at The Tenthouse Theater, a stock company. For 16 summers, the actress also was a member of the company at The O'Neill Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Conn.
In September 2010, at the age of 84, Stenborg appeared in Morris Panych's "Vigil" off-Broadway with Malcolm Gets, winning The Richard Seff Award for the best performance by a veteran female character actress in a supporting role.
In addition to her son and daughter, Stenborg is survived by her grandson, Sam Hughes Rubin. Funeral services will be held April 4 at The Church of the Transfiguration in Manhattan.