Diane Tarleton, acted on Broadway

November 03, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. today in New York City for Diane R. Tarleton, an actress whose career spanned childhood backyard productions on Erdman Avenue to "Torch Song Trilogy" on Broadway.

Ms. Tarleton died July 12 of breast cancer at her home in Manhattan. She was 51.

She had performed as recently as three months before her death in a children's theater production of "Snow White."

John J. Ahearn, artistic and managing director of the Ginger Bread Players and Jack, a professional children's theater company with which Ms. Tarleton had been associated since 1967, said, "Diane's death is a major loss. As an actress should, she could do everything, comedy or drama. She was the most real person I ever worked with on stage and was really a major talent."

The Northeast Baltimore native was the daughter of Bernard and Elsie Tarleton. She attended public schools and was a 1959 graduate of Eastern High School, where she was awarded the Peabody Gold Medal for outstanding scholastic achievement.

During her teens, she was active in Augustana Lutheran Church, where she sang with the senior choir and directed the junior choir.

"We were friends since second grade," recalled Susan Gonzales, director of music at Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church. "When we were kids, she loved going into a soda shop and putting on an accent trying to sound as if she were an immigrant."

Ms. Tarleton's resume listed Irish, German, British, Russian-Yiddish and French dialects as a specialty.

"We did backyard musicals and shows and we made my little sister play all the roles we didn't want to play, plus we drafted the audience from a nearby park," Ms. Gonzales recalled.

The two friends shared everything, even the wrenching experience of breast cancer.

"I was a survivor and she wasn't," Ms. Gonzales said. "In a 1992 letter to me which demonstrated her sense of optimism, she wrote, 'Always life is full of new things, . . . new adventures. Yea!' "

Ms. Tarleton graduated magna cum laude from the University of Maryland with bachelor's degrees in mathematics and English in 1963.

While at Maryland, she performed in the Chapel Choir's annual production of Handel's "Messiah."

She began her 30-year professional career near the end of her senior year when she successfully auditioned for the chorus of a traveling production of "Show Boat."

She appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway, in repertory and on television. In 1984, she began a three-year engagement on Broadway in Harvey Fierstein's "Torch Song Trilogy."

In her spare time, she enjoyed reading and playing guitar and classical piano. She also taught swimming at the YMCA at 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan where today's memorial service is to be held.

Her marriage to Lee Evans ended in divorce in 1989.

In addition to her parents, she is survived by a son, Jason Evans, and a daughter, Joelle Evans, both of New York; a sister, Sharon Manson of Baltimore; and many aunts, uncles, nephews and cousins.

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