Actress Mariann Mayberry has died. She was 52.
Her death on Aug. 1 was announced by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which attributed the cause to cancer, reports the Chicago Tribune. Steppenwolf canceled its scheduled performance on Aug. 2 in honor of Mayberry, who had been a member of the ensemble since 1993, according to the theatre's website.
She most recently appeared in Steppenwolf productions "Russian Transport" and "Good People," the site adds. She won a Joseph Jefferson Award for best actress for the latter play, which she researched by sneaking a tape recorder into Boston taverns and recording the patrons, notes the Tribune.
How the Steppenwolf Theatre got its name is explained by founding member Gary Sinise:
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As we approached the time to open … and programs were going to be printed, we were sitting around in a meeting in one of the rooms at the church and I suggested that we come up with a name that we could put on the program as a company presenting the play. We started kicking names around and then Rick held up a book he was reading and said, "How about this?" The book was Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse and we all agreed that it would be fine and then we moved on to rehearsing the play. So, no big philosophical reason for selecting that name. It just sounded good at the time.
Chicago theatre director Mary Zimmerman reflected on Mayberry's death in an email to the Tribune:
This is a serious loss. ... There’s not another like her. Her body was so entirely, so beautifully inhabited by her spirit, from head to toe. She had a kind of taut, sprung energy, a vitality on stage. And then so playful, so modest, so unassuming in rehearsal, full of wonder and invention; so in love with the story, with the act of dressing up, the act of pretend; so embracing of her colleagues, always on the brink of laughing. Free as a bird.
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Artistic director Heidi Stillman called Mayberry "a brilliant and consummate stage actor" able to draw from "a huge well of empathy for fellow humans."
"I grew up very blue-collar and really poor," Mayberry told the Tribune in 2012. "Even now, my parents don't really understand what it is that I do."
Her family came to the Chicago area when her father got a job at Six Flags Great America -- after losing his job in Branson, Missouri, Mayberry's home state.
She managed to get an acting scholarship at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington and got the gig with Steppenwolf after graduation.
In addition to her stage work, she also appeared in television roles, including "Person Of Interest," "Are We There Yet," "Mercy," "The Pennsylvania Miner's Story," "The Dave Chappelle Show," and several episodes of "Law & Order."
Her film credits include "Dogman," "The Company," "War of the Worlds," and "Since You've Been Gone."